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What A Wonderful Fan Base I Have!

Writing novels is hard work. No, not the same kind of hard work as teaching school (did that for thirteen years) or being a lumberjack. But however fulfilling and joyful it is, the story creation process can be grueling at times. Marketing – for me, anyway – is grueling all the time.

Add a struggle with anxiety and digestive issues due to low serotonin levels due to low estrogen (I’ve passed the half-century mark as I write this), not to mention low energy levels, and I’ve had plenty of days in the past few years that I’ve been tempted to throw in my proverbial hat when it comes to my writing career.

Yet I keep on. Why?

Two reasons.

First, the story ideas keep on coming, and they refuse to stay inside my head. 😉

Second – and really, more important – my faithful readers.

Every once in a while, a reader sends me an e-mail thanking me for a particular book and telling me how it made an impact on their life. Then there are all the encouraging four- and five-star reviews. One woman recently was tickled pink that I responded to her e-mail.

I was tickled pink because I was the very first Christian author she’d ever read! Out of all the hundreds, maybe, thousands of Christian authors out there, I was the first? Above Tracie Peterson and Gilbert Morris and Janette Oke and Christy Barrett and Francine Rivers and Lacy Williams and Susan Page Davis and on and on?

And this woman wasn’t some twenty-year-old who’d just gotten saved. No. She confessed to being, like me, perimenopausal.

I have one fan who responds to many of my automated e-mails, telling me how things are going in her life. A couple of weeks ago, out of the blue, she e-mailed me, “How can I pray for you?”

It just so happened that the night before, and that morning I found the e-mail in my inbox, I’d been feeling really down and wanted to quit everything. I summarized what I was going through, and she sent me the most beautiful, uplifting prayer!

The other day I discovered a comment on a post I wrote a few weeks ago from writing this one. Click here to read the comment in full. Essentially, the woman, who is almost my mother’s age, told me that I was her favorite author out of all the ones she’s read during the lockdown! She also encouraged me to keep on keeping on (in the post I more than hint at my frustration with the self-publishing world).

I’m sure I have fans who have prayed for me, perhaps even pray for me on a regular basis, but as Yeshua said, they keep it private so as to gain a heavenly reward.

And so, as we approach Christmas 2020 – which will prove to be different and perhaps difficult for many, if not most of us – I want to give you the gift of thanks. Thank you, dear reader, for encouraging me through reviews, e-mails, and blog comments. Thank you for reminding me that someone is receiving blessings from my work. That my work has purpose beyond entertainment.

Thanking you for helping me see that I am making a difference.

Merry Christmas. 🙂

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I Wrote A Christmas Song…

I wrote my very first Christmas song ever. Might not be my last. It was fun and challenging (mainly due to a lot of experimentation with equipment and new video editor). Lyrics below.

 

 

 

Bells ringing
People singing
Excitement in the air
Smiles blooming
Laughter booming
Happiness to spare
Christmastime is here
Joy and peace are ever near
Hearts are open
Love flaming wide
Peppermint sticks
Hot apple cider fix
Steaming cocoa in a cup
Fragrant spices
Cinnamon entices
Gingerbread houses going up
Christmastime is here
Joy and peace are ever near
Hearts are open
Love flaming wide
Drifting snowflakes
Watch the cookies bake
Fire crackling in the hearth
Christmas movie
With the family
Tree lights sparkling in the dark
Christmastime is here
Joy and peace are ever near
Hearts are open
Love flaming wide
Decorations
Color creations
Presents underneath the tree
Church steeple
Drawing people
Celebrating the Baby
Christmastime is here
Joy and peace are ever near
Hearts are open
Love flaming wide

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Why I Almost Quit Writing Novels

After I hit “publish” on Talia’s Tiger, the last novel in my “Rock Star Husbands” series, I seriously thought I might never write another novel. It wasn’t the first time, but it was the most intense. I felt it deeper and more strongly than the few other times I’d experienced burn-out.

The semi-decision lasted longer than before, too. And when only the third or fourth review of Worth The Risk came in at two stars (not to brag, but that’s unusual for any of my novels that early in the game), I think I might have told my husband something like, “See? I suck. I might as well never write another novel.”

But, really, it wasn’t the heartbreaking review that was the root of my near decision. It was three other things. I like to be transparent with my audience so they can see that I’m just a struggling individual like they are, so I’m going to let you in on those three things.

