For all of our Furiosas

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How are you handling your world in the middle of the turkey and pine tree?
Thanksgiving brought news to me that a good friend had passed away. Her name was Louise, aka Furiosa in the writing community.
I met her in Bible study where we discovered we had a mutual love for writing. It only seemed reasonable that she would join my writers group a town away where we traveled every second Saturday for some critique, encouragement and lunch. Often, a third friend joined us.
Really, it was the 45 minute car rides that were the best. We took off our Mom badges and discussed things like, ok–parenting, stories, ghosts, God and how God and ghosts can be used in the same sentence.
It’s also where she told me about her heart failing some years ago. She passed through to the heavenly realm, woke up in a dark room glowing, and started walking toward God when she was resuscitated.
Yes, God. To be clear, The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Father of Jesus.
She then recounted her battle with breast cancer and chemo—how she broke down in an airport when she was asked to remove her hat, and from the corner of the bathroom where she ran, a housekeeper pulled her aside and told her she “has to be like Peter on the water, keeping your eyes on Jesus.”
As our friendship grew, we, along with another friend, planned a trip to a writers conference where we were expected to bring a costume for the rewards banquet. But shortly before we were to leave for Philly, my friend learned that her cancer had not only returned, but it had spread throughout her whole body. Bones, spine, and all.
Her response was to keep her eyes on Jesus. She endured her first round of chemo and set off for the second hand store where she threw a costume together with a handful of random items. Having  paid for the conference months ahead of time, she decided she wasn’t going to waste a moment. And she had this story inside her that she needed help getting onto the page.
She walked into the awards banquet as bald and bold as Furiosa the warrior. By now, everyone knew of her battle. When they saw her, jaws dropped, cameras were pulled out to record what a true warrior looked like.
Louise came home and endured the kind of pain no one wants to, and several more rounds of chemo. Armed with the kind of faith only those who’ve had a glimpse of heaven have, she conquered that cancer, regained her strength and poured herself into life. God, family, writing, hiking. Breathing.
After her heart failed a second time, the Lord took her home Thanksgiving week. From what I understand, it was in the midst of joyous family time.
It’s hard to interpret the conclusion to such unexpected loss after such marvelous victory. She never got to finish that book she was working so hard on. But as I look over her life as I knew her, the words spoken about her and the picture I have in my memories of her, I realize that she did indeed tell the world her most powerful story.
We should closely consider the lives of those who have had early visits to the afterlife, and what Louise did was to pursue the will of God, and lived—really, fully lived—every moment, even in the painful center of difficulty, knowing the reward  waiting for her when her time came.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

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ILLUME

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My friends!

I have more to say than just this, and I’ll be back next week with some encouragement, but as I’m in between writing and the Son’s karate lessons, I’ll leave you with this today.

I finally finished the third book in the City of Light series. Here are the first two paragraphs which you don’t want to read unless you’ve read the other two. By the way, WAKE (#1) is permanently free on Barnes and Noble. Here.

 

 

He stands in a cloud of ash, his long hair ruddy and dry at the ends like wild grasses blown by seasons of wind. His eyes are slivers of rich bark, his arms browned by colonies of freckles. A cord of stones hangs from his neck, and although no ghosts materialize from its powers, he captures my attention like a specter from my past—the man I think is my father.
I tug my shirt over my mouth to keep the fire residue from choking me and take one step toward him. Nearly as large as Luke, he places a thick hand over his heart, and if I didn’t know better, I’d say stars slipped into his eyes from the remains of night just to shine on me. He smiles with closed lips, a near perfect reflection of the way my mother smiled when I woke each morning. You’d think they’d had a whole lifetime together sharing a smile like that. I can’t imagine why she never told me about him.

 

The link for ILLUME is here. I hope you love it–it’s for you, after all.

Happy Wednesday, and see you soon!

 

 

I’m Back With a Tour of the Mythic Kind

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Hello, my friends! It’s been awhile, yes? I was busy getting #3 finished (due out November), thinking about reigniting the blog when someone from my clan of speculative fiction writers organized this tour. One of the most fascinating parts of writing speculative fiction (some with faith-based themes) is encountering fellow book lovers who ask, “fantasy (or science fiction, paranormal, etc) stories written by Christians? Can you do that? Is that a thing?”

