Monday, November 30, 2009

Sleepwalking: A silly bike story

One morning I climbed out of bed to take my two-year-old to preschool. I'd enrolled her in preschool so she'd pick up on the Dutch language (I spoke English at home). So, I fed her, got her dressed and loaded her on the bike. I dropped her off, and right across the street was the grocery store--the Albert Heijn.  There were some items I needed, so I decided to head on over there. In the photo above, you can't see the preschool, but it's on the right, across the street. Because it was so close, I decided to walk.

I crossed the street, pushing my bike, and then I went into the store. As I walked along, a man looked at me, looked away, then looked at me again. Surely, my hair and clothes weren't in that bad of shape. Yes, I'd just crawled out of bed, or felt like I had, but there was no call for anyone to take extra notice of me. Another couple walked by and gave me a strange look. Well, maybe I did look pretty bad. Finally, one woman's eyes darted downward and rested on me, or whatever it was she saw, so I also looked down. To my surprise, I was still pushing my bike! I'd walked my bike into the grocery store.

I chuckled and managed to get the words out in Dutch, "I'm not awake yet." It think it was my first official Dutch joke. The woman laughed, so it must have worked. Well, I managed to get the bike turned around and parked it outside where it belonged. After that, I was definitely awake.

I thought of adding a little "sermon" to this sleepwalking expedition, something along the lines of, "How often are we spiritually sleepwalking?" But I don't feel like preaching today. Maybe you all can come up with something. If it's not a spiritual comparison, that's okay too. :-)

Had any wake-up calls lately?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

DUTCH TALES: My Transportation

This was my "car" in Holland.

Before my husband and I left for the Netherlands back in 1993, we sold our car in the States and used that money to buy bicycles in Holland. I had a bicycle very similar to the one above, only mine was a flashy maroon.

It was there that I learned to ride on the streets alongside cars (with no helmet). I'd have one kid in the front, and one in the back, and a stroller hooked onto the back, along with grocery bags and a basket filled with groceries. When my bike wasn't loaded, I'd be trucking down the street, and I'll never forget when it happened more than once that an old man would fly by on his bike as if I wasn't moving!

The above is what a typical bike path looks like in Holland. And yes, the road is right next to it (really, it was a part of the street, just a different color). It took me a while to get comfortable riding so close to cars--especially with my children on my bike. Yikes! We'd ride through all kinds of weather--even rain and snow. Boy, was that "fun."

I got used to riding on the streets after I took a job delivering pizzas. I was thrilled to find a Dominos Pizza in our home town of Eindhoven. It was managed by an American, and he spoke English to all his employees. English! Aaaahhh. That was nice. Oh, and so was the pizza! Anyway, I delivered the pizza on a moped. I'd always wanted a motorcycle, and this sort of met that "need." I was their first female driver, and it was GREAT!

Imagine busy city streets (something similar to New York City). Yes, that's very much what it was like, only on a smaller scale. Streets are smaller and so is the city, oh . . . and so are the cars. :-) This is a picture of Eindhoven, where we used to live. I've been on this very street! As you can see, this one doesn't have bike paths. Aaack! (If you click on the picture, you can get a closer look.)

When we moved to Soesterberg, we lived in a small village. That's when some of the bike paths were set farther away from the streets. To go shopping (not grocery shopping; each village had it's own grocery store) in the nearest town (Zeist), I rode 20 minutes through woods similar to the picture above.

Sometimes we found trails as beautiful as this photo.

I've got some silly stories to share about my biking experiences in Holland. But this post is long enough. I'll share some later.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

His Gift, Not Mine!

The following story isn't easy to share, but I will anyway. In fact, I didn't post sooner because it took a few days to sort it all out in my mind and heart.

The girl had spent hours wrapping her gift. She made sure the white paper was smooth with no wrinkles. She'd worked her fingers raw to get the bow on just right, retying it at least ten times. One loop stretched over her thumb, and she cringed when she noticed it was still longer than the other. No time to fix it again because the double-doors opened to the master's throne room.