#1: Severe eye strain.

I’m a Highly Sensitive Person. As such, my eyes are particularly sensitive. Either my lenses or the muscles supporting them can only take so much of scanning and reading before they fatigue. If I take them beyond the point of fatigue, I can experience pain for up to a week. Take them beyond that point and then some?

It takes months before my eyes feel well again.

The thing is, sometimes I can’t tell I’ve gone too far until it’s too late. This is what happened when I spent about a half hour (maybe longer) trying to find the perfect photo for the cover of Worth The Risk.

That was before the global pandemic was announced last spring.

And I’ve only just recently felt pretty much back to normal…though I still can’t write more than about 400 words at a time before my eyes start “talking” to me. (And yes, now I’m listening!)

By the time I finished Talia’s Tiger, however, I was still hurting. A lot. And I just couldn’t see myself writing more than a few hundred words  a day, ever again.

No way would I take that long to write a novel. It would drive me nuts!

Which is a good segue to the second reason I almost quit writing novels…

#2: Anxiety.

Since hitting puberty, I’ve suffered from anxiety and Pre-Menstrual Dystrophic Disorder. I’m fifty years old, and I only figured the former out a few months ago. The latter I ran into some time in 2019.

Why did I not realize I had those problems? Well, first of all, I’d never even heard of PMDD until I was doing some search about perimenopause symptoms. Second, I thought all people who suffered from anxiety had panic attacks.

Nope. Not an arbitrary symptom. But depression is. All these decades, I’ve believed myself to suffer from mild to moderate depression. Turns out, anxiety has been at the root of it.

What does all this have to do with writing novels? When you have anxiety, everything pressures you. Including your own goals. It’s difficult to impossible to walk through life, living in the moment and being content with whatever life hands you. No. You’re constantly worried about the future.

Add that to a choleric temperament such as I have, and you get absolutely driven to finish projects as soon as possible. Because if you don’t go fast enough, you might run up against a barrier that keeps you from reaching your goal.

So while I’ve always been excited when beginning a new story, it only takes ten or so chapters before I start pressuring myself to race to a deadline. And all the joy goes out of writing, and it turns into a  tedious job instead of an enjoyable calling.

Along with a lot of other nutrition tweaks I’ve made to improve my mental health and eliminate most perimenopause symptoms, I very recently discovered I was deficient in iodine. Supplementing with that for the past month and a bit, I now actually feel happy and at peace most of the time, for the first time in my life.

For ideas on other things I’ve done to eradicate mental illness, check out this article. I need to update it, though. It’s missing a piece or two besides the iodine.

#3: Torn between two callings.

I’ve always wanted to write stories. Ever since I was a little girl. But a few years ago, I developed a passion to help wannabe homeschooling parents. After finishing the “Rock Star Husbands” series, I felt like the Lord was urging me to start a blog to this end.

I didn’t see how I could possibly write novels and do a blog justice, so I decided I’d focus on the blog for a while. At least a year.

I don’t know why. I’ve blogged long enough to know that one-topic blogs start boring me after about a month, if not sooner.

Then I realized: God wasn’t calling me to try to build a money-making blog with tens of thousands of visitors every month. At least, not the way the experts tell you to do it. I’m not supposed to be a “full-time blogger.” I’m just supposed to share my knowledge and experience with the world, and trust that whoever needs it will come.

So I’m going to write and publish one post a week to that blog. Build it slowly. Do it as a ministry, rather than for money.

I said all that to say this:

I’m back writing novels. That is to say, I am now editing the Christmas novel that I wrote before I started the “Rock Star Husbands” series, and planning the second book in what will eventually be a four-book series entitled “Little River Village Christmas.”

And I feel good about it, because I’m no longer anxious.

I’ve given myself permission to take breaks or pursue other creative projects when I want or need to.

Allow me to pay that forward: I give you permission to take breaks from projects as you can and as necessary, so that you don’t get burned out on life. Or your calling.  🙂

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Once Again, The Lord Is Right On Time

Three days ago, a familiar, but now infrequent, feeling began to come upon me: mild depression. As the hours wore on, it became deeper, until the evening before yesterday, I was in quite the pit of despair, wondering why I was even alive, thinking that nothing I did really made a difference.

It had been threatening for a few weeks, at odd moments coming down on me briefly, but with enough pressure to make itself known. Like the day that I got an e-mail from a fellow self-published author – much more successful than I – announcing that Hallmark was going to turn one of her book series into a T.V. show.

