The official blog of author Jean Marie Bauhaus

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Breaking the Ice

Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash and has nothing to do with the post. I just like it.

It’s always hard to start again, or to know what to say, after a long break from the blog, especially an unplanned break. But I guess sometimes the best thing is to just dive in and start and let the words come as they may.

So, long story short, all our plans and projects got put on hold at the end of May when our landlords let us know they wanted to sell the house. Since then our lives have mostly centered around getting and keeping approval for financing, hunting (unsuccessfully, so far) for an affordable home that includes our nonnegotiables and also meets the extremely stringent standards of our financing program, and packing everything we don’t need to live. And let me tell you, this is not a good time to be shopping for a home. Especially when the only loan you could qualify for won’t cover manufactured homes or fixer-uppers and finding a move-in ready house within a budget you’re comfortable with is next to impossible. And every time we think we’ve discovered such a unicorn, it turns out to have some fatal flaw that disqualifies it.

And ’round and ’round we go.

Houses aren’t the only thing I’ve been hunting for. I’m also on the hunt for more freelance writing clients, so that we’ll be able to afford the monthly payments on this loan that keeps forcing us to increase our budget. Really, if I could find just one or two more big brand content marketing clients on the level of my current clientele, who could give me just a couple of assignments a month, we’d be set without me having to take on a ton of extra work. So that’s what I’m hoping for. But I’m also kicking around the idea of offering special rate packages for small biz/startups. I can see some benefits in going that route, such as a more consistent and predictable writing schedule instead of being handed assignments at random, but I can see a lot of potential drawbacks, too. So I’m reluctant to go that route if I don’t need to.

And I’m also trying to muster up the motivation to pitch articles to paying publications. I just really hate pitching and I don’t want to.

But that’s not all! What else am I on the hunt for?

An agent.

Yes, you read that right.

Being forced to step back from all my self-publishing plans for this year got me to reevaluate things. If you’ve been here long, then you may recall how a couple of years ago I had a bit of an existential crisis (didn’t we all?) around whether I even still wanted to be a fiction author, because while I still love the writing part, I kind of hate the author part and all that it entails. But I realized in these last months that it’s not so much a question of being an author, as it is being an indie author, which has been nothing but a struggle for me.

And as much as I had some issues with my previous traditional publishing experience, it definitely provided some benefits, not the least of which was that it provided structure and the external pressure of being contractually obligated to keep my deadlines. As much as I hated writing to someone else’s schedule, I realize now that I need that external pressure and accountability to keep me focused and motivated. As you’ve seen with all my delays trying to finish my Dominion trilogy, I’m terrible at keeping deadlines I set for myself. My brain just sees them as suggestions and feels free to ignore them.

Rude!

So I’ve decided to seek representation for my Christian romance novel. I’ve got my dream agent all picked out, and some backups in case she’s not interested, and I’m working on putting together my proposal. Currently I’m proofreading my manuscript and making notes on what to include in the synopsis, and then I’ll need to draft said synopsis. And then it will be ready to send. And when I think about sending it I panic a little and just want to go back to my self-publishing plan, but then I shake it off and press on.

Which is another reason I’m doing this. I realized that the biggest reason I decided to self-publish in the first place was because I was afraid of rejection. When I saw the shiny new tool called KDP that people were using to publish their books, I said, “You mean I can skip all of the pain and humiliation of submissions and just put my book out there where it can find its fans?” And my rejection-sensitive self said, “Woohoo! Sign me up!”

But in those days, self-publishing was much less competitive and it was easy to find fans and make a little money. But now in order to succeed, it takes a set of skills I don’t possess and can’t muster, like the ability to write and release a book a month and to be incredibly genre-savvy when it comes to covers and marketing.

I really struggle with genre-appropriate covers, and I’m never going to be a speed writer or rapid releaser.

Also, if I’m being completely honest with myself, being a self-published author was never Young Jean’s dream. That dream got hijacked by Tired, Anxiety-ridden, Rejection-sensitive, Middle-aged Jean. I think it’s time to get out of the way and give Young Jean her shot at her dream. Even if the publishing landscape has drastically changed since she had visions of (Stephen) King-sized royalty advance checks dancing in her head.

So I’m going for it, is what I’m saying. And if it doesn’t work out, KDP will still be there.

So that’s where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to. But as all these hunts stretch on without bagging any game, to stretch the metaphor, I’m getting antsy. My brain is itching for some creative work, and it feels like it’s gearing up for something, but at the same time I feel overwhelmed and unmotivated. I’m feeling like it might be about time to start working on a novel, but I can’t decide which. The second romance I started in the spring? The urban fantasy horror I started in 2020 (…or was it 2019?) that I’ve been harping about for ages but lately I haven’t been feeling so inspired about? Or the YA gothic romance that’s been perking in my brain for the last several years, which kind of feels like it’s the one screaming the loudest for attention? The indecision is paralyzing me. See what I mean about needing structure and the external pressure of contractual obligations?

For now I’m not forcing anything, but I’ve been taking in a lot of productivity advice that’s specifically geared toward my ADHD brain and working on developing better systems that will help me stay on track. I’ve pretty much just relied on both my bullet journal and fitting work into the rhythms of my day for the last several years, and while that has worked well at times, there’ve been times (like this current season) where it hasn’t worked so well, and there’s definitely room for improvement.

So I’m giving some other tools a try. One of those is keeping a weekly calendar. I’ve always shied away from keeping a schedule or a calendar, because it makes me anxious when I don’t keep it perfectly, or feeling like I have to work on a certain thing at a certain time if my brain just doesn’t feel up to it or is inspired to work on something else. But I’m coming to realize a few things, which are probably super obvious to all of you:

1. My bujo is great for making plans, but not for visually displaying those plans where I can easily see it mapped out, which usually means my plan for the week derails after a couple of days because I forget what all I wanted to accomplish.

