Regrets of an author

A decade ago – before my first novel was published – I read about the promotional events of established authors with more than a touch of envy. For a while, it seemed like every best-selling novelist was going on a Caribbean cruise with their most devoted readers, with the author’s expenses paid by the cruise lines. Other famous writers were paid to host ski weekends at glamorous resorts, or welcomed their fans to a luxurious spa vacation. I even heard about a relatively unknown novelist who got paid by a tour company to spend a week touring Ireland with her readers.

Erin Go Bragh.

One of these days, I used to assure myself, I will be published, and the requests to accompany readers to exotic destinations will come pouring in. Hawaii would be nice. Or Tahiti. I’d even consider a cruise down the Nile or a trip to Australia’s Outback.

 

When dreams come true…

And then in 2008, North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc. published my first Birder Murder Mystery, The Boreal Owl Murder.  Lo and behold, within six months, I did indeed receive my first invitation to go on a cruise as a guest author.

To the Arctic.

In January.

Very funny, I thought. One of my friends had clearly set up the invitation as a joke. After all, I lived in Minnesota at that point – any time I wanted to experience bone-biting cold in January, all I had to do was walk to my mailbox at the end of our driveway.

Two weeks later, I had an email from my publisher. They’d received an inquiry from a Norwegian tour company asking to verify my email address because they hadn’t heard back from me about their Arctic trip invitation.

It wasn’t a joke. I was invited to go on an adventure cruise to the Arctic in January. Sub-zero temperatures, rubber rafts, and stormy seas. Probably icebergs and polar bears, too. Maybe even killer whales.

Fortunately – I mean, unfortunately – I couldn’t make the trip because I had a previous commitment…to survival. I passed on the Arctic cruise.

 

Maybe I should have given it a bit more consideration

Now it’s years later, and I’m more experienced as an author. Book events and speaking gigs are a way of life when I’m promoting a new book. No one has yet offered to give me a free vacation in return for my hosting readers at a secluded tropical location, but I can still hope. In retrospect, I realize I probably should have gone on that Arctic cruise to connect with new readers. I can handle a little cold.

Of course, it’s also August, and I now live in Texas, where I’m sweltering in 100-degree heat. Icebergs don’t sound all that bad.

Maybe the email address for the Norwegian tour company is still somewhere in my files…

 

 

 

Is death your greatest fear?

Not to be morbid, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about death. (Yes, it’s very hot and dry right now in central Texas, but I’m not finding skeletal remains in the front yard – yet – so my ruminations about death cannot be connected to the weather.)
I’m reading a book, and it asks the question: “What is your greatest fear?” Not surprisingly, death ranks as the second greatest fear for most people; speaking in public snares the Number One spot on the list, according to the author.
(Not for me – I love speaking in public. From the first time I gave a humorous reading at a ladies’ luncheon when I was in high school, I’ve been addicted to making people laugh; getting chuckles from an audience gives me a rush of power that is second only to successfully parking parallel.)

Fascination with life after death

When I try to pin down my greatest fear, though, it’s not death, either. Call me a fatalist, but I have always believed that when my number is up…well, it’s up. I’ve never doubted that I’m going to heaven to be with God, and I know it’s going to be wonder-full. So why would I fear death?

According to the Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study, I’m not alone. In their study, 72% of Americans believe in an afterlife, and that number includes ‘non-religious’ respondents, among whom 37% say they believe in the existence of heaven, a place where they are rewarded for living a good life. Interest in an afterlife has also fueled phenomenal sales for books and memoirs about near-death or after-death experiences and led to popular TV series and scientific research projects. My own conversations with my sons about my Christian faith and the intersections of science with the supernatural/spiritual was the seed that eventually resulted in my thriller Heaven’s Gate (which, by the way, has now been nominated for a 2017 Christy Award in the suspense category! Have you read it yet?).

Where are all the do-gooders hiding?

So, here’s my question: Given all the attention that heaven receives in our culture and a wide-spread profession of believing in it, why aren’t more people making a concerted effort to get there? In other words, if you believe heaven is a reward for doing good, why aren’t more people actively seeking to do good?

