Bringing Stephen Home

We interrupt the regularly scheduled writing updates to bring your attention to something close to my heart.

From December 2002 through June 2003, I lived in Ghana, West Africa with a missionary family named the Icenogles. I joined a family of 10 — Steve and Jen with their 2 kids, Steve’s mom, 3 Ghanaian students, and a young mom and her 1-year-old son, Stephen.

Stephen was one of my special little buddies, getting excited every time we saw each other in the kitchen for breakfast and snuggling with me during family nights on Fridays.


Over the last 14 years, a lot has changed for Stephen. His story is shared on the GoFundMe page, Bringing Stephen Home, but long story short is that more than two years ago, the Icenogles adopted Stephen in Ghana, and shortly afterwards, had to move back to the U.S. Since then, they’ve been caught up in the U.S. adoption system and they’ve been unable to bring Stephen home to live with them.

I want to boost the signal for the Icenogles and Stephen, so I’m sharing their story here. I’d love to see him back with the family that loves him so much. Check out Bringing Stephen Home for more information.


On To The Next!

I completely forgot to mention it or update anything concerning Crafting the Badger’s Head until today.

It is done. It has 112,600 words. It still needs to be run through spell checker to catch all of the spellings that I’ve trained myself to ignore when writing a rough draft, but it’s done.

After I finished it, I kinda took some time off mentally from the Sentinels world. I did no writing at all for a while. Then, I wrote a short story for a Mini Contest on the Redwall Survivor Forums and now… on to the next, I suppose.

The Next in this case being… *gulp* Sentinels of Mysera.


I pulled out the notes I got from a content editor 2 years ago (prior to my insane learning experience at Redwall Survivor), as well as notes from my Survivor shipmate, Tooley.

I’m not sure I can make these fixes short and easy on me.

I’m thinking I need to take SoM through Holly Lisle’s How To Revise Your Novel course. Run it through the the grinder which is HTRYN and finish it, once and for all.

I don’t want to, but I need to, because the book is not publishable as it is and I won’t see any further progress on the Sentinels Series until Book #1 is done.

2017 Reading Challenge

I’ve been meaning to work on this post for the last 4 weeks. Each time I sat down to write, I’ve gotten distracted by something else (some of which I hope to talk about later).

I’m once again trying a Reading Challenge. Over the last few years, I’ve done the yearly reading challenges as a way to expand my reading choices. If left to my own devices, I never read anything other than fantasy.

Last year I only got 8 of the 40 books on the list. Part of that was due to being mentally caught up in the Battle of the Bargaws revision, and the other problem was that I didn’t want to start on another book until I’d written a review for the previous one, and I kept putting the reviews off…

This year, I’m not going to worry as much with the reviews, unless there’s a huge outcry that I do them. I’ll do my reading when I wish and if reviews happen, they happen.

In fact, since 2017 started, I’ve already read 7 of the 52 categories on the list and I’m part way through the 8th book.


The 2017 Reading Challenge taped in the back of my Passion Planner

Here’s what I’ve read so far!

  • An audiobook: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
  • A book involving a mythical creature: Hunter by Mercedes Lackey
  • A book with a red spine: A Beauty Refined by Tracie Peterson
  • A book with a title that’s a character’s name: Silhouette by Justin Richards
  • A novel set during wartime: Wrath by John Gwynne
  • A book with pictures: Legendary Locals of Bozeman by Rachel Phillips and the Gallatin History Museum
  • The first book in a series you haven’t read before: A Treasure Concealed by Tracie Peterson

As always, I’m open for suggestions for anything on the list that hasn’t been read. Please comment with any books you’d recommend for the challenge. There’s still plenty of time to jump in to the 2017 Reading Challenge. Let me know if you’re joining me and what you’re reading, too!

The Skin I’m In

I think I was about 5 or 6 the first time I got the funny red bumps all over my body. Various friends and family thought I had measles or mumps or something terrible and contagious. I didn’t.

