Dear Diary

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groovy man, groovy...

I'm a Poet...

and Didn't Know it!



I used to carry a dislike for poetry. Probably because I never understood it. It always seemed too flowery and over my head. Sure, I wrote some tragic stanza's of misery and woe when I was a teenager, but I never considered any of those sad expressions to be poetry. It was more like teenage hormone therapy.


Then a bunch of months back, I was approached by my mentor with a suggestion. He was starting up a daily writing prompt on his blog. The prompts would be in video form and would cover a wide range of subjects. We would be posting them on the blog in the comments, for all to read and critique. Oh, and they would be poetry prompts.

Ugghh....


Well, why not? I wasn't in the mood to jump back into the new book manuscript I had started and I had time to kill while I continued to hope a publisher would pick up my novel for publication. So, I said yes.


I quickly realized I was a fish out of water. As the daily prompts came, I tackled them with gusto, trying (really, really hard!!) to write exactly what the assignment asked for. Sitting at my laptop for sometimes hours, staring at one sad line, wishing I could pull some inspiration out of my backside. I managed to turn in a poem every day, along with several other people, who incidentally, were real poets.


After two weeks, I was ready to bow out. I wasn't getting the "Good Job!" remarks I thought I would get. I watched other poets get rave reviews, which of course woke up the little green eyed monster in my head. I ignored it and pressed on, determined to find my voice in poetry.

Then in July, everything changed. First, my novel got accepted by a publisher. With my spirits lifted by this great victory, my poetry writing changed. I found that I actually had a style. I found that my poems had an individual voice. I found out, I was (maybe) becoming a poet.

Since then, I have no problem writing poetry. I have taken suggestions and tried different techniques, different forms, and have found that not only am I getting pretty good at it, I actually enjoy it. What's even more exciting, is that established poets are enjoying my writing too. For me, that was the true turning point.


So, now I'm putting together a couple of collections, submitting my poems to different journals and am actually getting some positive responses. It just goes to show you, in the writing world, giving up is never an option. I mean look at me, I'm a poet, and didn't know it!

Now I can make a rhyme anytime............ heh heh heh!!


* But seriously, if you are interested in writing poetry, short fiction, etc., go to my "Links" and click on the "30 Days til Done" link and join us. Can't wait to read your stuff!

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so AWESOME!

WONDER WOMAN!

All the World is Waiting for You...


When I was five, my ultimate heroine, was Wonder Woman. I hauled my PB&J to kindergarten in a baby blue, vinyl plush lunch box, sporting that raven haired Amazon with pride. Every Friday night, a most rare and magical event happened in my household: I got to choose the TV programming. You'll never guess what I chose...


Linda Carter entranced me with her big blue eyes that contrasted so blatantly with her black hair. She was beautiful, strong, and had way better weapons than Batman. I loved the sound her gauntlets made when the bad guy's bullets ricocheted off of them. I felt empowered when she tied them up with her Lasso of Truth. And seriously, who doesn't want an invisible jet? Wonder Woman was a goddess and every week she came on the screen, promising I could be one too.


Naturally, when Halloween came around, I had to be Wonder Woman. Mom drove us down the 5&10, where I picked out my costume. The plastic pants suit with two ties in the back, accompanied by a molded face mask. I was in Heaven and I was finally Wonder Woman! Huzzah!


Alas, I am no longer five. I no longer haul PB&J's in lunch boxes, and sadder still, I no longer wear costumes on Halloween. But, I do still love Wonder Woman. She still inspires me to be brave, seek truth, be the best I can be, and all those things we look for in a hero. The impression that TV show made on me will certainly last a lifetime.


 Thank goodness for that.

     

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my muses

Our Strange Muses:  Top 10 Must Haves For Writers


As a writer, I fall into a very unique and strange category of people.  I am full of ideas, thoughts, arguments, and "what if" scenarios, that time and time again take me to worlds many are afraid to explore.  But, like Batman and his utility belt, or Harry Potter and his wand, I have to have the proper tools, or I simply never get the car out of the driveway. 


I spent a few days asking around, and discovered that I am not alone.  Everyone I talked to, seemed to have something... something they had to have, in order to make the magic happen.  Here is the list of the most common writer muses: 


1. Music

      The majority seemed to be drawn to classical, with some preferring jazz or even rock. 

      I'm a big band, swing girl myself.

2.   Coffee

      Ah, the nectar of the creative gods.  There was no clear winner in the hot -vs-cold debate,

      and tea managed to squeeze in for an honorable mention.

