Monthly Archives: July 2012

Teamwork Matters

woodley wonderworks. nopsa.hiit.fi Used with creative commons license.

When I told my kids to bring a towel to the yearbook meeting, their first thought was What? Mrs. Lee’s lost it again. Their second thought was Cool. Pool.
They were wrong on both counts.
I had them stand on one side of the room on their towel and then said they needed to figure out how to get to the other side without touching the carpet. Within seconds they were jumping across the room trying to get to the other side. WIthin a couple of minutes most of them had made it. They were hot and sweaty and breathless and I was laughing.
I’d done the same activity with the 7-10 class I help out with at church, and they’d done the same thing. I figure I could do it with a bunch of adults and get the same result. When I had them go back to their starting points but added a thirty second time limit, they were shocked. And then they were confused. And then one of them figured it out. Within 30 seconds they were all across the room, without the heavy breathing and sweat.
All it took was teamwork. A path of towels instead of each person doing their own thing.
Great object lesson for life.
That’s why I joined the NTRWA chapter. I missed a writing a group. People who knew where I was and where I wanted to be. People who spoke the writing romance language.
That’s why I follow #MyWANA and #amwriting on twitter. When I’m working alone, I get words on paper. When I’ve got a team pushing me, it’s better.
That’s what I loved about Fast Draft.
Teamwork matters in everything we do. I’ll focus on that this year. ###

Mary Beth Lee/Elizabeth Lee. Current book: Letting Go. Available on Amazon or in print.

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Q&A with debut author Janet K. Brown

I met Janet Brown years ago at a local RWA group meeting. Over time I watched as she grew in her writing. When Janet got the call for her novel Victoria and the Ghost, I wasn’t surprised. Join me in welcoming her here today.

1. When did you start writing?

Writing – in junior high school
Studied with a writing teacher in 1980s.
Work and life got in the way, so, then
Studying the craft and submitting my work – 2005

2. What is your writing ritual? 

I write nearly every day, except Sunday, I keep BICHOK (bottom in chair, hands on keyboard) nine to twelve in the morning. I also attempt to get back to writing before dinner most days. I stop by 7:30 pm. That’s hubby time.

3. Toughest part of writing?

Balancing my time is problematic, but on the writing itself, I hate editing.

4. Best part of writing?

I love facing a blank page with ideas popping in my mind.

5. Best writing advice?

Write every day to keep your head in the story.
Also, when you get a rejection letter, have one day of a pity party, if you must, but then send it off again and send something else besides that.

6. Where do you get your ideas?

Life. The people I meet. Things my family, friends, or I face. With a twist, of course.

7. How do you handle self-doubt?

First, I write straight through without turning on the self-editor.
When I must edit, I quote my favorite saying, “If God leads me to it, He’ll get me through it.”
I persevere.

8. If you could go back and tell your beginning writer self something, what would it be?

Breathe

9. Can you tell me about your writing journey so far?

I’ve written all my life. Shortly after moving to Wichita Falls, I studied under a wonderful writing teacher, Connie Stockard, but then, for years, my demanding job and active family stopped all writing except journaling.

When I retired in 2005, I took writing courses and joined groups to learn more. I wrote, submitted, and faced rejection. I attended several conferences.

I first sold short stories and articles, some without pay and some with good pay, while I pursued my desire to publish a novel. I completed seven Christian novels, and nearly finished one non-fiction book before I published. In July, 2011, I received a contract for my YA. This year, that book has become a reality.
10. Tell me about your new book.

The title is Victoria and the Ghost.

At fifteen, Victoria, a city girl, loses her mother’s love and copes with country isolation, no friends and no one who cares, until she meets a ghost.

When her mother leaves the family to become a Dallas trophy wife, Victoria’s dad moves her and her sister to a North Texas farm to herd cattle and raise chickens. Refusing to believe this is more than a temporary set-back, Victoria tries to make new friends which isn’t an easy task. The first one stabs her in the back with gossip and a sharp tongue. Meanwhile, her new stepsister takes Victoria’s place in her mother’s heart. Rejection and anger stalk Victoria like a rattlesnake in the cemetery. Good thing she makes friends with a ghost and through him, a good-looking teenaged cowboy

11. Why do you write inspirational fiction?

When I first joined Romance Writers of America, an inspirational romance writer, Margaret Daley, taught our local chapter. I’ll never forget the title of her talk. “Falling in love, without falling in bed.” She inspired me to write what I know and what I like to read. I turned toward Christian fiction, and never looked back to anything else.

