My Two Secrets — a guest post by Jocelyn Green (and a give-away)

This is my friend, Jocelyn Green. She's an author, speaker, mom, wife, and all around cool kid. I hope this post encourages you as much as it did me.

This is my friend, Jocelyn Green. She’s an author, speaker, mom, wife, and all around cool kid. I hope this post encourages you as much as it did me.

When I began writing Spy of Richmond, I had no idea I’d learn for myself what it meant to keep a gigantic secret from everyone I loved. My heroine’s secret, of course, was that she was a spy. My secret? My husband had cancer.

We thought it was just a lump on his clavicle. A very painful, swollen, hot-to-the-touch and out-of-nowhere lump. Even as they wheeled him into the operating room to remove it, the word “tumor” did not occur to me. So when the surgeon came to consult with me afterwards and said the tumor was too large to remove, I was completely caught off guard.

“We’re sending a sample to the lab,” he told me, “but if I were you, I’d want to know what we’re dealing with here. Hodgkins Lymphoma cancer.”

I jerked backwards, as if his words had slapped me across the face.

“I see this all the time,” he continued. “It’s a textbook case.” More words.  Chemotherapy . . Meet with the cancer team on Friday to get his treatment plan together. . .

I was crying by now. “Are you going to tell Rob? Am I supposed to tell him?”

“No, I don’t want to tell him until the labs are in. But you need to process this now so you can support him when the time comes.”

Well, if I wasn’t to tell Rob, then I wasn’t going to tell anyone. This was my first secret.

I went through the motions of life, holding the ugly news close to my heart until it bore a hole right through it. At the pharmacy, picking up Rob’s post-surgery prescriptions, I couldn’t bear to answer the cheerful question, “How are you?” On Facebook, someone asked Rob if the doctor said anything about cancer. Rob said no. My secret gnawed through my middle.

Then the phone call came: no cancer cells were detected. The mass was completely benign. This was the first time the doctor had been wrong, the nurse told me. I was stunned. After I hung up the phone I told Rob, “It isn’t cancer,” and started sobbing. “They told me it was cancer,” I choked out. It felt like a miracle to me, and suddenly the only thing that mattered was that Rob was going to be OK.

Still, recovery from that surgery was very challenging. Because of the depth and width of the incision, he needed follow-up appointments at the wound care clinic for weeks, and I was in charge of changing his dressings a few times a day at home, which was painful for him, and distressing to me. Add to this the fact that he developed a dependence on his narcotic and went through a terrible withdrawal.

A month or so after Rob’s surgery, our family took a mini-vacation, and I cracked my toe on a deck chair at the side of the hotel pool. Really hard. It hurt like the dickens, but I wasn’t about to complain. After all, look at what Rob is still going through! I thought. This is nothing. So we carried on, walking around the Science Museum that night and around the zoo the next day. My toe was killing me, but since it was nothing “compared to Rob,” I tried to deny the pain.

Weeks later, I still was limping. I finally went to the doctor, where an x-ray revealed I’d broken my toe. This, then, had been my second secret, one I had tried to keep even from myself. The truth of the matter—my secret—was that I was in pain. The lie that I had chanted to myself to drown out the truth, was that because my pain was less than someone else’s, my pain was invalid, and did not deserve attention. The lie was that acknowledging my own pain would be a wimpy thing to do.

Don’t we all deny our own pain sometimes?

But here’s the thing about pain, whether it’s physical or emotional. It’s real, even if/though someone else is currently suffering more than you are. Comparing burdens is useless. Pain is a sign that something is wrong. And only when we acknowledge that something is wrong will we be able to fix it.

I have this hunch that at least some of you are experiencing pain today. Hear this: your pain is real, and you are not weak for seeking help. What you’re feeling is valid. Don’t tell yourself that because someone else has it worse, you should be fine. C.S. Lewis once called pain the gift that no one wants. Pain is a message that we are not whole, and that we should be. Pain says something needs to change in order for us to feel better. But we have to be honest about it before we can get on the path to healing.

It’s a delicate balance, but one worth striving for. Let’s be grateful for the blessings we do have, but please, let’s not walk around on broken toes.

Don't miss out on this incredible sale price for all four of Jocelyn's novels. I've read every word of them and they are wonderful. These characters are tough cookies. Go on and get your downloads! Just click this picture!

Don’t miss out on this incredible sale price for all four of Jocelyn’s novels. I’ve read every word of them and they are wonderful. These characters are tough cookies. Go on and get your downloads! Just click this picture!