I had to fight off envy, tooth and nail.

I need to take a detour for a moment, because if you look over in the right sidebar, you’ll see that I have a book entitled The Cure For Mental Illness? And you’re going to see it and think that I don’t know what I’m talking about, that I’m some kind of fraud trying to sell a book about natural treatments for mental illness when I still get depressed myself.

First of all, the book is free. Always has been, always will be, unless Jeff Bezos one day forces me to put a price on it. And then it will still be free on this blog and in other online book stores.

Second of all, as I state in the book, there really is no “cure” for depression. People who suffer from mental illness have to daily fight to keep their brain chemistry in balance.

Third, I also state in the book that I do have occasional relapses, but that I experience depression with much less frequency – and usually much less intensity – than I used to. Therefore, I will stand by the information I provide in the book.

What had been gradually happening to me over the past few weeks, I’m certain, was a drop in estrogen. And a couple of days ago, it took a drastic drop. I believe this because I have now gone more than sixteen weeks without a menstrual period, longer than the last time I went without one in 2017.

Menopause may be upon me.

When estrogen plummets, so do serotonin levels in the brain. Apparently, my brain chemistry got so out of whack that even my religious use of natural remedies couldn’t keep me from falling into depression.

And from becoming convinced that life is void of any true purpose. And if it is, why do I work so hard when I don’t need to?

The next morning, I was ready to delete my YouTube channel – yeah, the one with around 700 videos uploaded since 2011 – quit writing anything, blog posts or fiction; and even delete my Amazon account!

By lunchtime that day, I was back to normal. No, I was better than normal. I actually felt happy. I hadn’t taken a 5-HTP supplement or taken a single sniff of a serotonin-increasing essential oils. I had taken my morning magnesium and vitamin B6 as usual, like I’ve been doing every day for a while now, and as I did the previous two mornings when the depression came on.

In other words, I had done nothing special to get my brain chemistry back in balance.

This was nothing new. Used be, back when I experienced regular menstrual cycles, I would have a day a week before, or a few hours before, my period would start, when I would get depressed and possibly get into a raging mood for about three hours. Then, all of a sudden, boom, I’d be my usual semi-calm, optimistic self.

However, this time was scarier because it lasted so much longer.

But even though I snapped out of it, my psyche was still experiencing the residual effects of all the negativity that had bombarded my brain for the past forty-eight hours.

And Yeshua knew it. And so, He laid it on my heart to e-mail my subscriber list. I did, and in that e-mail I provided a link to a blog post I wrote last year on my other blog about moving through the holidays when they remind you of the loss of a loved one.

Within a few hours, two of my lovely subscribers replied to that e-mail. One of them, a lady, let me know that the article had blessed her. Another one, a man who is wiser in years than I, told me he was “convinced” that my latest series, “Pine Mountain Estates”, should be made into a movie.

A Hallmark movie. His words, not mine.

The Lord knew I needed to know that I am making a difference in people’s lives, that I have purpose, and that people are enjoying my work. And at the exact right time, He encouraged two of my fans to reach out to me.

God is good, all the time.

Even if Hallmark never discovers me.

Merry Christmas. 🙂

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I’m Tired Of Hiding

I’m tired of hiding who I really am, and what I really believe.

I’ve been quiet about it on this blog, because my most popular novel has been The Envelope. I wrote the novel when I was around thirty years old. That was twenty years ago, when I believed a lot of institutional church-based doctrine that isn’t in the Bible. Therefore, I’ve attracted readers who believe in institutional Christianity, and all the doctrines that it teaches.

Therefore, I’ve painted myself into the proverbial corner. I’ve come to feel that if I write books with characters who live what I believe now, I’ll get bad reviews from my current fans who either expect to see references to God, Yeshua, and/or the Bible in every chapter, or expect that the main characters will hold to the beliefs of traditional Christianity.

The following article contains most of what I mean, though I don’t necessarily agree with every conclusion the author of the article makes regarding what a believer’s life is supposed to look like. Anyway, I ask you to click the link to it and skim over it before you go on to read this post. It explains things more thoroughly than I plan to in this post, including providing Bible verses to back me up.

