Vacation Bible School and other Cool Stuff

In addition to cutting Facebook so that I can actually start to live up to this “good church girl” reputation people have given me (would that I had earned it by actually being selfless!) I have been teaching VBS this week.

Today’s a big day–the salvation message. Yup. Today I get to teach the kids that even though we are all incapable of not sinning, God loves us, and has a plan to redeem us from the consequences of that sin. So, if you happen to be reading this, please pray!

Tomorrow is a great story as well…the characters in our story have rededicated themselves to God, but guess what? They are still selfish sinners, and Nehemiah gets to sort them out, yet again! Maybe that doesn’t seem like the most encouraging story in the Bible…that even after salvation we people, by nature, are basically jerks. But I think it’s one of the most important for the kids, because if they accept Christ today, then tomorrow, when they sass their parents and get in trouble for it, they may be really confused.

If you want to know more about our Lego Nehemiah VBS (which I got to write!) Check out my blog post Vacation Bible School of Hard Knocks at Cozy Mystery Magazine!

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Filed under Children's Ministry, things I wrote elsewhere

I kind of quit FB (TMI warning!)

After speaking in a lighthearted way about Facebook addiction for the last couple of years, I finally got serious and quit the personal account.

Two years ago I ditched almost all of Facebook and just kept a couple of writers groups thinking I’d be on the site less. If “on less” means pretty much the whole day, I was right. If it doesn’t, I was wrong.

(Obviously, I was wrong.)

But I was also wrong about staying  on Facebook because of the “venting” and “relaxing” I did in my writers groups,  which were the way I white-washed gossip and … naughty talk, for lack of better word. For the most part it was just an off color punch line, here and there, when other writers left themselves open to it. I don’t have the most control over my tongue (in this case, fingertips.)

I’ve read James more than say, 100 times, so I know that’s a real problem, but…online? Out of the public eye? Where it didn’t disappoint readers or embarrass church friends? It couldn’t be wrong to let myself go a little online, in a secret group, could it?

Er. Yes. It could. Because when things went too far (for me) I didn’t have the moral high ground (for lack of better word) to ask for a cleaner environment, when I tried. My friends called foul.

That alone wasn’t all that bad, but it was online, and people can’t see or hear you really, so, while I was just sort of, asking…you know? Not panicked, not mad, just conversationally asking, people got really upset. First they were upset at someone wanting to censor them, but others were upset thinking they had hurt me deeply in some way, which they hadn’t wanted to do.

It’s so hard to have a nuanced conversation online where parts of what you say are lighthearted and parts are more serious (case in point, the conversation I had about cemeteries with a friend who had just gotten a cancer diagnosis. Not my shiniest moment of clear communication, I can tell you.)

But because it was online, I really couldn’t “see” that. I couldn’t see that everyone else felt much more deeply about the whole thing than I did. Even when they told me they had stayed up late upset about the situation, it didn’t come across as real. Not that I thought they were lying, it just felt…unreal. Like they didn’t mean it, were exaggerating for the emotional impact that is missing from written communication. And so I came across as an unfeeling, selfish, self centered hypocrite. I know I did, because I was told so, point blank.

Well, in a way it was true. You can’t go around telling people to clean up your act while you also salt your conversation with jokes 13 year old boys would be proud of, can you now? And you can’t dismiss other people’s declarations of their emotional state just because you find it absurd. Okay, literally you CAN do that, but you can’t do it and expect them to call it just another day.

So, that all to say, on Facebook, I was the worst possible Traci instead of the best possible Jesus. Facebook, therefore, had to go. I can’t grow into the best possible Jesus by letting myself spend all day as the worst possible Traci.

I liken it to a drunk. I was a Facebook drunk. But not the happy kind who sings karaoke and dances too much, the mean kind who starts yelling and picking fights before they throw up in your soup.

So, anyway. You can still find me on Facebook, because I have a professional account, where I post links and share writing updates. But that account can’t join groups or see walls, or respond to anyone else’s posts. So…for me (and for you!) that is a good thing. No, I couldn’t just moderate it, set a timer and get off, or anything else like that. Because I was a drunk, and one drink is too many if you are addicted.

So thank you for not begging me to come back–I need all the support I can get!


