Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


Like Only a Grandmother Could Fantasize

Max 9-2105 first dayFor weeks, I’d been looking forward to a sweet time of bonding with my two youngest grandchildren: Max, 7, and Margaux, 5. Wonderful ages, such bright and lively children. I planned to collect as many precious memories as I could squeeze into three days.  I coveted the time I would spend alone with them when their parents weren’t around to bother–I mean distract us.

Fantasy: First, I would interview them for my blog, making sure to record every cute and amusing answer they gave me.

Reality: After I asked one or two questions, Max informed me, “I don’t do interviews.” Margaux was a little more diplomatic. “Do we have to do this right now?”

Fantasy: I’d snuggle up with them on the couch or on their beds and entertain them with stories.

Reality: They don’t snuggle; they squirm and fidget and jump. They also don’t want me to talk while they’re watching loud Nickelodeon TV shows filled with stupid slapstick humor and canned laughter. [I can too say stupid if I want!]

Fantasy: We’d tell each other silly jokes and laugh until our stomachs hurt.

Reality: They told me one silly joke. Over and over. At one point, when I was pretend-laughing, Margaux pointed out that my teeth were a little yellow.

Fantasy: We’d prepare fun meals, which we’d then share together at the dining room table.Margaux 9-15 First day

Reality: Margaux does not eat. Period. During the three days I was there, I think she had three cheese sticks, one apple Crusher, and two yogurt smoothies. I’m still not sure she swallowed. Max’s diet consists of nothing I could actually make, or if I could, I wouldn’t get it right. And he eats at the table with half his bottom on the chair, the other half on its way to a place way more interesting than the table with me. Then it takes a half hour to wipe up after him.

Fantasy: We’d enjoy the local children’s museum, and I’d purchase each of them an educational toy from the gift shop.

Reality: They did enjoy the museum. Yay! I had a hard time keeping up as they ran from one interactive display to another.  At one point, I strongly suspected they were trying to ditch me.

Big surprise, there was nothing in the gift shop they wanted. So we went to Marshalls, where we found an ice cream play set for Margaux. Max couldn’t find anything he liked there, so we went to Walgreens for Pokemon cards. A part of me thought, Should I be encouraging a 7-year-old in a card game where fictional characters are captured by humans and trained to fight each other to the death? A bigger part of me just gave in.

We also bought jelly beans and gummy bears to serve as toppings for their make believe ice cream concoctions. On our way home, Margaux spilled the jelly beans on the floor of my car. [I discovered a half dozen in my pocketbook today.] When we arrived home, Max dumped the sticky gummy bears on the carpet (a.k.a. “ice cream counter”). However, we did play make believe with the ice cream set. Over and over and over and over. Up until I told them I was lactose intolerant.

Fantasy: It is possible to be a fun and responsible grandmother at the same time.

Reality: Maybe not. I said nothing when they ate the dirty jelly beans and fuzzy gummy bears and even when they shared them with their father. [As the youngest of my three kids, I figured he wouldn’t know the difference.]

Fantasy: Planning makes for more fun.

Reality: Going with the flow works best.

Fantasy: I’m as young as I feel.

Reality: After three days, I feel every bit of old. 

Fantasy: Next time it will be different.

Reality: No it won’t. And I wouldn’t change them for the world!

The Lord knows all human plans; he knows that they are futile. ~ Psalms 94:11 (NIV)

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. ~ Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)


Meet & Greet Author John Theo Jr


John Theo Jr is one of seven published authors who’ll be featured at the MEET & GREET LOCAL CHRISTIAN AUTHORS event scheduled for Saturday, November 1, 2014 from 3:00 to 5:30 pm at Bonhoeffer’s Café & Espresso, 8 Franklin St., Nashua, New Hampshire. Guests will enjoy FREE admission, refreshments, book-signings, special discounts, and a chance to win a Kindle Paperwhite! Click HERE to register!  

CLARICE:  What genre do you prefer to write? John Theo Author Photo

JOHN:  Young adult fiction. In this genre you can address both adult and youthful themes. For instance you can deal with crushes, peer pressure, etc. along with macro themes like life and death. In adult fiction you are more limited on scope and range. I also like screenwriting as it is very formula driven and, compared to prose, easy to write in.

