Happy Thanksgiving!

As I mentioned a post or two ago, “In the Presence of My Enemies” should be ready for release before the end of the year. I still don’t have an exact date but I’ll post here when it’s ready. My goal is to have it done before Christmas. Fingers crossed. :)

In the meantime, here’s a peek at the cover and a short excerpt.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

In the Presence of My Enemies


Craig didn’t say anything for a minute. “So how is she?”

“What do you mean?”

“She’s obviously in trouble.”

“Are we talking about Carolyn?”

“Who else?”

“And you care?”

“I’m not inhuman.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Actually I always thought you were a vampire. Isn’t that why they call lawyers bloodsuckers?”

“No, that’s what they call reporters.”

“Well, thanks for the clever banter. Time to go?”

He ignored me. “This whole thing makes me uncomfortable. I keep thinking about what you and your pastor were talking about. It’s…”


“Yeah. I don’t do spiritual.”

“Not asking you to.”

“But I’m worried about you. And even about Carolyn. Who are these guys?”

I sighed, knowing it would be easier to just tell him than try to get him to go home and ignore me. “I can’t say a lot. I told Carolyn I’d be discreet. Personally, I think these guys are con artists who hold these high-priced seminars for dupes that are willing to plunk down a wad of cash to feel good about themselves and how they live their lives. Nothing earthshaking there.”


“But…they also tap into the supernatural. At least they think they do. Some of it is subtle. Some of it’s not. I’m not going to lie. It’s been messing with me, too.”

Why is this even news? Oh yeah, because the media thinks we’re insane

Yesterday, I was perusing some news sites on the Internet during a break at work. An article about Starbucks and the controversy with Christians over the new Christmas cup caught my eye. I clicked on the link expecting to see that Starbucks was proclaiming “Greed is the reason for the season!” or “All hail, Satan!” or something along those lines.

Instead, I found the flack was over a plain red cup.



I’m confused.

Who looks to Starbucks as a Christian company in the first place? I mean, its symbol has always struck me as pretty New Age-ish. I’m not a frequent Starbucks goer since I can’t afford $5 cups of coffee and if I am going to spend that much I want a darn good cup of it. Sorry, Starbucks isn’t my favorite on that front.

So, I don’t get what the fuss is about. I’ve seen holiday cups from Starbucks with snowmen or Christmas trees. I’ve never seen a Nativity scene or Biblical references. Do I think Christians are snubbed sometimes? Sure. And some of those instances need to be addressed. Do I think this is one of those times? Absolutely not. This whole “Merry Christmas” versus “Happy Holidays” nonsense has become ridiculous.


Starbucks is a business who – shockingly! – wants to make money. And the holidays are prime time. So it makes sense that the cup is going to be as innocuous as possible. Starbucks still wants the atheist, the Jewish, the Muslim, etc. to come into its shop for a cup of joe, no matter how – or if – they celebrate Christmas. Its job is not to preach the coming of the Lord. Given some of the liberal leanings of the business leaders, quite frankly, I don’t really want it to try.

And the red cup is practical. When December 25 is over, no one wants to be carrying around a Christmas cup. This design is still going to look good through the winter until the stock runs out and the traditional white cup comes back. It’s the same reason that most of my Christmas decorations, except for the tree, are snowmen, deer and cardinals. They stay up until spring.

I could see the problem if Focus on the Family or the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was leaving the Christ out of Christmas. That’s why Christians send their dollars there. But Starbucks? Come on, be serious. I’m not even going to address the fact that the root of Christmas is a pagan holiday in the first place because I don’t want to deal with the hate mail. If Christians want to claim this as a time to celebrate Christ, more power to them. But expecting to control the world and its view is unrealistic. I mean, have you read a Bible? Things aren’t going to get any better on that front, folks.


The part of this that bothers me is the media. If you notice, the media takes every opportunity to latch on to stories about Christians, then paint all of us like a bunch of up-tight, hateful, nut jobs. Good job to all the Starbucks haters for giving the media more ammunition. Go ahead and get your panties in a bunch over this red cup. In the end, it’s just generating free advertising for Starbucks. And making the rest of the world think we’re crazy. Not exactly a win.