You bet your parting-of-the-Red Sea it is.

C.O. Bonham is my guest today, talking about her short story contribution “Recalled.”

 

Rewriting “Recalled.”

My short story contribution to Mythic Orbit’s volume two has an interesting history.

The Left Behind craze was well underway before I ever decided to write a thing. But the series concluded while I was in high school. I had read it and loved it and we were doing an end times bible study in Sunday school.

Now for the sketchy part. I can not remember who said it. It may have been a person at my church, it might have been someone on TV or radio. I know that someone said, “Thanks to Left Behind clarifying Revelation, we can safely assume that Star Trek will never happen.” That is not an exact quote by the way.

Whoever said it, it instantly got my gears turning. “Recalled from the Red Planet was going to be an epic novel of the tribulation set on Mars. It would rival Left Behind’s number one best seller status, because everything is better on Mars.

I wrote three chapters. Three really bad chapters. Every line of Dialog was followed by, “he said.” Or worse, “he said excitedly.” Three chapters leading up to the Anti Christ arriving on Mars to take over the planet.

Right, as soon as I realized that he would never leave Earth, how this man (named Six in three different languages) could easily force Mars to come to him, I gave up. It sat on my computer for years. Survived a computer crash and a file purge, until 2017 when Travis Perry began accepting submissions for a Christian speculative fiction anthology called Mythic Orbits 2.

I was scrolling through my files looking for something to submit. I saw that old file. Opened it. Read it. Cringed. I thought, “this will never be a novel. But it could be a short story.”

I deleted a lot. Rewrote everything. Cut, added, and edited. Submitted.

Travis tore it in half. He wanted me to cut almost half the words. After I had already cut the plot to the bones. I didn’t think I could do it. I had already cut the love interest to two paragraphs. Then it hit me. This was not the same story I had started in high school. They were going back to Earth. And Once on Earth, it was just Left Behind all over again.

Love interest? Gone. Cleverly named Anti-Christ? Gone. Impassioned speeches? Ineffective in a world with one possible outcome. The return and triumph of Jesus Christ.

In the end, Revelation did not prevent Star Trek. It is the reason Star Trek failed.

C.O. Bonham is the pen name for a commonly misspelled first name. When she isn’t writing stories of her own she is busy reading stories by others. She loves stories of all sorts but really likes the ones that are weird, or outside the norm. A home school graduate with a degree in creative writing, her goal is to create stories that make people think, feel, and have fun.

Get Mythic Orbits 2016 HERE

Get Mythic Orbits Volume 2 HERE

Pause

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Good Tuesday to you, friends!

Spring is creeping inside Arizona, which I’m LOVING! For those of you still battling winter in the east, I’m thinking about you, and hoping some blossoms and warmth are headed your way.
Right now, I’m in the middle of spring break with the family which has presented a very good picture of reality for me. I need to finish my book before the minions are out of school for the summer. So I’ll be taking a bit of time off from the blog before summer blasts me with a lot of heat and noise.
Aaaannd…I’ll finally be working on a long overdue newsletter for those of you who have signed up. For quick updates, check in on my facebook page, otherwise–I’ll see you at the completion of my first draft of ILLUME.
Loves and hugs!

Monster Hunting

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Who is this monster everyone keeps talking about? I mean, it shoots up our schools, it ravages our kids with staggeringly high rates of depression and anxiety, and it has families running for cover.
I found myself ridiculed the other day when discussing the monster. My crime? I send my kids straight into battle aka public (charter) school. Before you read on or move on, this is not a public school vs. home school blog. It’s about our mission field.