Don’t Click Away Just Yet! Jocelyn has offered to give-away one of the Heroines Behind the Lines books to one lucky reader. You pick the book (see the graphic above for the titles) and if you’d like a digital or paper copy. All you’ve got to do is tell me in the comments which you’d choose. I’ll pick a winner on Sunday and announce it on the Monday blog. Ready? Steady? GO, Eddie!

Monday News

Good morning! Today is the Monday after a VERY full weekend. This is how I feel at the moment.

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There isn’t enough coffee in this house to make me feel more awake.

Here’s what happened this weekend.

1. Julie Cantrell (New York Times Bestselling/Award winning/International rockstar of Christian Fiction) came to town. She was the keynote speaker at the Breathe Christian Writers Conference. Amelia Rhodes and I took her around ArtPrize (an art competition held in Grand Rapids). It. Was. Super-deeeeee-dooper fun.

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2. I was part of a book signing/reading/event with four authors that I greatly (read: GREATLY) admire.

From L to R: Jocelyn Green, The Sooze, Julie Cantrell, Sharon Garlough Brown, Tracy Groot

From L to R: Jocelyn Green, The Sooze, Julie Cantrell, Sharon Garlough Brown, Tracy Groot

3. Breathe Conference was this weekend. Whew! A whole bunch of writers gathered to be inspired, rub elbows, guzzle coffee, etc. Breathe is my very, VERY favorite conference.

 

Notes from one of the workshops...they were all packed with good writing protein.

Notes from one of the workshops…they were all packed with good writing protein.

Friends from L to R: Amelia Rhodes, Susetta, Catie Cordero (an writer to watch), and Kristine McGuire.

Friends from L to R: Amelia Rhodes, Susetta, Catie Cordero (an writer to watch), and Kristine McGuire.

Selfie with Jocelyn Green

Selfie with Jocelyn Green

4. At the conference, something really exciting happened.

I signed a contract with Kregel Publications for my Dust Bowl Era novel A CUP OF DUST. Standing next to me is editor Dawn Anderson.

I signed a contract with Kregel Publications for my Dust Bowl Era novel A CUP OF DUST. Standing next to me is editor Dawn Anderson.

5. Immediately after I signed my Herbie Hancock (if you don’t get that joke, you need to watch Tommy Boy…NOW), I led a workshop on writing dialogue. It was a blast. wpid-wp-1413125868947.jpeg

The conference was wonderful and I made some sweet friends and reunited with others (I got my hug quota for sure).

Oh! Also, I wrote a blog post for Amelia Rhodes’s Pray A to Z project. I wrote about my struggle with depression. Please go read it, comment, and pray for those you know who live with any form of mental illness. Compassion and mercy go a long way when given in love.

Breathing Options

Hey, Friends!

If you’ve been hanging around my Facebook or Twitter the past few months, you’ll know that I’m involved in the Breathe Christian Writers Conference. I’m on the planning committee and this year I get to present a workshop called The Art of Conversation (it’s about writing dialogue).

Some of you wanted to come, but were unable to get away for a whole weekend. Others of you aren’t writers and would feel out of place at an all weekend conference.

Well, I have a few options for you. You can still be part of Breathe….yes, you can. Let me tell you how.

1. Come to an author event on Thursday

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Baker Book House (my absolutely FAVORITE book store in all the world) is hosting 5 novelists on Thursday, October 9 at 7 pm. We’ll share a bit about our writing, read from our novels, sign books, guzzle coffee, etc. I would love to see you there. This is a FREE event and I believe it will be buckets of fun.

 

2. Friday Evening at Breathe

Speaking of buckets of fun…

This year the Breathe Committee is inviting everyone to come to the Friday evening plenary session (basically, the big evening event). Alison Hodgson will share from her wells of hilarity and encouragement and Julie Cantrell (author of two gorgeous novels which have both won international attention and a case full of trophies…and my heart) will inspire us. After the session is over Credo Communications (my literary agency…not to brag or anything) is hosting a reception (cookies, my friends…there will be COOKIES!). This is a great night for readers and writers alike. You can register for this event ($10 online) until tomorrow (Thursday) or you can take the chance of purchasing a ticket at the door ($12)…but, just know that we might run out of room. So, registering online is the best good option.

 

I would love to see you this week! If you do come, make sure you stop over and say “hey” to me. Maybe introduce yourself if we haven’t met face-to-face. We can share a cookie, sip our coffee, and have a great old time.

Authors and Books and Signing! OH MY!

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My friends, I would love to tell what an honor it is to be included in a mass book signing with the likes of these ladies. I admire each of them greatly. I would even go so far as to say they’re my friends (I’m assuming that Julie Cantrell and I will hit it off when we meet for the first time).

