Category Archives: writing

What are the Desires of your Heart? Need a Motive Check?

     Psalm 37:4 Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.        Do you ever catch a glimpse of your faith–that wee mustard seed, dwarfed in the palm of God’s hand? Recently, a peek at my faith meter, raised a question: Do I truly believe God longs to give me the desires of my heart? Continue reading What are the Desires of your Heart? Need a Motive Check?

How to Live with a Writer – 5 Tips Guaranteed to Make Life Easier

How to Live with a Writer

First I apologize for stalling on the blog. I miss my readers. I hope you’ve missed the stories as well. When the end of our book waved encouragement, it was like sending a marble down the track, racing through the obstacles to the finish. Trust me, had I stopped to write a blog, it would have been a wordy resentment as to how I had to take time away from finishing the book. In the meantime, my dearest husband suggested (after much whining) that he write a blog for me. With that said:  I introduce a very special guest blogger – husband, Sandy Palmer. Obviously, I did not choose the topic. How to Live with a Writer

As long as I can remember, I have loved reading. Still do, whether magazines, (read cover to cover), a daily newspaper, or at least one book. But writing? I suck at it!  Any class I’ve taken involving writing, was painful, and book reports, unless given orally, received unremarkable grades. I’ve never been partial to one type of book; i.e. novel, sci-fi, thriller, mystery, etc. Likewise, I’ve never had a favorite author, at least not until twenty-five years ago, when I met Deb, my wife to be.  She was finishing her college degree in Print Journalism.  From the start, I enjoyed anything she wrote, as she had a way with words, capturing what was important, pertinent, what needed said. How to Live with a Writer

When we first met she was writing for the college newspaper; human interest feature articles. Post college, while working for a non-profit organization, she launched a newsletter, convincing the agency they needed a public relations officer. Soon after, we hung a shingle on our house, “Palmer Business Communications,” where she freelanced for other agencies, wrote a column for a local newspaper and cranked out resumes that pretty much guaranteed you an interview.  After several years of writing for other people, she burned out, gave up the writing and spent the next twenty years in the antique business. How to Live with a Writer

Her passion for writing, starting when she was a little girl, didn’t go away, it just took a break. Like a serial killer, destined to strike again, Deb’s desire to write returned with a vengeance. Writing consumed much of her time.  Not just the physical part of writing, but thinking about writing, planning about writing, editing writing, proof-reading writing, rewriting writing, publishing planning, marketing planning, and so forth and on and on. How to Live with a Writer

Did I mention that I am not a writer?  From early on, I have been involved with Deb’s writing.  Having done many things in my work career, I was useful in terminology and knowledge of skills needed, in numerous fields, when it came to resume’ writing.  Once, shortly after she had quit smoking, and was dangerous to be around when she was stressed, I finished the last paragraph of a newspaper column, when my physical well-being was at stake. How to Live with a Writer

In the past several years, since Deb came back to her writing, she has written two books and maintains a blog.  Both of the books are great, and I look forward to them being published.  The first one, a collection of short stories, based on the beatitudes, is very entertaining, laced with much humor and a big yellow dog.  By the time it was finished, Deb hated it, and it was put on the back burner.  One of the stories has been published in a Christian Anthology, called, “The Birds of Passage.”  The second book was recently finished in rough draft form, and Deb is again disliking it, saying that no one will want to read it. She’s nuts!  Three chapters from this book have been posted on her blog, with rave reviews.  I know that something big will come of Deb’s writing. How to Live with a Writer

Did I mention that I am not a writer?  Deb thinks I am.  I am not an editor. Deb thinks I am. I am not a proof reader. Deb thinks I am.  I know that her writing is exceptional, and will be read and enjoyed by many. If she can be convinced of this,our lives will, possibly, become calm. I doubt it! On to the next writing project!!!!   I am not a writer, but I will continue to be whatever Deb needs me to be, and mainly her #1 supporter.

If you, like me, live with a writer; my heartfelt condolences. I will offer some advice how to survive. Here are the 5 tips that I’ve learned the hard way. How to Live with a Writer

 

Tip One: Be Willing to Listen… NOW!

