Saturday, December 30, 2017

Have you read Marisol's story yet?

Marisol Vargas is rich and beautiful. And annoyingly overconfident.

Demo Antonopulos is blue collar and ruggedly handsome. And annoyingly craggy and bitter.

These two are about to collide in a very loud, melodramatic fashion. Check out the scene below to see if you might want to read more.....

“You’re gorgeous and confident.” Demo scoffed. “Not to mention conceited, flashy, kinda pretentious, entitled, maybe even a little bratty.” He glanced up at me, and wrinkled his face. “I mean… no offense, or anything.”
            My head jerked backwards. His words stung like a smack. Not because I was insulted, but because I’d been called every single one of those things. More than once. Not that I would admit it to him. “Those are mighty big words for a guy like you.”
            His dark eyes narrowed. “This is exactly why I didn’t want to date you before, and I still don’t now.”
            “Has anybody told you that you’re a dick?” I asked him, my voice shaking.
            “A time or two, yes.” He grit his teeth together. “Has anybody told you that you’re an over-confident little show pony?”
            “You sure didn’t mind cuddling up with the show pony the other night.” I thumped Demo’s chest with my finger. “That is, until your girlfriend showed up.”
            His face was starting to turn red. “She’s not my girlfriend.”
            The office door swung open and the matriarch of Triple D’s appeared in the doorway. “Demetrious Marcos Antonopolous. Are you abusing this young lady?”
            “Abusing? Really?” Demo closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “No, Yiaya.”
            She leaned over so she could see me around Demo’s shoulder. “Hello there, Marisol. How are you?”
            I waved at Yiayia, and my heart tugged. There was something about that old broad that made me want to put on fuzzy PJs and sit down with some cocoa to listen to stories of the days of yore. “Hi, Yiayia. I’m fine, thank you. How are you?”
            “Just great, dear.” She smiled, her wrinkly face scrunching up. “Is my grandson giving you a hard time?”
I looked up at Demo, who’d fixed his gaze on something across the shop. By the disconnected look on his face, he might’ve gone away to his “happy place,” and it only irritated me more. I wanted to cuss him out. I wanted to bring my knee up to collide it with his man parts with a satisfying whack. I wanted to leave Triple D’s in a blaze of melodramatic glory, then ride off in Candace’s minivan…

Oh, crap. Candace was still waiting for me.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Goodness sakes.

I've been forced to shut down comments on all blog posts, because of the misbehavior of one visitor. They're offended by my religion, my defense of said religion, and by my right to delete offensive or unwanted comments. Just as I've told my elementary aged children a time or two, "The actions of one can sometimes take away from everyone's fun." Sadly, despite being (mostly) adults who visit my blog, this anecdote still rings true.

If you don't like my books, blog, opinions, or general existence...don't buy them, visit, or pay attention. Do what I've done with people in my life who offend me: walk away and don't look back.

And I'm sorry for whatever facet of my faith, or whatever members of my faith, clearly hurt you in the past. This isn't what we are about, and not representative of our population as a whole.

God bless.


I saw a wonderful movie with my kids today.

It was called Wonder, and was based on the book of the same name, written by R.J. Palacio. My daughter read it a few years ago, and was very moved, which compelled me to take her, and my 11 and 9.5 yr old sons to see it during our It's Christmas Break and We're Running Out of Things to Do Before Mom Sells Us All on eBay extravaganza.

Yeah, so three weeks off from school is going well.

So without posting spoilers, which is odd, because if you've read the book, you already know everything that happens, but, I digress.....we were incredibly pleased with this movie. When we left, my eleven year old--who fell victim to some bullying last school year, and it took him to a very dark, unhappy place--announced, "That was the highlight of my day."

I'll take that as a win.

