Confessions from a Fictional (yes, you read that correctly) Author

by Serena Chase

 

My name is Serena Chase and I am not a real person.

I am an invention. A pen name. The secret identity of an author who, for reasons ranging from personal safety—due to a scary series of incidents—to shelf placement, chose not to associate her real name with her public career. But even though I’ve—no, she’s—ahem, we’ve coexisted for a long time now, it sometimes gets confusing. For both us.

More for her than me, probably.

Like now, when I realize I’m talking about the true me—the Social Security Number-bearing individual, the real me, the one responsible for the creation of “Serena Chase” and her associated products—in the third person.

Oh, boy.

When I (the real me) first made the decision to safeguard my work by writing under a pseudonym, I was revising my first two novels, The Ryn and The Remedy while blogging regularly for a popular Christian fiction blog . . . which soon led to becoming a regular freelance contributor to a USA Today blog. “Serena Chase” was gaining momentum, fast—not as an author of fiction, unfortunately, but as an influencer on behalf of other inspirational and YA fiction authors. (Ah, but that’s another “confessions” post.) The career wheels were turning, but it was becoming questionable as to whether I could keep both the pen name and my sanity. Every time I signed a blog post or an email with my pseudonym, I obsessively struggled with the idea that I was a BIG. FAT. LIAR.

Long had I bemoaned the absence of authenticity and vulnerability within the Christian community, but here I was, forming professional and personal relationships within the publishing world under an assumed name and, to some extent, personality. Through those early years, some of the authors I met became dear friends to whom I eventually stuttered through a pen name confession, but all the while, my natural leanings toward anxiety and depression screamed, “Liar!” like Miracle Max’s wife in The Princess Bride.

One moment I would be writing a draft of the apology post that would reveal my real name . . . and the next I would be deleting it, paralyzed with fear that the nasty people responsible for me actually considering a pen name in the first place would discover my secret and cause more damage.

I sought council from those who knew me by my “real name” and were aware of my situation. As a rule, the writers in that small circle saw the pseudonym as a career necessity, not a moral dilemma. My non-writing friends, however, while expressing understanding for why it felt necessary to me, either shrugged off or added to my fears and/or my feelings of being a liar. I was at a moral, philosophical, and business impasse.

Was my struggle, as one friend suggested, only a symptom of an overweening pride that wanted to claim the words I wrote under the name that was truly mine? Or, as another friend offered, was I a slave to fear, not trusting God with my family’s safety? Was I making a mountain out of a molehill? Was having a pen name a lie, and therefore sin? Or was it a solid business decision? Was it right? Wrong? A gray area?

It went on like that for a long time. I obsessed. I prayed. I cried. I hated myself for all of it. I hated “Serena Chase” for being cooler than me. I couldn’t sleep. When I could, I woke up in the middle of the night with panic attacks. I was a mess.

Sometime around the release of my third novel The Seahorse Legacy, however, there was a shift in my thinking. During a conversation with another author, we spoke about a newly released book, both us referring to it as an addition to “The (insert Famous Author Name) Brand.”

In the context of our conversation, we did not necessarily discuss the merits of the work produced. We spoke of a business model, a strategic campaign. Yes, it was Famous Author’s name—her real name, as far as I know—but we were not discussing it as a part of her human identity; we spoke of The Famous Author Name Brand as exactly that: a brand—a label attached to a specific collection of intellectual property and all connected marketing efforts.

It got me thinking . . .

As authors, we are told to “build your brand” and to “be brand-consistent across all platforms.” Could the “brand” concept justify the existence and proliferation of “Serena Chase” in the moral center of my mind? Instead of “Serena Chase” being the “big fat lie” I’d been losing sleep over, was she—er, it—, instead, a brand under which my creative intellectual property could safely reside?

Yes.  Yes, she—it—could.

It was a life-changing revelation.

Yes, it is still awkward sometimes, operating under one name in “real life” while using an entirely different identity when I need to be the human representation of “The Serena Chase Brand” online or at an event. Sometimes, I talk about myself in the third person and it weirds people out (including me, to be honest!) Sometimes, my worlds collide. Sometimes, it’s embarrassing. Sometimes, it’s scary. Sometimes, I just need more coffee so I can remember which name I’m using that day (*winks at Ronie Kendig.*)

But most of the time . . . I’m okay with it. I’m okay with building The Serena Chase Brand and representing it in the flesh when necessary.

Sure, sometimes I wish I could move far away from my hometown and legally change my name to “Serena Chase” because it would make life easier. I’ve realized I often feel more comfortable operating under my brand identity than the one I was born+married into.

Is that weird? Yeah, that’s probably pretty weird. Ah, well. Another confession for another day.

What do you think about the use of pen names?

 

Author Bio:

SERENA CHASE is the (pseudonymous) author of the critically-acclaimed Eyes of E’veria epic fantasy series and Intermission, a contemporary young adult romance. She believes readers expect a novel to be an immersive entertainment experience and seeks to provide that experience through her stories. When not writing, she can often be found assisting other authors with manuscript critique and marketing copy creation through her business, Reviewer’s Eye View, or teaching workshops on the art of crafting immersive, entertaining fiction. Connect with Serena on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and through her website and newsletter.

 

Confessions of a Kid’s Librarian

by TLC Nielsen

 

As I work on my first novel, I can’t imagine a more perfect job for an aspiring author than working in the public library. Even though I’ve been in the children’s department for almost 12 years now, my job is still as much fun as it is work. I help children and parents find the perfect books to read. So, shhh, don’t tell anyone what I’m about to reveal. Oops, there’s no more shushing in the 21st century library!

 

My Second Home

As a child growing up in rural Wisconsin, I remember our monthly trip to the library. I loved it so much my folks had to limit me to the number of books I could carry! So when my kids were young, I took them to the library, weekly. It was free admittance with music, books, movies and magazines to borrow. We’d spend hours at the library.