3.   A View

      It would seem that quite a few writers are particularly moved by the out of doors.  While

      some where content to sit by a window with a view, many insisted that they needed to be

      in nature in order to be inspired. 

4.   Silence

      It is golden for some writers. 

5.   Soda Pop & Water

      Tied for 5th place were these two particular drinks. Personally, the drink of choice is

      not a critical one, so long as it's cold. 

6.   Pen & Paper

      Yes, believe it or not, there are many of us writers, who still use these things.

7.   A Deadline

      Could be the greatest motivator in a writers world.  Nothing gets you moving like the 

      steady tick of a clock.

8.   An empty house

      For many, silence wasn't enough.  Seclusion was just as important.  I found this to be 

      the most common response of writers who had children or multiple pets 

9.   Pot

      No, I am not advocating drug use in order to inspire you.  I was just so impressed that one

      person was willing to admit it, that I had to add it to the list.  Besides, I could have 

      misunderstood...they could have meant pot of coffee!

10. Candy & Gum

      This is my world.  The types varied, but there were tons of writers that needed to have 

      that one particular flavor in their mouths, in order to get the creative juices flowing. 


In fact, as I am writing this, I am crunching away on my Wint-O-Green Lifesavers.  I need them! For some reason, that sharp, minty goodness helps me think.  They bring unique words to my mind, they give life to my characters.  And, I just ate the last one.          

     


 

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I totally WON!!

Contests:  Why You Should Always Enter Them!!


First, lemme get it off my chest.... I WON, I WON, I WON!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Pheww! Now that I got that out, let's blog, shall we? I never win contests.  My name is never drawn from the hat, my number is never called in the raffle, and the lottery just laughs at me when I buy a ticket. It's just how I roll. I'm used to it.  It never stops me from entering, though. 


Recently, I have started entering writing competitions.  I felt like it was important, to attempt to get my name out, by way of submitting short stories, poems etc... What with my novel coming out next year, and all.  It seemed like a sensible way to gain some name recognition, and at the same time, practice my craft. 


As per my usual MO, I suffered defeats early on.  There are some REALLY good writers out there! But, I continued to press on, writing pieces in my writers groups, editing little projects that had been abandoned in a file on my laptop, and submitting to all sorts of little contests. 


For the record, the third time is not the charm.  The TENTH one is! I received an email last Friday, informing me that my prose piece had been selected as the winner of a short story contest, where the subject was the wild west.  YESSSSS!!!!


There were several things that made this special.  


1.  Hello, duh!! I freakin' won!

2.  The story I wrote was based on my own life childhood experience. 

3.  I wrote it with my writers group.

4.  My name and social media presence got a boost

5.  The best part:  I did it all on my own.


So, now I am totally pumped back up for writing.  I was going through a brief spell of slacking, which happens to us all.  But, winning this small contest, helped to reinforce that I am doing what I should be:  writing.


Take it from me.  If you are in a slump, enter contests.  If you need to keep busy in between major book projects, enter contests.  If you are trying to establish an online presence, enter contests.  Not for cash prizes, or free copies or any of that, but do it, so you can feel that fabulous sense of accomplishment.  And when you win, BRAG ABOUT IT!! You did a great job, and should share it with everyone.  Be an inspiration, to others and yourself. 

Speaking of which, here's the link to my winning piece:


https://literative.com/2015/09/winner-of-the-wild-west-contest/#.VggALVUVikp   

      

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Did We All Eat The Apple?


When I was young, I really wanted to be pissed off at Eve for eating the apple and screwing up the world.  I mean seriously, what part of "Don't eat anything off that tree" didn't she get? In spite of my inexperience with scripture, it seemed like a no-brainer to me.  As I got older and began to seriously study the Bible, I came to terms with our worldly situation, happy and grateful for a Savior, that was willing to foot the bill for all of my shortcomings.  But, that little voice kept gnawing at the back of my mind.  The world wouldn't suck so much, if it hadn't been for her!


That got me thinking.  Why did we ALL have to be punished, for one person's mistake?  I didn't shove that apple down Eve's throat, so why am I in trouble?  The answer came to me yesterday in the car, on the way to the grocery store.  God likes to drop random thought bombs on me like that all the time. 


In the beginning, there was no sin.  There was no concept of sin.  Adam and Eve didn't know what it was, didn't know how to do it, and didn't have the capacity to conjure it.  Like the garden and everything else in it, the first two humans were perfect.  Like a blank piece of paper, waiting for a snake to come along, and scribble his BS all over them.