I won't do the movie justice by trying to describe all of the poignant moments in the movie, mostly because there were just too many to describe, and each of them made me--and my inner mama bear--either get my shackles up...or have my eyes fill with tears. I've felt that fear as you wait outside the school, holding your breath because you're desperate to find out how your child's day went, only to see that it was a sh*tty day, and that they're even lower than they were the day before. I've watched as the kids look at, stare at, and laugh at my child, and I've overheard as my child was the one being mocked and made fun of. I've had to sit idly by (well, let's be honest, sometimes not so idly) as my teenage daughter's friend has decided she's not cool enough, and left her in the dust, leaving her crushed and heartbroken. I've been the mom wondering, "Holy crap, am I even doing the right thing by sending my kids to this school??" while at the same time knowing that I am S.O.L. when it comes to any other options.

Yeah. The last few years--the last six months, especially--haven't been easy on my kids. And thus, haven't been easy on me. Because this Mama Bear is also--as we've discussed before--a giant marshmallow, and pain is not easy for me to bear. Is it for any mother?

My children really do go to a lovely school. I joke all the time about how overpriced and pretentious it is--and by gosh, holy Moses on toast, it really is--it is, without a doubt, a good learning institution. The teachers and administration members are kind, hardworking people who are dedicated to enriching the lives and minds of young humans like my four holy terrors. Never have I experienced a staff so willing to accommodate, support, and uplift my children the way these folks have. It's something to behold, and when I think about it too much, I get all tingly and overcome with gratitude...then it spills out my eyes, and I look like this:

So I usually try to avoid it.

Anyhoo..........I wish that this movie could become required viewing for the all the students--and their parents--at my children's school. Not that other schools don't need to see it. Because they do. We all do. But, my children's school especially. You see, because this is a fancy-schmancy private school in South Korea, most of the students who attend my children's school aren't like average kids. They've never had to go without new shoes because the car needed a new transmission. They've never had a mom who sold blood to buy milk, eggs, and bread to get them to the next payday. They've never had to wrap up gifts they found around the house for Christmas presents. They've never had to sit in a cold house where they could see their breath, because mom ran out of cash and couldn't refill the oil tank--and yes, some houses still run their heat on oil. I know, because we lived it--and I strongly recommend not ever buying a house with oil heat, because egads, what a nightmare!

Again...I digress...

The children here are driven to school by drivers, or in mom or dad's Range Rover or Ferrari. They wear real fur and carry the latest iPhones, when they're in the Kindergarten. Kindergarten! A little girl in my son's class last year schooled me on how "tacky" it was to "flash my money" (I gave my son $20 in front of his classmates to pay a school fee) while wearing a bedazzled Gucci backpack, and swinging her Apple laptop around like it was a toy. Over half the female students in my 16 year old daughter's class have had some form of plastic surgery already, and they can be overheard bragging about the thousands--literally thousands--of dollars that their shoes, handbags, or jewelry cost. They are taught by good hearted teachers to donate their time and money to good causes, but very few students or parents lower themselves to do much more than cut a check--especially if it's not a good photo op. The parents at this school donate thousands of dollars to the PTA, in an attempt to one up each other, insure their child's place in the social hierarchy, and some of them spend the entire day sitting in the cafeteria drinking latte's, in case one of their prima donnas need them during the day. Either to give them more cash, talk their way out of trouble, or coddle their bruised egos after a teacher dared to discipline them.

Except that they are.

Last school year, one of my daughter's friends was bullied for months, being called "fat" and "obese," just because she didn't fit the standard, waif like Korean body type. For three years now, we've kept my son's ASD diagnosis a secret, for fear of the retribution that could come down on him by his peers--and their parents--in a country that still institutionalizes people with disabilities. My daughter has been called--and is still often called--"white girl," "ignorant," and "racist" by South Korean students who know nothing more about her than the color of her skin and the country of her origin. All three of our children have been verbally bullied because of our religion. All three of our children (and I) have been refused service, respect, and courtesy because of our race. The staff at our children's school work hard at making the environment healthy and safe for all, but the kids here know how to be one person in front of the adults, and another person when their backs are turned, and unfortunately, that's what the last few years have been chock full of. 

(Disclaimer: I am not turned off by all wealthy people. I knew some folks with money back in America, and have even met a few here in Korea, who are some of the most kind, humble families I've ever met. This has just been our overall impression of the majority of the wealthy locals here in South Korea. Take my musings with a grain of salt, and if it offends you, consider asking yourself why? Do you see yourself in these observations?)

