Nanowrimo spotlight: M.L. Millard on Nano Light

My interview on The Kelworth Files. Writers, follow their blog!

The Kelworth Files

Good morning everybody! I have a familiar face coming back for our first spotlight interview of the season: M.L. Millard, who was also in the spotlight back in 2014. M.L. is participating in Nano for the fifth time this year, and this time she’s a rebel… Welcome back, M.L!

What are you writing about this year?
This year littlefootI’m finishing my Littlefoot series. Well, really part three of one book. I put the first part on Kindle, but when I’m finished with this last part I’ll put them all together on CreateSpace. I loved writing part one so much, but now I feel like I’m having to force it. I hope it’s funny anyway! Littlefoot finds herself in all kinds of mixed up fairy tale situations. In part one she was a Rapunzel with normal-length hair, a Cinderella who didn’t want to go to the ball, and more. Part three…

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In Their Shoes Is Not Enough (On Grace and Understanding Your Characters)

The other day I drove past the park and a woman was on the swings. She was by herself, and she was about 65 years old. She wasn’t twisting slowly back and forth and contemplating; she had a good swing goin’ on. I had the thought, “I wish I could put my soul in to mingle with hers.”

Was she reminiscing? Were her childhood memories of swings good ones, or was she living a childhood she’d missed out on sixty years ago? I would guess the former based on her body language. All I know is that when people say to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, it’s not enough. If she’d left her shoes in the sand for me and I’d gone and put them on and swung up to the trees, I’d have felt the way feel on the swing, plus having shoes that didn’t quite fit. Even if I could have gone back to her first pair of baby shoes and lived in all her pairs of shoes throughout her whole life, I’d still have had my genetics. Her life might have seemed very different to me than it seemed to her.

Yes, this is about writing. I’ll get to that soon.

This week our church is doing a beans and rice challenge. I’m not sure that’s what they call it, but the gist is everyone eats beans and rice for a week in order to identify with people who are limited in their food choices, remember to pray for those in need, and save money on groceries, giving what we save to a worthy cause.

I did this same challenge a few years ago, and that time it didn’t seem like a big deal. It was the way we ate at the end of many a month already. This time, it’s been quite a while since I had to really pinch at the end of the month, and my experience was totally different. I did NOT like remembering what it had felt like to eat whatever we had at the end of the month, even though at the time I hadn’t thought much of it. It was just the way things were.

To be clear, we never went without food, and we knew we had relatives and friends who would buy us a meal whenever we needed. Still, for some reason eating beans and rice when it wasn’t what I wanted brought up some strange feelings this time. I was averse to it. I kind of felt like Scarlett O’Hara. “I’ll never be hungry again!”

Again, I never actually went hungry or even thought I might go hungry, but why did I feel like that? I have some ideas, but they’re not relevant to this post.

So. About writing. Wanting to put my soul into the woman on the swing reminds me of what we do with our characters. In fact, I’m sure it’s years of writing that made me think of it that way when I saw her. Trying at two different times in my life to put myself into the shoes of people who are restricted to beans and rice every day confirms to me that we can never really know another person even if we put ourselves in their shoes. My putting myself in their shoes at one time in my life showed me something completely different than it showed me years later. There is a flaw in the “in their shoes” philosophy. So as a writer, I want something more. I want my soul to mix with someone else’s until I truly understand what it is to be them.

Some people, when asked to put themselves in someone else’s shoes, imagine themselves in the other person’s situation and still have no compassion for them. Part of the problem might be that they are putting themselves in the other person’s shoes. This is where grace comes in. When putting yourself in someone else’s shoes doesn’t give you compassion, and you are not given the chance to mix souls, you must trust that God’s directive to have mercy and compassion makes up for this inability.

Oops, this is about writing.

