A Flower Adventure

My little boy has a new favorite book: Mortimer's First Garden, by Karma Wilson. It's a neat story, I can see why he likes it. But honestly? I could have never dreamed where my son's fascination with that book would take us.


"You can do better," he said.

I’ll never forget the day Daddy threw down my newly-finished manuscript.


My father is usually a stately individual, one of the hardest people in the world to “ruffle”. But that day, he stood in front of me with fire in his eyes. I was definitely disturbed by the sight.
“What’s the matter, Dad?!”
“You can do better!” he declared. “You’re a wonderful writer! You can do better than this!”
I peeked at the part he had been reading. Then I asked, “What’s wrong with it?”
“It’s not descriptive enough. You’re holding yourself back. You can do better! Add some blood, add some emotion, add… something!”
He huffed and shook his head. I solemnly nodded. My parents are my main supporters in my writing adventures. I greatly value and respect their input, especially when so passionately given.

It didn’t take long. I reworked the passage. It was hard to admit it, but he was right. I had a problem with holding myself back during the most emotional parts of writing. I was worried about people rolling their eyes at the “flair”, or maybe shutting the book because it was too dark.
However, now I was determined to not let that fear rule me. 

Not long after that, I got a call from my mother.
“Jessiqua Dawn!” she nearly screeched over the phone. “How could you do this to me?!”
“What’s the matter?!” I worriedly demanded. (Mom hadn’t called me by my middle name in years!)
“This book! I’m so embarrassed! This part with Mercy is turning me colors on her behalf!”
I started laughing. Mom wasn’t really mad. She was just… involved.
“Have you even finished the sentence, Mom?”
There was a small pause before she confessed, “No.”
“Finish the sentence, okay?”
“Okay. Love you.”
“Love you, too.”
We hung up the phone. Five minutes later, I got another call.
“It’s worse!!” Mom squealed as soon as I picked up. “Now I’m even more embarrassed! I don’t think I can handle this!”
I laughed and told her to keep reading.

The amusing cycle continued. To my knowledge, that manuscript was thrown down about four times before we finally got it published. The first time was because Dad was telling me I could do better, the other three times was because pre-readers got so involved in the story they pitched a fit during a dramatic plot twist.
Thankfully, each time the pre-reader threw the book down, they ended up picking it up again and finishing the story. And each one of them reported to me afterward that A Memoir of Mercy was one of the best, most thought-provoking books they had ever read. Music to an author’s ears.

I know it’s easy to be possessive and touchy about your precious work, no matter what it may be. But just because your manuscript looks a little beat up, doesn’t mean it’s worthless or unloved. It just might be made of the good stuff. Or it may have the potential for being made of the good stuff.
Therefore, even if it hurts to admit that you could do better, listen to some trusted mentors, and make sure your work is the very best it can be! It’ll be so, so worth the blow to your pride. Trust me.

You may be good, but you can do better.

It's Easy To Judge a Hypocrite (Part 2)

Click here to read the intro to this true-life parable: It's Easy To Judge a Hypocrite (Part 1)

We have no record of the meeting between the fighter and the princess. I doubt it was very romantic though. Absence only makes the heart grow fonder in certain situations.


After the princess' kidnapping, her eyes were often wet and teary. Bitterness grew in her heart against the fighter, as it had in her father, the king's, heart. It seemed that the fighter was capable of bringing out the most powerful emotions possible in people,  either extreme love and loyalty, or extreme hatred and bitterness.
Not long passed before a religious celebration came to town. The princess felt like gagging when she looked out the window and saw the esteemed fighter dancing in front of the women in the street, nearly naked.
What a hypocrite! This man had done such evil to her in his personal life, but now he was acting like a lunatic for his God! He wasn’t righteous! Didn’t everyone know how selfish and pigheaded he was?!
When the fighter came into the palace, covered in sweat, the princess came up to him with fire in her eyes.
“How glorious you looked today!” she mock-praised. “Flinging yourself about like a naked mad-man -- the flirt in you just never misses a chance, does it?”
The fighter immediately lashed out in anger.
“God put me in place over your father!" he snapped. "He has been good to me, and I will serve Him!”
The princess stomped off, offended to the core. And she and the fighter never made up.
They remained in the same palace, separate, for the rest of their days.

