Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Big Thanks to Tudors Weekly!

You know that Tudor family-- Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Bloody Mary...oh, and...The Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I...Lady Jane Grey Dudley (some may know her as Helena Bonham Carter in a movie a loooong time ago)?

Well, I had the honor of guest posting on Tudors Weekly, about my favorite protagonist--a fabulous resource about everything Tudor!

Check it out, and thank you Tudors Weekly!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Creating Conspiracy: The Underside of A Timeline

Have you ever wondered what would happen if one life was spared along history's timeline? 

I asked myself this question during my typical daydreaming session as I glanced out my kitchen window on a misty autumn day. I dared to believe that a story might be told, without disturbing the facts, but weaving a conspiracy beneath the visible records that we learn in history class.

And for me, my heart and mind immediately went to the part of history that I love most--to a girl in the tower, a traitor queen, a pawn in a losing faction of Tudor England. 

The Nine Days' Queen has gone down in history as a woman who died for her faith. 

For those of you who know little of this woman--let me briefly explain the historical facts: Lady Jane Grey was a Tudor relative and known as a zealous, intellectual reformer. In 1553, the Protestant king was on his deathbed and next in line was his Catholic sister, Mary I. In an effort to to keep the British throne Protestant, the Lord President of the King's Council and Jane's parents forced Jane to take the throne-- a treasonous decision. Mary would not be slighted, and she reclaimed the throne after a mere nine days. 

Although the Queen offered Jane reprieve for her treason by giving her a chance to convert to Catholicism, Jane refused due to her fervent faith--or so the history books state.

What if Jane's death wasn't really hers at all?

I continued down this interrogation as I continued to daydream.

Would anything in history shift because of Jane's conversion to Catholicism? Besides her name disappearing from Fox's Book of Martyrs, what else would change?

But history would hinge more on the simple conversion and life lived out by a traitor cousin to the throne. The pivotal plot point would be wrapped up in a different question, Why?

Why would someone like Jane convert at all?

WHY would a zealous Protestant young teen like Lady Jane Grey Dudley, choose to betray her faith and convert to Catholicism under the pressure of the woman now known as Bloody Mary? Knowing the high stakes during the Protestant Reformation, and the devotion Jane Grey had to her beliefs, something huge would have to make her waver at Mary's offer. Why would this happen?

This is the question that launched in my mind a new story bursting to be told. And it's one that hardly shifts the current timeline, but flips over the recorded Tudor history as if it were a tapestry, revealing a web of threads, knots, and snags yet to be discovered--and an underground legacy that reaches well beyond the Tudor bloodline.

If Lady Jane didn't die so young, what unexpected legacy might she have left to us that changes nothing in the history books of today--but MUST happen for history to remain the same?

It is exciting to have written this story and see it unfold. I am currently seeking publication so you might know the rest of the story. Until then, join me here for Fictitious Friday on October 2nd, to get a snippet more of intrigue in this upside down timeline of Tudor England

**Fictitious Fridays are a chance to enter a Giveaway for a Starbucks card, as well as a novel about Lady Jane by Susan Meissner, Lady In Waiting. Stop by!**

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Passing up the G Rating: Mama Drama Monday

My boys insisted that they wanted to see the film Boy In The Striped Pajamas on Friday night. Only the two oldest were up, and we were going to watch a "big person" movie together. I warned them what the movie might have in it, that it was about Nazis and concentration camps and hate. And that it would probably be very, very sad. Even though I told them, they wanted to watch it anyway, and I let them. 

During the movie about an eight year old boy who finds out the horror inflicted by his Nazi father as he stumbles into it, I heard my sons ask,

"Who would do that?" and "Why would they think that?" and "How did people let them?"

If you have seen it, you know there weren't many graphic scenes...a lot implied though. And my boys know how to read implications. At one point, they even questioned if it was a horror film because they just didn't understand the Nazi mentality and the sheer brokenness of the victims. The hatred displayed by the Nazis in the movie stirred an agonizing pain in all of us--over seventy years after they held any power.

When the credits rolled, my nearly eleven year old baby boy rolled over and cried in his pillow. And the next morning he said, "I can't believe how sad that was."

It's hard to watch your child hurt because of the suffering inflicted on humanity. It makes you question whether introducing the darkness of the human condition will shade their growing up with a gloomy perspective of the world, and chip their hearts into a cynical lens of humanity's capability. 