12. What other writing do you do?

Christian romance, women’s fiction, YA, short stories, and most recently a book of devotions.

13. What’s next?

I jump all over the board. In May, I proposed a 365 daily devotion book for compulsive overeaters. I recently received a request for that full manuscript, so I’m hurrying to complete it within a month. Otherwise, my work-in-progress is a romance. I plan to attend American Christian Fiction Writers conference in September and pitch it. Next will be another teenage ghost tale. I find I love them.

14. What writing organizations do you belong to?

RWA, and the inspirational RWA group, Faith, Hope and Love, ACFW, Oklahoma Writers Federation Inc., Christian Writers Fellowship International, DiAnn Mill’s fiction mentoring group, Rippers.

15. Is there anything else you’d like to share?

God allowed me to do what I love to do. I feel blessed. Also, He provided me with kind friends to help along the way. Elizabeth Lee taught me Twitter, and helps on linking social media. I’m blown away by ones like her willing to give their time and expertise to assist others.

I also want to thank 4RV Publishing for taking a chance on a new author. They don’t publish exclusively Christian, but all genres are consistent with Christian values. A few years ago, Vivian Zabel used her years of experience in writing and publishing to begin her own company. Her authors have brought her recognition and awards as a publisher. I’m honored to be their newest challenge.  Thanks to Harry, KC, and Robyn for all the help with editing, and a big vote of gratitude to Aidana WillowRaven who designed the beautiful cover for Victoria and the Ghost.

Thank you, Mary Beth, for allowing me to visit your blog.

Janet K. Brown Facebook and twitter @janetkbrowntx To Buy the book click here.

Writing God’s Message of Hope
http://www.janetkbrown.com
http://www.bookstowriteby.blogspot.com

Thank you, Janet, for sharing your journey with us!

A Home for Every Heart

My parents are ministers. My grandparents were ministers. I was raised in the church. And still, in my early 20s I wasn’t sure I believed in God. I’d definitely turned my back on organized religion.

I went to church with my parents sometimes, and I took my daughter to church sometimes, but I could have argued with the best of them about how the church was created for two reasons: money and the subjugation of women.
The lifestyle I lived could be classified as humanistic, I suppose. I was a “good” person. Enough said.
When an elderly customer invited my boyfriend to church one Sunday, I’m not sure why we went. Probably because they were expecting a new minister and the church was by the mall.
Whatever the reason, we went. And from the moment we walked through the doors, the church motto, “A Home for Every Heart” rang true. We weren’t judged. We were accepted. Everything changed.
My church made a point to minister to people with a world of hurt in their eyes. I think Letting Go started way back then. An idea I had to grow into.
So many people hurt today. And so often we forget the role of the church as my minister today says is to Love God, Love People. We get so caught up in life or work or what we need, we forget about others. I’m certainly guilty of that. Or we get so holy and full of our “rules” we think we’re better than others. I’ve been there, too.
Thankfully, God doesn’t expect perfection, but he did give us direction.
John 13:34-35 (NIV)
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Today, I believe. I don’t clobber people upside the head with that belief. I don’t preach hellfire and brimstone. I don’t talk about the rules. I simply say God sent His son to die for our sins and He loves us unconditionally. He’s ALWAYS there, even when we don’t believe. ###

Find out more about my books on my Amazon author’s page. Letting Go by Mary Beth Lee available in kindle format and print.

***GUEST BLOGGER alert. Janet Brown will be guest blogging here tomorrow. Her story is so inspirational. Please stop by!

Language Barriers, Life Lessons, Letting Go

Image by Shades of Blue, Roxanne Ready. Used by Creative Commons license.

