Monday, April 21, 2014

Intentional Mondays: The Easter Monday Edition

Quote: "It would seem our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around...when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." CS Lewis

What I take from this quote? Two words: Don't settle. And don't be afraid to imagine. Instead, dance with the fear.

Write Every Day... Am keeping on pace thus far with this new story. And I'm having fun writing it, which is a necessary part of my process. The part that I think shows up for the reader. (Sometimes when writers talk about "their process" it can sound so high-falutin. I don't mean to sound that way and sort of cringe when I use the words "my process." But there it is. I do have a process, such as it is. And year by year, book by book, I'm learning what that is, and easing into what it requires.)

My One Word... AFFIRM. This review from Publishers Weekly AFFIRMed my writing. As I prepare for a new book to release, this was a good boost, an AFFIRMation of my efforts. We all need that from time to time.

Listening To... David Gray's recently released song Gulls. At minute 2:24 the DG I love shows up.

Sharing Stories... The books! The books are piling up! All good, all worth reading-- nonfiction, thrillers, YA, literary masterpieces. There is something to learn from all of them, something to glean about life, writing, and the power of story. Your TBR pile might not look like mine (God help you if it does) but I hope you have at least one book you're reading-- one story you share with yourself after a long day or in the midst of the crazy life you lead. Stories are the great escape.

Randomness... I'm enjoying this new show as a guilty pleasure. Some folks like reality tv or angsty Lifetime movies, I like whodunits and true crime. This one about uber-moms who snap intrigues me for reasons I don't want to delve into too deeply. But come on... "Perfect wife, perfect knife!" Brilliant tagline!

For the record I took the "What Kind of Stepford Wife Are You?" quiz and did not agree with the results. I don't have a spray tan, manicure or ever wear perfume. So there!

In The Kitchen... Not much cooking went on in our house over spring break. This week will be about getting back on a meal plan and routine. Most notably I bought Suddenly Salad for a future side dish, which means it's time for grilling out! Marinated chicken, pasta salad, and some sort of veggie is a staple meal at our house once the days get warm.

Plans... My plans this week involve substitute teaching, writing, preparing some classes annnnnnd something very exciting. I will tell you about it next week. But I probably won't be posting next Monday. (That's part of the plans.) So look for me on Tuesday, or maybe Wednesday.

Loveliness... Easter was truly lovely, start to finish. On Saturday, it rained all day. There was not a moment of the day that rain was not falling from the sky. And yet, on Sunday we woke up to impossibly blue skies and sun. My 11yo son observed that, on Saturday it was dark and depressing outside-- and that was the day that Jesus remained in the tomb. But on Sunday, as we experienced blue skies, we could feel the hope and light that comes with resurrection. I'm paraphrasing what he said, but still, it was insightful and so, so true. I hope your Easter was lovely too.

Photo of the week: This is me holding my novels, including my newest one, which I received an advanced reader copy of this week. It was so surreal to hold them all in my hands that I had my husband snap a photo. It may not look like much, but it's about 6 years of my life.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Intentional Mondays

My apologies for missing last week's Intentional Monday post. Not that you were wringing your hands wondering where it was. But I committed to getting it up if I did nothing else in my blogging (a lot of times I do not) and, dang if I didn't miss anyway. I blame the plague from the week before. It takes a lot to reboot after being ill for a whole week. I think we are finally back to normal but, really, what is normal anyway?

Quote: “You should always be trying to write a poem you are unable to write, a poem you lack the technique, the language, the courage to achieve. Otherwise you’re merely imitating yourself, going nowhere, because that’s always easiest.” John Berryman (Note: I substitute novel or essay or memoir or... whatever would fit for you in place of the word poem, here.)

Write Every Day... Slowly but surely the ole word count is increasing. I'm hoping to hit 60,000 words very soon. That means the first draft is 2/3rds written! And also? This past weekend I spent in Myrtle Beach SC "researching." It's a rough job, but someone's gotta do it. I hope to write more about my time later this week.

My One Word... AFFIRM. Two writers have been AFFIRMing some things in my own interior faith monologues through their brave and powerful words. Sometimes they are words that make me shift uncomfortably, and glance around to see if anyone else sees what I'm seeing. But this is good. I'm learning to be ok with reading things that feel unsafe, to push against the safe boundaries I've always tended to want to live within. I've been energized by the realness of their writing-- and challenged in my own writing, too, which is always a good thing. Check out Micha Boyett and Addie Zierman if this sounds good to you, too.

Listening To... beach music-- the Catalinas, the Tams, Smokey Robinson, the Drifters, the Showmen, Chairmen of the Board, etc. It's spring break around here this week and I can't think of a better soundtrack for it.