2. Calendars are for capturing and displaying a visual map of your plan that can help keep things on track.

3. Calendars — and plans — are changeable. Nothing is set in stone. A plan is an ideal, and a calendar reflects that ideal, but both are subject to reality, and as such, are flexible.

It’s that last item that was my biggest AHA! moment. I can change or move things around on my schedule, or erase them completely, just like I do in my bujo, and that’s okay. I don’t have to feel guilty about it. Putting a task on my schedule for Wednesday just means that Monday Jean thought it would be a good idea to tackle that task on that day, but Wednesday Jean is free to disagree.

More important than what I do on which day is that I’m trying to shift things around so that I can have two solid blocks of uninterrupted time each day to do deep work. But also recognizing that sometimes that deep work will look like just sitting and thinking or like taking in ideas and refueling, because I’ll burn out if I just try to do output all the time.

I think a more structured daily and weekly rhythm is what I’m going for. I’ll let you know how it goes.

So does any of this mean I’m going to be blogging regularly again? I don’t know. I would like to. But with so much uncertainty and upheaval in this season of my life, I’m not committing to anything. At some point, Lord willing, we’re going to find a house, and then we’ll have to finish packing and move and unpack and all the things. But as long as we’re stuck in house-hunting limbo, I might as well try to be productive at something and give my poor, neglected creative brain something to do before it atrophies from disuse.

I’ll let you know when I figure out what that something is.

The Armor of God and the War on Our Emotions

Image by Nadine Doerlé from Pixabay

I was originally going to title this post “The War on Frequencies and the Armor of God,” in response to the video I’ll share below. The first part of this post is going to focus on why I made the change.

I’ve become something of a fan of Dr. Laura Sanger, who is featured in the video, from her appearances on the Blurry Creatures podcast (possibly, weirdly, one of the most important podcasts of our time, and I’m not being hyperbolic). I have an enormous amount of respect for her abilities as a researcher and the way her mind works to put things together — not to mention her courage in sharing the things she finds that could get her into heap big trouble.

So when I first heard her on Blurry Creatures discussing the topic of the below video, I did a lot of nodding along. It all made sense, and I was intrigued enough to visit her YouTube channel and hear more on the subject. And based on that video, I was inspired with a lot of thoughts on how it all related to the armor of God in Ephesians 6. I outlined my thoughts in my journal, but before I could get around to turning said outline into an article, I got what I can only define as a check in my spirit that I needed to do my due diligence and “test the spirits” by taking a more careful look at some of her claims and where they were sourced from.

In both her video and blog post, she makes this claim:

“Thanks to the growing field of quantum physics, we know that all matter has frequency. In fact, every cell in our body carries a frequency, it’s the vibration of life. But not only does matter have frequency, emotions have frequencies as well.”

Even the first time I heard her on the podcast, I had some reservations about her use of frequencies and vibrations, which struck me as New Age concepts. The supposed tie to quantum physics seemed to give this concept some legitimacy, though, and I wanted to keep an open mind and not be knee-jerk dismissive. But then I almost went too far the other way and let myself believe that since a knowledgeable Christian whom I respect was saying this, then it must be true and spiritually safe. I’m glad I decided to listen to that check in my spirit, instead.

In support of this claim, she cites a video by Dr. Joe Dispenza, a supposed expert in the quantum vibrations created by our emotions and their impact on our overall health and wellbeing.

A bit of digging turned up that Dr. Dispenza is, in fact, a New Age chiropractor and self-help author of such books as “Becoming Supernatural,” which is all about how we can combine principles of quantum theory with “ancient wisdom” and New Age practices to step outside our physical reality and transcend our physical limitations.

Yikes.

So I decided to see if there was some actual scientific research out there regarding quantum theory, emotions, and vibrational frequencies.

The best I could do was several studies showing that frequency of positive and negative emotions — as in, how often they occur — impact both our mental and physical health. FrequentLY occuring negative emotions can have lasting negative impact on our health, and vice versa. Negative emotions cause stress that has both physiological and neurological impacts on our hormones and biological systems. That’s an established scientific fact. It’s also common sense.

But try as I might, I couldn’t dig up any actual studies regarding emotional frequency in the vibrational sense. And when I went spelunking for some scientific evidence tying quantum theory to emotions and to frequencies and vibrations in the human body, all I landed on were New Age websites and sources — and this Quora thread of actual physicists and experts on quantum mechanics saying that these claims are pseudoscientific nonsense that have nothing to do with actual quantum physics. So take that as you will.

I’m pointing all of this out by way of disclaimer, because despite the fact that Dr. Sanger unfortunately, and unnecessarily (and probably also unwittingly), felt the need to reach for unscientific New Age explanations to support her point, I still agree with her point, and think that just about everything else she’s saying in this video is spot on. Which is why I’m still sharing it and encouraging you to watch it.

But I’m also highlighting all of this to make my own point, which is how crucial it is in this day and age to be a Berean and to test everything. We can’t just stop at, “I like this person and what they’re saying sounds plausible, so I’m going to just trust them and go with it.” Where are they getting their information? What’s the primary source? What’s the motivation or agenda behind that source? Is this easily debunked? And etc. Not to mention, “How does this line up with scripture?” But as I’ve learned the hard way, that last question can’t be the only criterion, because the Enemy knows scripture, and knows how to use it to deceive us into believing his lies. And it is SO easy right now for even the most Biblically literate and spirit-led Christian to unknowingly walk right into this kind of trap if we’re not careful.

