Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Money Does Not Define Me

I always wanted to open a bookstore someday. We're going to wait until our family is more financially stable and I don't have babies in the house anymore, so it's a long ways down the road. Someday, though.

A friend of mine cautioned me against opening a bookstore. He said it was a "bad idea." I'm not going to lie, I was pretty irritated. It wasn't because the statement was an attack on my faith in the enduring power of paper books and the stores that sell them. It wasn't because it was an insult to my intelligence. After all, I am smart enough to know bookstores aren't goldmines.

I was mad because he thought bad ideas aren't worth pursuing.

I should take a step back here, since not everyone agrees on what makes an idea "bad." He meant it wouldn't make any money. As a stay-at-home-mom and an aspiring novelist, I don't make any money. Does that make me a "bad idea"?

Everything I've ever done that mattered had no financial value. College. My baby. Volunteering at church. Painting. Dancing. Knitting. Roller derby. My writers' group and our events. All my failed manuscripts that took me many years and many tears to write.

One the other side of the coin, all my working experience was a dismal and utter waste of time. I never had a job that was meaningful. Most of my employment history is me sitting at a desk pretending to be busy. Rotting from the inside out.

My husband keeps encouraging me to use my talents and intellect on money-making endeavors. He's an entrepreneur, so I can't blame him. I keep telling him nothing that makes money interests me. I want to be a lactation consultant, a writer, a bookstore owner... nothing financially smart.

You know what? I'm happy. I'm not just okay with my life, I love my life.

Sure, I hope VOODOO QUEEN will rock the bestsellers lists and make me millions, but if everyone read it an no one paid for it, I'd still be happy. Okay, I'd actually be irate that no one was paying for my book, but I'd keep writing. The point is, you have to live your life the way you are meant to live it, not the way people say you should live it.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Record Your Story, Part IV: Journal Prompts About Your Past

As I mentioned yesterday, no journal workshop would be complete without a list of prompts. They're a fun way to get your creative juices flowing and maybe think outside of the box.

In my mind, there are two kinds of journal topics: ones that focus on your present, and ones that focus on your past. I believe most writers follow one focus or the other in their journals. I encourage you to do both, but for those of you who like to write about your life thus far, here are some prompts to help.


How you met your spouse/how your parents met/how your spouse’ parents met/how your grandparents met
How your spouse proposed/how your father proposed/how your father-in-law proposed/how your grandpa proposed
Your earliest memory
Five good childhood memories
Your most embarrassing moment
Your birth stories (if you have kids)
How you converted to the gospel
Your most embarrassing moment
The story behind your name, your children’s names, and your spouse’s name
A good memory associated with each season (Fall, Spring, Summer, Winter).
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Describe one moment where you needed courage to do the right thing.
What is the farthest you’ve ever traveled?
What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to deal with?
Describe the places you’ve lived.
If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?
Describe one amazing experience you had.
Describe one spiritual experience you had.
Describe your first kiss.
What did you do on your first date with your spouse?
What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done?
Describe some of the jobs you’ve had and whether or not you like them.
Describe what you did for each holiday this past year.
What were you like as a child? In high school? How are you different now?
What are some nicknames for yourself and your family members? How did they get them?
Describe one memory that makes you laugh.
What’s one story you love to tell people?
When you’re with your family (or your friends), what stories do they tell over and over?
What’s something you did that your family and friends tease you about?
What was it like for your mom when she gave birth to you?
What’s one memory your parents have of you as a baby?
Describe some of your family heirlooms, or some items you think will become heirlooms.
Write a summary of your life.
Write a summary of your parents’ lives.
Write about a time that you made a deliberate change for yourself. Write about what motivated you to make that change and how you think that change has affected your life.
Write about some of your scars and how you got them.
Have you ever been in a hospital? Had surgery? Broken a bone?
Describe one time when you were really frightened.
Describe where you were when 9-11 happened.
Describe some memories of your birthday.
Write a good memory you have with each of your parents.
Explain why you decided to date your spouse and why you decided to marry him.
Describe a major storm you and your family survived.
What was your favorite book as a child, or the first book you remember reading?
List some of the toys you remember having as a child.

