<![CDATA[Jennifer Eifrig, Author - Blog]]>Fri, 04 Dec 2015 06:41:02 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Grace, Period]]>Thu, 03 Dec 2015 15:33:56 GMThttp://www.jennifereifrigauthor.com/blog/grace-periodPicture
Like thousands of others, I drove home yesterday afternoon to the news of a mass shooting in San Bernadino, CA. As I pulled into the garage, I began a routine that's become so automatic it's not even conscious activity anymore:
  • 48-hour live-TV blackout - nothing except on-demand, Disney Channel, or DVDs on screen
  • Keep in touch with the outside world via Google News, but make sure the browser tab is only open when I'm alone
  • Think of how to explain in case one of the kids hears something
  • Pray for inner peace
  • Smile. Keep it together. Pretend everything's ok

This is what one has to do when one has a child with severe anxiety. She can't ever know, at least not until she's much older, that there is this kind of violence and uncertainty in the world. She struggles enough now. Sandy Hook was the hardest - it was so close to home, and the kids were the same age as the victims - but I managed. My kids know something happened, but they don't know the details, and that's ok.

Oh, and I did one more thing, after the children came home: I baked cookies. A new recipe for me, German Spice Cookies, but I used some vintage cutters that came out of my great-grandmother's house when the last of her children died.

I read recently that one's life is a hyphen, or more properly, an en dash, between two numbers: the date you were born, and the date you die. What you make out of that en dash is up to you.

The credit card companies call the en dash time your "grace period," the time between your purchase and when you have to actually pay for it without accruing interest.

(Cookies… punctuation… grace period… where am I going with this? Hang in there. It'll all make sense soon, I promise.)

As I rolled out those cookies to a perfect 1/8" thickness, I reflected on how powerless I actually am. Unlike my characters, I'm not magical, nor am I a brilliant inventor, nor a skilled fighter. If anything, I'm more like Max, who doesn't have any particular magical ability except a really big heart (his true name is "the compassionate one," after all). I don't have a huge fan base. I don't have money. I don't have a public voice to speak of. I'm basically one of millions of ordinary people struggling with ordinary lives in complete obscurity until the date on the other side of that en dash arrives. Until the grace period ends, and you have to settle your accounts.

Oh, but that grace period is filled with tiny little moments and words and actions that are invisible to almost everyone on the planet, except the people closest to us.

Those cookies are miracles.

They saved the day from misery and despair. They transformed a blah rainy Wednesday into a holiday celebration. They saved my children from feeling my grief and frustration, by turning them into spicy, crispy bites of love. Those cookies connected me to women in my family who are long dead, but who came alive when I used their cutters. My kids felt safe and warm and secure, and I had something to do with my hands.

Grace is best understood by looking at the adjectival form of the word, meaning, "to make something difficult look effortless." We call dancers and skaters "graceful" when we watch them perform. Sometimes, it looks so easy we criticize when they fail - "I can't believe she messed up that triple toe loop!" - as if we do anything close. 

Those cookies were grace-filled: seemingly simple, easy, ordinary, but in reality they accomplished what words and logic and science could not. And God's grace is shown in something so basic, so ordinary as the birth of a human child, and in one more violent death in a violent world. Just one. That's all it took, and yet that one life - that one date, en dash, date - was more gloriously impossible, to paraphrase Madelaine L'Engle, than we can ever understand. That's grace.

So here's the point: maybe I can't do anything about the violence and senselessness rampant in our country, let alone the world. Mostly likely you can't either. You're probably much like me, dear reader. But I can do two things gracefully: I can bake cookies really well; and I can use whatever skill I have with words to tell you what you can do to change the world.

I want you to bake cookies.

I want you to bake a dozen cookies for each of the lives whose en dash was ended by gun violence in the USA this year.

No judgment. No words. Just cookies. A dozen. Five dozen. Whatever you like.

When you're done, tell me how many you baked and what kind. I'll post a running tally. Who knows, maybe together we can bake 12,000 dozen? More?

Then, eat them, give them away, share them with friends. No explanations. Just enjoy the grace, period.

<![CDATA[Thrift or Insanity? You Decide]]>Fri, 23 Oct 2015 13:52:47 GMThttp://www.jennifereifrigauthor.com/blog/thrift-or-insanity-you-decidePicture
When I woke up this past Monday morning, it was 22 degrees Fahrenheit. That's a wee bit  chilly for October, even by New England standards. In typical yo-yo fashion, it was in the low 70s a couple days later, but the drop in temperature prompted my household to finally get around to the fall changeover of clothes.

