Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


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Meet Author Christy Brunke

In the winter of 2015, I met Christy Brunke at the Writer to Writer Conference in Hershey, PA.  I was smitten by her smile, enthusiasm, and sincerity. We were both finalists in the Jerry Jenkins Operation First Novel Contest. I thought, “Lord, I guess I wouldn’t mind so much if she won.” The Lord was gracious! We both won book publishing contracts that year–along with our soon-to-be-friend Linda Brooks Davis! 

CJ:  When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Who first supported you in this dream? 

CB: When I was born, my parents named me Christy after Catherine Marshall’s bestselling novel. You might say Marshall and her famous heroine were my first inspirations. As long as I can remember, I’ve loved reading, especially inspirational fiction.  

As a little girl, I was always dreaming up stories. I remember going into a patch of woods near our house and pretending I was the queen of a small kingdom. When my brother Jeremy was born, I was disappointed he couldn’t walk or talk. My solution? Create an imaginary friend named “Eremy.” In sixth grade, I won a short story contest and was rewarded with a Butterball turkey. From then on, I dreamed of writing novels, memoirs, and children’s books.

My mom, another avid reader, was the first to suggest I write novels. But I probably inherited by creativity from my dad. A former singer and songwriter, he helped me plot Snow Out of Season.

CJ: What did you do before you became a writer?  

CB: Penning Snow Out of Season was an incredible experience, but, before that, the Lord led me on other adventures. I completed a bachelor of arts in English and moved to China to study Mandarin and teach at a university. When I returned to the States, I attended seminary and taught drama and music.  

Then God called me to Chicago to work at a multi-site church where I fell in love with a zany youth pastor. After we got married, a story grew in my heart, one I felt compelled to share. Now was the time to pursue that long-delayed dream.  

snow-out-of-sesasonCJ: Tell us a little bit about your debut novel Snow Out of Season.

CB: Two pregnant women separated by time . . . Are they more connected than they know? 

Shannon Henry is just starting to put her life back together after the death of her infant daughter when she discovers she’s pregnant again. When her doctor presents her with the choice of either raising a child with Down syndrome or terminating the pregnancy, Shannon is torn. 

Leslie Gardner is a high-school senior in 1979 who dreams of becoming a professional ballerina, but discovers she is pregnant. If she has the child, her chances of a dancing career and college are over …

CJ: What inspired you to write this particular book? 

KB: As a teen and young adult, I longed for a God-scripted love story. I devoured books like Elisabeth Elliot’s Quest for Love: True Stories of Passion and Purity. Realizing my Creator knew me better than anyone, and knew every man as well, I asked Him to choose my husband.  And He did.  

Mark complements me perfectly and has been an incredible blessing to me and many others. But when his mom was pregnant with him, her circumstances would have led many women to have an abortion. I started wondering what my life would have been like if she’d made a different choice. 

So began Snow Out of Season, the dual stories of two women of two generations who struggle with the same questions. Is the child each carries worthy of life? What will it cost to keep the child? What will happen if each decides not to? 

CJ: How have your readers responded?

CB: Fiction lovers, book reviewers, and other novelists have blessed me with their reactions to Snow Out of Season. 

  • The Library Journal called it “. . . an astonishing tale with a gratifying ending . . . completely engrossing.” 
  • Award-winning author Brandy Vallance said Snow Out of Season is . . . a beautifully poignant and much-needed story.”  
  • Bestselling author Sandra Byrd said, “The story caught me with characters so real I feel I might see them on the street, and it held me with breathtakingly clever storytelling.” 

Amazon readers have encouraged me greatly with their 5-star reviews, including: 

  • “Best book I have read in years.” 
  • “Great New Author!” 
  • “Couldn’t put it down!” 
  • “I cried!”
  • “Fantastic  – A Must Read!!!”

CJ: What writing projects are you currently working on? 

CB: During this season of my life, I’m focusing on book events, blogging weekly, and writing articles for online newspapers. In 2017, I hope to begin writing my next book. Between novels, creative nonfiction, and children’s picture books, I have over a dozen ideas. 

On my website, I plan to share teasers for my best tales and ask readers to help me decide. Subscribe to my blog at ChristyBrunke.com, so you can tell me which one you’d like to read next!

christy-brunkes-author-photo

MORE ABOUT CHRISTY: Three months after her second daughter was born, she entered her manuscript in the Operation First Novel contest. In January 2015, Jerry Jenkins announced her story was a winner. In November, the Library Journal named Snow Out of Season the Christian Fiction Debut of the Month. By January, it topped Amazon bestseller lists. Christy Lives in Maryland with her husband, Mark, and their two adorable daughters. When she’s not at church or with her family, you can often find her blogging, writing articles, or dreaming up her next story.