It's Easy to Judge a Hypocrite (Part 1)

I’ll be totally honest here.
The hardest person in the world to respect is a hypocrite.


If I see someone acting holy in public, and then that same person acts like a holy terror in private, my respect for that person immediately tanks about as low as it can go.
However, I have a tale to tell that’s made me reconsider that tendency. You know how I love telling stories. This one is based a true story from history.

Afterglow: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #27 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)
So any newcomers are aware, this post is a chapter in my story. To go back and read from the beginning of the narrative, click the "My Journey" link directly above.



If you didn't notice in the storyline, my writing really tapered off when I met Blackbeard. My focus had changed. I had my own adventure to explore. It was like that for pretty much the whole first year after we got married. For a long time, my new husband didn’t even realize that I was writing a book. Then, eleven months after the wedding, we had our first baby, a little boy.
As Grandpa Thomas would say, (paraphrased,) “If you have romance, adventure and drama in your life, you get too frettingly busy to write.”
And man, getting married and having a baby in the same year is definitely an adventure, especially if you add crazy teenage hormones and mood swings into the mix. <-- not fun

The Big Event: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #26 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)
So any newcomers are aware, this post is a chapter in my story. To go back and read from the beginning of the narrative, click the "My Journey" link directly above.


On my wedding morning, I woke up in a frenzy of excitement. And, as usual, I had some words with my best friend while slipping out of bed.
“Lord… do you hear the prayers of a bride with more fondness than you do with other people?”
He seemed rather wry as He replied, “Not particularly…”
“Oh… well… I have lots to say anyway.”
I went to my dresser and pulled a couple bags of sepia-colored rose petals out. They smelled musty-sweet. I winsomely sighed as I tucked them away into my bag of wedding things to take.
Suitcases of clothes were already packed and sitting by my door. It was hard to believe that this would be my last morning in my family’s home. Tonight I would be moving in with my new husband… weirdness…

Mixed Reactions: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #25 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)
So any newcomers are aware, this post is a chapter in my story. To go back and read from the beginning of the narrative, click the "My Journey" link directly above.


Now that I had a ring on my finger, I was obligated to start calling certain people with the news.
One of my first calls was to someone that had been “praying for me to find a husband” for a while. I thought she would be thrilled to hear my happy news, but… apparently she had been praying for a different kind of man than the one I had snagged.

Sugar on Top: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #24 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)
So any newcomers are aware, this post is a chapter in my story. To go back and read from the beginning of the narrative, click the "My Journey" link directly above.

“So… what kind of a ring do you want?” Blackbeard asked me one day, not long after his talk with Dad.
I blinked at him in surprise. This relationship was progressing along rather weirdly, but I never expected for him to blithely, un-mysteriously pop that sort of a question.
“Like… an engagement ring? Wedding ring? What do you mean?” I asked.
“Yeah. All that. Do you want to go with me to pick it out? I want to make sure you like it.”
“Uh… sure!”



Less than a week later, we were browsing through jewelry shops together. We went through several in the nearest big city, but ended up spending the most time in a little specialty shop in Blackbeard’s hometown.
The owner of the store, like most of the people we ran into, knew Blackbeard by name. She was excited that he’d finally “caught someone”, and introduced me to the huge iguana sunning itself in the window before getting down to business.
“What's your preferences?” the woman asked me.
“I’d like a silver band,” I declared. “I like silver better than gold.”
That drastically reduced the available choices. We all moved over to a different cabinet.
“What’s the price range?” I asked Blackbeard.
“Don’t worry about it,” he told me. “I’ve been waiting for this a long time.”
I smiled at him. He smiled back and tickled my cheek, then added, “Just… be reasonable, of course.”
“Of course!” I giggled and looked back at the choices. I wanted a ring that had a low stone, one that hugged close to the finger so it wouldn't snag on stuff.
The jeweler had one, it was simple and sweet, a “nurse’s ring”. It had a silver band, and seven tiny, real diamonds. The diamonds splashed multi-colored rainbows on my face as I showed it to Blackbeard.
“I like this one.”
“I do, too.” He turned to the lady. “Show me your men’s rings.”
My eyebrow arched as I watched him go through the choices. “Don’t… guys usually wait to wear those until after the wedding?”
“Usually, I guess… But if you’re going to be marked as taken, I think I should be, too."
I silently watched him. He looked over at me and prodded, “Do you have a problem with that?”
“Me?! Oh no! I think it’s sweet,” I assured him.
He picked a plain silver band to match mine, then slipped it onto his finger as he paid for both. I wondered how he would ask the next question as we stepped out the door with my ring in a brown paper sleeve.