If said OCD writer approaches with a chapter, a paragraph, a sentence, a word or even an idea related to writing, respond as if they are holding a ticking bomb. Nothing, I repeat, NOTHING is more important. It doesn’t matter if you’ve drank three cups of coffee and are sprinting to the bathroom finish line…. Stop! Listen! Wet clothing can be changed; words may expire or combust.

 

Tip Two: No Faking

Let’s say the writer is reading a section to you that you really don’t understand, or even like.. Whatever you do, don’t plaster a grin on and say “I like it,” or it’s nice. I’ve come to believe writers have a special type of Extra Sensory Perception when it comes to this. Be sincere, but tread lightly. Honesty is your only way out, but stand back a ways.

 

Tip Three: React to the Writing…

I know this sounds silly, but it is for the best. Trust me. Practice your facial responses in the mirror. You will most likely need to times your normal reaction by three. If your normal response is “uh huh,” or “yeah, I like it,” times it by ten. Listen for humor and laugh as if you’re a drunk needing to be heard over the entire bar. Besides humor, expand your responses to cover content, story line, word choice, etc.

 

 

Tip Four: Repeat Yourself and Repeat Yourself

OCD writers are either hard of hearing or attention deficit when it comes to their work.  Here is a typical conversation.

                Me: That is really powerful. It’s great.

OCD Writer: You like it?

Me: Yes

OCD Writer: Why do you like it?

Me: Because I think it is powerful?

And don’t be surprised or lose patience if later they ask:

                Did you really like it?

And

Do you think anyone else will like it?

 

Tip Five: Take away the Club

OCD writers beat themselves up. If you don’t stop them, they often believe they cannot continue. Exchange the self-abating Billy club with the real source of power – God. When all else fails, I ask one question:

Have you asked God’s help?

With a divine light bulb above her head, she calms, thanking me for tipping her face toward heaven.

Check out a sample chapter of our latest book:

New Christian Author Preview Chapter: In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God

BETA Readers – The Heart Behind Our Book

target reader3Every morning I sip hot black coffee, telling stories to an invisible friend. We share a few tears, a giggle or two and a wink when we know a surprise is coming in the next chapter. My friend is quiet, interrupting only to ask an apropos question like “what did that feel like?” I know this friend like my own heart and blood, yet I could not pick them out of a crowd or recognize their face in a photograph.

I’m talking about my target reader. The person I imagine curling up with my book upon its completion. The person God places in my heart and mind, all day, all night. The person this story will speak to, minister and bring healing to. Who are you? Did I stand next to you selecting eggs at Safeway today? Pass you on the street? Are you the telemarketer, I hung up on?

Last week my husband and I met with our BETA Readers to share a meal, express gratitude and listen.  I felt awkwardly delighted that the book was the center of attention. I’d planned on discussing other topics during dinner, the polite thing to do. In my defense for  breaking Emily Post’s etiquette basics, this group has little common ground to share. After all, they were selected to test the reading waters based on gender, age and interest variables, not similarities. Besides, detouring the subject from the book would have been like asking a heroin addict to focus on world events while holding a loaded syringe.

Earlier that morning, I read the words I believe all writers long to hear, “I couldn’t stop reading it… I have to know what happens next.” Yes! Yes! Yes!. The best words ever, written by a newbie BETA Reader enlisted to fill an untested demographic slot. I didn’t think it could get better than that, but it did. After dinner the discussion turned to target readers, I lapped up their thoughts like a starving cat.

 I listened to my BETA Readers talk amongst themselves, and like a negative clearing in the chemical wash, the face, heart, mind and soul of my reader appeared. Seeing my invisible friend who sits by my side every morning come to life through my BETA readers refueled my inspiration tank. I highly recommend using a test group such as mine. If you’ve researched this system, you already know I ignored a rather important rule – wait until the book is complete before letting them read it… oops. I knew that,  but chose to ignore it, desperate for encouragement as the book progresses. They’ve been pushing me forward all along and I’m grateful for their willingness to stay the course.

The insights they shared are invaluable. I learned the book’s target is genderless and could appeal to young adults through seniordom. It’s a story the reader will want to share with others. It’s for those who like humor, romance and intrigue. For those who love God and those who don’t know him yet. For readers who are an alcoholic, love an alcoholic or want to learn more about the struggles of addiction. The story has something for singles and married folks as well.