The school staff tries diligently to mold these kids into something other than what they're being raised to be. I am continually impressed by their efforts to broaden the perspectives of their students. But without reinforcement from the parents, their efforts are futile.

(Second disclaimer: there is a small group of about 11 students in a Kenyan service club my daughter is a part of, who are different from the rest of the student body. Yes, they come from wealthy families, but they have a very impressive need to serve others. Sadly, this club is 11 students out of hundreds of  children from wealthy families here. Eleven.)

If a child is being told at home that a person with Autism is a "retard," that's what they're going to believe. If I child is being told that money is what matters, that the brands on their clothing, or what kind of car daddy drives to work, or how much cash mommy spent on their Givenchy backpacks, then they're going to grow up thinking it's okay to brag about what they have, instead of what they have inside their hearts. If a child is being told at home that being thin and petite is all that is attractive and beautiful in this world, that's what they're going to believe, and that's what they're going to project at school. If a child is being told that any race besides their own is "inferior," that's what they're going to believe. If a child is being excused for unacceptable behavior, and bought or manipulated out of trouble when they get caught behaving like ignorant Neanderthals, then that's what they're going to believe it's acceptable to behave like! If the parents themselves act like bullies to people who are different, then by gosh, that's how the children will behave!

Parents: if you tell your children that they are the Masters of the Universe, they are going to believe it...even though it's not true.

Why am I the only parent who wants to raise good humans??

In the movie, Wonder, Auggie is disfigured. He looks significantly different from everyone else, and is bullied because of it. And while my family's struggles here in South Korea pale in comparison to that of Auggie's, it really struck a chord with me. With all of us. We know what it feels like to be different, and whether anyone likes to admit it or not, being different is not always fun. Sometimes it suck. Really hard. That's why I work my everliving tail off to raise my children to be good, kind, accepting people.

Are they always good and kind? No. They're kids. Kids can be real jerks sometimes.

But do I hold them accountable for it when they're not? You're darn tooting I do. I will never march into a principal's office and lie to get my child out of trouble when they've behaved like a neanderthal. If they've behaved like a neanderthal, by gosh, punish them for it. They deserve it. Otherwise they'll never learn. I like to joke about how much money my husband's company pays to enroll my children in this private school as a means to get out of volunteering in the library once a week, but I would never use it as an excuse to get my child out of trouble for bullying. I would love to see more parents of children at our school adopt the same mentality.

We should be raising good humans.

This past fall, there was a school shooting back in the area that I'm from. One child died, another went to prison--likely for life, and three students were seriously injured. I knew two of the injured students, one being the child of an old friend, who was shot three times. This particular friend said something to me back in August when we moved back to South Korea and my family was having a crisis of sorts. She told me that she says to her kids all the time that "they may not have it all together, but together they have it all," and in the months since her daughter was nearly killed, her words have echoed in my head at least three dozen times. She almost lost it all.

One mother actually did.

There is so much evil in the world. Ugliness that spreads like mold or cancer, covering everything, even our kids sometimes. As a mom, I don't want my kids to add to that kind of ugliness. I don't want to perpetuate ill behavior that brings anger and sadness and self hatred into another child's life. I want my children to be the source of a smile, not tears. I want them to cause laughter and joy, not hurt and shame. And I think that by watching Auggie's story today, and reflecting on our time here in South Korea, they might understand why a little more than they did this morning.

I really hope the other families here in this town will see this show, and feel the same tug in their hearts that we did. We're all fighting a battle, guys, sometimes that battle is obvious, like a disfigurement, other times it's silent and invisible, like my family's struggles. If we're all choosing to err on the side of kindness, though, it makes the battles just a little more tolerable, doesn't it?

Go see this movie. Take your kids. Make them reflect on what they've seen.


Monday, December 25, 2017

Things I'll definitely miss/Things I definitely won't miss, episode 2

Hooray!!! I'm ba-ack!

It's time for another episode of my blog series, Things I'll definitely miss/Things I definitely WON'T miss here in South Korea.

