Category Archives: Journey to Publication

Muslim for a day

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Dressed as a Muslim, I was invisible. There were only two people during my day out on the town that regarded me as equal. Read about them below.

I finally got up the nerve to conduct an experiment in which I wore a veil around town and reflected on people’s reactions. I did not intend it to offend anyone but to gain more sympathy and understanding for those practicing religions that include wearing one, especially in my relatively homogenous monoculture.

The pictures in this post are me as Fadia, the heroine in my current work in progress, a christian suspense, where the clash between Muslim culture and American ideals is a large part of the plot. In her culture this is called hijab.

Here is what I learned.

I prayed, before embarking on my adventure, that God would give me insight and deeper compassion in understanding His heart for all people. Then Matt and I headed out to Wal Mart. He dressed simply in his usual–jeans and long sleeved t-shirt. He was nervous because people around here tend to be a little bit prejudice or at least ignorant. Not because they intend to be but there isn’t a lot of diversity up here in North Idaho so it is not something people experience. Matt grew up in California where the opposite is true. And he misses that melting pot lifestyle.

We spent almost two hours at Wal Mart where, except for the veil, I acted my friendly, casual self. In all that time only three people smiled at me (not counting the checker). One was a man who gave me a cursory glance and a meek smile. Another was an elderly woman in the bathroom. The third is the only person the entire time whom I felt looked at me like another human being. While the other two smiles were appreciated, this woman was different. She was also, the first person who didn’t steer across the aisle or look me up and down after I’d passed.

Matt noted that when people avoided looking directly at me, they would turn and gawk after passing. He said it wasn’t a disdainful look but more naivety or curiosity.

The woman in the blue sweater spotted me at the end of an isle. Her eyes sparkled with interest and she blinked only a brief second before looking me full in the face, radiating peace and confidence. I could tell that at first glance, I caught her off guard but she must have had a conversation with herself in that split second and made a decision to choose grace. Her smile is something I can hardly describe because I’ve rarely felt the “outsider” with an opportunity to evaluate what someone must “think” of me. We saw each other offten throughout the shopping excursion and her reaction never changed. I guess it was a smile that extended an offering of friendship despite differences, acceptance regardless of my circumstance, stage in life, religious preference…. It was so fresh and vibrant to be regarded as such after a long shopping experience where I was virtually invisible to most humans.

I hope she knows how appreciated her love was. Her grace must have come from a heart forgiven, unconditional love accepted and a life surrendered to Christ.

We made a quick stop at the mall where I was a little bit less of an anomaly. The young people milling about didn’t take much notice. But an elderly couple passed us in the hall when we left a store where I’d bought a new pair of sweats for after the baby comes. The husband gripped his wife’s arm possessively and looked us both up and down with fire in his eyes. That was the first time anyone took notice of Matt.

I realized that the man thought if I was a Muslim woman then Matt must be a terrorist. How sad that this was his only conclusion. Matt and I talked about all the other possibilities. I could be Jewish, or a cancer patient or simply cold…. And yet he gave us a look like we intended to blow up the mall.

We decided it was time for dinner and so Matt went for the car. I chose a chair in the food court near the door to wait and the most ironic thing happened. A Muslim family came in. Okay, now I’m stereotyping but they sounded like they were speaking another language and the woman wore a beautiful pale blue veil and modest clothing. Funny enough, beneath the veil, she, her husband and her two children more western than I me. She had trendy jeans, and a hooded sweater.

She was the second person to whom I was not invisible. After they had ordered some food she went out of her way to steer the baby stroller next to my table. Her face beamed with recognition and almost relief. I waved at the little guy and her daughter, about 6, played and smiled at me too. We didn’t speak any words but we both knew the other understood. We were two islands in a sea of unfamiliar, lonely and wanting, compelled to smile at each other. We had to band our hearts together in the brief time we had before it was gone again. I realized through that encounter how desperate and empty it is to live in a foreign place and be looked at as the “untouchable”.



Filed under My WIP, Random, Reality, Ruse, True Tales

Learning to write, featured writing instruction resource, and a lesson.

