Roasting Peanuts in the Back Window

KF2-2002

By Iebrueau at English wikipedia

 

Crossing the Mojave Desert

When I was really young, I’m guessing eight or nine, my family set out on a road trip to Twenynine Palms, California, to visit with my Uncle Chuck who was stationed at the Marine training facility there. We crossed all of New Mexico and Arizona along the way, including a really long stretch through the Mojave Desert. During the daytime. During the summer. Whew! It was hot.

We made a caravan with my mom’s parents to travel across the western half of the United States to do it. They drove a Chevrolet Caprice, I think, and we drove our recently-purchased, used, blue Chevrolet Impala with the 4-85 A/C.  That’s four windows, 85 mph, for you new folks.

We had a four-door sedan instead of the super-cool, two-door coupe shown above. But our Impala was that exact shade of blue. That V8 could fly, but we stayed at low altitude so as to not attract unwelcome attention. No, we didn’t wear seat belts. In fact, I’m not at all sure that the back seat came with any safety equipment. That was back in the day, but a woman has to keep a few secrets. We’ll leave the exact year out of this discussion.

My memories of the trip are vague. I remember it was HOT. My sister, Trish, and I played games, read books, asked are-we-there-yet, and generally had a great time bouncing around in the back of the car.

Roasting Peanuts in the Back Window

This was in the days of the occasional Dairy Queen before McDonalds became quite so ubiquitous. And besides, we were poor as church mice. Mom packed lots of food from home, and we ate bologna and cheese at rest stops. But we sure had fun.

we-miss-out-if-we-say-we-dont-have-enough-money-or-material-things-to-make-memoriesMost of my memories from that trip are cloudy with age, but one that is still crystal clear is my sister and I spreading peanuts on the back shelf beneath the back window (you can kinda see it in the photo). Remember, it was HOT. Hotter than a kiln. Hotter than a dutch oven nestling in the coals of a fire. But, regardless, Trish and I wanted our peanuts to be freshly roasted for optimal eating pleasure. I’m here to report that I’ve never had any peanuts that tasted better!

Making the Best of Less

The trip across the desert was important because we spent it with family. We learned about our country by watching it pass by our open windows. We met strangers when we stopped to help the stranded lady with the broken-down car beside the highway. We made do with what we had. We grew together because we took on a quest together.

It sounds like I got lost in the past, but I also got to thinking how we miss out if we say we don’t have enough money or material things to make memories. If you take the time  and make the best of less, you can create memories that will last. And you might learn a few lessons along the way.

So get out there and roast some peanuts in the back window!

Do you have memories of making the best of less?

are-we-there-yet


A1047webTexas author, Kathrese McKee, writes epic adventures for young adults and anyone else who enjoys pirates and princesses combined with life’s difficult questions. She is committed to exciting stories, appropriate content, and quality craftsmanship.

Learn more at http://www.kathresemckee.com

Advertisements

The Lonely Road

Several years ago, I followed my son-in-law home along a deserted, rainy Tennessee road at night. I was doing okay until he vanished around a bend in the road ahead. I couldn’t catch up because he was “headed for the barn” as we say in the South. No moon. Two lanes, no shoulder. Dips and hills, twists and turns, torrential rain and nearly continuous lightning.

lonely-roadSpookier than Sleepy Hollow

No state does back roads like Tennessee. No state does trees and cane on the verge of the asphalt like Tennessee. And certainly, no state does remote, shuttered church buildings with cemeteries like Tennessee. Lightning flashed, thunder boomed, and tree limbs whipped around like skeletal arms, reaching out to grab the vehicle and pull it into the ditch.

That abandoned, rain-swept back road was spookier than Sleepy Hollow. And I just knew that if my vehicle got a flat tire, I was done for. I’d vanish without a trace because the only place I could turn for help was that house with the blue light at the end of a dirt track.

It was just me on that lonely stretch, and even with my trusty GPS, I got lost twice.

 

We All Travel a Lonely Road

But don’t we all travel a lonely road? When it comes right down to it, don’t we actually travel alone? Maybe it’s just my INTJ self, but most days, that’s the way I feel. I have a wonderful, close-knit, loving family in my house, but they don’t sit with me while I write. They don’t hear the thoughts in my head. They don’t make my decisions or form the words I say. They don’t learn or practice new skills for me.

But I’m never truly alone.

Double Occupancy

Life seems like a solitary pursuit of purpose. Yes, people can come alongside us, but in the end, we know they cannot live inside our skin. The spiritual journey most people take through life is accompanied by an aching void.

