Food Poisoning

She didn’t want to poison him, not really.  Not enough to kill him anyway.  But if she could make him just a little bit sick….

She heard about food poisoning on the news.  It happened quite often, actually, and almost always was seen as an accidental thing.  Something wasn’t cooked long enough or perhaps it had been left at the wrong temperature for too long.  Produce was contaminated.  It would be easy enough for him to get sick from something that he ate.  And no one would point the blame at her.

After all, she was the loving wife.  The one who had borne his children, who gave up her career to stay at home and raise them, who washed their laundry and picked up their toys and made sure their homework was done each evening.  She was the one who made sure his dinner was hot and on the table when he came home from work each evening, who baked fresh cookies or cakes or pies at least once a week to satisfy his sweet tooth, who washed the bedding in the scented soap he liked and made his bed each morning.  She did all that and more, and while she couldn’t say that she always did it cheerfully, she did do it without complaint.

And without recognition.

Not that she needed the recognition.  Not constantly, anyway.  An occasional, “Thank you,” or, “I appreciate all that you do for me and the kids,” would be nice.  It wasn’t necessary, though.  After all, it was her job as a wife and a mother to do those things, to look after the house and the children, to make his life easier.

What she would like, what would make her life easier, would be to have him come home from work and greet her with something other than criticism.  Her eyes worked well—she could see that the laundry was not all folded, that there were homework papers on the table, and that a few stray action figures were resting in the corner of the living room. It made her wonder if that was how his bosses treated him, if they ignored all of the goods things he did on a daily basis and only pointed out the negatives.

Not that she could do anything about his work situation.  But she might be able to do something about him.  If she could only figure out how to inflict food poisoning on him without getting herself or the children sick.

That wouldn’t arouse any suspicion at all, would it?

The Writing Question

Why do you write?

If you are a writer, you will be asked that question at least once in your life.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked it.  And it seems like every time I hear the question, the answer changes.  Oh, at the heart of it, the answer is the same—I write because I cannot NOT write.  Writing is as much a part of my daily life as breathing.  While the lack of writing may not bring the same physical problems that a lack of oxygen would bring, when I don’t write I do suffer a sort of emotional suffocation.

One reason I write, one that is playing heavy on my mind this morning, is because it’s a great escape from my life.  Writing allows me to explore how my life could have been had I made different choices.  Oh, I am not talking about the “little” choices, like what if I’d picked a different colored blouse or if I had picked something different for breakfast.  I mean the bigger choices in life, like what if I had sat in a different seat in my 10th grade history class or what if I had gone to my senior prom with a group of friends instead of with the date I had.  Those may not seem like big, life altering decisions to you, but to me they were.

The girl I sat next to in 10th grade history?  She is still my best friend today.

The boy I went to my senior prom with?  He and I have been married for 13 years.

If I’d made a different choice about either of those things, my life would be totally different today.

For the most, I am happy with my life.  I can’t say completely happy, because there are things in my life that I am not happy with.  Mostly, those things are health-related.  I wonder sometimes how things would be different if I had made different choices.

This morning, I’d like a little escape from my life.  My kids are off school this morning, and they are especially loud.  I don’t know exactly why.  Could be just because they are boys….

Today, I write because I need a break.  I need to get away from the loudness, the madness that comes from having four (yes, four–they had a friend stay over last night; could that be part of the reason for the loudness??) boys at home today.  Only I don’t know that I will get the quiet to be able to do that.  After all, it’s taken me nearly two hours just to write this simple post.

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Coffee & Cigarettes

“Your total is $12.92.”

Ginny tried to put some sort of feeling into the words, tried to make them sound as friendly as she hoped the smile on her face looked.  Truth was, she just wasn’t feeling it today.  She handed over the pack of Marlboros, watched her customer run his credit card through the machine, and looked with an odd longing as his sipped the steaming black liquid that he purchased every morning.  It looked like coffee and smelled like coffee, and since it was made from those same aromatic beans, Ginny supposed that it technically was coffee, though she knew it couldn’t hold a candle to the stuff she used to drink three or four cups of each day from the upscale shop in the lobby of the building where she used to work.

Oh what she wouldn’t give for one cup of the good stuff today.

