Tribes: Who Needs Them?


That fellow’s pointing at me. He’s a marketing guru (I’m sure), and he says that my next job is to make scads of social media friends. I must blog, tweet, speak, call, make myself heard somewhere, by someone. By enough someones that my book will sell. I’m supposed to have a tribe.

As an idea, a tribe sounds welcoming. But if your school years were anything like mine, tribes and posses meant exclusion for those on the outside looking in. Too bad the lonely couldn’t form their own clique, but outsiders are usually outside because they’re either too shy or too introverted, too tall or too fat, or, as I often felt, too bored by the trivia of it all.

Now, being on the outside isn’t always a bad thing. Isolation and loneliness often propel one to creativity.  It forced me into books and art and writing and made me the person I am today.

Who, frankly, would much rather write another story than try to sell anything.

Have I told you about my friend, Ray? Ray worked in another department back when I was editing in the DC area. Evenings, I’d return to my apartment and sculpt big bodies to hang on walls — big, life-sized bodies using friends as models. One night a week, I taught aspiring artists what I’d learned in school and in the doing of my art. When Ray and his family came into my life, I’d just finished a pair —  John and Sue — and moved on to the next sculpture, this time a torso only. Ray showed up at my office door and asked if I’d let him submit my work to a contest to be judged by none other than the sculpture curator of the National Gallery of Art. I shrugged, secretly delighted, especially when the pair won First Place. All because of Ray, who’d invited me into his tribe and done for me what I couldn’t do for myself.

I love people. I like to talk to people and make new friends, but I’m the one who’ll want to get to know you, not just your name or your place in the hierarchy. At the cocktail party, I don’t want to flit. I want conversation.

Here’s the deal. I don’t have a clue how to create a tribe or to beat my chest. But I’d like to know you. And if together we end up in a club together, it won’t be an exclusive one. You hear?


I’m in. How about you? Are you coming with me? I’ll help you up and you can help me?

(Perhaps there’s even a Ray out there for my writing who wants to show me how and pave the way.)

Oh, and, Ray, if you ever read this, I hope that you and your wife and your quiver full of children are doing well out there in Utah. Because you certainly showed this then-agnostic all about the love of God. Be blessed, my brother. Be blessed.

Becalmed No Longer

Tadie Longworth wouldn’t stop poking at me. She was tired of her quiet, monochromatic life and all those breezeless days. I could sympathize. After all, we’re both sailors.

I finally have good news for her and her Beaufort friends. My agent, Terry Burns, forwarded a contract yesterday that will let Tadie kick up her heels and see a little color in her life.

I’ve tweaked my stories, slashed and dashed, set one aside to write another. From keyboard to floppy discs and later onto one hard drive after another, characters have lived with me and begged for breathing room. Some only told me a bit about themselves, a paragraph or two, a chapter, and so they waited. Or I waited, until their clamoring forced me to people their world and let them into mine.

Now, the first of my Beaufort stories has found a home. Tadie, who loves to sail to Cape Lookout in a sharpie much like mine, will find her way into print at a fitting home: Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Can you imagine a more perfect name for a publisher of my sailing stories? Jilly must be doing a little happy dance, her bright orange pigtails bouncing as she peeks out from the companionway steps at the brilliant color of the sunrise. “Wake up, daddy! We’ve got things to do and people to meet!”

Becalmed is becalmed no longer. Keep a look out for more news of Tadie and the Beaufort crew as it becomes available.



Contests are great fun (although sales would be trump these)

Just a quick note to tell you that another of my stories is a semi-finalist in the Genesis contest. Can’t tell you which. Can’t mention its title. But….

I resurrected it from an old program (anyone remember AmiPro?) and converted it to Word, then had to bring it up to date. But I had fun with it when I wrote it way back when, and I’m having fun with it again.

New stories are a delightful challenge, but old stories make me smile.

On Writing and Fitting in

Someone in the know recently said that few publishers want stories set in foreign lands. To fit in, I must be careful of the truth, I must beware, take care, mince words, be thoughtful, keep it short, do it this way or that way, don’t be too literary, show lots of action, don’t get into too many heads, be gritty or not so, be this, be that.

How do all those with publishing contracts manage? Am I so odd, is my writing so far out or off or not quite there? I’d love to know.

Though perhaps it’s merely that my Lord has whispered, “Wait,” and I’ve been too impatient to hear.

And so, while I wait, I write. And rewrite, and follow my own advice, given so freely over at Wayside. Too bad I can’t publish me!



Look what showed up today!

I love receiving mail. I particularly love mail that reminds me of good things, such as a contest win.