Not everyone is called to the same mission field. As far as schooling goes, sometimes we have the liberty to orchestrate our kid’s education, sometimes we have little choice, but right now as parents argue on social media about the “right” way to protect our kids and to give them the best education, there are young feet walking within the mouths of the monsters’ jaws.
My two are there. Yes, they’ve dealt with bullies, they’ve had classmates whose families couldn’t afford to feed them all three meals, they’ve dealt with the privileged (interpret that as you will), played with kids who go home to single parents, etc. Many of these kids are pretty great, and their teachers are as well– teachers who care—and they receive a very well-rounded education, better than I could give them which is one reason why they attend school away from home.
A few years ago, a former student almost shot up their school. Thankfully, some brave people were proactive in stopping it before it happened. Is this terrifying? Of course.
They also get exposed to all those things the rest of us did: bad language, topics way to mature for their ages, poor examples. Yes, I send them into this, but they don’t go in alone.
Recently, my daughter told a friend about Jesus. Yes, right inside the monster’s playground, she said the J word. When she learns of a classmate’s hardship or family troubles, she prays for them (the power of prayer, friends). Where would this help be without kids of faith to know who/what to specifically pray for?
My son reminds others that Jesus still heals. And he’s shown forgiveness—maybe more than some kids would see if all parents of faith decided to do a mass extraction of their children.
When my kids make their own mistakes, they see the effects, and get the opportunity to learn from them firsthand. Christians screw up plenty, I know, that’s why we love the Great Forgiver.
Just to be clear, this is not a billboard against homeschooling—because there are certainly good reasons for choosing that direction—this is just a message for those who deny support to those called in the other direction.
So yes, some will criticize this viewpoint, regardless. But who would rather they got on their knees and prayed for our youth? Parents send their kids into this battleground every day. Thank goodness. Public school is not a thing to hide from—it’s a mission field. Parents—our kids can’t easily band together when they see us constantly fighting over our differences of opinions. Distraction is dangerous.
Bless those praying from home, and those still walking the halls.

Here’s a little tidbit from the generation who constantly receives criticism.

Millennials crave relationship, to have someone walking beside them through the muck. We are the generation with the highest ever percentage of fatherless homes…We’re looking for mentors who are authentically invested in our lives and our future. If we don’t have real people who actually care about us, why not just listen to a sermon from the couch?Sam Eaton

 

Who lives in Arizona? Fancy a trip to Tuscon this weekend? I’ll be at the Tuscon Festival of Books on March 10th, 2:30-4:30, in the Indie Pavilion on the U of A campus. I’ll be signing copies of WAKE, WILD, and I might just be doing a giveaway of ILLUME, the third book in the City of Light Series due out this fall.

D is for Door

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I believe the ugliest battle scars are from junior high. As my daughter quickly approaches the years of doom, I reflect more and more on what I can teach her from my time doing time.
I sat in the back of the class. The very far back, for the students who weren’t members of the honor roll (okay—once—accidentally), gifted (as a professional writer, I protest their definition of gifted), or any genre of student the teachers wrote down as shining star, but the last row of kids who identified with other things beside your general pile of academics. The artist, the athlete, the HSPs (which wasn’t a known thing at the time), or the rebel at heart.
How does a free spirit like myself (and my daughter) find her rhythm behind so many normals?
Thank the Maker of the Heavens for Mrs. T. She taught 7th grade, and music, and a particle of art. Her heart was undeniably in music class, and she taught us how to shake up our world with good things like jazz. I shined up my flute nice and pretty for 16 or so bars of music, to be refreshingly unique. She didn’t have the patience to teach us traditionally. In fact, I was poor at reading music because of it. But what a blessing, because I’m a hands-on learner, and I could memorize the soul out of a piece music, leaving my energy for the art of it, which was where I found myself–outside the lines of what you would normally find in a stack of homework (Parents: please think twice before complaining about a nontraditional teacher).