Here’s the link to the article: http://www.biblicalresearchreports.com/totally-rethinking-church-part-1-stepping-out-of-the-box/

Did you click on it? Read it yet? Seriously, I don’t want you to continue reading this blog post until you’ve read that article. Click here to get to it.

Okay, I’m assuming you took a look at the article. If you did, you have an idea what’s coming: my family left the institutional church eight years ago, and we haven’t looked back.

Moreover, the Holy Spirit had been leading me to that decision for at least a decade. I’m not going to explain why. It’s none of your business, and I’m not going to open myself up to debate about it.

And, no, we didn’t have a bad experience with one “body of believers” that left us bitter. Though Yeshua certainly used the several bad experiences we’d had in several different bodies to show us why the institutional church is far from being God’s best when it comes to worshipping and fellowshipping with other believers.

Here’s another thing…

…four years ago, my family went Vegan. I don’t mean we’ve decided that a 100% plant-based diet is the healthiest way of eating. I mean, we’re Vegan. As in, we don’t believe that in the modern world, killing animals for food or clothing, or maiming them for the sake of scientific experiments, is ethical.

Veganism is not a religion. It’s a social justice movement. It doesn’t mean that I believe animals are on the same spiritual plane as people. Veganism is not “New Age.” Just because many New Agers are Vegans, and believe that animals are on the same spiritual plane as people, doesn’t mean that all Vegans hold to those beliefs.

(On the other hand, there’s Ecclesiastes 3:18-21. I’ve never heard that verse taught in a church service, of any of the three denominations I’ve belonged to. Ever.)

Veganism is not unbiblical. On the contrary, Veganism was the way of the world when God first created it. [Genesis 1:21-22] And it’s the way the world is going to be when Yeshua returns. [Isaiah 11:6-9]

In other words, God’s ideal is that creatures don’t kill other creatures.

Before you start throwing Bible verses at me that “prove” God wants us to eat meat, here are some articles for you to read:

https://www.jewishveg.org/schwartz/faq_sacrifices.html

https://www.all-creatures.org/discuss/genesis9.2-4-jv.html

A somewhat related, but different thought: https://www.all-creatures.org/living/doesgodwant.html

The following link is from the all-creatures website that contains links to various articles that answer questions about the Bible and eating meat: https://www.all-creatures.org/bible.html#comment-other

And here are some Bible verses for you to think about:

“And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.’” [Genesis 1:29]

“’What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?’ says the Lord; ‘I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations— I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.’”[Isaiah 1:11-16]

“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” [Isaiah 11:6-9]

“He who slaughters an ox is like one who kills a man; he who sacrifices a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck; he who presents a grain offering, like one who offers pig’s blood; he who makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like one who blesses an idol. These have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations…” [Isaiah 66:3]

And besides all that…

My other issue with having gained the Christian audience that I have is that they, by and large, don’t want to see the messiness of humanity in what they read. They don’t want to see people having premarital sex. If a character is homosexual, they’d better get delivered from it by the end of the book. Main characters who are not Christian at the beginning of the book should be “saved” by the end of it. Criminals should end up in prison. There is no room for tragic accidents, except for sitting vaguely in the background.

A lot of people cuss. Especially when they’re angry. Even Christians. But a “Christian” author isn’t allowed to write “damn”, “what the hell,” or “Oh my God” without some sinless reader trying to kill their book with a low-star review.

In short, I’ve come to feel that I can’t write realistic stories because I have an audience that expects the storyline to be squeaky-clean per the religious doctrine they believe, and that expects everything be wrapped up in a pretty box with a big, fluffy bow on top by the end of the story.

I know that my Father wants me to write stories that inspire. I know that He wants me to glorify Him in everything that I write.

But I also know that He hasn’t shoved me into the box into which the Christian Bookseller’s Association shoves their authors.

There. It’s all out in the open. If I’ve offended or disappointed you, or you think I’m wrong, I can’t help what you think or feel. Go ahead and stop reading my books. Most of them probably will continue to be clean, with happy endings. Because honestly, those are the books I like to read.

But I’m not going to keep myself in the Institutional Christianity Perspective box any longer. I’m no longer going to let religion squash my creativity. Because if I do, then I won’t be able to inspire and minister to people who aren’t Christian, and don’t want to read Christian-heavy books.

UPDATE: If I ever decide to write such books as I’ve described above, I’ll probably write them under a different pen name. Emily Josephine will continue to publish only clean, heartwarming novels. 🙂

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