Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


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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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Sorry, the New Year You Ordered Is Out of Stock

113265_maxWe’ve had a shock of sorts over the past few days concerning my husband David’s health. Last Friday we saw an oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

DOCTOR, looking at David: “You’re in good health other than the Acute Myeloid Leukemia.”
ME and denial trying to ignore his diagnosis: “It’s January. Why is he talking about a cute Hawaiian Christmas song?”

The doctor followed his pronouncement with a long and detailed explanation of this type of cancer and the treatment to follow, which would require a six-week stay at Brigham and Women’s (Dana-Farber’s in-patient hospital) in Boston.

I tried to listen carefully, but I kept getting hung up on the last thing he said, thereby missing the next. He had questions for my husband too.

DOCTOR: “Do you take any medications?”
DAVID named a single medication then seemed to hesitate.
ME, thinking it was a good time to step in to help. “You take Percocet in the morning too.”
DOCTOR, brow furrowed: “Percocet?”
DAVID, smiling and shaking his head: “No, my wife means Prilosec, but I switched to . . .”
ME, jumping in to correct my faux pas: “Oh, that’s right, it’s Xanax.”
DOCTOR, now eyes wide open: “You’re on Xanax?”
DAVID, patting my hand. “Please ignore my bride. It’s Zantac for heartburn.”

I decided my helping might not help that much.

DOCTOR: “I’m not going to admit you today. I’ll give you five days to prepare things at home. Here’s an order for more blood work for Monday.” Then leading us over to the lab, he said, “Before you leave, I’d like a bone marrow sample.”
DAVID, quivering: “That’s the one thing I’ve been dreading.”
DOCTOR: “Ask the nurse for some Ativan to relax you. But if you take it, you can’t drive home.”
ME, thinking, but not saying: “That means I will have to drive home. How on earth will I find my way OUT of the city when I can’t find my way IN?”

The bad news was he took the Ativan. The good news was he was on Ativan when I drove home.

The next day . . .

01990ME to DAVID, after posting a professorial-looking photo of David on our family Facebook page to let them all know: “What do you think?”zztop
DAVID, after seeing it: “I think it makes me look venerable. Now everyone’s going to feel they have to say nice things about me.”

He countered my picture choice by posting this much less reputable-looking one with the help of Photoshop.

Getting ready . . .

My 5-day preparedness list looked something like this:

  • Contact everyone and ask them to pray.
  • Make sure David gets the seafood and Chinese food he’s been craving.
  • Buy him snacks.
  • Buy him new underwear and PJ bottoms—and make sure his tee shirts and fleece tops match.
  • Buy size 15 slippers–once I figure out where to find them.

When I found the flannel PJ bottoms, David thought he would need x-large instead of large. I bought one large and two x-large. I washed the large and they shrank sink inches, making them look like plaid capri pants. When he tried on the x-large, it looked like he could synchronize swim in them with two of his friends.

ME, looking at him in the x-large pants: “You can’t wear those to the hospital. You’ll look like a . . . “

DAVID, pulling the elastic waistline out a good foot: “Like a what? A cancer patient?”

I returned the PJs and we found some that were NOT 100% cotton to avoid shrinkage. We tried four stores before we found slippers big enough.

David’s 5-day preparedness list looked something like this:

  • Show Clarice how to access online bank account to pay bills.
  • Show Clarice where the water shut-off and water heater controls are.
  • Show Clarice how to contact Tech Support and Comcast.
  • Show Clarice how to get to Netflix. Cancel Netflix DVDs because she doesn’t know how to open the envelope right or even use the DVD player.
  • Show Clarice where the generator is case of a power failure. Then make her promise not to touch it, but go directly to a hotel.
  • Show Clarice how to drive the Venza we’ve owned for three years.
  • Show Clarice how to use the smart phone we just bought her.
Thinking things through . . .