Those of you who live in warm climates might not be familiar with this semi-annual ritual: as the seasons turn, you have to put away last season's clothes and bring out the new season's. Most of us store our "off season" clothes in bins in the basement or attic, since we don't have enough room in our closets. (More on that later). When I brought up the bins, we found a stash of cold-season clothes that had been saved for my younger child to grow into. Included was a set of fleece feet-y pajamas (the one-piece kind that you step into and zip from ankle to chin) in a cute Santa Claus print that my older child had loved but inevitable grew out of. The initial excitement of "new" clothes turned to disappointment when we discovered that the PJs had been loved so much the soles of the feet were full of holes. 

​Here's where the story turns philosophical.

What to do with a second-hand set of pajamas that had been purchased at a discount department store five years earlier, which now had holes in the feet and the zipper had come loose?

The obvious answer is, chuck them in the trash and go get new ones. They'd probably cost $10 to replace, and we would have our choice of whatever the latest designs are. That's not only the obvious choice, it's sensible in terms of time and money, right?

Naturally, I did something else.

I remembered that in the recesses of my fabric stash was the kind of anti -slip fabric with the tiny rubber dots you find on slippers and feet-y pajamas. I had ordered it with the intent of making this very kind of pajamas for the kids about three years ago, and never did so.

Snip, snip - out goes the old sole. I traced the shape onto the new sole, added a flannel lining with another scrap, onto the machine, and, voila! New soles. Ten slip stitches by hand, and the zipper was once more secure. My kid now has a great pair of PJs to cuddle up in bed with.

Throughout the entire project, I thought, I'm crazy. This is nuts. I should save the time, get some new pajamas. It was only when I saw the finished project that I thought - wait, maybe I'm NOT crazy. Maybe the idea of repairing something isn't stupidly old-fashioned. Maybe the whole cheap apparel industry, which is stuffing our closets, drowning our landfills, and keeping millions of garment workers in low-wage, unsafe jobs is what's CRAZY.

Once upon a time, clothes weren't cheap. They were valuable. You didn't simply toss out a garment because the print was sooooo last year. You fixed things if they wore out, until you couldn't fix them anymore, and then they because useful rags. Your closet wasn't a fire hazard, choked with items you bought cheaply, and then don't really wear. You didn't have to do four loads of laundry a day to keep up (can I get a witness?). And the people who created clothing were artisans who could earn a living wage.

Am I crazy? Undoubtedly. But was I wrong? That's a different question, one that I leave you to ponder. Peace, ya'll.
<![CDATA[What We Do For Our Kids, or Why Aromatherapy Is Hazardous to My Financial Health]]>Tue, 20 Oct 2015 18:20:30 GMThttp://www.jennifereifrigauthor.com/blog/what-we-do-for-our-kids-or-why-aromatherapy-is-hazardous-to-my-financial-healthLet me repeat, if I haven't already made this clear, that the life of a novelist is far from glamorous. 

I'm nowhere closer to being a runaway best-selling author. Connecting with readers is a bitch load of work, and while I have many gifts, effective promotion isn't one of them.

Actual writing is real, hard work, and the time in which to do it is preciously scarce. Because I'm not able to live on my royalties (see above), I have to spend the majority of my working hours in my "regular" life, which actually yields income. And that income is really important.

A recurrent theme on this blog is how I'm dealing with my elder child'a anxiety. I tumble through the proverbial hoops, arranging activities, visits to professionals, and just plain hanging on by my fingernails during the hell known as homework hour. I'll do whatever I can possibly do just to make the child's life a little bit easier, and by extension, the entire family's.

All of it costs money.

Yesterday, I gave up a birthday present for myself in favor of a lovely new gadget, the GeoSpa Aromatherapy Diffuser. Clocking in at $35, this wonder uses ultrasonic vibration to create water vapor and diffuse therapeutic essential oils into the air, for supposed health benefits. The child had asked for one of these. I have no idea how she learned of such things, but I've ceased to be amazed at the breadth of her knowledge. All I knew, when I saw this lovely in a discount department store near home, the only one on the shelf, was that bringing it home would make her happy, if only for a little while, and it might, just might turn a bit of the tide against the battle with the ever-present anxiety monster.

How ridiculous is that?

Of course, it came home. I'm trying to get rid of clutter in my house, not acquire new, but it came home. I'm trying to pay down debts and be responsible, but it came home. I have absolutely no indication that it actually has any value other than making the air smell nice, but it came home. She wanted it. 'Nuff said.