List the friends you remember having at various stages of your life.

Friday, October 24, 2014

How to Tie the Head Wrap in My Book Cover

A few people have asked me how to tie the head wrap that the model uses in my book cover. I learned how to do it from the video below. It was actually pretty easy. The only downside is you need six yards of fabric!

If you want to contribute to my Kickstarter campaign, it'll be up for only one more week. Click here to learn more about the campaign; scroll down to learn more about the unique history behind head wraps in New Orleans.

During the Antebellum period in New Orleans, many African American women were mistresses to rich white men. The men would support them and their children, going so far as to buy them clothing and even a house.

Certain people got tired of seeing gorgeous African American women walking around town in fancy gowns and elaborate hair, so a law was passed in 1785 forcing them to wear head wraps called tignons. This was meant not only to lessen their beauty, but also to distinguish the white from the colored during a time when interbreeding made it hard to tell who had cafe au lait in their blood and who did not.

The African American women wore such decorative tignons that soon the head wraps were associated with beauty, and they continued to wear them long after the tignon law was revoked.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Record Your Story, Part III: Journal Prompts About Your Present

No journal workshop would be complete without a list of prompts. They're a fun way to get your creative juices flowing and maybe think outside of the box.

In my mind, there are two kinds of journal topics: ones that focus on your present, and ones that focus on your past. I believe most writers follow one focus or the other in their journals. I encourage you to do both, but for those of you who like to write about your experiences as they're happening, here are some prompts to help.


The layout of your house
Your dream house
List of your friends, what you like about them, how you met them
What your kids are up to this year
Your biggest accomplishment this year
Your biggest disappointment this year
What you love the most about all your family members
What you did today (or this week)
The last time you went out and did something fun, what did you do?
Your testimony
If you could be doing anything with your life right now, what would you be doing?
5 things that make you happy
10 things you’re grateful for
What is your church calling right now? What was your favorite church calling?
Who did you vote for last election and why?
How do you feel about the government?
What are some major political issues you worry about? How would you solve them?
5 major world events that happened this year (or last year)
How much things cost (your rent/mortgage, gas, a computer, a phone, a gallon of milk, etc.)
5 of your favorite books and why they had an impact on you
Your last Facebook post
Something you’re good at. (Everyone’s good at something.)
What do you do for fun?
5 of your family’s favorite meals.
What kind of clothes do you wear? What’s in style right now?
Describe your pets, if you have them.
What was your last vacation?
If you could tell your children only one thing, what would it be?
Which family member are you most like?
Describe a memorable date.
What’s something you feel very strongly about?
Describe one of your pet peeves.
If you won a million dollars, what would you do with it?
Who’s someone you admire and why?
What makes you laugh the most?
What’s one of your quirks? What are your family members’ quirks?
Where do you see yourself in five years?
If you could share a meal with three people, living or dead, who would they be?
What’s one thing you would never, ever do?
What’s your most prized possession?
What’s one thing about your culture you wish you could change?
If you had a warning label, what would yours say?
Describe the town you live in: How big is it? Are people there rich or poor? What do people do there for fun?
Where are you the happiest?
A quote you love and why you love it.

What’s the most important quality in a person?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Record Your Story, Part II: How to Keep a Journal

Welcome to Part II of my journal writing workshop! To read Part I on Reasons for Starting a Journal, click here.

Writing in a journal can be overwhelming. What do you write about? Where do you start? How do you come up with topics? This should help you get a clearer idea of how you want your journal to be.

What to Write About

Every journal has a focus, whether the writer realizes it or not. If you have a focus beforehand, it becomes much easier to get started. Here are some different journaling methods:

-         Emotions Journal: for getting out thoughts, dealing with feelings, processing things you’re going through.
-         Event Journal: Only write about the big things that happen in your life.
-         Daily Log: Write what you do each day, or write a prompt each day.
-         Yearly Log: Every January, write what your family did that year
-         Memoir: Tell the story of your life by writing about things that happened in the past instead of as they’re happening now.
-         Themed Journal: Write on a certain theme, like a gratitude journal, a mission journal, a spiritual journal, a vacation journal, an ideas journal, or a baby book.