I'm having fun writing this little list. First off, it's fun to talk about the things I love about living as expats here in South Korea, because there are lots. It hasn't all been stressful and aggravating! Some of it has actually been pretty cool. But also, it's fun to talk about the things I don't like about living here...mostly because it's fun to ruffle the feathers of the locals, who watch my blog and get all sorts of fired up by my not-candy-coated musings.

Hi, guys. *waving* Welcome back. Glad to have you.

As always, I've decided to start out with what I won't miss about living in South Korea. Why? Because it's always best to get the negative stuff off my chest first, and then wrap things up with the positive. Also, because I am literally bouncing in my seat to get this gripe off of my chest.

I will not miss....

The weird, unmentioned, oft ignored, yet blatant uneven marital roles in South Korea.

Holy. Freaking. Crap. Men here think they reinvented the wheel, and that all women are here for their entertainment and personal use. #straightupfact.

In some marriages (though admittedly not all--so don't send me hate mail. You know who you are), it feels more like a business contract between a boss and a subservient employee.

 He picks her--usually based on her family status, her education/earning potential, willingness to bear his children and raise them without help, and how perfect and appealing she appears physically--and then he marries her in an unemotional, unremarkable ceremony meant to impress their friends, and more importantly, their parent's friends...and then he knocks her up once, maybe twice or three times (Heaven forbid they have a large family--that is generally frowned upon in South Korean society) depending on how wealthy they are, with a designer baby.

Ok, in South Korea's defense: They legit have the cutest babies in the universe. I had some pretty adorable babies, but when I see a Korean baby, my uterus explodes. Every time. Bravo, South Korea. Nailed it.

Then they spend the next twenty to thirty years engaged in the coldest, most unfair relationship possible, where he makes the majority of the money, and as the breadwinner, is allowed the freedom to stay at work until 8 or 9 pm every night, then go drinking Soju until 12 or 1, then stumble home with the expectation that his chosen, privileged wife has spent her day cleaning, cooking, and raising perfect, highly intelligent offspring with little to no help from the father figure. The women are expected to cart these children from lesson to lesson, filling each spare moment of their lives becoming academically gifted (I'll post more about that in another episode,) as well as musically talented, and physically fine tuned. The wives are expected to raise these children to utter perfection, often forgoing any life or career she had prior to becoming a genius incubator, for the sake of bringing honor to her distant, uninterested husband and his (more than likely demanding, judgmental) family. In many of the marriages that I've seen, there is little love, friendship, or affection between the husband and wife. Rather, there is coldness, high expectation, and sometimes utter unkindness, and the members of the relationships are often left feeling lonely, unappreciated, unloved, taken for granted, and unhappy.

Ugh. It makes me sick to my stomach.

My husband is my best friend. We laugh together, and often goof around with each other. When we're walking somewhere together, we sometimes hold hands, or sneak in a quick kiss. My husband knows everything about me, and vice versa. I can honestly, legitimately say that without him, there is no me. He--at the risk of sounding cheesy and cliche--completes me.

Ok, ok, stop rolling your eyes. But, it's true. I can't being in a imagine a marriage like (many) of the Korean ones I've seen.

South Korea, you are missing out. Your spouse should be your best friend. The one person you want to see, the last voice you want to hear before you leave this mortal coil. They should complete you, otherwise you're wasting your own time, and doing marriage wrong.

(Disclaimer: I have met a small handful of Korean friends whose marriages have not seemed this cold, contractual, and distant. In fact, they actually seem to like each other! They laugh together, show affection and respect, and truly seem to treasure their relationships. They know who they are, and should all give themselves a pat on the back for going against the South Korean grain.)

Aaaaaaand now that I've covered the negative....

Here's what I will miss...

Riding my bike and/or walking everywhere I need to go.

Ok, so in America--well, suburban America, where I came from prior to moving abroad--if you want to go somewhere, you get in a car to get there. Even if you don't necessarily need to, you just do. We are--as a whole--a very physically lazy country. Cripes, we eat fast food every day, and we're literally going through an obesity crisis! I myself had WLS, and the fact that I spent half my day sitting in my minivan in traffic certainly didn't help the situation.

