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Month: January 2017

Autism: Things Are Not Always As They Appear

I recently joined my son, Scott, for lunch at his school. I met his class in the hallway walking to the lunch room, and walked with them into the room. Instead of sitting at the table that the rest of his class gradually filled up, he took me to the back of the lunch room. “I like to sit in the detention corner,” he explained.

He was THRILLED that I came. He was almost manic about my presence, and jibber-jabbered all the way into the lunch room. But, once we were there, he didn’t say another word. He just started eating his lunch, tackling one food item at a time. Occasionally, he looked at me and smiled while he reached over and pet my face, but didn’t really talk. Lunch time in the cafeteria is for eating – not for talking.

I surveyed the room, people watching as I tend to do. I took this picture, understanding the emotional reaction people would have to it. When I showed it to my mom, she did the same thing I imagine most of you are doing – gasping and saying, “That’s so sad.”

Only, it’s not. Not really.

Scott chooses to isolate himself in the lunch room. His class is way across the cafeteria from where Scott is sitting, at the first table in the room. He doesn’t want to sit there – next to kids who are playing or talking or not eating. Lunch time is for eating.

He didn’t sit down and get rejected by peers. He didn’t ask to sit somewhere and get told to go away. He isolated himself so that he could get down to the business at hand – to eat without distraction.

As neuro-typical normal people, we tend to want to apply normal emotions to those on the autistic spectrum. The fact is, they don’t necessarily have normal emotional reactions, normal thought processes, or normal perceptions. They are so very different in the way they think and perceive situations. To Scott, in the loud, distracting, room filled with way too much visual stimulation and an abundance of conflicting smells, sitting way back in the “detention corner” (likely a name he applied to it taken from one of the middle-school books he reads) is way LESS stressful than sitting with his class. He has no need for social interaction with peers during a meal time. He has a need to eat.

I personally appreciate the school allowing him the opportunity to isolate himself and cope with the environment the best way he can. I know in some schools, a strict “sit with your class” rule would apply. Scott’s in an environment filled with people who respect his autism and do their best to accommodate it. We are so thankful to God for the teachers and staff because of it.

We are visual people, and in a rapidly moving world, we tend to rely on pictures to tell a thousand words — especially those pictures intentionally designed to generate an emotional response. Sometimes, though, things aren’t as they appear at first glance. A picture like this could speak to the hearts of a world filled with loving and generous people,  generating a viral movement to bring that poor boy with the green noise-canceling headphones friends for lunch so that he can feel loved and accepted like the rest of us neuro-typical normal people.

Instead, we know he is loved and accepted and therefore is allowed to sit alone at lunch. It’s not always — let me rephrase that. It’s rarely ever that I’m able to take in the world the same way Scott does.  This one afternoon, though, as I surveyed the room and took the picture, I was able to see the world through his eyes and – for just a moment – get it.
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Home for (Almost) Good

This past weekend, I was the keynote speaker at the Capital Christian Writers Self Publishing Conference in the Washington, D.C., area. From Kentucky, it’s a long drive for me to go to that area of the country; however, my parents are a good halfway spot so I was able to stop and spend the night with them coming and going.

For the last eighteen months, I have traveled the world, speaking and teaching on writing, writing style, and indie publishing to over 20 groups. It has been wonderful and exhausting. Just from September through November, I went back and forth from Kentucky to first Oregon, then Hawaii, then Australia, Tennessee, and Oklahoma.

As wonderful as it has been to speak to other Christian authors all over the world, I only published two books in 2016 — hardly my normal output. During 2017, I have a fraction of the teaching time scheduled, and have turned down several requests for my presence at conferences and workshops, choosing instead to get a handle back on my production schedule and get some more books published!

As I unpacked my suitcase last night, I realized that the next time I’ll need it for business will be March — and the next time after that will be September! What a difference it will make to my life to be home consistently and constantly.

And now, to work with me. I have a book that I have prayerfully scheduled to release in March — and I am only four chapters into writing it.
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Interview with Author Elizabeth Maddrey!

Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! This week, I’m so happy to introduce you to Elizabeth Maddrey. Homeschooling moms who write are always so impressive to me, and Elizabeth is no exception. I always enjoy her when our paths cross in the writing community, and was thrilled to add her to my lineup of interviews. Elizabeth is giving away a paperback copy of her book, too! Read below to see how to enter!