Click HERE and scroll down to order all three winners of the last Jerry Jenkins Operation First Novel Contest: The Calling of Ella McFarland by Linda Brooks Davis, Double Header by Clarice G.  James, and Snow Out of Season by Christy Brunke.


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So Very Thankful: Remission Accomplished

so-very-thankfulHands down, this year’s major to-be-thankful-for item is my husband David’s remission from cancer. His diagnosis of Acute Myeloid Leukemia early in January was a jumpstart to a year of extreme faith.

I remember the first prayer we prayed: “Lord, cancer does not define us! Our faith in you does. Help us to remember that as you carry us through this journey.”

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

Our hope is in God, our future is with God—whether here on earth or in Heaven.

We shook off our pre-planned 2016 agendas and headed to Boston, thankful we lived in close proximity to some of the best hospitals in the world. We are grateful for the expertise and experience of the caring medical teams who still treat David. We were blessed with help from family and friends—most especially the perfectly-matched stem cells from David’s sister, Darleen.

peace-lloyd-jonesWe didn’t fret or fear.We prayed and trusted God—not necessarily for David’s healing, but for God’s perfect will for our lives. We’re not naive. We know bad things happen to all people—whether they have faith in God or not. It’s hard to understand sometimes.

But Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV) puts it this way: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LordAs the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’

We had no idea how this would turn out, yet we lived in the midst of a peace that goes way beyond our mere mortal comprehension. When you know God in a personal way, He does that sort of thing for you.

And it doesn’t matter if you’re in the midst of cancer, grief, marital strife, emotional turmoil, physical pain, failure, job loss, financial stress, or loneliness. He’s within a prayer’s reach–and it doesn’t have to be a fancy prayer either. Just open your heart to him; you’ll see.

We are so very thankful for our family and friends–for your prayers, moral support, kind words, warm hearts, open arms, and for taking the time to listen.

remission-accomplishedDavid still has a couple more months of a semi-quarantined lifestyle. He’ll start the re-immunization process after the first of the year. Until we see you again, we’ll continue to celebrate a remission accomplished!

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

 


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Lego My Ego

letto-egoI have a list of a thousand things–all good things–I want to do before I die. Sometimes I think I have to cram them all into one month.

When my activities start to overlap, things get pushed around: my priorities out of order, my finances out of line, my emotions out of control, and my back, well, just out.

I have a ready list of excuses too.

  • If I don’t do this, no one else will.
  • They’re counting on me.
  • It’s all part of marketing my book.
  • But I want to.
  • I’m not getting any younger. [Tell me, is anyone?]

Recently, when my serenity was crowded out by busyness, I had a hard time hearing God’s voice. And I needed to. [Duh.] So I prayed for the Lord to speak loud enough for me to hear over the din of my daily activities. He gave me this personalized paraphrase of 1 Kings 19:11-14 instead.

Go stand over there and be quiet. Don’t check your email or Facebook and stay away from Pinterest. Wait for God to speak.

A reader posted a 5-star Amazon review and bolstered my hopes before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the Amazon review; after the review, a great idea for another writers’ event, but God wasn’t in the event; and after the great idea, positive comments on a blog, but God wasn’t in the comments or the blog; and after the positive comments, a gentle and quiet whisper.

When Clarice heard the quiet voice, she muffled her face with her great lap blanket, went to the mouth of her writing cave, and stood there. A quiet voice asked, “So Clarice, now tell me, what are you doing here?” Clarice said it again, “I’ve been writing my heart out for God, the God-of-the-Angel-Armies, because the people of God have turned toward the secular market, destroyed your places of Christian publication, and murdered the written word. I’m the only one left, and now they’re trying to kill me.”

egoOh, the ego of it all! When I feel like I’m not able to give up some of my activities, writing or otherwise, because there is no one who can possibly replace me, that’s when I know I’m in trouble. OVERBLOWN EGO TROUBLE.

To make it right, I need to let go of my ego and refresh my soul.  So now I’m waiting– really waiting– to hear the Lord’s gentle whisper.

Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives. ~ 1 Peter 2:11-12 (MSG)


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Beauty Tips for Ladies of an Uncertain Age Only

And I want women to get in there with the men in humility before God, not primping before a mirror or chasing the latest fashions but doing something beautiful for God and becoming beautiful doing it. ~ 1 Timothy 2:9-10 (MSG)

The advantage of being my age is that I’ve mastered a few beauty tips over the years which I am transparent enough to pass on to my readers.

dirty-eueglassesFirst, clean your eyeglasses!

You know that blouse you’ve been wearing three days in a row—it’s covered with drips and dribbles. Oh, yes, it is. No one will tell you because they’re just relieved it’s not them.

I once worked with a woman who kept pushing her eyeglasses up her nose while she ate her tuna fish sandwich. By the end of lunch, her glasses were smeared with mayonnaise. Please! This is not a good look for you–first, because you won’t be able to see. And, second, it’s hard for people to take you seriously when you have tuna hanging off an eyeglass hinge. 

Clean your eyeglasses before you attempt to pluck those thick spikes which crop up in your eyebrows. If you don’t, you’ll end up with bald spots. It’s not easy to do a comb-over on an eyebrow.

If you don’t like the look of little pieces of bloody toilet paper on your face, wear your clean eyeglasses when plucking those half-inch chin hairs that pop out overnight. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.

Along this line, wax or at least trim your mustache. (Yes, I know why women get them–but I don’t get why they keep them.)cutting-hair

Rethink cutting your own hair–especially at 3:00 a.m. If you do cut your hair in the wee hours of the morning, do not follow that act with plucking. You won’t like the results, believe me.

Read the directions on how to use a curling iron. Click here to see what could happen.

hairplugsThere’s always a period of time before your roots start to show and your next hair appointment. A temporary solution is to use eye shadow on your roots. (I’d stay away from blue or green.) Again shadow, not mascara. I got the wand caught in my hair. And not eyebrow pencil. Those little pencil marks made me look like I had hair plugs.

Don’t try waxing your armpits. No matter what QVC says about their product, trust me on this one. First, it’s tiring holding your arms up waiting for the wax to dry. Second, your armpit skin is stretchy—and pulling the wax only stretches it further. Do you want saggy armpits? I mean, it might work if you have someone holding your skin while you tug on the wax. But how many people do you know who would hold your armpit? [Never mind, I don’t want to know.]

dsc03767-35x5My final tip is to smile—all the time. No one will guess you still have wax in your armpits. And it’ll distract them from the spots on your blouse and the ticks on your hairline, too.

There are husbands who, indifferent as they are to any words about God, will be captivated by your life of holy beauty. What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—but your inner disposition.  Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in. ~ 1 Peter 3:2-4 (MSG)


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Pregnant with Fashion Faux Pas

Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. ~ Matthew 6-27-29 (MSG)

This post is meant to make you feel better about yourself—at my expense, of course. It’s a brief history of my fashion faux pas.

BACKGROUND: I was the second oldest of six children. My sister Suzanne was just shy of two years older; the four youngest were boys. Part of my responsibility as one of the oldest was to help my brothers look presentable. I washed their faces, buttoned their shirts, pulled up their pants, and made sure their shoes were on the right feet.

USA, New York, New York City, Paperboy (14-15) holding newspapers, shouting

It’s what sisters did for their little brothers back then. My mistake was thinking it was what all girls did for all boys in any situation.

THE SCENE: My mother and a neighbor were having coffee at our kitchen table. My 11-year-old self was present when the neighbor’s 15-year-old son, and our paperboy, stepped into the kitchen to deliver the newspaper.

I noticed his fly was down, so I quickly reached over and zipped it up for him, hoping to save him some embarrassment at the next house. His mother laughed, my mother scolded me, and his face turned bright red. It took me years to understand what their problem was.

BACKGROUND: Back to my older sister. I envied her when she started to develop in all the right places. Especially the summer she got the black and white one-piece bathing suit that emphasized her curves. I insisted the same suit with the stiff built-in cups fit me as well as it did her. I talked my mother into buying one for me too.

THE SCENE: At the pond, wearing my suit, the 7th grade boys all abuzz.bathing-suit

To get away from the 7th grade boys’ google eyes and wisecracks, I dove under water, swam along the bottom to the raft. I climbed up, planning to sun bathe away from shore with the more sophisticated high school crowd. When I sat and leaned back on my hands, to my horror I saw my two cups crushed almost flat, revealing my less than full figure. I dove back into the water, poked the cups back out, swam to shore, went home, and didn’t return to the pond that summer.