It honestly wasn't until I moved to South Korea, and experienced what living in a biking community actually felt like, that I realized how beneficial it is. And not just to my waistline, but to my emotional stability! I feel better, more clear headed, and generally happier when I get out and walk my dogs every day. I love that I can meet my husband for dinner after he gets off of work, and can arrive at a restaurant faster if I just hop on my bike and pedal my way there. I love that my children are all inclined to hop on a bike or walk wherever they want to go with their friends, and how they aren't easily dissuaded from going to a movie or the park with friends, just because it's a few blocks or miles away. I've become accustomed to walking across the street to the store whenever we're out of celery or milk, and I've grown attached to having a handful of shops and restaurants within a quick ride or walk. I've enjoyed knowing that even on my laziest days, I will still get some exercise.

South Korea, despite being a massive drinking and smoking culture, is a fairly healthy country. People are smaller in stature and fitter than most average Americans. They're not turned off by the idea of walking somewhere, or having a physical commute that lasts for longer than fifteen minutes. Sometimes you'll stumble upon outdoor, public gyms right in the middle of a park somewhere, and will often find an older Korean quietly working out there. They are a community that is committed to being physically fit, and I--as a former obese woman who works hard to be, and stay, healthy--am extremely impressed. America should take a page out of South Korea's book in this respect, because they are kicking our butts in the healthy community department. Just saying.

This one's for you, South Korea.

I'll really miss that when I go back to the ' I sit in my car in traffic......

(Friggin' better not be in another minivan.)

Stay tuned for more Things I'll definitely miss/Things I definitely won't miss. I promise more blatant honesty, and likely a few insulting observations, as well.


Saturday, December 23, 2017

This is why we can't have nice things....

So, I deleted a comment by a blog visitor that I didn't like. Which, naturally, prompted that visitor to comment again on an unrelated post, calling me a plethora of hashtag insults, one of which being a "hypocrite". Now, I have to say, ten points to Gryffindor for being tenacious. You go, friend. I like your sass. But five points from Gryffindor for being sort of weird and stalkerish.

(Although I have to say, having my first stalker is sort of flattering. What's the protocol for this? Do you buy them a cheese platter? Send them a card? Put out food and water at night time for them? I don't know what to do with one.)

That light of the new developments on the Brooke Moss blog, here are the new rules: I will write what I want, how I want, when I want, and then (and here's where it gets exciting) I will post it.

Visitors to my blog are cordially invited to do the following: You may read my blog posts, either enjoy them or not (it's your choice--see? Freedom!) and then you may comment on them as you see fit. Because, as my new friend so kindly pointed out: I believe in free speech. Though I have to add that if something I write bothers someone that much, you can always just.....not come to my blog again. That option is always on the table.

However, I will use my discretion as to what comments will stay, and which comments will go. As it is my blog, I also have the right to delete comments as I see fit. Visitors have every right in the world to comment as they wish, and as the author of this blog I have to read said comments. But that doesn't mean that I am legally required to keep the comments up. It being my blog, I am allowed to delete as I see fit. Just as visitors are allowed to say it, I'm allowed to delete it.

(This freedom thing is COOL.)

Sadly, if we keep having a problem with my discretion, or the overuse of insulting hashtags, I will be forced to close all comments on all my posts henceforth. Which is no fun for anyone, and kind of a bummer.


Even a Loki gif can't make this fun.


#LightTheWorld Day 23: Prisoner— Christmas 2017

#LightTheWorld day 23 "I was in prison, and ye came unto me."
I don't know anyone who is currently incarcerated. But, I do know plenty of people who are stuck in a "spiritual prison" of sorts, and at times, I've been the one who was stuck. Being visited whilst in a situation like that can be like spotting a lighthouse while in the middle of stormy seas. We should all be lighthouses.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Creative liberty.

I loathe the term "creative liberty."

It was used once in reference to something autobiographical I'd written, and it rubbed me the wrong way. It's been years since it was said, and the moment I think about it, it puts me right on edge again. There's nothing more insulting than being told that what I lived/experienced is fiction.