Tell us a little about yourself. Well, let’s see – the first thing that comes to mind is how I always hate this question. I hated it when I was going on job interviews, too. I’m never sure what to say. I’ve been married for 21 years to my best friend from college (we met the first day of our first class freshman year). We have two boys, age nine and four (and he’ll be five very soon – this happened to catch me right between their birthdays.) I stay home with them (and am so incredibly grateful that I’m able to do this) and we home school. In addition to that, I run the Awana ministry at our church and my hubby and I lead an adult Sunday school class together. Despite those things, I’m actually incredibly introverted – Sundays wear me out.

Tell us a little about your current release. I’m so excited about this new release! It’s actually a collection of novellas, but they’re kicking off a series that five other authors and I have been working on for the last year. We created a fictional town in Idaho called Arcadia Valley and each of us is setting a full series there. What’s fun is the characters from my series interact with characters from other series (and vice versa) so, hopefully, it’ll be fun for readers to see the crossover interactions taking place as they read through the books.

My novella, Loaves & Wishes, is the kickoff to the Baxter Family Bakery series that will be set in Arcadia Valley. The Baxters are four siblings: Ruth (the eldest), Jonah, and then Micah and Malachi who are twins. In the novella, Ruth moves to Arcadia Valley from Washington D.C. because she’s inherited a bed and breakfast from her best friend. Because of various things that I can’t tell you since it would ruin the story, she and her brothers end up opening a community supported bakery. And it’s that CSB which serves as the primary focal point for the next three books in the series.

If you knew ahead of time your book would benefit only one person on their spiritual journey, would you still write it? Absolutely. Honestly, I’d probably still write it even if it didn’t benefit anyone on their spiritual journey, because the books that I write often help me process things I’m working on and thinking about. I’m not sure I’d be able to shut off the stories if I wanted to, so it seems to make the most sense to write them and then put them out there with the prayer that if someone needs it, God will lead them to it.

Do you feel pressured to compromise your standards in order to reach a larger audience or be more successful? You know, I don’t. Part of that, though, I’m pretty sure is because I waffled about doing anything with my writing for a number of years and a large part of the waffling was because of this question. I could write secular stories, probably, but at the end of the day I don’t think that’s what God’s calling me to do. The stories in my head tend to address some of the trickier issues of Christian living. So I’m not even really writing fiction designed to lead people to Jesus – it’s much more geared toward helping believers wrestle with what it means to live authentic, Biblically based lives in today’s culture. And that’s not always popular, but I think it’s important. (And please don’t think I have big preachy books—I’m told by readers that the messages are subtle and wrapped in enjoyable stories 🙂 ) I could probably have a bigger audience if I didn’t talk about things like abortion and depression and whether or not it’s okay to question God…but those are the storylines that God impresses on my heart and I want to be faithful to them.

Who was your first Screen/Musical Crush? This is kind of embarrassing…but if you’re old enough to remember 21 Jump Street (the TV show), it’s Johnny Depp as he was when he was Officer Hanson.

Do you write your books for your own enjoyment or more for what you think people would want to read? I probably already hit this one above – but definitely for my own enjoyment. I love to read, and when I try to think objectively about my books (which I’ll admit is really challenging), I think they’re the types of stories that many who read Christian fiction would want to read. But I don’t try to tailor stories or plots to any kind of current trends or anything like that. I suspect if I did I wouldn’t be able to make a cohesive, interesting story because it wouldn’t be organic.

What do you do when you hit a roadblock and have NO idea what to write? I pray. And then I sit down and make myself write. There are always words there if you put your fingers on the keyboard. They might not be keepers, but usually the act of writing will get the mental juices flowing.

Do you have pre-determined length in mind when you first begin a book? I usually do, yes. At a minimum, I need to know if I’m writing a novella or a full-length book. Full-length can vary though. I try to aim for 65,000 words when I think full-length, but sometimes the story needs a little more. Or a little less. With the Arcadia Valley books, because some of our authors also write for Love Inspired (who has contractual clauses that limit what length story the authors can indie publish without first giving LI a chance to buy it), we’re calling the full-length books 50,000 words (because that keeps us out of any issues.) So I have a general rule of thumb that I’m aiming for, but there’s wiggle room.

Find Elizabeth online:

Website: http://www.ElizabethMaddrey.com
Facebook: http://www.Facebook.com/ElizabethMaddrey
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/ElizabethMaddrey
Twitter: @elizabethmaddre
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/emaddrey/
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+ElizabethMaddrey/posts

Find Elizabeth’s latest release online:



On iBooks:

On Barnes and Noble:
Romance Grows in Arcadia Valley (Arcadia Valley Romance, #1) 

Enter to win:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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The Jewel Series Refreshed!