Sharing Stories... Addie Zierman's story of being raised in an evangelical church and questioning more and more about some of the practices we take for granted has been one of those "yes!" reading experiences. It is a book that demands a journal be close by for recording quotes and responses and delving deeper before I forget.

I'm also reading some thrillers for fun. They are consistently my go-to reads. I've got two going right now.

Randomness... This? Is just not fair. And I just love how much Alexa looks like Billy. When I was in high school I missed the concert where Christie and Alexa toured with him. Still regretting that all these years later.

In The Kitchen... A meatball casserole that features parker house rolls and pasta sauce and meatballs, of course. It kinda sounds like an Italian version of a bread pudding or one of those overnight French toast casseroles, just savory instead of sweet. Will share it here if it turns out decent. If I never mention it again, assume it was a complete fail and bread pudding should always be sweet.

Plans... Nothing. No teaching, no lunch packing, no schedules, no homework. A week off to enjoy... just the break we need. Bring. It. On.

Loveliness... Last week I was running and I looked up to see... green. The leaves are back on the trees, an occasion I try to always notice and be thankful for. After spindly brown bare branches all winter, the burst of green is just so hopeful and... lovely.

Photo of the week:

Easter table: simple, colorful, seasonal. We will gather there, all 8 of us, soon. This is increasingly a feat as they all head in different directions and follow different schedules. My younger ones were marveling over the fact that soon they will have siblings who are 22, 20 and 18. This seems darn nigh impossible and yet... it is. I've become one of those older mothers who marvel at how the time passes.
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Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Billy Coffey, Author of The Devil Walks In Mattingly

When I first read about this book, the premise captivated my imagination. I thought perhaps it would yours, too. Read on...

What can't be laid to rest is bound to rise again. Everyone has a past and has made mistakes, but what happens when those secrets grow and control our lives? "We can all be hampered by our pasts, but that in no way negates the power of choice that's available to us all. We can choose to become more. We can choose to live better." Billy Coffey knows life isn't easy, and like the characters in his latest release, The Devil Walks in Mattingly (Thomas Nelson / March 11, 2014 / ISBN: 978-1401688226 / $15.99), he hopes to guide people who are shrouded in the darkness of regret to the hope and light of redemption.

Q: What was the inspiration behind the storyline for The Devil Walks in Mattingly?

He was a short, awkward boy plagued with acne and a head of greased auburn hair that he kept parted to the side. I shared seven years of my life with him, from the sixth grade through our high school graduation. He wasn't the only one I spent that time with, of course. There were others, eighty or so of us, all bound by the same small town. We hung out with one another and got in trouble with one another, hated and loved together, all of us but him.

Aside from the occasional nod in the hallway between classes, I never had dealings with him. He was a nonentity to me, a barely-there ghost I chose not to see.

Even now, some twenty years later, that boy will cross my mind.I don't know where he's gone or what's become of him. I like to think he's made something of himself. I often think he hasn't, and I wonder how much of that is because of me.

That boy became Phillip McBride's character in The Devil Walks in Mattingly. In many ways, Jake's, Kate's and Taylor's struggle to atone for their sins somehow of what happened to Phillip mirror my own struggle to come to terms with that boy so long ago. The novel is three people's quest for redemption, but it is also my attempt at an apology.

Q: In The Devil Walks in Mattingly, we meet three characters whose lives are crippled by secrets. We all must deal with failure and regret, but many struggle moving forward. Why do you think we allow our pasts to dictate our future?

I think a lot of it centers upon the fact that we're largely powerless to do anything about what's been done. We can try to make amends, try to move on, but yesterday often finds a way to leak into today. The past can be a great source of comfort, but it can also be a ghost that rattles its chains whenever things get dark. What makes it scary is that ghost is us - it's who we once were. And no matter how far we've come, those rattling chains can tempt us into believing people never really change at all.

Q: What advice do you have for people who find themselves constantly reminded of their mistakes? How do we move forward?

I believe the only way forward is through forgiveness. God's forgiveness, absolutely, which is always given and given freely. But I'm talking about forgiving yourself as well, and that is much harder. We're taught to be merciful to others, show them grace. We understand there isn't a soul in this world who isn't fighting a great battle every moment of every day. Yet when it comes to ourselves, all that teaching and understanding goes out the window. We can't grow up until we screw up. It's as important to remember that as it is to remember that God is our judge, not ourselves (which is a good thing because He's much more loving).

Q: Sometimes we try to justify or rationalize our bad decisions by saying what we did was for the greater good or was for the best in the long run. Do you think that is just a way of trying to cover our guilt, or do we really believe a wrong somehow makes a right?

Speaking just for myself, I'd say both. Our current culture seems to believe a wrong  somehow makes a right - that it doesn't matter what you do or how you do it, so long as the end result leaves you better off than you were. And more than anything, we certainly want to justify ourselves in the things we do, even if we know justification is a lie, if only to preserve our egos. We're great masters of deception, but we have yet to learn that we don't deceive others nearly as well as we do ourselves.