Different Journal Mediums

Knowing what to write about is only part of the battle. You also need to figure out where to put those ideas and how you want to represent them.

-         Blank lined book
o   Feel free to add pictures and mementos!
-         Computer program, such as Microsoft Word
-         Blog
-         Scrapbook
o   Feel free to add words!
o   Be sure to label your photos so people know who’s in them
-         Pre-made scrapbook
-         Marked scriptures
-         Audio recording (you can get conversations that way)
-         Vlog or videos
-         Family journal – everyone contributes to it

How to Get Started

So you know what you want to write about and how you're going to write it. If you're still having problems getting started, these tips should help:

-         Decide the journal’s purpose:
o   The story you want to tell
o   The audience you’re writing to
-         Write your milestones (childhood, college, marriage, babies) now. NOW. You remember less every day.
-         Occasionally make lists instead of journal entries: favorites, pet peeves, books you’ve read, etc.
-         Write about politics and social issues. That will become history, and your children and grandchildren will love to hear what you thought about it.
-         Include details! Future generations will want to know what you ate, how you traveled, how much things cost, what movies you watched, what books you read, what school you went to. The details might be more interesting than the big stuff.
-         If you’re having trouble getting started, think of what you might post as a status update on Facebook and write it in the journal instead. Or, think about what you wish you knew about your grandparents and write about that for yourself.
-         Think of journaling as a process, not an end product. It’s okay if it seems bad or unfocused right now. You’ll find your way.
-         If you’re worried about not doing it “right” or “well,” just remember: anything is better than nothing.

-         Enjoy yourself! This is fun!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Finer Things Book Club: The Screwtape Letters

In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis shares his views on sin versus happiness through a series of letters written by a demon. The demon writes the letters to his nephew, who is a novice and needs guidance in how to cause the damnation of a young man.

This book was published in 1942, yet it is shockingly relevant to our time. Lewis has this amazing capacity to tell you things in such a way that you realize you've always known it, but you've never actually thought about it. This book changed the way I look at many aspects of life, especially what makes people happy vs. what makes them unhappy.

Every Christian should read this book, but I'd recommend it to anyone, Christian or no. Even though the book is essentially about salvation through Christ, it is at the same time a poignant study of human nature.

My book group's discussion for this book was fantastic, but it was difficult to find any activities to go along with it. We had some food that was related to the theme, such as devil's food cake, angel food cake, and divinity. I made dirty rice because the book is about sin and sin makes you dirty. I don't know if people got the connection, but the rice was delicious.


What surprised you the most about Screwtape’s philosophies? (For me, it was his emphasis on separating the patient from reality, because if the patient saw the truth in all things, he would be Christian.)

What do you think C.S. Lewis would add to this book if it were republished today?

What quote really stood out to you?

What is the difference between the detachment of self that God seeks and the detachment from reality the devils seek?

In what ways do you think the pressures of the “ordinary” make you susceptible to diabolical influence?

Screwtape uses Christian churches as a tool for temptation. In your experience, do you see Christians fall into some of the same traps as the characters in this book?

Did his views on prayer change the way you will pray in the future?

Why would devils want us to be more preoccupied with the future than the present?

Screwtape says noise is the constant sound in heaven. Does Satan use noise as a means of drawing us away from God today?

What do you think is so dangerous about asking if an idea is relevant instead of asking if it’s true?

From both divine and diabolical perspectives, what is the value of a long life?

Did Screwtape’s view of death change how you look at death?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Record Your Story, Part I: Reasons for Keeping a Journal

I hosted a journal workshop at my church not to long ago, and it went so well that I thought I should share it with you here. It's going to be in four parts. Part I: Reasons for Starting a Journal, Part II: Different Kinds of Journaling, Part III: Journal Prompts that Focus on Your Present, and Part IV: Journal Prompts that Focus on You Past.

So without further ado, here's Part I of my journal workshop.

