Jesus Walked Into Planned Parenthood

The other day as conservatives chanted “USA!” and “Lock her up!” as if they were interchangeable sentiments, I found myself in a very dark place wishing very bad things to happen to all of them. I pulled myself out of that place as best I could by writing this:

Jesus walked into Planned Parenthood. He paused at the desk. The receptionist, tired and counting the minutes until she could get out of the tiny, antiseptic-smelling room with its buzz of computers mixing with the sniffles and throat-clearings of the waiting room, looked up, her expression guarded out of habit. “Can I help you?”

“No.” Jesus smiled at her and she thought about the scent of dandelions. She’d loved dandelions when she was a child. She remembered the clump of golden dandelions she’d spotted by the bus stop that morning. Tonight, when she left, she would stop and smell them. Maybe she’d pick one and take it on the bus with her. The thought made her happy because dandelions smelled like hope and she very seldom felt hope anymore.

Jesus reached through the small opening in the glass window—the one she used to pass clipboards back and forth to patients—and touched her hand. “I’m just looking for a friend,” He said before turning to the waiting room.

Jesus found her in the waiting room. It was late, and she was the last one there. A middle-aged woman holding her purse on her lap and staring into the distance as if she could imagine herself somewhere else for some other purpose. Jesus sat next to her and took her hand. “She’s all right.”

As if she had come back from somewhere very far away, the woman looked at Him. She heaved a breath, raspy, sounding like she hadn’t breathed in a long time. “Is she?”

Jesus thought of the woman’s daughter undergoing a procedure in one of the back rooms that would take away the baby conceived in an ill-timed relationship. He thought of the frightened boy who’d refused to take responsibility, whose parents had taken him away instead of facing what had happened. He knew the young girl had agonized about it. He’d heard her prayers. He’d heard her father’s anger, felt the words fall like blows on the girl’s heart. If you have an abortion don’t ever come back to my house.

But in the end, full of fear instead of hope, she’d gone to the clinic. And her mother had taken her, in spite of her own convictions, too worried about losing her daughter to obey her husband. Both of them had spent the past few hours imploring Him for forgiveness.

“My husband says it’s an unforgivable sin. That she’ll be locked out of heaven forever.” The woman’s voice quavered, imploring a contradiction.

Jesus stood, and the woman’s eyes filled with wonder. For a moment, when He smiled at her, she heard again her daughter’s bell-like laughter tinkling through spring air while she ran and played in the golden sunshine. Jesus bent and kissed her forehead. “There is no sin I will not forgive if I am asked in time.”

He left the clinic and paused outside. He saw the man standing on the other side of the road. He was a man who prayed daily, almost hourly, but Jesus could no longer hear him, though from this distance He could see the man’s lips moving. Jesus knew what He’d said to the woman in the waiting room was true. But He wondered—if this man ever asked His pardon—would He hear the prayer?

His heart heavy, He walked away from the clinic as the man entered it. He heard the explosion, and as those He passed turned to see what had happened, He spotted a clump of dandelions growing between the cracks of the sidewalk.

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Fantasy Adventures in My Own World

Once upon a time. Those are magical words, aren’t they? I mean, right up there with “on a dark and stormy night” as far as how NOT to start your new novel, but still magical. Those words tell you you’re about to be transported to another world, an alternate reality. I love that feeling, and that’s why I’m currently writing romantic fantasy, even if I do find it much more challenging than contemporary romance.

I’m more than halfway through editing Time Being, the second book of my Synchronicity series, which began with Out of Time. Last month I released the short story Strange Path, which is technically a prequel, but the hero of that story has a major role in Time Being. I posted on Facebook and Twitter today that “Strange Path” is not only where my story has been, it’s also where it’s going.

A friend who is familiar with the Synchronicity series posted this kind review on her Facebook page to encourage readers to try it out: “Synchronicity blends Tolkien-like creatures, Gabaldon-like portals, a bit of Rowling-like magic with Swords and romance!” Of course I was flattered by the comparisons, but I also loved that she enjoyed the world of Synchronicity. Creating a compelling fantasy world of your own is a challenge, and you can really only hope to have learned enough about world-building from your heroes to manage it. My friend’s words helped me believe that maybe I had.