This is why I hate Walmart

My husband and I ride together most days when we go to work. It’s great for mileage and gas costs, not to mention good company. But we do have a small snag. He likes to be at work really, really early. He likes those quiet morning hours when the phone isn’t ringing and no one is stopping by his desk asking for help putting out a fire (figuratively, not literally. I hope.)

So he likes to be in the office by 6:30 or 7 a.m. at the latest. My work day doesn’t start until 8 a.m. So I’ve become creative in finding ways to fill my time. Mostly, I read in my truck until it’s time to go in. I’ve tried to use this time for writing but the truck is not a good place to use a laptop. Plus, then I have to haul it inside because I don’t want it overheating or freezing in the truck.

It’s also a great time to make a Walmart run. I only go to Walmart when it’s absolutely necessary because I’d rather have toothpicks driven under my fingernails than shop there. For some reason, Walmart brings out the rudeness in people to a level unseen anywhere else. Screaming kids, wayward shopping carts and people taking up the whole aisle while picking out the peanut butter.

There are never enough lines open and self-checkout is only a good thing when you have fewer than ten items – items that are small, but not so light that the checkout machine doesn’t recognize it and shuts down the whole process. And you never seem to be able to find anyone when you need help. The store is huge and it never seems like there are enough people working to help you find something when you can’t figure it out on your own from the vague aisle descriptions.


So while the store is pretty empty of employees before 7 a.m., at least you can search without having to listen to the screaming kids. So I’m OK with being on my own. And I get I’m not going to receive full service this early – I know the pharmacy will be closed and I can’t go to the photo center. But I do expect some basic necessities when shopping. Like being able to pay.

My younger son needed his deer and turkey tags for bowhunting so I went this morning to get them for him. Missouri has these handy heritage cards so all I have to do is hand it to the person behind the sporting good counter, tell him or her the type of tag I want and voila, the tags print out. I pay and am on my merry way.

Normally, I go to the Department of Conservation directly for my tags because it’s a cool place and the people are always super nice, but it doesn’t open until 8 a.m. so I decided to go to Walmart instead of going over my lunch hour to the DOC. That was my mistake.

I had to find an associate to page someone to the sporting good counter, but I was cool with that. I mean, it was only a little after 7 a.m. so I didn’t expect someone there.

The guy who came to help me had a tag that said “department manager,” and seemed nice enough. I handed him the card and he printed out the tag. The problem didn’t hit until it was time to pay. I swiped my debit card and the reader wouldn’t take it. I tried three more times. Nada. He took the card and tried it at the register. Nope. He typed in the number and the reader prompted me for my PIN. I entered it but the system denied it. He said he thought the debit system was down.

I swiped my credit card instead and it said I needed to use the chip reader. I tried using the second slot but it wouldn’t work. I told him I had never used a chip reader before and he told me he didn’t know how to use one either. This is the department manager. And he doesn’t know how the readers work. I’m sure everyone who comes in has this all figured out and never needs help — I’m just the idiot here — so it would be a total waste of time to train department managers on how to use these stupid things. (Insert sarcasm font).

With that no longer an option and me ready to blow a gasket, I took out my checkbook and wrote a check. And he couldn’t get that to work either. Had this been just for me, I would have left. But it was for my kid so I bit my lower lip and tried not to lose it. He kept feeding the check through the feeder and it wouldn’t take. He did this three times before it finally worked. I had to give him my phone number, my driver’s license number and right kidney for my $19 check, all of which could have been avoided had I been able to use my debit card or my credit card but whatever. I was really wishing I had a twenty in my wallet but my next stop was supposed to be the ATM.

He handed me the check with the stuff printed on it, my receipt and the hunting tags and told me to have a nice day. But he said it like he had to, not like he meant it.  I had the impression that he would rather be anywhere but behind that counter. I left before I said something snarky since I would only feel guilty about it later.