Reasons for Starting a Journal

I've always kept a journal just because I enjoy getting thoughts out of my head and onto paper. It wasn't until I read the journal of my great-great-great grandpa that I truly understood the amazing things a journal could do. 

William Butler was born in Scotland 1825 and immigrated to America because he had no financial prospects at home. After moving to the US, he met Orson Hyde, one of the original founders of the Mormon church, and traveled to Salt Lake City as one of the first pioneers. My family has been members ever since. 

After getting married, Brigham Young asked him to serve several missions in Europe. His mission was filled with miracles of curing illness and avoiding danger through the power of God. (I wish I had time to share them with you.)

At one point, his third wife (yes, I have many polygamous ancestors) and two of his children got attacked by a murderer with an axe. He hunted the man down, beat him within an inch of his life until the man begged for death, and shot him. (Welcome to my crazy family.) 

When he went home, his wife and one of his daughters was still alive, and his wife asked for a blessing. (In my religion, that is a special prayer to help people who are sick or troubled.) He blessed her even though she was on the brink of death and she miraculously recovered. They had two children after that, one of whom - Heber Close Butler - was my ancestor.

These are stories that everyone in my family knows. My family history has been done nearly up to the 14th century, but only a few of my ancestors kept journals, and those journals are still being read by their descendants. 

You might think that's all well and good for him, but we can't all have such interesting lives. If you think your descendants won't want to read your journal, think of this:

Anne Frank was a normal 13-year-old girl when she got a journal for her birthday. In one of her first entries, she wrote, “It’s an odd idea for someone life me to keep a diary, not only because I have never done so before, but because it seems to me that neither I – nor for that matter anyone else – will be interested in the unbosomings of a thirteen-year-old school girl. Still, what does that matter? I want to write, but more than that, I was to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried in my heart.”

She and her family went into hiding when the Nazis started taking Jews away from Holland, and she continued keeping a journal throughout her time there. The journal has sold millions of copies world-wide and it is one of the most poignant and influential books written in the 20th century.

The fact of the matter is, no one thinks they live in extraordinary times. You don’t know what your life has in store that people will want to read about. We all have something to say that people will treasure when we are gone.

That's my reason for keeping a journal.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Kickstarter: A Great Resource for Authors

The Historical Novel Society just posted an article I wrote about how Kickstarter works and why it's a good choice for authors. I'm so flattered they gave me the opportunity to write for them and to spread the word about my project.

To read the article, click here.

To view my Kickstarter campaign and to back my project, click here.

If you would like to host me on your blog or website, you can email me at teralynpilgrim at yahoo dot com.

Voodoo Queen Kickstarter Campaign has LANCHED

Finally, my campaign to raise funds for VOODOO QUEEN has launched on Kickstarter! I'm so excited to spread the word about my project and to see how much interest it gets. Click here to see my campaign page.

WHAT IS KICKSTARTER: It's a website where people back creative projects in exchange for rewards and for the good feeling of knowing they helped an artist in need. My campaign will help fund the research for my novel about Marie Laveau, I'm offering copies of the book when it comes out as well as jewelry, swag, voodoo dolls, and more.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Go on to Kickstarter, open an account, donate however much you want, and choose your reward. That's it! I also could use as many people as possible to spread the word, so if you'd like to help, you can post my project on social media. I will be forever grateful!


VOODOO QUEEN, a novel of the famous voodoo priestess Marie Laveau, is an epic trilogy of magic, secrets, love, death, and spiritual power. Think of it as a mix between Margaret Mitchell’s GONE WITH THE WIND and Toni Morrison’s BELOVED.

Marie lives in a world where the heads of rebellious slaves are stuck on spikes, colored women live as concubines to white men, and improper medical treatment kills people by the hundreds. There’s so much Marie wants to change, but she’s just a poor colored girl abandoned by her parents – a nobody.

Then she discovers voodoo. The mystical energy she taps into makes her more powerful than she ever imagined. Soon her potent gifts make her the most feared and respected woman in New Orleans. 

