Writing Diamonds

Writing Diamonds
The DeBeers Millennium Star Diamond

The DeBeers Millennium Star Diamond

In 1990, in the Mbuji-Mayi district of Zaire, an alluvial digger discovered a perfect rough diamond weighing 777 carats. He approached a local De Beers buyer, who immediately recognized its extraordinary beauty and purchased it.

Today, it is known as the DeBeers Millennium Star Diamond. It is the second largest known top-color diamond in the world and is insured for $169,475,000. It took the stone cutters three years to cut the rough diamond into its flawless, pear shape of 203.04 carats.

That’s right. They cut 573.96 carats off the original diamond. In other words, the stone cutters removed approximately 75% of the original stone to get to the flawless heart and shape of the diamond.

What the stone cutters removed were still diamonds and were probably used in other pieces of jewelry. But, there was something about those other pieces that needed to be removed. Perhaps they contained flaws. Perhaps they were flawless, but were not located within the Millennium Star’s perfect shape.

I remind myself of this stone whenever I am writing. The words I select might be beautiful and evocative and – in my opinion – inspired. But, if they do not contribute to the overall beauty of the story/article/play, I have to cut them.

However, just because I cut them does not mean a word/phrase/description/scene has no value. I often add them to my ‘Descriptive Dictionary’ where I keep words/phrases/descriptions I want to use in future work.

At the right time, they will become a beautiful part of another manuscript.

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person with mapI have a confession to make; I am directionally challenged.

My hubby Mike went through orienteering [map reading] when he was in the Army and can find his way around with few problems. When he’s driving in a new area, he actually likes to get lost; he claims that finding his way out helps him to learn the area for future reference.

Not me.

If I get lost, I stay lost. If—by some chance—I do find my way back to the right path, all that means is that the next time I won’t remember what is the right way and what is the wrong way.

That is why I love written directions—complete with landmarks—maps and my GPS. Before owning a GPS, whenever I used a map, I would hold it on top of the steering wheel while I was driving to the location; on the trip home, I would flip the map upside down. I kept my homemade maps in the glove box until I was familiar enough with the area and didn’t need to use them anymore. With my GPS, I keep the software and the maps updated and will always check the route it recommends before using it.

This coming weekend, I am going on a writing-related business trip. Yesterday, I had to talk to my editor about some details for the meeting. Before we got to the meeting’s content, however, I asked her for the address of the meeting’s location and—since it is to be held on a college campus—where I would go once I arrived.

I was so pleased that she gave me detailed directions, complete with landmarks and comments like, “Slow down once you get on this road; there are lots of deer.” She concluded with a reminder to call or text her should I get lost.

After hanging up, I Googled the campus and found a detailed map, which I printed up; you never know when the GPS won’t be able to access the satellite.

This morning, I was reading in the book of Isaiah, when I came across a verse which fits me:

“This is what the LORD says– your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.’” (Isaiah 48:17)

God knows my life. He knows where I am now and where I am going. I don’t need to worry about how to make it through life. He knows me and knows what information I need to reach my destination. God—His Son, His Word and His Spirit—are all I need. When I trust Him and follow His directions, I will never get lost.

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Mixing Business and Fun

Mixing Business and Fun

[L-R] Hubby Mike, yours truly, Cheryl Wicker, Francine Locke, Denny Brownlee

[L-R] Hubby Mike, yours truly, Cheryl Wicker, Francine Locke, Denny Brownlee

The National Religious Broadcasters [NRB] is held every year at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, TN. In those few days, people from around the globe come to promote and assist those within the Christian communications and entertainment industry. There are events, workshops, interviews, and meeting for people and companies wanting to promote their books, music and films.

On Monday night, hubby Mike and I had the opportunity to meet with Steve Mitchell, the Managing Director of UK Authentic Media Group, the publishing house for SISTERS OF LAZARUS; Beauty Unveiled. Over tea and coffee, we got to know each other as well as discussed my books and the publishing world in general.