Those are the bones of many potential readers. When the subject switched to whom this story will minister to, I could see the person sitting next to me every morning. Please understand, I am thrilled anyone will enjoy reading the book, but the ache in my heart, placed by God, is for someone specific… some genderless person intimately pursued… invited to experience the Grace our Father awaits to shower upon them.

This person, is hurting, desperate, searching for help in all the wrong places. They have banged on doors of self-help, destruction, human failure and quick fixes, none of which helped, and they are facing the last house on the block. They secretly want God in their life, but believe He wants nothing to do with them until they change. It’s not that they are not willing to change, they believe they are not capable, and they are right. What they don’t know is that Grace is waiting… beckoning… wanting only a willingness to accept it.

That’s who I share my story for. My story of a clueless couple whom God loved back to life. I want this for my reader, the person God has placed on my heart to care for, to love, to disciple through the story of my journey.  I want this reader to know if God could love me as I was, and as I am today, both options a messy person, then He certainly loves them!

I’m grateful for the love God gifted to my heart for my most special reader.

Psst… curious about our book? Click the link below to read a sample chapter. In Spite of Us - Chapter Previewhttps://debpalmerauthor.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/christian-author-preview-chapter-in-spite-of-us-stalked-by-a-loving-god/

YAY! WE WON A LIEBSTER BLOG AWARD

liebster award I was hungry… my mind tricked me into reading “Lobster” in place of “Liebster.” I didn’t care if we’d been nominated for a fishy award, I was happy to reel it in. The point is, someone (not a relative or coerced friend) likes the blog. A closer look into the award revealed that the German word Liebster means “dearest or beloved.” Cool, huh? Much better than a crustacean award. LiebsterPost

            Blogging takes time, patience, a steady flow of affirmations from readers, and for me, a willing husband who never tires of saying, “no, it doesn’t suck.” So, yes, yes, yes, I accept the nomination and without further adieu extend a huge thank you to Erin @ http://onehundredtwentythreedays.com/ for the recognition. Check out her blog, I found it to be fresh, intriguing and I gleefully accept her challenge to live a better life.

The idea behind the Liebster Award is to discover and give a nod to new bloggers. Accepting, means you win (yay! I won). There’s no trophy, paid vacation or a truck load of cash (dang), but you do get the honor of displaying the cool Liebster Award logo while taking a stroll down the cyber red carpet.

In lieu of an acceptance speech, winners are asked to follow a few instructions.

Answer the following 11 questions provided by the nominator.

Share 11 random facts about themselves.

Post the Liebster Award rules

Nominate 11 others for the award.

 

Q&A From My Nominator (nominees, please answer these same 11 questions)

1. Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 29, and find line 4. What is the book and what does it say?

“Notre Dame,” by Victor Hugo… “Oh yes; I remember it!” exclaimed Gisquette: “God on the cross, and the two thieves on each side of Him.”

2. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?  

I’m weird about this. It’s much more about who I live near than where. I would choose a place with few if any snakes, close to my family and friends.

3. If you could change one thing about the world, what would you do?

I would replace all hate with love.

4. Is the glass half empty or half full?

A trick question for a sober person… what’s the liquid?

5. When is the last time you ate a homegrown tomato?

Two years ago from my own little garden. Confession: It did not taste like the ones I remember as a child; dripping down my arm with the first bite.

6. What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be Mark Twain… of course!

7. What is your favorite time of the day?

First light… sitting with hubby in the quiet as we slowly enter the day.

8. What inspires you?

Faith… without which I am done for.

9. What is your favorite childhood memory?

Sitting with my mother, flipping through the Sears Roebuck Catalog, selecting everything we would buy if money was no concern.

10. What three things in nature do you find most beautiful?

Tigers, flowers, and the way light plays on the trees.

 11. Who are your Nominees?

Here are 11 random facts about myself.