This whole beans and rice thing has made me second guess my ability to understand my characters. Oh, Woman On The Swing, how I wish I knew how you felt and why you felt that way. The best I can do is to spend time with my characters. I have a better shot at mixing my soul with theirs than I do with real people, since they do live in my mind, after all. To this day it bothers me that I accidentally had two of my characters in Anaheim Tales phrase something the exact same way. A sign of a weak writer. No one else would probably notice it, at least on the first reading, but it’s there, and I know it’s a lack of understanding of my own characters. There’s no good explanation. They’re not good friends who might have picked up on each other’s way of speaking. It’s a matter of just plain not getting into the soul of my character.

I’m not sure I put all these thoughts in the right order, but I think you can understand my meaning. I’m afraid I’ll put too much of myself in my characters, and I’m afraid that they will look so different to me in twenty years that I’ll be ashamed of them. Will I misunderstand them because of my personality and life experience? Will a character who seems noble to me now seem selfish or shallow or sexist to future me, or to current you? Will I understand my character better after publishing and wish I could change their actions? Interviews with other authors tell me that yes, I will. And so I suppose I should just mingle souls with my characters as well as I can until publishing day and send them off with a little grace for them, and a little for me.

Lions and Tigers and Sexism, Oh My! (Or Why Does the Cowardly Lion Think He’s a Coward)

My first bucket list item was to become a published writer. Check! Next on my bucket list was to be in a play or musical. I’ve played in the pit for many a production, but I’ve never acted on stage. So when Music To My Ears, where I give trombone lessons and where my daughter participates in the musicals for kids and teens, decided to do The Wizard of Oz with an adult cast, I couldn’t pass up the chance.

I auditioned to be the “cowardly” lion. Kind of fits my life journey. I’ve always known I’ve had a brain and a heart, but I didn’t develop courage until later in life, or at least I didn’t recognize it in myself.

Whether I’m a natural at singing and acting or whether my boss decided to reward me for my ten years of exemplary service, I got the part. I picked up my script and decided to start by memorizing the song “If I Were King of the Forest.” If I were king of the forest, not queen, not duke, not prince.” “Hey,” I thought. “What’s wrong with queens? Dukes and princes have less authority than a king, yes, but a queen could have just as much.” I toyed with changing “queen”  to “earl.”

Next came “If I Only Had the Nerve.” I know the lyrics to “If I Only Had a Brain,” but I didn’t remember the lion’s lines. Right off the bat, it says “Yes it’s sad, believe me Missy, when you’re born to be a sissy.” Sissy comes from calling a boy a coward by way of calling him a girl. Not cool. But I couldn’t change it because it’s part of the rhyme. I’d have to change the whole thing. It’s sad believe me fellow when you’re born a-being yellow? No, whole new problem. “This is why I’m a writer and not an actor,” I thought. I’d be the most obnoxious actor in Hollywood. “Excuse me, don’t you think my character would say something more like this?”

But the more I thought about it, the more those lines seemed appropriate to the character. Wouldn’t someone who thought he was a coward be likely to have fallen prey to the wrong thinking that anything feminine is weak?

Did you know that L. Frank Baum, the author of the original Oz books, fought for women’s right to vote? What a guy! We’ll never know what he thought of the song lyrics, as they were written after he died. Did his books contain any of the same sexist language? I doubt it, even with my reasoning for how they fit into the lion’s psyche, but I haven’t read them, so I don’t know.

Time for a trip to the library, after I work on my roar🙂


4 Christian Arguments for Trump (and why I think they’re wrong)

Let me introduce myself. I am the author of “Seeking First His Kingdom: 61 Days of Worry-free Devotions.” I say this not to claim authority on the Bible (anyone can write a book) but to convince you that God and His Word are my highest priority.

During the primaries, most Christians were united in their lack of support for Donald Trump. Now that Trump is the Republican candidate, I’ve seen many Christians, including pastors, on social media lamenting that they cannot in good conscience vote for him. They are truly agonizing over their decision.