Thank God, there’s someone who lives inside my skin with me. Those who don’t have a relationship with Christ simply will not understand this next part. His Spirit lives inside me, and I definitely feel his presence.

I didn’t start out to talk about Jesus, but if you want to know more, let’s talk.

Back to Writing

I was going to write about the lonely road as it pertains to authors because most authors work alone, and we often get lonely.

A point comes when it’s just the author and the page, the thoughts and the words. Sometimes, life is dark and rainy. And you’re lost on an unfamiliar route featuring spooky houses with blue lights. Just kidding about that last part.

Actually, you’re stuck 40,000 words into your story, your plot outline flew out the window three chapters ago, and you have no idea how you’re going to land this plane because you’re flying over the Himalayas without a paddle.

Wait. That didn’t make sense. But you get the picture.

Going to the House with the Spooky Blue Light

Your internal GPS is telling you to take roads that don’t exist. You keep circling back to where you started. Oh, it’s definitely time to get help.

This is when you have to get help, and it feels as if you’re walking up the dirt road to the shady house with the blue porch light. Critique partners aren’t as spooky as you think. Sometimes, they are the only folks who can help you get safely home.

Be brave. Get help.

I’m really happy to be part of the Scriblerians because I have other people trying to help me stay on the road. If you’re not part of a group already, then form one.

Have you ever reached a point where you had to reach out for help?

 


A1047webTexas author, Kathrese McKee, writes epic adventures for young adults and anyone else who enjoys pirates and princesses combined with life’s difficult questions. She is committed to exciting stories, appropriate content, and quality craftsmanship.

Learn more at http://www.kathresemckee.com

Pay the Toll

Pay the Toll

Recently, our family took a rare day trip together to mark the end of summer. We traveled to Austin, Texas to gawk at the Texas State Capitol building and Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. Both places were well worth the trip, by the way. I particularly enjoyed seeing the reconstructed remains of La Salle’s ship, the La Belle. So cool!

On the dri4-IMG_9309ve to Austin from Houston, we were presented with a choice: use the old, traditional roads or pay the tolls to access the bright, shiny new highway to get out of town.
Let me tell you, Kids, sometimes it’s worth paying the troll . . . Um . . . the toll. We cut at least thirty minutes from the first stretch of the journey. That stretch always takes at least an hour to navigate at the best of times. When we reached Austin, we used their tollway and saved more time. We spent our extra time sightseeing and eating a leisurely lunch.

3-IMG_9279

La Belle

Fewer traffic lights. Less road construction. Fewer idiots. See what I mean? More time for what mattered. Totally worth it! Would I recommend taking the toll roads at every opportunity? No way. But it seems both wise and frugal to make that decision on a case-by-case basis.

Real Life

You knew I was going to apply this to real life, right? Well, here goes. I think it’s false economy to try to do everything yourself if there are experts around who can do the same task in a fraction of the time.

It’s false economy to spend weeks learning a new skill on your own if there are reasonably priced courses available to teach you the skill you need in a few days.

1-IMG_9234

Texas State Capitol

Sometimes, the toll road is worth the expense. You can putt-putt-putt your way to your goal, and you will eventually get there. What opportunities did you miss out on while you were doing it yourself or learning a new skill by cobbling together the information? That’s what is known as opportunity cost.

Don’t get me wrong; sometimes the hard way is the best way. Most often, though, the best way is a mixture of DIY and paying for help.

For Example

A couple of years ago, I bought the Scrivener software to help me organize my writing. A lot of writers buy Scrivener, try it out, and abandon it on their hard drives. It’s not that expensive, as software goes, so it’s not a big monetary loss. Most of those writers claim that it’s simply too hard to learn.

2-IMG_9241

The interior of the capitol dome; that star is eight feet across, y’all!

They work through some of the free tutorials, get lost, give up, and go back to using Microsoft Word. It works. I use Word almost every day. But is it really the best software for organizing a full-length novel? Those of us who have pushed through the Scrivener learning curve would answer no because it’s extraordinarily useful.

Scrivener has a steep learning curve because it has lots of bells and whistles. Some people can learn Scrivener on their own. That’s great. But I chose to take the toll road; I paid someone to teach it to me. And that investment saved me weeks of frustration and needless toil.

I Sound Like a Commercial

This isn’t a commercial for Scrivener; I just used my experience as an example. Take the long road when you can, but pay the toll when it makes sense.