They accepted everything God told them, because they didn't know any better.  He was their only source of education.  Then suddenly, from the dank recesses of hell, a dark shadow crept into the garden.  The devil, fueled by an insane amount of jealousy for humans, he takes the form of a snake, and feeds Eve a line of grade A bullshit that would come to leave a bad taste in every humans mouth.


He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, 'you shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?" And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, 'you shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die." But the serpent said to the woman, "you will not surely die.  For God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.  -Genesis, 3:1b-5   


This ploy would come to be known as "classic devil BS".  He didn't "exactly lie." See, we weren't meant to grow old, get sick, suffer cancers, or DIE! By eating the fruit, our eyes were opened, as were our bodies.  Sure, we could now distinguish good from bad, we now had the ability to learn the hidden mysteries of God, but we also cleared a path for physical attacks.  We opened the door to death and disease, pain and suffering. 


I know, there's a lot of "we's" in that last paragraph.  Isn't all of this Eve's fault?  The answer is no.  Here's why.  It wouldn't have mattered which one of us was elected to be the Eve.  Our creation would have been the same.  No matter which one of us had been there, we would have made the same mistake, the same way she did.  Eve had no concept of lies.  No concept of deceitfulness.  She believed the serpent, because she had no reason not to.  And neither would we.  The serpent took advantage of her naivety, he capitalized of the fact, that she would believe him, because she had no knowledge or understanding of sin.


And yes, it's bad to know the difference between good and evil.  To know the hidden mysteries of God.  While it's useful to know about evil, in order to avoid it, it's something we never should have had to deal with.  And while it's great that we are learning how to fight killer diseases, those are also things that would have never existed, if not for that stupid apple.  None of the wars, rapes, drug use... you name it, would even exist, and what's more, we wouldn't care. Thanks to the serpent lies, not only do we care, but it seems like sometimes, man thrives on sin.      


So, yes, in affect, we are all to blame, because we would have chosen the exact same way.  There is a happy ending to the story, though. 


"I will put enmity between you and the woman,

and between your offspring and her offspring;

he shall bruise your head,

and you shall bruise his heel." -Genesis 3:15   


Not all is lost.  God gave us a way out.  Eve's "offspring" is a reference to the Messiah, Christ Jesus.  That one day, a branch from Jesse's tree would come and save us from that centuries old mistake.  That we wouldn't have to wallow in the results of ignorance, hate, and jealousy. In God's mercy, He saved us from ourselves, by offering Himself as a sacrifice for the whole world. All we have to do, is accept, repent, and spread the Word.  We are still going to have to deal with sin.  The serpent is still very much active, whispering little tidbits of BS in our ears, hoping that we will start each day with a poison apple. When he comes at you, resist. 


 How do you resist? With prayer and scripture. 


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Social Media Outback


I resisted social media for a lot of years.  I was dead last in my family to get a Facebook account, and everyone had a great time at my expense, reminding me that I was behind the times.  There was no shortage of dinosaur jokes, caveman jokes, rotary phone jokes.... it was like everyone related me was living on a diet rich in clown. 


Finally, I relented.  I signed up.  I was suddenly on the social media super highway, traveling down a road I thought was designed for teenagers, cyber bullies, and internet trolls.  Needless to say, I was very wrong.  Facebook was not the digital world of Mad Max like I thought it would be.  Oh sure, there are plenty of Master Blasters out there, but there was more.  Much more. 


Over the years, I was able to settle deeply into my favorite topics.  I was able to make a ton of friends, some, whom after seven years, I still haven't met face to face.  And yet, I pray for them, cry with them, laugh and fight with them, just like traditional friends, all from the comfort of my couch, or yes... toilet.  (don't judge, you know you do it too) 


When I began exploring the writing world, it was easy to connect with other budding writers, experienced best sellers, and everyone in between.  There was a huge, thriving community of authors out there, all at the tap of a touch screen.  It was in this community, that I found my mentors.


Years later, I finally found myself poised to become a published author.  I had everything I needed:  a manuscript, a publisher, and a contract.  Let the good times roll, right? 


WELCOME TO THE THUNDERDOME!!! 


Turns out, I needed to get a Twitter.  You know Twitter, where bad spelling goes to die?  I actually stressed out about it for a solid week.  I didn't want this! Not rude, raunchy, "hey wanna see my boobs?" Twitter!!!!!


I sucked it up, and signed up for a Twitter. 


It's been almost six weeks.  I occasionally have to block someone because they are just every shade of wrong, but other than that, it hasn't been horrible. But, it's ridiculously fast.  If you're not paying attention, you're gonna miss stuff.   But, like Facebook, I discovered another community of writers, publishers, editors, bloggers, you name it! And just like Facebook, they are a community that supports each other. 