Back in 2011, my story, Becalmed, won First Place for Strong Romantic Elements in the Catherine Contest in Toronto, Canada. Those lovely folk from the Toronto Romance Writers became my new best friends. But somehow the certificate never made the mailbox. Until now.

But good news and fun gifts are always right on time:



The View from Here

It looked like a mountain range instead of clouds as the run rose this morning over the Outer Banks. I can’t resist capturing the sight, though it’s never quite the same as that first moment of joy at the waking day. If you click to enlarge, you’ll see it in better detail.

This is the same view,  slightly to the left (and off the balcony instead of the ground), taken a few mornings ago. How different the sky, the ever changing glory of it. Most of the time, I stare down at the computer screen. And then I look up. And smile.


And here? If I turn all the way to the left and look back toward the head of the creek, this is what I see. The harbor docks are almost underwater at high tide.



A Little Inspiration from Inspire-A-Fire

How A Little Can Change A Lot

Originally Posted by on Oct 23, 2011 :

 “We have much to be judged on when he comes, slums and battlefields and insane asylums, but these are the symptoms of our illness and the result of our failures in love.” – Madeleine L’Engle

When my brother traveled to the Sudan he had an encounter that changed his life—and as it ends up, mine too.

He stood in Darfur at an orphanage filled with children leftover from the genocide. There were over 800 children, and during the night wild dogs were dragging them off and killing them.

My brother already felt shell-shocked from the travesties he’d witnessed in Uganda.

The day was hot. The sun beat down upon him. His camera had nearly been ruined from all the dust. He’d barely slept. His gear was heavy. Yet his conscience was seared by the numbness he felt, so he turned and confessed to a Sudanese pastor.

“We shall pray right now that your heart will be opened,” he was told.

Not long after that prayer three young children approached Joshua and started to follow him. After a bit, his father nature kicked in and he stopped and sang Father Abraham. It didn’t take long before the four of them were dancing and going through the motions.

When they finished, he asked the children to tell him how they came to be there.

The oldest, a girl, answered. “The soldiers came and shot my mother and father, so I came here.”

The two other children nodded in agreement. “Me, too.”

He was grief struck, but it was what transpired next that tore my heart. “Do you have a Mommy?” The little girl asked my brother.

“Yes,” he answered.

“And a Daddy?”

Again, his answer was yes.

“Oh,” she said, her voice hinting at a strange intermingling of numbness and grief.

Her question stirs me still. For I believe it came from her soul and revealed the thoughts of her heart. She didn’t want to know what his country was like, what kind of food he ate, or what he did for a living. She had her own bullet holes leftover from the genocide. Her world consisted of this single question: Who still had parents and who didn’t?

In her questions I heard her worry and fear. Imagine being trapped in a war-torn country, a land of famine, drought and disease. Imagine trying to survive it as an orphan with death threatening you every hour. No matter how much she’s endured, at the end of the day, she’s still  just a little girl. And all she really wants is her Mom and Dad.

I imagined my daughter living as an orphan in the Sudan. If I were shot and dying, it would be my hope that my brothers and sisters would care for her. But what if her aunts and uncles were killed too? What was it then, that her parents hoped?

As members of the body of Christ these children are not alone. They have aunts and uncles. Multitudes and multitudes and multitudes of them. Talk about staggering! These kids are our nieces and nephews! Mine. Yours.

So who, I wondered, within the church has the responsibility to step in?

I didn’t like the answer that came. Earlier that week I was shocked to learn that globally I was one of the richest people in the world—even though as an American, I’m pretty poor.

Like it or not  I was the rich aunt. I had knowledge of the situation. That made me accountable.

I wasn’t comfortable with the knowledge then, and I’m not comfortable with the knowledge now. But I am determined to do something. Anything.

That day Joshua had in his possession a picture book that someone had asked him to give to someone in the Sudan. It was a children’s book with a story about how we have a Heavenly Father who always loves and cares for us. Joshua read the book and gave it to them.

An American woman took it upon herself to raise the money to build shelter. Every person who donated, even a dollar, helped to create a place where the little girl now sleeps safe from wild dogs.

When Joshua told me he’s going to start a branch of Watermelon Ministries called Media Change, a non-profit encouraging Americans to give up a portion of the money spent on entertainment to serve those fighting world hunger and thirst, I wanted to support it.

For seven years he’s helped non-profits raise money that serves the “least of these.” He’s seen the impact a small investment can have. This is a brand new initiative. He’s not quite ready to launch, but you can sign up and be kept updated at His first goal is garner the support of 10,000 people who are willing to give $10 a month. I’m number #3.

This is only a blog post, but who knows what one blog post can do.

What if the task of helping others isn’t as overwhelming as we make it?