When discussing how he’d feel once the chemotherapy started, I told David not to hesitate to tell people if he was too tired and needed rest. [During her time as a cancer patient, our friend Kellie used to say, “That Cancer Card can come in pretty handy when I don’t feel like doing something.”]

cancercardME, when I learned David had a long call to make that night: “This might be a good time to play that Cancer Card.”

DAVID, shaking his head: “You never want to open with trump.”

ME, later while thinking about the doctor’s order for more blood work: “They took seven vials of blood from you on Friday. Why do you think the doctor wants you to have more blood work done on Monday?”

DAVID, looking at me over the top of his eyeglasses: “Could it be ’cause you told him I was on Percocet and Xanax?”

See why I want this guy to get well? He not only makes my life better, he makes me laugh while doing it.

The doctor is optimistic David will achieve remission because they caught it early. When the six weeks are over, further treatment will be determined.

Here’s the tee shirt he plans to wear when it gets to that point.

i_came_i_saw_i_want_to_go_home_tshirt-rd73d97489d6840a5b83d8e7674dc5dfd_804gs_324

Latin for “I came, I saw, I want to go home.”

Until then, we’ll keep the faith, keep laughing, and covet your prayers. Thanks.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress my God, in whom I trust.” ~ Psalm 91:1-2 (NIV)


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Orange Is the New Gullible

Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. ~  Stephen Colbert, Talk Show Host & Comedian

gullibleCynics are angry, unpleasant, sad people who love to mock everyone and everything. Anyone can be cynical. It’s easy. All you have to do is believe the worst about people and situations. Then when someone or something disappoints you, you can be smug and snarky and say, “I knew it.”

Gullible people are happy; their smile is uplifting. They make us laugh. It takes a much greater faith to be gullible. I know that from personal experience.

I was 30 when my now late husband convinced me that rabbits lay eggs. The conversation went something like this.

HIM, looking at the five empty Easter baskets I’d retrieved from the attic: “It’s gonna take a lot of rabbits to lay a lot eggs to fill those baskets.”

ME, chuckling: “I think you mean chickens.”

HIM, crossing his arms and leaning against the counter: “That’s what everyone thinks.”

ME, rolling my eyes: “Because it’s true. There’s no such thing as rabbit eggs. Rabbits have bunnies.”

HIM, looking incredulous: “Why would an Easter Bunny bring chicken eggs? Rabbit eggs are rare because of that protected bird. You know, the one the Fish and Wildlife Service is always fussing about becoming extinct?”

ME, reaching into a memory bank: “Which one? The piping plover?”

HIM, holding his hands out about twelve inches apart: “Nah, it’s that huge bird with the long, pointy, curved beak. It only comes around after the snakes go into hibernation.”

ME, still trying to come up with the name of the bird: “Snakes hibernate?”

HIM, nodding his head: “You were never a 4H girl, were you? The bird shows up in late winter-early spring to scout rabbit rookeries. It pokes a hole in the rabbit eggshell and sucks out the insides.” 

ME, screwing up my face: “Ew. That’s gross.” 

HIM, shaking his head: “I know, right?” 

ME, thinking about starting a foundation: “Why doesn’t the Fish and Wildlife Service protect the rabbits, too? We should do something.”

HIM, rubbing the scruff on his chin: “We might could switch to chicken eggs this year.”

ME, shrugging: “It’s not much, but it’s a start.”

But it didn’t end there . . .

  • When we had to give our misbehaving German Shepherd away, I believed he went to live on a farm. Actually, I still believe that.
  • I thought paying tradesmen the full amount up front would put me at the top of their list.
  • I once replaced $100 stolen from a waitress (known to have a drug problem), so she could get her daughter a Cabbage Patch doll for Christmas. I was amazed when no one else chipped in.
  • It took me years to realize the things I found under my kids’ mattresses weren’t hidden there by their troubled friends.
  • I took one of my shoes off for a burly truck driver (who was unloading lumber onto a loading dock) so he could check the designer. He held it for a few seconds longer than was necessary—or comfortable. When I asked my boss if that sounded weird, he banned me from accepting deliveries.
  • Before buying a special “Al Capone” roast in the Italian North End of Boston, the butcher told me I needed an ID. I presented him with two forms to make sure I got a choice cut.
  • I made online arrangements to rent a room to a college girl whose father was an Irish engineer working out of Nigeria. When I caught onto his scam, I scolded him. “You should be ashamed of yourself.” I’m pretty sure it changed his life.
  • Even though I get the joke, I’m still trying to say the word “gullible” slowly until it sounds like the word “oranges.” [Oh, come on, some of you are doing it, too!]

