Sneak Peak into The Dating Charade

First off, let’s just get this out of the way. What is The Dating Charade about, you ask? Well, to put it simply….

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Everson is an expert at escaping bad first dates. And, after years of meeting, greeting, and running from the men who try to woo her, Cassie is almost ready to retire her hopes for a husband—and children—altogether.

But fate has other plans, and Cassie’s online dating profile catches the eye of firefighter Jett Bentley. In Jett’s memory, Cassie Everson is the unreachable girl-of-legend from their high school days. Nervously, he messages her, setting off a chain of events that forces a reluctant Cassie back into the dating game.

No one is more surprised than Cassie when her first date with Jett is a knockout. But when they both go home and find three children dropped in their laps—each—they independently decide to do the right and mature thing: hide the kids from each other while sorting it all out. What could go wrong?

Melissa Ferguson’s hilarious and warmhearted debut reminds us that love can come in very small packages—and that sometimes our best-laid plans aren’t nearly as rewarding and fun as the surprises that come our way.

The Dating Charade is all about a girl whose super skill is escaping in the middle of terrible dates. She’s a pro. And, to take from her words exactly:

 

It’d taken months to create the perfect escape plan. Months of trial and error, of late nights scribbling elaborate routes under lamplight, of miniscule alterations schemed up with her most devious of friends.

But here, watching the stingrays circling the scuba diver in the aquarium glass behind him, she knew she’d finally done it. Her plan was positively, utterly airtight.

 

The location of Cassie Everson’s perfect escape route is Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Conveniently, my own home is just a couple hours east, in Bristol, Tennessee. I won’t give away more of the book, but will say that I did visit the aquarium with my kiddos (twin 4-year-olds, and my 2-year-old), and fun fact, something I overheard actually made it into the book:

 

A middle-aged woman stood supervising around a shallow, oblong area of water to their left, the sign “Touch A Ray Bay” written in clear letters above her. A dozen kids and their families leaned over, hands in the water as stingrays surfaced and swept by. “Remember, kids,” she trilled merrily, wiggling her fingers in demonstration, “When sharks go by, fingers toward the sky!”

A parent hastily grabbed his daughter’s fingers as a fin swept past.

Huh. Seemed like an insurance oversight right there.

 

Yes, people. I was so blown away by this employee’s happy-go-lucky, let’s-not-worry-about-the-toddlers-sticking-their-fingers-in-the-shark-water station, I sought some comfort by making it a point in the book. I mean, really. It has to be an insurance oversight. Straight up one of those nonsensical things of the world the comedian, Brian Regan, talked about when seeing a Blasting Zone sign and saying, “Shouldn’t that sign say, Road Closed?”

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            The Dating Charade debuts with Thomas Nelson December 3rd. You are SUPER DUPER ENCOURAGED TO PREORDER IT (thank you!! My publisher will love me and in turn love you!) on Amazon, check it out on Goodreads, or find it anywhere else books are sold.

 

Warmest Wishes!

Melissa Ferguson

Time to Rise Up

I don’t share this story with people.

Most friends and family members are unaware, oddly enough, of something I’ve realized over time has been one of the top moments of significance in my life. Part of me is honestly afraid to share now–fearing you’ll think more of me when you really shouldn’t, or less of me due to opposing opinions. But in light of the news swirling around our nation, I think it’s time.

Fairly newlyweds still and living on a dime, my husband worked remodeling a low-income apartment complex while I commuted to seminary. One Sunday we were gathered in the common area after church and ran into one of the tenants. He chatted with our circle of Sunday goers and after the typical how’s-life-with-you round of questions, he mentioned his sister was well into her pregnancy and having an abortion that week, due to the fact the doctors recommended–or rather, his words actually stated the belief they were requiring–she have one as the baby would likely be developmentally challenged, if the baby lived at all. He said something about how they didn’t know how to take care of a baby with mental or physical needs, and inferred they didn’t want to, so it was for the best.

All of our faces did the same thing, stumbling to find words to reply, going with variations of, “Oh, I’m so sorry.” Someone may have thrown in a “We’ll pray for you” comment for good measure before stepping away for more Styrofoam coffee.

We got in the car and headed home.

But the conversation wouldn’t leave me.

I searched the internet. Printed off papers. Drove to Ben’s work on Monday.

Ben told me the apartment number.

And I walked through the complex in the midday sun with a wad of papers in hand.