Seriously, years ago I would have said, "No PG  + movies until they are well into their teens." And besides movies, I would have probably sugar-coated much of what they asked to know, probably even steering their eyes, ears, friendships, schooling...etc...into the perfect mold I thought would give them a full 18 years of innocence.

Ha. YEAH RIIIIIGGGGHHHHTTTT! We all hear time and time again, that our culture is degrading and our kids are losing their innocence faster and faster. And it's true in many ways. And there are things I just don't think my adolescents need to see or hear.

But I didn't think it through. I didn't think about the valuable lessons that just aren't rated G.

I didn't trust that my kids' own humanity would recoil at evil, and compassion might take root in face of tragedy.

Helicopter parent? Yep, a few years ago I was.

But now? As they grow, and learn, and hurt, I just can't risk keeping them in the bubble of happy endings. Unlike the little boy in the movie who was oblivious to the Nazi horror until he stumbled upon it himself, there is a better way to equip my kids for the depravity out there. I can walk the path of knowing beside my kids, and allow the world to be seen--from a distance, in small doses--using its ugliness as an instigator to adjust their moral compasses to truth, love, and compassion.

They might lose some innocence along the way to adulthood, but if they are going to grow into humane adults, then it's worth it...and necessary...for a future generation of protectors of the innocent.

So this mama drama is real stuff...not just silliness...this is the drama I must endure to get to the parenting meat. The very real life junk that must be processed in a very life-changing way. 

My kids' hearts depend on it. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Flipping History Upside Down: Fictitious Friday

Good Morning!

I am thrilled to start a month of Fictitious Fridays! We will go on a fantastic journey twining together my very own conspiracy about the Nine Days Queen aka Lady Jane Grey...and the ol' bard...good ol' Will...William Shakespeare. Each Friday, these crumbs will give you a taste of my recently written Biographical Historical Fiction novel, Lady Jane Lives.

Here's the first crumb along the path:

Aaaaah, I love mixing it up! Note the old spelling of Queen...yep, felt a little more 16th century-ish today than usual!

Just talking stories makes me want to sip a Starbucks latte while reading a good novel. You? 

I am having a GIVEAWAY!

One day, I'll give away a novel with my own name on the cover, but for now, one lucky winner will get a Starbucks gift card AND a copy of Lady In Waiting by Susan Meissner --the fabulous novel which inspired me to delve into my own fictitious story of the dearly beloved Lady Jane Grey.

How to enter the GIVEAWAY?

1. If you haven't yet, Go LIKE my Author Page here and let me know if you have!

2. Answer the day's question each Friday (see below). 

(Don't worry, to be sure you don't miss a day, 
you can enter your email in the right column
 and receive my blog in your inbox. ---->)

On November 1st, All Saint's Day (hey, Lady Jane was a saint, for sure), I will have a drawing from all the participants and a big winner will be revealed. 

So Today's Question: 
What is the last book you've read? Fiction? Non-Fiction? 

Mine is, The Butterfly and The Violin by Kristy Cambron--BRILLIANT! Currently reading For The Love by Jen Hatmaker --SO GOOD...AND my dear friend's debut novel, When Fall Fades by Amy Leigh Simpson --the world is in for a treat with this one!

How 'bout you?

Let's chat below!

Intrigue Awaits!

Tomorrow, I am kicking off a new segment and GIVEAWAY! Please stop by and participate each
Friday until Nov. 1st. A simple comment will get you in the running for a fun prize!:)

See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Reading A Book...

I am still processing this past weekend at the ACFW Writing Conference. So instead of writing a post for Wednesday, I thought I'd share the latest wisdom from my four year old. Imagine this as a song that she was singing with her toys. :)

If you'd like to hear my take on the conference, check out the post at The Writer's Alley.

Monday, September 21, 2015

16th Century Perk: Mama Drama Monday

Regardless of vengeful monarchs and beheadings, the 16th century was on to something...
And be sure to check out a little more in depth thoughts on my conference experience here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Filling In My Dreams With Color

As a child, I read a book about a girl who would draw a picture, and then as she slept, she would live the picture in a dream. It's a book I have searched for, time and again, and cannot find it anywhere. But it made a big impact on me, and now, as I prepare for my sixth writing conference, I know why.

