One recent Thursday night, I needed to finish up my work day, run to the gym, whiz through my routine, and scarf down supper so I could make it to my sanctuary (yes, the local Starbucks), where I could drown myself in a grande Earl Gray hot tea and revisions to my upcoming novel. It happened, though not on the timeline I’d planned.

Such as the life of a writer who works full time at her job and then works some more on what can only be described as a calling and passion.

It also drove me to blog about being a novelist with a day job. It’s a typical scenario for many of us who write. Some of us are single and have to work. Others of us are moms who have what’s essentially a full-time job caring for children. Still others of us work at a full-time job that is another part of our calling.

I fall into that last category.

For those who are thinking about writing as well as working full time, I want to offer encouragement. It’s possible, but it takes careful consideration to strike that delicate balance between working full time and writing. Below are five questions to consider.

Why do I want to write? I love this question because I sometimes get this question during casual conversation. For me, I can’t not write. God has given me this gift, and I need to exercise it. Some may say that they are bursting with stories to tell. It’s good to know why writing is so important to us because if the desire isn’t strong, the dedication needed will fade at the first sign of adversity.

What are my life’s priorities? The pursuit of writing requires many hours at the computer. If priorities aren’t considered, it has the potential to do more harm than good. Here’s some things to think about when considering working full time and writing:

  • Do I have a marriage that needs nurturing?
  • Do I have children?
  • What would I like my level of involvement in the church and the community to be?
  • What other hobbies do I have that I want to continue?
  • How demanding is my day job?

It may turn out that we’re not at a point in life where beginning a writing career is the best thing. That’s okay because keeping priorities straight is more crucial than our names in a byline.

What will I have to sacrifice? Face it. Working full time, writing, and doing well at both requires sacrifice on some level. It may mean missing time with friends, giving up going to a church retreat, or spending an evening with the family. The biggest thing is our willingness to make the sacrifices needed but not at the expense of those we love.

Do I have the drive to write? I love this question because if the drive to write is there, then sacrifice those we love will be worth it. It goes back to what I mentioned above. Drive equates to this burning desire to spend the time needed to put fingers to keyboard for a great novel. Drive also pushes us to move past the disappointments that occur along the way.

Do I have the support to write? I’ve found that having the support of loved ones is the thing that keeps me going the most as I endeavor to fulfill my passion in writing while working full time. My husband has been my greatest cheerleader, and I’m so appreciative of that. He’s provided me with the time I need, challenged me to make my writing better, and has encouraged me at times when I’ve wanted to quit.

I’ll be the first to say that writing while working full time is not easy. The neat thing? Writing has brought me great joy because of the fulfillment I’ve found in creating stories that people enjoy. It makes the sacrifices required worth it. Still, I would have never been able to do this without the encouragement and support from those around me.

I hope that future blog posts on this topic will be an encouragement to those who are endeavoring to write while working full time.

Question: If you work, desire to write, and feel comfortable in sharing, what are the challenges you’re facing in starting to write?

This post does not mention any products. Therefore, I am not receiving any compensation for writing this post. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR Part 255:
Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



Pain. That’s what blazed up my arm that cold January night when I accidentally rammed my elbow into the corner of a granite planter where all three angles met. The details of why it happened don’t matter. What’s important was that the pain never quite went away. Instead, it grew in intensity as pain that manifested itself gradually over a period of weeks. It impacted my writing, typing, and weightlifting, all of which keep me sane. By April, I had to stop lifting. I lost my endurance for writing. Finally, as vacation rolled around in late May, I told my husband that if I weren’t better by the time we returned from the beach, I was calling my physical therapist.

Guess what? I wasn’t better.

Talk about discouragement! I had no endurance in writing. I couldn’t lift weights. It even hurt to do my job.

What’s a girl to do?

The cause. I went to PT. Tendinitis in my right arm. My left arm was simply weak. Tendinitis can occur when the tendons in the arm get inflamed. It’s also called tennis elbow, but it can happen from anything: typing in the incorrect position, chronically gripping a pen too hard, lifting, tennis, anything with repetitive motion when it’s overdone. Problem is, without treatment, it takes an incredibly long time to go away.

The solution. This is why I went to PT. I simply couldn’t deal with the frustration anymore. I gather from my physical therapist’s lack of surprise that he sees a lot of it. The good news? He thought he had a solution, one that consisted of dry needling for starters, then lots of stretching and strengthening, followed by ice during the healing phase and heat during the strengthening phase.