However, I am still a little nervous.  I know what to expect from Facebook, the kind of people who live in Facebook, what I can (and can't) get away with in Facebook.  But, Twitter has its own rules, its own traditions & etiquette... and as a cyber road warrior, I am racing through it with my eyes wide open.  With any luck, Mel Gibson will follow me.  It could happen...     




  

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Before I first began writing my novel, I had no idea there was a thing called self-publishing. It was always my understanding, that you sent your big, bulky manuscript off, to be scrutinized by some portly editor, who sitting at his three hundred year old desk, smoking fat cigars, and sipping brandy, would pick every page to pieces. Of course, my fantasy always ended with him jumping up from that desk, convinced he had found the greatest novel in the history of the written word. Then I would be whisked off to Hollywood, where my novel would become the highest grossing blockbuster of all time, I would become a gazillionare, and they lived happily ever after.


Yeah, riiiight.


I had been submitting my masterpiece to publishers for about a year when I went to my first writer's conference. That is where I first heard of this thing called self-publishing. There were lots of pros and cons to publishing without a publisher. The few people there that published their work this way were happy with their choice.

It's been years since I attended that conference. I have met hundreds of writers, published and not. I have also read several books in that time... most published in the traditional way, but some self-published as well. Instead of launching off into a tirade about the evils of self publication, I want to first, list for you some pro's, because there are some.

  1. Authors own all of their rights, ISBN #'s and have total control over every aspect of the book like cover, content, price, format, etc.

  2. Authors get to make all of the decisions about when, where, and how to market their book.

  3. Authors are under no pressure to fulfill contractual obligations that may interfere with life, such as appearances, conferences, or book signings.

Sounds pretty sweet! And this isn't even a complete list. All you need is a super awesome story, and your off to the races... right?


No, not quite. Self-publishing is a TON of work. All of the above pro's, can quickly turn into con's. The behind the scenes legwork that is usually done by a publisher, is suddenly all on you. Not only do you become your own "gopher", but you are also your checkbook, your own chauffeur, your own art department, your own post office, your own secretary, and yes, you are making your own coffee, unless you send yourself to Starbucks.


Now, maybe I haven't scared you. Maybe your like, "Hell yes! Where do I sign?" I'm totally ok with that. Some of the best, most meaningful books I have ever read were self published. The flip side is, the absolute worst book I ever read, was not because I didn't like the story, it was because it was badly self-published. Remember, you are the publisher. Once you sign off on that manuscript as done, it goes to press... as is. Which could be a serious problem, if your work is full of spelling mistakes or bad grammar. This is your baby. You have put a tremendous amount of time and effort into crafting a grade A manuscript. And if you are a first time writer, or one of those people who have horrible spelling (in other words, if you're me), the best thing you could do for your book is have it professionally edited. Yes, it can cost money. But, it's totally worth it. A second set of eyes, trained to spot the flaws will make the difference between a great book, and great big disappointment.


At the end of the day, before you make the all important decision of how to publish your book, take my single piece of advice... DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Research your options by talking to other writers, join critique groups, go to conferences, subscribe to writer's newsletters, PRAY, do whatever you need to do, to get the most information you can. Then you will know, which option is right for you and most importantly, which option is right for your book.


    

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paws
Cats have had a colorful life throughout human history. Worshiped as gods in ancient Egypt, cats enjoyed all the privileges and rights of Pharaoh, even in death. In India, cats were believed to be spirit guides that led the souls of the dead to one of the Seven Heavens. Yet, half a world away in Celtic Britain, it was thought that if a cat were born in the month of May, snakes and disease would plague the household it lived in. And stranger still was the colonial American belief that cats were actually witches, transformed by black magic and in league with the devil. Cultures from every corner of the globe have called them genies, ghosts, demons, and even vampires. But do cats have a place in Judeo/Christian traditions? For us humans, even bad publicity is good publicity, but is Fluffy going to Heaven? Let's start with what's not in the Bible to find out.


Interestingly enough, domestic house cats are never mentioned in scripture. One reason could be that the Jewish men that penned the Bible despised their Egyptian rulers. They would naturally want to leave out their Egyptian pagan gods. Another reason could simply be that Jewish people were too nomadic to keep pets. In fact, there is no biblical record of Jews keeping pets at all.


 


That's not to say that they didn't love animals. Teachings throughout the Old and New Testament tell us exactly how God feels about the creatures of the Earth and how man should treat them.


