Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Where Hope and Quirky Meet

Where Hope and Quirky Meet: Introducing Author Jodie Wolfe

Fellow Author Jodie Wolfe creates novels where hope and quirky meet. I’m very happy to have her here with me today for this interview and introduce her to my readers.

Me: Welcome, Jodie!

Jodie: Thank you. It’s so great to be here.

Me: Jodie, I’m always interested in the path successful writers have taken to get published so let’s get started.  How long have you been writing?

Jodie: Many years. JI started writing little stories while in grade school. I wrote my first full-length book as a young teenager.

Me: That sounds a lot like me. I mean, I started writing stories young, but a full-length book as a teen? Wow! That’s cool!

Jodie: It was! I wrote a lot when I was younger - poems, stories, plays, articles, books and then I got married and had kids. We were a homeschooling family so most of my energy went into educating my two sons. It wasn't until my oldest son had graduated from high school that I started fiction writing again.

Me: I’ll be honest here. You don’t look old enough to have a son graduating from high school, but I get it. Our lives are full. Many of us wait until the time is right. You started taking your writing seriously. How did you get published?

Jodie: My first two books were indie published. A few author friends of mine wanted to create a collection of novellas in one book. I agreed to help and that's how Hearts Tightly Knit came about.The compilation book is out of print now, but you can still get my novella from Amazon. It was so well received, I wrote a sequel about the twin sister in Love in the Seams.

Me: I love hearing about how the writing community works together. So where did you get the idea for your newest release?

Jodie: I've always loved mail-order bride stories and wanted to write one. I wondered what would happen if a guy advertised for a proper wife and what arrived was completely opposite of that.

Me: Fun! I can see all sorts of miscommunication, fun, and disaster in that scenario. Did your book take any unexpected turns as you crafted it? Maybe a character emerged you didn’t expect to find or the focus of the book shifted altogether.

Jodie: Oh my yes! My characters always have a way of taking over the story and going in the direction they want to go. J

Me: I’m laughing here because that happens to me with my characters all the time. So tell me, what is one take-away from your book with which you hope readers will identify?

Jodie: Simply that we can trust God to be working in our lives, even when we can't see it.

Me: I love it! And I appreciate you stopping by so we could talk. 

Jodie: Thank you so much for letting me be here today to interact with your followers. I appreciate your time!

Me: Jodie’s newest book is called Taming Julia and is published through the Pelican Group. You can buy it on Amazon by clicking here: AMAZON
Grab your copy at Barnes and Noble by clicking here: BARNES & NOBLE

Jodie Wolfe is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Romance Writers of America (RWA), and COMPEL Training. She's been a semi-finalist and finalist in various writing contests. A former columnist for Home School Enrichment magazine, her articles can be found online atCrosswalk Christian Devotions, and Heirloom Audio . She's a contributor and co-founder of Stitches Thru Time  blog. When not writing she enjoys spending time with her husband in Pennsylvania, reading, walking, and being a Grammie. Learn more about Jodie at www.jodiewolfe.com.


Blurb for Taming Julia

In 1875, Kansas bachelor Drew Montgomery's sole desire is to serve God, but his congregation's ultimatum that he marry or leave, forces him to advertise for a wife by proxy.

Jules Walker strides into Drew's life wearing breeches and toting a gun and saddle--more cowboy than bride. After years on the trail, she's not exactly wife material, but she longs for home and family, and will do anything to ensure Drew never discovers what she really is.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

My Own "Little Women"

“I want to be a veterinarian or a weather ‘woman,’” my youngest granddaughter told me, gesturing quotes with her fingers in the air. “Or maybe I’ll be a car designer. I have lots of options.”



My six-year-old granddaughter’s dreams are certainly different from my own at her age. I wanted to be a teacher, writer, and cowgirl. Okay, I completed the first two and for a while I rode my pony, Flicka, around our Ohio farm hunting buffalo with my trusty cap pistol…even if the beasts did look quite a bit like Holstein cows. 

Still, being a teacher was reinforced as a respectable job for any woman. Nursing fell into that category. But being a veterinarian or a weather forecaster or a car designer? My parents would have encouraged any route I took, but there simply were no role models out there. I had no Doc McStuffins to watch. The only weather reports on my three channels of television came from men. Design cars? Never even occurred to me anyone did that. Design Barbie clothes? That was possible but not of interest to me.