NRB is also a time to reconnect up with people we’ve met during industry events who have gone on to become friends. After meeting with Steve, Mike and I had supper with actor Gary Ray Moore [House of Cards], singer/songwriter Erica Lane Saylors and her hubby producer Kyle Saylors, actress Francine Locke [Stand Your Ground], actor/writer Denny Brownlee, and producer Cheryl Wicker of Christian Movies Connect. It was so much fun catching up with everyone over pizza and pasta.

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Forty Roses

Forty Roses

2013-04-29 15.43.13I wandered through the aisles of greeting cards covered with hearts and roses. I picked up several and then, after reading them, slipped them back onto the shelf.

None of them said what I thought. None of them expressed what I felt. None of them could match what it has meant to have Mike Parker in my life for over 40 years.

I met Mike in October, 1971, during Youth Night at Billy Graham’s crusade in the newly opened Texas Stadium in Dallas. Our church’ youth group had taken a bus load of kids to hear Dr. Graham and Mike had come as a guest of a new member of our church. I was immediately drawn to Mike’s handsome face, his gentle smile and eyes—oh my, those eyes!—but would come to learn that he was more than a manly physique and long lashes.

“Miracle of miracles and wonder of wonders,” he was drawn to me as well.

Fast forward to three years later. On November of1974, we said, “I do,” and became Mr. and Mrs. Michael Parker.

As newlywed college students, our life was packed with school and work. When our first married Valentine’s Day rolled around, I knew there was no money for a night on the town, so I saved something from my grocery budget to buy a card and planned for a quiet, romantic night at home.

I was cooking supper when Mike came home from work. After a quick kiss, he said, “I forgot something at the store. Do you need anything?” I asked him to buy a can of sauerkraut and went back to cooking. I was still in the kitchen—my back to the door—when he returned.

“I wasn’t sure what brand of sauerkraut you wanted,” he said. “I hope this is fine.”

I turned around to see him holding a single, long-stemmed red rose.

As he handed it to me, he said, “In the coming years, I will add a rose for each year of our married life.”

Throughout the years, Mike has kept that promise. They haven’t always been real roses, but they have been just as beautiful. One year he went to the beauty aisle of a store and bought rose lipstick, rose blush, rose nail polish and rose perfume. Another year, he bought a miniature wedding bouquet with the exact number of roses. One year he made cookie dough and made a dozen rosebud cookies.  In 1986, he gave me a rose corsage and, three days later, brought it to the hospital where I had given birth to our twins, Joshua and Anna, so I could enjoy the flowers. Last year, he secretly got on my Facebook page and changed the cover to  a picture of 39 roses.

When friends and family heard about that first rose and Mike’s promise, there were many who thought it was over the top and he would not be able to fulfill it.

But he has.

Each year has been a wonderful surprise. The roses are a reminder of a promise made and kept. Of love through good times and hard. Of challenges met and challenges overcome. Of dreams fulfilled and dreams to come.

The first day I met Mike Parker, all I saw was a handsome young man. This morning, when I woke up next to Mike Parker, I saw my godly husband.

Happy 40th Valentine’s Day, my Love.

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The Song that Birthed the Story

The Song that Birthed the Story

“Where did you get your inspiration for your story?”

This probably ranks as one of the top most frequently asked questions during author interviews; and for a good reason. When I learn what sparked an idea behind a novel, it gives me a deeper appreciation for the story.

While it might seem obvious that the main story for SISTERS OF LAZARUS: Beauty Unveiled was drawn from the Gospel, there was something else that brought the biblical story to life for me.

It’s Alright Now by Harvest, featuring Jerry Williams and Ed Kerr

In 1982, the Contemporary Christian Music group Harvest [Jerry Williams and Ed Kerr] released “Because I Am” on their album It’s Alright Now. With rich vocals and sweeping music, the song related the dialogue between Mary and Jesus outside the tomb of Lazarus.

