I am so not a hugger. I once told my Youth Sunday School Class, “I might not hug you, but I will take a bullet for you.” So, I can like you. A lot. Go out on a limb for you. Move heaven and earth to get to you. Search high and low for you if you’re lost. I just may not always spout the right touchy-feely words or wrap my arms around you. In my own introverted way, however, that’s exactly what I’m doing.
Because people like me stand in Defiance of the box that says, “You must invade a person’s personal space to show them you care.” You know what? That’s a lie.
If you’re a bit of an emotional freak–the stoic gal who prefers actions to words, the woman who weeps in secret for people without telling them you care, the lady who worries she too easily tosses out the pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps speech–this blog is for you.
The Lord showed me something a couple of years ago: he can use even us to share his love.
I heard of a young gal in a youth group who was quiet, withdrawn, didn’t wear makeup, came from a rough background, and was a little loose with her morals. A parent got involved with the group; a parent who was friendly and talkative but didn’t act weird to impress the kids. You know, overly energetic or always smiling and hugging on them. In fact, she was big on giving the kids their personal space. This parent was just real and the young girl was drawn to her.
When the girl got in some trouble and needed help, she called this parent. Because she didn’t need a hug. She needed a friend to invest in her. Be real. Walk with her through some tough stuff. The young lady has since recommitted to the Lord, graduated high school and joined the National Guard. And very few hugs have passed between these two people who both acknowledge they have very BIG PERSONAL DANCE SPACES.
This past Sunday at church I was a little sleepy and not feeling my usual chatty self. I am what’s known as a social introvert. I like people until I need a break from them. Anyway, I wound up standing beside a young lady who was alone. And I knew I had to at least acknowledge her. So, we talked for a minute and when the doors to the sanctuary opened, I asked her to sit with me. We continued our chat and she revealed that she’d been away from the Lord for a while and was trying to find her way back.
And then she started crying.
Oh, man, if ever a moment called for a hug. So I apologized and told her my bullet story. She laughed. And then I proceeded to tell her God loves her even more than I do. And we talked a little more about God and I tried to make up for my BIG PERSONAL DANCE SPACE with light-hearted humor and the love of our Savior. When the service was about to begin, she leaned over and whispered, “Thank you.”
I don’t know that I said everything I should have said to her but I think I said enough. And in a way, she got a hug.
My point simply is this: defy expectations and be who God has made you to be and don’t feel bad about it. He will use you. When people are hurting they may not always need a hug, but they definitely need to know you sincerely care.
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I wrote A Promise in Defiance (which is on sale right now for only .99–regularly $4.49) with one scene in mind–the main character dying in the street. And I find it really interesting how the Holy Spirit led the whole book to that moment! I mean, it just worked out perfectly. And while the story wraps up with hope and redemption, I like how I left a few characters with some unanswered questions–meaning, waiting to hear from God on some issues, because, as it turns out, by popular demand, there is a Book 4.
In honor of A Promise in Defiance being on sale today, I thought I’d share a snippet of one of my favorite scenes with you. It’s hard to do, b/c there are so many plot twists in A Promise, it’s difficult to avoid SPOILERS! But here ya go:
* * *
Leaning on the bar, Delilah listened for a moment to the sounds that had played in the background of most of her life: men muttering, laughing, cursing; the slap of cards and the triumphant cry over a winning hand; the jangle of chips being dragged across the felt; a tinny piano belting out a lively tune. Beneath it all, the sultry voices of her girls issuing their siren’s call.
Only the saloon of The Crystal Chandelier was open. The theater was still a week away from its first show. The men didn’t mind too much. From the moment she had flung open her doors, the crowd had been steady and strong. The girls in their cribs were producing well. She flipped through the papers in front of her, covered in names and numbers, tallies at the bottom. Yes, they were turning a nice profit.
The upstairs girls here in the saloon would begin receiving callers Saturday night. The Celestial Flowers, however, were destined for her auction. In the meantime, all these little ladies were working the floor, advertising their potential, but serving drinks only. The tease never failed to have the men queuing up for opening night.
“What’s the matter, Big Jim? You look a little down.”