Nowadays, the trend in public libraries is to be a gathering place rather than a repository of books. In my kids’ department, our staff enjoys creating a place to stay and hangout, whether playing with puzzles, toys and games, doing craft projects or reading books as a family. I spend a lot of time during work grabbing all the books families have left behind after reading. Due to the tendency of families reading books in the library without checking them out, librarians now look past the circulation numbers of books and materials. We look at how many are handled on the premises. The library world runs on statistics, so I do a lot of tallying of interactions in the library – how many times I’ve helped patrons, how many games/puzzles were used, how many prizes given out, that kind of thing. I must confess, however, that I do wait for them to come and ask for assistance since they may think, like I did, that this is their home away from home.

Because of this second home concept, I don’t like enforcing the library’s “no eating” rule either. I carry around plastic baggies to save the suckers are so often stuck in the hands of our youngest visitors. With all the toys, games, puzzles and Duplo’s being played with in youth services, tidying up is a large aspect of my job, the work part. Good news, though: my library created a tiled area in the entryway with cafeteria-style tables and chairs so patrons can eat somewhere in the library. In essence, the community library is your other living room. Some libraries even sell food on the premises, but not mine. It’s BYO style.

 

Not Paid to Read

The one thing I do for my job that’s not paid is reading. I do all my reading outside of work, even though I run a monthly book club for 7-9 year olds.  I pick books in a series and challenge my students to “out read” me. We’re called “Novel Detectives” and we find good books no matter where they hide. Each month during the school year, we rate a book and then post it publicly so other students know about the good books we’ve read. I was fortunate enough to connect with a publisher who sent my detectives Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) of soon-to-be-published books. By filling out surveys afterwards, my detectives were able to influence the final printed version of the book. I will confess that the detectives out read me too often, due to the fact that I accomplish most of my reading on the workout bike at the gym.  My favorite ARC so far is Star Thief, a 2017 release.

 

Paid to Have Fun

I am paid, however, to practice the ukulele at work.  Yup, you read that right. Part of my job involves the ukulele. Two years ago, I talked my boss into buying some ukuleles for work so I could do more with music programs. I originally wanted 6-12 ukes but ended up with two. I was happy to have any. I hear two more are on the way soon – Kala Waterman Ukuleles for the kids: waterproof and in fun, indestructible colors to boot.

The best part of my job as an assistant youth services librarian is the fun of designing interesting programs for kids and families to enjoy. With books heading towards an equal balance of printed and eBook format, the library now relies on programs to bring the community into the building. This is why I moved away from basic music programming to something with a bit more pizazz: the Family Ukulele Circle complete with drums and rhythm instruments. There’s some improv, basic music concepts learned and a lot of one, two and three chord songs. So yes, I am paid to have fun, but if I don’t have fun, how will they? Favorite songs by the ukulele circle families include Don’t Worry Be Happy, Down By the Bay, You are My Sunshine, and the little-known Humpty Dump, complete with nursery rhyme rapping.

I’ve done many popular programs but not all of them turn out quite so good. In my recent Junior Chef Training for students 7-9 years old, the Health Department got involved. Fortunately, I discovered I needed a Food Handler certificate to teach cooking so I did the training. Then I found out two more things: a) the library needed a permit to have food on the premises and, get this, b) the students couldn’t eat anything they made since our library didn’t have an adequate cleaning area. Our Jr. Chef training focused on sweet treats and healthy eats -the fine art of toppings, so the students took heavy cream and turned it into whip cream, turned organic yogurt into frozen bites and did two more recipes. Since the Jr. Chefs couldn’t eat what they made, the library bought individual servings of organic ice cream with canned organic whip cream and good topping choices (almonds, dried fruit…) Next time, we hire a professional.

 

To Judge or Not to Judge

One last perk of working in the public library world is the invitations staff members get to do interesting things: write articles for newsletters, present interesting program ideas at conferences, and judge book contests. Yes, invited to be a book judge – whether on a panel or individually. My state’s libraries did an Indie author contest for teen and adult books, so I signed up. It was great when I was able to pick which books I wanted to read in round one.  By round two, I was assigned a few semi-finalist books. Those assigned books were so intense that I dropped out of the final round. Although one of my first round picks made it to the finals, I discovered there’s a reason why I’m in youth services – content. I’ve judged other contests since then (usually in the teen category), but that first library judging taught me how NOT to write a novel.

 

Author Bio:

TLC Nielsen loves her job as an assistant youth services librarian at the local public library within walking distance from home.  She is editing her first novel, By Land or Sea, which makes her appreciate every single book she has ever read. TLC belongs to Word Weavers International, being a helpful VP for the On the Border chapter. A librarian by day, jazz musician by night and a writer in between, TLC continues playing trombone in several area big bands. She played trombone on Rich Rubietta’s Resting Place CD and contributed a story to Cecil Murphey and Twila Belk’s book, I Believe in Healing (p. 68).  In her spare time, TLC interviews ordinary folks with interesting adventures on her Extraordinary Ordinary monthly blog found here: https://lookandbe.blogpsot.com and travels with her college sweetheart and spouse.

 

Confessions of a Small Town Mountain Girl

by J.M. Hackman

People hear “author” and immediately conjure up a glamorous life, full of book signing-days and jet-setting nights. That’s not me. Or they imagine days filled with writing The Great American Novel in cute little bistros and cafés. That’s not me, either.

The reality is I’m a small–town girl (population 774 and counting). Always have been, and probably always will be. I live in the same small town where I grew up and have lived in for my forty-plus years (cue the John Mellencamp song Small Town). I got married here, had my kids here, and am expecting to die here (although I have no plans to do so anytime soon). I married a small-town boy from Vermont who lived on a dead-end dirt road, so rural living suits both of us.

We live in the mountains not far from Pennsylvania State University where I commuted to and graduated from after four years. (Go Lions!) As I was growing up, I was convinced this town would smother me. State College, the closest “city,” seemed much more cosmopolitan than my small town. I couldn’t wait to get out and start living my life. Live here? Why? There was nothing to do.

I spent a year at Messiah College, only eleven miles away from Harrisburg. After seeing a drug bust complete with SWAT vehicles in the state capitol one night, I was able to appreciate the quirks of my small town life a little more.

