Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Scrubs and Frosting

In my opinion, a book isn't officially born until buttercream frosting is involved. And, as you can tell by this sprinkling of snapshots, we had plenty of it at the CRITICAL CARE launch party on June 20th. What a great day! In honor of the medical drama theme, we had scrubs, a cake decorated with medical props . . . and to combat the Texas heat we had cold lemonade and an author who shortened her scrubs to crop top and capri lengths . . . and wore them with (a first in her career) strappy sandals! Lots of laughter, plenty of cake and books signed--a wonderful launch for the first book in my Mercy Hospital series. My only regret: that all of you couldn't be there.

A Servant's Heart Bookstore

Books, Smiles

Sunglasses, lemonade--Texas gear

"To Wally and Jean . . . "

My medical crew planning . . .

visiting with reader--who is also a writer

Buttercream EKG tracing

To you from me . . .

Now that's a sweet combo!

It's official, written in frosting: Critical Care is launched!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Solid Foundation

When bought our home almost five years ago, we learned that it was custom built for the first owners--a much loved local pastor and his wife. Occasionally we'd meet new neighbors who would say something like, "Oh yes. You bought the "holy house." We figured it was a tongue-in-cheek reference to the previous owners. It seemed like a reasonable assumption, given their line of work. What we did know for certain is that this house, this piece of property, drew us from the moment we'd seen it. There was something about it, beyond the fact it is well-built and beautifully situated on a hill overlooking an almost hidden little valley, and backs up to breathtaking 2,000 acre oak-studded ranch . . . with sunsets that hint of paradise. An almost inexplicable sense of serenity and peace seeped into us from the moment we first saw the house and continues to this day. I don't know how many times we've said to each other, "We know why that pastor chose this site . . . it's like a slice of Heaven."

And then we did some re-modeling, lifted the flooring, and found what you see in the photos above. Scripture, written by an entire congregation at a gathering to bless this house after the foundation was poured. Every room, even the closets, have favorite verses chosen and penned onto the cement slab with felt tip markers . . . by everyone from the home builder to children with barely legible scrawls, to entire families. All with the same heartfelt wish, "Bless this house."

It was a incredible discovery . . . and the perfect explanation for something we always feel. This house is blessed, built on the very best of foundations.

Interestingly, on a side note, when I was working on the first draft of CRITICAL CARE, my very first inspirational novel, I came to the point where I was searching to give voice to the story's theme. It was about hope, I knew that, but I wanted to capture it perfectly in words . . . I needed to portray it exactly right. And then I remembered that there was one Scripture reference carved into the cement out on the patio--a cornerstone, I'm sure:

"Jer. 29:11" :

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

It was there all along. The theme of the story. For the book I never knew I'd be writing. In the house that called to us.

Now I'd call that a Plan, wouldn't you?

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Book Party!

Just a quick note to say . . . we're having a party to celebrate the launch of CRITICAL CARE!
If you're a gazillion miles from south central Texas, y'all are officially excuuuused (though I will be freezing your slice of cake!). For everybody else, here's your last minute, official reminder. Adjust your GPS systems:

What: Release party for CRITICAL CARE, first book in the Mercy Hospital series
When: Saturday June 20th, 1-3 PM
Where: A Servant's Heart Bookstore (patio of St. Helena's Church)
410 North Main (corner of John's Rd. and Main Street)

Please join us for cake, mimosas, door prizes and book signing madness. We're having a "medical" theme, so if you've got access to scrubs, wear 'em. The author will be the woman in red scrubs, matching pedicure, and timeworn stethoscope . . .

We're honored to have you. And if you can't make it, watch here for a re-cap and photos.
Meanwhile, check out this link in the Boerne Star. You gotta love a small town newspaper.

Let's party, folks. CRITICAL CARE is launched! Whoo hoo!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Magnetic Energy: from Dad to Me

In honor of Father's Day, next week--and fathers everywhere--something different, today. An essay I wrote about my father in 2004 . . . three years before he passed away.