Delilah didn’t look over at Mary Jean addressing a customer, but the softness in the girl’s voice intrigued her, and she continued listening.
“Ah, I ain’t down.”
From the corner of her eye, Delilah saw the big man in a sheepskin vest drop his two bits on the counter.
“I was thinkin’ about that Preacher.”
Mary Jean poured Big Jim a shot and took his money. “Thinkin’ ’bout what?”
“I’m still rankled about that mess on his door. Whoever did that’ll try somethin’ new. Tomorrow is Sunday. I was pondering staying sober and seein’ if I might catch me a scat-smearin’ coward sometime tonight.”
“Coward?” Smith’s voice. He had slipped up on the other side of Big Jim.
“Smith.” Big Jim’s tone turned hard. “I don’t reckon you had anything to do with the “paint” left on the Preacher’s door? Sounds like somethin’ you’d do.”
“You callin’ me a coward?”
The two men faced each other.
“That’s enough, boys.” Delilah did not deign to look up. “No fightin’ in my place. You know the rules. All fights go to the ring out back.”
Silence stretched out for a moment. Delilah did wonder between these two, who was the toughest. By all accounts, Smith was the meanest and sometimes that was more than enough to win a fight.
“You’d best be careful, Smith.” Big Jim tossed back his drink, set the glass down, and stomped away. Mary Jean took his glass and hurried away to the dry sink behind the bar, as if to avoid Smith.
“Did you do that?” Delilah asked still without looking up. “Have you no better morals than to desecrate a house of God?”
“It was just a little warning of what’s coming his way.”
“Leave the Preacher alone for a bit. Make a little trouble for McIntyre. I don’t care how you get to him, just make him suffer.”
“That’s his foreman sittin’ over there in the corner. I heard him say McIntyre’s got a herd of two thousand head comin’ in tomorrow. Guess he wants to be a big cattle baron.”
This could be useful information. “How many men in the crew?”
“Didn’t ask. Probably at least twenty.”
“Free drinks for all of them when they come in the first night.” Delilah turned and scanned the crowd, looking for the foreman. “Where’s McIntyre’s man?”
Smith chucked a thumb over his shoulder. “Dusty fella, sitting under the lantern.”
“Mary Jean,” Delilah called without looking at the girl, “bring me a bottle and two glasses.” She handed her receipts to Smith. “Put these on my desk upstairs. Mr. Foreman over there looks like he could use a bath . . . and a friend.”
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I learned something today in my research into those feisty pioneer women that I just had to share. I knew that the Daniel Day-Lewis movie Last of the Mohicans was based on James Fenimore Cooper’s novel of the same name. What I didn’t know was that the story of white girls kidnapped by Indians was based on the actual event experienced by Jemima Boone, who was rescued by her legendary father, Daniel.
The following short article is from a longer History.com article entitled 7 of the Gutsiest Women on the American Frontier. I’ve blogged about nearly all the women on the list but somehow missed Jemima. You should read the whole thing, it’s quite entertaining, but here’s my favorite part:
Rebecca Boone wasn’t the only formidable female in Daniel Boone’s family. His daughter Jemima earned her own spot in the history books on July 14, 1776. That’s when a Cherokee-Shawnee raiding group abducted Jemima, aged 14, along with two other girls while they floated in a canoe near their Kentucky settlement. Demonstrating their own knowledge of frontier ways, the quick-witted teens left trail markers as their captors took them away—bending branches, breaking off twigs and leaving behind leaves and berries.
Their rescue team, led by Daniel Boone himself, took just two days to follow the trail and retrieve the girls. The rescuers included Flanders Callaway, Samuel Henderson and Captain John Holder, each of whom later married one of the kidnapped girls. This event became such an integral part of frontier lore, author James Fenimore Cooper included it in his classic novel The Last of the Mohicans.
Ah, those ladies in defiance. How their legends live on.
I stumbled across a lady in defiance today who left me in awe of her grit and courage. This gal stamped her name on history in one of the most unique yet most daring, most defiant ways ever. Talk about thinking out of the box for a paycheck.
Mary Myers flew balloons. Often, alone. In the 1880s.
Now that’s courage, sister.