  1. At the time of this writing, I was the ONLY person in Washington State who wasn’t watching the Seahawks at the Super Bowl.
  2. Sometimes I just can’t help exaggerating (see #1 above).
  3. I wonder about cows. According to my hubby, too much. Stuff like… why are they all standing up? Why is that cow being snubbed by the others? Did she do something anti-social? Is there a hierarchy among cows in the field? Is the cow on the mound pretending to be king of the hill? You know, that stuff… I assume everyone ponders.
  4. I write to music, sometimes evoking a moment of dance followed by a get back to work slap upside the head.
  5. I wear my husband’s T-shirt to bed, the one he’s been wearing for the day. No other will do. It gives me the same comfort my thumb sucking blanket gave me when I was a toddler (this should count as two random facts).
  6. If my toenails are not painted, I feel like they are naked.
  7. I HATE wearing socks.
  8. I play a game by Battlenet called Hearthstone more than I should.
  9. I’ve worked a variety of jobs in my life including driving a bulldozer and a forklift. Side note: Crashing a forklift through a plate glass window gets a lot of attention.
  10. I can be won over by any dog. A couple of wags, a sloppy wet kiss… game over.
  11. I think Godly men like my husband are super sexy. Watching him pray has an even stronger effect on me than number 10.

Looking forward to all my nominee’s answers.

In Spite of Us - Chapter Previewhttps://debpalmerauthor.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/christian-author-preview-chapter-in-spite-of-us-stalked-by-a-loving-god/

 

Can Your Dream to be an Author Come True?

1950s author card deck
Me, dreaming of becoming an author alongside my buddy Mark Twain. Sigh…

Like most girls in the 1960s, I dreamed of playing house with a plastic Ken-type husband gallivanting around in a pink convertible packed with smiling children. Even so, I bored easily with the game, preferring an alternative fantasy – to be an author.

The daydream took place in a cabin in the woods where I labored day and night at a primitive desk holding a stack of tattered gilded edge Mark Twain books, a flask, a fat cigar, and an Underwood portable typewriter. Other props included a No. 2 pencil as a pseudo quill fountain pen, and although I pictured a bushy beard, I settled for messy hair.

Truth is, I didn’t actually write much in those days. It was more about the mysterious writer facade. The part about putting words on paper came later and, sadly, I admit to being easily discouraged. I take full responsibility for that, recognizing that many writers pressed through rising above all obstacles, honing their craft from an early age. I on the other hand, stomped off stage with my flask and cigar with the first “boo.”

Maybe there’s a future blog brewing on the false starts, failures, brokenness and repeated murders of my lifelong desire to write, but this is not it. Instead, this post is about today, tomorrow and the next. All the days to come, promising a “do over.” No excuses or justifications. Do I have what it takes to be a writer or do I go back to swigging air from a flask in front of a blank sheet of paper?

Declaring war on my fears, I’ve been writing for an hour here and there for over a year trying to complete my first book, while maintaining an online antiques business and scaling out a pound or two of personal life. At first I could hardly wait to complete my self-inflicted writing sentence of one hour. Each word painfully squeezed out only to be deleted, exchanged or groaned at. Finally, one day a paradigm shift occurred. I no longer felt dread seeking the first word, it was the period at the end of the writing session I rued. Words came a little easier, my confidence peeked and winked at me from around the corner and a question nagged like a dripping faucet – “Could I write full time?”

That is, if all excuses were removed… the ones shielding me from finding out what I can or cannot do. Would I? Could I?… hack it as a full time writer? Or do I secretly want to remain in the pretend world alongside my justifications and alibis. Then the question became, is this book supposed to happen or not?

Tormented, I had one of those “duh” moments when I remember to take my burdens to God, so I prayed and prayed again, and again. Then one morning I awoke in an epiphany. God blessed us with a good year in our business, leaving us not only with our emergency cushion untouched, but also some extra and we are both in a rare season with flexible schedules.

Could it really be that God wants us to spend this money on ourselves? How could that be, when all around us there are people in need. Yes, we do tithe and give to charities, both ongoing and spur of the moment, but do we live sacrificially? Probably not. We continued praying until we felt certain the money was a blessing meant for us. Leaping hand in hand off the decision cliff with gratitude, we nabbed the cash, planning our dream trip with these specific priorities:

  1. Intimacy and renewal of relationships with Father God.
  2. Intimacy and renewal of relationship with each other
  3. Writing, writing, writing… more writing.
  4. Rest, long walks, good food and quiet.