Looking back, I see the foolishness, but I also realize that I could no more have left that silly GeoSpa in the store than I could cut off my own arm. How many times have we done foolish things out of simple blind adoration of our children?

And now, as I write this, I hear in my head the words of scripture: "The foolishness of God is beyond all human wisdom." And I know that someone loved me in that completely foolish, crazy, blind, adoring way, enough to buy me a gift worth more than any aromatherapy diffuser - worth more than anything imaginable.

The things we do for our kids, right?

​Peace, lovelies.]]>
<![CDATA[Teenagers Are Demigods: The Insight of Percy Jackson]]>Fri, 14 Aug 2015 21:55:49 GMThttp://www.jennifereifrigauthor.com/blog/teenagers-are-demigods-the-insight-of-percy-jackson
You may have thought I've given up blogging, and I certainly can't refute the idea. My last post was made over eight months ago. Whoa! WTH happened to 2015?

But I haven't given up blogging, although I did make a conscious decision that I needed to put what little writing time I have toward an actual book, rather than the Internet masses. Apologies in advance, hardcore Ren fans: my current work in progress is penned by my alter ego, Evelyn Grimwood. I'm pitching it as a "steamy steampunk time-traveling adventure romance." If that ain't enough to make you geeks out there drool, I don't know what will, and you should get some professional help.

I learned that all kids poised between childhood and impending adult life are demigods. 
But most of my attention has been on my role as mom. I mean, I'd love to hole up in my bed (yes, I do virtually all of my serious writing on or under the covers) and crank out the chapters, but my kids need me more than the world needs another (albeit insufferably brilliant) book. My eldest in particular. She suffers from generalized anxiety disorder, something I'd never heard of until about 18 months ago, but which has dominated our family life for years. At least now I can give the monster a name, and as I've told you repeatedly, gentle readers, names have power. Knowing a thing's name can give you control over it, and we have been fighting a pitched battle to vanquish this particular demon.

Brute force hasn't worked - the demon only feeds on yelling and criticism. Logic doesn't work either, since this demon Anxiety has the power to twist both reality and perception, until the people it stands between are as distant as if they were on different planets. Potions are therapeutic for some, but I distrust what I don't understand, and all along my internal voice/spirit guide has told me that the answer lies elsewhere. 

So I've decided to be open, and let the Power that binds the universe together - love - lead me. I'm giving this everything I can. Some days I'm frigging brilliant. Others I'm a spiteful, frustrated hag. Step forward, step backward, on and on. 

In mid-spring, when it's time to sign kids up for summer activities, I formed a plan, a battle strategy of such stunningly simple brilliance I really should get some kind of medal. Only, I wasn't even aware I'd made a plan, so I can't take any credit. Such is the way of quests: sometimes you don't even know you're on one. Maybe I got lucky, maybe I prayed enough, maybe I trusted enough… I'm not sure, but things fell into place. Thank God.

Somehow I orchestrated a summer vacation of a lifetime for my eldest. God knows how, literally, since I didn't know what I was doing. Day camp at the lake away from her younger sister, who is so adorable and confident, a natural leader, that she outshines us all. Horse camp at a magical place in the woods, named Rivendell (no kidding), where fully half the kids had anxiety disorders and no one cared. A trip to California. Science camp for tween girls. And finally, a week at Camp Calumet Lutheran, the only place on earth where my child is completely at ease.

Damn, that cost a lot of money.

But I would have paid twice as much when I heard her counselor say, "I think she's going to have a far different experience at school this year. She's a different kid."

No, not different. She's the same sensitive soul, who lives in her internal world far more than the external one, but somehow we've managed to build a fragile bridge that allows her to travel back and forth in relative safety and comfort. Even better - I'm allowed to cross the bridge sometimes. Occasionally, she lets me in.

Maybe that's because I finally noticed that for the past year she's often clutching a dog-eared fat novel with a lurid picture of a boy and a monster on the cover. 

When I was younger I was a voracious reader. These days, I struggle to find the time, even though I know that no writer has any business writing if she's not reading. But something made me want to connect with me kid, and I chose to enter the world of middle-grade fantasy to do it.

I downloaded Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief on my Kindle for $3.99 (thanks for the break, Mr. Riordan). From the perspective of a fantasy author who also uses mythology to build present-day stories, I can tell you that there's really nothing original in the premise, the structure, or the prose. It's completely plot driven; the characters are drawn in crayon, imprecise and largely undeveloped (although they get more complex in the later books as the author builds steam and confidence in his story arc). But man, action turns pages. And sells books.