Mary was born in Boston in 1849 but married Carl Myers in 1871. He was a sort of jack-of-all-trades—because he was a late bloomer. After several false starts, Carl came into his own when he began pursuing aeronautical engineering. Eventually, by the time he was in his 40’s, he was designing balloons and securing patents on fabric that would hold hydrogen. The couple opened a factory (a large home they called the Balloon Factory) to sell “passenger” balloons. Yes, balloons that would carry more than one person with a death wish.
The world’s a nicer place in my beautiful balloon
It wears a nicer face in my beautiful balloon
We can sing a song and sail along the silver sky
For we can fly, we can fly
At first the Myers hired test pilots to fly their new designs, but Carl wanted to get into the air himself and of course, Mary was right there with him. However, she thought her simple name of Mary was too bland, too common to reflect well on her new, exciting career. She chose a stage name: Carlotta Myers. A derivative of Carl. Clever.
They flew their balloons at expositions that drew massive crowds. I mean in the tens of thousands. Mary made her first solo flight in 1886 and flew right at 200 flights total.
Most excursions went well. There were a couple of noticeable exceptions. Once her balloon ran into a severe thunderstorm. Water poured into her gondola at a breakneck pace and literally started sinking her balloon. She tossed everything she could over the side but still wound up crashing into a tree and sitting like a pigeon eighty feet in the air, tangled in an oak. Hunters were able to rescue her about an hour later.
Perhaps more harrowing, however, was the time in 1886 when her balloon, handled too roughly by a massive crowd of spectators, came apart in mid-air! Amazingly she managed to gather the fraying fabric and fashion a parachute. Mary glided about 12 miles using this rig, nice and easy to roughly her expected landing area.
I don’t know what I find more amazing about this woman: her unwavering desire to fly balloons or her ability to pursue said calling in a time when women couldn’t even vote.
Hat tip to Mary “Carlotta” Myers for defying cultural norms, for marrying a man who believed in her, and for soaring. A true lady in defiance.
I may not be—no, wait, sorry—I definitely am not the highest selling author on Amazon but I bet I have some of the best God stories behind my stories.
Especially when it comes to the Defiance books which have now been optioned for a limited TV series!
On the road to Hollywood (because, yes, I believe Defiance will be on TV one day) I want to share with you some of the amazing ways God has continually moved this project along. Inch by inch. Year by year.
The Story that Wouldn’t Die. Literally.
Most of you don’t know that I started A Lady in Defiance only about a year after my sister passed away. A lot happened in that year. Namely, I had a baby. My first son, Whit, was born in 2000.
While he napped or wiggled happily on the floor, I started writing. The story of three sisters in the West was a flight of fancy that helped me deal with the loss of my sister and handle the stupefying fact I was a mother. To cope, some people jump in the tub with Calgon. I had to write. Just spill out thoughts and emotions, keep Suzy alive for a little while longer…
Several thousand words into the story, however, my computer died and I lost EVERYTHING…
So what happened next?
To get the rest of this story and hear about the many more amazing ways God has kept his hand on A Lady in Defiance, I cordially invite you to sign up for my newsletter. You’ll get a FREE story AND the rest of this one. I promise you’ll find encouragement for chasing your own dreams! Sign up today!
Going back through some old research notes, I stumbled across the story of an immigrant to America. An unsung heroine who came here to make America a better place and give something back…not just take and remake the country in the image of her old country.
The early immigrants to America, the ones who thrived here, were independent, strong-willed, stubborn, adventurous risk-takers. They didn’t want handouts. They wanted the freedom to make their own way.
Just this morning I read the story of Sarah Thal, a German-Jewish immigrant who came to America with her husband in 1880. The couple settled in North Dakota. Her first child was born in a cabin so full of cracks that a make-shift tent was made around her and the baby. They literally camped in front of the fireplace to keep warm. She watched prairie fires light up the distant sky on more than one occasion. She lost a baby because 10 feet of snow prevented her from getting to a doctor. This was Sarah’s existence. It never broke her. She didn’t let it turn her into a bitter old woman. She accepted her circumstances, praised God in the storm, and plowed on.