I knew I was different. I didn’t know the science of it, but something inside me said to not let myself be pulled into the rows of traditionalists, because that’s wasn’t the beat my heart was tuned for. I was also a Jesus follower—despite the protestations of the kids who thought that meant perfectionism or goody-two-shoes, what it meant for me was undeniably Wild. Messy, outside the lines, grab the world by the paintbrush, Wild ( If you’re raising your brows at this, remember, the Bible is not G rated, friends. Not even close. Nor is anyone’s life).
Honestly, it was a long season of feeling lost before I realized my life didn’t revolve around the worldview of the traditional educational system.
Throughout the years, a lot of my teachers tried to shake the different out of me. Many students tried to shake the Jesus out of me. A few of my friend’s parents even tried to shake the skinny out of me by attempting to feed me copious amounts of food—so I would look more normal, I guess—but God doesn’t allow us us stand out without a reason. And He doesn’t let you walk through life without purpose, even when you feel like a Jackson Pollack in a sea of Michelangelo’s. But the last thing I want my daughter to do is to follow the crowd. The crowd strives for normal out of fear of what each other think. But, truthfully, we’re ALL different….why on earth are we all so afraid?!
The Wild DNA runs deep. How many of you have wondered at your differences and looked to history’s legacy?
The ancient church of Philadelphia, surrounded by a sea of pagan temples, was out of place, too, but the members didn’t let the world shake the purpose out of them. Even with the widespread persecution. They even had a Teacher give them a special bit of encouragement:
“I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” Rev. 3:8
Alasehir (ancient Philadelphia) endured a devastating earthquake in A.D. 17…historians say the Philadelphians rebuilt their sanctuary (the church of St. John) several times due to tremors, unwilling to give up. And the open door? John wrote of “a great door for effective work, (1 Corinthians 16:9)” God opened for him. Scholars believe this was for mission work to the far eastern parts of Asia.

What do we see here? John didn’t let his opposition–whether man or earthquake–shake the art out of him. And his efforts survived the chaos of time…God rewarded the Phildelphian’s faith with a visual representation of their perseverance. Out of the few ruins of ancient Philadelphia, guess which one is the most prominent? You can view John’s church here.

Happy Tuesday, Friends. Don’t watch the crowd…look for the door.

The Story Behind the Sweat

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Scales can be jerks. You can work and work, burning off everything you ate and more, only to stand on the scale and look down, a drop of sweat sliding down your nose, plopping over a big, fat number.
What? Your face gets hot…your heart starts pumping fast again. You step back and look in the mirror. Eh? You go home, shower and pull on your favorite pair of jeans. Tight. Too tight. Okay, maybe that one area is better, but…what the heck? You go to the bathroom and stand on your scale because the one at the gym, and your pants must be taunting you, right?
But, no. To the mirror again, you notice the seams pulling, the stitches near to popping and realize you won’t be able to replace them for several more paychecks.
What’s to show for all that hard work? Slow and sure, your fist comes up and you shake it at God a little.
You work so hard. So. Hard. At the gym, at your office, in the classroom—whatever this is for you, but the results look nothing like you expected.
Does the effort mean nothing after all?
What’s the point?
You eye the couch, the TV, the Netflix remote, but something calls you. A whisper flutters from above. At the mirror again, something does look different. Your jeans are tight, yes, but you look better in them. Your short-sleeve shirt is digging into your arms, but look—what was too soft is now firm.
You bend down to pick up that darn box you don’t have room for, and move it out of the way to get a better look. Wow, that was easier.
So much easier. Maybe God draws your eyes to the mirror again and says, “Yes. There’s more of you.”
“What? There’s supposed to be less. I worked for it. Isn’t that what you led me to do?”
Maybe He answers, “But you’re not supposed to believe for less. Don’t aim for less. You were made for more.”
“But my pants. The scale. This isn’t at all what I expected. What’s going to happen?”
“Better things, as long as you keep your eyes on Me, and not your scale.”
So you take a breath, and keep going.
Happy perseverance day. Every day.

The Josephine Manifesto

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While on duty at the retirement place a few nights ago, a resident called me to her apartment for help. Tethered to her oxygen machine, and lonely, she kept me in conversation for as long as I was able to be away from my post. She told me how much she liked my name because it reminded her of a dear friend, also named Sherry, who was kind, and had a resume most of us only dream about. As I was leaving, she said, “goodbye, Josephine.”
Sometimes the memory misfires.
You know what forgetfulness reminds me of? Many of our News Channels. I’m not a big fan of politics, and I get told over and over—every day—how to hate a certain President, and a certain party, and now even people who practice certain religions. It’s either the article about the wrong shoes a politician’s wife wore, or the too-fancy dress his daughter wore, or the certain religion they assume supports their nemesis with hateful ambition.

