The Hangover

Catchy title, right? I know… clickbait. But not really.

Today, I opened a file that has been languishing on my laptop since December of 2016. The one I’ve ignored because it didn’t fit my project schedule for 2017–the year I dedicated to my dystopian trilogy.

I opened that book, half written. It’s a women’s fiction, my original brand. A book several of my readers have told me they’re waiting for. I’m waiting for it too…

I opened it.

And my mind went back to Braxton and Eliza. To Hannah and Quinn and Tristan and Skye. This surprised me, to be honest. I thought I was ready to move on. Ready for the next story. But I opened that file, and looked back. And it wasn’t a smile that settled in my heart when I did.

I guess because opening the waiting file of that stalled work-in-progress meant that the dystopian journey was done.

I finished it, and now it’s done…

To be honest, writing that trilogy was MUCH harder than I had anticipated. I’m not sure I can pinpoint the reason exactly, but the work The Uncloaked and its companion books demanded was a bit like thinking “I’m going for a nice hike today,” only to find out that really, I was climbing a fourteener (I’ve done that before, a few times, so I do actually know). 🙂 The themes of those books, the world building, the continuity, the demand to keep up momentum, the release schedule… it was all just so MUCH MORE than I thought it’d be.

And, if I dare to be honest here, I found the process exhausting. 

I truly thought that I would be relieved to be done. Ready to move on–to go back to where I’ve established myself in women’s fiction.

But…

Don’t get me wrong. I’m looking forward to the next story, to getting back into Brandi and Ethan’s book and seeing what kind of grace blows me away there. It’s not that I don’t want to move forward. It’s just that…

Well, maybe–surprisingly–I’m not actually ready.

There’s a line in the movie Luther (I’m not sure if it’s authentic to Martin Luther’s story or not, but in was profound in the movie) that is chasing circles in my mind…

“Sometimes we teach best what we need to learn most.”

The Uncloaked meme (4)Perhaps that’s why I’m not ready to move on yet. I’m still swimming in the depths of Braxton’s life. The questions he and Eliza wrestled with– Will you stand? Do you know who you are (so that you can stand)? What will you do with what you believe?–they’re still pressing against me. The answer still not satisfactory. The challenge still not met.

Some things, I suppose, are intended to linger. Full saturation is required. The difference between production and completion.

I can’t move on yet. I have this bookish, writerly hangover. But a good one. Even if it means I’m stuck for a time.

I guess the work is not done yet after all. That actually makes me smile…

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. –Phil. 1:6, NASB

 

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Identity. Do You Know Yours?

-the God we serve is able to save us...but even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods...-

Thinking about….

Identity.

My kids’ youth group has been talking about this, and when the youth pastor and I were chatting, he was sharing about how profoundly important he felt like the discussion is.

I completely agree.

Knowing who you are… and who you are not willing to become… it’s like a runner putting in the miles of practice (a crazy number of miles, I might add) for one solid race. Without those strides; failure. I’m not talking about not winning, kind of failure. I’m talking not finishing. Or worse. Injury. Physical illness—sometimes creating an emergency situation.

But having a solid grip on your identity… Wow. I mean, power, baby. The strength to -the God we serve is able to save us...but even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods...- (1)stand, the power to change the world around you with that strength.

I can’t help but think of the book of Daniel—and we just have to start in chapter one. On first read, that chapter just seems like backstory—here’s some stuff to help you set the scene. Setting, yes, but oh, so not the whole importance of it.

Take the part when Daniel and his buddies (you know, the ones who came out of the fiery furnace completely unaffected by the flames?) humbly ask the man in charge to let them eat veggies and drink water. If you don’t remember that part, go back and check it out; Daniel 1:5-14.

Pause.

Weird?

Let me take this moment to BEG you not to let this whole scene be reduced to a diet plan. PLEASE DON’T. If you do, you will have missed the real point. The strength and necessity of this backstory intro (you know writers don’t give backstory unless it is essential to the rest of the story, right?)

Daniel wasn’t worried about Eating Real. He wasn’t protecting his health. If that were the case, this whole intro makes NO sense whatsoever to the unfolding of the rest of Daniel’s incredible story. Because you see, there’s no real, lasting power in that.

Get the full picture with me. Daniel and his boys are Jewish young men. THEY ARE JEWISH. That means something to them. It means they are set apart. Yahweh’s men. Called beloved, for a purpose, with a Divine plan that extended beyond their digestive system. A plan that was intended to touch the whole world.