Just Ask: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #23 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)
So any newcomers are aware, this post is a chapter in my story. To go back and read from the beginning of the narrative, click the "My Journey" link directly above.

Since Blackbeard and I had entered our relationship with the mindset of marriage as an end result, it was really natural for us to talk about moving to that next stage.


“So… when do you think your dad will be okay with me asking him for your hand?” Blackbeard asked me one evening.
I smiled a little. “I don’t know. Whenever, I guess.”
“Well, I want to the timing to be right. You’re his little girl and all.”
“I don’t think any time will be perfect, Blackbeard. You’re just gonna have to ask him.”
“Could you ask him what time would be right for me to come talk to him? Then tell me what he says?”
I sighed. “Fine… I’ll mention it to him.”
Later, after Blackbeard left, I went to Dad.
“Um… Blackbeard is wondering when a good time for him to come ask to marry me would be.”
Dad testily rolled his eyes to me. “Blackbeard’s going to have to just ask.” <--(mildly paraphrased)
I blushed and nodded.

Growing Closer: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #22 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)
So any newcomers are aware, this post is a chapter in my story. To go back and read from the beginning of the narrative, click the "My Journey" link directly above.



“Blackbeard… are you asleep?”
Silence…
“Blackbeard?”
Small snore…
I giggled and looked at a nearby clock. It was two-o-clock in the morning.
My phone beeped at me. It was about to run out of battery.
“Blackbeard, you have work in the morning. I’m gonna hang up, okay?”
His familiar voice sounded mostly asleep still as he mumbled, “I’m awake.”
“A little awake maybe,” I giggled. “I’ll see you tomorrow, okay? Goodnight.”
“Goodnight.”
The phone clicked off. I slipped out of bed and went to hang it up. Dad was in the kitchen, getting a midnight snack.
“Run out of battery?” he wryly asked when he saw me.
“Almost,” I admitted.
He nodded and went back to his snack.

Morbid Test: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #21 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)
So any newcomers are aware, this post is a chapter in my story. To go back and read from the beginning of the narrative, click the "My Journey" link directly above.



The next day, I was still in shock over the events of the night before.
Why had I asked Blackbeard to come with me to meet my family? Were we really getting that serious?
I felt like I needed to ask my great aunt (my great-grandmother’s caretaker) if Blackbeard could come with me to see Grandma while she was in her coma. After all, this was a sensitive situation. Perhaps they wouldn’t want a stranger there.

Catching Up: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #20 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)
So any newcomers are aware, this post is a chapter in the middle of a story. To go back and read from the beginning of the narrative, click the "My Journey" link directly above.

The next evening, there was a Bible study at Blackbeard’s house. I paused and breathed in and out a deep breath before entering his front door. Beauty met my eyes as I stepped inside and looked around the little house. There were wood floors, high ceilings, gray-green couches... Blackbeard came to meet us at the door. I distinctly remember the shy moment our eyes met before looking away.
“This is… nice,” I murmured.
“Let me show you around,” he said, mostly to my parents.
Mom and Dad followed him around the house. I lingered in the living room. There were a couple parishioners sitting on the couches, I could feel them eyeballing me.
It wasn't long before Blackbeard and my parents came back to the room.
“Oh!” Blackbeard exclaimed in his ever-exuberant way. “There’s something I want to do. Come here.”
He snatched a camera off his computer desk and led me into the kitchen.
“Stand against the back door,” he encouraged. “I want to take your picture.”
“Why?!” I asked, shocked.
“Because this is your first time coming to my home,” he smiled. “Come on. Please?”
I stood against the door and shyly smiled for him.


New Impressions: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #19 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)
So any newcomers are aware, this post is a chapter in the middle of a story. To go back and read from the beginning of the narrative, click the "My Journey" link directly above.