I hope you’ll read “Strange Path”, and if you do, I hope you enjoy it enough to try out Out of Time before Time Being debuts, hopefully in May. Read for free here:

strangepath

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Writing and friendship: A tangled web

Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.–E.B. White

I don’t think I’m over-generalizing by saying most English-speaking (and some non-English) writers have been influenced in one way or another by E.B. White. I was reminded of this over the past couple of weeks as I prepared a booktalk on White for my daughter’s third grade class. But mostly I was reminded of one thing: White’s book Charlotte’s Web was the book I read and decided to be a writer.

I was about seven, I think, when I got pneumonia and was in the hospital for a week, then home recuperating for another week. I wasn’t truly old enough to understand that it was serious, but my classmates made me get well cards and one of my extended cousins brought me a copy of Charlotte’s Web as a get well gift. His mother probably made him, and I doubt I ever thanked him properly, so he probably never knew that book became my most treasured possession.

I was a voracious reader (still am), and I read that book over and over and over again. The writing was…luscious. Like nothing I’d ever read before. Every writer knows the quote from Charlotte’s Web:

“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.”

How I wanted that quote to apply to me! I could be a true friend. Could I be a good writer? Could I use my words and talent to influence the world for good, as Charlotte had? In my innocence, I truly believed so. It wasn’t until I got much older that I realized how difficult the two could be to fit together. Maybe this quote, also from Mr. White, might explain why:

“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”

And there’s the rub. If you want your writing to mean something, if you see a need in the world and you try to address it with your writing—somebody’s not going to like it. Writing is a solitary profession that, like a single pebble thrown into a lake, causes ripples wherever it lands. The water may not like being rippled, and it may not understand why you threw the pebble in the first place, but it ripples, nonetheless. It’s something all writers deal with to some degree or other.

However, in the course of preparing my booktalk, I came across a new, and very hopeful, E.B. White quote that I have now pinned up next to my desk.

“All that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world. I guess you can find that in there, if you dig around.”

Maybe one day, I’ll be as good a writer or at least as true a friend as Charlotte. I’ll keep working on it.

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Read free: “Strange Path: A Synchronicity Story”

Whether or not you’ve read Out of Time, Book 1 of the Synchronicity Series, you will enjoy a trip to a fantasy land of romance and adventure in “Strange Path”. A prequel to the Synchronicity Series, “Strange Path” explores the adventures of Drake, the Elf who crossed over to Eladi a century before Jack, and Josephine, the Cherokee woman whose family have dedicated their lives to guarding the portal between worlds.

Best of all? It’s free. No charge at all to read the story, and it’s stand-alone, so even if you decide you don’t want to continue your adventures, you won’t be left unsatisfied. So what do you have to lose? Read “Strange Path” here:

strangepath

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Imagine all the dreamers…

“Imagine all the people living life in peace…”

What do you see? What image does John Lennon’s timeless lyric call to your mind?

A world without war, certainly. But then what? No classes? Everyone working day by day to make the world a better place? A kind of idealistic commune where we may work in the fields or the kitchens or serve as doctors or govern, but we all eat at the same table?

I used to wish for something like this. World peace, my mind whispered at my birthday parties when I blew out the candles. World peace, I thought as I blew a dandelion’s fluff into the wind. World peace, I wished and puffed a breath at an eyelash. World peace—as a coin plinked into the fountain.

World peace.

It’s only now as I face my forty-seventh year on this planet that I realize, the only people who ever wish for world peace are people like John Lennon. When he said, “You may say, I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one”, I wonder—did he realize that the other dreamers are all people like him? Artists, thinkers, philosophers. True utopians who visualize a world where everyone binds together for the common good, allowing more time for dreams and artistic pursuits. More time, but possibly less fodder.

The common good of all humans is not likely to be something the human race will ever agree on. Think of the centuries-old Israeli-Palestine conflict. Russia’s imperialistic aspirations. America’s opportunistic cherry-picking of which international conflicts to be involved in. None of this is work worthy of a utopian society.

And so, as I look forward to the new year, I resolve not to wish for world peace any longer. I resolve instead to devote my work and my words to the common good.