And I’ve seen a few Christians trying to rationalize voting for Trump. I’ve lumped their rationalizations into four categories, which I will attempt to address here.

1. Maybe God Knows We Need a Dirty, Shrewd Businessman Right Now

I really can’t believe that there was a widely shared blog post with this opinion. After decades of claiming that people should vote Republican because the Republican candidate was “more Christian,” you suddenly think that maybe Christianness is not so important after all? Remember all those Old Testament Israelites who had bad things happen to their nation when they started following idols and good things happen when they followed God? They didn’t have bad things happen because they failed to follow a self-proclaimed business tycoon or because they failed to fear the right kind of people. Do not be fooled.

The reason this blog probably gained some ground is because Donald Trump could not come up with a single Bible verse when asked, whereas Hillary, a Methodist, led a Bible study at one point. This is a big problem for people who have long equated Christianity with the Republican party.

2. At Least He’s Better Than Hillary

Of all the accusations against Hillary, only one has been proven true. She used a private server when she wasn’t supposed to. She acknowledged it and apologized. (Have all the other people in Washington who did the same thing apologized, I wonder? Notice that Colin Powell “didn’t remember” telling Hillary to do it and then it turned out that he had?) Things that have not been proven true or indeed been proven false: Clinton Foundation scandals, lying to the FBI, knowingly sending classified information over her private server, causing the Benghazi deaths, participating in unfair actions within the party to beat Sanders, and there are probably a few more I’m forgetting. Please research the claims! Even silly claims like “stealing from the White House” turn out to be similar to what other first ladies including Nancy Reagan have done: thinking gifts were to her personally, moving out with them, and returning them when the White House told her they were not personal gifts (which many things are).

On the other hand, we have a man who loves money, insults POW’s, claims his sacrifices are similar to the sacrifices of parents who lost a child in war, makes fun of people with disabilities, denounces entire ethnicities, objectifies women (my favorite is when he told Brande Roderick on national television that she’d be a pretty picture down on her knees), is probably going to owe a lot of people money for his “university” and contractor fees, and hey, if you’re going to blame Hillary for things that are unproven, why not blame Trump for the rape of a 13-year-old that he’s been accused of? He IS supposedly friends with a registered sex offender whose party he was supposedly at, after all. Looks pretty sketchy. And he did say he’d date his daughter if she weren’t his daughter. I don’t know, I just kind of have a feeling, much as you might have a feeling that Hillary is guilty of the things she hasn’t been proven guilty of. Even without the rape, to suggest that Hillary is somehow a worse candidate than Donald Trump is outrageous. It’s insulting to women and non-whites and veterans and anyone who cares about them. You know who cares about them? Jesus.

3. The Bible Says Women Shouldn’t Be Leaders

There’s a woman named Deborah in the Bible, and there’s an insidious lie about her. I don’t know where it came from or why it persists. Before Israel had kings, it had judges. Of all the judges in the book Judges, only one was a woman. Once when I was debating about women in leadership with a woman from my church who thought that women shouldn’t be in leadership in the church, I brought up Deborah, and my friend said something like, “But she was only a judge because no man could be found to do it.” Here’s what the Bible says about Deborah becoming judge. “Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at the time.” Absolutely no mention of why she was judge.

Was she a good judge? Apparently so. Her people won a battle and “the land was undisturbed for forty years.”

Then there’s the pesky message from Paul in his letter to Timothy. “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man.” It’s one of my least favorite verses, and I have to admit that I enjoy telling myself that God’s calling of Deborah to be judge over Israel outweighs one sentence from one guy who was talking not about a nation, but about church leadership. Also, Paul says “I do not allow.” Well that’s nice for you, Paul. I do.

If you think I am too flippant with Paul’s words, then please skip down a couple verses to where he says that men in leadership in the church should be gentle, uncontentious, respectable, free from the love of money, not double-tongued… Please don’t apply Paul’s letter to Hillary and not to Donald.