I am so excited to show you the new covers for The Jewel Series! As we approached the 5th anniversary of publishing Sapphire Ice, we felt it was time to give the Jewels a facelift. As you can see, our cover artist did an amazing job bringing the sisters to life!

Some more changes are coming for the series — Sapphire Ice is now be free instead of Greater Than Rubies (this will take time to propagate through Amazon’s system, but it is currently free everywhere else.) I also edited and revised Sapphire Ice — not touching the original story, but bringing the writing up to my current standards (it had those first book blues). Christmas Star Sapphire, until now, has only been available at Amazon. It is now available everywhere ebooks are sold!

Click each book cover below to access that book’s page and find out where you can purchase them! (Note, the paperbacks have not been updated yet).

 

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Interview with Author Patty Smith Hall!

Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! This week, I am pleased to introduce you to Patty Smith Hall. Patty took the long road to become an author, and I very much enjoyed reading about her journey. Patty is giving away a copy of her latest release (paperback for US or ebook for International)! Read on to see how you can enter to win!

Thanks for having me, Hallee. My name is Patty Smith Hall, and though I’d always dreamt of being a writer, my parents talked me out of it. So I got a degree in something else they didn’t think I’d ever be able to do—nursing. Nothing against my parents! They just worried like all parents do that writing wouldn’t pay the bills and nursing would break my very tender heart. They were right on both accounts! Still, my writing is a ministry more than a way to make a living and I get great joy from it. I’ve been married to a fantastic man for 33+ years, have two smart and beautiful daughters, a wonderful son-in-law and expecting our first grandbaby (a boy!) at the end of January.

My latest release is Hometown Heiress which is part of the American Heiress Bride Collection from Barbour Publishing. Here’s a short blurb about the collection: Meet nine young women in America between 1866 and 1905 who have been blessed by fortunes made in gold, silver, industry, ranching, and banking. But when it comes to love, each woman struggles to find true love within a society where “first comes money, second comes marriage.” What kind of man can they trust with their greatest treasure—their hearts?

What made you take the plunge and finally start writing? It was kind of the perfect storm of events—my kids were growing up and being a stay-at-home mom, I began to wonder what I would do once they got out on their own. My grandfather who I’d helped take care of for ten years passed away. We moved to Michigan from our hometown of Atlanta and I knew absolutely no one. One stage of life was ending as a new one began. I found comfort in writing, at first in a journal but later in creating stories or jotting down events that showed God’s presence in my life.

How did you make your first step into writing a novel? What roadblocks did you face and how did you overcome them? My first novel started as a way to deal with the grief over my grandfather’s death. He suffered from Alzheimer’s and as anyone who has ever been a caregiver can tell you, you live with some guilt over the decisions you’re forced to make. Because I was a nurse, I felt that guilt more acutely and found writing about characters dealing with the same kind of decisions I faced help me put the situation into perspective. I will tell you, it took me close to four years to finish that novel but looking back now, I realize the emotions were still too raw so I’d put it away until I could better handle them.

What is your personal, most effective way to get past writer’s block? For me, I have to write—even if it’s the most horrible thing on the planet, I keep writing because eventually, a little nugget of something great will pop up. I also write everything longhand—it quiets my internal editor and gives me to the freedom to write as I see the story unfold. Extra piece of advice—if you write longhand, invest in an iPad Pro and Apple pencil. These two things have cut my typing time down to nothing!

What’s the first major headline you remember and what do you remember? Probably when Robert Kennedy was shot and killed. I was six years old and remember seeing the picture of him lying in the kitchen floor of the Ambassador Hotel on the front page of our local newspaper. That was when history became personal for me.

Who was your first Musical or Screen crush? I’m such a sap for old movies! Gordon MacRae from Oklahoma and Carousal comes to mind, but I also loved Fred Astaire, Cary Grant and Fred McMurray too!

Which of your characters reflects your personality? I believe every character I write has a very distinct part of my personality in them. But overall, my heroine in Hearts in Flight, Maggie Daniels is the most like me. She’s determined, too smart for her own good and refuses to let anything stop her, even if it puts her in danger.

Do you remember where you were or what you were doing when you thought up this story? This story has been banging around in my head for a couple of years now. What got me started on it was an article in Georgia Backroads magazine about the mill towns in Southern Georgia during the early part of the 20th All the pictures were of children, some no more than five years old, working in these dangerous mills while their parents worked their farms nearby. I thought it would be a great backdrop for a story.

