Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Remembering the Good with the Bad

When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time with my grandfather. Almost 100% of my memories of him are good ones. He was a big, tall man whose last name was Whitaker, so the grandkids all called him "Big Whit."

My grandfather was a World War II veteran, a hard worker, and a man of integrity. He was shell-shocked in England during the war. The men on either side and behind him were killed, but my grandfather ended up in a French hospital where he had to learn to walk, talk, and eat again. He wrote to my grandmother and told her he was having "stomach problems." This, he wrote, was why he was hospitalized and would soon be sent home. That's how he was. He never admitted to weakness.

When he came home, he worked for a real estate agency, and he owned his own businesses at different times. The U.S. Government offered him disability pay for his injuries and service abroad, but he flat-out refused. "There's nothing the matter with me. Why should I take money from the Government?"

So I grew up thinking my grandfather could do no wrong.

Whenever my grandmother mentioned his faults, I made light of it. Big Whit was like a second father to me, and he stood high on a mental and emotional pedestal. The man I knew was practically infallible.

The problem with that notion is no one is infallible except for the man who hung on the cross at Calvary and rose three days later. In truth, my grandfather had a terrible temper. Sometimes he drank too much, and a lot of people were scared of him (including his own children).

I'd heard the story many times from my grandmother about his temper. One story she liked to tell was from their high school days. They were walking along and holding hands when a group of boys came up behind them and made cutting remarks. My grandfather turned, punched the first guy in the mouth, who fell back and hit the next guy in the mouth with the back of his head. Both of the young men lost their front teeth. I loved the story, but it also proved Big Whit's inability to suffer fools gladly.

I remember my grandmother asking him not to take that next drink--pleas he ignored as he poured another shooter. Sometimes late at night, he crawled down the hall, growling like a bear and inciting uncontrollable giggles amongst me and my cousin. At the time we loved it, but when we talk about those incidents now, we realize he was intoxicated.

And all of his children tell stories about the domestic violence they endured. It was not considered such in the 1950s and 60s, but the belt, the fist, the verbal abuse would all be grounds for child abuse in today's society.

I say none of this to denigrate my grandfather's name. Big Whit loved his children, he adored his grandchildren, and he was dedicated to his family. And we loved him. When he died in the early 2000s, we felt we had lost the Blake Carrington of our family (for all of those 1980s Dynasty fans out there).

I still remember my grandfather with great love and respect, but I have since learned that there is a difference between respect and hero worship. Nostalgia so easily blinds us from the truth, but it's always better when we remove the blinders. It keeps us firmly rooted upon the ground where we actually walk rather than the one we imagine to be so much greener. In some ways, recognizing that our heroes are human makes them even more admirable.

Many of us who are writers and readers can't stand it when a character in a book is too perfect. They're two-dimensional, uninteresting, and not believable. So why would we ever expect our real-life heroes to be perfect?

Since it's Memorial Day, I will end with this. During World War II, my grandfather did not wait for the draft. He enlisted and volunteered, and he did it without reservation. He did not join the army as a forward scout because he wanted to gain glory for himself, pay for his college education, or kill people. He volunteered because he was an American, a lover of this country, and a fearless defender of it.

Happy Memorial Day. God bless America. God bless our troops.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Abolitionists

A former special agent for the CIA and Homeland Security, Tim Ballard now travels the world doing undercover sting operations that result in traffickers jailed and children freed. Ballard is the CEO and founder of Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R), an organization that moves into foreign countries like Brazil and Haiti to infiltrate the sex trafficking industry. Working with foreign governments and operatives, these rescuers risk their lives to bring down the criminals who buy and sell children.

Last Monday, The Abolitionists hit the theaters for a one-night-only showing, but future showings are scheduled. Part of the proceeds from the tickets go to fund O.U.R and help save children.

Check out the trailer HERE, and if you see the movie is playing in your area, make a point to see it. It's a great documentary with a message. With God's leading, it only takes a few people stepping out in obedience to make a big difference and potentially save the life of a child.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Exciting Announcements and News

The last couple of weeks have been filled with unexpected and wonderful blessings. First of all, my newest novel, Suburban Dangers, which deals with the topic of sex trafficking, has been contracted by Pelican Book Group. I am so excited about this because of the subject matter and its importance, but also because I started writing the story in January of 2015, and it has evolved from a five-character narration mixing first- and third-person point of view into a story that focuses on two characters in third-person POV. There is now much more emphasis on the young victim.

I'll keep everyone posted on this news.

The second bit of news, equally exciting, is that Captives is a finalist for the 2016 Selah Awards in the Women's Contemporary category. I am joined by extraordinary writers, Marie Wells Coutu for her novel, Thirsting for More, and Cynthia Ruchti and her novel, As Waters Gone By.




Just last year I was sitting in the Selah Awards banquet at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers' Conference thinking what a wonderful honor to be nominated and/or receive a Selah Award. Last Wednesday, I was shocked to open my email and see a message of Congratulations announcing Captives as a finalist. This was an unexpected blessing, indeed!

More on both of these announcements in the near future.

Next weekend I will be attending the conference in North Carolina, and I am excited to see what God does there in terms of bringing new people into my life, teaching me tools for writing and marketing, and reminding me of His spiritual truths.

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Guest Blog for Mother's Day: Infertility Is Not A Curse

Happy Thursday! It's almost the end of the week.

This month I am a guest blogger on Association of Christian Fiction Writers' blog. For many women, Mother's Day is not a celebratory time; instead, it's a day of pain and sadness. Some women have lost their mothers, have broken relationships with their mothers, or have lost children. For many years, it was a sad day for me as well.

I'm thankful to say that is not the case anymore.

If you'd like to read what I had to say as a guest blogger, click HERE.

I'll be back tomorrow with lots of great news! And for all of the mothers out there, happy belated Mother's Day!