When I knocked on the door, I remember how he opened it. I remember the surprise on his face as I explained timidly that I heard what he said on Sunday and wanted to let him know that there were options out there for his sister. Better options. Options that would not only potentially give life to that child, but would likely be healthier, physically and emotionally, for his sister in the long run.

I didn’t throw in the God card.

I’ll never forget how he put the cigarette in his mouth to free his hand, took my papers, paused as he read. How suddenly he swung the door open as he yelled for the whole family to see what I had to say. How grandfather, siblings, and kids neared. How he asked me with genuine curiosity and mild disbelief, spokesperson for the family, “And you really think people adopt kids with special needs?”

A few weeks later we saw him again.

She decided to deliver the baby.

 

Lord willing, and this brave woman willing, this child is alive today.

 

Why do I tell this story now?

Because the older I get the more I realize how quick and tempting the bystander effect is. I’m learning that chances, monumental chances, slip in and out of our lives at a moment’s notice, cloaked in insignificant small talk. That if we aren’t careful, we will miss them in our rush to get our Styrofoam coffee.

As Christians, we need to “be prepared in season and out of season” to know what is truth, and follow through without letting ourselves fall into the fretful trap of wondering what all could go wrong as a result.

We may feel powerless over the laws in our nation; we may be heartbroken and even enraged to see that children are being murdered and there seems to be nothing we can do about it. But we can do something. Each of us can shake off the bystander effect and do something.

Find the local pro-life crisis pregnancy center (like mine here), gather supplies, donate. The next time you hear about a couple choosing to adopt, support them with a meal or check. Foster. Read and share books, like The Atonement Child by Francine Rivers. Educate with love. Refuse to accept the status quo as though it cannot ever be different. Because it can.

There are very few crucial beliefs to the Christian worldview. There are a thousand topics not worth arguing over or fighting for. This is not one of them.

 Because this is what Christianity stands for. What Christ stood, and stands, for. What we must stand for.

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Let us love every soul-given person well, whether old, young, or in the womb.

Melissa Ferguson

How I Got My Book Contract

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The “How I Got My Contract” story for writers is much like labor and delivery stories. Oddly fascinating, terribly messy, always unique. When I was “on sub” I found myself reading loads of these stories. Like, an unhealthy amount. And I knew that when (if) my day came around, I wanted to share my story, too. So, without further ado…

March 22, 2018: Met with an editor friend and unofficially sent her my manuscript
May 17: Editor friend passed on it so Awesome Agent swiftly sent it out to a few houses
May 21: I was chatting with another editor friend (whom I’ll affectionately call HOUSE EARL GREY) and she asked to see m/s
May 23: Unbelievably, in only two days, editor (HOUSE EARL GREY) read entire manuscript, liked it, and was sending it on to editorial team to read and review! After having two previous manuscripts taking months and months for anyone to read, if they ever read it at all, this was super exciting
June 6: Agent emails that another publishing house (HOUSE GINGERBREAD) has read my proposal and wants to read the full manuscript
June 27: Editorial team (HOUSE EARL GREY) approved manuscript and went on to recommend a two-book deal, pending it passes the financial meeting
July 9: Manuscript passes financial meeting and official 2-book deal offer from HOUSE EARL GREY!!!

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At this point, I am incredibly excited and assume that we will take this offer. But when I message Awesome Agent, he informs me:
July 12: A third house, HOUSE CELLO, wants to take it to a team meeting on 7.24. HOUSE GINGERBREAD is still reading and interested. And a new HOUSE CANDY CANE is possibly interested as well.

Suddenly, things get messy. It’s the prom date scenario everyone and no one wants. The perfectly lovely saxophone player/friend asked you to prom, and he is wonderful, and you are thrilled, but then out of nowhere the new guy with the really cool hair winks at you in the hall. No promises, nothing asked, but he looks directly at you and winks. 

Saxophone player is a sophomore. This guy is a senior. Rumor is, he came from California and has a pool.

That’s okay, I thought. I have a little wiggle room in time, I don’t have to answer EARL GREY today. I’ll give it a few days and decide. Surely they’ll all have a definitive yes or no by then.

But days pass.

A week.

Two.

Nothing. Finally agent and I have a chat. What’s the saying? A bird in hand is worth two in the bush? It would be a real dream, going with California-pool-owning-nice-hair senior, but I knew rejection well. There were so many meetings and levels my manuscript still needed to pass. SO OFTEN the manuscript gets turned down at one level or another. I’d been through this before with the whole submission process with Red Carpet Summer (available for free here). I was tired, so tired, of rejection. Even more tired of the wishy-washy, never-ending “this has real potential, give me more time…” maybes.