And ask yourself, have you ever voted for a woman for senator or governor?

4. Supreme Court Appointments

I can honestly see your point about Supreme Court nominations. Everyone knows their importance. However, I have two problems with voting for Trump based on this alone.

1. Having more liberal justices, while it may have a pretty big effect, will in my opinion pale in comparison to the damage that Trump could do as president.

2. Donald Trump is neither truly conservative nor honest. I am not sure he would come through with conservative nominations.

I love you, brothers and sisters, and I love our country. Please tell me where I am wrong in my four points. I will not respond to comments, but I will read and give them serious thought if they are written with respect. But if you have figured out while reading this that you truly put anti-Democrat agenda above following God, please, for the love of heaven, just admit it. Don’t forget to vote, and let’s remember that we hope to meet Hillary, Donald, AND other voters in heaven and speak accordingly.

1 in 5 Women, 1 in 11 Men: My Day at a Rally to End the Statute of Limitations for Rape

1 in 5 women. I kept hearing that statistic about rape, and it seemed like a lot. I would picture five of my female friends and think, “One of them. Probably at least one of them.” For some reason, though, it hit me harder when I multiplied that to apply to my 250 female Facebook friends. 50 (FIFTY!) of my 250 female friends! My Facebook friends are all friends with me in real life, too, and the number made me sick. 1 in 5 is still a 1 in my head, and that’s one too many, but it just didn’t hit me as hard as 50. 50 women I know and love.

The statistics I’ve seen for men range from 1 in 30 to 1 in 11. Whatever the number, it’s too high.

And that is one reason that when my friend helped organize a rally at the Capitol to end the statute of limitations for rape and other sexual assaults in California, I said I’d go. You see, out of my 50 women friends who have, if statistics hold, been raped, I only know of 4 of them, and not a single one of those 4 ever told the police. 2 of them, when they finally told someone, had already missed out on the chance because of the ten year statute of limitations. 1 of them, when she told a family member, was wrongly advised, “That’s not rape.” There are so many reasons that victims don’t come forward for decades. Confusion, fear, shame… (You may be wondering, like I did, what idiot made a statute of limitations for rape, and the reality is that in 1851 all felonies but murder started out with a 3-year statute of limitations, and brave survivors and legislators over the years have slowly increased the time for rape.)

Several days before the rally, my car started making lurching sounds of doom. I ignored it for a while, but in the back of my mind, I worried about a two-hour trip to Sacramento. It sounded like the transmission. A couple days after the sound of doom began, my driver’s side window refused to roll up. “Okay,” I thought, “I’ll try to get it to the shop before my trip and get everything fixed.” Labor Day weekend was coming up. My mechanic didn’t have time until the day of the rally. I could either not go to the rally and take my car in, or I could make an appointment for the day after the rally and hope for the best on Highway 80.

Aside from all this, the two old friends I’d planned to go see after the rally both emailed the day before to say they’d been called in to work. I was supposed to start my period the day of the rally, too, and that always makes me crampy and fatigued. I’ve never liked to travel alone. Where would I park? Would someone see my open window and steal my car?

Maybe you’ll know what I mean when I tell you that I struggled at this point to decide whether all these things were signs from above that I wasn’t supposed to take this trip or whether they were merely hurdles to see how much I was invested in the cause. I don’t know how other moms feel, but after having a child I got really good at saying without any guilt, “Kid’s sick, I can’t go/help/work after all.” It would have been very easy for me to bail, but I didn’t want to, and in hindsight I guess I can say that that was the sign.

It was a very cold trip to Sacramento at 6 AM with my window down. I have to lean my seat back to avoid aggravating a 15-year-old C-section problem (my husband calls me low rider) and with the cold and the fear of breaking down, my neck craned forward tight as a sling shot ready to snap back.