Marie's strength is tested repeatedly by personal tragedy, but with the help of the spirits, her ancestors, and her unstable family, Marie empowers and heals New Orleans.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Excerpt #2 of VOODOO QUEEN

I'm posting a few excerpts of VOODOO QUEEN for my Kickstarter campaign that will launch October 1st. There's a link on the project page that will lead people here.

The section below is from the fourth chapter of the book. Thank you so much for reading, and I hope you enjoy it!


Catherine and Marie walked several city blocks before they  approached a two-story house in the wealthy part of town. Catherine barely knocked on the door before it was flung open by a slim white woman. She was in a surprisingly formal green dress with a ruffled skirt and off-the-shoulder sleeves. Her hair was in perfect ringlets, but her face was tear-streaked. The woman quivered and wrung her hands. She made Marie think of a wounded butterfly: so delicate, so tragic, so in need of help.
Merci mille fois – thank you so much for coming,” she said to Marie, ignoring Catherine completely. This didn’t surprise either of them. People quite often treated Marie like she was in charge regardless of the circumstances. She had a magnetic presence that drew others to her.
“We were going to leave today,” she explained to Marie as she guided them through the rooms. “We have a home in Buluxy that we stay in during the summer. But then last night, he got sick. Why didn’t I leave sooner?” She held her face in her hands. Marie knew that if they couldn’t save the boy, those words – “we were going to leave today, why didn’t I leave sooner?” – would echo in her mind for the rest of her life.
Marie had never been in a house so fine, though she supposed Catherine had been in many during her days as a slave and a nurse. It was unfortunates she couldn’t see it in the daylight. The candlelight barely teased the leg of a pricey piece of furniture, the edge of a richly embroidered rug, the outline of a fine painting, the ledge above the courtyard, before it ran away and cast the images back into darkness.
“I heard colored women could work miracles with yellow fever,” said the mother, breathless with nervousness. “We need a miracle. I know it.” She guided them into a bedroom and pointed. “Just look at him.”
Marie could smell that this was a sickroom the moment she walked in. It had an unnatural stuffy heat and the acidic odor of sick. The orange light from the fireplace shone on a little boy shivering under a pile of blankets. She could only see his face, which was bright red with fever. The boy had long, dark eyelashes that touched his cheek. His abnormally long lashes were so sweet that Marie’s heart pulled toward him. She wanted to wrap her arms around him and absorb the sickness into her chest until he was clean and whole.
Catherine approached the bed and put an expert hand on the child’s forehead. The mother hovered over her, intent on her every move. His shivering was so strong, the pile of blankets shook and his black eyelashes quivered.
“Why is he so cold?” asked Marie. She tried not to sound alarmed for the mother’s sake.
“The fever steals all his warmth and makes him cold. That’s why it’s so hard to get him to sweat, even though it feels like he’s on fire. Here.” She took Marie’s hand and put it on the boy’s forehead. Marie was shocked that a human could produce such heat. Catherine kneeled by the bed and whispered to the child. “Open your eyes, mawn shou.[1] Come on.” His eye lashes lifted slowly. “There you go.” Catherine gently pulled his eye lid up and peered at him, then motioned for Marie to come do the same. Her eyes met with the child’s for a long moment. He was so innocent, so trusting.
Catherine leaned toward Marie and spoke softly so the mother couldn’t hear. “Do you see how his eyes are yellow? That’s one of the advanced stages of the disease. Only half of the people who reach this point survive. We have to act quickly.”
The mother was racked with sobs. She pleaded with Marie, “How bad is he? Will he be alright?”
Catherine, who was used to being overlooked whenever she was with Marie, asked her, “When was the last time he urinated?” The mother seemed confused, so she asked again, “When was the last time he urinated?”
“I don’t know. Today. Yes, today.”
Catherine looked relieved. The mother asked Marie, “Is that important?”
“Have you seen any blood?” Catherine continued. “From his vomit, nose, mouth, or eyes?”
The mention of such bleeding made the mother physically ill and she swayed as if she were about to faint. Catherine stood and calmly took the white woman’s hands. The mother was surprised by the sudden contact, but she didn’t flinch away. “I have treated many people before,” said Catherine. “We’ll do everything we can to heal him.”
The mother’s lips whimpered. Marie had never seen anyone so vulnerable and she wanted to soothe her like she would a child.
The mother looked back to Marie, still viewing her as the person in charge. “Do whatever it takes. I don’t care. Just heal him.” The words “whatever it takes” obviously meant “even if you have to use voodoo.”
“Sit down there and we’ll get to work.” The mother sat in a chair obediently, her eyes never leaving her boy. Catherine motioned for Marie to stand and they both crossed themselves and started to pray.
Marie suddenly felt a sense of dread and her eyes impulsively flashed to the door. Catherine asked, “What’s wrong? Is someone coming?”
Heavy footsteps thundered up the stairs. The sound itself was hostile and Marie braced herself to run, though there was nowhere to go. The door flung open and two men entered, one of them carrying a doctor’s briefcase. The other took in the two colored women and demanded, “What is this?”
The mother leaped from her chair and pleaded. “I know you wanted him to see a doctor, but everyone says colored women are better at nursing than doctors. I thought we could let them try.”
The doctor pursed his lips and narrowed his eyes. The husband scoffed. “That’s superstitious nonsense. He is trained in medicine. These women are only going to chant incantations and charge you a fortune for it.” He waved Marie and Catherine away like two pesky flies.
The doctor was already unloading his case and rolling up his sleeves. Marie looked back to the boy with the burning face and the long lashes and planted her feet. Unless they let her treat the boy, they would have to carry her out.
Catherine gently placed her aging hand on Marie’s shoulder. “We need to go.”
Marie’s resolve crumbled. Her eyes begged Catherine to let her stay, but her grandmere very firmly guided her out of the room. Marie took one last look at the bed – the shivering boy, the mother holding his hand while the doctor examined him – before the father slammed the door closed.
From inside, they could hear the mother ask, “What are you going to do?”
“First, we must bathe him in cold water. Then we’ll purge him with a laxative and use leeches to draw out the bad blood.”
“No!” cried Marie. She spun around to run back into the room, but Catherine stood in her way. “Didn’t you hear what they’re going to do?” Marie asked incredulously. Blood was life giving; that’s why the spirits required blood sacrifices. Loss of blood brought death.
“I heard,” said Catherine calmly. “And the shock from the cold water will probably kill him.” Most people would have mistaken Catherine’s lack of passion for flippancy. Marie recognized it as resignation.
Catherine made for the stairway, assuming Marie would follow. In a back room, buckets of water were dumped into a tub. Marie saw in her mind the boy being lifted into the tub, his body covered in leeches, and she shut off the rest of the image because she didn’t want to see what it would put him through. Instead, her mind’s eye went to heads stuck on spikes, too high for her to reach.
Catherine realized Marie wasn’t coming with her and she turned around.