You see, the reasons I write for a living are simple:

1.) I'm good at it.
2.) I love love, and I like writing stories about people falling in love.
3.) I have used my writing as a healing tool to deal with less-than-pleasant things that've happened to me.

Now.....that's not to be mistaken for some sort of whine that I've had a harder than average life, that I've "suffered more than anybody," or that I feel I am victim to unfair circumstances.

The fact is, I am a lucky woman. Extremely lucky. I have a husband who loves and respects me. I have children who have proven that my less-than-stellar parenting techniques aren't wholly detrimental. And I have a career and fanbase that I love and appreciate. Let there be no mistake: I have a good life.

But I have seen some rough times. Regardless of anyone's willingness to acknowledge it, I have. And that's okay. We all have rough times. Rough times are part of the whole human experience we signed up for. Some have it better than others. I look at some of the women here in the South Korean city I live in--with their designer bags and kush lives--and think to myself, "You've never sold blood to afford bread and eggs to feed your kid." Other times I look at people in the country of Kenya, where my son did service work last spring, and think to myself, "You're infinitely stronger than I am. I have more respect for you than I've ever had for myself."

It's all subjective. A matter of perspective, if you will.

But that doesn't negate my right to share my stories how I see fit.

The heading on my personal Facebook page reads: If you don't like being written into my books, you should consider behaving better. My life, my experiences, my struggles, my successes, my trials, my triumphs.......they're all just that. Mine. And as such, I have the right to share them however I see fit. Whether it's by creating an amalgam of different people, situations, or events--or by sharing my life experiences verbatim, word-for-word, step by step, detail by detail. It's my right to do so. Because it happened to me, and when something happens to me, I become a part of it, and it becomes a part of me.

Sometimes we remember things differently than other people. I may have a childhood memory where I was wearing a blue dress and carrying a red balloon, whereas someone else may remember the same event with me in a pink dress and an orange balloon. This doesn't mean either one of us are wrong, it just means, that's our perceptions of the event. And just because those perceptions differ doesn't mean that I no longer bear the right to share that memory with the world. I have as much right as anyone else to share. The rules do not change, simply because someone doesn't like what I'm sharing. It simply doesn't work that way.

Creative liberty doesn't apply simply because someone doesn't like, recognize, or agree with what I'm sharing. Creative liberty is what I gave the baker who made my wedding cake. I showed her a photograph and then showed her my budget, and said, "Do your thing." That's creative liberty. Going to my hairdresser and saying, "I'm sick of this color, surprise me." That's creative liberty. But sharing a childhood--or more recent--memory on my social media or blog that ruffles someone's feathers? That's not creative liberty. That's just called disagreeing with or getting offended by what I've said. Which isn't new to me. I'm fairly used to it by now. My existence offends.

When/if I write an autobiographical story, I've earned that right because I had the experience in the first place. In the very act of it happening to me, I earned the right to share it how I see fit. I won't use names. I won't "out" everyone involved. I won't directly embarrass anyone. But I will share it if I want to, because it was my experience.

But I made a commitment long before I got published...

In my works of fiction, I will not ever tell a story that's not already mine, or that I haven't been given permission to share. I will never tell a story that pinpoints the exact people involved. I will not ever write a character who embodies every trait of one single person, but rather, I will create characters who embody dozens of traits from dozens of people. If you read only yourself in one of my characters, then you're flattering yourself. You're giving yourself credit for something you're owed no credit for. Because if you're in there, and that's a big if, mind you, you're one of at least ten other people I've gathered inspiration from.

The same goes for the scenes and situations found in my fictional stories. I will pull details from a handful of other life experiences I've had, or been given permission from friends to share--in addition to creating a handful of my own home-cooked ideas (because that's what authors do, we make up stories.) I write scenes in books with the intent of making people laugh, sometimes sigh, sometimes cry, and to propel my stories forward. If you read yourself in a scene, you're likely reading a scene I created from half a dozen conversations with half a dozen people you've likely never met before. If a scene embodies your life to the point where you're convinced it's all about you....once again, you're flattering yourself, and taking credit for something you're owed none for.