I have been writing my dreams down, just as the girl, and watching them grow into their full potential over these past ten years. Each year I find myself at the ACFW conference, I might not see my book in print yet, but I add some color to my journey, and the dream becomes more real.

It's not as easy as closing my eyes to see the dream play out before me. There's work, always work to be done. It takes time, tears, and... time (did I say that?)

But, although I have no book contract to prove I'm living my dream, I have a ten year journey to prove it. And each step along that way has brought me even more color than I could imagine...and more dream to fill in with those hues.

I have learned the construct of a good story, and a bad one. I have learned the sobering reality of a tough market, and the sobering truth of a trusted critique partner. I have rejoiced in finding soul-mates along the way...women whose hearts beat the same rhythm as mine...whose dreams are at all different stages, but who treasure the same dream as me, regardless.

In the book I mentioned above, the girl ultimately ended up learning something from the dreams spurred on by her drawings. She was a different person at the end of the book because of the dreams she lived throughout it.

I always picture my writing dream culminating with a book on a shelf that might enhance a reader's heart. But, looking back, I realize the dream is more precious than that. I suppose, the dream is a journey, and the heart being changed is mine.

May I never come to a point where my color runs out, or there's no more space in the dream to fill it.

The dream has come true already.

I can't believe I just wrote that. If you know me at all, a week ago I would have told you differently. Sometimes, I get distracted by rejection or anticipation, and I try to control my dream. And while it feels necessary for a while, it's rarely satisfying. It just kills the joy, and fades the color of the dream.

Nope, regardless of human standards or culture-based success, I am living the dream out each day, each page, each writer's conference. This week, as I meet with my fellow soul-mates, and discover more colors to add to the page, I hope to realize all the more dreaming to be done.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Hope...pops up.

That word.


It's gotta be my word of the season. The season being the past year and a half. I just feel like it is my foundation most of the time.


It is what keeps me going most days. And it is exactly what Jen Hatmaker declares-- around for all those who are breathing.

Thank God, for Hope.

"You are 2 Corinthians 4, because although this darkness pressed you so hard, it did not crush you. Perhaps it struck you down, but look at you: You are not destroyed. You see that in the light. You are still standing. If you are still breathing, there is still hope." Jen Hatmaker, For The Love

See 2 Corinthians 4 here.

Putting The Brakes On Growing Up: Mama Drama Monday

This weekend has been a doozie. Drama with each of my boys. 

Real drama. 

Like peer pressure, bullying, and plain ol' disappointment. Ugh. 

And with it, comes Mama Drama moments RAMPED UP...and Mama STEPPIN' UP. 

Gotta talk, gotta process, gotta PRAY!

So when my little girl clarifies that yes, the Easter bunny isn't real but thankfully mermaids are... I just wanna let her think that. Usually, I find myself wanting to prep her to be practical and wise. I try to give her a grip on "the real world" and teach her the difference between fantasy and truth. 
But this weekend, my sons came to me in tears because of really hard lesson things up moments. And I looked at my sweet innocent daughter and thought, 
"You stay there and believe in fairytales. just a little longer. Because, soon, life is going to get hard. Harder than picking out pink or purple, what you'll choose for your birthday, and how many packets of fruit snacks you may have. "
One day, her heart will hurt because someone chose to hurt it. One day, she'll worry more about what her friends think than what she truly wants. One day, growing up won't be just about lipstick and dress-ups.

Gonna put the brakes on growing up as best as I can. Even if it means mermaids are real. Because one day, life won't be all about pretty colors, and one day, she'll stop believing in fairytales.

Friday, September 11, 2015

My Inheritance: Faith-Filled Friday

Sometimes I forget what I am aiming for.

It's easy to get caught up in self-glory, self-worth, and self-promotion.

But, it's when I am denied it outright, either in rejection or disappointment, I am reminded of something more than me.

A plan. A God who has great things ahead...even if it's not my time now. And in that plan it's not even about me...but what He lavishes upon us all.

On this Faith-filled Friday, I SO want to wallow in a sorrow. It would be easy heart is primed for it.

But instead, I'll choose to rejoice. In knowing He is my Inheritance. And that has nothing to do with me...or what the world tells me.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Lesson About Stolen Pretties

I have a lil jewelry thief about the house. She's waist high to me, and tends to find every piece of  jewelry I own. It's not too hard, because I don't have a bunch, but what I have ends up around her neck, on her wrist, or in her little purse.