And they’ve been taken captive.

Understand for a moment here that the strength and genius of Babylon’s grip on the people they took captive wasn’t simply oppression. No, the king was so much smarter than that. The strength of his rise to power was more subtle. We call it assimilation. He took those captives violently, but when he had them, he essentially said “Here. Become one of us.” He stripped them of their former identity, until all those captives knew or wanted fell within his design.

(Does this sound even a little bit familiar?)

A tempting offer. Look what the king was willing to give. The best life. A place in the palace. The best education. The promise of a job. And food. Choice food. Health, wealth, and security. The only cost? Your identity.

Life as a Babylonian. Comfort. Privilege. Who would want to be anything else?

This is where this story begins. Not in a diet plan, but in a humble and yet powerful declaration of identity.

Daniel was respectfully claiming who he was.

I am a Jew. Set apart by Yahweh himself. No matter what you offer, how spoiled you make us, you, oh king, will not change that about me. You will not strip me of WHO I AM.

Food was simply the vehicle of that statement, not the essence of it. And suddenly the rest of his life makes so much more sense.

He knew who he was… and who he wasn’t willing to become. And because of that solid sense of identity, Daniel, and the three men who joined him in his respectful defiance, changed the heart of several kings, and sometimes, the practice of an entire nation. They had the strength to stand when most of us would fail.

Identity is that important. Do you know yours?

-the God we serve is able to save us...but even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods...- (2)

What will you do with what you believe?

This is the question God has me wrestling with right now. The theme of the final book in The Uncloaked trilogy, which I am finishing this week.

I’m not sure of the answer. It seems like it should be easy to nail down… but it’s not. Perhaps that’s because I live a pretty cozy-comfy life. Or maybe I want a better definition of the question. “What do you mean, what will I do? Do I need to do something different?”

Hmm… what do you think?

We’re discussing this in our home. What does Kingdom work look like? How can I better be the loving hands and heart of Christ to my community?

“We cannot do great things on this earth, only small things with great love.”

Like I said, we’re wrestling with this. Recently, I sent this question out on my newsletter, and I loved some of the responses. One precious woman suggested I share them, and I thought that was a fantastic idea… so here we go:

I strongly believe that as Christians, we need to be there, listening and sharing Gods love for us and for those around us, and I truly believe that most of that comes through our actions, not words, but just that simple sign of caring for those who are struggling, alone, giving a smile as we walk by, saying bless you if someone sneezes, these little things though small seem huge to those people that feel small, lost and alone. –Julie

The simplicity of this… living and doing, with kindness, in Jesus’s name. Amen!

We should show by actions how we treat others, this, I think is easiest–when we are kind and caring helping to others. We could take time to serve others at soup kitchens, help at nursing homes reading, or talking to, or playing cards or games with residents have no one left or family to far away to visit and would love to have a family to spend time with. Teach someone to read, help children in foster care, donate our clothes, or raise funds, or goods when schools starts for them to have basics book bags, pencils and paper etc. –Debbie

So many tangible, boots-on-the-ground suggestions in that!

In my life, it has to do with everything.  When I drive in traffic, I’m a Christian.  When I’m at the grocery store, I’m a Christian.  When I’m talking or waving at my neighbors, I’m a Christian. –Sydna

Living Christ while living life. It is the same. I love this. 🙂

Our pastor says to begin each day asking God “what are you inviting me into today?” –Earlene

What a perfect question to begin each day.

We do our best to help people & in helping we pray that Christ shines through. And we leave the results with God. –Julie

Amen and amen!

What do you think? I’d love to know you thoughts about what you do with what you believe. Go head, hit me with them. Challenge me. Share with me. Make me grow.

storm

“Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord oh my soul, and forget none of His benefits.” ~Psalm 103:1-2

The storm gathers. I feel the winds sweeping, growing in strength and chill. The gray clouds cluster, swirling, churning, warning. It has been for a while now.

Not the first time. Won’t be tSo, in the midst of the descending darkness, when the sun hides its warmth and light, what do we do-he last. You’ve been there too.

We want to name the storm. Identify the source. Sometimes, though, it’s name is simply life. It rises and falls, there are days of sunshine and days of rain. It is appointed to be so.

So, in the midst of the descending darkness, when the sun hides its warmth and light, what do we do?