I write because I have to. Because I came to this earth with a personality that sits comfortably at ten, when normal people rest at at 3 or 4. I am high strung and emotional. I am extremely sensitive and annoyingly transparent. If I didn't write, I am 90% sure I would be an alcoholic, or heavy into self mutilation, or some other such self destructive nonsense. Writing keeps me sane--or as sane as I personally can be, and I'm not sorry for that. I love what I do. I'm grateful for it, because without it, I would be a lost person. If I weren't meant to write, then why else would God give me so much freaking material??

The term creative liberty can suck it.


Letting my light shine.

I was recently told that I should stop posting the #LightTheWorld videos on my work profile, that it blurs the line between personal life and professional life, and it potentially offends and/or turns off which I responded with the following message:

Thanks for the feedback, your opinion is always welcome and appreciated........but, nah.
When I started out in the publishing game almost ten years ago, things were different. Authors were expected to have a significant social media presence in the form of fun questions, book recommendations, and pleasant—always pleasant!—interaction. Our job, as authors, was to see and be seen, to pick a brand and stick with it, and to remain accessible and relatable to readers, always.
After receiving my first traditional publishing contract, I sought out some advice from the one author I admired above all others, who was what I considered to be “big time,” and she told me: be kind and friendly. Never discuss topics like religion or politics, because that might ostracize readers. Always stay neutral.
My how things have changed.
Nowadays, authors have significantly more freedom than they once had. We’re allowed—even encouraged—to speak up, and speak out. To use our platform, however big or small, to share what’s right, what matters, and what’s on our minds. Gone are the days of not discussing controversial topics, like religion or politics. Now we’re not just encouraged to share an opinion, but we’re expected to! Even the “big time” author who told me to keep it nice and benign so long ago now tweets and posts about political hot topics daily. The days of neutrality are long gone. For all of us.
My religion is a massive part of who I am, and what I write. And while my books are not religious books whatsoever, they do, and always will, meet a certain moral code. Nothing is put into my books that couldn’t be easily translated into a PG13 movie. Do my characters have premarital sex? Yes, sometimes they do. Do they swear? Occasionally, like me, they slip up and swear. My characters are human, and as such, flawed. Just like me. How do I justify that? Because I’m not writing LDS characters, and when/if I do, I will make them adhere to that LDS moral standard. But for now, I am good, and modestly successful, writing what I write.
I was raised to believe that my faith isn’t something to be ashamed or embarrassed of. When I was little we would sing a song in Sunday School called, “This Little Light of Mine,” And it was all about how we shouldn’t hide our “light” (faith) under a bushel. We should let it shine for all to see, because there is no shame in being a person of faith—whatever faith that happens to be. I’ve gone to battle for the sake of my faith, even losing friends and family for it. I take my faith seriously, and my career choice doesn’t change that.
As a person whose job depends greatly on the enthusiasm, support, and loyalty of others, I am well aware that I take great risk by sharing small glimpses of my faith with the masses. I know that what little I share about politics is like playing Russian roulette with my public persona. But in this day and age, where anything and everything has an audience, a platform, and a population willing to back it up, and fight for right to share my religion—which is one of the single most important aspects of my existence—is of the utmost importance to me. I will not hide my light under a bushel. I am no longer expected to, therefore I won’t. And neither should you.
Being unwaveringly neutral and utterly untouched by politics or religion, or any of the few hundred subtopics that fall under either of those categories, is no longer an option. Times have changed. We all have to have voices, and we all have to be willing to use them for the greater good—whatever that looks like to you.
For me, sharing my faith in these uncertain, tumultuous, and often downright scary times is what that looks like for me. And I’m not sorry for that. I hope everyone who reads and enjoys my books can support my right to do so, just as I will always be willing to go to battle to defend their right to do the same.
Merry Christmas. Remember to let your light shine today and always.

Excerpt time!

Curious what happens late at night at Camp Chimalis when all the campers are grown ups?