Photo credit; Amelia Rhodes

Photo credit; Amelia Rhodes

I’ll be perfectly honest with you, because that’s usually what I do here. I only lie when writing novels. Anyway. I’m nervous about this night. Why?

1. I’m not 100% sure what I’m going to wear

2. These other authors are a bit more accomplished than I

3. I’m scared that I’ll cry when reading from My Mother’s Chamomile

4. Because if I wasn’t nervous I’d wonder what was wrong with me, then I’d search WebMD with all my symptoms and conclude that I have measles or something terrible like that.

What would make me feel better? If my people were there.

No, really, that would make me feel super grand.

So, maybe think about coming to this book signing/reading/fun/meet the author evening at Baker Book House on October 9 at 7 pm.

You would make it onto my rockstar buddy list.

See you there!

 

History With Grit

I love history. So many threads of story weave into a large tapestry of our past. That piece of art is what makes us who we are, whether we like it or not. It’s what connects us to larger events, distant family, and informs our present and future.

I also love how history serves as a caution, a mirror to show us who we are and the depths of good or evil we are capable of.

Because I love history, I love historical novels.

Not so much historical romance. That’s just not my bag. I’m more of the type of girl who likes a little grit with her history.

When a person thinks of historical fiction in the Christian market, that person might imagine swishing, swirling skirts and neat bonnets. They might think of bustles and hoop skirts and fainting women (corsets were brutal). They may very well picture a helpless woman (who doesn’t mind being helpless all that much) swooning over the perfect man.

But that’s not the kind of historical novel I’m looking for (NOTE: historical romance is fine for those who enjoy them. I just happen to prefer less kissy face in my novels).

One author who delivers a gritty novel with minimal smoochy lips is Jocelyn Green.

Joc Green

Jocelyn has written a series about the women behind the lines of the Civil War. These women forsake their comfortable couches to bandage fresh stumps after a field amputation. They stir disease soaked bed linens until they pass out from exhaustion. They take up a gun and fight. These ladies have grit. They’re tough.

On top of that, Jocelyn makes the reader just a little stronger, too. When I read these books I considered how I would handle the situation. Would I be able to go for days without food or rest to nurse the kind of wounds that make me gag to even imagine? How would I handle being under fire? Having to live on the other side of the lines of war?

The answer? I don’t think I could. Not by myself, at least.

But Jocelyn doesn’t put her characters into bad places to dig themselves out. She has them leaning heavily on the strength of their Lord. Not a man or their good looks or money. But on God.

And that takes a whole lot of grit, if you ask me.

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All three of Jocelyn’s novels are on sale in ebook format until August 28, 2014. They’re just $2.99 each and I’d say that’s a great deal. Also, Jocelyn is hosting a great give-away on her blog. You should go check it out and enter to win! Just click HERE to learn more. 

Quaking in my Boots

IMG_20140119_082502This weekend, I spent a little quality time with the nurses and doctors in the Emergency Room. I wore mismatched socks. They took my blood. It was a great (eye-roll) way to spend the afternoon.

Wonky heart.

Well. That wasn’t the doctor’s official diagnosis.

His diagnosis was that my heart beats funny. Palpitations. And that I didn’t have a heart attack. Isn’t that reassuring?

“Anything stressful going on?” one of the nurses asked.

“Not really.” Well, except that my socks TOTALLY didn’t match.

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Hospital selfie with the requisite duck lips.

What could be stressing me out? I mean, I got to wear a fashionable, papery gown and have the dickens squeezed out of my arm every 5 seconds by the blood pressure cuff.

And…And…

Oh. Yeah. I have a novel releasing next month.

But this is all part of the DREAM! I should be leaping in the air, doing toe touches. I should be in bliss and rapture.

Right?

I mean. The hard work is over.

Right?

RIGHT????

Well. Not exactly.

Because I have to…

-Promote…promote…promote

-Find the best websites that run ads…and see if I can afford the $5 septillion to pay for the placement.

-Face one last round of edits/look overs.

-Write a few dozen blog posts

-Hope that I get the books in time for my first book signing

-Hope that people (other than my mom) buy about a million copies

-Fret over the first nasty review…because I feel like this one is going to evoke some pretty strong emotions

Oh gosh. There goes my heart again. It feels like a 3 year old was given a drum set.

Hm. Maybe it is a little bit linked to stress.

To quote my friend Jocelyn Green (who is an awesome writer, by the way)…

“Book stress is no joke…”

And, to be completely honest, My Mother’s Chamomile has taken so much out of me. Emotionally. Physically. Spiritually.

