Friday, July 31, 2015

The Best Book I Read in July

It’s time for the best book I read this month and The Cephalopod Coffeehouse hosted by The Armchair Squid. We gather once a month to talk about the best books we’ve read over the past few weeks.

Mercy’s Rain by Cindy K. Sproles is set in the late 1800s and traces the journey of Mercy Roller, a young girl living in the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee, who must come to terms with her angry, revengeful heart brought on by a childhood of abuse and brutality.

Mercy’s father, Pastor Roller, is a cruel man with a desire to inflict pain and anguish on his wife and children under the guise of spiritual cleansing and holiness. He sexually and physically abuses his daughter and tries to burn and freeze his wife to death; he hits, hangs, drowns, and commits infanticide. He is evil incarnate and Mercy, finally reaches her breaking point when he kills a local boy.

Her heart full of hate, Mercy shows no mercy when it comes to The Pastor’s punishment for his crime, and years later she readily confesses to herself and others that she had a hand in her own father’s killing. Once she leaves her home and all of its terrible memories and settles among friends who need her child-minding help, Mercy experiences a different life—one that could offer happiness and redemption. Even so, she is haunted by her memories and struggles to forgive herself and those who have hurt her, and experience the very quality after which she is named. Mercy must decide whether she will allow herself to love and let go of the past, finally accepting God’s grace and healing.

Mercy’s Rain is an intense, emotional story, beautifully developed and constructed by Sproles’s fine prose. It is not a novel for the faint-hearted, but it is one for the broken-hearted. Mercy’s journey from broken, bitter, and angry to a girl who desires to love and be loved rings true and is not at all contrived. The novel’s painfully realistic portrait of domestic abuse is part of what makes it so powerful. This is not feel-good inspirational fiction; this is gritty, soul-searching, life-changing story telling—a rushing river of realization that people experience this sort of brokenness every day and must choose between hating and forgiving. Mercy’s hurt is a deep well, and she must decide if God’s love is enough to fill it.
If you'd like to look at some other good reads, check out some of my fellow coffeehouse bloggers' favorite reads this month.

What’s the best book you’ve read this month?    

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Recent CNN Documentary on Ending Sex Trafficking

In the late 1990s and early 2000s when the media first began reporting on sex trafficking, almost all of the stories were based on foreign soil. In 2015, the stories are taking place right here, in our own back yards, in our schools, or just down the street.


Last week, CNN (in conjunction with the Freedom Project) broadcast a one-hour program hosted by Jada Pinkett Smith (an ardent anti-sex trafficking activist) featuring six women whose lives were once in the hands of traffickers. The stories include a fourteen year-old, recruited out of her own school, and a young woman who began her foray into the sex industry as a stripper, only to be told that she could make more money if she also agreed to offer sex as part of her services. One of the most chilling details about this piece? Every one of the stories takes place in Atlanta, Georgia--one of the largest "hubs" for sex trafficking in the United States. According to CNN (through an Urban Institute study), the illegal sex industry in Atlanta generates over $290 million dollars a year.

Jada Pinkett Smith became involved in the movement to end sex slavery when her eleven year old told her that there were girls her age in the U.S. being sold for sex. In disbelief, Pinkett Smith spent hours on her computer researching the cases. It was a wake-up call creating a call-to-action in her heart. In this documentary from CNN, Pinkett Smith interviews many of these women who have come out of "the life" as well as a courageous rescuer who runs The Living Water Center, a shelter and rehabilitation center for trafficked girls.

If you haven't seen Children for Sale: The Fight to End Human Trafficking, I highly recommend watching the documentary or some of the clips at THIS LINK on

Friday, July 24, 2015

Favorite Things Friday: What's in a dog's name?

“What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” –Romeo and Juliet, II.ii

As many of you know, I have two beloved greyhounds (a retired racer and an Italian Greyhound). I belong to several online greyhound forums, and the other day someone asked the question—what was your greyhound’s racing name and what did you rename them (if you did)? This question prompted responses not only about people’s dog’s actual names, but also a list of names they call their dog and how those names evolved. One person said only their vet called their dog by its real name. At home it was called FiFi, FooFoo, Booger, and other terms of endearment.