We ended up in Yachats, Oregon in a charming beach house, with a bay window overlooking our front yard view of the Pacific Ocean’s cresting waves. There in the misty salty air I learned a few things about my writing abilities, limitations and style and some random stuff too.

First – I’m no Stephen King. In his book “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft,” he mentions, rather nonchalantly, that he writes 2,000 words 365 days a year. Setting this goal for myself was not productive. I spent most of my time obsessing over the disappointing progress. Wondering: Why my last outpour is only 333 words? If King counts the words in emails, grocery lists, love notes to Tabitha? How about doodling?

Second – Solitude, quiet, gorgeous scenery… even time with the Lord… can be just as distracting as our sometimes busy, noisy home. BUT these distractions renew, giving back more than they take. Whereas the clanging of nagging “to do’s” at home zap spiritual and creative strength.beachselfie2

Third – I don’t regret choosing devotional time with my husband, a prayer walk or even a nap. beachselfie1Shushing the Nazi-esque task master nagging me to sit at the computer until I reach my word quota, results in quality over quantity.

Fourth – God’s timing is essential. The first morning I left my dreamy prayer mode at 3:00 AM, anticipating a spectacular sunrise. Shortly I tired of staring out the bay window into the darkness. Not wanting to wake my husband, I turned to my other friend with all the answers – Google.

Yachats, Oregon, United States Sunset Time

Current Local Time: 3:14am PST

January 5, 2015

Sunrise

7:52 AM

Seriously?

Later, hubby rises at 7:20, three hours later than his normal “up and at ‘em” time. When I ask why the sun is sleeping in until nearly 8:00 he glibly replies “because it’s winter.” Then smiling, he adds “you won’t see it from there anyway dear, the sun rises in the east and you are facing west.”

The lesson: Nothing is going to happen if it’s not God’s timing and if you are not facing in the right direction you could miss the miracle.

Fifth – If you wait for God’s timing, and if you are facing the right direction (see lesson above), you’ll see God at work. DSCN3348Sitting in the bay window, facing west, watching the sunset swirl colors around the sun, I witness His glory in the magnificent and seemingly insignificant. People gather to watch the sunset show, snapping photos with their phones. An elderly couple hold hands… share a kiss. A man with an angry stride, head down, carrying three grocery bags, stops as if tapped on the shoulder, looking up at the progressing sunset like “hey, who did that?” Beckoned by God Himself, he sits on a bench, and although I can’t say for sure, he appeared to be praying.

In the meantime, pink and purple show up center stage, travel outward leaving a golden orb. As the final curtain is about to come down, I notice there’s about a hundred Seagulls gathered for the sunset finale. But, wait a minute… they’re ALL perched with their backs to the view. Stupid birds, what’s wrong with them? (Again, see above).

Sixth – I have no idea what God has in store for me tomorrow, nor even a clue what it should look like. I thought words were going to stack up like snowflakes in a storm. That was not the case, yet I wouldn’t trade one moment of this trip for 20,000 perfect novel-worthy words.

Seventh – I feel, therefore I write. If I stay in the writing closet without stretching my mind occasionally, just like my bottom, my stories suffer numbness, cramps, and possibly rigormortis.

What was the total word count tally of the trip? Drum roll… 9,069. Less than half my goal. Did I fail? I think not. Yes, some days I feel like the book will never see the words “The End” but then I remember it’s all about God’s timing.

            My prayer: Father, let me wait on you expectantly and please don’t let me be a silly seagull facing the wrong direction when the miracle appears. Amen.

A

In Spite of Us - Chapter Previewhttps://debpalmerauthor.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/christian-author-preview-chapter-in-spite-of-us-stalked-by-a-loving-god/

Preview Chapter: LOVE AND AN INTERVENTION: A Dual Memoir About Second Chances

RatedWforWeird

The following is an excerpt from our book, “LOVE AND AN INTERVENTION: A Dual Memoir About Second Chances.” The story is about an unremarkable couple pursued by God at every turn. It’s written in dual perspective – he said/she said. Here’s a few things you need to know to set the stage: New Author  Chapter Preview

It takes place several months after a shaky blind date, in that nearly comfortable stage.   They’re forty-somethings who’ve just graduated college, about to start lives meant for twenty somethings. They stand on the relationship hearth, laden with old baggage.