My mom was a bookkeeper. She enrolled in a business school in Nashville after being the first in her family to graduate from high school. Mom has a head for numbers. I have a heart for words.

My dad was a smart cookie and successful at everything he put his hand to. He knew and understood farming, but was also a successful entrepreneur. He and my mom made quite a team. And they both wanted the best for me. I say this because I don’t want anyone to think my parents raised me to think there were certain roles for women and certain roles for men. They didn’t put limitations on what I could or could not study. Pursue. Become.

Television, books, and culture in general fed that line to me, save one. Little Women. The novel by Louisa May Alcott was one of my favorites. I was sure Jo March, the main character, was modeled after me. 
My Own "Little Women"
(Minus my 2 Kenoshanites)
In the book, she’s a tomboy and fiercely independent. She crafts plays for her sisters to perform.  (My cousins were the cast and crew for my skits and plays.) And Jo loves to write. She creates worlds beyond her own. 

Moreover, even though the story was set in the mid 1800’s, the four girls in the story have different talents. Each is encouraged to develop her skills and abilities. Now that I look back, I realize the talents the girls cultivated were those expected of “well-bred young ladies” of the time. It didn’t matter to me. They were free to explore art and music and writing.

Recently, my mother, two of my daughters, two granddaughters and I went to see the movie Little Women. It spoke to all four generations, maybe in different ways, but all with the same emotion of care and accepting the challenges life hands out. My oldest granddaughter captured it perfectly. She said, “I liked the way they cared for each other and other people, too. Even though they were poor.”

I know that by the standards of the day they were not wealthy, but there is a richness to any life where there is love and encouragement to reach your full potential.

After the initial conversation with my youngest granddaughter, I asked my oldest granddaughter what avenue of study she might pursue one day. She’s in third grade. She didn’t hesitate. “Well, I sometimes think about being a rocket designer, or a coder, or maybe the mayor. But another part of me would like to be a librarian or a local journalist. And I wouldn’t mind being a movie director or a professional piano player.”

To quote her sister: “She has lots of options.”

But don’t we all? We put more limits on ourselves than others do. We need to ask God how He wants to use us. He has no limits. We need to pursue our dreams and get rid of the negative self-talk that holds us back. And that goes for both women and men. 

Okay, getting off my soapbox. Back to writing. It is the dream God has written on my heart. So maybe I'll have to write a story about a cowgirl. I bet she'll look a lot like me...and Jo March.



Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Complicating the Simple

I’m not sure why we tend to complicate things. Let me change that. 
I’m not sure why tend to complicate things. 

For example, my dishwasher stopped working. Several weeks ago. My family and I had just returned from Florida. My daughter and her family headed home to Kenosha and we all settled back into our various routines. 

I don’t use my dishwasher every day. Generally, I wash the few dishes I use after each meal. Occasionally, I entertain friends and throw the dirty dishes in the machine to simplify my life. But this time it didn’t work. Not even a light came on. I checked the breaker box, flipping the switch back and forth several times. Nothing.

I pulled everything out and hand washed the load. 

My dishwasher isn’t very old. I bought it in 2017. I didn’t buy an extended warranty. I started imagining the repairman coming, tearing the thing apart, water and grease and whatever’s inside all over my kitchen floor. 

I wondered how much he’d charge. Probably more than the cost of a new dishwasher. 

No problem. I would simply do without. A couple of weeks later I had someone over for lunch and automatically loaded the dirty dishes onto the racks of my impaired dishwasher. I was putting the last plate in when I remembered my machine was on the fritz. Bummer.

After the last fork was dry and in the drawer, I did an online search to determine what could be wrong with my machine. A “how-to-change-the-fuse” came up. I was all in. I opened the door of my dishwasher and inspected it. Yep, I located the screws. I could do this. 

I watched the how-to video. I knew how to turn off the breaker. Phooey, I’d play it safe and turn off the one above and the one below just to make sure. When it was time. I took inventory. I had all the tools required, including a tester for the fuse. 

I was feeling pretty confident...until the man in the video started taping certain wires and cutting others. Cutting electric wires in my dishwasher? Uh, I don’t think so.

Tom would have tackled something like that, but I couldn't even imagine attempting it. Besides, I had more important things to do. I went back to hand washing the dishes.

Then Sunday, I ran into my friend Randy at church. He is the builder I contracted to remodel the house when I bought it. We talked a bit about our families. When he asked how everything was going, I remembered the dishwasher. 