Q: Do you tend to write yourself and your own faith journey into your stories? If so, what are some similarities in The Devil Walks in Mattingly and your own life?

I don't know of any authors who can't help but include a bit of themselves into their stories.  I'm no different. The characters I create are always some part of me, whether large or small. In this case, I'd say I'm no different than anyone else with regard to regrets and  remorse, much of which haunt me still and perhaps always will. And in the process of learning to deal with those feelings, I became all three of Devil's main characters at one time or another. I was Jake, trying to push it all down and keep it hidden. I was Kate, trying to balance scales that could never be balanced at all by my own power. And I was even Taylor, trying to craft some sort of righteous reason for the mistakes I've made.

Q: What is the key message you hope readers walk away with? Is there a Bible verse that goes along with The Devil Walks in Mattingly?

Forgiveness comes through the grace of God, unearned and free, and that through Him our broken pieces can be made whole again. I thought often of Psalm 68:19 as I wrote this story: "Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens."

For more information about Billy Coffey and his books, visit his online home at, become a fan on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.

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Monday, March 31, 2014

Intentional Mondays

Quote: "Mothers shouldn't get sick." (Me)

Write Every Day... In spite of being plagued with the plague since last Wednesday, I have managed to get some writing done and am closing in on the halfway mark of this current manuscript. This feels good, though I have my concerns as to the quality of writing I've done while my brain has been (more) addled (than usual).

My One Word... AFFIRM. Can't seem to find a promise that everything will always go well and that I'll be healthy all the time or else I'd love for God to affirm that one! In the meantime I'm trying to rest and get well and trust that even in being sidelined there is a plan at work. Have I mentioned that I'm not good at being sidelined, or resting?

Listening To... the Billy Joel channel on Sirius XM. Love that they gave him his own channel, even if only for a limited time. Just heard Goodnight Saigon. What a powerful song.

Sharing Stories... Read (no, more like devoured) Chevy Stevens' forthcoming book THAT NIGHT about a young woman set free from prison for the crime of killing her sister. What really happened that night? Who really killed her sister? Now that she's out of prison, she's determined to clear her name and put her life back together, but a lot stands in her way. A true pageturner, this book comes out June 17 so put it on your summer reads list!

Randomness... being confined to bed is fun for about the first 12 hours. Then it gets real, real old.

In The Kitchen... My husband has really stepped in on the cooking front, running to the grocery store to pick up items and throwing together easy meals while I'm out of commission. So other than choose wisely who you marry, I have no kitchen advice this week.

Plans... my plans for this coming week? To get better!

Loveliness... would be 36 hours without fever. I've made it 24 hours, but can't seem to get past that.

Photo of the week:

I used to love my bed. Now we've spent too much time together it seems
and instead of a place I long for, it's a place I long to escape.
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Monday, March 24, 2014

Intentional Mondays

Quote: "I love the outsets, despite the fear and uncertainty that attach to all beginnings... I have already begun a thousands lives this way." Rainer Maria Rilke

Write Every Day... Kept at it this week. Hit 30,000 words on this new project. Am loving the story so far and find I miss the characters when I can't be with them. This story has so much potential... now to live up to it.

My One Word... AFFIRM. Had a great conversation with the author of MY ONE WORD this week who AFFIRMed my one word. :) Good friends are hard to come by, and something to be grateful for.

Listening To... Heard "This Is Not America" by David Bowie and Pat Metheny this weekend on the 80s on 8 Top 40 countdown. This is why I love listening to the countdown-- you hear songs you don't usually hear. This song was featured in one of my favorite 80's movies, THE FALCON AND THE SNOWMAN, a dark drama about two young men who got pulled into espionage during the Cold War, based on a true story. As Alan Hunter pointed out, it's especially interesting to hear right now with Russia back in the news.

Sharing Stories... Finished GOLDEN by Jessi Kirby this past week and loved, loved, loved it. This YA novel combined a good message with an entertaining mystery that held my attention till the very end. If you love YA, or know someone who does, give this novel a try.

Randomness... I have to start eating better. Today kicks it off. I have an accountability partner who I am so grateful for that I think will make all the difference. We're going to hold each other's feet to the fire and make consistently better choices that will result in being ready for summer and-- gulp-- the pool and beach!

In The Kitchen... Let's not talk about the kitchen right now, ok?

Plans... This is a busy week. I have a doctor appointment, a dentist appointment, sub at my son's school twice and teach two story workshops, plus I intend to get my writing done every day as well. I'm also baking for and preparing a raffle basket of books for a neighborhood fund raiser for a dear neighbor recently diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. These folks lived across the street from us for 8 years. If you would like to contribute, please do, or if you're in the Charlotte area and want some good bbq and a fun time, here's a link:
I'd love to see you there-- our whole family will be there!