And by the way, my debit card worked just fine at the ATM five minutes later. And my older son stopped at Walmart to get his tag not 15 minutes after I did on his way to class and his debit card worked just fine. But the associate helping him was not the same department manager.

This afternoon, I checked my bank account online and no record of the payment. Normally, when they run the check through the reader, it shows up on my account within an hour as pending. Sooo….I have a feeling the debit system wasn’t working at all and he should have kept my check to send to the bank. I had this happen to me at my other least favorite store, Home Depot. (Generally, I’m not a fan of big box stores).

This means if it doesn’t show up in my account within the next few days, I’m going to have to go back to Walmart (stick more toothpicks under my fingernails) to give them the check so I can be an honest person and pay for my tag. And I’m betting finding the single right person I need to talk to about it is going to be a trick. I can’t really just slap my check down and run away.

That’s the difference between a giant corporate entity and a little mom and pop place. It’s why I’d rather pay a few dollars more to have someone who cares. And I don’t think I’m alone. Walmart posted some pretty dismal profits recently. But I live in a small town and in some cases, it’s either Walmart or driving an hour and a half to a bigger city. Sometimes that drive looks pretty darn attractive.

Nearing the Home Stretch

You know how it is when you have your first child and this child is wonderful — sleeps through the night at one month old, is perfectly content to play on his own, eats everything without fuss. Then you have baby #2 and all heck breaks loose — colic, sleepless nights, and temper tantrums?
This is how I would describe my experience with Book 5.
My first four books came fairly easily. I think some of that was due to the fact that when I wrote them I never had any intention of publishing them. So I wrote them just for me — no fear of what anyone else would think. But that’s only a small part of the challenge. I knew from the start Book 5 would be tough.
I can’t say why, really. I knew what it would be about. I knew the arc of the story. But filling in the details was just a major ordeal, balancing the spiritual aspect with the overall narration. I rewrote the ending over and over. I couldn’t quite get all the pieces to come together. At least not in a way that I liked.
That’s one reason my blog has been so silent. I’d turn on the computer and feel guilty blogging when my book was a hot mess. Sometimes, I would just avoid the computer altogether and binge watch some TV show on Netflix instead. Or keep reading the book I picked up from the library. Or even clean the bathroom. Procrastination became an art.


Last night, I finished another read through and was satisfied with the story. Finally. Now comes the editing process, but I think this baby is finally ready to settle in and let me move into the home stretch.
The good news is that I wrote Book 6 before I wrote Book 5 (partially because I was procrastinating). This means that I need to edit it, but it should follow shortly after I publish Book 5.
“In the Presence of My Enemies” should be done by year-end, and I’m hoping Book 6 will be done by Summer 2016. Thanks for your patience and support — I really hope you enjoy them both.

Can Brian Williams salvage his career?

In a word … no.

At least not as the face of NBC News.

Brian Williams got caught fabricating his field coverage of the war in Iraq, which then called into question his coverage of Hurricane Katrina. He danced around his fibs by calling them memory lapses.



So he’s now on unpaid leave and I’m sure the network bigwigs are wringing their hands trying to figure out what to do. Before his gaffe, Williams was pretty popular with those who still tune in to the nightly news. But now? Now, I think he has to step away from his seat at the evening news desk because he broke public trust and without trust a journalist has got nothing.

star trek

Journalism isn’t really about writing. Sure, it helps if you have a good grasp of grammar and vocabulary. But really good journalists aren’t just folks who know how to turn a phrase. They love the truth. They love it so much that they are willing to wade through the muck of politics, brave wars and natural disasters, and sit through hours of courtroom testimony to tell the public what is happening — in most cases for not much money and crappy hours. If the public thinks a journalist is full of it, well, then that reporter better just hang up his or her hat. It’s over.

Trust is a tenuous thing and it’s not easy to get it back. When I started the education beat, the paper I worked for hired a “consultant” to improve our readership score. His big idea was we shouldn’t go to local government meetings. We should follow-up the next day with the people who ran these meetings and find in-depth stories to pursue.