Photo Credit: D Sharon Pruitt

I remembered what the Lord had said about apologizing to Blackbeard. As soon as he ducked his broad frame into the trailers, I rushed up to him with an apologetic expression.
“Listen, I’m sorry for being rude on the phone. I didn’t mean that like it came out.”
Blackbeard’s knotted-up, frustrated expression softened. The corners of his eyes wrinkled as he smiled down at me. The sight made me feel a strangely-sweet sort of shy.
“Oh, okay. Thanks,” he replied.
We walked through the nail-studded hallway and went to the dining room. Dad was in the kitchen, working on the sink so that he had an excuse to be nearby and hear our conversation. Blackbeard exchanged pleasantries with Dad. I stole the opportunity to glance my guest’s way and actually study him for the first time since we’d met.
He had chestnut brown hair, a neatly-trimmed blond mustache, and a black beard. His eyes were smoky blue and very expressive. He was broad-chested and strong, and over a head and shoulders taller than me.
My thoughts wandered to the alarming fact that he was actually rather good-looking.

The Call: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #18 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)
Just so any newcomers are aware, this post is a chapter in the middle of a story. To go back and read from the beginning of the narrative, click the "My Journey" link directly above.




Two days after the church came to put in the wood stoves, our house phone rang.
I tore myself away from writing my book and ran to answer it, a little sullen about being disturbed.
“Hello?”
Blackbeard’s voice was on the other end.
“Hello? Jessiqua?”
“Yeah.”
“Can I talk to your mom, please?”
“She’s out shopping. Can I take a message?”
Suddenly, there was a long silence on the other end. I almost thought he had hung up.
Then he confessed, “Well… I was actually going to ask if I could talk to you anyway.”
ME?!
I felt short on breath. My heart started thumping so loud I could hardly hear.
What could he possibly want to talk to me about?! He had never asked to talk to me before!
“Uh… okay,” I croaked. “What’s up?”
“Bible Geek rode home with me the other day after we finished working on your wood stoves. And he told me that you two were able to sit down and talk for like, fifteen minutes. And I really don’t think that’s fair.” 
“We… didn’t really talk,” I weakly explained, at a loss as to why he sounded so... jealous.
“Well, I was the one busting my butt and working, and... your list of traits or whatever fits me, not him, right?” he prodded.
{insert my thoughts: “Oh… LORD! WHAT HAS MOM BEEN TELLING HIM?!”}
Thankfully, Blackbeard didn’t wait for my response before continuing, “I know the age difference is awkward, but after we’ve been together a while it won’t be such a big deal. And there’s the whole Issac and Rebekah thing that we were talking about at church last week. That seemed to be perfect timing.”
That’s about when my raging thoughts tuned out his words. I was in shock.
Was Blackbeard saying… that he had feelings for me?! He had never shown them before! And now he was acting as if they were as plain as day!
He thought that Mom had told me about the content of their recent conversations. He thought that I was aware of the fact that all those times he had called lately, he and my parents had been talking about ME.
The rest of the conversation was a blur. I mostly mumbled and non-committedly grunted until he asked the big question. “So… do you think that I could come over? So we can talk face-to-face?”
It was really cold in the dining room, but the phone was corded. All I could do was shiver and hop from foot to foot as I considered his question.
I’d never had a guy come over just to talk to me before. That sounded almost like starting a courtship. What if I got my heart attached, then broken? That would be awful! I’d never recover, right?!
“Let me… talk to Dad about it,” I finally said.
“Okay. Call me back.”
“K. Bye.”
I speedily hung up the phone and breathed in and out a deep breath.
My mind was swirling with information.
When I said, "Make it quick, God." I didn't expect it to be that quick!

Glass Wall: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #17 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)
Just so any newcomers are aware, this post is a chapter in the middle of a story. To go back and read from the beginning of the narrative, click the "My Journey" link directly above.


Photo Credit: D Sharon Pruitt

That next weekend was very memorable. I looked over the men that Blackbeard had recruited to help put in the wood stoves at our house, hoping to see my elusive husband. But I was starting to lose hope.
Either the guy wasn’t a very reliable church goer, or Blackbeard had misspoken when he said that he knew who I was looking for.

Chayei Sarah: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #16 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)


We went to Blackbeard’s church that weekend. I remembered Blackbeard's hint that my husband was in the assembly, and cheerfully wore my favorite handmade dress. The church was on a yearly Bible reading cycle, the same cycle that our usual assembly was on, so I was well aware that the preaching would be about my favorite Bible story: Isaac and Rebekah.
It seemed to be the perfect Scripture portion to meet my husband on. We had all the players in place, right? An older man, a younger woman, a servant that set them up, God's hand orchestrating it all...