One year the German community decided to get together and celebrate the 4th of July. It was a 22-mile trip each way for the Thal’s to attend, but they were proud and eager to do so. As she wrote in a letter, “Each foreign colony celebrated in their own fashion, loyal to the traditions of the old land and faithful to those of the new. . . .”
Faithful to those of the new.
Unfortunately, stout bloodlines like Sarah’s are getting “watered down.” It’s a shame. American women were strong and resilient as a rule, fiercely independent, the toughest in the world. And she wanted to be an American. Therein lies the crux of the matter with the flood of illegals at our border.
Today, I think women like Sarah are the exception, which is why it’s important to remember them! Do you think I’m wrong? Speak your mind, politely, please.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
Time is running out!
Pick an author from this fabulous group, sign up for her insanely interesting newsletter, and you will receive a FREE book. Sign up for as many as you like. I’ve included one of my favorite stories as a giveaway. Grace be a Lady is just too incredible to be based on a real person! And the other authors in the group are:
Lynnette Bonner <> Kari Trumbo <> Mary Lu Tyndall <> Dorothy Adamek <> Lisa Prysock <> Sondra Kraak <> Stephenia H. McGee <> Angela Breidenbach
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I didn’t expect the research for A Lady in Defiance to break my heart.
If you have read my Defiance books, you know I’ve gone to great pains to bring the old west mining town of Defiance to life. Those “great pains” were hours of research. Admittedly, since I’m a history freak, I enjoyed most of it.
Some of it, not so much. Here’s what I didn’t enjoy: learning just how awful the lives of prostitutes in these lawless towns were.
While disease was the number one cause of death, the number two cause was customer violence. But get this: one report I read said that partner suicide was statistically valid. Meaning, the number of girls who made suicide pacts was not nominal. When life got so awful, so unbearable, many soiled doves agreed to end their lives together.
In Telluride at the height of the silver boom, there was one street in the red light district where the doors swung open and shut so fast it was nicknamed Popcorn Alley.
Think about that for a second.
In A Lady in Defiance, there is a scene in which a soiled dove opens the Bible and learns how Jesus dealt with a woman accused of adultery. I literally cried writing that part. I cried over my character finding hope…and over all the real prostitutes who never did.
Today, I pray for all the innocents abducted and forced into this lifestyle. Seems we’ve come full circle. Or, more accurately, outdone ourselves. Today, human trafficking has surpassed the illegal sale of arms. It will surpass the illegal sale of drugs in the next few years. Up to 300,000 Americans under 18 are lured into the commercial sex trade every year.
A hundred years ago, the citizenry rose up and ran brothels out of business either by force or by electing politicians who fined such houses out of existence. Today, all we seem to want to do is tear down Confederate statutes and blame each other for slavery that happened a hundred-plus years ago.
Here’s a thought: let’s turn our energy to something more positive. Let’s deal with today’s modern problem of sex trafficking and slavery and save some of the men, women, and children who have been forced into this horrid lifestyle.
Just my politically incorrect two cents.
By the way, A Lady in Defiance is on sale right now for only .99 if you’d like to pick up a copy!
Life is messy and gritty. People can be simply awful, totally unlovable. And God loves us anyway. These were the things going through my mind when I started writing A Lady in Defiance. One of the main characters is based on my sister Suzy’s life. Suzy went through a lot. Overcame even more. A beautiful, victorious woman of God who inspires me every day–even twenty years after her death.
If you’ve never read the Foreword to A Lady in Defiance, I wish you would. If you need a lift today, a hug from God, a little inspiration–it’s there. Read on and be blessed:
They say truth is stranger than fiction. I prefer to say that truth is more miraculous. What we as authors can make up in our own heads doesn’t compare to what the greatest Writer of all can do. Take for example the story that inspires my character of Hannah:
In the early 70′s, my family used to drive up from Florida to camp in the mountains. In the summer of ’73, we discovered a beautiful, sleepy, small town in Western North Carolina. My sister also discovered a boy there—her soul mate, really, but who would have believed that? The following summer we moved from Florida to this town and, not long after, my sister Suzy announced she was pregnant…at the tender age of 15.