I admit gullible people are often wrong in what they believe and repeat. But I’d still rather be lied to and laughed at than chance mistrusting an honest person. It helps me enjoy the journey to reality rather than be miserable the whole way to it.

Besides, who would you rather spend the day with? The woman on the left below or the man on the right? I thought so. One has the gift of gullibility. The other clearly does not. Can’t you imagine telling this woman just about anything? She would smile even as he harrumphed.

Deb Bock and Friend

LEFT: My friend, Debra, with her ever-present, unsuspecting smile. RIGHT: A cranky cynic I’m glad I do not know.

The award-winning children’s books illustrator and author, Chris Van Allsburg, said it well:

The inclination to believe in the fantastic may strike some as a failure in logic, or gullibility, but it’s really a gift. A world that might have Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster is clearly superior to one that definitely does not.

Platypus-Ears

Right. How about a cynical Easter platypus? Sure.

ME, being interrupted by my husband while writing this: “What did you say, honey?”

HIM, repeating his comment: “Did you know that the duck-billed platypus lays eggs?”

ME, slumping in my chair: “You don’t really expect me to fall for that, do you?”

HIM, shrugging off a smile: “How ’bout tomorrow I take you to the farm to see that dog of yours?”

ME, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed: “You mean it?”

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. ~ Matthew 10:16 (NIV)


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Author Melinda Inman — A Prodigal Now Returned

Official Author Photo Melinda Viergever Inman

Melinda Viergever Inman was raised in the tornado capital of the U.S.—Wakita, Oklahoma, of “Twister” fame. There her roots were sunk in a storytelling family. During years of relocation, tragedy struck. Wounded and heartbroken, Melinda forsook her roots and ran from herself and from God. A journey of trial and heartache brought her home again. A prodigal now returned to her secure foundation, she writes with passion, illustrating God’s love for wounded people as he makes beauty from ashes. Refugeher first novel, is published by Koehler Books Publishing.

CLARICE: What lessons have you learned from this writing journey? 

MELINDA: I’ve learned that God comforts believers in hardship, equipping us to illustrate his goodness in trial. This requires suffering. We are then able to encourage broken people, showing how God orchestrates beauty from our ashes. I wanted a rosy, sunshine-filled, pain-free life, but God continues to equip me to write for this particular audience.

My heart overflows with compassion for those who suffer from their own choices, from situations outside their control, or from the actions of others. I am one of them. If the Lord can orchestrate my messy life for good, I know he can do the same for my readers.

CLARICE: As a committed Christian, do you plan to seek publication solely in the Christian market? If not, how do you see yourself fitting into the general publishing market?

MELINDA: This raises a question. If we write raw, emotional content for broken people like us, should we aim solely at the Christian market? Or should we try to embrace the secular market as well? Penning this type of material shapes how we seek to publish.

RefugeRefuge is the story of Cain, Abel, Lilith—the sister Cain desires to marry, and what happens next. It deals with sibling conflict, a relationship we would consider to be incest, fratricide, immorality, cutting, attempted suicide, revenge, and redemption. It’s gritty.

I made the decision to seek a broad audience. So I was thrilled when I received a contract with Koehler Books, a traditional publishing house owned by a Christian publisher. For distribution we chose to label Refuge as both Christian and open-market historical fiction. Straddling both made for tricky marketing and a learning experience.

CLARICE: How has your faith played a role in helping you share your story? 