 

Everyone either knows everyone else or is related to everyone else. If they don’t know you, they’ll ask. I went to a private high school in a different school district so upon being introduced, I often reeived a perplexed look and a “Who’s your… are you Kenny’s?” (My dad will always be “Kenny” even though he’s in his sixties). This used to irritate me. I wasn’t anybody’s. I had my own name—why couldn’t they remember that? I do it myself now to people I meet here, realizing it’s a way people establish connections.

We don’t go “over the mountain” on a whim. The closest Walmart is twenty-five miles away. The closest Starbucks is fifteen miles away. (Yes, yes, I know—coffee addicts are gasping with horror. This is why I like tea.) Most of my doctor offices are twenty-five to thirty miles away, so every round-trip is at least an hour driving time. Therefore, I’m having two launch parties. As much as they love me, my church family and local community will not go “over the mountain” just to buy a book.

Winter storms don’t scare us. After living on the mountain for twenty years, my husband has learned we have our own weather system. When I call him to come home from work, it’s usually because we’re getting accumulating snow or freezing rain. His response? “Really? It’s raining here.”

We’ll take “the long way,” thanks. Many of us prefer the mountain road over the interstate. Before I-80 was constructed (finished in Pennsylvania in 1970), the mountain road was the only way to get to the towns east and south of us. It’s a two-lane road, with steep drop-offs, twists, and turns, and I could drive it with my eyes closed. All of the school buses still use it.

Instead of cul-de-sacs, we have gorgeous recreational land. Our community relies quite a bit on hunting and fishing. At the beginning of the fall hunting season, an influx of hunters move in from the city to stay in their cabins for a long weekend. Three- and four-wheelers are common. Instead of summer beach houses, some families have a hunting cabin they use for hunting season or for occasional summer weekends. A wooded area borders our backyard where we’ve seen deer, wild turkeys, and evidence of a local bear (claw marks on our white birch tree and teeth marks in our now-ruined inflatable pool).

 

So small-town life in the mountains doesn’t seem so “small town” anymore. My husband and I are content to raise our family close to nature, far from the glitz and glamour of busy city life. After all, there’s truth in the saying: “You can take the girl out of the mountain, but you can’t take the mountain out of the girl.”

 

Author Bio:

J.M. Hackman has held many positions: assistant librarian, office assistant, office manager, substitute teacher, writer, wife, and mother. She still holds the last three. And loves it. She received a degree in Elementary Education from Pennsylvania State University and now spends her days writing stories, consuming massive quantities of chocolate, and looking for portals to other worlds. You can find her at www.jmhackman.com.

Social Media Links:

Website: http://jmhackman.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jmhackman/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jm_hackman

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15648309.J_M_Hackman

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jillmhackman/

Google+: https://plus.google.com/100069873149516870326

Amazon Author: https://www.amazon.com/J.-M.-Hackman/e/B01K9PJMPE

Purchase Link on L2L2 Website: http://bit.ly/2mf4Iwg

Spark is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBook, Kobo, and any other online retailer, and Spark can be requested at any bookstore or library.

Spark Back Cover Copy:

Brenna James wants three things for her sixteenth birthday: to find her history notes before the test, to have her mother return from her business trip, and to stop creating fire with her bare hands. Yeah, that’s so not happening. Unfortunately.

When Brenna learns her mother is missing in an alternate reality called Linneah, she travels through a portal to find her. Against her will. Who knew portals even existed? But Brenna’s arrival in Linneah begins the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy, including a royal murder and the theft of Linneah’s most powerful relic: the Sacred Veil. Hold up. Can everything just slow down for a sec?

Unwilling yet left with no other choice, Brenna and her new friend Baldwin (Um, hello, Hottie!) pursue the thief into the dangerous woods of Silvastamen and beyond. Exactly what Brenna wanted to do for her sixteenth birthday. Exactly. When they spy an army marching toward Linneah, Brenna is horrified. Can she find the veil, save her mother, and warn Linneah in time? And more importantly, why on earth doesn’t this alternity have Belgian waffles?

Confessions of an Insta-Mom (PLUS a Giveaway!)

by Tosca Lee

(Stay tuned at very end of post for information about how to win a copy of FIRSTBORN by Tosca Lee.)

 

Last year, in the space of “I do,” I married the man of my dreams, became a farmer’s wife and insta-mom of four.

And so this city girl who’d once sworn off marriage and had long given up the dream of children moved out to the farm and into my new family’s lives.

My confessions, to this end, are myriad:

 

  • I own three crockpots. I’m not afraid to use them all at once.
  • I now understand why my mom hid her Russell Stover candy under the chair in the living room.
  • I may or may not have several caches of goodies stashed around the house.
  • And there might be more hiding behind the vegetables.
  • I have never downed so many energy drinks in my life …
  • Or gone to bed before 9:30pm more than once in a single year—until now.
  • No one other than these kids has ever had the propensity to make me cry with a hug.
  • This blog was late because I was catching a neighbor’s visiting chicken.
  • I gained 15 pounds last year because of Totino’s pizza rolls.
  • I fantasize about clean refrigerators.
  • I’m still trying to beat my kids in Black Ops III.
  • I threw a sweet pass for a TD in last night’s football game.
  • They were right: I can’t tell the difference between deer meat and beef.
  • I keep a list of funny things the kids say to use in stories. Or for blackmail.
  • My kids are totally unimpressed with what I do for a living.
  • I had no idea that the treads on the bottom of boys’ sneakers were so diversified or important.
  • Who knew exploding targets could be so fun?
  • When one of my kids said he didn’t want to try brussel sprouts I said that’s fine and that I hoped he wouldn’t die from rickets. He now loves Brussels sprouts.
  • When you refuse to teach the kids your secret French toast recipe so you’ll always be needed.
  • When your life is suddenly made because the grocery store delivers to the farm.
  • The night I saw a tick crawling across my comforter I nearly burned the place down.
  • I’m ruined for store-bought eggs.
  • I still aspire to vegetarianism. In theory.
  • I live in a house of four boys and a dog that drinks out of the toilet. Every time I sit on a wet seat, I don’t know who to blame.
  • I’m the only mom I know who openly weeps when her son runs 50 at trapshooting meets.
  • I literally had a debate with my son one night about who should run into the possibly skunk-infested barn to grab the raccoon trap to catch a tom cat and who should cover the other with the pellet gun.
  • My son offered to video me going in in case I got sprayed. “Just think how many views you’d get,” he said.
  • I actually considered it.
  • I still have not received my motherhood manual from the Office of the Comptroller of Parenthood. I’m flying blind here.
  • I have now actually seen a piece of lunch meat come out of a kid’s nose.
  • A year later, I still have no idea what I’m doing.
  • I have never loved life so much.