Jessica Dotta, Sr. Editor of Inspire a Fire, has earned the right to wear the title of: Social Media Specialist, Consultant, Publicist, Brand Manager, Editor, Writer, Social Activist, and Business Manager. But the only titles that matter to her are: Called – Redeemed – Beloved – Known by the Father – Daughter – Accepted. . . and Mom. Her life has recently undergone a shaking—one that uprooted nearly every trace of her former life. You’ll have forgive her unconventional posts, as she’s still trying to work out her perspective. She knows one thing though. The most humble and worthy person she ever encountered lived in near obscurity—but sent ripples of change into the world. All because he took the time to care about each hurting person he met. He wasn’t Jesus, but he followed the Great Shepherd and left a legacy. She wants to follow that path.

Grateful for the Pain


Yesterday, I thought about recovery from pain. I remembered one of the bigger rejections in my life, the one that forced me into the new and frightening role of Single Mother. I thought my world destroyed that day, my years of clinging to faith a mockery. It took some days and months and years before I could look up and declare a true thank You for the pain, one that I actually meant. The first thanks had been obligatory: one is supposed to praise, no matter what. To say, “Thank You,” before one feels the truth of it.


Have you ever been there? Been at the place where all you can do is question why? Felt unlovely, unwanted, ignored, cast out? Hurt physically or mentally beyond what you thought you could endure? And wondered what celestial game had tossed you out with the garbage?


What did you do about it?


Some of us dump God. Or church. Or men or women or friendships or….  The list goes on. We find anything and everything to blame.


And some, some few, grab the hem of His garment and hold on. Stand at the Red Sea, as it roils in front of us and that Egyptian Army gathers behind, and we say, “Thank You. Praise You. I trust You in the middle of this mess.”


And something happens. Maybe not immediately, but one day something happens. We may have to walk through days where failures abound and the world’s tilt leans away from us, but one day we do wake to find the pain easing, the hurt less, the heart full, and the New Plan unfolding in our life.


I’m living another New Plan now. But if I hadn’t faced the pain of that rejection, if I hadn’t become a leftee from marriage, I might never have known the joy that the Father had in store for me. A new day, a new life, and a best friend of my very own.


That best friend took pictures out our window this morning. Here’s one of them:


Deep POV

I know many of you are busy writing your masterpiece with NaNoWriMo. Those 50K words haunt you.

But I’d like to challenge my writer friends to come over to Wayside’s Blog and show off. There’s a picture there of a man feeling something, thinking something, involved in something. But what? Can you spend just a few minutes to create a moment in time and show us, using deep POV, what is happening to that man?

Then, using your input, I’ll write another post.





BECALMED: First Place in The Catherine!

A few days ago I received an email from the Coordinator of the 2011 Catherine Contest.

“I’m thrilled to tell you that your entry, Becalmed, placed first in the Strong Romantic Elements category of the Toronto Romance Writers’ 2011 The Catherine Contest! The competition this year was tough, congratulations!”
Becalmed’s characters introduced themselves to me as I wandered the streets of Beaufort, NC, and then let me write about them from on board Sea Venture, while we sailed the Sea of Cortez. They grounded me in home, reminded me of small-town South as I laughed with them and helped them ease past their angst to find joy.


When a southern woman with a broken heart finds herself falling for a widower with a broken boat, it’s anything but smooth sailing ahead.

With her days chock full – designing jewelry for the shop she co-owns with her best friend, sailing her sharpie, and hanging out with girlfriends – Tadie Longworth barely notices she’s morphing into the town’s maiden aunt. When Will, a widower with a perky daughter named Jilly, limps into town in a sailboat badly in need of engine repairs, Tadie welcomes the chance to help. Her shop becomes Jilly’s haven while Will hunts boat parts, and Tadie even takes the two of them sailing. It’s the kind of thing she lives for, and it’s a welcome distraction from the fact that her ex-boyfriend Alex, aka The Jerk of Jerks, is back in town. With his northern bride. Oh, and he’s hitting on Tadie, too.

Those entanglements are more than enough, thank you very much, so it’s almost a relief when a hurricane blows into town: at least the weather can match Tadie’s mood. When Will and Jilly take shelter in her home, though, Tadie finds herself battling her attraction to Will. Even worse, the feeling is mutual, tempting them all with what-ifs that petrify Will, who has sworn never to fall in love again. Mired in misunderstanding, he takes advantage of the clear skies and hauls Jilly out of there and back to his broken boat so fast, Tadie’s head spins.

With the man she might have loved gone, and the man she wishes gone showing up on her doorstep, Tadie finds herself like a sailboat with no wind; becalmed, she has to fight her way back against the currents to the shores of the life, and the man, she wants to have.