“I guess I’ll have to call Lowes. I mean that’s where I bought it,” I told him.

He asked me about the breaker. I told him I’d already checked that and then demonstrated my vast knowledge of what could be wrong by talking about the fuse. He listened. He nodded. Then he asked another question.

“How about the switch in the kitchen?”

“What switch?” I asked. I searched my memory for a switch. “The only switch plate on that wall is on the other side of the sink. There are three switches. The first one turns on the lights above the sink. The second one is for the disposal. The third one…I guess the third one is for another light.” I tried to sound confident.

“Well, try that,” he said. “Call me if you still have a problem. It could be a loose wire underneath. I’ll come over and check it out.”

It’s good to have friends who care. Smart friends. Randy is both caring and smart. But it couldn’t possibly be as simple as a switch. I was certain I’d be calling him. 

Sure enough, later that evening I called. “Thank you,” I told him. “Thank you for fixing my dishwasher. I guess with all the kids here, someone probably turned the switch off when they were doing something else.”
Of course…it could have been me. I tend to complicate things.

Please tell me I’m not alone!

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The Writer Within




You May Be a Writer If…

You Sit Back at Parties and Create Scenes in Your Head With the People in the Room as Characters
Ever at a boring event where you don’t know the people? Seated at the table where everyone else only speaks Italian? 

You Can’t Help But Mentally “Edit” Facebook Posts
Need I say more?

You Look at Troublesome Moments in Your Life as Possible Tension Points For Your Next Novel
Every life has them and every novel needs them. Not to mention this perspective helps you endure the frustration of the car not starting or the electric going off. 

You Watch a Television Show or Movie, Noting Inciting Incidents, Arcs…and the Resolution of the Story 
Watch the old western series calledWagon Train. The stories are perfectly formed.

You Rewrite Endings to Movies or Books You Wish Had Different Outcomes
All the time. 

You Study People in Line While Waiting to Renew your Driver’s License and Mentally Craft Biographies For Each One
It takes forever! You can actually collect at least five solid character sketches before your turn at the desk.

You Collect Interesting Names of Places and People
Steele Mattingly –an honest to goodness veterinarian in Cincinnati…even though I’ve always thought he should have been a spy.

You Read an Article or Watch a Report on the News and Immediately Think of at Least Two or Three Possible Backstories Leading to the Event
“They don’t know why the man jumped from the train. Police are still investigating…”

You Observe People Waiting for a Plane and Make Up Exciting Future Adventures for Them Based on Their Demeanor, Dress, and Luggage
A young couple on an international flight. She’s dressed up…he’s dressed down. He has a backpack. She has a leather carry-on. His eyes are only on her. Her eyes dart around the room. 

You Refer to Someone Who Disagrees with You as “The Antagonist”
No comment here…I don’t want to get in trouble.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The Bucket List

You’ve likely seen the movie with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicolson. Fighting cancer, both men know they have a short time to live so they form an unlikely alliance and set out to do all the things they would like to have accomplished before they die. Interesting. You may even have your own bucket list.

This past summer, my six-year-old granddaughter had it in her heart to see Mount Rushmore. “It’s on my bucket list,” she told me.

 “Exactly what is a bucket list?” I asked her. 

“It’s everything you want to do before you grow up,” she answered solemnly.

That may be a healthier concept. We would likely get more done in our lives if we didn’t put off our dreams to “someday.”

My daughter and son-in-law surprised my youngest granddaughter with a trip to Mount Rushmore. In the picture you cans see the pure joy on her face. (As an aside, she also had the Statue of Liberty on her list. They made sure that happened this past summer as well.)

I can’t say I ever had a “bucket list.” I looked online to see what others consider bucket list worthy. I’ve already had the opportunity to swim with dolphins and been both waterskiing and snow skiing. Tom and I traveled in Europe. We took a cruise down the Nile and traveled by train from Helsinki, Finland to St. Petersburg, Russia. I’ve driven on the Autobahn and tried my hand driving on the left side of the road in Scotland. I even lived in Europe for a while. I’ve had the joy of experiencing many adventures in my life.

Now that I am aging and will likely enter my second childhood at some point, I decided to create my first “bucket list.” All the things I’d like to do before I “grow up.” I may add to it, but I’ll be pretty happy if I get to do these few items.