Meeting Blackbeard: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #15 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)

Just so you know, you're in on the middle of a series about my teenagerhood. It's been lots of fun, but it's about halfway over. You can start here in the middle if you like, or you can go to the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author index <-- (Yes, that's a link you can click.) and read the beginning of the series before continuing. I recommend going to the beginning and reading it first.
Now... back to the story!


Two days passed, then it came time for our dinner guest to arrive. (I’ll call him Blackbeard, because he had a sturdy frame like a pirate captain, and a bit of a black, curly beard on his face.)
I stayed in the kitchen and worked on the enchiladas while my parents met Blackbeard at the doorway. While they were exchanging pleasantries, an adorable, eleven-year-old girl skipped through the Tunnel of Death and burst into the kitchen.
“I want to help!” she exclaimed. “Can I help?!”
My heart felt like it was about to soar out of my chest as I looked at her.
What was she doing here?! She looked so familiar!
Suddenly, I remembered that our guest, although he’d never been married, had adopted a boy and a girl back when they were toddlers. That was one of the things that I figured made him good friends with my still-unknown husband, both of them being single dads and all.
“Sure,” I told the girl. “You can spread the cheese over the tortillas.”
She wiggled into place beside me and started importantly helping. Gradually, Blackbeard and his twelve-year-old boy came through the tunnel and sat down in the dining room with the rest of my family.
I glanced at them, hopefully looking for a guest.
But no… Blackbeard had only brought his adopted children with him.

An Interview Pertaining To My Childhood... And a Two-Book GIVEAWAY!!!

Speaking of my teenager-hood... this seems to be the perfect time to address a topic I don't talk about much.
I'm technically a homeschool dropout, if there is such a thing. When Dad lost his job, school was put on hold for me so that I could work with the family on odd jobs to "keep the boat afloat".
I had never stepped foot into a public school before, so I wasn't sure how I measured up educationally with my peers. That didn't matter much to me though. I knew what I needed to live.

Later, after life settled down, I walked into GED classes at a nearby college and took an assessment test. I was pretty nervous at first, and grew more worried with each expression that flitted across the teacher's face as he graded me. I had plenty of confidence in my writing and reading skills. I had already written and published A Memoir of Love by the time I got around to trying out a GED. But I had never taken a class in Algebra, and I didn't know the current state of my math skills.
Finally, the teacher looked up at me and demanded, "Why are you here?!"
My eyebrows went up. I stuttered around a little.
He flashed the paper at me. "You don't need classes. You can cream this test, no problem!"
I couldn't help smiling. My hard-working Momma would be proud.

All that said. I have a surprise for everyone.

Introducing.... *drum roll please*
Another interview about me, this one specifically about my home-schooled childhood.
AND a giveaway of both of my books! (A Memoir of Love and A Memoir of Mercy.)
Feel free to check out both events on Homeschool Authors: http://bit.ly/1bn0PJH
And please, pass the word around to anyone you think might be interested in a free book!

The Door: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #14 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)


When we got back from Sukkot, I began a spiritual meltdown.
I had been so sure I would meet my husband there at the camp meeting. So sure!
But it hadn’t happened.
Maybe I was just making all this up. Maybe I was nuts. Maybe I had misunderstood.
Depression swept over me. It wouldn’t let up for weeks.
Things weren’t going good on my possibly-imaginary-husband’s end either. Every time I prayed for him, I could hear him whispering, “I don’t need her, God. I don’t need any woman.”
“Oh! Thanks!” I’d sarcastically hiss back under my breath. “Here I’ve been praying for you all this time and you’re declaring that you don’t need me?! You have no idea how much I already pour into your life!”
Needless to say, things were a wee bit tense. And my edginess was starting to show up to my family. My mood was so low my parents grew concerned. This wasn’t natural to my personality.
We got electricity and running water turned on in the trailers. Winter was coming on and it was terribly cold, but at least we could buy space heaters, and flush the toilet without hauling in water from the creek.
Even still, the darkness swirling about me continued to grow.

Sukkot: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #13 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)



Sukkot started out rather sadly for me that year. One of my favorite characters in my book died on the car trip to the campground. Everyone around me was excitedly talking about how awesome this camping trip was going to be, but I was looking out the car window with tears rolling down my face. The leaves blowing across the road to the campground whirled around our wheels and emblazoned the memory into my mind.