MELINDA: Authors and publishers must learn to think creatively for the good of our audiences—the people who need the uplifting themes of our stories. We must move outside our comfort zones. This isn’t easy. There will always be people who don’t understand why we’ve written or marketed our stories as we have, but the impact these novels have on broken lives makes it worth the challenge.

My publisher and I have walked a fine line in moving Christians to buy a novel from a traditional house while prompting the open market to respond to a novel that has “Christian” attached. As we discuss publishing Fallen, the next novel, we tweak our strategies.

CLARICE: What else have you written? And what are you working on now?

MELINDA: There are three books in this first series, but I have also written stories in other genres. All of them deal with faith issues from the perspective of a protagonist who is wounded or suffers within the story. My lead characters make tragic mistakes, have had crushing childhoods, or have been hurt by religious people. They have an ax to grind with God.

These types of stories appeal to both church-injured, world-weary Christians and to those who don’t claim to have faith, have been hurt, and yet still yearn for God.

CLARICE: How do you plan to get these stories to your target audience? What if you can’t find the right publisher?

Melinda ay B&NMELINDA: I love and trust my publisher, but I believe we also need to have open minds about quality self-publishing. He agrees. We may want control over the details and timing of a novel, we may plan to publish an off-genre tale from our usual niche, or, just maybe, we don’t want a Christian label on a project we’ve aimed at a wider market. This business decision is especially true if we’ve written a book that draws unbelieving people to Christ.

To target this audience we must be willing and able to avoid preaching. We don’t have to supply every detail about God or faith within each story. We have to let our characters be true to themselves without our author voice intruding to moralize. Consequences, both good and bad, must be shown, not told. Or, as we did with Refuge, we have the option of including a study guide that has reflective faith content, if the reader desires it, leaving the story more accessible to a general audience.

In whatever ways we yield as finely honed tools in the Lord’s hands, he draws the reader. Writing for both markets has been difficult, but rewarding. When I hear how my story has touched hurting or discouraged readers, believer or nonbeliever, I am full of joy.

Serving the Lord in the area to which he has called us as writers provides great reward, whoever the audience or whatever the subject matter.

Have you found your niche? Do you seek to write outside the boundaries of the typical Christian market? What are your experiences?

SPECIAL NOTE: Enter the Refuge holiday giveaway and e-book sale at Deck the Shelves for the giveaway. To order an e-book for $.99,  click on  Kindle or Nook.


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Interview with Author Sharon Srock

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The Women of Valley View: Pam by Sharon Srock will be released in early spring. If you haven’t read the first two books in her series, you have time! The Women of Valley View: Callie and The Women of Valley View: Terri.

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. ~ Ps 34:17-18 (NIV)

Clarice You’re a wife and mother with grown children and a couple of dependent dogs. You’ve worked at the local Air Force Base for over 25 years.  You’ve been an Avon representative for 20 years. And  now you’re a published author. How do you do it all? Besides wife and mother, which career do you most identify with and why?

Sharon:  The answer to how I do it is short and sweet. God. He keeps me focused on the task at hand. I have to make the best use of my time, regardless of which career is demanding my attention at any given time. As for my identity, I’d have to say the writing. It’s what I feel God called me to do and where I feel I can touch lives in a positive way. It’s what I’d like to be remembered for when I’m no longer here.

Clarice:  How long have you been writing? When did you write your first novel?

Sharon:  I wrote my first novel 25 years ago. It was a Star Trek novel that still sits in my closet. Science Fiction wasn’t the path God had for me. It took me a long time to accept that. I wrote the first words of Callie’s story five years ago.

Clarice Who was the first person to encourage you, really encourage, you to keep on writing?

Sharon: Jo Smith, a co-worker. She gave me the right nudge at the right time to get back to writing.

Clarice As in your The Women of Valley View series—Callie, Terri and Pam— do you have a tight-knit group of female friends you turn to? And why do you think women get so involved in each other’s lives?

Sharon: I’ve attended the same Pentecostal church since I was 14. I have a great group of supportive women. They read, they pray, they let me vent. They cheer my successes and give me a shoulder when I fall on my face. I think we’re taught to nurture from the moment we pick up a baby doll. It just grows from there.