The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile

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Learning the craft of fiction is sometimes a tricky and expensive business. But we are on a single income budget with a whole passel of kids to boot, so expensive and my own ambitions (no matter how noble) don’t go together.

That’s why Amazon, the library, and author/agent blogs where the craft of writing it taught and discussed are places I like to frequent.

Although, the howling toddler flopping at my feet as I attempt to type this quick post is making me reconsider the other options; check into a loony bin, fly to the moon….

The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman is a hand-me-down book from an author friend of mine. But don’t let my worn copy deceive you. It is well-loved! This is a great instructional resource to keep and refer back to.

Each chapter addresses a topic aimed at “staying out of the rejection pile” with examples of errors, ways to fix trouble spots and then ends with a lesson to apply to your own work in progress. From presentation to dialogue and on to more advanced techniques like pacing, this is an invaluable resource. It also happens to be concise and chapters move along quickly so you can learn a lot in a short amount of time especially if you apply the end of chapter lessons.

Your Mission #1: Here is a lesson from my reading that I enjoyed. Join me if you like by leaving your “homework” in the comments below or on a blog post and linking back.

Lesson from the chapter on setting:

Lukeman challenges writers to train themselves to be attentive to their surroundings, and by learning to better observe, infuse richer settings in their writing. Find ten unusual details in the room you are in and write them down. It doesn’t matter how small. Then see if you can convey a feeling or leave an intentional impression about the setting using these details.

Here’s mine:

  1.  Dust clung to the blades of the fan.
  2. A candle tipped out of rank on a wall sconce of otherwise tidy, crimson candles.
  3. Laundry spilled out of the hamper, slumped like an old man, weary and tired.
  4. Neatly stacked books occupied every flat surface, holding up random wads of this and that.
  5. A well-loved quilt was spread over the stilted log bed.
  6. Pages from Parents Magazine littered the floor.
  7. A white scratch marred the wall painted with midnight forest green.
  8. Grandmother’s old rugs made a cozy place for feet to land on the hardwood floor.
  9. The faint smell of heated rice and lavender filled the small space.
  10. A lone wooden block lay abandoned in the corner.

Your Mission #2: What can you gather from my surroundings?


Filed under Book Blab, Journey to Publication, Twenty Something

Fun with Characterization and Casting

I’m having a blast casting for my latest novel. A work in progress (WIP). I’ve come up with some creative ways for me, a visual learner, to get a better glimpse into the different personalities so that the characters aren’t all mirrors of one another, ultimately mirroring only my thoughts and personality. How boreing would that be? 🙂

So here is a colague I made of a minor character in the story named Hope. You can see that it is in a spiral notebook. The notebook folds completely flat and had fairly thick pages that I paint on, colague on and write on. It goes everywhere with me and even keeps sermon notes, research, sometimes a shopping list or two.

I used magazines and elmers glue so it isn’t expensive but gives me a quick reference when I need a reminder. I will put notes and thoughts on this character in the handprint later.


Filed under My WIP

Redneck Story Board

writing, craft, plotting, story board, fiction, fun

“What’s this?” You ask. (By the way how do you punctuate that little sentence?)

This is my Redneck Story Board! I’ve been learning a lot about the craft of writing a fiction novel and I realized that my story needed drastic revisions. So, like Walt Disney, I took it to the drawing board. This little exercise resulted in cutting out 10 thousand words from my 30 K manusript but I do believe the result is a much better story. Now to fill in the gaps.

Say hello to Taz, who is looking in the window and wave at my three horses. Nevermind the standard issue (in redneck land) blue tarp barn.

Bye for now.


Filed under My WIP

My God bag, WIP “ed” short story publishing, and blog tags.

As Henny put it this is a Karen Joy style post.  Not topically but because of the random nature of the stuff flitting through my mind that I’ve been wanting to share with you.

 My God purse:

Saturday I had the opportunity to start the day – well – really bad!  I’ve been without a vehicle for about three weeks now and with winter setting in it is quite cold for the kids to play outside.  Cold, as in negative digits with wind chill factor.  Many days the warm has stayed below 10 degrees F.   Friday night Matt had a small yearly job as a “security guy” (which really amounts to sleeping at the church) for a holiday bazaar in town.  The great part is it brings in a tiny bit of extra money.  Sometimes he spends it on me at the bazaar, this year we needed it.