This is one of those things that sounds good in theory but pretty much sucks in real life. As part of this master plan, I was told to deliberately skip out on a school board meeting even though that board was in the midst of upheaval. I called the superintendent the next day and she ran down what happened at the meeting. It was all pretty generic and she didn’t offer much to pursue later. Hmmm….

My very lame followup story ran that afternoon. I was embarrassed when a reader called to chew me out because I had failed to mention the big blow up between board members over an issue that the superintendent had conveniently left out of our conversation. The reader was convinced I was in cahoots with the superintendent and that I’d lied by omission.


I learned a valuable lesson that day. You can bet your backside I was at the next school board meeting to see for myself what was happening. I wasn’t really mad at the superintendent. I mean, would you tell a reporter that your board was in revolt if you didn’t have to? I was mad at myself. I couldn’t really put my name on these stories if all I was going to do was be a mouthpiece for my contacts.  I needed to know the truth.

Truth matters. Whether it’s what you say or what you don’t say. You owe it to your readers to tell the truth of what happened. Not what you would have liked to have happened. Not what sounds sexy or what sells. Just the truth.


The sad thing is that so many journalists today no longer see truth as the duty they carry. From Rolling Stones’ questionable story about a campus rape to reporters using the news for their personal agendas, truth often is no longer the goal. No wonder journalists have found themselves below bankers when it comes to public perception of honesty.

And that’s unfortunate for the future of the Fourth Estate, an industry still in a tailspin in this Internet age. Truth is the commodity that journalists sell; we can’t let a few bad apples spoil it for the rest.




Just what I needed today (yes, that’s sarcasm)

Today at work I got the call that litigation was pending against me.

To be honest, it kind of freaked me out for a minute until my brain caught up with my emotional reaction to the word “lawsuit.” First, the caller had a thick Indian accent, like so thick I couldn’t understand him. But his name was Brandon with a surname that was decidedly American so that was weird.

Then there was the fact that he was calling me at work (I work at a university) but he didn’t know if I was an employee or a student. And he asked me that twice, even though this lawsuit apparently had to do with my time at the university. So that also was weird.

He also said I should have been served papers yesterday – at work no less – which I had not.

Then he started throwing around a lot of scary words like “breach of contract” and “IRS” but even with the language barrier, it did not make a lot of sense. No facts, no dates or parties involved in the suit. I wasn’t even sure what agency he was with, though he was happy to provide a badge number without me even asking.

My Spidey-sense was kicking in at about the same time he asked if I wanted to discuss a settlement over the phone to avoid litigation.



By the time I hung up, I was kind of PO’d. First, I wasted time on this bozo – I’d been headed out for a bathroom break when my phone rang so I also really had to go.

But the thing that made me mad was thinking about the people who fall for this. I mean, it’s scary to hear someone rattle off all these legal terms and dropping the dreaded name of the IRS. So for some little old lady, she might be tempted to hand over her credit card number.

I Googled telephone scams and without putting in any more details, I found that this particular strategy is popular now, threatening lawsuits, arrest and charges of tax evasion in exchange for personal information or payment. Guys and gals overseas can purchase U.S. numbers in the D.C. area, — mine came from the 703 area code — then plug in a Magic Jack to be in business.

It made me feel better to hear stories similar to mine but it was sickening to see how pervasive this scam was. I lump these kinds of scuzzballs in the same category as the geeks who invent malware and viruses to corrupt computers. Please, just get a real job and get a real life. Quit preying on others for your existence. Use your powers for good, not evil.

And please quit calling me at work. At least have the decency to call my cell so I can ignore you properly.

This is a win!

I’ve read a few things in the news lately that have really irritated me, and I’ve had a few possible posts (aka rants) running through my mind. But I read this today and decided to share something positive instead.


I’m not a football fan. Most of the time I couldn’t even tell you which two teams were playing in the big game. But with all the monetary wagers made over this past Sunday’s game, it was really heartwarming to read that this bet would, in fact, only benefit others.

Way to be good role models, Captain America and Star-Lord! :)