Since I know a lot of people who have many names for their dogs, I thought this was a good place to address this all-too-common phenomenon.

My retired racer’s racing name was Starz Megabucks. His first family called him Megabucks (then, luckily for us, he was returned). His first foster dad called him Zee (for the Z in Starz). We renamed him Chase.  We do call him Chase, but he also answers to Chaser, Chaser-racer, Chasey, Chaserini, Chaseroo, Chaserooni, Chase-Man, Mr. Man, Chester, Moose, Moose-Man, Horse, Hamster, and Big Hamster.

Trinity came with her name and we kept it. She also answers to Trin-Trin, Trinner, Trinster, Trinister, Trinitor, Trinitarian, Trin-Spin, Trin-a-Min, Boo Boo, Boolicious, Miss Thing, and Woogie-Woogie.

Your turn.

Do you have nicknames for your dog or cat? Do they answer to them?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Nightmare of Performing in Porn

Some girls may enter the porn industry with big dreams, but most of them leave with nightmares and flashbacks.
I've heard many people make the statement, "Well, porn stars must love having a lot of sex—otherwise, they wouldn’t make these movies, right?" This fallacious statement is easily refuted in the words of men and women who have escaped the life of performing in adult films, and who still suffer from its effects.  There is no glamour in porn.
In the words of one former porn actress, Elizabeth Rollings, “You have to submit to others (producers, agents, etc.) no matter how important you think you are, you’re not in control… Having men do disgusting things to me and even if it hurt, I had to make it seem like I was enjoying every minute of it. I hated it.” *

Many of these young girls are lured into the adult film industry by promises of fame and fortune, which they quickly discover is not what it’s all about. Some of them even find themselves doing shoots to which they did not agree. “I definitely did some things I did not want to do… I was one of those girls who was gagged and choked,”** former porn actress Veronica Lain admits. Some performers are tricked into violent and forced sex acts on and off camera and told they must do it since they’re “under contract.”

Once entrenched in the business, performers often find themselves trapped by violence, drug addiction, and mental illness. Women involved in pornography are at huge risk for sexually transmitted diseases (Pink Cross reports that 66% of porn actresses are herpes positive; other prevalent diseases include HPV, all-out cervical cancer, and staph infections), drug abuse (everything from alcohol and Xanax to meth and heroin. Pink Cross estimates 90% of the actors involved with porn use drugs), mental illness (many performers suffer from depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder), and suicide (Pink Cross cites a statistic of 208 porn performers dying through drugs, diseases, suicide, and homicide since 2014).

Many porn actors and actresses transition from pornography to prostitution, as it’s easier to make $1,000 to $1,500 in an hour through an escort service rather than endure the grueling 8+ hour process of film-making (more on this in a later blog).
If you want to hear a former porn actress, Shelley Lubben, discuss many of these statistics, check out this video of her testifying before the California State Assembly.
Shelley Lubben founded the Pink Cross foundation, and the organization is staffed by former performers who are now anti-porn activists and work to help others escape the business and build a life for themselves. They are a faith-based charity whose mission is to reach out to the porn industry performers and equip them with a support system and extensive resources.    

If you’re interested in finding out more about them, check out their site at


*SOURCE: Rollings, Elizabeth. “Former Porn Star Elizabeth Rollings Story.” Ex Porn Star Stories. The Pink Cross Foundation, Jun 2009. Web. 9 Aug. 2013

**SOURCE: Lain, Veronica. “Former Porn Star Veronica Lain Story.” Ex Porn Star Stories. The Pink Cross Foundation, Sep 2008. Web. 9 Aug. 2013.



Friday, July 17, 2015

Favorite Things Friday: Vacation

Vacation is all I ever wanted…

Remember The Go-Go’s song from 1982?

I’m one of those really weird people not necessarily into sandy beaches and Caribbean cruises for vacations. For many years my idea of a vacation was sitting in an English pub watching rain course over beveled glass on Shakespearean windows; climbing winding stone stairs of old, decrepit castles while watching my breath form in puffs before me; or tromping over wet meadows in Wales with cold wind whipping off of the ocean while stepping over sheep dung. Again—I am not ashamed—I’m weird.