Loveliness... The coming of spring and the ensuing lovely days were just what I needed this past week. Of course they're calling for some icky cold weather this week. Grrr...

Photo of the week:

Running under an impossibly blue sky on a gorgeous 73 degree day. Bliss.

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Divergent, A Review

I missed the Divergent craze entirely. Didn't read the books, though I tried once. I heard all the buzz, and downloaded a sample. Made it through the first page and a half and then remembered, "Oh yeah, I don't read dystopian YA. And I have a stack of books to read for She Reads soooo..." That was the end of that.

Only it wasn't. Because then I saw the trailer for the movie and thought, "Well now, that doesn't look half bad." Keep in mind, I neither read nor saw any of The Hunger Games hoopla. Fighting to the death? Totally not my speed. If I want to watch fighting and lots of angst, I need only look to my children in their never-ending Battle of the Siblings. (I jest... sort of.)

But suffice it to say I wasn't into Hunger Games, so my interest in Divergent surprised me.

The other night I got the chance to see the new movie with my 14yo daughter--who also wasn't sure she was interested. She hadn't read the books, saw the first Hunger Games movie and proclaimed she was never seeing one of those again. She also doesn't like fighting to the death so that movie disturbed her.

So to say we were two skeptics walking into that very crowded, very amped up preview is the truth. Before the movie started, my daughter whispered that she was actually nervous to see it. She was afraid of more violence and anxiety akin to her Hunger Games experience. I told her I didn't think this would be that way.

And when the movie was over? The house lights went up to reveal the biggest smile spread across her face. "That was one of my favorite movies I've ever seen, ever!" she proclaimed. This is a child, I must say, not given to demonstrative declarations. She plays it cool and close to the vest. But Divergent left her unable to do so. She chattered about the movie the whole way home. This is the same child who, I must say, I was having trouble getting to talk on the way to the movie.

See that smile?

Me? I really enjoyed it too. Shailene Woodley does a superb job as Tris. Ashley Judd is great as her longsuffering and gentle mother. And yes, when Mekhi Phifer appeared Eminem's lyric did run through my head.

If you're taking kids, just know while there are no fights to the death, there are some intense fight scenes. But they are necessary to show the commitment these "intiates" are making, and the unbelievable choice they've been presented. The fact that there is no way out only intensifies the whole situation, and makes everything that transpires that much more gripping. To me none of it was gratuitous and there's some clever weaving of story threads throughout the movie.

I have to say I recommend the movie. If you've got teens or preteens (depending on their threshold  for intense scenes and violence) you will earn points if you take them. And I promise, you won't be bored either. You might even surprise yourself and like it. No one was more surprised than me.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Muppets Most Wanted, A Review

Last Saturday I got to take my 8yo daughter to the new Muppet movie. It has to be said, I love the Muppets because they bring back memories of being a kid, laying on my stomach in front of our big console television with my chin propped in my hands, my brother beside me, singing along to "It's time to play the music, it's time to light the lights," as an assortment of creatures paraded across the screen. I loved Beaker and the Swedish Chef, the grumpy old men, the celebrity guest stars, and Miss Piggy's relentless pursuit of Kermit.

Well they're all back in this movie. The Muppets of our childhood are now available to our children. It's smart if you think about it. And an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours with your kids. They like it. And you don't hate it. Believe me, I've done other things in the name of entertaining my kids that I flat out did not enjoy.

One of the things I appreciated most about the movie is the stream of jokes directed at the adults. There were many times I laughed as my daughter looked over like "What's funny?" And of course I loved Ty Burrell as the finicky, refined French detective. (They get in some good digs about the Europeans. Truly funny.)

The other thing I really enjoyed about the movie is the series of cameos from celebrities. They just keep coming in this movie, and in some very interesting ways. It's worth the price of admission just to watch Ray Liotta (Shoeless Joe, anyone? Goodfellas?) dance and sing as a prisoner in a Siberian Gulag. Tina Fey is great, of course. And just wait til you see who that is inside the porta-jon (at least I think that's what it was). Maybe it was supposed to be some form of portable solitary confinement? See for yourself and decide.

My daughter said to tell you that this one is better than the other one.(And she loved the other one. I can't tell you how many times we sat and watched the video for "Am I A Man or a Muppet?" after we saw that movie.) She has spent this week quoting little lines and asking if I remember certain scenes. I'm sure this is good for her brain development somehow. It has to be.

For those of us who love a little jolt of nostalgia, and who have kids who enjoy a fun little outing with mom or dad (or both), The Muppets Most Wanted is not a bad way to spend some time. And I can't say that for every kid movie I've ever sat through.
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