With all of that said, here’s the video.

What she’s calling a war on frequencies is what I would instead call a war on our emotions — and I 100 percent agree that this is, in fact, a war that’s being waged on us by both our spiritual enemies and the human agents aligned with their agenda. Vibrational frequencies aside, she’s absolutely correct that keeping us perpetually locked in a state of fear and/or outrage is wearing us down, damaging our health, and making us easier to manipulate and control, as well as easier to kill.

I heard another podcast recently — the exact show and episode escapes me at the moment — in which they were talking about how spiritual warfare is a war of attrition, in which the enemy’s aim is to wear us down until we give up and surrender. What better or more effective way to do that than to keep us confused, angry and afraid?

And that’s where the armor of God comes in.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. – Ephesians 6:10-13

In those studies I mentioned above, as would make sense, the reverse is also true: frequently-experienced positive emotions, like love, joy, peace, gratitude, and so on, have healing effects on both our minds and bodies and a positive impact on our overall health. In light of that, it’s interesting that the armor and weapons we’re given in scripture to combat spiritual attacks seem designed to pull us out of negative thought spirals and get us into a more positive and hopeful frame of mind. Let’s look at what the armor of God entails:

The belt of truth – with ancient Roman armor, which was undoubtedly Paul’s model, the belt fastened around the waist and provided support for the heavy breastplate and the shield, as well as holding the sheath for the sword. Without this belt, the rest of the armor wouldn’t function. What is the belt? It’s the unchanging, unwavering, objective truth of God’s word.

Elsewhere, in Philippians 4:8, Paul provides a list of positive attributes to set our minds on in order to maintain internal peace. The first of these is “whatever is true.” The Enemy’s favorite mode of attack is to hurl lies at us — often very convincing lies. In order to effectively fight off such attacks, it’s imperative that we seek out the truth and saturate our minds with God’s word, which combats anxiety-inducing lies, replaces them with peace, and without which the rest of our armor will fail.

The breastplate of righteousness – There’s a corollary to this in 1 Thessalonians 5:8, where Paul instructs us to put on the breastplate of faith and love. “Faith” is the Greek word pistis, which can mean faith as in belief or trust, but can also mean faithfulness, as in fidelity or loyalty. So our breastplate, which guards our hearts, is our righteousness in Christ, which consists of trust in God, loyalty to him, and love for him and for others.

It’s hard to be angry and outraged all the time when you’re trusting God and walking in love.

The shoes of the readiness given by the gospel of peace – This is generally seen as being in a state of readiness to share the gospel, and sure, it can mean that. But sharing the gospel is an offensive move against the enemy, and armor is defensive equipment. I think this is more about the stability we receive from the peace brought by the gospel, the confidence we have in Christ, which makes us ready to stand and fight. God’s supernatural peace gives us stability that keeps us from being knocked back or blown over by the Enemy’s attacks.

How do we get that peace? Phillipians 4:4-7:

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 rdo not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication twith thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

It’s also important to note the verb tense regarding these items of armor:

14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.

In the Greek, it’s even more clear that the verb communicates a state of having already done something. As far as these first three items go, these are things we are to maintain and keep fitted on at all times so that we’re always ready for battle.

But then we’re told to take up the shield of faith and to take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, implying that these are things we grab hold of and make use of in the time of need. Let’s look at each of them.

The shield of faith – Again, this is pistis, which can mean both believing faith and faithfulness. Another way to look at faithfulness is obedience. So we take up our shield, which can extinguish every fiery arrow the enemy launches at us, by trusting and obeying God and his word. Which we’re told to do in every circumstance.

Funny thing — fear propaganda doesn’t really work on you when you’re trusting God with your whole heart and walking in obedience to Him.

The helmet of salvation – Again, 1 Thessalonians 5:8 fleshes this out a little bit — there Paul says the helmet is the hope of our salvation. Being secure in your salvation in Christ produces an unwavering sense of hope that guards your mind from the despair the Enemy keeps trying to put on you.

Looking around right now, in early May of 2022, this world looks really freakin’ hopeless. It would be so easy to fall into despair and be riddled with anxiety and depression — which is just what the Enemy wants. But we know our hope is not in this life. We know all of this has been prophesied and we know how it will end. We know our ultimate destiny, and that our lives are in God’s hands, and nothing and nobody can snatch us out of them. We know Jesus is coming. And we will not lose hope.

Finally, we’re given an offensive weapon:

The sword of the Spirit – The full line reads, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.”

When the Bible mentions the word of God, it tends to use two different words: Logos and Rhema. It’s often taught that “logos” means the written word and “rhema” means the spoken word, but that’s not actually correct. More accurately, rhema is the words themselves, and logos is the meaning or message that they convey.

The Greek word used here is rhema. The sword of the Spirit — the weapon He wields on our behalf when we lean on Him in the battle — is scripture. Any part of the totality of God’s logos is an effective weapon against the attacks of the Enemy.

Just look at how Jesus fought off Satan when he was tempted in the wilderness. How did he respond to Satan’s attacks? “It is written,” followed by scripture. Again and again and again.

But then it goes on to say, “praying at all times in the spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” So our sword is two-fold: scripture and prayer. Citing scripture–speaking the truth of God’s word into the Enemy’s lies–and praying are both offensive moves against the Enemy, which put him/them on the defensive and make them flee.