It was my first bout with psoriasis.

Psoriasis is a genetic skin disorder where the skin cells regenerate many times faster than normal, creating red patches and spots. There are multiple different types of psoriasis, though when I was a child, I was diagnosed with guttate psoriasis. Since then I’ve self-diagnosed myself with several others, based on research done via the internet.

Guttate psoriasis is what I’ve struggle with most of my life. If I got sick with strep throat, my skin would break out within a couple weeks. After that, I would make regular trips to my dermatologist, slather multiple ointments on my skin, take many baths in tar-smelling stuff, and eventually have my skin return to normal. I had 3 different bouts that I can remember, at approximately 6, 12, and 16 years old. The psoriasis flare-up I had at 16 was by far the worse and changed how my body reacted to the ointments forever.

I’d been very sick that winter, with two bouts of strep and a couple of the flu. By the turn of the new year, I had huge patches of psoriasis on my body, not just little spots. My lower legs were almost completely covered in red, itchy, dry, scaly patches. Every visit to the dermatologist gave me more ointments and medicines to try and I took multiple different vitamin supplements, all to no avail. We tried tanning booths and UV treatments, until the doctor roasted me in the UV booth, after which I stopped seeing him.

It wasn’t until the days grew longer and the sun was out more that I actually saw some results. For whatever reason, natural sunlight is the closest thing to a cure that has ever worked on me.

Over the years, I’ve learned to deal with it. I’ve found one vitamin supplement that helps, and being pregnant and nursing actually cleared my skin up completely, but other than that, my elbows are always patchy with psoriasis and I always have several large patches, between a quarter to an egg in diameter, on my legs.

Back in October 2016, my whole family got sick with strep. Every single one of us. We all got on penicillin and I went on, thinking that since I’d had psoriasis almost constantly for the last 16 years, that the strep wouldn’t make any difference.

Boy, was I wrong.

I started noticing one day that my face felt really dry. REALLY dry. Painfully so. I went in the bathroom to put on some moisturizer and actually stopped and looked at myself in the mirror. My face was blotchy, scaly, and red. After a moment of close examination, I realized that it looked like psoriasis. Practically overnight, my body completely broke out. The patches on my legs spread to cover almost my entire lower legs. My arms grew similar patches. Hundreds of small spots appeared on my upper legs and torso, many growing bigger than quarter size in a few days. No part of my body was spared. But the worse, by far, was my face, the only part that I couldn’t cover up and hide. My skin was red, swollen, dry and peeling.

Self esteem tanked. I didn’t want to leave the house. I didn’t want anyone to see me. Nearly every time I did go out, someone commented on my face. I hurt. I felt ugly. And I saw no end in sight.

Then I had family come along to help me out. My sister, who recently started a skin care home based business, got one of her skin treatments to me. My in-laws paid for me to see a dermatologist and get some of my old, familiar ointment.

I have to say, my sister’s stuff works better than anything I’ve ever tried before. She had me take a before picture and then I took another one 30 days later and the results were staggering. She posted them on Facebook and now I’ve become a small celebrity among her business partners and their Facebook friends, with multiple people asking permission to share my before-and-after picture. It’s rather funny, but I still flinch every time I see that before picture.

I’m tempted to use the face stuff on the rest of my body, to see if it would heal the other parts, too, because even the doctor-recommended medicine isn’t clearing me up nearly as fast as I’d like. Or I may have to wait until the sun shines a bit more and I don’t risk frostbite by going outside in a t-shirt (seriously, it was -26 degrees here recently).

That’s my story of the skin I’m in.

Holiday Ne’er Do Wells

I think I nearly got robbed this week.

I saw a Facebook post a couple days ago from our local police department. It was warning residents of “holiday ne’er do wells” who were going through mailboxes to steal gifts sent via mail. I took note and went on with my day.

Then I was feeding my three kids lunch, preparing for an afternoon homework and piano lessons. I glanced up and out my big front windows and saw a man coming up my sidewalk. He wasn’t wearing any delivery uniform, so I assumed he was a solicitor of some sort. He came onto the porch and passed out of view behind our front door.