Susie Dillon took a tray of cookies out of the oven and acknowledged that her husband was right. Jed was more than a little interested in Clarissa Dye.
And Paul was right about something else. The wariness in Clarissa’s eyes came about from something dark and troublesome.
“She’ s hurting, she doesn’t trust and she’s not sure about sticking around here. You can tell that,” she said.
“I imagine she’s a lot like the barn kittens. Scared to death to get close to anyone,” Paul agreed, his blue eyes sad and sure. Susie remembered those eyes back when they were bloodshot and unfocused morning after morning. When they were hiding truths. When they were bitter and angry, and she felt alone against the world with the gift of a baby boy and a ranch to take care of.
But she hadn’t been alone. God was always there.
“Don’t you think maybe God sent her to us so we can show her love?” Susie couldn’t help but wonder.
“I know God’s in our driver’s seat, Susie, but if it comes down to this girl or Jed and Mack, we can’t let her hurt them.” Letting Go by Mary Beth Lee, July 2012

God’s in our driver’s seat. Another way to say let go and let God. It’s a lesson it took me years to learn. When I stumbled upon my small group, I wasn’t letting God control much of anything. I wanted something to do and the class happened to meet across from the youth building where I’d dropped DD off. Before too long the small group was working through one bible study after another that challenged me to let go and let God. I resisted. Back then I was focused on work more than anything. I let the yearbook and newspaper run my life. My family came second, and they knew it. I fit God in–sometimes–when I could. Or when I needed Him. Lucky for me God’s there for us even when we’re not there for Him.
In 2008 I shattered my ankle in a clutzy accident. I ended up stuck in Rome a week before yearbook camp was supposed to start. I was stuck in an Italian public hospital room with five Italian women, none of whom spoke much English. My only Italian: ciao, limoncello and gelato. My prayers went something like this. “Dear God, please let me go home now. I need to get back for work. I don’t want to be stuck here. I’m scared of this hospital!”
God didn’t answer my prayers. He put two amazing people in place to help me, though. One, a grandfather of a student on the trip with me, happened to be a minister also. He stayed back with me because he said no way was I staying in Italy alone. The other, Teresa, worked for the tour company I was traveling with. She came to see me every day to translate and to talk to me. No one asked her to be there for me, but when she heard about the American teacher stuck in the hospital, she felt horrible for me and wanted me to have fond memories of her country.
Without those two, I’m not sure how I would’ve made it. Because not only did God not answer my prayers, He let me stew in that hospital bed for seven days in the midst of a horrible heat wave. The airlines wouldn’t let me travel because the break was so severe they were afraid I’d die. I didn’t care. I had a yearbook camp to get ready for, and I needed to get home. My idea of letting go and letting God was telling Him what I needed and expecting that to happen.
The Italians thought I was hilarious with my schedule book and highlighter and iPod Touch and the hours I spent on the phone coordinating camp.
Eight days and one surgery later, I made it back to the States. I said I understood let go and let God, but I was fooling myself.
Before school started my principal told me to take all the time I needed to get back into the swing of things. I had over 100 sick days. Still, though, I arranged my PT to take place before school and had DH wheel me to my room every day. I didn’t miss. I worked hard to get back to normal because I needed to be at deadlines after school. I graduated from wheel chair to walker to limping along the hallways. It didn’t take long for the job to come first again in my life.
The next year I got swine flu at the end of October and was sick until New Year’s. I missed six days of school instead of the two-three weeks I should’ve. Once again, the job controlled everything.
Somewhere in there though, something changed. I quit missing small group for work, DH and I got involved in the college ministry at church and I saw how shallow a life led by work could be. I saw the truth of how I hurt my family and myself. My small group stood by me as I lived through those changes. By the end of that school year, I was able to say the words “Let Go and Let God,” and mean them. Life’s a lot easier when you live by that principle.
I still find myself switching into the job first, family second, God third lifestyle every once in a while. I have to work to NOT go there. I’m not sure why because life is much better when I let God stay in the driver’s seat. He’s a much better driver than I am! ###
Find out more about my books on my Amazon author’s page.
Letting Go, available now for kindle and in print.

Cover art by Mary Beth Lee.

 

 

Cookie image link http://www.flickr.com/photos/shardsofblue/5875237526/in/photostream/

Forgiveness and Letting Go

I’ve got to forgive myself. I’ve got to quit limiting the grace of God. I’ve got to pray and ask for God’s help in this. —Letting Go, July 2012.