For example, Proverbs 12:10 says, “A righteous man cares for the needs of his animals.” Both Psalms 104 and 136 make special references to feeding and caring for God's creatures. Even Jesus himself compares us to sheep in Matthew 18:12, telling us that a Shepherd who has lost a sheep will leave the rest of the flock just to find the lost sheep. The message is that God will do the same with His people. This parable teaches us not only how much our Holy Father loves us, but that every soul, every living thing, is treasured by Him.


But to find out how God feels about the mysterious feline, we must look to the Rev. G.J. Ouseley, and the controversial Gospel of the Holy Twelve. Originally written by Saint John, The Gospel of the Holy Twelve is also known as The Gospel of the Twelve Apostles. Although it is believed to be the master source for all four of the Gospels, it was left out of the original Bible by Constantine in 325 AD. Due to its repeated vegetarian themes, the emperor feared that the meat-eating world would shy away from such a restricted diet. So it was hidden away in the Vatican archives, until Rev. Ouseley's translation in the early 20th century.


The book tells the story of the life of Christ, from His immaculate birth to His passion, and is not much different from what you find in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. But special attention is paid to animals from the very beginning. In the stable with Mary and Joseph, the gospel lists six breeding pairs of animals: oxen, horses, donkeys, sheep, doves, and cats. It goes on to say that Jesus was born amidst animals to redeem man from ignorance and selfishness, and that the animals were to there bear witness to God made flesh. If this Gospel of the Holy Twelve is authentic (as many believe it is), then that means God chose the humble and misunderstood feline to witness the birth of our Savior.


A wonderful legend connecting Jesus and the humble cat can be found in the tale of The Tabby and the Manger:


                                                                                                                                                        


The baby Jesus lay cold and fussy in his manger. Mary tried everything she could to comfort the child, but it was no use. Ready to give up, she calmly walked to the door of the manger, looked up at the sky and said to God, “Lord, I cannot stop His cries, will You not help me?”


Then Mary heard a rustling sound behind her in the hay. She turned, and saw a small gray tabby cat emerge, stretch its legs, then suddenly leap into Jesus's bed. Mary watched with awe as the cat nestled down close to the babe, and began to purr.


Within moments, the baby Jesus was sound asleep, His breathing keeping time with the purring cat. Mary leaned down and gently stroked the cat's head.


“Thank you, little cat,” she cried gently, “you have a gentle heart. I bless you this day, that all mankind may know you for your nurturing spirit.”


When she lifted her hand away, Mary saw that the tabby now had the letter “M” marked on its forehead. Tabby cats have had that marking ever since.


 


Further evidence of Christ's connection to cats can be found in this tale:


As Jesus passed through a village, he came upon some men abusing a stray cat. Jesus demanded that they stop, but instead the men threw insults at Him. Making a whip of knotted rope, Jesus chased all but one man away. Because the man defied Him, Jesus reached out His hand and withered the man's arm.


Great fear came upon all of the people in the village. The next day, the man and his mother went to Jesus and prayed to Him that He would restore the withered arm. Jesus spoke to them about love and unity for all life. Then He said, “As you do in this life to your fellow creatures, so will be done to you in the next life to come.” The man confessed his sins, and Jesus restored his arm.


What makes a legend proof of God's special love for cats? The fact that stories like these come from men, who get their inspiration from their love of the Lord, and because as it is written in Matthew 19:26, “With God, all things are possible.”


So, if the legend is true, we need to ask why. Why did Jesus take such a special interest in a common stray cat? Maybe He defended the cat to demonstrate the fact that it is cruel to needlessly harm animals. Perhaps it's because He spent so many years in Egypt that he had sympathy for an animal so loved in His childhood home. Or was it simply a demonstration of His greatest commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Whatever the reason, this legend makes the case: cats do have a special place in Heaven.


 


The order in which God created the Earth and its inhabitants was carefully planned. First, light and darkness, sky and earth, animals, then people. It was only after God created man that He decided to rest. He gave Adam and Eve authority over all living creatures. They in turn, have handed that task down to us, placing the lives of all beasts in our hands to love and care for. The Lord expects us to plant the tiny mustard seed, to give shelter here on Earth, while He is preparing a special place for each of us in Heaven, filled with the loved ones we held so dear in life. This Heaven will include family, friends and our beloved pets. God's message through Jesus is simple. Love all living things on this Earth, and no living creature is hidden from the Lord's Grace. So, is Fluffy going to Heaven?


 


Of course.



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Created by Molly Neely