The other day, one of my boys came up to me and handed me a dollar bill. “What’s this?” I said, figuring it was something he found in the wash.

“It’s a tip.”

Me: “A wha—?”

Him: “Because you’re doing a good job.”

Me: “I do my best, honey.”

Him, petting my hair: “You don’t need to try. You are.”

Oh man. (Also: do I need to report this as income?)

Last week, as my ninth novel released, I spent several hours writing guest blogs, many of which touched on all these life changes. I wrote about being a new farm wife, the grace my kids show me, and boo-hooed through it all.

Probably my biggest confession in this new parenting journey is how much these young faces have become as mirrors to me. By the time I start lecturing one on having patience, I’ve already lost mine. It’s convicting and challenging. And I worry that the one who lost his electronic privileges for the day is going to yell that I’m not his real mom and hate me the rest of his life, but when he emerges later from his room, he pets my hair.

“You’re a good mom, Tosca,” he says.

I’m not sure if that’s a gimme or not, but I’ll take it.

 

About the Author

Tosca Lee is the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of THE PROGENY, FIRSTBORN, ISCARIOT, THE LEGEND OF SHEBA, DEMON: A MEMOIR, HAVAH: THE STORY OF EVE, and the Books of Mortals series with New York Times bestseller Ted Dekker (FORBIDDEN, MORTAL, SOVEREIGN). A notorious night-owl, she loves watching TV, eating bacon, playing with her kids, and sending cheesy texts to her husband.

You can find Tosca at ToscaLee.com, on social media, or hanging around the snack table.

The sequel to THE PROGENY, FIRSTBORN, is in stores now.

 

GIVEAWAY OVER!!!

And speaking of PROGENY and FIRSTBORN, how’d you like a chance to win a copy? All you have to do is sign up for my newsletter. That’s it. In addition to being entered in the giveaway, you’ll get a copy of the first part of Bellanok (my own novel). 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confessions of an Insecure, Falsely Confident Weirdo

by Deanna Fugett

 

I could write something lighthearted and typical. Something like, I’m a speculative author, and I’ve never read the Lord of the Rings books or the Harry Potter books. While both these are true and blasphemous for a spec writer, it’s not what I want to focus on for this post. I’m going to dig a little deeper.

That confidence you see on Facebook? It’s a lie. Not all of it. But definitely some of it. I tend to compensate for my insecurities by portraying an overly confident persona. I’ve developed a strong, confident demeanor for the most part, but not all of it’s true. I still struggle with doubts, with failures, even with being paranoid.

Paranoid that people don’t like me.

I constantly worry that I’m annoying people. And I’ve been told my whole life I’m annoying. I push back at this idea by acting overconfident. Sometimes I’m an opinionated loudmouth who acts like she doesn’t care. But I do. Sometimes I care too much.

My problem is I want everyone to like me. You see, I try my hardest to find the best in everyone, and likeable things about everyone I meet. I’ve rarely ever hated a person in my life. It’s less than a handful of people who I can claim a strong dislike for in my entire 33 years. I guess I expect those around me to extend me the same courtesy. And when it doesn’t happen, it crushes me.

My husband tells me not everyone has to like me, and while I know it’s true, I still want it to be so.

I know I’m different. Always have been, always will be. I’m okay with that. I never really fit in anywhere growing up. I was the weirdo.

I was the cheerleader who sucked at cheerleading. The one who the other cheerleaders hated. I was the basketball player who was terrible at basketball. I wore combat boots and fishnet tights, and hung out with the non-popular kids. I didn’t care. I wanted to be friends with everyone.

Now that I’ve become a writer I really feel like I’ve finally found my people. People who think like me, and people who ‘get’ me. It’s nice to finally feel like I belong somewhere. I think I missed out on that growing up because I hadn’t really found myself and didn’t really know what I wanted.

I know now.

I know I’m in the right place. It took years to get here. Years to figure me out. And I’m glad I finally have.

If you see me at a writer’s conference, or at church, or the park (anywhere really), know I would love to talk to you. I love people, and hugs, and friends. And believe me when I say I want to be your friend. Because it’s true. I don’t care who you are or where you’ve been, I’d love to get to know you.

Please, don’t leave me hanging. There’s nothing worse for an extrovert than to feel lonely and like there’s no one willing to talk with you. If you’re lonely too, come talk to me. I won’t turn you down. Promise. Unless I think I’m annoying you. Then I might run away screaming.

 

About the Author:

While Deanna Fugett isn’t writing or connecting with others via social media, she can be found dancing around the kitchen with her four kids. She has a dog named Westley, a cat named Buttercup, some rabbits, a rat, a parakeet, and some newly acquired chickens. She resides in the Denver area with her high-school-sweetheart-husband of fifteen years, who thinks they live on a farm. (They don’t.)

She secretly enjoys writing more than reading. (Author blasphemy!) Deanna has an endless TBR list, and has numerous books she’s started reading lying around the house, none of which she can find time to finish. (Four kids and constant chaos will do that to you.)

Deanna is off-the-wall excited about her debut novel coming out with Love2ReadLove2Write Publishing in July of 2017, a YA Dystopian novel called Ending Fear. It’s the first novel in the Gliding Lands series, and she really hopes you will enjoy every second of it.

Confessions of a Middle-Aged Teenager

by Heather Fitzgerald

 

I’m a late bloomer. It took many years of marriage and four kids to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.

When I graduated high school back in *ahem* 1987, I had plans of becoming a model and world traveler. Yeah. I know. Very realistic and attainable. But college was definitely not part of my head-in-the-cloud plans because there wasn’t anything I wanted to do that could justify the cost.

Thankfully, the Lord had other ideas. He brought Prince Charming my way a year after graduation, and we were married shortly after I turned twenty. Billy (aka the prince) was the left brain to my right brain—quite literally—and helped me to keep my feet on the ground without giving up my desire to dream big and embrace life.