I waited for the knock, ready to open the door.

No knock.

No knock.

So, I just opened the door and said, “Hi.”

My husband’s snowboard, which had been sitting next to the front door, was in the guy’s hands. He swiftly put it down. “Um, hi. What time is it?”

His question caught me off guard and I half started to turn away to check a clock, then decided against it. “About 1:30,” I said, making my best guess.

“Thanks,” he said and hustled off my porch and across the yard. As I watched, a car rounded the corner and pulled in front of my house. The man ran to the car, jumped in, and they sped off.

I pulled my phone out of my pocket with shaky hands and called 911.

Oh, and I moved the snowboard into the house, just in case.

Tears on my Christmas Tree

We put the decorations on our Christmas tree the other day. It’s been sitting in our house for over a week now, but we were all too sick to decorate. Kids were finally better, so we dug out the boxes of decorations.

I love opening the box of Christmas ornaments. It’s a tradition going back 30+ years for me now. Remembering all those Christmases with my parents and sisters, pulling out the box and putting up our ornaments. My parents gave us all an ornament every year, something that reflected our year. I remember when I went through my horse phase, or the year all of us kids were into Rugrats, or the year I got my cat Deja.

Now there others. The pair of wedding bears given to my husband and me on our first Christmas after we got married. The little wooden nativity from my sister, which she picked up in Jerusalem. Three sets of “Baby’s First Christmas.”

It’s a yearly time capsule.

It was fun watching my kids put up ornaments on the tree, helping my six-year-old find her small collection, and keeping the twins from breaking anything too precious. We cleared a layer, and went onto the next.

And my eyes brimmed with tears.

There’s a simple little ornament. A sea shell one. It’s a big shell, slathered in sloppy glops of gold glitter, with little shells stuck to it, tied with a blue ribbon. I’ve always kind of liked it. It was so much like the little boy who made it for me, the first year I was his teacher. A crazy mess that didn’t quite seem to fit, yet, drew light and attention. It made me smile when I got it, because it was so him. It’s made me smile every year when it goes on the tree.

This year though, it made me cry.

Because that boy isn’t here for Christmas this year.

There’s a lot of happy memories on my tree. There’s a lot of good times.

There’s tears now, too. In the shape of a golden sea shell.

Day 30 – NaNoWriMo 2016

Day 23: 2589

Day 24: 856

Day 25: 3266

Day 26: 1769

Day 27: 2299

Day 28: 4185

Day 29: 271

Day 30: 414

Final Total for NaNoWriMo 2016: 63,797

Only a few hours remain for NaNoWriMo 2016, but I’m for bed after a long day. I hit 50,000 on Day 23, tying last year for my quickest NaNo win. I wanted to see if I could beat last year’s number of words and finish out Crafting the Badger’s Head, but these last few days conspired against me with a puking child and then a trip to my daughter’s eye doctor for her post-op checkup.

Crafting the Badger’s Head is close to being complete. I’ve got four major scenes that need to be written, and one of them I know for sure is going to be a doozy. I still have 15 plot cards to cover. According to my original estimation, that would give me another 15,000 words at the very least. Potentially more, seeing how I’m running long on my scene average this year. I may break 100,000 with this one!

All in all, it was a good month. One of the things I love about NaNoWriMo is that if you set out with a will to hit that 1667 words each day, by the end of the month, you’ve established a writing habit for yourself that, with discipline, you can keep going with for many weeks to come. I needed NaNo to help me refocus my writing once more and get me in the habit of writing every day again. I’ll probably continue my current habits until Crafting the Badger’s Head is finished, then I think I will drop back to writing 5 days a week with 2 days off, so I don’t burn myself out too quickly.

After this draft is done, it’ll be back to Tales of Mysera and Sentinels of Mysera. I’ve got a plan for those now and, by golly, I’m going to get them done this time.