In the novel, one of my characters (named Olga) feels a kinship to the Israelites. When they’re wandering around the desert. With no food. No water. Nothing but hot sun and dry sand. She’s in that kind of place, too. She needs an oasis.

Relief.

Mercy.

Writing this novel took me to a similar place. I felt absolutely knocked out by this story. It required a lot of my tears. A lot of my prayers.

I put so much of me into this novel.

I’m afraid that people will see so much of me in it. And I’ll feel exposed.

That the emotional reaction readers have will make them angry.

I fear…

I fear…

That it will disappoint. Mainly because of how much I invested in the writing. The work. Pouring nothing short of my love into it.

Because, really, what I want the readers to feel is loved. That they are worthy of compassion. Mercy. Relief.

No matter who they are. Or what they’ve been through or done.

We all need mercy.

I want them to feel that pour over them.

Maybe I should let myself experience that, too.

Releasing February 15, 2014

Releasing February 15, 2014

 

 

 

My Shelf Has Two Books

My previously empty shelf now has two books!IMG_20140103_115152I hadn’t intended to gobble. I meant to read slowly and deliberately. Like I usually do. But Wedded to War  by Jocelyn Green wouldn’t let me put it down.

Now, I have to tell you, I’m beyond intrigued by the Civil War. That’s why I knew I’d be interested in this book. What I didn’t know was that Jocelyn would weave such a well written story into the harsh realities of a brutal war. Not only was I sucked in and deeply concerned for the characters, I learned a whole lot.

Several times, I said to myself, “This book is making me smarter!”

So there.

If you’re a history buff, this is a book for you.

If you like a good, complex story with realistic conflict, this is a book for you.

If you like to become immersed in story, this is a book for you…

Basically, if you enjoy reading, buy* this book.

You can purchase Wedded to War at your local book store (ahem…go for the Indy book stores, they’re way cooler). While you’re there, do yourself a favor and pick up Widow of Gettysburg, the second book in this series. Then watch for Yankee in Atlanta, book three and a fourth coming sometime in the future. You’ll be glad you did.

Oh! And, homeschooling parents, this is a good one for when you’re teaching the Civil War. Jocelyn more than did her homework on all of these books. She’s well researched and fact checked. This is a great and creative way to teach American history.

So. Now there are two books on my shelf. Next up is Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. I know. About time, right?

*Yeah. I said it. BUY the book. All authors rely on sales of books. Every ebook or paperback sold helps them. When you find a GREAT author, make sure you invest in them. Don’t rely on borrowing books. Support authors and buy books. Pretty please. Otherwise, we won’t all be able to keep doing what we do…providing good stories that change hearts and minds.

One Book on the Shelf

The other day, I told you about Jon Acuff’s Empty Shelf challenge.

IMG_20131229_071639Can I be completely honest? It was super difficult to empty a shelf. I’ve got a ridiculous amount of books that I don’t care to rid myself of. So. So. I cleaned a few art supplies off this shelf.

And I got to reading.

Dina Sleiman (or, for this book, D.L. Sleiman) published a book with WhiteFire Publishing (yeah, that’s my publisher!) recently. This novel was quite a departure for her. Her first novel Dance of the Dandelion was set in Medieval England. Her second offering, Love in Three Quarter Time was set in 19th Century Virginia.

Dance From Deep Within is a contemporary novel.

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Dina has written a very different novel. Unique, especially in the Christian Book world. She tells the story of three friends. Rain, a free thinking child of hippies. Allie, a ballerina Christian. Layla, an American Muslim. How she weaves their friendship into the story is beautiful. She sheds light on their differences as well as their similarities. A little romance (or a lot, really…but it is also an important part of the fabric she crafts), humor, suspense, and hope. She included difficult topics with dignity and grace, not allowing for heavy-handed writing.

The ending tied up a few strings, but not nearly all of them, leaving me eager for the second book in the series.

Perhaps the greatest gift that Dina gives her readers is a to put human faces, emotions, and lives to a people group we often don’t take the time to understand and love. 

I think this would be a great book club selection, Church study, or for someone interested in learning more about Islam. Dina has also very graciously included discussion question in the back of the book. I also believe this would be a good book for those of us who want a substantial, convicting read.

If you use an digital reading device, you can purchase this novel for less than $4. You can find it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble. You can also find it on Goodreads. Also, find Dina Sleiman on Facebook.

So, the first book is now on my shelf. It’s no longer empty. That makes me happy!

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Up next is Wedded to War by Christy Award finalist, Jocelyn Green. 

Tell me: What are YOU reading? What have you recently finished? You can check out my Empty Shelf To Read list HERE