I finished Lightning Thief in a day or two. On to the rest of the series. And then - my child asked what I was reading. She was shocked and alarmed when I told her. I'd invaded her space. How could I just come tramping into her fiction like that? Wasn't there some rule that kept adults out, like Thalia's tree at Half-Blood Hill? But at the same time, she was intrigued when I said I just wanted to know what she was reading.

The bridge appeared out of nowhere. She would quiz me ad nauseum, wanting to know if I had questions about the characters, if I wanted her to tell me what was coming, what happened, who lived, who died. When I asked her to borrow the hard copy of The Lost Hero, she searched her room to bring it to me. She wouldn't let me read them out of order; that was a crime.

So what have I learned? I learned that all kids poised between childhood and impending adult life are demigods. They don't know who they are. They haven't been "claimed" by some powerful unknown force - their life's passion - that will shape their being for the rest of their days. They sense they have immense potential, but don't know how to use it yet. Childhood is safety but powerlessness. Adulthood means personal freedom and control, but adults seem so whimsical, removed, and cruel like the gods of myth. Do they want to be mortals - children - or gods? Will they ever be more than caught between those poles, pulled in opposing directions? Why don't the adult gods that rule their lives seem more sympathetic? Is it because they've lived so damn long they've forgotten what it was like?

Yes, little godlings, we have forgotten. You see us as ancient and immortal. We can't tell you that we know what you see is a lie. We won't live forever, we've already passed milestones that we've failed to achieve, and we are so terrified that we will fail with you that we've forgotten we share each other's blood. 

Thanks to Percy, I've been reminded. I'm hoping I can keep that lesson sharp in my fading memory as you move forward, and I hope I can soften the blow when you realize the world of the gods isn't much different than the one you're experiencing now; just as insecure, but with far more responsibilities and far less time. 

I don't have a cool-ass sword like Riptide. My knees are creaky, and I wear embarrassingly unfashionable clothes. I drive a minivan, for heaven's sake. I worry about money, about laundry, about shuttling kids from one place to the next. But I will fight to protect the bridge between us with every power I have. And you may be surprised at how powerful an ancient mother goddess can be.

Peace, y'all!
<![CDATA[The Prison of Self]]>Tue, 06 Jan 2015 22:06:10 GMThttp://www.jennifereifrigauthor.com/blog/the-prison-of-selfPicture
Happy new year, lovelies! I hope the 2015 dance around the sun bring you joy, health, peace, and prosperity. Let's all pray for daily bread and peace in our time.

One of the really great things about being a novelist is having a writing group. I couldn't function without mine. Really. Oh, sure, I need absolute peace and quiet and solitude for the actual writing part, but if I'm not writing for someone to read, I just don't write. I need to have an audience in mind. Someone has to actually read this stuff other than me.

A member of my group recently posted a question to our top-secret page where we share tips, ideas, problems, and insight with each other. (No, I won't tell you where. Don't ask.) The question accompanied a long excerpt from another writer, and was essentially, what does this mean: Writing may start out as self-serving (kind of like an emotional eruption or first-time therapy session), but in order to achieve any level of greatness, a writer will have to detach from her personal interest and begin to look at the bigger picture.

Great question, and it relates to my second paragraph: literature of all kinds is a relationship between a reader and a writer. There has to be both, or else the writing isn't literature.

Do I hear some of you saying, huh? Isn't it possible to "just write for myself?"

You can, but not if you want to write well.

Some people say the difference between a writer and an author is publication (usually traditional). I disagree. I think the writer becomes an author when he opens the dynamic of his writing beyond himself to include the reader, regardless of his publishing status.

I'm wholly supportive of independent and small-press publishing, but I'm also the first to say, there's a lot of utter crap out there. Well-intentioned, earnest, eager crap. Yes, there are "novels" full of typos, historical anachronisms, unresearched "facts," wretched dialogue, and even more wretched plot - but those are all symptoms of the abrogation of the basic tenet: the reader is missing from the equation. The writer was writing for himself.

"Writing for oneself" is ultimately selfish. The reader is absent. There is no relationship, no dialectic, no juxtaposition. 

The self is a construction of limitations. When we human beings are babies, we have no concept of the self as a thing separate from other people. There is only ourselves; all people are aspects of our own consciousness. Have you ever listened to a young child scream in frustration because he expects you to understand exactly how he's feeling and what he wants, when you have no clue? If you're a parent, you'll know what I mean. Have you ever had a kid in another room say, "What's that?" and you have to reply, "I have no idea; I can't see what you're looking at?" That's the phenomenon I'm describing.