This entry from a prayer journal provides a central theme for my new novel, Letting Go. It’s funny how we limit God. How we think we’re not good enough for Him, or how we can maybe do something good enough for Him to forgive us. Forgiveness isn’t like that, though. It’s freely given. We just have to accept it. And then we have to let go of the guilt that sticks with us, constantly bombarding us, reminding us we’re not good enough for God, reminding us that we’ve failed.
Over the last few years we’ve studied forgiveness several times in small group. One of the most freeing lessons I’ve learned is that God knows we’ve failed, AND he fully expects us to fail again. He doesn’t expect perfection.
In Letting Go, Clarissa Dye has to learn this lesson. She’s not alone. Fortunately, someone steps up and shares his story of overcoming addiction, of the grace of God. And then he shows her by living a life of acceptance and love. He doesn’t preach, he doesn’t push. He’s there, though, and that makes the difference.
Letting Go is a novel, but I’ve seen that same acceptance and love make a huge difference in people’s lives so many times. The other day a friend said sometimes christians are christianity’s worst enemies. I think they were right. My minister says Love God, Love People all the time. I think that’s key. I know that’s something I need to remember.###

Find out more about my books by checking out my author page on Amazon. Letting Go available in kindle format and in print.

Photo by Ryk Neethling used by Creative Commons license.

Soul Food

In my new christian romance Letting Go, the Dillons go out of their way to make people feel at home by cooking for them. Here are a few of the recipes from the book.
Susie Dillon’s biscuits (these are really my sister-in-law Alecia Hagberg’s biscuits, and they are beyond belief yummy and EASY to make!)
Biscuits
Preheat oven to 425.

3 cups self rising flour
1/4 – 1/3 c vegetable shortening
1 T sugar (just estimate)
1 t baking soda (just estimate)
1 1/2 C milk + 2 T vinegar or 1 1/2 c buttermilk

Mix flour, sugar, and baking soda. Cut in shortening until the mixture looks crumbly. Stir in milk. Flour a sheet of wax paper. Turn dough onto flour. Sprinkle the top with flour and kneed the dough, pulling the top to the bottom and pushing up until the top looks smooth.
Roll out or flatten out by hand. cut out with a biscuit cutter or a drinking glass. Place on buttered cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until tops are browned.

***
Susie Dillon’s Mashed Potatoes
Peel and dice potatoes. (I usually use 6 large)
Boil potatoes in chicken stock until they’re soft. Drain.
Pour back into empty pan used to boil and add 1 package cream cheese, 1 stick butter, 1/2 C sour cream, 1/2 C Parmesan cheese, 1/2 C heavy whipping cream garlic to taste, salt to taste (often not needed because of chicken stock), pepper to taste. Whip them up. Pour into slow cooker and leave on low. Add more heavy whip if needed.
Extras you might want to add:
Bacon, shredded cheddar, sweet corn
****

In Letting Go, the Dillons help Clarissa learn about the healing power of forgiveness. When she tells them she’s got a criminal past, they help her see God doesn’t hold her past against her. The Dillons aren’t preachy or judgmental. They simply accept Clarissa as a person who needs help and they step up. They let their lives be the witness. I hope you enjoy the book.

Book Info: Letting Go, a christian romance by Mary Beth Lee:  e-edition (kindle only for 3 months) & available in Print

Find out more about my books by visiting my author page!

Sometimes a Hug is the Best Answer

1st Watermelon

I thought I’d spend this week sharing stories about my new inspirational romance, Letting Go. I thought maybe I’d talk about forgiveness and how it’s not for the other person, it’s for you. I thought I’d talk about people who’d been involved in abusive relationships or who’d been abandoned or who had never learned about love, but all that changed this week when I had to take a deep breath and be Mom.
When your kid’s 5, you can give them a hug and make most things better. When they’re 10, that pretty much stays the same. Maybe you add a movie to it. When they’re teenagers you can tell them what you think they should do, and often, they follow your advice. Well, not often, but sometimes. Every once in a while.
When they’re 20+ it takes everything in you NOT to tell them what to do.
ON (oldest niece) actually gave me some great advice this week. She said “Auntie, you just shake your head and don’t say anything. Let her talk. Listen. That’s how you handle this.”
Funny. It took a 17 yr old to help me help DD.
I want to go Hallmark and say our troubles make us stronger and God won’t give you more than you can handle. Or all superior and say “look chickadoodle. I’ve walked this road, and let me tell you how to do it.” Or all manipulative and say “look, you do this and I’ll do this and…”
But none of those are the right answers. The right answer is what I’ve tried to do. Listen and love and let her know I trust you to learn from this. And even though it’s Hallmark, you can’t go over, under or around. You’ve got to go through it. And always: No matter what, God’s got you in His arms. When we’re too tired, He’s there. When we’re too hurt, He’s there. When we’re too confused. He’s there. When we’re too unsure, He’s there.
And I’m there too. With unlimited hugs and unconditional love. Just like when she was five and things were easy. ###

1000 degrees outside!