As I listened to this epic song, the story resonated within me. I could see Mary falling at the feet of Jesus, crying out her grief for the loss of a beloved brother, and Jesus reminding her of ‘all the words that I have said.’ Over the years, whenever I read the story of the raising of Lazarus in the Bible, I would remember that song.
One of the first things I did after I signed the book contract for SISTERS OF LAZARUS: Beauty Unveiled was to pull out the album – yes, I still have it on vinyl – and listen to that song. Even with the skips and scratches of a 30 year old album, the song was just as powerful as the first time I heard it. Every day, before I would begin the day’s writing, I would listen to that song.

I contacted EPIC Ministries, Inc., the interdenominational, evangelistic, and discipling ministry that Jerry Williams and his wife Donna founded. I told them how “Because I Am” had impacted the writing of my new novel and asked if I could share an official music video of the song. Donna explained that, while there was not an official music video, there were several YouTube versions of it from Harvest fans and I had their permission to share any of them.

To learn more about EPIC Ministries, visit their website.

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Oz, Phase 2

Oz, Phase 2

Facebook announcementOne of the blessings of living near most of our five children is that we frequently have big family get-togethers, like holidays or family celebrations or just to hang out. Nate, who married our daughter Anna, shares the same birthday as Mike and we planned to have everyone come to our house for a double birthday cookout celebration.

Bethany and Billy – along with their 3 month-old baby, Isabella, were the first to arrive on that first Saturday in March. After kissing her chubby cheeks, I passed Bella off to her Gapo – Mike wanted to be called the Great And Powerful Oz. Soon, the others arrived and there were nine of us gathered around the table.

It was an evening of laughter, sharing family stories – both old and new – and lots of good food.  After we sang ‘Happy Birthday,’ passed out bowls of banana pudding and chocolate mint cupcakes, and the guys opened their presents, Anna handed Mike a card. Anna loves ‘crafty’ things, including making cards using stamps.

I looked over as Mike opened the envelop and made some comment about how pretty the card was. There was a folded paper inside the card and he unfolded it. Anna had signed the bottom of the paper, “Hi Gapo. I can’t wait to meet you in October.” I glanced up to see two ultrasound pictures above her signature.

Anna was pregnant!

I squealed and jumped up to hug Anna. Mike showed the picture to our youngest daughter, Mary. There was something in her expression that gave it away.

“You knew about this?” he asked her and she grinned. He looked around the table to see everyone grinning. They had had all known since the middle of February.

Anna and Nate announced the news on Facebook last week and we all shared the picture, with Mike commenting, “…and so begins Phase Two of Oz.”

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Oz and Me, enterting a new season of life

Oz and Me, enterting a new season of life

Bella just being cute!December 7th, 2012 became a new day to remember for my family and me. At 7:30 that morning, our daughter Bethany gave birth to Mike’s and my first grandchild, Isabella Parker Ring. With Bella’s first breath, I fell in love.

Being a grandparent has many responsibilities, one of the first being, what are we going to be called? When our children were little, we trained them to call us Mama and Papa, although over the years it has morphed into Mommy, Mom, Dad, or Daddy.

I wanted a unique name as a grandparent and, after much consideration, finally settled on Nona, the Italian word for ‘Grandmother.’ It is unique, it is beautiful, it is a nod to my Italian heritage, and it is easy to say. Of course, if little Bella – or any of her yet-to-be-born siblings or cousins – wish to get on my good side, they’ll call me Bella Nona, which means, ‘Beautiful Grandmother.’

Mike, on the other hand, has known for years what he wants our grandchildren to call him; The Great and Powerful Oz. I kid you not! After we all caught our breath from laughing, we realized the name fit Mike. Behind his scary-to-the-boys-who-date-our-daughters former Green Beret officer demeanor is a quiet, humble man who is ready to sacrifice for those he loves. We figure that Bella and her future siblings or cousins will call him Oz or Gapo.

So, Oz and I arm wrestle over who gets to hold Bella, copy/paste all of the pictures Bethy post on Facebook, learn how to make a video call on Skype and grin every time we walk down the baby aisle at the store. It can only get better from here.





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