The result. Eight months after injury and three months after diagnosis, I’m much better. Not all the way there, but I know it will come. I’ve learned a lot since then, like it’s okay to wear wrist wraps that I use for lifting for typing because they stabilize my wrists. I’ll wear them until I feel like the pain is mostly gone. And when weightlifting? My therapist is a lifter, and he gave me some good tips.

The lesson. I’ve also learned a lot about myself. I can persevere. I can also be what I joke is impatiently patient. I know that I will heal, but I want to heal tomorrow. Having tendinitis has also taught me that it’s okay to slow down. Since it sapped my writing endurance, I discovered that it’s okay to not write as much, hence why I took the summer off from blogging. And finally, I learned to lean into God rather than on my own understanding as I dealt with a series of life stresses that physical activity and writing normally eased.

The future. Gradually, I’m making my comeback. I have a new enthusiasm for writing. Matter of fact, I’ll be putting out a novel called Loose Ends after the first of the year. Stay tuned for more on that. I’m also going to get back to blogging. Starting in October, I’ll be doing a series related to what it’s like to be a writer full time.

When will I heal completely? Only God knows that. And as I heal, I’ll trust that He will sustain me.


Thanks to the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise, pirates have taken on a certain connotation in the American imagination, that of a somewhat goofy, not-too-bright fellow who makes us laugh and always gets the girl. Even reading about piracy in history books has dulled our senses. We know about Black Beard, Captain Kidd, and Calico Jack. But thanks to the hundreds of years that separate us from them, we forget how brutal such men could be when they waylaid unfortunate ships for their treasure.

Piracy abounds today. According to maps I found, three hotspots exist: the southern Caribbean, Southeast Asia, and off the eastern coast of Africa. Operation Peacemaker focuses on the eastern coast of Africa. These attacks bear more resemblance to the attacks a few hundred years ago than to the image projected by Pirates of Caribbean.  And they can be brutal.  Check out the video clip from an actual attack that happened only two weeks ago.

These are brutal and have been numerous off the Somali coast over the past several years. Here’s some examples.

  • In 2008, the MY Ponant, a French yacht, was hijacked. The owner paid the ransom, and eventually, the pirates were captured on land.
  • In May 2009, pirates hijacked the MV Ariana, a cargo ship. They released it after the owners paid the ransom but not before the pirates brutalized one of the crew members during the seven months they were held.
  • In April 2010, Somali pirates had the gall to attack the USS Nicholas, a US Navy frigate, off the Seychelles. The frigate sunk the pirate boat and mother ship, but the incident underscores how bold the Somali pirates became during this era.
  • In February 2011, pirates hijacked the S/V Quest, an American yacht, despite the nearby presence of US Navy vessels. All onboard were killed before the Navy arrived.
  • The most well-known hijacking occurred with the MV Maersk Alabama in April 2009. The crew retook the ship, but only after the pirates almost absconded with Captain Phillips.

These are a few of the hundreds of attacks that occurred during the ten-year period between 2006 and 2016. Sure, thousands of ships passed off the coast of Africa during this time, but for those unfortunate ones who were hijacked, their reality suddenly became terrifying and sometimes brutal. Only recently, pirate attacks have begun occurring once more.

I set Operation Peacemaker off the coast of Somalia as a way to remind those of us who live comfortable, secure lives that piracy does exist. It also provides a good backdrop for a plot, not only one to save Tori Walters and the rest of the Peacemaker but one to emphasize how dangerous certain places of the world remain.

I have not received any compensation for writing this post.  The work mentioned in this post is of my own writing.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR Part 255:
Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”




Blogger’s Note:  Today, you’ll hear from Doctor Tori Walters, a plastic surgeon onboard the South African ship Peacemaker, as she tells you a little bit about herself.

I’ve never had one of these interviews before where you say I’m to play a role in Operation Peacemaker.  Well, if you say so.  Honestly, I think my life isn’t that exciting.  I’m a plastic surgeon onboard the Peacemaker, and we just finished up a stint in Southeast Asia and South Asia.  That was really hard.  Lots of need out there. Too much, honestly.