Over time, the child learns to separate, to make divisions, to construct the self by understanding its limitations ("Oh, I get it. Mommy can't see what I'm looking at). Those limitations come to define the self ("I'm good at singing;" "I'm bad at sports;" "I like toffee;" "I hate being touched;" and so on). By the time people feel the urge to write, they usually have a pretty well-contructed self - just in time to tear it all apart. Eek!

Writers who "write for themselves" are universally bad. Well, not good, at least. I'm sorry, but it's the truth. It's true because of inherent human selfishness: we really don't care very much about other people's problems and issues and loves and hates, at least not nearly as much as we care about our own. They're just not interesting. Now, if you engage my problems and issues and loves and hates… well, now we're talking. Or reading. Get it? I the reader am selfish, too. I want to be at the center of your book, not the sidelines. I want the story to be about me, not you.

In the same way, if the writer doesn't care that his work is full of typos, errors, inconsistencies, bad grammar, awkward phrasing, unnecessary dialogue, weak imagery, and cryptic references because "it's good enough for him," then he's doing the writer's equivalent of a toddler's hissy fit and screaming "I don't care, it's MIIIIINE!" Seriously, I the reader don't have time for that. Disrespect me and the accumulated education, knowledge, and experience I bring to our relationship, and I'll drop you like a dead cat. We're done here.

If the self is about separation from others, the writer must tear down those barriers, or transcend them. They must become invisible, permeable, transparent, or nonexistent. If the writer manages to drill down past self, and keep going, he will eventually encounter a deep vein of universality that he can tap into. And then he transforms himself into an author.

Not writing for yourself is completely apart from writing what you love. The first is selfish, ego-fed, and directed to an audience of one. The second is sharing something incredibly special to you with an audience of unknown size. Maybe hundreds, maybe thousands, maybe millions. And we all learned that sharing is good, right? It may not be easy - in fact, it's damned hard more often that not - but it's the right thing to do, in life and in literature. Both are about putting someone else's needs and desires first in a relationship. When the author shares his passions, his humor, his pet peeves, his intelligence and wit, he is reaching out, building connections. The more universality and accessibility he can employ, the more readers will cross over their own barriers and encounter him, come to trust him, come to love what he loves. Moral of the story: don't feed the ego, feed the audience.

Do you agree? Do you think I'm full of crap? I'd love to hear about it. Peace, y'all.
<![CDATA[Cookies as Witness]]>Tue, 09 Dec 2014 19:16:13 GMThttp://www.jennifereifrigauthor.com/blog/cookies-as-witnessPicture
It's Tuesday of the second week of Advent. Outside, it's 33 degrees Fahrenheit, and a steady cold rain is washing away the inch or so of ice that fell earlier in the day. Indoors, the to-do list is filling up: grants are due, holiday cards need to be mailed, the house needs to be tidied (again??), presents must be bought and wrapped… And of course, there's a steampunk novel for me to finish, and the next installment in the Discovering Ren series is starting to want to be released from imprisonment in my head. So much is waiting for my attention.

Then also, I've been truly grieved by the miscarriages of justice perpetrated in Missouri, New York, Florida, you name the place. I'm angry. I'm sad, the more so because I know I benefit in some little way from the injustice inherent in our society. I'm not stupid; I know racism is real and unfortunately very much alive, and I also know that however much I sympathize, I can't empathize, because I'll never truly feel the hurt in the same way that others do. That realization is appalling, and just abhorrent.

Naturally, I want to bake cookies.

Cookies and Christmas go together. The entire world could be falling apart at this time of year, and I'd go buy the last pound of butter at the store.

Head in the sand? Nah. I'm not in denial. Christmas cookies are a way to answer, "Yes!" to the eternal "Why?" They are little bundles of fat and sugar and love. Yes, love, handed down from generations past, still alive and remembered and felt today.

The Sunday School lesson I recently taught was the story of Esther, a challenging text in some ways (how do you explain the concept of a harem to a sixth-grader? Someone, please, tell me), and in others it's pretty simple, the story of a heroine saving her people. Our memory verse was "How can I bear to witness the calamity about to befall my people?" 

My cookies are Esther's words in edible form. (Come to think of it, hamantaschen are cookies to remember Esther…) They are a way to do something, anything, to stave off the feeling of helplessness that can overcome me when faced with a huge chore list, or a society I can't fix alone. They are a creative product that require no words to produce, nor to appreciate; they are a simple expression of the belief that life is still good, still holy, still meaningful, even at the most stressful times and in the darkest places. 