But once we started our family, a lot of my hopes and daydreams had to be set aside for a season. This was before the internet and smart phones too, so when I see busy moms that—somehow—juggle school, jobs, writing, housework, and social media, I’m a bit boggled and incredulous. I don’t think I could have managed such an itinerary with any measure of grace, let alone success! Hats off to you millennials that have grown up with social media diversions as part of your norm. I guess it’s all a matter of what you’re used to.

By the time my oldest daughter was seven, we also had a boy, age six, with autism, and two more daughters, age three and newborn. Let’s just say there’s a large chunk of my young married life that’s rather fuzzy. Beyond laundry, meals, school work, and therapy, I don’t have a whole lot of clarity on the day to day. Pretty sure everyone made it through well fed and with clean underwear, but I wouldn’t bet large sums of money on it.

Still … in the midst of our busy family life, I knew there would be another season that would allow more time for creative pursuits. Fanciful ideas always bubbled just under the surface. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t merely biding my time as a mother so I could get to the ‘fun stuff’. No. I loved being a mom, a wife, and a teacher. Creative pursuits just looked different at that time…like learning to cook and enjoying the challenge of decorating on a shoestring budget. Still, my mind constantly came up with ideas, both realistic and impractical.

One thing I had always loved to do, from childhood through high school, was dance. Think Fame and Flashdance—iconic 80’s movies. Although my parents didn’t have the finances to put me into any sort of lessons or program, public school had quite a few outlets for it, between dance team, cheerleading, and talent shows (not to mention hoofing it around my house). However, after graduation I really didn’t have an opportunity to continue dancing.

When my youngest was two, my husband encouraged me to get involved with it again (told you he was a prince!). Being that I could only take classes when he was home in the evening, there wasn’t a wide selection of adult dance classes to choose from. I could take ballet, or ballet.

I chose ballet.

Since I hadn’t any experience with this form of dance beyond a plie, it was a whole new discipline. To be honest, it wasn’t nearly as fun as contemporary dance because it’s much more technique driven and all about uniformity among dancers. I’m more of a free spirit. But it was still an opportunity to dance, nonetheless, and I learned to enjoy it.

Around that time, my kids began to take classes at a fine art school for homeschoolers. Eventually, I put my son in their ballet program to help with his coordination. I stayed in class and assisted him since his coordination and flexibility were about as natural as my talent to work quadratic equations (hint, that’s a left brained activity and I don’t have one of those).

Because of my involvement, I was eventually offered a job teaching ballet at this fast-growing school.

What???

Okay, the Lord definitely had a secret agenda for me when ballet had been my only option for dance classes a few years earlier. Someone was actually going to pay me to teach dance and I’d get to choreograph performances—which was my favorite thing ever.

Fast forward fourteen years. I’m still teaching ballet at this fabulous school. We’ve grown from a handful of students to close to one thousand! We’ve expanded from two ballet teachers to five. And choreographing for our ‘showcase’ is still the best part of the year for me. Choreography is storytelling set to music. I prefer to use songs with lyrics so that we can express the story through dance, though certain instrumental pieces can move me in much the same way and I’ve used them as well.

As my children became teens and tweens, I began to see how swiftly our school days would come to a close. When my youngest was in sixth grade and my oldest had graduated, I could feel the fetters of schedules, classes, rehearsals, and performances loosening, little by little, as each child became a young adult. What was I going to do with myself? Ballet classes were only a once a week event. I didn’t want to choose a career path after our final graduate walked the stage. I needed a goal to work toward.

Enter writing. If I could begin a career in ballet in my thirties, why couldn’t I begin a writing career in my forties? I’d always had the desire and the ability lurking just under the surface. Where I had struggled tremendously to keep my head above water in math, I had easily coasted through English and literature courses. And as a homeschooling mom, I enjoyed reading to my kids most of all. “Just one more chapter” was a sure way to take a bite out of my well-intended schedule.

I had already been playing around with writing kids books and venturing into the blogosphere, so writing wasn’t a brand new pursuit. But I made a firm commitment to have some sort of career in place by the time my youngest graduated. Though I had often dipped into creative pursuits only to let projects sit unfinished for eons (if finished at all), I felt like the Lord was calling me to look at the big picture, the long term, and the future of my grown up self.

Well, number four graduated in May of 2016. My first book The Tethered World was published in February of 2016 with The Flaming Sword releasing that November. The Genesis Tree is coming out this June which means my first publishing contract has been fulfilled. Pretty much divine timing, right? Divine indeed because I look back and wonder how my blonde, right-brained self managed to pull this off.

I can’t help but view the past twenty-seven years of marriage with a thrill of awe and thanksgiving over how well the Lord orchestrates our paths. He has blessed me with a wonderful husband, terrific kids that have grown into treasured friends, a beautiful grand daughter, and—amazingly—a dual career doing things that I absolutely love. It’s humbling to look at how little I had to do with any of it. Even the talent to dance or to write are gifts from Him, designed by Him.

I feel like I’m getting some sort of do-over from my graduation in ’87. Probably because I needed to grow up a bit to know what I wanted to be when I actually grew up. Thanks to the disciplines of being a wife and a mother, I’ve matured enough to handle the freedom of self-expression that would have been wasted in my youth (on me anyway).

Yep. I’m a late bloomer. What about you? Maybe you had different opportunities than me and were able to enjoy a career before you reached middle age (okay, maybe you’re not anywhere close to being middle age but, I promise, you’ll be there in a blink). Still, we all have hopes that are deferred for one reason or another. What are your future dreams?

Although there’s controversy surrounding whether or not C.S. Lewis actually said this, it is still a favorite quote and sounds like a tidbit of his wisdom. “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” I’m certainly proof of that.

And I’m not done dreaming!

 

Author Bio:

Heather L.L. FitzGerald writes from her home in Texas, while dreaming of being back in the Pacific Northwest, where she grew up. When her four kids were young, she enjoyed reading aloud until her voice gave out. (Her son, who is autistic, would just move on to his favorite audiobook).