BACKGROUND: As a junior high student, I had a crush on the aforementioned paperboy. I wanted him to notice me. When the neighborhood kids got a game of softball together, I decided to go. I chose my striped top and a pair of short-shorts I’d inherited from someone somewhere. (My mother never would have bought them for me.) Of course, I didn’t want my parents to see what I had on, so I feigned chilliness and wore a hand-me-down London Fog trench coat over my outfit. Pathetic that it made sense to me at the time.

london-fog-coatTHE SCENE: In a big, bare field, all the neighborhood kids in jeans and t-shirts, playing softball. I, alone, in a raincoat.

I hung around clutching my coat closed until it was my turn at bat. The longer I waited, the more I was afraid to take the coat off. When I finally did, I felt like Gypsy Rose Lee [Younger people, ask your parents.] I stepped to the plate. No one whistled, but all the kids laughed. My softball career ended that day.

BACKGROUND: In high school, my nerves got the best of me. For a period of time, I sweat like a pig. [They still say that don’t they?] Nothing could stop it. Going to the prom with a boy I hardly knew made it worse.

THE SCENE: Not wanting sweat stains to show up on my hot pink prom dress before my date arrived, I stuffed tissue under my arms to absorb the nervous moisture. It worked so well I forgot it was there. Until I was standing in the middle of a crowd at the prom and a damp wad of tissues slipped through my dainty cap sleeve and plopped at my feet. My date made himself scarce the rest of the night. Never did like that guy.

BACKGROUND: Married with three kids early in life, I didn’t have much of a budget for clothes. My mother-in-law gave me this cool African top, made of stiff cotton in bright colors of orange, browns, and yellow. I wasn’t quite sure it was my style, but I wanted to be in style, so I wore it.

african-topTHE SCENE: While waiting at a traffic light, a car rear-ended my Pinto without slowing down. I hit the car in front of me and so on down the line. The ambulance was called. While the EMTs checked everyone out, I leaned against my car with my head in my hands, more upset about my car and the inconvenience than my physical condition.

One EMT seemed especially solicitous of me. I didn’t know why, since I wasn’t hurt. Then I heard him speak into his radio: “We’ve got a pregnant one here.” I looked around for a woman with child, praying she wasn’t hurt. Then I realized he was talking about me.

I look down at my African top and back at him. Now when a woman has to tell a strange man she’s not pregnant, that is not a good thing for either of them. He was back on his radio: “Scratch that. No baby. Repeat. No baby.”

The day I got my Pinto back, the African top went to the Salvation Army.

BACKGROUND: The windbreaker I’d received as a birthday gift was too small. I had gained some weight and was not happy. I went to the store to exchange it.

THE SCENE: While trying on the next size windbreaker in the busy department store, I realized it, too, was small. Aggravated, I tried to pull it over my head; it got stuck, and so did my arms. Blindfolded by the windbreaker, I walked around the store calling for my husband. He tried to pull it down when he saw me; frustrated at his ignorance, I pulled it back up. When I finally listened, he explained that my blouse was caught up with the windbreaker and I was standing there in my bra. The bright side: No one could see my face.

I know I’m not alone. Want to share one of your faux pas with me?


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I Have Questions. Where is King Solomon?

QuestionsWhen the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the Lord, she came to test Solomon with hard questions. Arriving at Jerusalem . . . she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind. Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her. ~ 1Kings 10:1-3 (NIV)

The US is a complicated place, and the people who live here even more so. I have a few questions. If there’s a King Solomon out there, give me a call.

Do you have questions too?

  1. When a company advertises its frozen chicken product as having “ingredients like all meat chicken,” what exactly do they mean by like?Strawberry-Roll-ups
  2. Why do we say “You’re only [pick any age] once” and “You’re not getting any younger” as if it’s a lost nugget of Solomon’s wisdom?
  3. Why were consumers caught unawares when it was disclosed that strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups contain no strawberries?
  4. One day, a doctor can tell a woman smoking may harm the baby in her womb. The next day, another doctor can end that same baby’s life in that same womb. What kind of choice is that?
  5. Yes, bacon soap is real—but why?
  6. Speaking of soap, what happens to soap scum that doesn’t stick to your tile?
  7. Why does the news media blame drug addiction on everyone except the person who started taking the drugs? I know the problem is complicated, but shouldn’t we hold the addict accountable too?da14_bacon_soap_closeup
  8. Who decides what to do when an endangered animal eats another endangered species?
  9. That brings me to this: Why do sharks get more respect (and news coverage) than the seals they eat?
  10. Why can’t gruntled people get as much attention as their disgruntled counterparts? Sheesh. The word’s not even recognized by spell-check.
  11. Have you seen the ad for the Preparation H Totables which come in a “discreet, convenient travel size”? Pardon me, but isn’t all use of any Preparation H product meant to be discreet?PH
  12. If, for unknown reasons, either and/or both of our presidential nominees were unable to continue their race for office, how would a replacement candidate be chosen?  No, seriously, how?