I’d like to:

Parasail
Go Whitewater Rafting
Be an Extra in a Movie
Visit Alaska
Take an Excursion Out West on a Conestoga Wagon
Tour Israel

And, oh yeah…one more thing. I’d really like to see Mount Rushmore.

What’s on your list?

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Playing the Birth Order Card to Your Advantage

People often speak of “birth order.” When people speak of family, I often hear them grouse about their position in the family. 

“I was the oldest so I was responsible for all my brothers and sisters. It wasn’t fair.”

“I was the youngest. I never got to do the stuff my brothers and sisters got to do because I was always ‘too little’ or ‘a baby.’”

But the pain and suffering of “the middles” must be the worst. According to them. I can’t actually speak to any of this since I’m an “only.”

Then again, there is one person I’ve known all my life who says she always thought she was the luckiest person in her family because she was…are you ready…the middle. Yep. She was smack dab in the middle of seven, count them, seven children. She had an older sister and a younger sister. She had two older brothers and two younger brothers.

The middle. 

With My Mom 2019
Why did she view herself as lucky? She had the best of both worlds. Mature enough to be included in the activities of the older ones and playful enough to enjoy the younger ones. She enjoyed her big family so much she fully expected to have at least four or five children of her own. It didn’t happen. She had one. One that was full of energy and kept her busy. She counted herself lucky.

She’s my mom. I’m the lucky one.

But this leads me to share a position I’ve long held. I’ve been blessed with three daughters. They are strong, smart, fun, women who are also full of energy. If they run into some issue or discover some flaw, it would be easy to blame their birth order. I hear that stuff from others frequently.

But I contend God places you in a family exactly where you need to be. The experiences you have and the qualities you develop because of your family position are what you need to be the person He intends you to be.

Responsible because you were the oldest? Good. We need responsible people.

Felt left out because you were the youngest? Okay. We need people who can empathize with the disenfranchised.

Always having to work to make things happen because you were a middle? Caring negotiators are scarce. We need you.

I used to think being an only was the worst. But the “only child” brings a different viewpoint and skill set to the table. Independent thinking. And we need that, too.

How did "birth order" make you the person you are today?

Also...this week, is my mom’s birthday. So to all the middles out there…Celebrate!





Wednesday, January 8, 2020

A Redirected Life

A Re-Directed Life

I’ve had this notion rolling around in my head for a while now. It is the changing of life’s path. In fact, I spoke to a church group about this very subject in September.

Last month, I wrote a post about the university where I taught closing its doors. I suggested that the students who had to complete their studies elsewhere would be “uniquely qualified” to live in our ever-changing, Plan B world. 

In August, I penned a post about reinventing or refining our lives. It is true. We all must do it. I simply don’t know anyone who is living out Plan A. In fact, I’ve been through so much change I’m not sure I remember Plan A. I may be on Plan D, E, or F by now…I only trust I’m not to Z. Yet.

My youngest daughter and I talk about this. We talk about how change happens and how we respond to it.

Sometimes we change our direction to follow a dream.It is our choice. That’s what happened when I left teaching to become a writer. Writing had been a dream since second grade. When Tom and I decided to retire, I was a professor at Cincinnati Christian University. I could have continued teaching somewhere and was even offered a job to teach online courses. Writing had been something I desired. Retiring afforded me the opportunity to pursue it.

Sometimes we change our direction due to circumstances beyond our control. That’s what happened in 2014, when I had to shift from being Tom’s wife to being his widow. As I shared in one of my talks, learning to live alone is more than learning to change the filter on the furnace. It is learning to live in the quiet. It is learning to live without someone to share your ideas and dreams.

For the students who were left suddenly without a college, it was a scrambling to find a university, pack, locate housing, obtain funding, and fight to transfer as much as they could to their new schools. They rose to the occasion. At the last chapel service, they worshipped the God who will never leave them. They spoke of this change in plans as an opportunity to be like the early church and be “scattered to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.” They modeled resiliency. 

Sometimes God Opens a Door and
We Walk Through It
Sometimes we change our direction because God opens a door and we walk through it.That’s what happened when I accepted the teaching position in Kosovo. I know God would have blessed me even if I hadn’t said yes to the adventure, but I’m so glad I lived in southeast Europe those ten months. It helped me heal from the sudden death of my husband. 

What lies ahead? I have no clue. That’s part of the adventure. A new year… a new decade… a new challenge? All I know is this verse from Philippians 4 “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (v. 13)

What changes have redirected your life?