Taking a deep breath, the girl stepped inside. The majestic chamber spread out before her. Diamonds and sapphires sparkled on the walls, rays of sunshine lanced through the vaulted windows, and the scent of lavender made the tension in her body melt away like snow on her tongue.

At the far end of the room the master sat on his throne. He leaned forward and motioned for her to come.

Holding the gift out, she stepped toward him.

Eyes twinkling, the master smiled as she put the small box in his large hands.

"Thank you." He took the bow between his fingers and pulled.

"Careful." The girl reached out, but yanked her hand back.

The master stopped pulling on the ribbon.

"Sorry. It's just that . . . it was a lot of work tying that thing."

He chuckled and plucked at the bow.

"Here, let me help you." The girl pulled on the ribbon until the bow disappeared. She looked up at the master.

He smiled down on her, still holding the gift.

"The paper is very delicate. Maybe I should help you unwrap it?"

The master held out the box to her, and she unwrapped the gift.

She lifted out what she had so painstakingly made, and he smiled, admiring it. As he reached for the gift, she snatched it back and said, "Let me take care of this for you."


I'm sorry to say, I'm that little girl. You see, I wrote a story (the series I've been working on and put an excerpt of below). Well, I wrote it for God. Not because He needed entertainment, but to win people over to Him, to please Him. I've spent years perfecting the craft just so I could write this one, special story. Do I have other stories in me? Yes. But this one was my special gift for Him.

Right when I finished the first book of the series, I stumbled upon a publisher that wanted it, and I'd barely finished typing the last word! So, I cleaned it up as fast as I could and shipped it off to the publisher, only later finding a gazillion typos in the thing. Just like that crooked bow. Ugh. Well, about a month later, I heard that they wanted to publish it! I was thrilled!

After some email problems and simple misunderstandings, I felt I needed to help God out. To make a long story short, I got an agent and decided to go to the bigger houses with it. So, I took my manuscript and ran, seeing dollar signs and my book sitting on the shelves at Borders and B&N.

Well, I started networking, building up a new blog for writers, got active on all my loops, joined more programs, and dove into every little thing the big houses suggest writers do, which means "no time for writing." I became tired and overwhelmed, and at one point I'd lost the whole reason "why" I wrote this story. To serve God. To please Him and make Him smile.

During all of this, that small press came knocking on my door a few times, asking for an update, but I brushed them off, thinking God needed a little hand. After all, how could He sell my book unless I went through a big press?

As I knocked on all their doors, the big houses all liked my writing, calling me things like "an accomplished writer." One editor said, she didn't really like first century stories, but was surprised how well this one "sucked her in." Etc. But . . . either they weren't publishing this era of fiction, or they already had an author who wrote in that time period, or their lists were full.

Remember that one editor I really, really wanted? Well, she LIKED my story, but didn't have room for it. But . . . she liked it! That to me is a huge compliment coming from her. I also think they're wanting more suspense novels.

After that, I had yet to hear from Zondervan, and by this time . . . I was discouraged. Even without having heard from Zondervan, I wanted to go back to that small press. But I was hesitant because as a small press just stepping out in the publishing world, I wouldn't sell nearly as many books as I would through a larger house. God needs help! Or . . . maybe He doesn't? He is God after all. He's a lot bigger than those "big houses." Hmm. So, I told my agent that I was 85-90 percent sure I wanted to go with the small press and would she give Zondervan a call and get an answer. At this time, I found out that the editor's workload at Zondervan, just doubled. So, even before my agent made the call, we both knew what the answer would be. Yep, you guessed it. "No." But, allow me to add for my own pride's sake, even she said she liked my writing. Whew!

So, I'm going with the small press. Now the question is, do they still want my story. I won't know until after the first of the year.