I may have already mentioned, I am NOT a morning person but Saturday had hope of being THE day for purchasing a new very used car for Matt to commute in so I can have my rig back. It also had hope of being a “girls day” with my mom.  Sooo, I woke up early-ish and hustled the kids out the door.  The Bubba wouldn’t go for the “here kid, have a banana and get in the car routine”  he is much too conditioned.  I had to coax him with peanut butter rice cakes (thank goodness he can eat peanuts) and shuffle him out with it all over his face and hair.  We tease that his love language is food.

Once I finally had everyone in the car I was already late for my 8am arrangement to pick Matt up.

Click…click…click…  The Suburban battery was dead. Someone left a dome light on in sub zero weather.

I’m trying to give you the short version here but I’m terrible at that so bear with me. 🙂

No only would it not start but when I went to pop the hood the latch broke and I couldn’t get the hood undone.  I called Matt in a tiff and he tried to tell me if I would just hit the latch it would open.   Let me tell you, I slammed that thing and cursed and slammed it again.  My husband was on the phone trying to talk me down 🙂  but I was having none of it.  Not to mention my phone battery was dying.  I finally hung up on him because I couldn’t do all of it at once and he wouldn’t stop talking to let me tell him the phone was about to quit.

– Meanwhile Dear husband calls a neighbor kid.

The only other vehicle that runs on the property is my highschool car (a 66 Mustang).  It usually sits parked under a cover (it’s not in great shape) and gets turned on once in a blue moon.  I hopped in it and miraculously it started right up but I just HAD to sit a good two or three minutes and rev the engine.  Boy, I love that sound!  I pulled it over and tried to turn it around to get in position to jump the Burb and I killed it on our “Indiana Jones Ride” driveway.  Rrrrr  I was so angry at that point that I flooded the engine with my impatience trying to start it back up.

I plugged in my phone, called Matt and brewed myself a cup of coffee.  I’d waited, hoping to get foo-foo coffee in town.

The neighbor kid showed up and in no time had me on the road.


We go to the church and Bubba had peed his pants.  I yanked him out of the car while Matt grabbed the other kids and we went into the bathroom.  I had no change of clothes so he ran back out of there pantless, shirt on backward (he put it on himself), with peanut butter all over.  Thank goodness he had shoes on!  Matt laughed and took the boys outside so I could “shop” a minute with PeeWee.

In one of the first booths I saw the most adorable purses that some mom’s my age had made.  Now, may I remind you, I’m not a girlie girl.  I don’t usually do shoes or purses or scarves etc.  I like practical, comfortable attire and sometimes big earrings to get my “bling” fix.  But these bags were CUTE!  Plus I’d had a really bad day.  Another thing I don’t usually do is shop to self soothe. 🙂  But these bags were CUTE! 

I picked up the brown one with the big flower made of burlap and admired it, showing it to PeeWee and then spied the tag.  $35  Shoot!  That is really too much during the Christmas season especially and I don’t spend money on me.  So, reluctantly I put it back and perused the other items in the booth.

Matt found me shortly after and told me he was free to go as soon as his boss cut him a check.  She tracked us down (not hard with four a-tow) and she had the bag I’d been looking at.   She ripped the tag off in front of me and said, “Someone wanted you to have this.  It wasn’t me.  Not that I dont’ want you to have it.  Here you go, Merry Christmas!”

It was just one of those moments when I really felt like the Lord had specifically put me on someone heart simply to bless me with something completely frivolous so He could say “I love you and you are doing a good job.  You are my daughter!”

I am thankful to whoever did this kind act but more than that I felt hugged by the Lord.   When I told one of my Bible study friends she said, “It’s your God bag!”

Even my husband was amazed saying “It’s so you.”

WIP “ed”

For months I’ve been trying to attend a Christian Writers Critique that is held locally.  There are several published authors that attend as well as aspiring authors, retiree’s, mom’s etc.  Once I even hired a babysitter and showed up on the WRONG day!

Finally, yesterday I made it!