Filed under Christian Living, not writing

Binge Watching Real Housewives wasn’t that Bad….

The Real Housewives of New York City Season 6 300x300 Binge Watching Real Housewives wasnt that Bad....I may have been watching too much reality TV this summer. It’s not something I’m proud of. And yet, I’m not too ashamed either. icon wink Binge Watching Real Housewives wasnt that Bad....

That said, I blogged about the Top Ten things I learned about Business Success From Binge Watching Real Housewives–Even I was surprised to find ten great business lessons in the shows!

Head over to the ACFW blog to check it out!

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Filed under The Business of Writing, The Real Housewives of Clark County, things I wrote elsewhere

Pretty Good Reality

green car opt Pretty Good Reality


A friend recently challenged me to create my own reality by looking with expectations for good things in life. That didn’t sound too bad, but obviously I take anything that has the aroma of name-it-and-claim-it with a serious shaker full of salt.

But for the challenge, I needed to believe it would work, for just a couple of days. Just, put aside my disbelief, like when you are at the movies, and let God show me how he wants to take care of me. All I had to do was make an intention to notice something I don’t usually notice, and then be WOW’d by how often I see it.

So I sort of apologized to God and to the third world for agreeing to believe I could influence anything with my thoughts and said, I will notice grass green cars. Why? Because they’re pretty.

So I went about my two days looking for grass green cars and praying, talking to God about how he feels when people want to tell reality how it needs to go. Wondering how my friends fighting cancer would feel about me attempting to call grass-green cars into existence, remembering how several years ago I decided to start praying in faith that a friend of mine could get new carpet, but how it just never happened. All the while, looking for grass green cars, because they are pretty, and I like to see them, and being aware of what is around me is not a sin.

A day and a half passed and I didn’t see a single grass green car. Not one. So as I crossed the bridge into Portland, I chuckled and prayed silently, thanking God for making an important point about reality: It’s up to him when and where to reveal what he cares to reveal to us.

And then I merged into the next lane where I had a great view of a big white lawn care van with a photo realistic advertizement of thick, luscious, green grass all over the side and back.

Not just a grass-green colored car, but a car covered in green grass.

I had to laugh. That’s the God-sense of humor, isn’t it?

I tell God what I want out of life, and he gives me what he plans on giving me, when he plans on giving it. His timing, his method, his intentions for reality. Not mine.

I can’t help but acknowledge that the friend who sent me on the challenge has seen pretty remarkable results from it, but I am forced to say that it must be because that is what God has intended for her right now.

So what did I want so badly that I was willing to toy with a little Health Wealth and Prosperity?

I want to finish my work in progress! I am so terribly far behind and I cant seem to piece the story together. I wanted to bring a clear vision for the book, hard work, and determination into reality by the power of my thoughts.

See, I want to make this book free forever, since I am going to have the gospel in it. I want to be able to put it up on Book Bub so that hundreds of thousands (I don’t exaggerate) will download it for free and have the gospel, right there. But I can’t do that if I never get it finished.

Hearts to God 200x300 Pretty Good RealityI was looking at the interior files for Hearts to God the other day and realized the back matter on Shaker facts has a pretty good gospel message in it. So you know what I did? I made it free. It’s being distributed to Nook, iTunes, Kobo, et al via Draft to Digital right now. When it is available there, God willing, Amazon will price match it.

It’s just a novella so I can’t advertize it at Book Bub, but I can look for other places. So I can be a book-missionary right now, even if I am struggling to get the newest book written.

And that’s a pretty good reality.

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Filed under book covers, Christian Living, devotions, FREE, Hearts to God series


The Hilton family joined the current century and got smart phones. We even ditched our land line!

Because I can’t seem to pass level 29 on Candy Crush saga, the best thing about these phones is definitely Instagram.

Besides pics of my adorable dogs and nutsy kids, I am currently documenting the last phase of our kitchen remodel.

To recap what we have done so far:

007 300x225 Instagram!

Phase One

Our kitchen was a small square with two doors in–the kind the kids could run circles around.

Our first step was to take out a wall and  wall in one of those doors to give us room for more counters.

Then we added some cabinets and new counters. (This is a 60′s ranch so no fancy granite for us!)