What does it mean to pray “in the Spirit”? Some will say this means praying in tongues. I reject that teaching. Regardless of what you believe about the gift of tongues, Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians that not all believers receive the gift of tongues. If praying in the Spirit meant praying in tongues, then that would mean only those gifted with tongues, or languages, would be able to access and wield the sword of the Spirit.

I believe instead that praying in the Spirit means to check ourselves before we pray to make sure we’re not quenching the Spirit’s ability to work in and through us because of unconfessed sin or unforgiveness–both of which can hinder our prayers. Prayer’s not a very effective weapon if it’s not even reaching God because we’re all up in our flesh instead of walking in the Spirit.

Taken all together, what we have is a highly effective set of tools for combating this barrage of attacks on our emotions that’s so clearly intended to keep us angry, divided, fearful, sick, worn down and exhausted. Putting on the armor of God means walking in His truth, abiding in His love, laying hold of His peace, and basking in His hope. And let’s not forget thanksgiving, which brings us supernatural peace and contentment in the midst of even the most dire circumstances.

Or as Paul put it more succinctly to the Thessalonians (1 Thess 5:16-18), “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances.”

This is how we lay hold of victory in this spiritual war against our emotions, our health, our freedom, and our very lives.

Three Rebellions, Two Babies, and One Ultimate Solution

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I felt moved to write this a while back. It’s my understanding of the overarching narrative of the Bible, centered around the gospel, and why the gospel–why Jesus–is so needed. This Good Friday seemed like an appropriate time to post it. If you’re reading this, I hope it ministers to you.

And remember as you read–however much the darkness currently seems to be winning, Sunday’s on the way.

***

Eons ago, in the eternal past, the eternal God, Yahweh, the great I Am, for reasons known only to himself, decided to make a family for himself. He created a race of beings that we know by different names – angels, watchers, elohim, sons of God – and he created a universe for them to inhabit and have stewardship over. Like any good parent, Yahweh involved his children in his work and plans and delegated power and authority and responsibilities to them.

But he wasn’t done. He decided to create a second set of children, different from the first, crafted out of the dust of the earth, made in his image and filled with the breath of his Spirit. He first prepared a planet just for them – or rather, for us – and within that planet he prepared a special place. A garden, set upon a holy mountain that intersected with his abode in Heaven, where his human and angelic children could co-exist and have fellowship with him. He gave his new kids dominion over the earth, charging them with its stewardship and with governing it.

But there was a problem. It was a problem that Yahweh had foreseen and planned for before his first creation. In order to be made in his image and have true fellowship with him, his children must all be given free will and agency. The problem is that free will can’t exist without the potential for disobedience, rebellion and sin.

Sure enough, one of his chief angels became full of himself and grew jealous of God and his newest creation, and he rebelled. And when he saw God’s new children and the special place we’d been given, he hatched a scheme to spoil it by tempting these new children to disobey the one command they’d been given.

Sin entered the world, and with it violence and corruption and death and destruction and decay. Generations later, more angels grew jealous and rebelled by coming to earth and further corrupting humanity, not content just to lead us into sinful, destructive practices but corrupting our very DNA by mixing it with their own. Their hybrid offspring, giants, called the Nephilim, overran the earth, committing atrocities against humans and nature and further corrupting Yahweh’s creation.

Yahweh looked down on what had been done and knew it couldn’t be allowed to continue. He chose one man who hadn’t been genetically corrupted, along with his sons and their wives, and preserved them as he flooded the earth to destroy the giants and cleanse it of evil.

But cleansing the earth didn’t cleanse the hearts of the human survivors. Sin was still a part of their genetic makeup. Within a few generations, humanity once again rebelled and rejected their Father. So he disinherited them and handed them over to his angelic sons to govern, while he set one couple apart for himself. An elderly, childless couple from whom he would create a nation of people belonging exclusively to him.

Again, some of these sons of God rebelled against Yahweh and set themselves up as gods over the people, demanding worship and leading them into idolatry and exceedingly corrupt and depraved practices.

Meanwhile, God gave that elderly, infertile couple a miracle baby. And from that son of their old age, he grew his own nation and raised up a leader for them from their own people. He gave them a Law to help them remain set apart and to keep them from straying into the ways of the rebellious nations and their imitation gods, and he gave them a land to call their own.

But the Law, with all its rituals, still couldn’t cleanse their hearts. It provided outward righteousness, but it couldn’t make them inwardly righteous, and again and again, Yahweh’s own special people rejected him and rebelled, wanting to be like the nations around them. So he gave them a king to rule over them. Generations and generations of kings. But the kings themselves rebelled, and led the people in worshiping the imitation gods of the nations instead of worshiping Yahweh.

And so, after centuries of wooing them, pleading with them, warning them, and giving them every opportunity to turn back to him, he gave them up to their enemies, exiled them from the land he’d set apart for them, and sent them into bondage and slavery.

At every turn, this whole human experiment seemed like a failure.

But really, it was all going according to plan.

Because Yahweh is God–omniscient, all-knowing and, well, a lot smarter than we are. A lot smarter than the beings he created who try to pass themselves off as gods, too.

You see, way back in the eternal past, when they, we, and all of this was still being conceived in the mind of God, he was well aware of the problem of free will and that creatures possessed of such an attribute would inevitably fall into sin and corruption and wreak havoc on his creation, and on each other.

And he already had a plan to deal with it.

Besides being the creator of everything, another thing that sets Yahweh apart from the other so-called gods is that he’s one unified being made up of three distinct persons–Father, Son and Spirit, or what we call the Trinity. These are all in perfect union and of one mind and one accord–and they were in agreement that the answer to the problem of free will would be none other than the second person of the Trinity, the Son, also known as the Word of God.