 


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Through a Glass Darkly: The Potluck Widow

 

For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. ~ Matthew 7:2 (NIV)

As an author, here’s how I imagine things versus how they really are. Sort of.

The Scenario:

SingleA middle-aged widow attended Small Church in Small Town. Though she loved the church, it didn’t have a promising selection of eligible men. None, to be exact. When she heard about an active Singles Group in Big Church in Bigger Town about an hour’s drive from home, she signed up for their Potluck Social two weeks away.

As excited as she was, she had a few concerns:  How much weight could she lose in two weeks? Could her hairdresser do her roots the day before? What would she wear if she lost weight? And what would she wear if she didn’t? Most of her friends were married–could she walk in alone? If she invited a single friend, would it increase the odds against her? More importantly, what could she make that would make a man’s mouth water?

The way I imagined it happened . . .

bacon and tenderloinThankfully, the widow’s hairdresser was able to fit her in the day before and even added red highlights. Then, with one quick stop, she found all the ingredients on sale to make double bacon-wrapped tenderloin tips and molten chocolate lava cakes. She grabbed a family-size bag of barbeque chips just in case.

dress printThe morning of the event she stepped on her scale. She was ten pounds lighter! Off to a great start, she happily chose a dress she hadn’t been able to fit in since she bought it. Once she’d prepared her delectable contributions to the potluck meal, she packed them in the  thermal containers and was off!dress print

There was very little traffic, so she found Big Church without a hitch. She had arrived early enough to appear polite, yet not desperate. Greeted warmly by a gray-haired woman a few years older and a few pounds heaver, the widow set her creations on the buffet table between an egg salad sandwich platter and a bowl of pickled beets.

mocha lava cakeThe aroma of her double bacon-wrapped tenderloin tips caused a mad dash of single, well-dressed, good-looking, middle-aged men to rush in through multiple doors. All were suitably employed and loved to cook, do housework, and redecorate rooms.

The biggest problem the widow encountered that day was which single man to keep.

The way it really happened . . .

Her hairdresser wasn’t able to fit her in, so she colored her own roots and added red highlights. She mustn’t have waited long enough for the root color to set because the highlights turned her gray roots hot pink.

She scrambled around multiple food stores, confused about what to make for the Potluck Social. Not much of a cook and on a limited budget, she ended up buying an accidently-thawed Mrs. Smith’s pumpkin pie and a crushed box of Choco Mallows from the seconds bin. She grabbed a bag of chips, but ate them on the way home.

frumpy dressThe morning of the Potluck Social she weighed herself (before dressing, after peeing). Stress-eating over this whole affair had resulted in a gain of eight-plus pounds. Off to a crummy start, she had to wear that navy, flowered dress she’d vowed never to be seen in again.

She baked the thawed pie according to the directions on the box. The crust burned so she removed it and cut the rest of the pie into weird geometrical shapes, some of which  rocked. She unwrapped the Choco Mallows to make them look more homemade, then put them and the pie bites in disposable plastic containers. And she was off!

She got lost trying to find Big Church in Bigger Town. An hour late, she was greeted by a blonde, twenty years younger and twenty pounds lighter, who said, “Where did you come from?” When the widow told her Small Church in Small Town, the younger woman said, “Then why don’t you start your own singles group there?”

With no real answer, the widow found the buffet table where she placed her squished chocomallowspumpkin shapes and melted Mallows near an empty platter that still had the aroma of bacon and beef. She weaved through the full room of singles carrying a paper plate filled with a beet-juice-soaked egg salad sandwich and three cold pigs ‘n a blanket.

There were way more women than men in attendance. And from what she overheard, most of the men her age were talking about their mothers–whom, it seemed, they still lived with.

She found a seat in an outside circle of chairs. Inside the circle, smaller circles of people stood and chatted amiably with their backs to her and their backsides inches from her plate.

No one, other than the blonde, spoke to her the long, painful hour she was there. It was as if a secret alarm had sounded: WARNING! WARNING! NEW WIDOW ON THE PROWL! (Not nice,  even if it was true.)

The biggest problem the widow encountered that day was how to find the exit out of  Big Church so she could get back to Small Town fast.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:12 (KJV)