Advent is about waiting, watching, believing that darkness cannot overcome the power of light. Calamities come and go; hope never disappoints us. Peace and cookies to you all!

<![CDATA[The Only Thing There's No Place for in the Church is Self-Righteousness]]>Wed, 05 Nov 2014 15:22:25 GMThttp://www.jennifereifrigauthor.com/blog/the-only-thing-theres-no-place-for-in-the-church-is-self-righteousnessPicture
Well, another two months has gone by, with the best of intentions, and no blogging. It's not that I haven't been busy - heck, no - but I've lacked inspiration for posting, and thus haven't found the time. It's funny how that works: when we are inspired to do something, somehow we find the time, but when we're reluctant or bored, we never seem to have enough hours in the day.

Yesterday was my birthday, so I've been appropriately self-reflective of late. And I've come to the same inevitable, logical conclusions that I pretty much have my entire life: I'm incredibly blessed in so many ways. My problems are largely first-world variety. I'm safe, relatively healthy, neither rich nor poor, with a lovely family, lots of friends, and a whole host of abilities. I haven't been perfect; far from it, but I haven't messed up too badly, either. I do good things for lots of people, and I recognize I owe everything to my Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.

This morning I happened to see that a social media acquaintance had posted with justifiable pride about all the things this individual had managed to accomplish in a single day. Good for you! Only, this person took pride a step too far, and commented that people who claim to have "no time" aren't telling the truth, or aren't using their time efficiently, or both.

Oh dear. I'm reminded yet again that the root of all committed sin is the desire to equate ourselves with God. We want divine merit badges. We want others to see our accomplishments and think, wow, she did that all by herself. We want to look at our brothers and sisters and think, hmm, glad I'm not you, or, you could try harder. We want to judge. We want to justify. In short, we want to be God.

Regardless of whether you're a creationist or an evolutionist (truly, that old argument is pointless), we can see in the story of Adam and Eve what I'm trying to convey: human beings sin when they try to be like God.

True, how we use our time is up to us. We're all gifted the same number of hours in a day. But when I ask someone to do something and he says, "I don't have the time," it's not my call. That's his answer, and I ought to respect it. "I don't have the time" can mean, "I don't share your interest and enthusiasm." It can also mean, "I have different priorities." Or it can mean, "I don't have the abilities or the energy." It may mean, "There's so much tough stuff going on in my life right now, I can't do anything other than simply hang on."

It's not up to me to judge. Instead, I ought to respect my brother or sister's own judgement about his or her priorities, and move on with my own life.

Not everyone will accomplish as much as I have in my life. But that's okay. In the eyes of God, there's no distinction. We've all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. All. Of. Us. No exceptions. None. Never. Ever.

I explain original sin, the sin we're born into, as a bucket brimming full of black water. Each of us is born with a full bucket. Our committed sins, the things we do or say or fail to do or say, are like adding more to the bucket. It overflows. For some of us, it's a steady trickle down the side. For others, it's a torrent. But the volume of the bucket never changes. It always holds the same amount, and we can't empty it by doing good deeds, or living righteous lives. We're stuck with it. Self-righteousness doesn't work

One perfect human life sacrificed is worth all the buckets that have ever been, or ever will be. That black water becomes pure and holy through the love of God in Jesus Christ. It's absurd, illogical, outrageously simple. It's infuriating to the sinful part of us all that wants to co-opt the power of the divine. But it's the truth, and the Truth has set us free.

How do I know that there's no distinction among us? Look at the parable of the talents. The servant who receives five talents (by the way, that was an insane amount of money in Jesus's time!) gets them "according to his ability," likewise with the fellows who received two and one. But the guy who got five and earned five with it received the exact same reward as the one who got two and earned two: the pleasure of his master. The message is clear: some of us have more and can do more. Some of us have less and can do less. But we're loved exactly the same. 

What about the guy who hid his talent and did nothing out of fear? His sin was judging his master. There it is again, that desire to be like God. That impulse earns him a stint in the outer darkness. When we think we know best, when we set ourselves up like little gods and sit in judgement on others, we separate ourselves from God. We might be sitting in a pew, but we're alone in the darkness of sin.

Self-righteousness earned that servant nothing, just as it earns us nothing. It's perfectly fine to be proud of our own accomplishments, as long as we also humbly acknowledge that it was God who made everything that we are and do possible.

I'm looking down the calendar at Thanksgiving, and the upcoming release of Shadow King. I'm incredibly proud, and incredibly grateful. I want to remember that what I've done with the time I've been given only serves to help me understand my debt to One who is greater than I.