Another miracle baby entered the world. The Word made flesh, the Son of God in a manger, the second person of Yahweh himself come down, not just to interact with us on the mountain top, but all the way down into our suffering and muck, to live, suffer and die as one of us, so that we could live forever with him.

Let this sink in: before he ever created a single being, Father, Son and Spirit all knew that their created children would rebel and fall into bondage to sin and death, that they would by and large spurn and reject him. And they knew and agreed that the Son would enter this world as God incarnate, Jesus the Messiah, and give his life to save us.

And they thought it was worth it to make us anyway, free will and all.

God loved us so much, even then, that he gave us the freedom to rebel and reject him. And though it pained him to let us live with the consequences, he allowed it to show us how dark, painful and meaningless life is apart from him. He allowed his own special nation to fail to keep the law, to turn away from him again and again. He allowed it in order to show them their need for a savior, for a better mediator than the human high priest who made sacrifices for them year after year–for a perfect Lamb of God who is also our Great High Priest, who gave himself as the once and final sacrifice to satisfy the requirement of the law, cleanse us of our sins, and restore not just God’s chosen nation, but all of the disinherited nations as well–all humanity–to eternal fellowship with our creator.

And still, even now, he gives us the freedom to choose. We can choose Jesus and eternal life in his Kingdom and accept the free gift of salvation, bought and paid for with his blood.

Or we can refuse it and remain in our sins, in bondage and slavery to the darkness and the imitation gods of the world.

Those of us who choose Jesus will one day enter into his Father’s eternal Kingdom, after he does away with the old creation and makes all things new. And we will enter with our free will intact. But there will no longer be a danger that we’ll rebel and reintroduce sin into this new creation, because like an obstinate child who’s allowed to touch a hot stove, we’ll have learned our lesson the hard way. All these long millennia of human history, of death and decay, of evil and corruption, of suffering and oppression and hardship and sorrow, will have effectively inoculated us against using our freedom to defy God and his infinite wisdom.

And those who don’t learn that lesson? Who refuse to give their lives to Christ? Who believe they know better than God? Who choose to remain in their sin? They won’t be allowed to continue. Like a cancerous tumor, they’ll be rooted out and eradicated at the final judgment, cast into the Lake of Fire to perish along with their progenitor, Satan, that first prideful, rebellious elohim who started it all, where their corruption won’t be allowed to touch God’s new creation or his faithful children.

And even in that final act of judgment is mercy, because he won’t force you to spend eternity with him if you don’t want to.

The choice is yours.

“And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” –Joshua 24:15

 

Things I’ve been talking to God about lately (state and direction of the book biz, Q2 2022)

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

This first quarter of the new year, I did things my way. I set blogging aside, I finished my romance novel (and started a second), I published the horror novella I wrote in pre-pandemic 2020, I gave a lot of books away to grow my mailing list, and I experimented with paid advertising to promote my Dominion trilogy.

And it was pretty much all fail. Fail, fail, fail.

The advertising showed some promise for a while–my Facebook campaigns gained some steam and were actually turning a profit and increasing my Amazon sales rankings and Kindle Unlimited page reads–but then, on expert advice, we switched to BookBub, which was intended to fine tune my “also boughts” on Amazon and increase my visibility there with the right kind of readers, and ended up spending a lot of money with no results, eating up all the Facebook ad profits. So we went back to Facebook, but then just couldn’t gain the same amount of traction. In the end, we pretty much broke even.

And my novella release was a definite whimper and not at all a bang.

Needless to say, I’ve been feeling discouraged, and I’ve been spending a lot of time talking to God about it. And as I’ve struggled to understand why all I ever seem to do is spin my wheels and never gain traction when it comes to trying to build my fiction and publishing career, Psalm 127:1 kept being brought to my attention:

Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.

Boy howdy, have I been laboring in vain. Not just this first quarter of 2022, but all these past eleven years since I started trying to build this thing. And I realize now that I haven’t been allowing God to build it, or even checking to see if He wanted to. Even after the long break I took from writing, during which I question whether I was even supposed to be doing this or if I even wanted to, even after a lot of soul searching and heartfelt prayers led to my desire and drive to write being reignited, even then I pretty much just took off and did my own thing without consulting God. Instead of checking to see what he wanted me to write, how he wanted me to be spending these talents he’s invested with me, I just did what I wanted, what felt right at the time, or what the experts said I should be doing, and then was like, “Please bless it, Lord.” And then spending a lot of time being bewildered and disappointed when he didn’t.

So we’ve been talking a lot about this lately, the Lord and I. I’ve been doing a lot of repenting and surrendering and letting go of my plans and my vision, and a lot of just being still and listening and waiting for clarity and direction. And I’ve been feeling some things shift. Shifting focus, shifting priorities, shifting desires.

One thing I heard very clearly, as I asked the question, “Do you even want to build this house, Lord?” was this: “Why should I build you something new when you don’t care for or appreciate what I’ve already given you?”

Oof. Talk about a convicting gut punch. It’s true, though. Despite last year ending on such a high note, such a place of contentment and gratitude, something shifted during the winter months, and we both became depressed, anxious and discontent. I did more than my fair share of complaining and forgetting to be thankful, coveting stuff I don’t have yet and fixating on our lack, slacking off on responsibilities and letting established priorities slide. And a lot of the latter was so I could move writing and publishing and book marketing tasks higher up on my priority list, in the process neglecting, as well as resenting, clearly established priorities that should have taken precedence.