You got that picture I e-mailed to you?  That was taken when I was finishing up my fellowship in Chicago.  So you see that I’ve got brown hair and gray eyes.  And that smile tells it all.  I do love my work.  I enjoy seeing the way that, once I’ve reconstructed someone’s face (where I’ve spent most of my time learning), they seem to blossom.  One thing that the smile doesn’t portray is how sometimes I get so doggone tired.  Training to be a surgeon is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, maybe the most difficult.  But the rewards are incredible.  Not the money but the blossoming thing I just mentioned.

Being on the Peacemaker has been an incredible experience.  One of the things we did when we first started out together as a crew was for everyone to talk about the impact of Jesus on our lives.  So everyone, from Captain Jameson all the way down to Raul, one of our cooks, stood up and did so.  No two are alike.  I was careful in mine.  Though I was honest, I left out one important fact about myself.

You see, I’m the daughter of a billionaire.  Yep.  That’s right.  Not millionaire.  Billionaire.  I don’t like making that a known fact about myself because I don’t want to be judged, and I certainly don’t want people to think that my life is easy.  But most of all, I don’t want that to define me.  Matter of fact, there’s only three people onboard who know about my status.  Okay, four.  The three ladies who are my best friends here and also Captain Jameson.  The rest either don’t care or are cognizant enough not to pry.

So tomorrow, we begin the final leg to home.  We set sail from Mumbai in the morning, and we hope to be in Cape Town in three days with a brief stop in Mombasa to take care of a repair that Captain Jameson says we’ll need by the time we reach Africa.  The problem is, our route takes us near the eastern coast of Africa.  Nattie, one of my friends, calls it pirate country.  Captain Jameson has already scheduled drills for us once we hit open water.  It makes me nervous, but the probability of something happening to us is pretty low.  At least I hope it is.  We’ll see.

I have not received any compensation for writing this post.  The work mentioned in this post is of my own writing.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR Part 255:
Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Close up portrait of a serious older man staring

Blogger’s Note:  Today, you’ll hear from Victor Chavez, one of the lead characters in Operation Peacemaker.  He first made his appearance in Operation Shadow Box, and now he tells you what’s happened since then. 

So I’m supposed to discuss what’s happened since Operation Shadow Box?  Boy, that’s a bit of an assignment.  Sorry for the sarcasm.  It’s just that so many things have occurred since then that I could go on and on.

First things first.  When Operation Shadow Box ended, it was October 2014.  Deb and I had endured a forced separation with her living in North Carolina and me here at Last Chance Ranch in Arizona.  She surprised me by coming to visit.  And then?  I took a risk.  I relocated to North Carolina for six months.  Right before Christmas, I proposed, and we married in April.  So here we are, having just arrived at Last Chance Ranch a few days ago.

Problem is, I thought that bringing Deb and the kids here would chase away the remnants of the memories I have from when Makmoud ambushed us at the ranch.  Not so.  If anything, the memories from our ordeal have resurfaced.  I mean, it changed everything in our lives.  It destroyed Shadow Box’s unity, big time.  Fi and Skylar left, and on her way out the door, Fi called me an… well, let’s just say it wasn’t nice.  And then in December, Shelly and Diana left to head to Phoenix.  Shelly needed a better job, and Diana needed sunlight, which is few and far between here in Flagstaff during the winter.

The ambush also destroyed my source of income because the president disbanded us last July.  I’ve made do with working part time as a sheriff’s deputy.  I’ve also struggled to start a new security business called Sentry Securities.  It’s been a slow start, a really slow start.  Still, even though I’m a young believer, I’ve seen the way that God has provided for me already.  When I was in North Carolina, He provided just the right amount of funds for me to live.  Now, with four kids and a wife, I’m a bit more nervous.  But God’s is good.  I’ll have to keep trusting.

Deb and the kids?  Boy, blessed doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel.  Two years ago, I never imagined I’d be where I am.  I mean, back then, I grieved Rachel so terribly.  She’d been my life, my true love, the one I’d planned to build a life with, maybe even have a family.  And she died with one gunshot.  Sure, Makmoud led the kidnap team that fatal night, but he’s not the one who took Rachel’s life.  If I ever find that person who did it, they’d better hope they can get away—and fast, because, even though I follow Jesus now, it wouldn’t take too much time for me to want to exact revenge.  And the scary thing?  I’d probably do it.

I have not received any compensation for writing this post.  The work mentioned in this post is of my own writing.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR Part 255:
Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”