“I know, I know, sweetie. Hey, did you answer that email from the fabric lady?” When he gave her the thumbs-up, she turned her focus back to Jamie. “Speaking of douche bags…”
“Told you it was about me,” Jamie muttered to Graham, grabbing the door handle. “I’m going to bed.”
“Wait. You don’t have to go. We want you to stay.”
As soon as I said it, I covered my mouth as if the words slipped out accidentally. Maybe they had. I’d been thinking them, but refusing to let my mouth move. Like Rachael said, I needed to be a strong, independent woman. Move on. Slut it up, and all that.
Except that I’d had more vodka in one sitting than I’d had since college, and now felt like I was sitting in a rowboat in the middle of the lake Apparently it loosened my lips a wee bit.
“Speak for yourself,” growled Rach, sitting back in her chair with her arms folded across her chest. She kicked at one of the remaining empty folding chairs, missed it, then tried again successfully. “Come sit in the hot seat, Jamie. Let’s catch up.”
“Super.” With an eye roll, he dropped into the seat.
Graham opened his camp stool and sat down next to April. “This okay?” he asked her politely.
April shook her head, her face becoming as red as her hair. “Sure. I mean, it doesn’t matter. Wherever is fine.”
I looked from them to Rachael, to see if she noticed the weird dynamic, or if I was hammered and making things up. But her moody gaze was fixed on my ex. “So Jamie, still dating that preschooler?”
Jamie glanced at me, the tips of his ears flushing. “I’m not… we’re not… how do you know what I’m doing?”
Rachael raised just one eyebrow at him. “I have eyes everywhere, Burnham. So seriously, do you have to buy her alcohol for her? Speaking of alcohol, want some, jerk?” She held up the bottle and a half-crumpled paper cup.
“Yes.” He shoved the cup at her. “And no, I do not have to buy her booze. Why don’t we talk about you? Who are you dating now? Still pulling the runaway bride act? Have you run out of rich, powerful men in California yet?”
“Nope. Just getting started.” She gritted her teeth as she poured a splash. Rach didn’t like being called out for her relationship issues. And boy did she have them. Rachael and relationships didn’t mesh well, despite the fact that she was tall and gorgeous. She’d been engaged five times, and walked out on two fianc├ęs the day of the wedding.
Rachael blamed it on her parents. She said that was what happened when you had divorce attorneys for parents. Years of listening to them talk about their clients’ marriages imploding, the explosive fights over wine collections and who got what vehicle, and the custody battle that followed had terrified her into a crippling fear of commitment. It wasn’t something she was proud of, but that never stopped her from trying… and trying again… and again.
Jamie took a sip. “Give my sympathies to your latest victim. I still have a credit at the tux rental place from your last wedding. I’ll bet I can cash it in, if you’re heading toward taking the plunge again. Or trying to.”
“Shut up,” Rachael muttered, looking at me. “How did you tolerate him for so long?”
“He was much nicer then,” I admitted. Looking at Jamie, I shrugged. “Sorry.”
Graham leaned close to April. “So, you came here every year as a kid?”
She blushed heavily. “Yeah. I mean, so did Rachael and Molly and Bree. But this is where we all met.”
Rachael and I watched with pointed interest as Graham listened eagerly to April. He leaned close to her and Rachael nudged me. It I didn’t know any better, I would’ve thought he had a crush on her. Hell, maybe he did. She was gorgeous and curvy and sexy, all without realizing it. The mousy girl we’d met at camp nearly thirty years ago, had blossomed into a beautiful woman despite being saddled with a loser husband and punk kids. Of course, it was possible I picked up on the wrong cues. It was becoming increasingly clear I was hammered, and would likely sleep on the bunk next to Rachael like old times.
“And you, too?” Graham asked, turning his focus to Jamie.
He nodded, looking darkly at his paper cup of liquor. “Chimalis is how we all know each other.”
“Or to blame,” added Rachael. “You know, depending on who you ask.”
“Be nice.” I hiccupped. “Let’s all try to get along.”
“Fine.” Rachael pointed at our resident handyman. “Truth or dare, Graham.”
He blinked his light blue eyes. “We’re playing truth or dare?”

“Of course we are,” she remarked, gesturing to the room around us. “What else do you do late at night at Camp Chimalis?”