Certain stories became good friends—the kind you want to revisit. The kind you wish never needed to say goodbye. Those are the kind of stories Heather aspires to write. Stories worthy of delicious coffee. Stories difficult to leave. Her YA Fantasy trilogy The Tethered World Chronicles will be complete when her third book, The Genesis Tree, releases June 1st. Her other books, The Tethered World, and The Flaming Sword, are available on Amazon or can be ordered at any book retailer.

Heather is a member of the North Texas Christian Writer’s group, ACFW, CAN, and helps with the Manent Writer’s group in Fort Worth, Texas. You can connect with Heather on her website/blogFacebook, Pinterest,(Belongs to her main character, Sadie), Character blog: (Sadie’s mother has a blog pertaining to legendary creatures), Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads.

Confessions of a Medical Mom

by Lindsay Franklin

 

Red lights flashing in the darkness, sirens wailing in the middle of the night. Your child being loaded onto a gurney and whisked away to an emergency room. It sounds like the start of a horror story. Every parents’ nightmare. The worst day of your life.

But if you have a child with a medical condition, this may be routine. It may be the eleventy-hundredth time you’ve watched EMTs load your kid into the back of an ambulance. It may only barely affect your blood pressure these days, which is good, because you have to be calm enough to recite your kid’s entire medical history at three a.m. to the paramedics who have probably never heard of his rare neurological condition.

I’m only speaking for myself, of course. Every medical parent’s story looks different—indeed, the variance can be wild. But the sirens don’t scare me anymore. When my son has a seizure, my husband and I time it carefully (our comfort zone is five to six minutes) and watch for signs of respiratory distress. Most times, we don’t call an ambulance anymore. What are the ER docs going to tell us? “Your son has something weird in his hypothalamus.” Yes, thank you. We know.

The way I’ve described it, maybe it sounds like medical moms (and dads) are the chillest cucumbers in the vegetable bin. In some ways, that’s probably true. We can’t afford to panic in the midst of an emergency. We have to stay calm and level-headed to make sure our kids get the care they need. But that’s only one facet of the medical mom life.

Anxiety has become part of my essential makeup. It always has been to a degree—I’m just wired that way more than some others, like my husband who doesn’t startle at loud noises and barely blinks when he hears glass breaking, people shouting, or atomic bombs dropping.

But my journey as a medical mom has upped the ante. The part of my brain that wants to protect my squishy, exhausted, grieved heart always has me preparing for the worst. When the worst has already happened—when you’ve gotten the very last news you ever wanted to hear—it’s hard not to constantly wait for the other shoe to drop.

I’ve had a lot of dropping shoes in my life.

There’s a strange layer of shame that tags along when you or your child is not healthy, especially in the faith community. I’d need a couple extra hands and feet to count all the times well-meaning people have subtly (or overtly) suggested my life would look different if I had a little more faith—if I prayed better or more frequently, if I had better theology, if there weren’t some underlying sin lurking in my past or present.

Look, I said they’re well-meaning, and I meant that. People don’t realize the hurt they cause when they say such things, and really, no sick or differently abled person should be surprised by these comments. They’ve been happening for millennia: “Who sinned, Jesus, this man or his parents?” But what these folks don’t realize is that the medical parent’s life requires a certain kind of faith just to reach ground zero, if you will. Just to get to the starting place where others begin growing in their relationships with God, we have an uphill battle.

That’s because we start in a pit. We start in a place of constantly wondering why our child is suffering, constantly working to overcome the anxiety and shoe’s-going-to-drop mentality. We start in a place of being reminded every moment that we are weak, that our children are hurting and there’s nothing we can do to fix it. So it is simultaneously true that I’m barely clinging on and my faith is a solid rock. Both those statements are my raw, naked truth—my confession. My faith is tested by the moment, and I’m still here.

The places where I’ve seen God working most clearly in my life have been related to my medical kid. Small miracles—and a couple big ones—have unfolded before my eyes. Medical parents may have a strange, arduous road to walk, but we also have a sharp, unshakable sense of hope. Hope that we’ll make it through today, hope that tomorrow will be easier, hope that even if it’s not, God will see us through.

 

Author Bio:

Lindsay Franklin is an award-winning author, freelance editor, and homeschooling mother of three. Her debut fantasy novel, The Story Peddler, releases in 2017 from Enclave Publishing, and her book of devotionals for young women, Adored, releases October 2017 from Zondervan/HarperCollins Christian Publishing. Lindsay has had dozens of short stories published, and she is Faculty Director for Realm Makers, an annual conference for speculative fiction writers of faith. She is a Bible college student and has taught fiction to wildly creative homeschooled junior and senior high students. Lindsay may or may not be addicted to full-leaf tea and organic coffee. Don’t tell anyone. Connect with Lindsay on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. You can also follow her stuffed wombat on Instagram. Yeah, you read that right.

Confessions of a Wallflower

by S.D. Grimm

 

 

I’m not particularly noticeable. I’ve been thought of as standoffish and snobby by people who didn’t know me yet. I’ve been the person no one in the room wants to get to know. I’m often the person no one remembers seeing even though I was there. The first to leave. Invisible. Quiet. Elusive.

It’s not that I dislike people.

It’s not that I want to hide from conversations, either.

In fact I love to sit down and talk to people about deep, soul-searching things. I cherish my friendships and desire to be able to be myself in social situations.

It’s just that social situations are terrifying. Talking to people on the phone? Rare form of torture. Being called out as the center of attention? The stuff of nightmares. The thought of being tossed into a room filled with strangers and being told to mingle? Enough to keep me at home huddled in my zombie-apocalypse room.

Talking one-on-one with someone about things that have nothing to do with the weather and everything to do with revealing something personal, be it a deep-seeded emotion or favorite comic book character or greatest fear or anything Star Wars related? My idea of awesome. Getting to know a small group of people with whom I think there’s a real possibility of cultivating friendships? One of my favorite things. Hanging out with people I’m already friends with so I can be my crazy, witty, shy, adorably awkward self? Heaven on earth.