I cannot repeat the things my mother said to my sister. Sadly, while my sister forgave her years later, I don’t think my mother ever forgave herself. Certainly, my father and most of the locals weren’t much kinder. Florida trash. Floozy. Slut…you name it, they said it. I can still hear my mom’s high-pitched, screechy voice as she screamed hysterically at Suzy.
My sister was pushed by both families to have an abortion and she agreed. How could she refuse? After all, it was pretty clear this would “ruin her life,” and there was “no future for an unwed mother,” especially since she would “never claw her way out of poverty.” With prophecies like that, abortion was a godsend. In the doctor’s office, however, Suzy changed her mind and said she couldn’t go through with it. The phone rang and it was the father of the child; he didn’t want Suzy to go through with it, either, but he still wouldn’t marry her.
Suzy went instead to a half-way house in Alexandria, Virginia to have the baby and give him up for adoption. A month before she was due to deliver, the father of the baby finally stood up to his father and told him he loved Suzy and was going to Virginia to get her. Suzy told me years later that this boy had asked her to marry him much earlier . . . on their first date! They were simply meant to be.
The two teenagers were married and God’s plan unfolded for their lives. She and her husband gave their hearts to the Lord and went on to have two more children. Suzy matured into a mighty, spirit-filled woman of God, finished her GED, earned a degree as an R.N., and became a licensed minister in the Church of God, all while raising children and helping her husband farm. She was a popular speaker at women’s conferences, went on mission trips and also worked as a Hospice nurse for over two years. During that time, Suzy led many people to the Lord, some literally from their death beds.
No one who met my sister was immune to her infectious smile, vivacious personality, gentle faith, and graceful ways. The love of Christ literally shined from this woman like a beacon on a hill.
When breast cancer claimed Suzy in 1999, over 800 people attended her funeral. In a town that twenty-five years earlier had spurned her, affection poured out. The funeral was standing-room only; former patients wrote good-byes in the local newspaper; people we hadn’t seen in years called with condolences.
Suzy is not only the inspiration behind my character of Hannah, but her story is the reason I know God can take the grimmest, most hopeless situation and show us the beauty in it. Profound, miraculous happy endings are possible when we “let go and let God.”
If you are the mother of a pregnant teenage daughter, I pray you will think before you speak and then speak with love. If you are the daughter, please don’t abort that baby. Give God a chance to do what He does best—bring beauty from ashes. He loves you; He loves that child you’re carrying. Trust Him to work it out.
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She lifted the lid on her trunk and sighed at the sight of her corset. Why did she keep that thing around? She picked it up, contemplating tossing it in the stove and burning it.
Have you ever had something so horrific happen in your life you just couldn’t believe for an instant God would bring anything good out of the experience? When I read the true story of Juliet Watts I was profoundly impacted by how she not only survived her ordeal but lived a full, fruitful life. She was a survivor AND an overcomer. She is also the inspiration for the character in my novel Locket Full of Love (which is on sale today!).
In Locket, there is a ten-year gap from the opening to when we see Juliet again. I wrote a short story about her during this time and gave it away exclusively to my newsletter subscribers. Here is a sneak peek at Juliet’s Corset (the Short Story).
She lifted the lid on her trunk and sighed at the sight of her corset. Why did she keep that thing around? She picked it up, contemplating tossing it in the stove and burning it.
“My, that looks like it’s got a story behind it.” Sam, the grizzled, weathered bartender she’d met the day she found the saloon, stood in the doorway, her valise in his hand.
Juliet sucked on her cheek, the memories flashing through her mind as fast as lightning. “Saved the woman’s life who was wearing it.”
“No kidding?” Sam stepped in and set the valise on the bed, his pock-marked, gritty face alight with curiosity. He peered around Juliet for a better look. Not nearly as enamored with it as he appeared to be, she handed it to him.
The big man inspected the undergarment carefully, pausing over every tear, every rip, and especially the hole in the front. “Saved her life, eh?” After a moment, his hand stilled. “I remember hearing tell years ago of a woman the Comanches tried to…harm and the corset stopped an arrow.” He regarded Juliet with one raised brow and narrowed eyes. “I thought that was just another tall tale out of Texas. How’d you come by this?”
