"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.