“My dear, fellow conspirator’s eyes were closed in unconsciousness, and his skin was growing cold. The quiet, autumn breeze that caused the brown, crinkly leaves to fall around us also blew some of his dark hair into his face as I squeezed his hand and cried.”

This was too depressing… I put down my notebook and wiped my eyes.
My future husband was supposed to be out here, wasn’t he? Maybe he was in one of these cars we were passing.
I had some new information about him. He had a daughter. I wasn’t sure if she was actually his, or adopted. They seemed really close, but didn’t look all that alike, at least not spiritually.
I was starting to feel a little crazy. Supposedly God had told me all this stuff about the man I was praying for, but how was I to know that I wasn’t just making it up?
Then again… what girl in her right mind would make up some of the character flaws I knew he had?
I brushed the doubts away and focused on looking through the window.
“Let me know his voice, Lord,” I whispered. “Let me recognize his voice. That would be cool.”

A Roof Of Our Own: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #12 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)


The movers we hired took one look at The Hill, and they immediately expressed that they wanted us to sign a release form before taking our newly acquired trailers down it. They wanted to make sure that if anything went wrong, we wouldn’t sue them for damages.
That was rather nerve-wracking, but not totally unexpected.
Angel hands must have protected the rickety buildings. Part of the roof flew off one of the rooms, but by and large the trailers made it onto The Land.

It was wonderful, walking on real floors, opening and shutting real doors. We didn’t have electricity or running water yet, but at least raccoons couldn’t get into our food storage anymore. And we hooked up the toilet so that we could haul in buckets of creek water and flush it with that.
Lastly, we could finally move most of our stuff out of my grandparents’ garage and into our own home.
Or rather… homes.
It was hard to know what to call our new abode. The single-wide trailers were slightly offset from each other and connected by a makeshift covered walkway. I smiled as I watched Dad nail the walkway together. The nails poked through the roof and made spikes on the ceiling. It wasn’t a problem for us short people, but I was still getting tidbits of knowledge about my future husband. I knew he was a big boy. Hopefully he wouldn’t have a hard time getting through the “Tunnel of Death”.

Widow Woman: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #11 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)


We didn’t have to stay in tents for very long. Mom’s internet-haunting finally paid off. She saw another providential ad on Cragslist.
Someone was offering two, single-wide trailers for free, to a “good cause”.
Mom immediately set off to go talk to the people offering the opportunity. She was gone for several hours, then she came back with a bittersweet smile.
It looked like we were going to get the trailers, but there was a reason they were free.

Preparing the Land: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #10 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)


Believe it or not, after we recovered from our long walk and got the Suburban out of the mud, my parents bought that tricky piece of land. It didn’t have a house on it, but we hoped to build something habitable there piece by piece.
However, before we could begin to build on the land, we had to clear the land. It was overgrown with trees, underbrush, and big bamboo-like shoots that stretched far above our heads. One of us used a brush hog machine, the rest of us wielded machetes and axes.
My dad was still in constant pain. He’d try to work, but spent a lot of time lying on the ground and wheezing in pain. It was the middle of summer, so in the heat of the afternoon we’d all end up joining him in the shade or playing in the creek, trying to keep hydrated.
At night, we had some tents that we slept in. For a little while we had a concrete block to use as a toilet, then we graduated to an actual portable travel toilet. That was nice. We could make a little, three-walled room around it with tarp for privacy.

A Long Walk: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #9 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)



A couple days after Mom and Dad’s first visit to “the land”, they took our whole family there.
It was way out in the country, thirty minutes from the nearest supermarket. The road there was bumpy, but the surrounding area was beautiful, wooded countryside.
I admit, I had my notebook with me and didn’t see much of the sights. Hazy and Maia were staging a raid at a power plant. That was much more exciting.
Soon, however, I had to put the book down, because we were treated to a rare sight.
The road almost seemed to cut off. It turned into such a deep, steep, downgrade it was almost as if you were starting into the scary part of a roller coaster ride. For a moment, all you could see was sky and the tops of tall trees, then you started bump, bump, bump, bump, bumping down a huge hill. Our big, metal Suburban rattled so hard we bounced in our seats.
At the bottom of The Hill, there were two or three houses surrounded by trees, broken down cars, and trash heaps, then you turned to the right and there was a creek flowing under a low bridge. Mom and Dad said that the last time they had come, the creek was flowing over the bridge instead of under it because it had just rained.
We crossed the bridge and entered The Land.