But I didn’t break down, and I found a parking spot on the street only four blocks away, and there was a coffee shop with a restroom right across from the Capitol, which looked really beautiful against the September blue sky. Only about 20 people showed up. I couldn’t help but thinking that even if the rape victims from only Sacramento had showed up, there wouldn’t have been room for everyone on the lawns. I think I was about the only person there who was not a rape survivor. That was a little depressing.


Before we were even all set up, a policeman approached us. Oh boy, I thought. Good thing we have a permit. He said, “I just wanted to say I support you. My daughters are swimmers and we followed the Brock Turner case. Did you know he just got out?” He was appalled at the short prison time for the Stanford rapist. Lots of the ladies wanted selfies with the policeman. He obliged.


When we finished marching around chanting things like “SB 8-1-3, that’s what justice means to me” in our matching tee-shirts with the “no” symbol over “Rape Statute of Limitations,” we went into the Capitol building to a press conference with Senator Leyva, the author of SB 813. She had us stand behind her. She spoke, as did two other politicians, attorney Gloria Allred, who represents many of Bill Cosby’s victims, and three rape survivors. The two women survivors have missed their opportunity for justice because SB 813 is not, of course, retroactive. The man, however, was drugged and raped only about two years ago. He’s supporting the cause because he recognizes that in dealing with the emotional burden and coming forward in only a year and a half, he’s done better than most.

Every once in a while, the speaker would gesture to us and call us “these survivors.” I wondered if maybe I wasn’t supposed to have stood back there with everyone else. I also thought how sad it was that it was assumed that only rape survivors would bother to come to this rally, even though that was very close to the truth. I remained standing and considered myself a representative of my 4 friends, and even the other possible 46 (64 counting my men Facebook friends if 1 in 11 is correct).

It was a very hot trip home at 12 noon with my window down. Between the fires and the farming, I had to hold my shirt over my nose for at least an hour. But I had done it. I had done my little part. And now we wait to see if Governor Brown signs the bill. It’s on his desk now. It’s September 11th, 2016, and he has until the 30th. Perhaps it’s not too late for you to give him a call.

Update: Governor Brown signed SB 813 into law!

Mom’s Homework Advice

Does your kid stress out about homework? I wrote this list for my daughter years ago, and she STILL loves to look at it once in a while. Some kids need a very different kind of list, but if your kid is like mine, print this out and put it by their desk. When you’re frustrated, let the list speak for you.

1. Just turning it in is better than many do.

2. If you are only given a week to do it, it doesn’t have to look like you spent a year on it.

3. You always do a good job.

4. It’s okay if someone’s project looks better than yours. Tell them “Nice job!”

5. The teacher’s goal is for you to learn, not be stressed. Enjoy what you’re learning.

6. Whining doesn’t help. I’ve tried it.

7. God doesn’t check homework for entrance into heaven.

8. I love you no matter what your homework looks like.

9. Don’t say mean things about my friend (YOU!).


Review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Spoilers!)

** spoiler alert ** When I heard that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was going to be in script form, I was thinking Shakespeare. I wasn’t expecting novel no-no’s in the stage direction like “There’s a lot of emotion here.” If there’s emotion, it should be obvious from the dialogue.

That said, I liked the storyline, and it was nice to feel like I was back at Hogwarts. I did think the tension between Harry and his son Albus was a bit inauthentic. Would Harry really tell his son “Sometimes I wish you weren’t my son?” I think Harry would have grown up a little more sensitive than that. And Ron was like a caricature of himself. I was also really hoping for a better closure to the story with Cedric’s dad. I’d have liked to see something good happen to him or at least some more meaningful dialogue. Maybe it will seem to have more depth on stage.

I gave the book 4 out of 5 stars, but here I am saying only negative things about it. That’s because the bar is set so high in Potter World, I guess. I loved being back at Hogwarts, I thought Hermione’s character was spot on, and I did feel the urgency of Albus and Scorpius’s adventure. I just missed Rowling’s writing and the usual Potter complexity.