She is not interested in God… any God. To her, sobriety has no benefits. It’s rather like slaughtering a Led Zeppelin tune to make it playable in elevators. She’s been hurt, and if some guy thinks it’s going to happen again… well, he better be ready because this time guns are loaded. The question is this: Is she attracted to the soft-hearted, God-loving recovering alcoholic bent on becoming a better man, or the selfish, egotistical, biker bad-boy he used to be? New Author  Chapter Preview

He is three years sober and not going back to the party. He loves God… a God of his own design, picking what he likes and dislikes like a child forking through a salad. He sees the red flags she slaps him upside the head with, but hey, she’s not a convict, an improvement over past relationships. The question is this: Is he attracted to the kind, loving, woman underneath her facade, or the mouthy, arrogant bad-girl he sees as a challenge? New Author  Chapter Preview

Oh… did I mention my husband and I are the couple, and this is our true story of God’s perpetual grace?

The sample chapter below is written in Sandy’s (my husband) point of view. It’s one of the more light-hearted chapters, when he meets my colorful parents.  It begins amid the current family drama, the murder of my mother’s cousin, Virginia.

Read the warning and take the risk if you dare. We hope the taste of our story leaves you wanting more.

RatedWforWeird

Chapter 14

Bet he’s never seen anything like it.

            After tedious hours of prep and quizzing by professor Deb, I’m ready to meet the parents. The door opens, I’m drawn into the land of the McFarland’s, a place I believed existed mostly in Deb’s exaggerated imagination. Dema greets us at the door with a hearty, genuine hug. I’m confused because she’s dressed like we’re going to a black tie event and my only instructions were to wear a real shirt with no funny saying on it. She’s all sparkly, with sequins and jewels, the infamous auburn hair and makeup done to perfection. I feel better seeing Mac stretched out on his recliner, dressed like a 1950’s cowpoke.

The 12 by 12 foot living room is furnished for a room three times its size, so you have to cross the room walking sideways. Greetings barely obliged, Dema presses start on a VHS tape she’s had paused and ready for us since we left Yakima. The 60-inch projection television can only be seen from the two recliners placed directly in front, where Mac and Dema sit, both armed with a stack of remotes. Deb and I sit on the orange velvet love seat, our knees sideways so we don’t knock over the glass table in front.

For the next hour we watch news clips recorded from all three major television networks. Deb warned me this might happen, to which my reply was, “No, they wouldn’t do that.” After this, I will not question Deb’s facts. The newscasts escalate from a missing person to murder, while Mac and Dema insert background information, sometimes pausing to make sure we are keeping up.

            Hindered by the sideways view and the interruptions, this is my best translation of the drama: Virginia is Dema’s cousin. No one agrees whether she was on husband six, seven or eight. She has a son named Lynn, a sailor who visited once and made homemade pizza from a box. Virginia had lots of money because of her husbands, that she spent on diamonds and high heels. Dema says Virginia was spoiled as a child. She should know since they took baths together. Virginia was missing four days, with her car mysteriously parked in the driveway. Husband number six, seven or eight, claimed she vanished. Lynn, the pizza making son, flew to Spokane, hoping to help find his mother. Suspicions grew. The police brought search dogs, finding poor Virginia buried in the garden along with the carrots and potatoes. The last news clip shows the husband in handcuffs being carted off in a police car.  An autopsy revealed she had been shot. Everyone is relieved that Aunt Myrt, Virginia’s mom, is not around to see this.

            I’m exhausted and we’ve just begun. Again, Deb was right, insisting my intro to the McFarland’s be brief, without Haley and Jay, who might blab something we don’t want known.

 “I don’t want them to know we’re living together,” said Deb. “If we stay overnight we have two choices – separate rooms, pretending what we all know not to be true – or same room knowing the rest of the family is pow-wowing outside the door, chanting tsk – tsk – tsk.”

Considering our options, a short day trip seemed best. When murder and mayhem conversation dies off we move to the next dramatic scene.