“I can’t move,” Marie explained. It was literally the truth. She couldn’t go into the room again because it would do more harm than good, and she couldn’t leave the boy when it meant allowing him to die. Her feet wouldn’t move one way or the other.
Catherine seemed to understand because she didn’t get angry and she didn’t ask any questions. She drew near to Marie and said, “A weaker person could be ripped apart by all that’s wrong in this world. But you and I are strong. We can walk out that door and not be destroyed by things we can’t change.”
Can’t change. There it was again. She was a poor little colored girl who couldn’t stop a white doctor from killing a boy. The only thing she could do was survive it. Marie realized something about herself that night; Catherine was a survivor, but she wasn’t. She was a fighter.
Marie might have stood there indefinitely if she hadn’t heard the slosh of water followed by the ear-piercing scream of the little boy. Within the screams were the mother’s comforting whispers telling the boy she was sorry, she knew it was cold, but it was to make him better and it would be over soon. Marie flew out of that house so quickly, she wasn’t even conscious of her feet. She stopped at the sidewalk, heaving heavy breaths. Part of her remained in that house with that boy, though. Marie wondered if she would ever have that part of herself back or if it would always be with him.

Catherine handed Marie the healing kit – it was her turn to carry it, Marie supposed – and guided her to their next house call.

Thanks for reading! Only one more day before the launch!
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