For you, Daddy:


“It’s full of Magnetic Energy,” my father whispers as he spreads the thin sheet of gauzy fabric on my waterbed. I glance away so he won’t see the doubt in my eyes—how can I tell him that he has no magic for what ails me now? Even if he’s spent a lifetime trying.

A photo album flips open in my mind, faded black and white Kodak snapshot:

1955: Dad, tanned and muscular, curly black hair, movie-star smile, holding a hunting bow. Across his shoulder is a quiver of handmade arrows. I smell singed feathers and watch his fingers deftly glue them to the arrow’s shaft. “It’s called the fletching, sweetheart, and see: they must be exactly straight, or the arrow will not fly true.”

1958: Dad in hip-waders proudly hefting a big mouth bass, a little girl in seersucker shorts and a tee shirt and dark braids squatting on the bank beside him, holding a twig pole. I breathe the rich odor of moldy oak leaves, wood moss and algae. The tick- tick of a reel and the swish- whir of Dad’s fiberglass pole gives me confidence as he casts his line beside me.

Father-Daughter Dance, 1962”: Dad in a suit and tie beside his chubby twelve-year-old daughter, too-big teeth, bushy eyebrows, teetery high heels, first time razor-nicks on her legs. “You are the prettiest girl here, Candy. Now I’ll teach you to fox-trot; it’s one two quick-step, one two quick-step…”

“Do you see, baby?” he asks me, as he smoothes the homeopathic fabric carefully under the spot where I will sleep. “You just lie on it and the Magnetic Energy will move into you; you’ll think nothing is happening, and then you’ll start to feel the warmth. I know it will heal you.” He leans close to me and takes my hand gingerly, like I am a piece of delicate glass. “Good God,” he whispers, “I still can’t believe that horse broke your neck.”

I can’t either, except that in the past few weeks since the accident I have walked slower, my posture skewed a little sideways like a damaged crab released from a fisherman’s net, my right arm a dangling useless claw. I take a breath and feel the reality of the seven fractured ribs, the faint purring sensation of the blood absorbing around my lung.

He looks directly at me now, like I am a little girl who’s crossed the street without checking both ways “I’m glad you’ve sent that horse away--tell me you’re not going to ride anymore, Candy.”

“Sure, Daddy,” I tell him, shaking my head a little at the still unbelievable events of the past eighteen months. “I promise you: no bucking horses, no divorces, no houses in a flood zone…”

Hot tears sting my eyes, and Dad moves toward me. I use my left arm to raise my right arm, spreading my fingers to keep him at bay.

“Don’t. Don’t hug me Dad, it might kill me,” I tell him and we both laugh.

“Then let me tell my daughter a little story,” he says and I think how his voice sounds the same as it did when I was a little girl.

We sit down on the edge of the waterbed, and he begins to talk in that amazing way he has. The words tumble out and take on a life of their own, becoming bigger, grander each moment like a side-show hawker as his arms wave in the air to sweep aside some imaginary canvas curtain. He always had stories, about spacemen, talking leaves, and magic glowworms—

But today I am forty-seven years old with a broken neck, a broken marriage, a surly teenage daughter, and a For Sale sign on my house. What kind of story can my Daddy tell me today? How can I tell him magic glowworms just aren’t magic enough?

Today he tells me real stories. He talks to me about being a parent, an employee, a spouse, and a reluctant senior citizen. He shares regrets, disappointments and broken dreams, dwindling health, a failed marriage to my mother. He talks about starting over. They are his stories; my family’s story, maybe everyone’s story, really. I see how he has come to accept change more gracefully now. How he remembers most vividly the happy times not the bad.

Dad points to my waterbed. “Don’t forget to smooth out the wrinkles before you lie down. It needs to reach your whole spine.”

I walk him to the door and kiss his cheek and tell him goodbye.

“Be patient,” he tells me one last time. “Magnetic Energy takes time.”