            “Have you shown Sandy the bar?” Mac asks, knowing we’ve not left the front room.  “Bet he’s never seen anything like it.”

            “You haven’t… come on,” Deb says, motioning for me to follow. She side-winds through her childhood habitat, like a snake crossing the desert, while I, new to the obstacle course, bump knees and elbows, unskilled at walking sideways. Mac and Dema follow. She carries a 16-ounce tumbler of scotch and water, room to room, like a portable oxygen tank. The story from Deb is that her mom confesses to the doctor a two drink habit, omitting the constant refreshing and topping off.

            I’ve spent time in bars, all types… redneck, biker, highbrow… dives to swanky black tie joints… home bars, makeshift bars, tailgate specials. Yet none prepared me for the, “McFarland’s Bar.”

Deb’s eyes are begging me for words, but I don’t know what to say.  When words fail me, she involuntarily covers for me, chattering nervously, cooing and fidgeting like a cross between a dove and a quail.

“We had the bar built. It’s regulation. So are the dozen stools,” Mac says.

There’s a mirrored back bar with shelves stocked and ready to fill any drink order. And… Elvis is in the room… rows of gold and silver Elvis bottles peering down from shelves installed around the ceiling. There’s a black light, 20 beer signs, a booth style table and a life size poster of Mac dressed as a woman… an extremely ugly toothless woman with a huge nose… just imagine if Popeye had a sister.  What comment am I to make? Deb is trying to cover for my silence.

“Did you see the disco ball? Cool, huh? Did you know the poster is Dad? The ceiling is painted black for the strobe lights. You should really see what it looks like at night…”

Any moment Deb’s going to shove me on her lap, cram her arm up my butt and move my jaw up and down, like Edgar Bergan and his Charlie McCarthy doll. I open my own mouth to comment, but not fast enough to delay what’s coming next.

Deb’s classy, attractive, soft spoken mom calls me over to the bar. She’s lined up a collection of ceramic figurines. I obey her call, nearing the harmless looking monks and frogs. Then she hands me a monk.

“Turn it around,” she says. “Isn’t that awful?”

As I turn the monk around, he transforms into a ceramic penis. Why is this happening? Dema keeps saying how awful it is… I want to agree. Then she hands me a frog, asking me to turn it over. Do I have to? Deb gives me a “just do it” look.

“Isn’t that awful?” Dema asks again.

I manage a laugh at the anatomically enhanced frog. It’s not that I can’t handle the joke. I feel like I’ve been captured and thrown into someone’s really bad X-rated home movie. Finally, I speak.

            “Deb, where’s the bathroom?”

            The conversation turns from ceramic phallic symbols to towels as I follow Deb’s finger pointing down the hall.

             “I copied your idea to roll towels on the shelves. I really like it.” I hear Dema say to Deb.

            I try to open the door to the bathroom, but something is behind it. I slide through sideways, finding a huge hook on the back of the door holding a stack of robes. The door’s heavy and hard to close on the carpet, but I manage. Standing at the toilet staring at a tall shelf above it, I count 56 hand towels, 49 bath towels and 62 wash cloths, neatly rolled and stacked like cord wood stored for the winter. If a bus load of people needing a bath arrive at the McFarland’s, they’re covered for towels.

            “There are 56 hand towels,” I say to Deb as I squeeze back through the door. She shushes me while peeking in.

“Oh, that looks great Mom. Rolling the towels saves a lot of space.”

            Dinner, however late, is worth it. I’d been told to expect greatness and my hopes were not denied. The table was set with U.S. Navy flatware and individual platters, not plates, crowded with heaping plates of southern fried chicken, mash potatoes, country gravy, biscuits and corn. Seated in unspoken assigned seats, with Mac at the head of the table, I remember one of Deb’s warnings – “Whatever you do, don’t pass the food in the wrong direction, it drives Dad crazy.”

            He passes the procession of steaming bowls ceremoniously clockwise. I try, but curiosity wins, forcing my hand to pass the corn upstream, against the current.  Dema accepts the bowl with a nervous grin… Deb and Mac place their forks on the table, staring me down as if I’m the one who buried Virginia under the carrots. Not wanting to delay indulging in this feast any longer, I retrieve the corn, sending it clockwise. I know what we’ll be discussing on the ride home to Yakima.