Saxophone player was very sweet. It was a good offer.

BUT then I had a phone call with my good author buddy (Bethany, I’m calling you out), and she said something that really helped determine my course. “Melissa, if you find out two weeks after you say yes to EARL GREY that you get a contract with CELLO, would you be really disappointed?” And I realized then, yes. I would feel positively devastated if CELLO actually said yes and it was too late by two weeks. 

It was a real risk. EARL GREY could pull back the offer, and nobody could end up offering anything. I’d be going stag to prom, or rather, not going to prom at all.

Again.

But, for me, it was worth the risk. I mean, he winked. And, right then, his cousins GINGERBREAD and CANDY CANE were also standing there, giving me decent, wobbly smiles. 

So, finally, being a bit unconventional, I had a heart-to-heart phone conversation, across the ocean, to EARL GREY. I spoke honestly. And EARL GREY, dear, wonderful EARL GREY, was understanding and said they would wait until I heard from CELLO and his friends. I am forever grateful for how much that meant to me.

Then, more painful waiting.

July 24: HOUSE GINGERBREAD says still reviewing, busy time of year.
August 14: HOUSE CELLO says manuscript passed the acquisitions meeting and they ask when I want to do a group phone call! I reply that I would be available anytime. Ever. At 3am if they wanted. (yes, really replied that.)
August 27: CELLO group phone call with Awesome Agent, three editors, and publicist! Took the phone call in the quietest place I could imagine, my car, and prayed desperately against the sudden fear I’d develop a tic in those forty-five minutes and say something totally crazy about wild ferrets. Actually ran through a mental list of all the bizarre things that could potentially slip out of mouth, thereby sealing my fate forever.


Sept 13: THE MOMENT.

After yet another eighteen days of watching my inbox on my phone every five minutes, I was at the salon getting my hair done and saw Awesome Agent’s name across the screen and, of course, my stomach flipped. I swiftly turned the phone over on my lap. My hairdresser noticed and I said I couldn’t look, that it was only the most important email ever and I didn’t have the heart to read it right there. If it was a NO then I’d have to sit there, with a thousand pieces of aluminum foil in my hair, trying to process with a smile plastered on my face. If it was YES, however, I still had the problem of there being a thousand pieces of aluminum foil in my hair, and it would be terribly tedious to run around the parking lot like a wild, silver-headed chicken, still having to return to my seat at some point. My hairdresser tried to convince me, but I finally compromised. If it was a YES, then I’d call the salon in the car and relay the message to her from the receptionist with one word: YAY.

I got to the car, pulled the door shut, tried to convince myself to wait until I got home, got to a drive-thru at Dunkin’ Donuts, and pulled out my phone. Sure enough, it was BLANK. The message was blank. My luck. I emailed him swiftly asking if there was a message… And finally, I saw it.

I got a THREE BOOK DEAL FROM THOMAS NELSON!!!

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Unbelievable. I was going to prom with my Californian-cool-hair dream date. And the after party. And to his parent’s summer home in Vienna.

I called the salon and gave the receptionist the word: YAY! Receptionist asked for clarification. I gave none.

I was, and still am, truly floored. And grateful. And fully aware of how blessed I am.

Awesome Agent and Awesome Editor went back and forth on details of the contract, and the official contract came October 2nd. With a couple more questions, the contract was finally signed and shipped October 5th.

So there you have it. This is the messy, wild, terrible, wonderful inside world of the frenzied writer while on submission. If you see one of them around, biting her nails, checking her email like a nervous tic, get her a coffee. Take her on a stroll. Offer sympathetic nods often. 

 

To stay updated on my new book debuting November 2019, I’d love you to join my newsletter. Monthly giveaways from Barnes & Noble, book deals, more fun stories. 

Just click here. 

Blessings,

Melissa Ferguson

 

 

Three Things You Don’t Know About C.S. Lewis, But Want To

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C.S. Lewis. The legend.

Put your finger on any page bearing C.S. Lewis’ name and you’re bound to find the kind of thought-provoking words worth cross-stitching on a pillow, printing neatly on an index card to tape onto your fridge, or throwing out mid-conversation at any dinner party, birthday, funeral, baptism, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday.

Lewis untangled labyrinthine theories of life and faith until they were so plain it felt elementary, then turned around and discussed the plain, obvious world in such poetic descriptions you felt yourself rising on your toes.