Peace, y'all!
<![CDATA[Shadow King is coming!]]>Fri, 19 Sep 2014 19:44:18 GMThttp://www.jennifereifrigauthor.com/blog/shadow-king-is-coming
Shadow King, coming fall 2014 from Cogwheel Press
So, it's countdown to publication! The manuscript is with the editor, and now I wait semi-patiently for her to finish her work. Later, while I pore over the comments, tweak and retouch, cut, paste, and polish, the art director will start laying out the electronic galleys. Then it's time for the full cover spread, and finally - the second installment in the Ambrosines' family saga will meet the world.

I've been down this road before, and this time the path isn't as thrilling and bewildering as it was the first time. While it's never boring, it is starting to feel familiar. Like maybe I actually know what I'm doing. Like maybe I'm an author with two novels and several short stories in print.

I'm pretty confident at this point: my writing doesn't suck. I have five-star reviews from total strangers. I have people who have come to care about my characters as much as I do. I've created a world in my own head, put it into words, and invited people I don't know to live in it for the space of 120,000+ words or so. They've surrendered hours or days of their lives to my fictional world. That's pretty amazing when you think about it.

Still, the path to publication is not without its trepidation. Okay, maybe Stephen King doesn't even break a sweat anymore, but for the rest of us, it's still a time of uncertainty, of pre-birth, of anticipation, of waiting and dreaming.

When I'm on my game, I can tell you that Shadow King is an even better book than Discovering Ren. It's tighter, bolder, simultaneously more ambitious and more focused. It's also a radical departure from its predecessor: darker, more dangerous, with a very different protagonist and villain. Where I get nervous is when I think, will those of you who liked DR like SK?

But I've decided I'm not going to worry. I love this book. I'm proud of it. I've matured as a writer, and I think it shows. The proof's in the pudding, of course, but here's hoping you surrender as willingly to this one as the last. Peace!
<![CDATA[My Writing Process]]>Thu, 10 Jul 2014 17:52:36 GMThttp://www.jennifereifrigauthor.com/blog/my-writing-processPicture
I was invited by the lovely and talented Beth Lapin to participate in the "My Writing Process" blog tour. I'm a week late, sorry to say, but I figure late is better than never.

I'm supposed to answer these questions:
  1. What am I working on?
  2. How does my work differ from others' of its genre?
  3. Why do I write what I do?
  4. How does my writing process work?

Honestly, I can't think of a better approach than to dive right in, so here goes:

I'm working on two major projects right now. The first, praise be, is the sequel to Discovering Ren, entitled, Shadow King. At this very moment, I should be poring over the text, word by word, looking for typos and making sure all the plot details are consistent and make sense. Ah, the joys of final editing. If you're an author, you know how hard this is. If you're not, just know that the authors you read make less per hour than the poorest third-world factory worker, given all the time they put in and the tiny royalties they receive. (I'm assuming you're not reading James Patterson.) But the good news is, if you've been awaiting, eagerly or otherwise, the next chapter in the tale of the Ambrosine family, you'll get it come fall from Cogwheel Press!

The other project is my first venture into novel-length steampunk fiction, under my alter ego's name, Evelyn Grimwood. It's a steamy adventure-romance, blending genuine history and Victorian technology with time travel, theoretical/quantum physics, and sizzling hot sex. Oh my oh my, such fun.

My writing is a blend of everything I've ever read. And I mean everything, from Shakespeare to Donne to Austen to Dickens to my college textbooks, Bruno Bettleheim, Camus, the Bible, and whatever I was reading last week. On some level, I remember all of it, and it stews away in my brain, adjusting and accommodating every time something new is thrown in, and eventually it may come back out in a different form and/or context. I just finished The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (highly recommend that one; it stuck with me for days), in which one of the principal characters, herself a writer, calls this effect "the compost of fiction." New life is born of the death of many things, blended together. I loved that analogy, for its organic, earthy imagery of the unconscious mind where stories lurk and breed.