Recently I was invited to hang out with some friends, who I am just getting to know. Excitement and anxiety started to mix in a dangerous concoction. What starts out as “Yes! People actually like me!” “I wasn’t completely awkward,” and “I managed not to accidentally tell them to ‘back off’ with a look.” Turns quickly into, “But what if they hate me?” “What if they didn’t really want to invite me, but I was just there?” Or “What if this is some long, drawn-out prank to get me to go meet them and then no one else shows up?” “What if they change the time and then forget to tell me because they don’t even remember inviting me in the first place?”

You can laugh. It’s okay. But you should also know that these thoughts (and more) literally crossed my mind. Not in a funny way, either. Looking back, I can sort of laugh at myself and at least think “why would you go there?” In reality, these thoughts put me in a serious state of panic.

I almost stood them up because I thought no one would notice anyway.

For me, starting a friendship is something that not only terrifies me, but is also something I crave. I LOVE my friends. I wish they knew how much they meant to me. And yet, I have to conquer stupid fears and sometimes crippling doubts to believe that my friends like me too.

That got me thinking.

A lot.

It does matter to me what the people I like think to some degree. I mean, I value their thoughts and opinions. On the other hand, my friendships aren’t just about what they think of me. It’s a give-and-take relationship. I make them feel loved and appreciated. They do the same to me. So … that means even if I’m scared, even if I’m anxious, even if I think an actual invite to hang out could be a ploy to make me feel stupid, I have a choice to make:

I can let fear win.

Or I can let my friendship win.

And when I choose to let my friendship win, guess who benefits? My friends. (Me too, actually!) But that’s what matters: that my friends feel the love and appreciation. Knowing that in my head helps me when the fear grips. Allowing myself to believe that other people could actually be interested in the shy wallflower helps me to take those brave steps forward.

And that’s what life is about, isn’t it? Taking brave steps forward? Because, yeah, bad things could happen. But so could good things.

That’s the risk of bravery. I saw this quote on a meme about being brave: Sometimes the fear won’t go away, so you have to do it afraid. And that spoke to me.

It doesn’t mean that I don’t still have thoughts of relationship sabotage or that I won’t be afraid and stand off to the side when the room is full. It doesn’t stop me from sometimes sneaking to the next aisle at the grocery store when I see someone who might know me, or slow my heart from racing when the phone rings. But it does allow me to stop and think. To make deliberate choices.

So maybe I should title this Confessions of a Braver Wallflower. Because every day that’s what I strive to be. Braver.

But remember, you can’t call it bravery unless you’re pushing through fear.

 

Author Bio:

S. D. Grimm’s first love in writing is young adult fantasy and science fiction—everything from urban fantasy to superheroes. Her office is anywhere she can curl up with her laptop and at least one large-sized dog. You can learn more about her, her debut novel Scarlet Moon, and her upcoming books at www.sdgrimm.com

Check out Scarlet Moon!

 

 

 

 

Confessions of a Thankful Internet Geek

by Laura A. Grace

My Papa’s legacy lives on.

Granted, I don’t recall ever seeing him pick up a book (well, unless maybe it was a train book with lots of pictures) except his Bible when he got older.

Yet his extrovert self still inspires my introvert self to actively get to know other people online, especially authors and writers.

He and my Grandma would share stories of how he met so-and-so online and then, when on a cruise, go and meet that same person. More than once did they tell me how they got “exclusive tours” because of an online friend my Papa knew.

Reflecting on those stories, I am mind blown at how he used the internet to make new friendships that extend over the ocean (and he didn’t even have social media to do it!).

It’s even more exciting to know that I’m following in his footsteps.

Just as it was for him, the internet has opened new gateways that the seventh grade me never would have imagined as I began devouring Nancy Drew mysteries. I thought the most I would ever be able to do was read and tell friends (which I still do). However, someone introduced me to the idea of meeting and interacting with authors online and transformed my life as an avid reader.

Now my inner fangirl does a lot more of this:

via GIPHY

And quite a bit of this:

via GIPHY

Now I could easily be doing this outside of social media (which I still do at some point while reading, and on multiple occasions if I might add), but now I am able to use book blogging to really get to know authors. I can reach out via Facebook messenger or email and ask if they would be interested in an interview or guest post. Then somehow as we’re chatting, the conversation keeps going and this amazing thing sometimes happens … (insert big breath) I get to know and call them friend. Talk about a dream come true! I have to try and remember daily that these authors genuinely call me friend and not let my inner fangirl explode with squeals and giddiness in every conversation (but don’t worry, when they release a new novel, they get a big dose of that).

via GIPHY

Recently my close writing mentor just released her short story on Amazon, and it is surreal to think how I can help get her book out there through blogging. I can show and talk about my friend’s story in a way that wasn’t possible when I first started reading in middle school (well, at least I thought wasn’t possible). I can make memes, do an interview, and make a fan-made book trailer to name a few fun ones.

Now I have to admit, it’s one thing to share the latest book trailer I made, but it’s whole other thing when I’m asked if I would be interested is hosting a blog tour under God’s Grace Blog Tours. By this point, I’m pretty sure my inner fangirl cannot help but faint from joy and excitement (whether I know the author or not). Not only am I able to gush all the amazingness of their story, but I get to do it with different bloggers all over the United States (sometimes even from all over the world).

Enter me stalking these bloggers’ sites for their posts of reviews, guest posts, or some other feature in the name of sharing the book love, and I feel my mission is partially complete.

via GIPHY

What is my mission as an avid reader, book blogger, and blog tour host?

Support the author, read the book, and share the book love (no matter what order I do these).

Usually the final and even more fun part of my mission includes participating in one of the coolest virtual book events I know on the internet: Facebook parties.

Oh my goodness! What an epic way to chat with other readers and favorite authors. Enter lots of fun chat and games with giveaways, and you have this mega fangirl party with lots of squealing and laughter off screen (at least for this inner fangirl).

via GIPHY

Yes, I can definitely say that I’m thankful my Papa showed me how wonderful of an adventure it can be when getting to know people online. A few years ago I would have been a nervous wreck even thinking about remotely wanting to reach out to people I don’t know (even at Facebook parties).

Not so much anymore. And as a result, my Papa’s legacy lives on.

Just with a lot more sequels of excitement and dancing over new book releases.