Find Patty online:

Her website, Facebook, Twitter

Find Patty’s latest release:


at Barnes & Noble:
The American Heiress Brides Collection: Nine Wealthy Women Struggle to Find Love in a Society that Values Money First

 

 

 

Enter to win a copy of The American Heiress Brides Collection (paperback for US, ebook for International)!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Autism: There’s Something To Be Said About Community

When our son Johnathan was in the first grade, he had a friend ride the bus home with him and have a play date. Scott, our autistic son, had never expressed a desire to have a friend over, but on this day, he came to me and said, “Why can’t I have a friend come over, too?”

I asked him, “Do you have a friend?”

Understand that at this point, Scott still couldn’t distinguish boys from girls, and children other than Johnathan didn’t come with names. We believe, to him, his 2nd grade classmates were just a sea of faceless noise-makers. But, he surprised me by answering, “Sure! Thomas!”

Thomas and Scott had shared classrooms since kindergarten. Like Scott, Thomas has an autism diagnosis. So, I contacted Thomas’ mom. She was thrilled to have Thomas invited over to someone’s house for a play date and as soon as schedules allowed, we got the boys together.

That began my friendship with his mom. We were two moms of special needs children trying to navigate the school system, insurance companies, and social skills, and we realized, subconsciously, that we needed each others’ friendship and support. I have wonderful mentoring friends, both of whom have older autistic children, who have been a constant source of support and encouragement for me. I was blessed to be able to offer the same kind of friendship to Thomas’ mom, and to share with her what my friends had taught me.

A few months later, we were invited to Thomas’ birthday party. This was the first time Scott had ever been invited to a school mate’s birthday. He was so excited to get to go.

Thomas takes part in a program called STRIDE, which is a special needs extra-curricular activities program in his community. He’s able to play soccer, basketball, and participated in the Special Olympics. So, at his party, there were several special needs kids and their parents.

For the first time ever, I sat at a party surrounded by complete strangers and completely relaxed. I didn’t worry that Scott would say something completely off-base, possibly even insulting, to one of the adults. I knew if he did, they’d get that it is just a black-and-white boy with no filter. I didn’t worry that he didn’t want to take part in any of the party activities and how the other kids or parents would think he was “weird”.  He was absolutely and totally accepted when he walked into that house and nothing he said, did, or didn’t do would be taken in a negative light.

I watched a mom with a non-verbal son wearing a helmet sit in that room and relax. I watched Thomas’ mom enjoy a house full of people who had come to celebrate her son’s birthday and relax. These were our people. Our children seemed to understand each other. Johnathan, who is two years younger than Scott, has lived his life with an autistic brother so he thought nothing off about how the kids played or how they interacted — or didn’t interact.

We have a supporting and loving extended family. We have good friends who love us and love our children. We have an amazing church family with excellent teachers in the children’s department. I’m not taking anything away from any of those people in our lives who know us and love us who don’t have special needs children. But what I learned that day is that there’s something to be said for a community – a like-minded, shared community – that cannot be duplicated.

Scott at Melissa, Thomas’ mom

The community comes with a sense of understanding that doesn’t have to be spoken, with empathy that has no strings attached. Parenting a special needs child can be very lonely, very scary, very disheartening — and when you enter that community by way of a meeting or party or just coffee with other parents like you — for a time the burden, while it may not be lifted, is lighter — and at times even shared.

Last December we moved from that town and are now two hours away. Thomas’ parents have made the drive here two or three times, and we’ve made the drive there two or three times. Our boys are still friends who look forward to seeing each other.

Over Christmas, we went to a party at Thomas’ house. He didn’t know we were coming, and the look of joy on his face when we walked in the door made the two-hour drive worth it. Immediately, the boys headed up to Thomas’ room. For over two hours the played and played, and I practically had to drag them away from there.

This school year, Scott has made a friend named Hunter. The other day, I heard Johnathan ask him, “Who is your best friend? Hunter or Thomas?”

Scott, seemingly appalled, replied, “You can’t categorize friends that way, Jeb! You just have to cherish them for who they are.”

That simple statement brought tears to my eyes. There was a time when we wondered if Scott would ever even know how to have friends. I never thought that instead he would so simply and profoundly inspire me to remember to cherish my friends for who they are, in the special needs community and out.

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