Limbo: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #8 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)




While we were living at my grandparents house, my mom feverishly searched newspaper ads and the internet, looking for a place for us to call home. She and dad went and checked out several properties, but always came back shaking their heads.
My grandparents headed off to the other side of the country to visit my aunt, the house felt emptier.
Weeks passed. I constantly babysat my little brother and sister. Sometimes, when I couldn’t take their piping, questioning voices anymore, or while they were taking a nap, I’d go to the bathroom, retrieve my notebook from inside the cabinet and sit on the floor so I could scribble at “my story” a while.
There would always be a knock at the door before long though.
“Jess! I know you’re writing in there!” Mom would call.
I’d sigh, wait a couple moments, then peel myself off the floor, flush the toilet so that it would make some noise, stow my notebook under the sink, and leave the bathroom with as innocent an expression as possible.
She’d suspiciously look at me as I went by, but usually wouldn’t scold me. My writing was my only “me time” and I’m thankful beyond expression my parents didn’t discourage it. (Except when they needed to use the bathroom, of course.)

The Woods: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #7 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)

P.S. Email subscribers, I'm in the process of moving from Feedburner to MailChimp, so I apologize for any duplicate emails you've received over the last 48 hours or so. Everything will be SO much nicer when I'm finished transferring though.



There are not many experiences that equal the delight of running through the woods barefoot.
Well, at least back when I was a teenager. Nowadays I would prefer a nice pair of sandals. OUCH!
Anyway... one of my favorite things to do while I lived at my grandparents' house was explore the game refuge behind their home. There were acres and acres of woods, underbrush, streams and waterfalls to explore. I felt like a character out of a story book as I pulled up my skirts, splashed through puddles, and swung on huge, gnarly vines of ivy hanging down from the trees. Sometimes I'd climb up onto big rocks and just sit quietly for a while, listening to the birds twitter at each other, watching the squirrels leap from tree to tree and the bugs skittering through the moss and leaves.
It was so peaceful there. So... clean.

Moving Home: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #6 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)



Mom and Dad had been talking about moving to Oklahoma for a long time.
They were both born and raised there. I was born there. My brother was born there. We had moved to Kansas because of Dad’s work, and we had lived in the Sunflower State the last twelve years, but in our hearts we still felt like transplanted Okies.
The only thing currently keeping us in Kansas was Dad's job.
Even though Dad had been in constant pain the last couple years, he was still the college’s best teacher. He had an awesome assistant that took over when he couldn’t stand (literally) anymore, and the two of them brought students to national competitions on a consistent basis.
That hard work was what helped him keep his job for so long.
But, one day, the college just wouldn’t stretch any longer. Dad brought home his awards and medals in a cardboard box. The career that he passionately loved was over.

The Shelter: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #5 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)


While we were healing from the last, dramatic episode of life, I was provided with a unique experience.
We volunteered at a homeless shelter.
That was an unforgettable experience.
Twice a week, month after month, we'd walk into a renovated bar named Messiah's Branch, and we'd do what we could to help the homeless in our city. It wasn't a fun job, there was a lot of work to be done, but it wasn't really a very difficult job either. Most of the work involved simple cleaning and cooking.

That said, one day I slipped past the large group of people at the shelter's door in a distracted frame of mind. Words were whispering through my head. 

Clare’s steps as she walked out into the midst of the great room were light and mincing, the sound of them quietly echoed throughout the entirely still crowd. She paused and studied the mosaic on the floor for a long moment before she turned to Seth and said, “I am the witness, may I have permission to speak?”

I wasn't sure what Clare was about to say, but I knew it would be good. All of me felt shaky with anticipation as I entered the shelter's kitchen and got to work making egg sandwiches for a hoard.
Clare talked and talked. The rest of my family and people I worked with were used to me being distracted with inward thoughts, so they didn't bother me. I sighed and smiled with satisfaction when Clare ended her testimony with the words: This is the word of my testimony. By the blood of the Lamb I am now free.
Atta, girl, Clare! 
That's still one of my very favorite scenes in all my books.
Suddenly, my reverie was interrupted by demands being yelled from the other room.
"We're out of tea! We need tea in here!"
I told Mom that I'd slip in there and do the job. 