Thing is, because I don't have a ton, I don't have a lot to give up. I mean, her little fingers aren't as gentle as they should be...and they are certainly forgetful when it comes to any "rules" or hiding places they've found.

Many times, I catch myself saying, "No more! You may not play with my jewelry ANYMORE!" 
And the four year old girl whines and says she loves it.

"It" being costume jewelry at best. I have discounted items that caught my eye on clearance, and dress-up jewelry in a pinch for THAT outfit on THAT occasion. She doesn't mess with the two or three "nice" items I have...because I know better to keep those out of reach.

So, what she steals is pretty much c-r-a-p...but to this's something to give that boring outfit pop...

After her playtime though, the gems are popped off, the clasp is broken, or the necklace is a tangled mess.

Thanks to my lil jewelry thief.

There's something that sits across from my jewelry box, on the other end of my dresser. And it's the one reminder that has me clench my mouth shut and swallow the words after I reprimand my daughter.

It's the one thing that softens my scolding to, "Okay, just be careful," when she asks "Pleeeease!"

My Greek yiayia's small brass jewelry box sits empty on the dresser. But it's filled with memories. The glass box is one of the only things I really wanted when she passed, because it was the one thing from my childhood that I remember treasuring most. 

Yiayia never said no when I asked to play with her jewelry--the gaudy necklaces and bangles that sat in that glass box. The jewelry case was as precious to me as Cinderella's crystal carriage because my four foot-somethin' yiayia allowed me to indulge in the pretties each time I'd visit. 
I am also reminded of the bright red lipstick in a mint-green tube that Yiayia let me wear, and the high-heeled shoes I'd slip on from her crowded closet. All the memories stem from this gold and glass treasure that I'd open each time and begin my play. It's a tiny cove reminding me of being loved, indulged, and treated as a princess.

When I spy the glass jewelry box on my dresser now, a year after my yiayia passed away, I think of her generosity toward me, and how she'd say, "Anything!" when I asked for something. She loved to cultivate my childish joy, and it seemed that desire surpassed any value she might have had for that jewelry.

Maybe her bobbles were just costume jewelry like mine are now. All the more reason I should learn from Yiayia when I find my four year old daughter indulging in my own trinkets.

It's just stuff. But the joy it brings is worth the broken clasps or the lost earring...because I hope, years from now, my daughter will remember fondly the mama who let her indulge in the pretties.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Leave Your ......Closet Behind!

Do you have a talent that you aren't quite sure about? Are you dreaming big things but embarrassed to tell the world? Have you scooted a talent away because it is too extravagant to be God's gift? Go over to The Writer's Alley today and check out my post inspired by Jen Hatmaker and my own journey!
Photo modified from by nattavut

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Next Generation

I sat in church today, and the pastor listed several things that are turning away the next generation from church according to stats. And really, they have everything to do with human opinion and assertion, and nothing to do with an authentic relationship with the living Creator.

I reside with the next generation. And I don't want the details to derail their faith. Often, I wonder if these are the days of sifting for the Lord. Is He exposing all the old lies, the hang-ups, the faulty ways of thinking, to remind us just HOW BIG HE IS? Are we being given a gift in knowledge of an upside down worldview that was not align with a right side up God?

A worldview that may have compartmentalized Godly ideals to fit in a 
very limited human constructed box? 

I am clinging to the hope that whatever ill-conceived ideas slip from the mouths of people...whatever well-intentioned-but-completely-off explanations find my children's ears, that God will show up and blow them away with something even bigger and better: Himself.

I can't control their listening. But I can count on God hearing my heart's cry for the next generation.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Women's Fiction One Sheet Design

This sounds like a heart-wrenching story! So glad I got to work on this one sheet. Here it is minus the bio...will post the full after conference!
(original has photo credits included)

Justice For the Fatherless and Oppressed

I have decided to go through the Psalms while I Bible journal. And heart's cry
leapt out on the page. I have been thinking on the refugee situation in Syria. It is close to my heart, more than anyone might know. And God met me in His Word. If only to kindle Hope and assurance that my heart is focused where it should be.
I must prayer, but also in practicality. I just need to find out how. Ann Voskamp gives us a call to action HERE
Yes, Lord, YOU shall provide the ultimate justice for the the oppressed. Let it be so. And let Your People arise against the man of the earth.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Bible Journaling: Faith-Filled Friday

I am learning about God's gifts every day. Realizing the difference between 'gift' and 'calling'. I understand that every child of God has one live a life as Christ did, to help the poor and bring Life and Love here. I learned that a few years ago (click here to read a post about it) as I strived in what I thought was my calling--writing--and realized it's just a tool God has given me for the true calling.