We finished it up by putting a decorative arch between the newly opened kitchen and the little dining room.

We got all of that done in 2012, but taking out a wall left a funny gap with a bad patch job in our flooring. The flooring was vinyl stick tiles, and they were ready to be replaced anyway.

When we first moved in we removed the old carpets and refinished the hardwood floors, and so I wanted to run hardwood through the dining room. (And something more waterproof in the kitchen.) It’s a big, kinda costly job though, so we’re just getting around to it now!

Wanna check out the fun?

That’s where Instagram comes in! You can see everything from the girls day out Mom and I and my kids had while Daniel and Dad installed the floor (hint: Manicures and movies!) to the camp kitchen we set up in the bedroom. (It will take three days of drying before we can use our kitchen again!)

So pop over to Instagram to see the fun!


Filed under family life, not writing, Portlandia, The Real Housewives of Clark County

The Trouble with Deciding to do the Right Thing After All…

…is the fear that no one will believe you.

Case in point?


I have been a gossip. For a long time.

Have a juicy tid bit? Tell me more!

Hey you, over there, have you heard this?

Someone say something awful to me? Who can I find to “vent” to?

The Bible is clear that gossip is a sin, and I have seen plenty of children’s cartoons that illustrate the damage gossip does. But…still…it’s natural. I was born this way. I don’t beat my children, so maybe this one vice is still okay?

In my effort to kick the gossip habit, I started small. In the last six months or so I have made a concerted effort to unload my gossip on my husband. After all, he is the one God provided to help me carry my burdens! Plus, as a man, he has as little interest in gossip as I have in soccer, so he wouldn’t be likely to encourage me to “do tell more!”

Anyway. Two days ago was a breaking point. I got a juicy tid bit so juicy it floored me and I could not figure out the right person (people) to share it with. The friend I vent to so she could hear what kind of awful gossip people are spreading? The person it was about so she could respond to it? Other friends who would be equally horrified by the kinds of things people are saying? (See how innocent each way I may have spread that news was?)

In the end, I realized I needed to tell the person who told me the news that it wasn’t okay to tell that story to people.

So I did.

Which made me think of all of the horrible things I had said about people for very “innocent” reasons. And how awful that was.

And so I am putting a stop to it.

The gossip ends now.

No more snarky venting. No more “warning” people of what they might run into with so-and-so. No more of any of it.

The risk of course, is that no one will believe I am serious about this. And my saying “It all stops here!” may well remind people of all the “news” I have shared with them, and then that news may become topics of conversation again, just making the problem worse.

So, if that does happen, and if someone tells you some horrible thing I have said or spread: I am deeply sorry.

The gossip ends here, even if I have to bite my own tongue off to make it happen.

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Filed under Christian Living, not writing

Michael Meyer: On Publishing

 Today I have the great good luck of hosting the brilliant author Micheal Meyers. Not only is he an accomplished professor, world traveler, and great suspense writer,  his memoir, The Three Kitties that Saved my Life, is a finalist for the very prestigious RONE Award in the Inspirational Book category. 

Without further ado: Mike, on publishing…


MikeMeyer ThreeKitties 1 187x300 Michael Meyer: On PublishingUnpublished writers often ask me how I happened to publish five novels in such a short time. The answer is simple, and yet there is some complexity to it. I decided to self-publish my own novels.

I wanted my work to be read right away. If I had gone the traditional publishing route, my books would still be somewhere along the lengthy publishing route, lying there not yet ready to be put into readers’ hands.

It takes months, sometimes years, to get one’s work published the traditional way. I am so delighted that Amazon Direct Publishing came onto the scene, followed by the NOOK for Barnes and Noble, and Apple. My books have already sold thousands of copies since their birth at their new home at Amazon. And in that short time, my books have made me an international author. Copies of them have already been bought in England, Germany, France, Australia, South Africa, and Singapore, in addition to wide distribution throughout the United States and Canada. None of this would have been possible, in such a short time, if I had chosen to pursue the traditional publishing route.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, the highly acclaimed international author, often complained of having to change parts of his books, especially endings, to satisfy his publishers. He is not, by far, the only author who has had to adhere to someone else’s editing in order to be published.