Clarice You say you live “in the-middle-of-no-where Oklahoma.” Tell me a little about your state and what makes its people so resilient.

Sharon: The exact town I live in is a small dot on the map called Little Axe. We have a school system, but not our own post office. I don’t know that Oklahoman’s are more resilient than any other place in America. We had back to back tornadoes this last spring. The damage ½ mile for my house is still under repair, but we pull together. We provide for each other. But, isn’t that the same in New York or California?

02 Srock - Women of Valley View- Callie - TerriClarice In Callie, your protagonist is a middle-aged woman drawn to help others. But when her efforts backfire, fear of getting involved takes over. Has that ever happened to you?

Sharon: Honestly, no.  When I was writing Callie’s story, I was struggling so hard with writing issues that I hadn’t focused on since high school. I rewrote the story six times before I hit on a combination that worked.

Clarice:  In Terri, you write about two struggling families and two scheming daughters. How would you counsel someone who is bent on scheming to get their way?

Sharon: Scheming is never a good thing, but it worked out well for Terri and Steve.

Clarice In Pam, “Pam’s divorce broke her heart. The cruelty of her ex-husband broke her spirit. A bottle of sleeping pills almost took her life.”  Forgiveness is the theme running through this story. What made you want to tackle this theme?

Sharon: I’ve been in Pam’s shoes. Not abused and suicidal, but divorced and hurt. I’ve had to learn to forgive some hurts that have never been apologized for. But you can’t carry that stuff around with you and survive. Writing Pam’s story made me examine myself.

Sharon Srock

Sharon Srock

Author Sharon Srock went from science fiction to Christian fiction at slightly less than warp speed. Twenty-five years ago, she cut her writer’s teeth on Star Trek fiction. Today, she writes inspirational stories that focus on ordinary women using their faith to accomplish extraordinary things. Sharon lives in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma with her husband and three very large dogs. Her books include: The Women of Valley View: Callie and The Women of Valley View: Terri both of which are currently available. The Women of Valley View: Pam will release in May 2014. She also working on The Women of Valley View: Samantha. Connect with her at www.sharonsrock.com.


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My Faith: Once Loose and Sloppy Now Strong and Firm

worshipI pulled an old devotional book off the shelf that I’d devoured years ago: Every Day Light: Treasure for the Heart by the late Selwyn Hughes.  I did not expect to be wowed again. I was wrong.  The lines I had not underlined originally are now underlined; the ones that were, are now starred. The quote below struck me on a day when I thought my daily walk had become “loose and sloppy.”

“How do we get the framework, the sense of structure we need to be able to move effectively from one day to another, in a world where everything that seemed to be nailed down is coming apart? What is the coordinating point that pulls together our confused thoughts and feelings as we look out at the comedy we call a civilization? It is to be found in our worship of God. We enter into the presence of the Lord and lo, His unity becomes our unity. Things that were once loose and sloppy become strong and firm. Worship helps us get our heads together. It helps us know where we stand.” From Every Day Light: Treasure for the Heart, Selwyn Hughes, Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville, TN 1973.

Often, I try to make things more difficult and complex than they are. To be told that simple worship could change my walk back to “strong and firm” was a welcome message. And I didn’t have to wait until I felt like worshipping; I just had to do it. Hughes tells us we should be glad that God has given us a command to worship Him “for if we are not [glad], we would be left to the vagaries of our feelings.” Feelings are fickle; God’s statutes are not. (If you’re questioning that, just read Deuteronomy 5.)

In this context, when I speak of worship, I mean those times when I abandon my busyness and give all my attention to Him. When I let down my guard and lift up my voice (and my hands) in praise. When I open my heart and close the world out. When I turn up the volume and sing a song of adoration. Honest worship, true worship, without pretense. The kind that God craves.

Eugene Peterson puts it this way: “Worship is an act which develops feelings for God, not a feeling for God which is expressed in an act of worship.”