What I’m Working On

It’s Revision Hell time for The Guardian Book 2 (Sharlene Gallagher). That’s the hard part. And the fun part. And the work part. And the part where I get to research and play with the words to make them their best. I’m doing this Fast Draft style. So far I’m loving everything about Fast Draft. I don’t think Revision Hell will change that. I’ll keep you posted.

This is also the week Letting Go by Mary Beth Lee debuts on Amazon. YAY! (blurb at the end).

Great news for one of my books: Honor & Lies has been in the top 50 almost all month for paid coming-of-age fiction stories on kindle. That’s awesome. In two more months the ebook will be available everywhere.

If you have questions about publishing, ask away. If I don’t have the answer, I might be able to help you find it. If you need motivation and encouragement, let me know. Writing can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. I you’re like me and you’ve gotten bogged down with life and change and rejection, and you wanted to write but now you just don’t know, go get The Artist’s Way and do the work. It changed my life.

Letting Go blurb: Clarissa Dye doesn’t put down roots. Stearns, Oklahoma, is a stopping point on her path to self-reliance. And God? Don’t even get her started. Enter Mackenzie Dillon and her cowboy dad, Jed. From the moment Mackenzie runs into Clarissa, the little girl worms her way into Clarissa’s heart, which proves to be terrifying. The fact that her strong father happens to work his way in there, too, only scares Clarissa more. Letting Go: a story of forgiveness, second chances and finding a love that lasts forever.

Fear Factor: We Can’t Let The Terrorists Win

I wasn’t planning on seeing Batman in theaters. I don’t go to that many movies. I watch them on Netflix or Amazon, make my own snacks and hit pause when needed, which when you’re 43 and drinking a ton of water, tends to be often.
I wasn’t planning on seeing Batman in theaters. The new Batman movies are darker than I usually like. I’m embarrassed to admit I’m a fan of the old TV show. Big fan. Kapow!
I wasn’t planning on seeing Batman in theaters. But then I woke up the news that a terrorist killed 12 people and injured 50 in an Aurora, Colorado, midnight showing of the film, and suddenly I found myself worried about going to any movie. Kind of like I feared getting on a plane after 9-11 and how I feared my school after Columbine because my doors didn’t lock from the inside.
This week, I’m going to see Batman at my local theater. Maybe more than once.
My prayers are with those affected by this horrible crime. I don’t understand what makes people do this kind of thing, but I understand fear, and I know we can’t let it control us or the terrorists win.

###

Research and Revision: Jail Escape 101 and Fast Draft

Fast draft of Sharlene book 2 complete (LOVED writing this way. Hope I can survive the revisions)

Part of the Fast Draft method is not stopping to do research. Just write the book, get it drafted, then do research during revisions. I made me first pass through the manuscript just to take notes on what I needed to do during revisions.

My main character Sharlene is a guardian angel. She’s got quite the adventure in book 2.

RESEARCH DALLAS AREA around Mansion
RESEARCH: Spa in Belize (that one you want to go to!)
RESEARCH: French discussion
RESEARCH Mexican beach city with ruins
RESEARCH security systems
RESEARCH STOCK YARDS BAR
RESEARCH EMT procedure for finding someone injured after accident blows up building
RESEARCH hospital stay after big accident
RESEARCH POLICE INTERROGATION OF minors in high school???
RESEARCH jail escape
RESEARCH BOATS
RESEARCH criminal surrender
RESEARCH ANGEL myths
RESEARCH Valhalla, Olympus, Heaven compare/contrast

I love research. Hopefully this will be fun!

###

The first Sharlene book, Dead Girl Walking by Elizabeth Lee, is available on kindle and in print.

Check out my Amazon author’s page for more info.