December 13, 2018

Girl on Mission 4

On Tuesday I had an appointment with my shrink, and when I mentioned my upcoming missions trip she went on a tirade about how much she loathed India. She said it's the most depressingly horrible place she's ever visited. She then stated someone like me will be absolutely miserable. Not uncomfortable or challenged, but absolutely miserable. All this from a professional who's entire job is to help keep my anxiety in check.

She's not the first person to say something slightly less than encouraging. Just this morning someone I don't even know said, "I hope you have an iron stomach. A friend of mine went on a missions trip there and had bad GI symptoms the whole time. Still had a good time, though."

Still had a good time, though ...

Every day a new challenge hits me in the gut. Like the amount of medication I'm having to ingest. If you know me, then you know I'm super weird about pharmaceuticals. It's taken me years to surrender to anti-depressants. I can't tell you how much I suffered from heavy, suicidal darkness because I refused to be "a pawn of the pharmaceutical companies" or to "poison my body."

Anyway, this...  (not including the hep-a shot that gave me a rash)

I know I sound like baby. But that's my point! I'm a huge baby. I prefer the luxury of my comfort zone rather than the vast unknown. But I heard the call. The relentlessly loving and challenging call of God that's impossible to ignore ...

Somewhere deep in my heart, I know this trip will be amazing. Spending time with fellow Christians in one of the toughest, most harrowing places will be an enormous blessing. Helping those orphans will be an even larger blessing.

And if I die from malaria or cholera or typhoid at least I will have gone out reaching my goal weight.

December 1, 2018

Girl on Mission 3

So ... last night my husband just out of the blue starts playing a movie without consulting me or having any sort of discussion/argument. I found this odd since we usually spend at least an hour scrolling through our lists on Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, making sure we're selecting the best possible movie ever made by anyone ever.

I grabbed the remote, hitting pause, and asked, "What's this movie even about?"

I know I sound controlling and annoying, but we've had some "issues" with my husband's movie picks in the past, i.e. He Never Died and The Boy and His Dog. He's been put on movie-picking probation on a few occasions. He openly admits some of his choices have been questionable. Some have been dreadful. And he's an editor, guys.


He tells me, "It's a movie about missionaries who went into the Amazon during the 1950s. It's called The End of the Spear."

"Ugh. Is it a documentary?"

I mean, you really have to be in the mood for those.


I settled down and said, okay, fine. Why not? I'm going to India in 28 days, maybe this flick will inspire me. It's based on a true story. I've been talking about the Amazon for a while. Not because I want to go there (Dad), but because it's fascinating and enormous and they've found the ruins of ancient cities tucked away under the dense canopy of trees.


About a third of the way into the movie, the missionaries finally make first contact with the native tribe they've been trying to meet with for years.

And then this happens:


All five of the missionaries are killed. The End.

No, that's not really the end. It was actually a beautiful story about how the wives and children went back and lived with the tribe, teaching them about a loving God who doesn't want us to kill each other.

I woke up laughing at my husband's either ironic sense of support or his cluelessness. Look, I'm not worried about getting killed. Come on, I'm not that hyperbolic. But I am worried about the trip--like having explosive diarrhea and dying of malaria--and would like to be encouraged rather than terrified. 

So, if you have any movie recommendations where people don't die, let me know!

Already on list even though I've already seen:
- Slumdog Millionaire
- Lion 

Again, if it's on your heart to donate to this trip, here's the link. Otherwise, keep on praying for me!

November 24, 2018

Girl on Mission 2

I sent out my fundraising letters and people are starting to donate, so there's no turning back. I'm going to India.

Over Thanksgiving, I was worried about engaging in conversations. First of all, I'm not a fan of verbal expression. Second of all, I have zero filter so if you ask me a question you're getting the whole truth. I really didn't want to talk about my writing or what's next. And I didn't want to talk about my weirdo missions trip to India because I was convinced my non-Christian friends would not be interested.

But they were!

Everyone I talked to beamed with excitement. They assured me it's going to be life-changing. Friends who have gone. Friends who haven't. So that was encouraging.

Meanwhile, there's my father ...

God love him and his big Italian heart. The man still calls me "his little girl." FYI - I'm old. He's always been over-protective of his kiddos. But for some reason he singled me out. It might have something to do with a dream he had about me dying before my fifth birthday. I'm pretty sure we're probably in the clear. But he worries. So. Much. Worrying.

Regardless of his neurosis, he's supported everything about me (with the exception of a couple categorically horrible decisions in the late 90s). Yet, he worries. About everything. Like me dying before my fifth birthday ...

So, for the next month I can look forward to these sort of messages from my father.

Note: he uses phone dictation, so many of his messages are difficult to decipher.

November 21, 2018

Girl on Mission

So ... I'm going on my very first missions trip this December. To India. The slums of India. Me, the OCD queen, neurotic to the core, control freak, highly sensitive to every single thing, manic depressive. I'm going to a place with A LOT going on as far as an abundance of people, smells, noises, people, germs, humidity, people ...

To be perfectly honest, I really don't want to go. I've never ever wanted to go to India. Even when I was reading Eat, Pray, Love I was like, when is she going back to Italy? But I heard God's call on my heart and He's hard to ignore. Thanks, God!