In my case, the case of a self-published novelist on Amazon Kindle and the Nook, I have complete control over every single aspect of my book, every word, every punctuation mark, and even to the appearance of the cover. It is my choice, and mine alone, how to begin and how to end my own book. I have complete control over all of my characters’ actions, thoughts, and words. In a nutshell, as a self-published author, I am the true writer of my own work. No editor has had a hand in changing even a single word of my original work. The book is mine, and mine alone, and it is presented to the reading public exactly as I want it to be, nothing changed to satisfy a publisher’s whim. It is my baby, so to speak.

For example, my latest book, The Three Kitties that Saved my LIife, was my heartfelt attempt to make things right again in my own life, after my first wife died tragically at a young age. Putting my true journey from love and loss to love once again down on paper worked. It was something that I just knew I had to do.

However, being in complete control of one’s own work means that enormous time needs to be spent polishing the final product so that it can compete effectively in the marketplace. Errors of any kind can be blamed on no one but one’s own self. It is lonely out there, all by yourself, with no editors and no marketing department to provide assistance. In other words, there is a downside to self-publishing, but, in the end, when you hold your own book in your hands, it is well worth all the time and hard work that has gone into it.

The best advice I can give an aspiring self-published author is this: you must be thick-skinned because not everyone will like your books. In fact, you need to be prepared to receive some negative views, at times, even some that might be downright hostile, from people you will never meet.

It happens to all writers. It is the nature of the writing game. Attacks on your writing will take place, and they will be posted on book sites just as poor reviews of restaurants and such are posted on Yelp. When you receive such a review, even though it might seem very hard to do, ignore it. Never respond. Let it be. Instead, cherish the positive reviews you receive. You will find yourself moved at times by the great things readers have to say about your work. Feel good that you have pleased someone with your writing. Take pride in this. If you have put forth the work required, you will receive some reviews that will move you. Then move forward. You know that you cannot please everyone. All artists, be they film makers, song writers, or painters, etc., know this. Accept this fact and then keep on writing because that is what writers do: they write.

And, by all means, make your writing an enjoyable activity. Look forward to interacting with your characters as you put their story down on paper because soon enough your books go off to live on their own. Have fun! Life is too short to do otherwise.

Want more Mike? Here are his links!

Amazon author’s site


Facebook writers’s site


Pintererest author’s site:


Filed under book covers, Guest Authors, How To, The Business of Writing

I said WHAT?

Well, I did say it, so I had better own it. I’m not going to lie: I don’t even remember half the things I said in defense of public schooling. But I do remember that all of my arguments in favor of it stemmed from two main points:

#1. I went to an awesome school, had a blast, and got a good education.

So I’m sure that with that as my premise I argued that people who claimed otherwise of public school were just being stinker pants. Or possibly, were snooty pants.

#2. If all of the Christians pull from the public school system how will the gospel be spread to all of those kids?

The multitude of things I have argued from that premise include, but are not limited to: we are supposed to be a light in the darkness so hiding from the dark is a chicken kind of move, kids will mature spiritually by being exposed to people who aren’t the same as them–they will be forced to ask themselves if they believe the Bible or if they are just used to it, they will learn to truly love the unsaved by having dear, even best friends who don’t already know and love Christ, which will teach them a compassion for the lost not based on condescension but on empathy.

There are more (most of them I resorted to as a scared, defensive newly wed who married into a family that was deeply invested in their private school and…well. Lets not dig too deeply into the past, but my poor ego took a beating and responded with some pretty choice words of it’s own!)

So…if it is negative and can be said about either private school or homeschooling, I have said it. If it is positive and can be said about public school I have SHOUTED IT AT PEOPLE.

Why do I bring this up? Because next fall when I start homeschooling my youngest daughter I am going to hear about it!

And whatever I hear I will totally deserve.

We’ve been in modern public schools for the last 5 years and I have learned many things. I might as well share those now, since I’m talking education…

#1. Public schools are still are chock full of Christians. This is GREAT news. It relieves me of the pressure to be the only light in the darkness. Lots of little unsaved kids have lots of ways of hearing the gospel, including but not limited to Child Evangelism Fellowship which has lots of after school clubs at public schools around our town.