 

 

Would You Trust Your BETA Readers to Pack Your Parachute?

parachute2

This week I selected my BETA readers, delivering the first chapter of our book, “In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God.” It feels like I ripped my heart out, placed it on a platter and gave it to a team of television soap opera surgeons. Now, I wait trusting them to keep it beating.

          Selecting my readers was tough. They’re friends I trust to pack my parachute, defend my honor and point out food stuck between teeth. But I just handed them my writing, as nonchalant as a basket of baked goods. What if it’s one of those bad fruit cakes we pretend to like but secretly wonder why someone bothered to bake it?

After reading volumes on choosing BETA readers, I gleaned and personalized three essentials.

  1. They must know me well enough to tell the truth, dodge the verbal rock tossing and believe me when I tell them I want honesty. They cannot be wimps, easily intimated by short bouts of crying, cursing or whining.
  2. They cannot be Teacher Wannabes. You know the ones like those kids you played school with? The bossy Hitler types insisting they be the teacher. This reader would demand a flogging for using a dangling participle because they like saying the word “participle.” And kind words or encouragement would be nonplussed.
  3. They must be people whose yes means yes and no means no. People willing to commit with no hope of a reward beyond a sincere thank you and a hug.

After an excruciating process sparring between trust and distrust, I came up with four + one BETA readers. Here’s the rundown of who made the list and why:

Ray Wockner:ray

A salty, “tell it like it is” guy with a big heart. A great choice. Ray’s one of those remarkable people with experience on both sides of the fence. He’s suffered, made stupid choices, fought losing battles. When friends had nearly given up on him, he flipped over in his self-dug grave surprising us all, resurrecting new-found humility and strength along with the uncanny ability to keep on loving people… even though. He’s a long term friend of both my husband and myself. Most importantly, Ray knows… who we used to be… how different we are today… and WHO helped us.

 

Jackie Archibald:jackie

 

A lovely woman of great faith. The most determined woman I know. I’ve watched this lady persevere through unimaginable circumstances. Jackie’s that special type of friend who won’t let you give up. She cares. She prays. She asks the tough questions. Jackie feeds me hope, reminding me that God is behind my work, pushing me forward.

Ande Hising:

ande

Analytical, intellectual, thorough… a woman who won’t settle for mediocrity, not for herself… not for others. My history with Ande is intense. We don’t always agree, but after a volatile reaction (mine) we find ourselves standing side by side on an island of mutual respect. She is a hard choice for me because… well… she won’t make it easy. That’s good and bad. She passionately believes God’s blessed me with a gift to write. How awesome is that? The problem is Ande’s passion means there’s work to be done. She’ll show up at my door with 75 books I need to read, a list of 700 people I should contact and before she leaves give me some personal advice. I’m fortunate to have her on this list. She’s an avid reader, hyper-intelligent and a good friend.

Evan Garfein:evan

A solid, stable, bright and Godly young man. Our 16-year-old grandson. I’ve asked this special young man for his input for extremely personal reasons. Our book is not of interest to teens. It’s not an adventurous, action-packed tale of senior citizen zombies. It’s the truth about his grandparents… no polish, nothing omitted. All the stuff we’d rather he didn’t know… but knowing it proves God’s grace and power. We need Evan’s wise heart to witness the miraculous restoration God performed on his not so admirable grandparents.

Natalie Phillips: (the plus one)

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I refer to Natalie as “plus one” because she’s more than a BETA reader. This delightful, fun-loving, super resourceful friend plopped into my life “ka-plunk” like an angel from heaven. God’s timing is perfect along with his choice of helper. Who else would selflessly give of her skills to edit for an unknown struggling confidence lacking writer? Who does that kind of stuff? Her friendship is invaluable. Together we’re learning how to trust, be vulnerable, share our love for God, respect differing doctrines, and most importantly, let our hair down and have fun. She’s much more than my comma Nazi. She’s a sweet spirited, Catholic raised woman, reading about our messy past tales, celebrating God’s power to change hearts. Her opinion holds a place of honor.

That’s the lineup. My BETA readers for my first book. My pit crew… my friends.