Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


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Bras, Glutes, & Duck Heads: Age-Defining Moments

It’s been a rough few weeks for my ego. Please note the title says age-defining, not age-defying

Party of One Final Cover

Watch for it in May!

It began when I was out with a friend at a small local restaurant. Since my book Party of One is due out within weeks, I’ve been scouting venues to have book signings. I asked to speak with the owner of the place. I was surprised when a cute guy in his twenties approached the table.

He’s the owner?

Anyway, I told him what I had in mind. He was agreeable to the book signing idea, and I was excited.

“We could schedule you any night, maybe seven to closing,” he said. “We’ll set you up at one of our larger tables, and advertise it on Facebook. Just let me know what night would work best.”

The baby-faced owner was so darn cute and optimistic I didn’t have the heart to tell him.

First, nights won’t “work best.” My readers are women, middle-aged and older. Some of them don’t drive after dark—or shouldn’t. The rest of them have taken their bras off by seven. Once that happens, there’s no turning back.

After expressing my appreciation, I promised to get back to him soon. Better yet, maybe I could speak to his mother. She may be more sympathetic and better able to explain this rite of passage to her son.

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)

A second age-defining moment actually stems from my new membership at the gym … but not in the way you might think.

When I joined earlier this year, I had no fantasies about competing with lunks and beauty queens who were half my age. My goal was simple—to be more comfortable in my clothes, preferably the smaller sizes.

Anyway, after being assessed by a professional trainer, I got started.

I’d been working out for a few months, when I noticed an unwelcome change on my way into the kitchen one morning. My PJ bottoms hugged my glutes a little too tight. My brain ran back to the gym. (Okay, maybe “ran” is an exaggeration.) I pictured the machines in my head, then grumbled, “Why would a pro tell me to do exercises that would make my butt bigger?”

This may look exactly like me, but it’s not.

I was writing a formal letter of complaint in my head as I tugged at my PJ bottoms. That’s when I saw the tag—in the front. In my rush, I’d put my pants on backwards.

Knowing my husband was on his way, I wanted to right that wrong before he noticed.  A speedy off and on, then I began my breakfast duties with all the innocence and sophistication I could muster.

Then I heard him chuckling behind me.

With a hand on my hip, I said, “What’s so funny?”

“If you’re wondering why your sweatshirt has no spots on it, it’s because you’ve got in on backwards.”

Without much thought, my big mouth snapped back, “Then it matched my pants! So there!”

He’s still laughing.

In the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery. ~ Proverbs 28:23 (NLT)

This past holiday weekend, I got to spend time with my six grandchildren. The four older grandkids—Jessica, Colin, Michael, and Darin—are polite and tactful, but basically ignore me. Nice way of saying there’s a good chance I bore them. C’est la vie.

However, I can still amuse the youngest two: nine-year-old Max and seven-year-old Margaux—even when I’m not trying.

Dressed in my new outfit with my make-up and hair looking as good as ever, I sat on the sofa in their rental house, admiring the view of a lovely pond.

Margaux joined me. She leaned over the back of the sofa, her precious little face studying my features, like seven-year-olds do—up close and personal. Pointing to my chin and/or neck area, she exclaimed, “Hey! Memere! It looks like you have a duck’s head under there.”

Max jumped on the sofa, abandoning his Legos. “Let me see!” He twisted his whole body for a better view.

I began to laugh.

Margaux turned my head toward her. “Wait! When you laugh it looks like a tiny person!”

Max got even closer. “It does! If we draw eyes on it, it would look like a chubby face.”

I can’t wait until they grow up and ignore me.*

Grandchildren are the crowning glory of the aged; parents are the pride of their children. ~ Proverbs 17:6 (NLT)

(*That’s so not true.)

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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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Ego Deflate Gate

brush stuckWords not often used to describe me: Graceful and genius. Am I okay with it? I have to be. I’ve proved it o’er and o’er.

Years ago, while getting ready for a lunch date with some friends, I decided my style could use a boost. I planted myself in front of the bathroom mirror with my new electric styling brush, then grabbed a clump of hair.

At first, while trying to manipulate the brush, I blamed my awkwardness on being left-handed. But after I rolled my hair in the wrong direction, I realized my reflection was the problem—it was not cooperating with my brain.

In an effort to correct my error, I tried to unroll the brush. That was my second mistake. Or was it my third? In either case, now it was rolled so tight it was burning my scalp.  [Ah, some of you have done this, haven’t you?] After a Mississippi minute (on a mid-August day), I was smart enough to unplug it.

The styling tool of the century was stuck in my hair. Stuck good. I tried to untangle it for an hour—okay, maybe it just seemed like an hour—until the strength in my arms gave up.

Stalling for time I didn’t have, I stared at myself, pondering whether the curling brush was actually hanging on the left side of my head or the right. Did it really matter? Denial had set in.

I thought about letting it hang there as an accessory. No, too big. I thought about wearing a hat. Still too big. I thought about telling my friends the truth. Not a chance.

I reached for the scissors and cut.

My friends never said a word–even when I used one hand to eat and the other to hold my comb-over in place.

PS: Stayed tuned. I’ll tell you how I unintentionally pierced the inside of my ear with a paper clip.

“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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Author Marketing Campaign: It’s Not All About You

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. ~ Luke 6:38 (NIV)

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Marketing. Branding. Promoting. Platform. These are all important considerations for those in the business of writing and selling books. However, as Christian authors, the foundation you build on is not all about you, is it? Here are a few tips to help you develop a balanced and spiritual marketing plan.

BE ENGAGING: Engage others in conversation in person and through email and social media. And not just to get them to buy your book, support your cause, or attend your event. Try sending a handwritten note or card to encourage someone. You know, on real paper with a real pen; it’s not done often nowadays, so it means that much more.

GET PERSONAL: People respond positively when they feel that someone cares about them. Keep it simple: 

  • Learn their name and use it.
  • Ask about their family.
  • Show interest in their job.
  • Praise their achievement.
  • Address their concerns. 

Who knows, some of the people you engage may be potential friends, others potential readers, and a few could be angels. Start now. What are you waiting for?

PRACTICAL APPLICATION:

  • First don’t avoid people in the grocery store or post office or hurry to the parking lot right after church. (Gotcha, didn’t I?)
  • Spend maybe 10-15 minutes a day to see what your Facebook friends are up to and comment when appropriate. Keep it light, be honest, and use your own voice. For instance, “Sounds like fun!”  “Great idea!” “What a cute grandchild!”  Please, if someone posts that their grandmother just died, do NOT click “Like.”
  • Unless you write books about politics, try to stay away from political posts. True, some may agree with you, but your political rants won’t change the mind of those who don’t.

Mona Lisa SelfieLIMIT SELFIES: And I’m not just talking about the pictures you post of yourself on Facebook. (But, really, do I need to see your duck face for the umpteenth time?) By selfie, I mean “it’s all about me” posts—your book, your problem, your success, your kids, your awards, your cat, your dog (no matter how cute or cleaver you believe they are). More people will listen to you once you listen to them.

PAY IT FORWARD: Point out the good that someone else is doing. Recommend a book you’ve enjoyed. Post information about an interesting event totally unrelated to you. Boast about the good work of a certain ministry. Brag how God has blessed you with a particular friend. Do all this and don’t expect one thing in return.

PRAY ABOUT THIS: If you’re sincere in your efforts to reach out to others, I believe God will honor the desire of your heart.

What’s that you say? You’re afraid all this do-gooding will give you a big head? I’ve got a fix for that. Try doing something for someone anonymously. And don’t tell a soul, not one soul, about it.