It had been too long since she tasted it, but she still dreamed of the stuff.  She still dreamed of a lot of the things she once took for granted, the luxuries that had disappeared when the hospital downsized and her job as patient liaison had disappeared.  “We need to focus on patients,” she’d been told.  “Getting them in the doors, treated quickly, back out as fast as possible.”  What the public thought of the hospital didn’t matter anymore.  Neither did long-term relationships with the patients.  The fact that there were more complications from this “drive-thru” care didn’t really matter, either.  In fact, that was seen more as a plus.  Nothing could be conclusively blamed on the hospital.  It just looked like people were getting more sick, needing more hospital services, and bringing in more money to the hospital.

And leaving Ginny here, at the gas station, selling gas, coffee and cigarettes to the doctors, nurses, and hospital board members she used to work with each day.

She wondered if their attitudes would change when they were the ones neglected after a serious illness.  That thought almost made the smile on Ginny’s face real.


Skipping Class

I had two best friends during my school years, one in middle school and one in high school.  These two girls were different in so many ways.  Thinking back, I can name only three things that they had in common: they attended the same school, they liked New Kids on the Block, and they both knew me (that last thing, of course, is the most amazing thing about them!)  One trait they definitely did NOT share had to do with school—one of them took her studies seriously while the other would skip class every chance she got.

And she was good at trying to convince me to skip with her.  Sad to say, she succeeded at times.  We skipped school one day and walked from the junior high all the way across town to her house.  I still don’t know why we did it.  Something about her feeling bad about a breakup with an idiot who wasn’t good enough for her anyway.  It felt good to be out of class, until the day came to an end and I realized I had to explain to my parents why I wasn’t on the bus or in my afternoon classes.  Funny how when I think I of that “best friend” I remember more trouble than anything.

But when I think of my high school best friend, I remember good times.  I remember school dances and sleepovers and private jokes and laughter.  It’s not wonder that she is the one that I still call on when I need a shoulder to cry on or just want to share the good things in my life.

Maybe skipping class isn’t such a great thing after all.

The Rules of Writing Christian Fiction

I have had a lot of ideas for novels, and I’ve looked at the guidelines set forth by a lot of Christian publishers to see where some of my ideas fit in.  It has amazed me to see that stories I would consider “Christian fiction” would not be acceptable by some publishing houses.  Why?  Because the characters I have in mind are too real.

One of the “rules” I’ve seen over and over again is that main characters should not be divorced.  That is sad to me.  The whole idea of divorce is sad.  I do believe that marriage is meant to be between one man, one woman, and is to last “until death do us part.”  No couple, especially not a Christian couple, should go into a marriage thinking, “I love this person today, but if in ten or fifteen years this isn’t working out, I can leave and start over.  No big deal.”  It IS a big deal.  Marriage is a big deal.  It is something that is meant for life, and should not be entered into lightly. 

Sadly, things happen.  Life happens.  And there are Biblical reasons for divorce.  Adultery is one.  If you think adultery does not happen in Christian marriages, think again.  Remember Jim Baker and Jimmy Swaggert?  OK, so those two men are from the 80’s and maybe you don’t remember them.  But what about Amy Grant and Vince Gill?  Both were married to others when they began their relationship, and both are Christians.  It happens.  It shouldn’t.  There is no excuse for it.  But it does happen.  And though I don’t believe it is named in the Bible as a reason for divorce, I can’t imagine God is against a woman leaving her husband, even if he is a “good Christian man,” who is physically abusing her or her children.  While I do believe God meant for marriage to be a “one and done” sort of thing (you know—a once-in-a-lifetime, this-is-forever arrangement,) I think He understands that humans are, well, human.  We are flawed.  It grieves Him deeply when He sees two of His children give up on the marriage He brought together.  I don’t think He is in anyway pleased when a marriage ends, no matter the reasons for it, but I don’t think that He stays angry forever about it, either.

Which is why I don’t understand why divorce should be a taboo subject for a novel.  More accurately, why should I be afraid to write about a character who has survived a divorce? 

Maybe it’s a man whose wife was having an affair.  Maybe he was determined to save the marriage, but she walked out, she served him with divorce papers.  And maybe he has taken the time to learn from the experience, to look at the marriage and see not only what she did wrong but what he might have done that led to the choices she made.  Maybe he has grown closer to God because of that divorce and now is ready for a real relationship, one where he is sure to put God at the center.