And many reactions from the accused “haters” are no better.

I could go on, but I’m going to be honest here—watching all this flim flam is kind of like watching my kids when they had toddler meltdowns.
“I don’t like the way my jacket feels on my shoulders.”–Son
“The cereal doesn’t feel right in my mouth.”–Daughter
“I can’t go to school if my toes touch my shoes in a weird spot.”—Son
“Son-or-Daughter, I love you so much, but I can’t help you if you don’t calm down and listen. You don’t have to like what I’m telling you, but you need to remember  what’s important.”—Me


E-v-e-n-t-u-a-l-l-y they calmed down. For the most part, my son’s an optimist, my daughter’s empathy (especially for an oncoming Mommy meltdown) is off the charts, and they’re both very intelligent. But sometimes, they’d get stuck on their frustration—and still do.
That happens when we focus on the unhelpful things, instead of doing our part to help find a solution.
Have a good week, Josephine.

Things I Learn From My Dog

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My dog can sense earthquakes in our neighboring state of California. Tail in-between legs, bark at the ready, she shifts into high alert as if every flap of wing or roar of an engine electrifies her. She’s protective, and determines to catch every single unsettling current until the threat is gone.
She runs laps. Not one or two, but intermittent laps around the yard in between dinner, TV time & bedtime stories. She’ll do this for one day, or several days, working until the earthquake passes. On nights like these, I can hear her dog door flapping throughout the night as she makes her rounds.
Finally, she’ll collapse and rest.
It reminds me of the days when my mind spins like a broken record, catching on all those ideas that jump track.
On into the night, a mish-mash of unfinished files to sort out.


So, the next morning, I don’t nap—I do like Bella does and I run. I go to the gym and hit the treadmill, then I pop on the elliptical. Finally, I take on the weight machines until I’m exhausted.
s-t-r-e-t-c-h
Now I can get to work. I pull the good ideas from my mind and sort them out on paper, or the computer screen. I work until I feel the tide shift. I don’t always see it, but I feel it. That’s the spot where faith thrives, in the unseen realm where I’m beyond my limits.
Then I can rest.
It’s not real rest until you’ve worked with everything you’ve got. Until you’ve unwrapped your God-given gifts and covered your space of the world with them. The outcome is not up to us, it’s up to God. Our job is to just do our thing.

Reach

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I went to elementary school in the 80’s when bullying was thought of as an elective. That meant if someone elected to pick on you and you complained to the teacher about it, you would be promptly reminded how close you were to the end of the day, and with that, the teacher turned away as if that small nugget of counseling was all they had to offer. I suppose it was.
Wuzzle was the nickname of the girl who tried to strong-arm me on the bus. She was stocky to my slight, bronzed to my pale, and thought I’d be an easy target on which to display her superiority.
But this was the country where cowboys could speak the language of artists, and ballerinas could be both feminine and beasts. There are fewer limits where there are fewer assumptions.


So as she tried to pin my arms down, I remembered how my ballet teacher told us that dancers were some of the strongest people in the world because we weren’t reliant on machines and steps to sculpt our muscles—we used what we had—our own bodies. Sometimes we forget the value of what we already have.
In ballet, you not only hold your arms up for the majority of the class, but you reach farther than you came in reaching, and use them to frame a story for the audience. What’s not obvious is the effort it takes just to hold your arms up for an hour, and the strength it takes to rise to your toes time and again.
With all the stretching, ballerinas’ muscles don’t bulk up as they would if built in the gym, so this way, they not only reach beyond their limits, but the work that goes into the dance doesn’t get lost to the story.
Wuzzle gave up after a good ten minutes. My arms couldn’t be pinned by an amateur elective-taker. Reality for those who judge without looking a little deeper. But our struggle wasn’t for nothing—we became friends after that, and chose to sit by each other on the bus from that day forward.
I try to remember that as I face struggles—what do I already have in me? Will I let myself reach a little farther…because with the spirit in me, I can. So can you.

Blessings for your Tuesday.

I’m offering a few of my books free for a few days–The first two in The City of Light series, YA dystopian fiction.

Go here for Wake

Go here for Wild