When I used to get calling and gifts confused, I would wonder why my love for drawing and rendering (the official landscape architecture term for, coloring), faded and kinda sits in my past like a used, un-needed gift.
Often, I consider that path a mistake...even though I have drawings upon drawings from my childhood, my teenage years, and my college years, sitting in the basement--maybe not the most talented drawings, but reflections of a passionate heart pouring on the page.

But now, I think about gifts, and their purpose, and how it's not always because we have this higher, mountain-moving purpose to use them...or even have this extraordinary ability in our gift. A gift is just that...a present from God that brings us purpose--Whether to move outward into the world for the sake of the calling, or to move upward in our relationship with God. Either way, it's about Love. Him loving His creation. And the created finding a gift that brings us to love even more.

I love to color...I love to draw...and now, even though it's really for my own meditation on God's Word, not some grand scheme of changing the world, I have started using it in my quiet time. It's only been a couple of days, but I am amazed at the preciousness of the gift to create art. My heart is flooded with wonder at the communion this Word picture meditation provides.

I may not be creating works of art by the world's standards, but I am creating, none-the-less. And it is a gift to find God amidst a color and a picture and a quiet time to reflect.

Have a Faith-Filled Friday.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

TBT: Eye to Eye

Found this photo of my thirteen year old and me at an aquarium...ten years ago. He's caught up to me almost. Those little legs aren't so little anymore. If only he'd stand still long enough to let me get a good look at him!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

One Sheet for Middle Grade Fiction

I am so excited about this one sheet...and this story! I hope my boys will read it in print one day!  Like the golden ball? Completely fabricated via me! HA! Love using photo-editing tools wisely.:) This is the design without the bio info along the bottom yet.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

In the Dark, Waiting For A Search Party

My husband sent me a Carl Sagan video. It was only three minutes long, but a lot was said. And if I could sum it up, the best word would be "hopelessness".

 A thread of hopelessness carried out in Carl Sagan's thick, syrupy voice as he described the audacity of humans to think that we are a valuable design. He spoke about his wonder at the happenstance of light to start this world aglow, and the shame of humans evolving into creatures of faith and trust in a greater being.

 According to Sagan, ""We are lost in a great darkness, and there is no one to send out a search party."

Is that what we look like?

People sitting and waiting for a fictional God to find us? Is that the basis of anyone's belief system? Because if that is so, then we really haven't evolved much. We are lazy, apathetic creatures who expect life to happen to us. We sit and wait in our insignificant existence, according to Mr. Sagan's implication, hoping that God will show up soon.

 But, that is so far from the truth. And, as I have often discovered, God prepared my heart just on Sunday for this understanding. And He did it by retelling a story that I have often leaned into these past months.

Sunday's sermon touched on the story of the prodigal son. He walked away from his father, and his father, in all his wisdom, LET HIM GO. He didn't chase after him...HE DIDN'T SEND A SEARCH PARTY TO FIND HIM. No. He let him go into the great wide world, and discover for himself the heart of the matter: That his father offered him safety, love, and purpose, and the world offered none of it.

 If the father chased after him, sent a search party, dragged the guy back, where would the heart change happen? Could God rejoice in a who is forced to stay? Or, was Christ's parable of the prodigal son one that illustrates God's Holy desire for our hearts? He is jealous, for our hearts, He is merciful, for our hearts, and He is waiting, for our hearts.

The rest of the story shows the Father running to him in compassion because the son was lost (in his heart, in his place)...and the son was now found (as he chose freely to return with a heart of humility). No search party needed, just a homecoming.

This wasn't the post I was going to write today. I was going to write one about God showing up. Funny, huh? Perhaps, a bit ironic...but, then again, not really.

Because, IN MY FAITH, He has shown up. In tremendous ways. And it's because I have already come to Him and given Him my heart.

So I attribute His glorious works to Him, and I am aware of His amazing signs in my life. But for the one who is sitting and waiting for God to show up with a stone cold heart... Yep, I agree with Carl Sagan on that one: There's no search party coming.