Or maybe it’s a woman who left her husband to save her life.  Maybe she was beaten daily by this man who claimed to love her.  Maybe the only way to stay alive was to get away from him, to physically leave him and to end the marriage.  And maybe she, too, has had a lot to learn through the experience.  But maybe her heart was hurt so badly by him that she is afraid.  Afraid to love, afraid to trust, afraid of her own choices.  Maybe her ex-husband was the one who introduced her to God in the first place, so she isn’t even sure if she can believe in Him anymore.

Either of those characters could have an amazing story to tell.  A full novel worth of story?  Who knows?  But if I am writing for a traditional publisher, I wouldn’t be able to really find out.  Because this man and this woman were divorced, they would not be viewed as acceptable main characters for a traditionally published Christian novel, at least not through many of the publishing houses I have looked into.

That makes me wonder—would we, as Christians, view these characters as less than acceptable members of our church just because they were divorced?

It kind of reminds me of the old saying “love the sinner, hate the sinner.”  We don’t have to agree with what others have done to love them.  In many cases, we don’t even have to know what others have done in order to love them.  Jesus only asks that we love them.

And if He asks me to write a novel about a divorced man or a divorced woman, I plan to do it.  No matter what the traditional publishing houses say about it.

Couch Surfing

Ah, couch surfing….  One of the few sports my family enjoys. 

Yeah, I know.  We need more hobbies.  We especially need more athletic hobbies. 

Well, except for my middle son.  Give him a ball and a basic idea of the rules of the game, and he will put his whole heart into it. 

My youngest, he might try for a bit.  After a while, he will inevitably begin to yell at the ball, much like a dinosaur would roar.  Maybe that is part of being 6 years old. 

Hubby, he’s been known to play softball and golf.  Hasn’t done either regularly in quite a while, though. 

My oldest boy, he does enjoy golf.  But without Daddy to take him out on the links, he doesn’t get out much. 

And me?  Well, even when my back and legs worked right “athletic” was not a word anyone would use to describe me.  Sure, I can be found, once every couple of years, butt glued to the couch cushion and eyes glued to the TV screen when the Olympics roll around.  But that is pretty much the extent of my sports enjoyment. 

So that leaves us with couch surfing, bouncing from one seat on the couch to another until we are comfortable.  Or just to annoy the other members of the family.  Who knows the reason?  But it’s what we do.  And it’s about the only sport we engage in together.

Other than channel surfing, which isn’t so much a sport as a prelude to war….

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I am enjoying some time off between terms.  *SIGH*  Oh, it’s been nice!  Don’t get me wrong—I have no regrets about being back in school.  I know this is the right thing for me to do, it’s the right thing for me and for my family.  When I started in January, though, I did not anticipate that I would be in school non-stop for 8 months.  Even my kids get mini-vacations.  My terms are 8 weeks each, and I’ve not had a break since I started in the beginning of January.  It’s helped me get in a lot of the classes that I need so that I will be able to graduate next June, so it’s a good thing.  Still, this 2-week break between summer term and fall term is much needed.

Anyway, I’ve used the time to search for some writing contests and writing prompts.  Yesterday, I came across one that looked very interesting.  It is called Monologging.  It bills itself as a “Local-Global Collaborative Magazine.”  For the summer, they are running a contest.  Each day, they post a brief writing prompt and ask readers to write “a brief 250 word monologue” based off that prompt.  (If you want to know more about the contest, you can check it out here.)  I don’t think that I will be entering the contest myself.  Partly because what I have written so far I don’t think is worthy of entering into a contest.  Honestly, it’s not that good.  Mostly, though, I don’t want to pay the entry fee for each one.  Maybe if I write something that I really feel good about, I will enter it into the contest.  But for now, I am just writing.

Yep, I am writing!  I am using the prompts (and there are quite a few of them there, since they started posting the prompts on July 18 and have posted one every weekday since, and I didn’t find the site until August 22) to try to jumpstart my own creativity.  The problem that I am having is keeping it to 250 words.  I talk too much for that!!  It’s hard to keep all of my ideas and thoughts to just 250 words.  But, I am trying.  Look for my first monologue to appear here tomorrow morning.