HELLP Syndrome: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #4 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)

Warning: this post is disturbing.


I wasn’t planning on writing this post… It’s far too close to home for my liking.
But this whole series has been too close to home for my liking…
Anyway, during the trailer park chapter of my life, I experienced death strike intimately for the first time.
My family had always been pretty healthy. (Except my Dad’s constant, life-altering pain of course.)
All of us kids were strapping strong, surgery-free, even allergy-free.
And we were expecting a new addition soon. Mom was nearly eight months pregnant. It was a bit of a miracle baby, she had been going through menopause for years. Dad was especially thrilled.
Everything seemed to be going good. Mom was tired a lot, and her skin was turning a yellow color, and she was gaining several pounds more of water weight than she had in her previous pregnancies, but life was busy, and we didn’t think much of it.
Around the thirty-first week of pregnancy, the midwife recommended that we get an ultrasound. Mom was as big as a forty-week pregnant woman; there was a distinct possibility that she might be carrying twins.

Braided Prayers: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #3 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)

Don’t ask me how, but somehow I always knew that I would get married someday.
Then, when I was a teenager, my mom encouraged me to start praying for my husband. After all, she had prayed for Dad. (Granted, it had mostly been prayers for blue eyes and blond hair. But it was a start!)
Her words inspired me. I thought, "why not pray for my husband now?" I was certain that that boy/man was walking the earth at that very moment. Surely he needed all the help and prayer support he could get!
Therefore, every night, I sat down on my bed, and I braided my hair. With each weave, I prayed for “my future husband”.


What did I pray? Oh, the usuals.
“Please unify us in every way. May he be a good man. May he like kids. May he love me soooo much!” Stuff like that.
Then I lay down and went to sleep, still coming up with things to pray.
Every night I did this. I would braid my hair before bed, and I would pray for my husband. Then, after a year or so, I unexpectedly got some direction in my praying. The Spirit began whispering to me.
“If your husband loves Me above all else, he’ll gradually learn all those things. If he loves Me, he’ll be a good man, and he’ll treat you and your children right, because I’ll teach him how to do it.”
So from then on, I started praying that above all else.
“Father, draw him close to You. Teach me how to lift him up before Your throne, even if I have to get under his muddy feet and push him up there, give me the love and strength to do that.”

Outside My Window: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #2 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)

I mentioned in my last post (Rose Petals) that my family lived in a trailer park on the bad side of town.
Well… while we were living there I discovered how bad this world could be.
Since I was a good, homeschooled girl, raised in a nice neighborhood for most of my childhood, I had never really met the reality of modern life face-to-face. When we went to visit Dad at the college, he told us not to pick up the little bags of white powder on the school lawn because they had drugs in them, but we didn’t know anyone that actually shot up on the stuff.
Moving to a trailer park exposed me to a lot quick though.


Rose Petals: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #1 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series.)

My daddy came home after work one afternoon with a gift for me. It was a white rose, soft and beautiful.
I smiled as I took it. Then I kissed his cheek and skipped off to my room on the opposite side of the trailer.
Inside my room, on my dresser, there was a metal vase holding another white rose. This flower was several days old, and was beginning to wilt. I reverently removed the old rose from its place and replaced it with the new rose, then I went to my window and pulled down an upside-down bouquet of roses from the curtain rod. They were sepia-colored, dry and crackly.


My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author

Okay... I admit, I prefer to write blog posts in series. This series isn't going to be one-right-after-the-other though. It's going to be more easy-going and personal. Instead of being all about my novels, it's going to be about my crazy life while I wrote those novels. (You're going to find out how I met and fell for my husband, too. I think our love story is everyone's favorite part.)
So... without further ado... I introduce my newest project.
My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author

Here's the list of posts. ((UPDATE: This is a complete list, because the series is finished now!)) 

Rose Petals
Outside My Window
Braided Prayers
HELLP Syndrome
The Shelter
Moving Home
The Woods
Limbo
A Long Walk
Preparing the Land
Widow Woman
A Roof of Our Own
Sukkot
The Door
Meeting Blackbeard
Chayei Sarah
Glass Wall
The Call
New Impressions
Catching Up
Morbid Test
Growing Closer
Just Ask
Sugar On Top
Mixed Reactions
The Big Event
Afterglow