CLARICE:  Tell us a little bit about your novel The Grotto Under the Tree.

JOHN:  Sebastian and Sara mistakenly descend into a mystical land where elves, mermaids, gnomes and other mythological creatures live. The two discover they have stumbled into an ancient battle between these fair folk and evil creatures called the Kylo. Their guide on this journey is Capri, an elf  lord who is on a quest to find his lost tribe. The Kylo chase the children and Capri in his flying galleon north into the Arctic Circle where they find the most unlikely ally. During the final battle the children learn about sacrifice, love and ultimately forgiveness.

I also re-address the caricature of Santa and try to bring him back to his Christian roots.

CLARICE:  Which authors have influenced your writing and how?

JOHN:  Tolkien and CS Lewis were very big influences. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized the Christian themes embedded in the Narnia and Lord of The Rings novels were the things that really separated them from other fantasy novels and stuck out to me.Theo Grotto

CLARICE:  What do you want readers to experience while reading your books? If you could impart one thing to them, what would it be?

JOHN:  Obviously I’d like them to be transported to this imaginary world I created. I hope they can scratch the surface and understand the Christian theme(s) in my writing as well. In Grotto the theme is that there is only one path to salvation.  If I could encourage anyone to come to the Lord or grow in their Christian walk I would be thrilled.

CLARICE:  What lessons have you learned from this journey? How has it changed your life?

JOHN:  Writing this book has shown me that I can stay focused and finish projects, and that writing is hard work and rarely glamorous. Ironically the process has taken some of the allure from writing enough to realize it’s not “all about the art” like a lot of people believe. Life is more important than art. My faith and my family are more important than my writing.

CLARICE: Which comes easier to you? Coming up with the story idea or actually writing it?

JOHN:  Probably coming up with the story. I am a militant “outline geek.” Taking it from that mess of thoughts and putting into a story is very hard laborious work.

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?

JOHN:  Grotto is published through a secular publisher, Astraea Press. They label themselves as a “clean” publisher and carry a bunch of Christian authors, so they reach across a lot of markets. For future novels I’m not opposed to Christian or secular publishers. If my writing is published via secular outlets there is a strong argument that it will reach more non-believers.

CLARICE:  What writing projects are you currently working on?

JOHN:  I’m about to hand in a dystopian science fiction manuscript (Mission Trip) to my agent. It’s a retelling of the Pilgrims story. In the future there is a societal collapse. Christians are persecuted in the United States and a group of them flee the country to start anew on a floating city in the middle of the ocean. The themes are sanctification along with “those that do not remember history are doomed to repeat it.”

I’m also halfway through a story that takes place in the White Mountains of NH (False Flag). It revolves around a Christian Park Ranger who stumbles across a governmental conspiracy. The theme/questions I ask in this story go back to the Revolutionary War. How involved should churches be in culture and politics? I address the potential need for the Black Robe Regiment to come back. These were pastors labeled as terrorists by King George because they stirred up the people to rebel.

CLARICE:  How would you encourage others who have a story to tell?

JOHN:  Just do it. Start allocating time and just write. Don’t worry about getting published. Find a mentor if you can. This will shave years off your learning curve.

CLARICE:  Where can our readers meet you and get a copy of your book?

JOHN:  You can order the book online at Barnes & Noble or Amazon. Or get a copy and meet me in person at the Meet & Greet Local Christian Authors Event scheduled from 3:00 to 5:30 pm. Saturday, November 1, 2014 at Bonhoeffer’s Café & Espresso, 8 Franklin Street, Nashua, NH.

MORE ABOUT JOHN THEO JR: In addition to John’s middle grade fantasy, The Grotto Under the Tree, published by Astraea Press in 2013, he also has numerous published articles on arts, culture, and sports figures. He holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, MA. During the day John serves as Vice President of Operations for Blue Sky Holdings and also as an adjunct professor at Endicott College in Beverly, MA, where he teaches screenwriting. John and his wife live in Manchester by the Sea, MA.