And while many Lewis fans know a thing or two about this man who was once a toddler declaring he would henceforth be called “Jack” (and was for the rest of his life), who was injured in the first world war and called on to preach to the troops in the second, who spent hours each week writing letters back to every single person who’d sent him mail, there are several more details about Lewis’ life that are both inspiring and convicting:

  1. From his first writings, Lewis gave at least two-thirds of his royalties away

Most of the money went to orphans and widows in need. And even more astounding, his charity was largely kept secret until after his death. He says,

“I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc, is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.  I am speaking now of charities’ in the common way. Particular cases of distress among your own relatives, friends, neighbours or employees, which God, as it were, forces upon your notice, may demand much more: even to the crippling and endangering of your own position. For many of us the great obstacle to charity lies not in our luxurious living or desire for more money, but in our fear—fear of insecurity. This must often be recognized as a temptation” (Mere Christianity).

 

  1. Lewis cared for the mother of an army friend for over thirty years

Regardless of speculations on the details, the fact is that Lewis promised Paddy, an army friend, that if he should die during the war, Lewis would look after Paddy’s mother. After Paddy’s death, Lewis was true to his word. Not yet twenty years of age and pinched for money (as he was all his life), he shared a home with this woman he called “Mother” and cared for her the rest of her life. When she went into the nursing home for dementia, he visited her nearly if not every day.

  1. He was extraordinarily prepared for his passing

After recovering from a heart attack in 1963, Lewis wrote to a friend, “Tho’ I am by no means unhappy I can’t help feeling it was rather a pity I did revive in July. I mean, having been glided so painlessly up to the Gate it seems hard to have it shut in one’s face and know that the whole process must some day be gone thro’ again, and perhaps far less pleasantly! Poor Lazarus! But God knows best” (The Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves, 1963). Hooper could not be more right in stating regarding his death, “No one was better prepared” (Readings for Meditation and Reflection).

 

In these ways and so many more, Lewis not only stepped out of the box of what was standard and accepted, but flung the whole flimsy box in the river and proceeded to write soundly against the soppy, wet thing it was.

Both in his writings and in his life, what a guy.

 

Blessings,

Melissa Ferguson

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Take Away from My Terrible, Horrible, No Good…Wonderful Birth Story

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I had a horrible birth experience this time around. My doctor decided last second not to deliver our baby. The moment I stepped inside the hospital an announcement went around for all nurses, doctors, residents and janitors to grab their needles and come take a stab at my unyielding veins. My blood pressure dropped dramatically and nurses had a hard time pulling it back up. For twenty-four hours doctor after doctor warned us that this “abnormally large” baby would tear me to pieces, come out with broken shoulders, or die. Die. I got a spinal headache from the epidural that made me pass in and out of consciousness during actual delivery. The blood patch to fix the spinal headache failed.

Ben and I had never been so emotionally wrecked in our lives.

But thankfully, Elizabeth Grace came perfectly at 12:24pm, weighing at a not-so-abnormally-large 9.2 pounds.

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The spinal headache, however, continued on. Day after day I stared up at the ceiling, painfully unable to lift my head a mere ten degrees. Unable to look down at my baby. Hardly managing the excruciating pain of walking to the bathroom. Worst of all, though, was the fear.

What if I was the anomaly who never got better? What if I was the anomaly who went blind from the spinal fluid that I felt leaking into areas of my body it should never be? After all, I was that 1% who got a spinal headache and I was that 10% with a failed blood patch. Why not be that girl who went blind? Why not be that girl who tried the blood patch a second time and got paralyzed? Who never got better?

In the solitude of my sick bed, fears like this surrounded me, sucking away my hope and joy.

In desperation, I sent my first Facebook request asking for prayers, and wept to the ceiling as the responses flooded in. Prayers came. Calls came. Texts came. People came. So many wonderful meals came. And I got better.

I learned at least one deep lesson from everything: to never ever make light of the power of encouragement or the sweetness of community. We need each other. I tend to forget that when life is full and busy and I’m running around as a happy, healthy mom.

We need each other.

I will strive to remember others, whether by quick text or intricate deed, because I was changed by the kindness of others. I was given hope and love when I needed it most. And thatnot the to-do lists and dishes— is what life is really about.

                “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:34-40

                Blessings,

Melissa Ferguson

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happy daddy!

 

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Sitting up a bit at about two weeks