I'm going with a team of 5 - 6 people. We're visiting the slums of Mumbai and meeting with fellow missionaries to give support and encouragement. Then we're going south to Kerala to visit India Evangelical Mission's campus to spend time with orphans at the Children's Home. 
Between bouts of diarrhea and fits of malaria scares, I'll be spreading God's love to people who need it badly. Sharing my testimony of how loving Jesus has transformed me (by 32%).

To say I'm nervous about this trip is an understatement. I'm kind of terrified. And my left arm is killing me from the Hep-A shot I got yesterday! I have to take typhoid and malaria pills. You guys! Last week, I thought I was dying because I had a stupid cold that wouldn't go away. This is whole next-level shit, right here.

By the way, I signed up for this... 

It's becoming increasingly clear I'll have to rely on God for strength and endurance and divine protection. I don't think this trip could've come at a better time. I'm in a tough season with my writing. My hope tank is empty. Most days I feel like I'm just bidding time until I die and go to heaven to be with Jesus. This sounds horrible. No wonder I'm depressed.

Over the years, I've rarely blogged about my faith or my relationship with Jesus because I feared what other people would think. But what is so wrong about loving Jesus and wanting to share his boundless love with others? This love is so powerful it can change hearts and lives. I've seen this happen in my own life. Right now, not so much. But I'm hoping this trip changes my heart. I'm hoping it breaks me so far out of my comfort zone there's no turning back.

Check back for updates on this crazy Christian's mission from God ...

If your heart is telling you to donate, below is the link. Please put my name in the comments section so we know who you are supporting. Link to fundraising page:

October 5, 2018

Adventures in Querying Literary Agents

A year ago I made the decision to step away from self-publishing. After four years and sixteen novels, I was burnt to a crisp. It was fun for a little while, especially when I was bringing in money. Who doesn't love money?

I didn't step away from writing because that would be suicide to my soul. I started writing in junior high, filling up spiral notebooks and reading my stories to classmates. Spiral notebooks were the blogs of the 80s. I did, however, decide it was time to switch from dystopian fiction and fantasy and go back to my love of darker, realistic contemporary fiction. 

My latest book, This Isn't Happening, is loosely based on my teen years and what it's like living with an addicted parent. It's not a story about bitterness or resentment. It's a story about one girl's struggle with shame and paranoia and her inability to share what's going on. And it's redemptive. Because who doesn't love redemption?

I've been shopping the manuscript with agents since July. I've sent out 67 query letters and have one more batch of 21 agents to hit up. The rest are closed to submissions or didn't fit my genre, otherwise I would've hit my goal of 100 letters. To date, I've received 37 rejections. Yes, that number is correct. Some rejections weren't form letters but exceeded the agent's noted response time, and I'm considering those passes.

You think by now I would've walked into oncoming traffic or given up. But nope. This isn't my first gilly ride. I sent my first round of query letters for a children's book idea back in 1993. I had NO clue what I was doing and after a few rejections I hit the pause button and went into advertising. In 2005, equipped with some knowledge of the industry, I sent more queries for a humor book I wrote. I ended up self-publishing that book and some personal essays. In 2011, after years of toiling over my memoir, I sent out more query letters to no avail. And rightly so, it was a retched downer with zero story line. To my poor writing group who suffered through months of my pages, I deeply apologize.

When the writing coach I hired told me the memoir would never work, I dropped it and focused on a science fiction idea I had about people living in a city they didn't know was actually a prison for human breeding. Uplifting it was not. But dystopian fiction usually isn't. Before going down the traditional publishing route again, I devoted my time researching how to self-publish. I pretty much have the equivalent of a master's degree on the subject. In 2013, I self-published that book and several more, thus bringing us up to date.

I'm currently existing in a place I lovingly call "Query Hell." That's what it feels like sometimes. I'm unabashedly certain that nobody enjoys this part of the process. It's brutal. Drafting one paragraph that's supposed to sell your 70,000 word novel is enough to send you into a spiral of madness. But when the rejections start coming, good Lord, you begin questioning your entire existence and reason for living. A bit dramatic, but I am a writer.

I don't say this to discourage anyone from writing. I'm actually hoping to encourage you. Do you see the pattern?  

I still keep writing no matter what.

I also know it doesn't get easier, even for authors with the success I dream about. I know because they tell me. It's continuously stressful and competitive because after you get an agent, you still have to sell your story to the publishers, and years later that book has to sell to an audience. It's pretty much a never-ending cycle of torture. Except for the writing part. Although that's debatable for some. 

I wrote This Isn't Happening because I had something to say. I wrote about something many people don't want to talk about but really need to. Especially in the midst of an opioid epidemic. There are teenagers out there -- right this second -- who feel alone and anxiety-ridden and helpless. My story gives a glimpse of hope. And who doesn't love hope?

Even if the only people who ever get to read this book are the beta readers, that's okay. I know enough to know I must keep moving forward. I'm already working on the next novel. It's dark and twisted and borderline crazy-making. And I love everything about it. 

I'll keep you posted on my adventures in querying.

Until then ...

Keep writing. It saves lives.