So as we head into spring, I’m tossing out all those grand plans I had at the start of the year and letting the Lord lead me. For now, here’s where I’m feeling led:

  • Focus on gratitude. Get back to being thankful and content with what we have, with where we are, with our current life, remembering that even some of the hard and annoying parts are the result of things I prayed for.
  • Slow down. Stop being so ambitious by trying to force a publishing schedule that forces me to neglect things that are much higher on God’s priority list. Focus instead on carrying out my clearly established responsibilities, and trust in God’s timing and provision.
  • Start blogging again. Part of why I stopped in the first place was that I felt the Lord pulling me back and nudging me to just be quiet for a while, to refrain from writing about some of the things I wanted to write about. And it’s good that I did, because I needed more time to process some of those things, and my perspective on some of it has changed. But now I’m feeling like it’s time to start speaking up again, and there are some topics that I’m feeling led to write about in this space. I’m not sure how that’s going to fit into everything, but if he wants to build this blog, he’ll provide the time for me to do the work.
  • Shift the focus from my romance series to my urban fantasy series–which is really more like an urban reality series dressed up as fantasy–based on a Biblical perspective on spiritual warfare. I’m still going to finish editing my sweet romance and will still be publishing that in another month or two, but where I had been planning to get the next book in that series under wraps before going back to this other series, I’m really feeling led to make this spiritual warfare series my priority for the time being.

And I’m going to start by sending out the unedited first volume, which is already written, in serial format to my mailing list for free, so be sure you’re signed up to that if you’d like to get the rough cut in your inbox (note: being subscribed to my blog is not the same as being on my mailing list–you have to sign up to that separately).

So that’s what I’m going to be doing until I receive further instruction. We’ll see where the Lord decides to take it from here.

The Hag Jean Marie Bauhaus book cover

New Release! THE HAG is Here for Kindle and KU!

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links.

The Hag Jean Marie Bauhaus book coverMichael Latimer is living the good life. He’s head of his university’s English department, he has a great marriage to a beautiful wife, an assistant who makes him look good at work… What more could he ask for? But when one night he finds himself immobile in his own bed as terrifying visions taunt and torture him, his life begins to crumble–along with his sanity.

Rational man that he is, Michael gladly seizes on a diagnosis of sleep paralysis–a sensible, scientific-sounding name for the ghastly night visits that plague him. But as he continues to grapple with his condition, his research takes him down paranormal rabbit holes that make him question everything he knows about the nature of the world, and evil… and Kathy, his wife.

Kathy is worried about her husband. He’s been having trouble sleeping, and ever since it started, he’s become more cold and withdrawn, even hostile. She hopes spring break at her parents’ remote cabin in the Ozarks will let him get the rest he needs to return to his easy-going, lovable self.

But when his coldness toward her only intensifies once they’re at the cabin, she can’t resist the impulse to check his phone, convinced he’s having an affair. What she finds instead is far more disturbing, and is only the beginning of Kathy’s night of sheer terror.

Get it for the Kindle or read it FREE in KU!

 

 

 

The best books with haunting and unconventional love stories

Have you heard of Shepherd.com? It’s a new book recommendations site whose goal is to offer readers an alternative to Goodreads, which, let’s be honest, isn’t always a fun experience.

Still in beta, Shepherd currently solicits and curates book recommendation lists from authors from a wide range of genres… including yours truly!

Click here to go there and read my list of the best books with haunting and unconventional love stories that are sure to appeal to fans of Restless Spirits.

Who Wants Free Books?

I’ve got books listed in TWO multi-author e-book giveaways this month! Check ’em out below and click the banner to go to each giveaway page–and be sure to enter the gift card giveaway contest while you’re there.

Speaking of contests, here’s a link to enter to win a Kindle Fire (or a $50 gift card, if you prefer). No subscriptions or follows necessary to enter. Full disclosure–I’ll get an extra ten entries for everyone who uses that link to enter.

Now go load up on free books!

Back and There Again (Happy 2022!)

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Happy first Monday of the New Year, friends!

I wrote another version of this post last week. I deleted it because I was in an introspective and melancholy mood that day, and it showed. And also because I went into WAY too much detail recapping 2021, after which it occurred to me that I had already written posts about most of those things, and y’all can just scroll back and read if you actually care.

With all that said, despite everything happening *gestures vaguely* out there, on a personal level 2021 actually turned out to be a pretty good year. It got off to a rocky start, with a brief period of unemployment and the Ice Apocalypse killing our well pump and cancelling our plans to get both an Anatolian shepherd puppy and chicks, but by March everything started coming together. We ended up getting Dixie, work started to roll in from bigger and better clients, we got our garden bed built and actually had our first successful vegetable garden, and then come fall we finally got our chicks and built them a coop from scratch. We made big strides on the homesteading front, and as far as freelance income goes, I had my best year ever. All those setbacks at the start of the year turned out to be prepping us for things to come together and work out just as they were supposed to.

With all the stuff going on, I spent the first half of the year in a bit of an existential crisis that was carried over from 2020, questioning whether I wanted to continue writing fiction and trying to make headway as an author in any way, shape or form, or if I just wanted to scrap it all and become a farmer. After a lot of prayer and soul searching, I realized that yes, I still want to write and publish novels, AND I want to be a farmer. And thanks in large part to Becca Symes and her Quitcast, I figured out what I needed to do both to get motivated to write again and to fit it back into my life. Which resulted in finally finishing my Dominion of the Damned trilogy and getting pretty darn close to finishing the romance novel I’d started in 2020.

(In my original draft of this post it took me more than 1200 words to tell you all of that. Seriously, be glad I deleted it.)