Are we there yet-This is another installment in the column,  Are We There Yet?

Have you ever paid the toll to learn a new skill or get work done faster? Feel free to share.


A1047webTexas author, Kathrese McKee, writes epic adventures for young adults and anyone else who enjoys pirates and princesses combined with life’s difficult questions. She is committed to exciting stories, appropriate content, and quality craftsmanship.

Learn more at http://www.kathresemckee.com

Are we there yet? Learner’s Permit

You may have noticed that the Scriblerians are in the process of dividing our shared blog into regular columns about our topics of interest. Some of us haven’t settled on a theme, but so far, I think Tim Akers has decided on “The Imagitorium,” Lisa Godfrees has chosen “Fortune Cookies from God,” and Gretchen has named her column “Write-Run-Live.”

Are we there yet-Are we there yet?

So maybe you can guess that I am going with “Are we there yet?” I heard that question so many times on road trips! At the first stop sign. At the city limits sign. At the state line (a day later, because Texas).

Learner’s Permit

And since this is the first blog post for the column, I thought I would go with “Learner’s Permit” as my first topic.

Learner's PermitMy son turns fifteen in a few weeks, and his sister just turned seventeen. She’s been biding her time about getting her driver’s license; he’s been revving the gas to get his. Obviously, they have two very different outlooks on driving. Meantime, I’m just dreading what will happen to our insurance premiums. For real, though. But I’m not discussing learner’s permits for getting a driver’s license.

Learner’s permit is intended in a more figurative sense. No, Patty, we are not there yet. In fact—tighten your seat belt—we are not headed to any one destination in particular.

The joy is in the journey, and this column is about overcoming the obstacles, welcoming the surprises, and riding with the windows open (unless it’s summer in Texas).

There’s always more to learn . . .

There is always more to learn, so give yourself permission to continue learning. See what I did there? Give yourself a learner’s permit, a pass to investigate. Instead of saying, “I’m too old to learn to draw,” do what fellow Scriblerian, Lisa, is doing and give yourself permission. Age has nothing to do with the desire and ability to learn.

Instead of saying, “I’m too young to learn to program,” just go and learn. Unlike learning the dangerous business of driving, you don’t usually need a teacher to get started. In fact, I believe that true learning happens best when you wrestle to learn what you can on your own for a short time. Then go find a teacher. By that time, you’ll know enough to be dangerous, and you and your instructor will be able to build on what you’ve taught yourself.

By the way, Lisa drew the picture for her Fortune Cookie post. Isn’t it great?

What have you always wished you could do? Give yourself a learner’s permit!

God’s Purpose for Fiction

“Hey.”

(Sidles onto stage.) “How are you? Ahem.

(Waves nervously.) “Hiya, my name is Kathrese McKee, and I’m the newest Scriblerian.”

Stage Fright

I was asked to introduce myself, and I came so close to complete writer’s block. Let’s call it stage fright. Should I write the standard Ten-Things-About-Me post? Should I just pick one thing, like Army brat or Texan?

A Message About Timing

Fortunately, I read a Facebook post by C.W. Briar (Chuck) in which he told the story of how he became an author. Specifically, he wrote about his journey to where he is today, “It wasn’t a crisis of faith, but rather a search to find where I belong and how to use my gifts and talents.”

Along the way, with prayer and the Spirit’s help, Chuck decided to take writing seriously and publish by age 33. He set to work, learning and practicing his craft until he finished his book. According to God’s perfect timing, then, he received the first proof copy of his book three hours before he turned 34.

Individualized, personalized timing is normal with God. My story is similar to Chuck’s. My search took longer, but all those years while I was doing other things, God was preparing me to write fiction (and other stuff).

God's Purpose for FictionOur Reason Why

In the parts of the world where technology is readily available, we are consumed by a thirst for entertainment. We binge watch programs on Netflix or YouTube or Amazon Prime. We read ebooks all day long; there’s a never-ending supply. We float on a sea of amusing infotainment, and we only return to shore for the kids’ soccer games and work. Even then, it’s hard to put the mobile devices away and just be human for a few hours. Don’t think I’m being self-righteous about this; I include myself in that number.

Based on what we see happening around us in the growth of Christian writing support groups like ACFW and Realm Makers, it seems that God is calling authors out from among believers in increasing numbers to write fiction. I think God is calling us to reach out with His message to our blind and deaf generation, a generation of people who won’t meet Him any other way than through the pages of an entertaining story.