#2. Some of the schools are overcrowded which makes it very difficult for them to be flexible to the needs of the students. This is why we are pulling.

#3. Some educators feel they are better at parenting your kids than you are. But not all of them feel that way.

#4. There is an incredible variety of options. (This is different from flexibility.) Our school system has Spanish Immersion (which we have been in) and Chinese immersion. It has Challenge for the talented and gifted set. There is an online learning program and a parent partner program for homeschooling (that’s what I am moving one of my students to this year, and the other next year. Long story. Will tell later.)

#5. I’m not cut out for PTO. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise and is more about me than schools, but you know. I’m no good on committees and PTO is a big ole committee.

#6. Public schools are full of awesome people worth knowing. One of the great things about being over-crowded is how many new friends you can make. icon wink I said WHAT?

Public school is not exactly what it was when I was a kid, but that’s a great thing. There are more options both public, private, and other. And where there are options there is freedom and where there is freedom there are mommies swooning with happiness over what great things they can do for their kids.

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Filed under family life

So what is this dumb advice I give?

Why not, since I am writing two blogs on the same day to post separately on different times, write them both about the one thing I am thinking about?

All my dumb advice.

These are the ideas that people like to reject out of hand because they are too constrictive.

1. Concerning covers:

Make it fit your genre. Make it professional. That’s all. Just, do it well, and make it fit. Weird or amateur is very risky. Shut your artiste in the closet and get the job done. Cover art theory doesn’t sell books. Covers that communicate with the reader do.


2. Concerning marketing:

I’m stealing this almost word for word from my mentor. write a series, then think of the series as a funnel. The more readers in at the wide part of the funnel the more readers who follow through the whole series.

3. Concerning what books to write:

Focus. If this is your job and not your hobby, focus. Don’t waste time writing say, a space mystery, or a historical romance if those aren’t your genre. I know this from hard experience. Don’t waste time writing what readers don’t want from you.


Oh, that’s about it. My advice is just the things I know from experience. Take it or leave it, that’s for you to decide.
Jane Adler thinks she knows what’s what as well, and that might just get her in a little bit of trouble…but you can read all about that for free…

200 x 200 ad 300x300 So what is this dumb advice I give?




Filed under Uncategorized

Who’s your expert?

This here is a businessy post for those writers out there wondering what I am thinking about these days.

These days I am thinking: “Who is your expert?”

What qualifications do you look for in the people you seek advice from?

I only take writing advice from people whose books are awesome.

I only take business advice from people who sell more books than I do.

Because I have been doing that for a while, I have been selling books. That means when I am in groups with other writers who want to know how to sell books, I give them the advice that I took, that made my books sell.

It’s a kind of pay-it-forward thing.

That doesn’t mean that everyone wants or need my advice.

Some people don’t want it because they want to learn from doing.

Other people don’t need it, because they sell more books than I do. (That’s lots of folks, by the way!)

And then there are those who say to me “You should probably stop giving away all of your tricks.” (That’s a paraphrase.)

And maybe I should…I don’t know. If for no other reason than my blood pressure would go down. It kills me to tell someone the things I have learned the hard way, and have seen to work again and again in genre after genre, only to be told that I am “wrong” because there is no “formula” for success. That their lack of sales in no way reflects that they are doing something “wrong” and that everyone has their own path.

I mean, I guess that’s a fine mental state to live in. Whatever floats their boats and stuff. But it seems to me the thing to say when you get advice that you don’t like is more along the lines of…”Intersting, thanks for sharing.” Rather than “You can’t possibly be right and I don’t care that you are making a nice living doing this and I’m not. I am right and you are clearly wrong.”

Okay, so it’s obvious that this situation is eating at me and that maybe I do need to spend less time giving away advice…

But, if you were wondering, that’s what I’m thinking about these days. I’m thinking: “Advice” is a complicated business. You need to know you can trust the person giving the advice. And you need to be careful who you give advice to!

Mitzy is a bit like me. She thinks she knows everyting and doesn’t mind telling people…Does she or doesn’t she? Foreclosed, is always free, so you can decide. Is she as bright as she thinks she is?

Foreclosed bitly stats ad 300x300 Whos your expert?


Filed under Mitzy Neuhaus, The Business of Writing