So what did I learn in 2021? A lot, actually. Too much to list here. But here are some highlights:

  • I learned a lot more about the Bible and theology, particularly around the areas of eschatology (end-times prophecy studies) and things pertaining to the Nephilim, the Tower of Babel, Enoch and all of that fun stuff. It didn’t really alter my views, but it all helped to refine and solidify my understanding of the Big Picture.
  • I went through a whole journey regarding conspiracy theories and trutherism and came out the other side feeling that it’s best to keep an eye on things with a healthy balance of open-mindedness and skepticism, testing and verifying everything to the best of your ability, and that overall my time and energy are better spent studying scripture and keeping my eyes on Jesus.
  • I learned a lot about the Thing that Shall Not Be Named, and also learned that when you find out information that’s contrary to the allowable beliefs about said thing, the only people who want to hear about it are those who already have their doubts and suspicions, and everyone else is happy to believe and go along with the sanctioned narrative and won’t appreciate you trying to educate them with facts, even if said facts could save their lives and/or long-term health. People are just gonna believe what they want to believe and do what they want to do. I tried, man. I guess I should just be glad that the officially sanctioned narrative is shifting and some of these facts are starting to be officially acknowledged and publicized–too late to help thousands, if not millions, of people make better-informed choices that could have saved lives, but whatever.
  • Relatedly, I discovered my voice this year and learned how to use it to say what I really think and believe.
  • I learned a lot about how I’m wired as a writer and what I need in order to become and remain consistently productive. And that, for me, showing up consistently to write a little each day is more effective than trying to do marathon writing sessions or cram in high daily word counts.
  • Related to that, I learned that I really am hardwired to need a lot of downtime to just think and process, and that I have to be careful not to cram so much into my schedule that I don’t have time for that. I need to spend at least as much time taking in and processing ideas and information as I do producing stories and content. Fortunately, I can get a lot of thinking done while still being productive at things like household chores and gardening, so it’s not like I have to just sit on my hinder and do nothing. But I do need to remember sometimes not to listen to podcasts while doing those things so I can give myself time to think instead.
  • Speaking of podcasts, and of learning about Nephilim and the pre-flood world, I learned that Blurry Creatures is an amazing podcast.
  • Finally, I learned that I’ve got a good life. I’ve always been plagued with a slight disassociation, a feeling of being somewhat removed from my own life, not feeling at home in my own skin, and feeling like I’m just biding my time and waiting for my real life to begin. But for the last couple of years those feelings have been steadily fading and I’ve been feeling more solidly grounded in my current life, more at peace with myself and at home in my skin, and more present and fully engaged. This last year I feel like I really turned a corner, and really felt for the first time in my almost-49 years how it feels to be truly alive and aware in the moment. There were a lot of moments this year, most of which involved being outdoors, covered in sunshine and surrounded by nature, soaked in sweat and covered in dirt and/or sawdust and/or chicken poop, many of which also involved doing a project with my husband, and just being filled with gratitude and thinking that I really, really love my life.

But all of that was last year. So what about 2022?

I have a feeling things are about to get real interesting. That the last two years were just the tip of the iceberg. I would love to be wrong. I’m not going to make predictions, but with aliens and UFOs and CERN and small pox all making headlines lately, I’m thinking we’d all best buckle up. At any rate, I’ve got all those things on my 2022 bingo card.

But one of my intentions for the new year is to spend less time looking at and thinking about headlines and more time praying, studying the Word and living this pretty great life I’ve been blessed with.

My big goal for the year is to grow my publishing income to a point where it can replace my freelance writing income so I can retire from that. To that end, here’s what I’m hoping to accomplish this year:

  • Publish six new books. I’ve got a head start on this, with my romance novel nearly finished, two novellas I wrote in 2020 waiting in the queue to be edited, and another novella started and waiting to be finished. The first novella is a stand-alone horror story that I’m hoping to release in February. The other two are the start of an urban fantasy series that will live in Kindle Unlimited. And to those I want to add a follow-up to my first romance novel, and a third novella — either a romance novella for Christmas or the third installment of the urban fantasy series. If all goes well I may try to squeeze in both, but that might be getting into magical thinking. At any rate, as long as life remains stable enough to keep writing, I’m going to do my ever-lovin’ best to release a book every other month, starting in February.
  • Repackage existing books. This will include paperback versions of Dominion, and eventually a boxed set, as well as a boxed set and a paperback collection of my shorter works.
  • Substantially grow my mailing list(s), set up lengthy automated campaigns and get back to monthly newsletters for both of my pen names.
  • Learn what I need to learn to become effective at advertising on Facebook and Amazon.

I’m also playing around with my schedule to see if I can fit a second writing session into my mornings and increase my average daily word count from 500 to 1,000. If I can do that, I’ll finish my current WIP in a couple of weeks, and I’ll be able to write a novella in about a month. So far so good — this morning I was able to fit in another half-hour of writing after my morning chores and Bible study. The big question is whether I’ll be able to keep that up once freelance assignments start coming back in (the agencies I work for are still closed for the holidays), but hopefully by then it will be enough of a habit that it won’t be something I have to think about.

I spent a lot of time over the weekend examining my priorities as far as marketing efforts go, trying to determine what will get me the most results for the least amount of effort. Social media and blogging both fell pretty low on the ROI list, so those are going to get less attention this year. Not that I’m not going to do them, but they’re not something I’m going to stress myself out about fitting into my weekly schedule. I may also phase out these coffee talks. I enjoy them, but they haven’t gotten any engagement in a long time, so I may just stick to more thematic, evergreen content when I feel moved to write some, as well as book news updates. If you want to keep up with what’s doing around the ol’ homestead, you can follow my personal Instagram–at least until I get mad at Instagram/Facebook/Meta whatever and decide I’m taking my toys back to my own sandbox, or they cancel me for all my spicy opinions and sharing of unapproved facts.