What I've learned: I have other stories I've written for myself, but I wrote this one for God. Well, I'm going to let Him have it and quit trying to do what I think is best. It's His story. I'll finish the other two books with just as much passion and pleasure on the pages, and hand it over to Him as His gift. I'll let him open it Himself and let Him do what He wants with it.

My prayer now is that it will please Him.

P.S. I never would have come to this conclusion so quickly and smoothly without the council and guidance of my bestest friend, Wendy flower.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Living the Dream

<---Photo: compliments of my sister. Taken by Ralph Lake who is living his dream.

When I was lamenting my rejections and feeling like I was falling short of the mark, I got this wonderful email from Jim Rubart, marketing guru. He's done work for Disney, Apple, HP, etc) and I had the pleasure of meeting him at the ACFW conference in September. I took one of his workshops, and I have to add: he's quite the magician!

Anyway, he gave me permission to share what he said with all of you below. The following is for those who are living their dream (specifically writers).


You’re not falling short.

The ones that don’t dare to dream never submit. They never write. If they do write they never finish. They never revise. They never lay their heart out to be hurt.

You are living the dream.

Rejection is HARD because it feels so personal. It is personal to you, but not to them. What I mean by that is it has so much to do with:

Market timing—in a few years Biblical time period books could be all the rage

Slots—sometimes their calendar is full

Taste—I had one editor that loved my writing, but just didn’t like the type of story I’d written

Bad day—yes, something as random as someone on the pub board being in a bad mood

MistakeSteve Laube talks about turning down Jan Karon and Ted Dekker as examples of simply being wrong. (Steve’s talk “Redeeming Rejection” is an EXCELLENT talk if you can get a hold of it.)

So hang in there and continue to dare to dream. (I love the picture and text on your blog.)

Jim Rubart


Thank you, Jim, for allowing me to share your email with all my lovely followers. If any of you wish to follow Jim's blog, go here:

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Excerpt from The Master's Wall

I thought it might be fun to share an excerpt from my novel The Master's Wall.

This is a special scene to me for a number of reasons. I hope it touches you as well. The wall that David and Alethea are sitting on is about ten feet high. It surrounds the villa where David is enslaved. This wall is supposed to keep people in and keep people out. There's something humorous about that fact in this scene. This is their secret place.

Here's a book jacket description for you, followed by the excerpt.

Rome 80 A.D.

After watching Roman soldiers drag his parents away to their death, David, a young Hebrew, is sold and enslaved to serve at a villa outside of Rome. David trains to become a great fighter. He works hard to please his master and hopes to earn his freedom. However, an opportunity to escape tempts David with its whispering call. Freedom beckons, but invisible chains hold him captive to the master's granddaughter, an innocent girl with a fiery spirit. David vows to protect Alethea from his master, the murderous patriarch, and contrives a daring plan--sacrifice his own life to save hers.


"Well, I'm glad I don't have any sin." Alethea swung her legs as she sat on the wall. She thought to scoot in closer to David so her arm might brush against his. Instead, she basked in his scent of leather and pine.

David rested his elbows on his knees and watched her, but Alethea avoided his gaze.

"No one is without sin." He leaned toward her. "No one."

She glanced at him from the corner of her eye, but quickly refocused her attention on the horizon. "It doesn't make sense." She shrugged. "Why make someone die when he could clap his hands and say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' and be done with it?"

David stared at her for a while, his mouth closed as if tasting her words.

Shifting under his scrutinizing gaze, she leaned forward and watched the birds soar and dance on the air in front of them.

A gentle breeze caressed her cheek as David lifted her chin. He forced her to look at him. His blue eyes fixated on hers.

"Passion," he said.

Alethea took a long shuddering breath.

"What shows greater love?" He continued to hold her chin. "Someone who sacrifices himself to save your life, or just claps his hands?"

Thanks for reading and allowing me to share. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Do you have a special scene in your own work that touches you?