I write what I do because it's what I want to read. Simple as that. I think it was Toni Morrison who said that if there's a book you want to read that doesn't exist, you should write it. I don't write to be rich or famous (although I wouldn't necessarily object!), and I don't write to impress people. I certainly don't write to please my family. I write because I want to. I enjoy it. I'm a creative person. I used to paint, but with small children I found the constant interruptions didn't allow for my creative process. I can write in short spurts, stolen time, here and there, early in the mornings, late at night, on my lunch hour, whenever I'm alone and it's quiet and the voices have been clamoring to be released from their prison in my head. Which brings me to…

My writing process can be subconscious or conscious. Sometimes I sit down and force myself to write, extracting the words like teeth, one excruciating bit at a time. At other times, I wake up with scenes, dialog, and full chapters in my head, and it's a matter of transcribing them. (I've got a good bit of the third book in my series stored away in my brain.) I write while I'm driving, in the shower, while I'm weeding, when I'm putting myself to sleep. About the only time I'm not writing is when I'm talking or when it's noisy.

Wow, that was lengthy! Thanks for persevering, dear readers, and peace to all!

<![CDATA[Time enough]]>Wed, 04 Jun 2014 14:43:50 GMThttp://www.jennifereifrigauthor.com/blog/time-enough
I like fortune cookies. I mean, the actual cookie part. I find their subtle (at best) flavor and crunchy texture appealing. My kids do, too, especially my elder daughter. So occasionally I'll buy a box of them at the store as a treat, rather than wait until there's a cooking disaster or mommy just plain goes on strike and we're forced to order Chinese food.

Some people tell me that's "cheating." It's not a fortune cookie unless it's presented as a gift of purchase by the underpaid food service worker who packs up your takeout order. I say, they're never "fortune" cookies, anyway, they're proverb cookies, so pffft to you. I'll buy them in the box if I want to.

I'm telling you this because we happen to have such a box in our cupboard right now, and I happen to have eaten two in succession that yielded the following "fortunes" a.k.a. proverbs:
"There is yet time for you to take a different path" and "The limits to your abilities are set by you."

Heavy stuff.

There is yet time enough for you to take a different path
The limits to your abilities are set by you.
Those two proverbs got me pondering. When do we run out of time to make changes in our lives? And, if there's still time, would I want to change anything, anyway?

Recently, some people in my orbit have been going through difficulties. I have a friend in Thailand who's in between jobs, and now adjusting to life under martial law. His wife is Thai, but he's farang, a foreigner and U.S. citizen. He's been living in Thailand since 2000. Should he pull up stakes and get the heck out of Dodge? Can he afford to live in the States, if he even finds work? What would that do to his marriage?

Another friend is dealing with a marriage gone sour, a month after her second child was born. The estranged husband is confused and in pain, and taking out his self-loathing on his family. Should she stick it out, or make a break? How will she survive as a single mother? Will she ever trust anyone again, when the person who promised to love and support her until death just walked out the door?

A third friend is at a crossroads, with a new role as grandmother at the same time she's learning to accommodate a romantic interest in her life, after years of single-dom. She's hesitant to do anything major, lest the fragile construction of life be tipped and upset.

Two other friends have long-term issues, one with really messed up family dynamics, and the other with poor self-esteem and habitual unhappiness. Can they do anything that will ever result in a different outcome, or is every action doomed to repeat the cycle?

Is there yet time?

In pondering this question, and my friends' circumstances, I realize that although my life isn't perfect, it's pretty damn close. I love my husband to the point where our souls blend. My children, though challenging, are the most precious and wonderful surprises I could hope for. My home, my garden, my chickens, my pets, my work, and my writing are all pretty excellent. I'm blessed beyond measure, and I know it.

Of course, there are things I'd like to change about myself. I'd like to stop forgetting things. I'd like to be more patient. I'd love to never lose my temper. I'd like not to catch every cold virus that wafts through town. I'd like to be able to fight like Buffy the Vampire  Slayer. And I'll admit it, I'd like to be able to live off my novels, or at least be able to pay for my girls' college education with them. But fretting about any of those changes? Not worth it.

My favorite I-love-to-hate-you-because-you're-so-fucking-talented author, E.M. Forster, wrote in A Room With a View, that the answer to the everlasting Why is an everlasting Yes! complete with exclamation point. It's not logical; to many, who want a reason, the answer doesn't even make sense. To which I say, yes.

The love of God in Jesus Christ is the Yes to all of the questions we humans encounter in our lives. Yes, there is time. As long as you draw breath, you can change. You are reborn every day. You can be part of the new creation. Even if the moment of decision comes too late to prevent one circumstance, it will affect another. You might not live to see it, but you can believe nonetheless. The limit to your ability to have faith is set only by yourself.

The friends listed above share something in common: they're all writers. That means they're readers, too, and I hope they see this post and feel comforted knowing that someone is thinking about them. Me, sure, but someone else.

Yes, there is time. Yes, there is hope. Yes, there is life. Yes, there is power. Yes. Yes. Yes.