(Another thing I learned is that my “Strategic” brain is always editing my plans on the fly. It’s not ADHD that makes me flip back and forth so much, it’s just my strategic thinker wiring trying to adapt to life’s twists and turns.)

Other than that, we don’t have any big plans for the year. We’re just going to maintain the status quo, try to keep our current animals alive and healthy, expand our garden and learn some new skills. I started a 30-day diet reset today, but that’s not really a NY resolution, just needing to get things back on track and recover my health after the holidays. It’s not anything major, just avoiding sugar, alcohol and processed junk for the next thirty days to get it all out of my system and lower my chronic inflammation. Today is actually my first day in a while without any sweets. I had a pretty intense chocolate craving earlier, but I got through it. Mid-morning and mid-afternoon are usually my most intense craving times, so I’ve just got one more to get through today. Usually when I do this sort of thing, by day three the cravings start to abate, so I’m pretty confident that I’ll make it.

How’s your 2022 shaping up? Do you have a word for the year? Resolutions? Goals? Intentions? Hopes? Plans? Tell meeeee!

A Gift for You

Merry Christmas! I come bearing gifts. The Gift, actually, which is my short, Christmas-themed Restless Spirits prequel, and which is now available perma-free on Amazon, Kobo and various other retailers. Click here to find all the links and download it in the format of your choice!

Okay, that’s just one gift, singular. I’m sorry. But to make it up to you, you can click here to enter to win a Kindle Fire 7 (or a $50 gift card, if that’s your preference) from My Book Cave — no purchases, follows or subscriptions necessary to enter (full disclosure — I’ll get 10 bonus entries for each person who enters using my link).

In other news, I’m going to give myself the gift of a Christmas break. I think today is going to be my last work day this week and I’m going to take a rest from all writing until the Monday after Christmas. I’m a little apprehensive about this throwing off the momentum I’ve got going on my current WIP, but I’m reasonably confident I’ll be able to get my groove back come next Monday. And I hope to be back here next week with an end-of-year wrapup, as is customary.

In the meantime, I’m going to hang with my husband and furbabies, get cozy with some hot beverages, try not to overdo the chocolate, watch some Christmas movies, and also spend a lot of time in reflection, prayer, and thinking about plans for the coming year.

I hope you and yours have a peaceful Christmas and a blessed new year.

Coffee Talk: It’s the Most Busy-full Time of the Year

Image by Melk Hagelslag from Pixabay

Hello there, Bloglandia. It’s been a little while. I just wanted to pop in and touch base and let everyone know I’m still plugging along. There’s not a lot to report. Freelance writing has been keeping me busy, and when I get breaks between articles I’ve been trying to keep up with behind-the-scenes book marketing tasks and housework, and also rest my tired brain. We both haven’t been sleeping so great, and winter is already zapping our energy, so we’re struggling a little to keep up with everything and oh so ready for the Christmas break.

But for all of that, I’ve still been diligent to get up early every weekday morning and work a little bit on my romance novel, which is about two-thirds of the way done. I may end up having to pare it down when all is said and done. I think it’s going to end up quite a bit longer than the typical fluffy romance read. But it’s turning out to not be all that fluffy. I keep tackling some heavy stuff. Stuff like narcissistic abuse, church hurt, C-PTSD, being upset with God… so much for writing a romantic comedy. At any rate, it’s coming along.

We did manage to put out some Christmas decorations, although we had to Dixie proof everything, and we didn’t even attempt to put up the pretty fake tree we bought last year. Instead we harvested a little juniper from our property and decorated it with our unbreakable ornaments.

Also, I’ve taken up playing the recorder. I’ve tried and tried over the years to make myself into a guitar player, but the truth is that I’m a woodwinds gal. In my heart of hearts, I want to replace my long-lost saxophone, but those are too expensive. I’ve been drawn to playing the Irish tin whistle as a cheap substitute. But I’ve got this recorder that Matt bought me years ago, so I pulled that out in the hopes that by playing it he’d be more inclined to let me get a set of tin whistles. I looked into some recorder lessons on YouTube and discovered that there’s a lot more to it than I thought. I don’t have as much time to practice as I’d like, but I’m having fun with it. I still want those tin whistles, though. And a saxophone. Some day…

Today is shaping up to be pretty and mild, so we’re going to make ourselves get outside and do some neglected chores. The chicken coop and pen are sorely in need of a cleaning. The plan is to muck it all out and transport all the poopy stuff to our garden bed area, where we’ll spread it around and cover it and let it go to work conditioning the soil through the winter. And we’ve still got a million leaves to rake, and we still need to gather and cut old deadwood for our second hugelkulture bed. Probably we won’t get all that done today, but if we can get the coop cleaned out I’ll be happy. Also, if I ever start a homesteading blog, I’m going to call it “Dirt, Sweat, and Chicken Poop,” and never will there have been a more aptly named blog.

Speaking of the chickens, ours will be old enough to switch from grower to layer feed soon, and we’ve been researching cost-effective ways to feed chickens. Because let me tell ya, commercial chicken feed is ‘spensive. If any of you reading this have tackled this problem and have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

Aaand it’s just about time to head out and get to work. I’m hoping to be back soon with an end-of-year update, and hopes and plans for the new year. Because it’s already getting to be that time. Can you believe it?

Oh, and ICYMI, Desolation, Book One of my now-complete Dominion trilogy, is only 99 cents!

Until next time, Bloggy friends!

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