RIP John Lennon. I’m afraid you were the only one.

 

 

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Celebrating Winter Solstice with a Giveaway!

It’s the winter solstice! December 21, my favorite day of the year. Guess why?

Here’s a hint:

wintersolstice-cover1.jpgStartled, Becky raised her head to meet John’s gaze in the mirror. He shrugged and smiled at her reflection. “You didn’t look too good, and when you weren’t out by the time I finished my shower, I decided I’d better check on you.”

He crossed the room and turned her to face him, touched her sweaty forehead gently, then reached back and released her hair from its knot. Perhaps his only intention was to help her relax, but as her hair fell around her shoulders, Becky realized with a jolt of self-consciousness that she enjoyed the intimacy of the gesture.

When she looked at him, he moved a little closer, his hand lingering at the nape of her neck. He drew his fingers through her hair, letting it slide through them, and she closed her eyes in pure sensuality, forgetting every tragedy she had witnessed in a simple desire to live in the moment.

Neither spoke as he bent his head to cover her mouth with his. She lost herself in his touch, aware of his arms around her, his lips first on hers, then on her neck. She slid her hands up his biceps, caressing as she did so, wanting to encourage his response. He smelled good–clean and male in a way she had never experienced. In some detached part of her brain, she thought maybe it was the hospital soap.

She clung to him, thankful for the strength of his body as her own betrayed her weakness. Not until his hands slid beneath her scrub top did she come to her senses.

“Not here.” She could only think that she didn’t want to become another of the legends–the PR woman who couldn’t resist the irresistible John Grant in the locker room.

“Where?” His body still pressed hard against hers, his lips against her hair. Becky felt the cold porcelain sink behind her, but he was warm and solid and the heat of their passion was thick in the air around them. In such a position, restraint was the last thing on her mind.

“My place,” she whispered and told him the address.

“I’ve got a few things to take care of.” His lips brushed her ear and she shivered. She felt his smile. “I’ll be there in a couple of hours.”

Before she could change her mind, he left, taking the warmth and safety of his arms with him, and Becky was left to wonder if she had suddenly gone insane.

Okay, maybe that’s not much of a hint, but it’s an excerpt from my book Winter Solstice, which was just a fun romantic romp starring a slightly bumbling public relations guru (Becky) and a sexy, strong, alpha-male ER doctor (John). It was my second published book (2011) from Lyrical Press. And you could win a Kindle copy on Amazon today. Check out the giveaway here: https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/78f45d8e0611e57f#ln-tw.

Enjoy the shortest day of the year, and look forward to new, brighter days ahead!

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NaNoWriMo wrap up: The big secret.

I’ve spent a day recovering from National Novel Writing Month and I’m happy to report that I did it. I wrote 50,000 words in my third novel of the Synchronicity trilogy and I won. What did I win? Well, this:

nanowrimo_2016_webbadge_winner

Which is really just a fancy way of saying I can feel huge accomplishment in the fact that I spent a month writing and not procrastinating. Because, as we all (especially my high school chemistry teacher) know: Procrastination is the thief of time. Especially for writers.

Every time I do this to myself, I think I’ll come out of November knowing what’s so magical about National Novel Writing Month. If you survive it and actually manage to stick with it and hit the goal, you feel like you should know something more than what you did when you started. You should be privy to some spectacular secret that J.K. Rowling and Stephen King knew and chose not to tell you.

Guess what?

There’s no secret. There’s not even any real magic.

The purpose of National Novel Writing Month is to serve as a reminder of what J.K. Rowling and Stephen King actually did tell us. Writing is fricking hard work. And the only way to accomplish anything is to stick the hell with it. Every single day. Pounding the keys and writing and rewriting and beating your head against your desk if that’s what it takes to loosen the words up. Writing sucks. Writing is like flying. Writing is the ultimate in time-sucking, frustrating, awe-inspiring (for you if nobody else), wasteful, necessary vocation in the world.

And there you have it. It’s a vocation. A job. It’s work. And that’s what the secret is. If what you write is worth it to you, you’ve got to write it. Even if nobody else ever reads it and you drive yourself nuts getting it out of your head and onto paper.

Because anything worth having is never, ever easy.

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