(Before I go, can I take a moment to share how I feel being featured on Ralene’s blog today? Yeah, I also might have been feeling this as I was reading her novel, Bellanok. Thank you, Ralene!) From Ralene: Aw, thanks, Laura. You know how to make a gal feel special.

via GIPHY

 

 

About Me:

Laura A. Grace loves to read with a passion. Her personal goal: to read all the books as well as write a few of her own (maybe even a hundred!). She’s a firm believer in spreading hope, and book blogging makes a perfect outlet. More than once her husband has caught her staying up late to support and get to know Christian indie authors online. You can find her in her North Carolina home, attempting to capture her characters and force them onto paper—or trying to read just one more chapter before going to sleep.

Links:
HOPE through the Pages (website): https://pagesandhope.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pagesandhope
Twitter: https://twitter.com/pagesandhope
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-u-2ISJD33-o9YDd-0kv4Q
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/15540563-laura-grace

I wrote an e-book, One Bookish Friend Challenge, sharing how I gave myself personal challenges to get to know other people online. I made it a freebie to those who sign up for my newsletter. You don’t have to share, but I thought I would mention it.

Here is the newsletter signup link and I’ll attach the cover in case you decide to share (again, if not, that’s totally okay): http://eepurl.com/csu9yr

Also, was unsure if I should mention, but if someone was interested in learning more about God’s Grace Blog Tours, here is the link: http://pagesandhope.com/gods-grace-blog-tours

Confessions of An Adventure Writer Who Disdains Change

by Elizabeth Van Tassel

 

I’ve lived through death-defying moments ducking from flames as we survived a wildfire, losing every possession and our home in one day, working in South America and had my hotel surrounded by machine guns going off at night and rioting. I’ve been closeted in a hospital room with family living on the edge of life and death, gotten on stage in front of hundreds, held thousands of dollars of pink and colored diamonds and a Faberge Egg, and have moved fifteen times in my lifetime all over the country. I write for tweens and teens about Indiana-Jones-style adventures in other worlds and nonfiction to encourage families to live with resilience after big life changes. Yet, when I first hear that a test or trial is coming, I cringe. That moment of trust is still slightly terrifying! Can you relate?

 

The Choice

When a challenge comes I first need to assess it and understand the parameters—what’s the cost going to be? To me? To my family? Our finances and life in general? It can be an unwanted medical scare or a child needing more attention—an extraordinary life event or amazing opportunity. It doesn’t even have to be all negative. It’s just the pain and distortion of comfort with change that gets me. I find it slightly humorous that I can imagine all kinds of terrors and torture, beauty and gems, and poignant lessons for my characters, yet I really don’t like having to endure them myself.

 

The Hovering

In every kind of change, there’s the point of acceptance. Now you understand it involves a move across the country, a whole new diet, a drastic budget change, or a huge open door you never could have dreamed up. The latter is more fun, of course, but in a walk of faith there’s a moment like watching a seagull hover in the wind currents at the beach, circling, wings spread wide. The winds whisper …

Will you accept or fight me?

Will you seek wisdom or do this on your own strength?

Will you allow others to bless you in this transition?

Will you be bold with your feelings or hold them inside?

 
In this hovering state, you meet the Maker, the Designer who holds the fiber of your integrity in one hand, and the ability to create in the other. He wants to shape and mold you. Will you be pliable?

I believe it’s a conscious choice at this point to decide to live a vibrant life. Resilience is found in those moments. Resilience is made in that crucible of belief and willingness to be open to change. I don’t have to like it, but I know its voice well. I won’t refuse the whispers that the Lord brings that can open doors I never would have dreamed, whether through pain or through perseverance.

 

The Change

You can feel yourself stretching. It is often uncomfortable and brings humbling times where you’re at a total loss. You can truly no longer go it alone on your own strength. You’ve not only come to the end of the rope, but the rope is waving in the breeze, floating away. You’re just living in the trust-zone.

I am right there now. We are getting ready for move number sixteen, living on wisps of trust with a new job, new life, new city, so many things all at once will be new. It is very tempting to question and even when there’s been significant signs of affirmation, it still
makes cringe. Someone else will live in our home, walk our paths, feel the Southern California sunshine in my place. You can even meet skeptics and others with difficult journeys where you’re headed.

But all I know is one simple truth.

I’d rather be walking where the Lord directs my path, than anywhere outside of it that seems easier or more comfortable. Jesus is found in those moments of trust. He’s at work inside of me and our family and is being the wonderful Craftsman that He is. Chiseling away at my inadequacies, making a whole new life ready. Ready for change.

Are you ready for change? Do you love the fresh experiences it brings or want to hide in a corner? How have you seen fingerprints of faith on your own journey of change and growth?

 

 

Author Bio: 

Resilience Expert Elizabeth has lived a life with diamonds, wildfires, and miracles. The gemologist and communication specialist has held a modern-day Faberge egg, played with pink diamonds, and spoken to hundreds of people about adventures with heart. She winds her tales of wondrous gems and destructive loss into fantastic fantasy for teens and tweens, and meaningful nonfiction for adults.

But it’s not all sparkle. Elizabeth has found gems of true meaning as a wildfire survivor who lost every possession. She has helped her family through horrific medical traumas with her son almost dying, and her husband’s stroke. Determined to thrive, rather than just get by, now she spots potential as much as she finds inclusions in her microscope. Her creative eye and stories of survival help others to rise above circumstances and begin meaningful life changes. She also speaks, hosts classes, and blogs for adults and kids about how to live a resilient life.

Starting in April, Elizabeth is featuring a guest-blog series on Thorn & Vine with terrific authors sharing their own stories of resilience and invites you to participate at Elizabeth Van Tassel.com

 

LINKS

(http://elizabethvantassel.com/) where you can sign up to receive the posts to your email personally. She hosts a YouTube channel and interviews inspirational people, actors, and authors to encourage your journey (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbfGSIRoGjwywnyAto0IQKA) and family-friendly or beauty inspired activities to lift your perspective. Her Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/elizabethvantassel/?hl=en) features moments of beauty and inspiration, as well as gems from her gemology life to dazzle and delight. Catch her on Twitter (https://twitter.com/ElizVanTassel) too!