She almost offered a dismissive answer but gave in to his curiosity out of sheer weariness. “It was me. I was wearing that corset when the Comanche hit Rimfire. I survived. My husband did not.”
Sam’s expression melted into sympathy and he nodded. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
She plucked the corset from his hands and tossed it back into her trunk. “Yes. Thank you.”
With her back to Sam, she thought he might understand she was done discussing the past, but he didn’t leave. A moment later, he moved off to her left so he could see her profile. “Ain’t really any of my business, but the busiest saloon in town has a twelve foot stuffed grizzly on display. The owner shot it up in Montana territory. It brings in a lot of people to the Big Bear Saloon.”
Was he suggesting…? Juliet cut her eyes at him. “You think I should…?” What was he saying?
“I think a lot more men in this town would rather see the Iron Rose of Texas and the garment that saved her life.”
“The Iron—” The Iron Rose? She’d never heard the name. It both horrified and flattered her. After a moment’s thought, however, she decided she did not wish to perpetuate what it implied. “I don’t think I want that moniker.” She sat down on the bed. “I’m alive because I wore a corset they had no idea how to undo. I didn’t fight them off single-handedly in wild combat.” She swallowed against the knot forming in her throat. “I’m no Calamity Jane. I just got lucky.”
Sam scratched his chin thoughtfully, shoved his hands into pockets and nodded. “Seems to me, God was watching out for you.”
She clamped her jaws. She hated hearing that. People who said that didn’t wake up in the middle of the night, bathed in sweat, choking back a scream caused by nightmares so real…
She sighed and stood up again, ready to end this conversation. “Thank you, Sam,” she said curtly. “I’ll see you downstairs in a bit.”
His face, wise, wrinkled, melted a little in obvious hurt and Juliet felt as if she’d kicked a dog. But she couldn’t talk about God…he was too cruel, too distant. If he was really a loving God, maybe one day he’d shove past her anger and show himself, but she wasn’t holding her breath.
Juliet had helped Hugh enough in their mercantile to understand the inventory management of a saloon. Not to mention, Sam was a great help. No, the hard part about running a saloon was managing the patrons. Bossy, arrogant, sometimes inebriated, expecting things from Juliet they had no business expecting.
Tired of the continual argument to protect her reputation, she pushed a beer across the bar and frowned at the grinning, hopeful sailor reaching for it. “I said no, James, and my no means exactly that.”
In his late twenties perhaps, tanned and weathered from life in the elements, he was man enough to understand her meaning. Yet, a devilish glee still played around his lips and she was wary. He was a River Rat, as these men called themselves. They ran the Missouri and the Mississippi aboard paddle wheelers and flatboats, only stepping ashore long enough to entertain themselves for an evening and then back to the water they went. They didn’t seem to have many rules and even fewer boundaries.
Well, Juliet was not here for his or any other Rat’s entertainment. “For the hundredth time,” she said slowly, “you can get beer or liquor here and that is all.”
James huffed, drummed his fingers on the mug of beer. The men on each side of him chuckled knowingly. Juliet had given them the same speech.
“Beer and liquor,” he repeated, his heavy Southern drawl drenching his words.
She gave him a slow, acquiescent dip of her chin.
“But see,” he leaned forward and lowered his voice, “you’re so pretty. I was thinking about you out on the wide water yesterday. I’ve got a silver eagle burning a hole in my pocket, just for you—”
“James,” Juliet snapped, losing her patience. “There are plenty of pretty girls down at the other end of the street.” Her raised voice drew the attention of several nearby patrons. A few smiled. A few did not. Hungry stares argued a consensus was growing Juliet should add herself to the list of drafts available in the Lost Sally. She moistened her lips and took a moment to calm down. “I think that beer is your last one here tonight.”
If you’d like to read the whole story, Juliet’s Corset, please subscribe to my newsletter and we’ll get it right out to you. For subscribing, you will ALSO get a free copy of A Lady in Defiance–the Lost Chapters. Readers really have enjoyed learning the backstory of my sisters before they left Carolina for Defiance.