Priceless Reviews

Every author loves to get feedback on his or her work. At least, I assume every author does. I know I enjoy. And I have yet to meet an author who doesn’t like to get feedback on that work.

What we don’t like so much is asking for that feedback.

For me, asking for the feedback is especially hard. I am very much an introvert. I prefer to spend time alone writing or surrounded by a group of close friends. While I might enjoy brief moments in the spotlight, I am uncomfortable being out front all the time. I don’t like asking people to buy more books and then asking those who have bought and read them to please leave a review of the book on Amazon.

But I am not opposed to reading and then sharing the posted reviews of my work!

Last week, for example, I was looking at my books on Amazon. I check every now and again, just to see if people are talking about my work. I was surprised to see some reviews with 4 and five stars, from readers I didn’t know. These were not from friends or family members—they came from people who had come across one or more of my books, read the books, and then posted their thoughts about them. Here are some snippets from a few of the reviews you can find on Amazon–

On Shattered:

This story really dealt with some real life issues with a depth that I did not expect. Faith and forgiveness take on a greater meaning. I don’t want to go into the story itself because I could never do it justice. Kudos to Lynn McMonigal for a job well done.

On Miracle Play

This book deals with some very deep emotional stuff. Keep the tissue box ready. The book is done tastefully. It is not graphic so you can read it without being offended even though sin does abound. I am very sensitive to that. As long as you can deal with the deep emotions of the mother of the 10-year-old, the wife of the husband who fathered this child, the 17-year-old daughter that is so upset about learning this side of her father and her 14-year-old brother that wants to meet this 10-year-old half-brother he just found out about this is a good book to read. If you can’t deal with the “drama” as it is drama, then I would not suggest this book to you.

On The Ladies of Faith:

This author sure is good at working up emotions, not just in her characters, but also in you as you read the book…. This is a very emotionally draining book but also is an encouraging book as it leads through the Word of God. Lynn McMonigal’s book don’t always have happy endings but they do resolve the issues and emotions dealt with. This book deals with life and death issues so it is not for the faint at heart. It is very tastefully done so that bad circumstances are talked about or referred to but not described in detail. I enjoyed this book and plan to read others but this author.


And then there were the comments that were posted on Facebook during the week, after Shattered had been offered free for the Kindle:

Lynn, I just wanted to tell you that after you posted about your book, “Shattered,” I decided to go get it. I started to read it last night, but knew I needed to sleep. So, I put it aside for another time. However, I woke up around 1 a.m. and couldn’t sleep. I picked up my Kindle and began reading. I had never read any of your work before, but I just wanted to tell you that, like your other reader, I could not put it down once I started. I tried to sleep a few times, but I ended up rolling back over to continue reading. Around 5:30 this morning, I finished reading your book. I just want to thank you for the red, stuffy nose I’m dealing with now. I cried a LOT while reading. Excellent story!


Finished reading Shattered today. It was really good. I enjoyed it. The book was good and the message of forgiveness was awesome! Forgiveness is more for the person offering it than for the person receiving it. I think you did a great job expressing that.

My favorite review and by far the most priceless one that I have received is one that was not typed up at all. This past Sunday, a young man stopped me after church to apologize for not returning the copy of Forsaking the Call his mom had borrowed from the church library. “She’s done with it,” he said slowly, “but I am not yet. Can I bring it back next week?” I told him it wasn’t a problem at all and that I was happy to know he was reading it.

Now, there is something that you need to know about this young man. He is part of the SNAP (Special Needs Adult Program) group at the church. He and his mother told me that he really likes to read, but has a hard time finding books that hold his interest. Most books that are written on a level he can understand have story lines that are too simple for him. Most books written for adults have too many complicated plot twists and he can’t follow them. “Your books is just right,” he said. “It’s not too easy and it’s not too hard.” He said there were a few words he needed to ask his Mom to help him with, but he has read most of it on his own. And then he asked me to please keep writing good books so that he has more to read.

That has kept me smiling most of the week. I love that God knows when I am getting down about my writing and lets me get just the amount of feedback I need to fire me up and keep me writing.

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