I was fifteen years old, a deaconess in my family church had dark, ashy
toes that coiled and were crooked so close together they looked like
Her toes would catch and tear
the cotton wash rags we used when we washed her feet. The scraping
sound her feet made when she removed her support hose sent nauseating
chills down my shoulders. I had nightmares about kneeling in front of
her and baptizing her with my tossed cookies instead of blessing her
like Mary Magdalene did with olive oil to Christ’s feet. Actually I had
nightmares of shaming my great-grandmother Rosa in front of the other
members of the Mother Board. That was worse than any hell my young mind
Back then (the 1980s),
embarrassing grandparents was the kiss of death. Yet in my family
church, being chosen to perform the Footwash was an honorable rite of
passage. It was an oxymoron in my mind. What teenager could get through
such a thing without making a fool of herself and her elders?
So during every altar call, I
prayed hard to God to help me get through it. I prayed so hard I cried.
The Mother Board, who was not accustomed to seeing a teenage girl in
fervent prayer, assumed I had a calling from God. From then on they
called me the Anointed One.
To my chagrin, more elder women
wanted me to wash their feet. To make matters worse, the teenage boy I
had a crush on at the time (you know, the gorgeous, bad-boy PK who
always sat on the back pew) would not touch me with a ten-foot pole,
just like I didn’t want to touch the deaconess’s bird feet.
I empathize with her now…
Ten years later, my boss
assigned me to interview a new pastor in town. He was a local loadie,
bad boy turned good, who now had returned to his hometown to fulfill
God’s vision for his people and make a better name for himself (my
boss’s words). The church had grown exponentially. The young pastor was
all atwitter. I was intrigued until my boss told me my subject’s name.
You guessed it: my old crush who dropped me like a hot potato because I
was too holy-fide to be a high school hoochie. Now he was the Anointed
So I got dolled up in a
wholesome, feminine, contemporary-Christian, Natalie Grant kind of way,
put new batteries in my recorder, and met this guy for the
reunion/interview. When I reached the church, an old friend who had
just joined the church greeted me. We chatted long and short enough for
me to get more excited about seeing my heartbreaker again. Could this
be when life comes full circle for me? The Boomerang Moment?
What happened in the interview made me race back to the radio station
and throw myself at my editor’s feet. “An exposé on him is worthless,”
I panted. I begged her to ditch the
story and allow me to
write an investigative piece about his holy harem. It would cover this
secret woman’s entourage devoted to meeting his needs. My fingers
signaled quote, unquote when I used the term holy harem.
To buttress my big idea, I described a weird moment during the
interview when a woman stepped from the shadows in the Sacricity to
wipe his brow with a cool cloth then disappear again. Really?!
Although my editor’s eyes bulged
and shouted, “Jesus be a fence!” she declined to kill the fluff piece.
She needed his repeat business to pay my salary.
Sometimes silence is
best for the common good. She patted my back as she walked me
to my office.
Stung by the church bad boy
Three years after that second
Anointed Heartbreaker debacle, I got this bright idea to learn how to
write a novel. I had contributed over fifty magazine articles to
various Christian magazines and newspapers and had become bored with
the same old same old. Plus my writer’s group thought my writing style
had a quirky storytelling edge that would work great with fiction.
So I enrolled in a year-long
writer’s workshop taught by author Chuck Palaknuik (Fight Club)
I had read about in Poets & Writers Magazine.
I saw and loved the movie and had bought the book but hadn’t read it
yet; however, after reading a few of his interviews, I learned we
shared the same writing aesthetic and love for Amy Kempel. Perfect.
And then I read the book. I got
to page fifty and read this passage four times: “What you see in Fight
Club is a generation of men raised by women.”
As a mom who has sole custody of
her child, I should have been angry at that over generalization of a
group of women I belong to. Instead I thought, Wow. I can say
whatever I want in fiction if I tell a well-written, compelling,
relevant story. Even cooler, I can use the stories we killed at the
magazine for story skeletons, because who would come forward and say
that this crazy, twisted event happened to me? Boomerang Moment?
Not yet, but close. I decided to
write a story about a single mother−jaded bounty hunter who discovers a
secret women’s church society while searching for her brother-in-law’s
murderer. I brainstormed the story, tooled through that workshop, and
then retooled through my ACFW WORD and VIP chapters, Penwrights, RWA,
and any place I could go that wanted to help me with this book.
A Good Excuse to Be Bad releases nationwide July 2011 through
Kensington Publishing Corp.(Kensington Books) under my pen name Miranda
As I sit back, prop my feet up,
and wait for the money to roll in (yeah, right), I am reminded of my
fifteen-year-old self and all the insecurities I had about my future,
family responsibility, and doing the scummy things I didn’t want to do
but had no choice in the matter. Twenty years later those three things
still haunt me at night; however, now I channel them into my stories
and pass the burdens over to God.