Early daylight awakens me and I gaze out my bare window toward the dawn, my favorite time of day. A fine mist is rising over the alfalfa fields behind our property and a heron wings slowly across the quicksilver-orange sky, his long sticklegs trailing lazily behind. Sleep leaves my head, and reality enters too abruptly. I miss my horse. I miss my husband.

I pick up my journal, from a tall stack of journals, and realize how vital writing has become to me. It fills some need in the way food relieves hunger; the way balm soothes a blistered burn.
I force my clumsy right hand to form the loops and connecting lines, willing my fingers to feel the paper beneath the pen. I begin to write about Dad’s visit, about his stories, his stubborn zeal.
And then I feel it. The warmth.

It starts at my feet, and I curl my toes to test it. Yes. It’s really there, and it spreads gloriously upward using my spine as its highway, until it radiates to my shoulders, my neck and into my chest. It fills my heart.

I raise the pen in a half-crazy salute and I laugh out loud. It’s all going to be okay.

Magnetic Energy. It’s not in any piece of fabric. It’s genetic. From Dad to me.


asked the question, "What is the best advice your father gave you?" See what 37 Christian authors (including me) had to say, by clicking HERE.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Go Ahead, Make Me Cry

When I searched Google Images for this post, I knew in an instant, this was the right one: Walt Disney's Old Yeller. It was the first movie I ever saw at a real walk-in theater in Sacramento, CA. The beautiful old Alhambra Theatre, which unfortunately was demolished to make way for a Safeway supermarket in the 70's, but I digress . . .

I was seven years old when Mom walked us up those steps to see a movie about a boy named Travis and a mogrel dog named Old Yeller. I watched the big screen eyes wide and mouth full of jujyfruit, as the story progressed and the relationsip between boy and dog grew during scrapes with raccoons, bears, snakes, wild pigs. I giggled, I covered my eyes and gasped, I was mesmerized . . . until the end. Oh, aaagh! Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, had not prepared this seven year old for her first tear-jerker movie! I remember very clearly, walking down those steps bawling my eyes out, chin shuddering and asking: "Mommy . . . Old Y-y-yeller . . . died?"

I had that same feeling some years later, when called to the dinner table minutes after I'd finished reading Charlotte's Web--and sobbed in my plate of spaghetti. And I still get a lump in my throat thinking of all those baby spiders floating down on webs to console Wilbur.

The stories made me cry--pushed emotional buttons. Didn't spare me. And its probably why I remember them all these years later. Why am I thinking of this now? Because of a question asked of me during a recent author interview by C.J. Darlington, now posted on TitleTrak.com . The question was:

"Do you ever find it challenging to distance yourself enough from your own experiences [as a nurse] to write novels?"

I told the interviewer the truth, that I'd expected to find it relatively easy to write realistic medical drama--I'd spent more than half my life in scrubs. So I wrote away on that first draft of Critical Care, scene after scene, giving the readers inside glimpses into the adrenalin filled world of emergency medicine. Showing nurses, doctors, patients . . . in all sorts of situations. Got it down. Made it shine. Turned it in. And my editors loved it . . . but wanted more. Not more pages, not more medical jargon, but more . . . emotion. They wanted to "see" the scenes that I left mercifully on the cutting room floor, all the heartbreak I left offstage. They said to go ahead and, "Show us--make us cry!" They challenged me.

That's when I realized that I'd been holding back, "protecting" my readers much the way I'd always shielded my family from much of the grit and heartache of "what Mommy does at work" . . . all those years.

So in the revision process, I crawled back "into scrubs" emotionally, to give my editors--and my readers--"more." The story began to breathe, the characters came to life. The editors were right. And I'm grateful for their excellent guidance. Even if it meant that I had to I had to re-live some of those tough memories again--and they had to grab a Kleenex box.

But then, just as I told the interviewer, I didn't hold back on the joy and laughter in Critical Care, either--and (unlike Old Yeller and Charlotte), I guarantee a happy and hopeful ending. I hope it will be a memorable.

Even without Jujyfruit and big screen.