I think the answer, in part, is because ‘doing good’ doesn’t make sensational headlines. ‘Doing good’ is often a quiet, secret thing. Contributing to a community in positive ways is such a way-of-life for so many people, that they don’t consider it anything special, when in fact, it really is. I know that when I consciously look for good, I see it happening everywhere, so, whether or not the media reports it or our culture celebrates it, I think there are tons of people doing good because they believe in heaven. Like I do. And when I let the reality of heaven influence my daily behavior, I act differently. I work at being more generous, kinder, more grateful.

So why would I fear death? In my mind, in my heart, I believe that death will be the door to the Kingdom made perfect that I will inhabit forever. My audiences will always laugh. My parallel parking will be effortless. What’s not to like?

Do you believe, every day, in heaven?

 

 

 

Get the Batmobile ready, Alfred…

“We need some bat houses,” I told my husband one evening after spending a few hours in the backyard donating blood to hungry mosquitoes. “I’ve never been crazy about bats, but if they could make our yard habitable for humans in the evening again, I’m willing to roll out a welcome mat.”

A few days later, we found exactly what we needed at a nature store in a nearby town: wooden bat boxes.

“This one will accommodate up to 150 bats,” the store’s owner informed us, holding up one from her inventory. Then she picked up another. “And this one will house 300.”

I looked at the relatively small boxes, no more than about five inches deep and eighteen inches high. I imagined hundreds of little bats stuffed in the box, ready to swoop out and devour mosquitoes.

“Let’s get these two boxes to start,” I said to my husband. “I need to work into this whole bat landlord concept before we host a colony of thousands, however. Four hundred and fifty? I can do that.”

“And you need guano to attract the bats,” the helpful woman added. “It comes with the houses.”

I gave her a look of disbelief, not to mention disgust. “You’re going to give us guano?” I tried to figure out how we would be able to breathe in the car on the way home.

“It comes in dry packs,” she said. “You just add water.”

Okay then, I thought. We could do this, even though somehow, I’d just never imagined myself paying for bat sh….guano. But I’ve been working at expanding my horizons since we moved to the Texas Hill Country to live closer to nature. Rehydrating guano was simply going to be another new experience.

Imagine that.

Or not.

“The guano is free,” the store owner assured us with a big smile as she rang up our purchase.

Good to know. I was not going to have to pay for dried bat excrement after all. Yet, for some unfathomable reason, that didn’t especially make me any more excited about the prospect of reconstituting and actually applying the stuff.

A few days later, my husband nailed the bat houses into place among our trees and (may God bless him richly all the days of his life!) prepared and spread the guano on the little roofs. So far, I haven’t actually seen any bats enter or exit our houses, but our neighbor has observed bats flying around our yard, so I’m optimistic that we’re on the bats’ radar now, and that by next mosquito season, we’ll have our own squadron of airborne vigilantes.

Which leaves only one thing missing in our newly-friendly bat yard: the bat signal.

I’m checking online for it now…

 

 

 

Welcome to my new website!

Nine years ago, my first Bob White Birder Murder Mystery was published, launching me as an author – a dream I’d had since I was five years old and first stepped into a public library. I was astounded at the sheer volume of books on racks and decided right then I wanted my name on a book’s spine in a library. It took me another 48 years to get there…

Since then, I’ve written six more Birder Murders, an international best-selling memoir, Saved by Gracie, about how our dog helped me overcome anxiety, and the first two books in my supernatural Christian thriller series, titled Archangels. Along the way, I’ve blogged on my own website, guest-blogged for many others, and contributed devotionals to FaithHappenings.com for their subscribers.

In the last two years, I’ve also experienced a major life change: my husband retired from his career in high tech in Minnesota, and we moved to the Hill Country in Texas. Life is different here in many ways, and I find it is changing me, as well, so I decided it was time to revamp my website to better reflect who I am now as an author. It’s pretty simple, really, because what I want to do with my life is:

Laugh.

Live in awe.

Practice gratitude.

Love God.

In the months ahead, I hope to blog on a regular basis about those four topics. Sometimes I’ll tell funny stories, and sometimes I’ll offer more serious reflection. As always, I hope to entertain you, my reader, and share with you the wonder and mystery of life. To that end, I’m even going to throw in photos for laughs, for inspiration, for sheer beauty. If you like what you read and see, please subscribe to the blog by clicking on the RSS feed on the right side of the page. If you really like it, please share and invite others to visit this website. Thanks!