Meeting This Generation on the Page (or the Screen)

In a few weeks, I get to join a group of other authors at the Realm Makers  conference. This isn’t your usual writing conference where lots of genres (and belief systems) are represented. This is a meeting of Christian authors who write speculative fiction. How oddly specific!

Here’s my theory: God wants us, the science fiction and fantasy authors He has called out, to meet speculative fiction lovers on the pages (and screens) where they spend their time. If they want entertainment, then our job is to (stay with me here) provide entertainment. To be present where they are. To hold out truth. To entertain—absolutely—and while we have their attention, to prompt them to blink out of their blind trance. To think for a moment. To consider Someone bigger. To know Him better.

I am a speculative fiction author who currently writes for young adults, so my assigned audience is young adults who enjoy epic fantasy adventure. Authors of other genres and sub-categories have different sets of readers to reach. Some audience overlap may occur. Personally, I enjoy reading a well-written Regency romance followed by a political thriller with a space opera for desert.

[Brace yourselves; we are entering personal opinion territory.]

Is there such a thing as Christian fiction?

In my opinion, the answer is no. A Christian is a person who is in Christ, and his or her message is Christ crucified. I know you want to argue for the existence of Christian fiction, but keep reading.

We have turned “Christian” into an adjective for the stuff we create, but the Scriptures only use the term in reference to believers. Go ahead, check out this search for “Christian” on BibleGateway.com . These days, “Christian” has become an imprecise shorthand for “a big ball of wibbly-wobbly . . . timey-wimey . . . stuff.”

My apologies, Dr. Who fans; I couldn’t resist. “Christian”—as a descriptor for stuff we create—is a dumbed-down, wishy-washy, amorphous concept that has little to do with God’s precious gift to mankind. To me, it makes more sense to label so-called “Christian art” as “Christ-inspired art.”

Can art be Christian?

Again, my answer is no. Art can be inspired by Christ. Art can point to Christ and glorify Him. Art can be offered to Christ in love, like the crayon drawings of a three-year-old. Such art, in God’s perfect time, can inspire non-believers to take Christ seriously, but only because God works on its audience through the Spirit by using the artist’s creation as a meeting point.

All art communicates a spiritual message, whether for good or evil. The massive sculptures and friezes created at the direction of the USSR’s government sent a spiritual message. Atheists’ art sends a spiritual message, whether they wish it or not. The art created by Christians, then, is important for the spiritual messages it communicates. That is why it is important for a Christian’s work to agree with God’s Truth.

Okay, I know I’m fighting a losing battle on the whole Christian-as-an-adjective-for-stuff thing. The publishing industry is deeply entrenched with the idea of a secular, “mainstream” market versus a religious market, some of which is “Christian.” The labels Christian music, Christian books, Christian jewelry, and Christian so-forth are here to stay. I just wish that we had settled on the term “Christ-inspired” instead.

[That wasn’t too bad, was it? And now you know how convoluted my thinking gets.]

A Light in a Dark Place

Our stories are one of the mediums through which God acts. The funny part is that our books don’t have to preach about Christ or contain an “altar call.” Christian authors don’t have to write allegories in order to glorify Christ or communicate Truth. The book of Esther contains no mention of God, yet the story is all about God’s power to save His people.

I think it is important for Christians to write fiction if they are moved to do so. Our “job” is to attract an audience and offer our best, most thoughtful, stories written from a Christian perspective.

When we meet our readers and fans in person or on-line, we must wear the name of Christ proudly and without shame. We must not shy away from being His witnesses. We must be Christians and walk the walk that we talk. Christians who write fiction can be a light in a dark place, and God will do the rest.

Wrath and RuinOur search, to paraphrase Chuck, is to find where we belong and how to use our gifts and talents. Our mission is to work conscientiously at our craft and present our best work to the reading public. We are called to meet non-believers (and believers too) on the page and on the screen through the medium of storytelling.

Chuck wrote this:

“I won’t say this is some God-ordained book. I won’t say this is the greatest thing I will ever accomplish (in fact, I hope to write many books and to improve with each and every one). I don’t know where this writing journey is leading, what stories I will tell, and whose lives I will impact. But I do know this: tonight I received the first copy of a book I wrote, a tangible confirmation of a journey started in earnest 4 years ago.”

My thanks to C.W. Briar for giving me permission to hijack his Facebook post. His first book, Wrath and Ruin, is on schedule to be released by the end of July, 2016. Love the title, by the way.

Do you agree or disagree?