Although I still think these are my favorite images for a vacation, this year I’m happy to stay in the good old US of A and explore more domestic territory. I already toured Biltmore this summer and enjoyed an eat-a-thon in Asheville, N.C., so that’s scratched off my list. Here’s my revised summer travel hit list:

1.    Gatlinburg, Tennessee: I used to go there as a kid, but I haven’t been since I was around ten years old. I remember this really great haunted house I ran through with my eyes closed. I’d sort of like to do that again. Plus, I hear there are great places to eat there.

2.    Nashville, Tennessee: Yes, I know these are both in the same state, but as most of you know Tennessee is my home state. And I really love my home state. I’d like to go to Nashville to see some good live music (my husband and I are both music lovers). I also hear Nashville has great restaurants.

3.    Winchester, Virginia: This is an odd choice because it’s only an hour from where I live, but I’ve wanted to go there for a while. I’d like to stay in a B&B and take in a few historical sights.  There’s also a restaurant there called One Block West that looks really good.

So there we have it. You probably get a pretty good idea of what my husband and I like to do on our vacations—we pretty much eat our way across town.

Anyone who has been to any of these places have any recommendations for good restaurants with great food and atmosphere?


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Modern Sexual Exploitation

In 2001, a friend of mine began working for an anti-human trafficking organization as a liaison and a zealous abolitionist. I’d never heard of sex trafficking before except brief mentions on Dateline regarding girls overseas that were abducted and sold. Over the next few weeks, my friend offered me a crash course in sex trafficking—plying me with statistics, news articles, case studies, and books addressing the topic.

Absolutely horrified, I began to extensively research the topic, sickened by some of the things I read. What kind of monsters could do that to another human being? Was this for real? It was a reality that was hard to fathom or comprehend for my average, then-twenty-something suburban mind. In 2009, I wrote a novel on the topic, AllThat is Right and Holy.
Although I originally had agent representation for the book, in 2009 the Christian fiction world was skeptical about taking on such a tough subject, so I eventually self-published. My readership was small, but I was amazed by the response I got. People contacted me to tell me they’d never heard of this issue and were eager to learn more about it.

In 2015, it’s impossible to turn on the television or open a newspaper without reading about trafficked women and girls. Venues posing as massage parlors, restaurants, or modeling services house the trappings for young women that span all ethnic and social demographics. Schools, shopping malls, and train stations are hunting grounds for the runaway, the naïve, and the lost. This has prompted me to write another novel on the subject, which is currently with an editor, after which I’ll begin shopping it around to agents and publishers.

Because I do write about darker topics, I’ve changed up the focus of my blog to feature snippets about trafficking, pornography, and child exploitation issues for my Thursday posts. On Friday, I’ll still have more light-hearted Favorite-Things-Friday fun.

Trafficking was never just an “over-there” problem, people simply didn’t realize that trafficking was not only about moving people across borders. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the formal definition of trafficking is found in the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.” This broader, more modern definition would of course include prostitution of all kinds, pornography, stripping, etc.  Make no mistake. Sex trafficking happens every day in our towns, neighborhoods, and in our schools.    

If you’re interested in learning more about the wide-spread nature of sex trafficking and exploitation, check out the National Center onSexual Exploitation based in Washington, D.C. They are passionate about the work and comprehensive in their resources.

Have you heard about specific incidents of sexual exploitation in your city or town?

Monday, July 13, 2015

Christian Fiction Writers Conference--July 25!

On Saturday, July 25, in Woodbridge, Virginia (Northern Virginia, Metro DC), the Virginia Chapter of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) will be holding their first annual Christian Writer's Conference!

In addition to 14 workshops, they are offering personal appointments with a Literary Agent, and also appointments with a photographer so you can get a professional head shot for your publicity efforts.

Registration includes a light breakfast, a taco salad bar lunch, beverages, all the workshops, plus access to our special guests and extras tables.

Have you registered to attend?