On the advice of my husband I took a short story that I’m not really attached to.  He thought it would be a good idea to get a feel for the venue before bearing my soul. 🙂  Especially since the soul purpose of the group is critique.  So I did not take any part of my WIP a contempory, coming of age novel.

I’d written the story as a writing exercise one day when the kids were napping.  I didn’t spend a whole lot of time editing but the idea had been mulling around in my brain for several days so I pretty much purged my brain and left it at that.

The group sits at a round table and each person reads a 5-6min piece that they have brought while the rest of the members edit the page she has handed out. 

When I came to my turn I was a bit nervous, many of the pieces read were breathtaking and my short story was quite different to say the least.  There were mostly older women, one lady my age writing a cowboy type novel based on some family history and a man who is published who brought the most beautiful piece of poetry and always had a lot to say about others work.  Yikes!

I read “Who Did” about Jonah.

There were some excellent suggestions and they pointed out that I’d gone out of order with some of the events but no critical remarks.

After I got done the lady who heads up the group said something to the effect of… “I’m sure you already have some place to pitch this but if you don’t I really think you should consider looking into a house that would be interested in this type of short story.”

WHOA!  She blew me away.  “already have a plan to pitch”

I’d never once considered my short stories anything other than sanity.  A way to put on paper what God is teaching me, almost a journal of sorts.  When I feel it could be a blessing to others I’ll share it with you ladies, but publish!!!

The “cranky” man (that’s what the ladies called him) put a remark on his copy that was returned to me at the end. “Look into a publisher of study material, this would be a good piece for a lesson idea”  He also wrote, “Powerful writing!  Don’t let my scribbles be discouraging.  I liked it.”

WHOA, whoa and triple whoa!

Not only did they have incredibly good suggestions, they LIKED IT!  It also got me thinking outside of my little box into some other things I’ve written.  Previous to this meeting I had been thinking I had to create something entirely new but I’ve got tons of short stories.  Now to find who publishes short stories.   At Karen Joy’s suggestion I’m going to pick up the Christian Writer’s Market Guide 2010 when it comes out.  AND continue praying that God will guide my steps in this possible new adventure.

I feel so encouraged and I can’t wait to go back and take them the “meat”!

Blog Tags:

Can someone please school me on how to use blog tags?  I’ve read a couple tutorials online and I thought I had it down but I’ve noticed that people tend to find my blog by typing in completely random things like…

“all boys same”

“bah humbug”

“why do our eyes dialate when back of neck is squeezed”

Now that I’ve repeated them I’ll probably get more hits on those topics. 🙂 Oh well.

While I’m happy to oblidge I never put any of those terms in the tags on my blog. Some of the words appear in posts but not anything relating.  I’ve had other random searches but I dont’ believe anyone has found my blog for anything they intended.  The food blog was easy.  Food ingredients, allergy lists etc.

Maybe I’m just overthinking it!

Any ideas?


Filed under My WIP, Random, Reality, Ruse

Name my Characters Anyone?

Would you like to help me name a couple characters?  These two women will need the same last name.  They reside on a remote cattle ranch in Northern Alberta Canada.  Present day.

EARLY 60’s Rancher’s Wife…

The woman of the house was such a jolly soul, I imagined she and Mrs. Clause would get along just fine.  Rosy cheeks, robust middle, salt and pepper hair.  She wore a cheery yellow apron with orange and brown sunflowers embroidered all along the hem.  Helping me remove my bundles of clothing she scooted me into a mismatched chair at her rustic farm table.  I rubbed my hand on the surface admiring the age and character of the piece.  My mother had raised me with an appreciation for antiques, otherwise known as rich folks worn out junk.  She called it rustic, some called it primitive, I called it home.

YOUNG 20’s newlywed, married to the son of the lady above:

Scott’s bride was tall and plain.  A simple beauty.  Clear skin, long straight tawny hair pulled into a low pony tail.  She wore a button up blouse and jeans.  Round toed leather boots peeked from under her pant legs.  Conservative, a hard working woman.  Carlin and I believed you could tell a person by the boots they wore.  In some cases that had to be amended to the shoes they wore but that was a whole different class.  I liked this girl already.


Filed under My WIP, Random, Reality, Ruse