I am reminded that it was in the midst of the worst storms he’d even known–a real one, on the ocean–that John Newton finally bowed before God, and his life began a new, redeemed direction. And, in the darkest place of human depravity, Corrie and Betsy ten Boom found the hungriest souls with whom to share the good news of Christ. And the disciples… in the midst of wind and waves, they fell to their knees in a fresh level of awe.

Light breaks through the darkness. Purpose birthed into the storm. That is the power of the Redeemer, the awe and beauty of redemption.

So, come. Blow, winds. Toss, waves. Rumble, thunder. We for light to break through.

Because in the end, darkness will not defeat Light.

 

Cover Reveal! The Uncloaked

There’s something about getting the finalized version of a book cover.

Makes all of the work seem like it’s been wrapped up, that awesome cover the final bow on the package. To be honest, I was nervous about this cover. This genre can be tough, but getting the first impression right is essential. I’ve seen some fairly meh covers for this genre (please note, I’ve seen some outstanding covers for YA spec/dystopian too. That’s where I wanted the cover for The Uncloaked to fall).

I have to say, Roseanna White exceeded my expectations for this one! So, without anymore waxing and waning…

 

The Uncloaked

Need more? How about a back cover copy teaser?

No one stirred in the area—people stayed in their little hovels. Hiding, most likely. From the cold, the helplessness. Maybe from the Party. Staying out of sight, like cockroaches.

I am not a cockroach. 

***

“Apathy is the illness of the overprivileged…” Words laced with fear—and maybe a hint of prophecy. His father’s words. Words Braxton would prefer to ignore.

Braxton Luther is sixteen when the Progressive Reform Party takes over the government. It can’t be that bad. So they don’t want religion in government—that’s constitutional. He can’t understand his church’s hypersensitive reaction or his father’s cryptic warning to stand against the Party’s ultimatums.

But after living under the new government for a year, Braxton faces a choice—conform to the demands of the ungodded in order to protect his best friend, Eliza, or defy the system and go into hiding, ensuring a life of misery. Still certain that life will settle back into normalcy in the near future, Braxton chooses compliance.

Then the killings begin, and Eliza is captured and sent to Reformation Camp for her defiance. Reality finally sinks in.

And finally, just so we all know that, yes, this is really, really happening…

A preorder link. 😉

Enter the upturned world of Braxton and Eliza. Ask yourself…

Will you stand?

Changes on the Horizon

the Uncloaked FB header

It’s time.

That makes me pretty nervous, but it’s time. I hope you’ll jump in with me.

I love Women’s Fiction. I love true-to-life, shift-your-thinking fiction that transforms. Maybe even redeems. I love writing those kinds of books, and I’m not done with them yet.

But almost four years ago, I had a vision for a different kind of book. Young Adult. Dystopian–(read darker, heavier, more challenging). When I outlined the idea and showed it to Superman, he got that concerned line in the between the eyebrows thing on his face. Yikes.

“Why this? It’s not really what you’ve been doing.”

I wasn’t sure how to answer him at the moment, other than I saw the story pretty clearly, and it challenged me–how I approach who I am and what I believe–and maybe more importantly, what I do with what I believe. Not one to say, don’t try it, you’ll fall on your face, Superman nodded and said, “I can’t see it, but I’m sure you can do it.”

And so The Uncloaked began.

TU Back copy for blog

Finally, now it’s ready to face the world. Book one will release April 28th, and I’m biting my nails nervous about it. It’s not Women’s Fiction–not my brand. But it is a story that digs in deep, provokes thought, introspection, and maybe even a little change. That is me, that’s what I look for, because I don’t want to tread water in the pool of life. I want to move. To be challenged and changed and better for it.

I hope there are some Kindred Spirits out there looking for the same. But, if The Uncloaked just isn’t your cup of tea, I get it. We can still be friends. Right?

Giant Giveaway!!!

Y’all! I’m super excited…

Guess who’s participating in this promo? (Me!) Enter to win over 45 Inspirational Contemporary Romances, including books from authors like Susan May Warren, Melissa Tagg, Sarah Monzon, and Janet Ferguson.

Talk about a BIG giveaway! Pretty sure you don’t want to miss it (I might just enter myself…except, can’t). 🙂

feb-17-general-inspirational-contemporary-romance-1200graphic

This giveaway ends soon, so make sure you hurry and enter! Good luck!

 

GO HERE TO ENTER > bit.ly/inspy-contemp