Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Oh, For the Love of God ... Part 2

Let’s face it, when you are a writer, the word “normal” is a relative term. And when you are a Christian writer, well, sometimes it evades you altogether. Like in my blog last month—Oh, For the Love of God—when I talked about the personal competition I waged in my mind against a complete stranger—some sweet, new author whose debut book happened to release the same month as mine. The poor thing!

Yes, poor, unsuspecting Julie Klassen, author of the highly acclaimed Lady of Milkweed Manor. Little did she know that I had targeted her, had her in my sights as the measure of my success as a debut author. After all, we had a lot in common—brand-new Historical Romance authors writing for sister companies (she, Bethany House, me, Revell), debut books out in the same month, and both of our names are Julie. Made perfect sense to me. So just for fun, I started watching her book, measuring its success against mine, stalking it on, in bookstores, and on the Web.

One day she’d be ahead, one day I would, which was just fine and dandy. Until her sales ranking on Amazon started kicking my butt. Groan … it actually got to the point where my husband would tell me my ranking on Amazon, and I’d say, “I don’t give a rip—where’s Klassen?” Soon the competition began to infect my husband as well, my kids, my friends and even my prayer partners. I swear, in my mind’s eye even my dog—a geriatric golden retriever—would snarl and curl a lip at the mention of Milkweed Manor.

And then it went from bad to worse. There I was (again in my mind’s eye … I spend a lot of time there), crawling on the ground, coughing up dust from Julie Klassen’s rise to stardom. Suddenly her glowing reviews and enviable ranking made her little more than a speck on the horizon before me. “What in the world was this woman doing?” I would shriek to my husband, causing my 13-year-old golden retriever to growl in his sleep. I mean I had done over 30 blog interviews and yet this woman had yet to do one (that I could find, anyway, and believe me, I tried!). Sure, her book was fabulous (yeah, yeah, I read it), but even so, what did she know promotion-wise that I didn’t?

And then I found out something that curdled my blood. Not only was Julie Klassen currently a top Fiction Editor for Bethany House, but she had also worked for years in the advertising field prior to that. AND, to pour a whole box of salt on the proverbial wound of green-eyed jealousy, I learned that she had submitted her manuscript to Bethany House anonymously, wanting it judged on its merit alone. And it was. And published. And a 2008 Christy Award finalist, to boot. And, did I mention, way, WAY ahead of me on Sigh. I was down for the count, sprawled on the floor where sleeping dogs lie, groaning in jealousy. Not “normal” behavior … at least not for a Christian, right?

The good news is that there is one shred of “normal” in this whole pathetic story—it is normal for God to bless people when they apply His precepts. So I did. I rebuked that green-eyed monster of jealousy in Jesus’ name, repented and pulled the plug on Amazon, fasting it for months. I would occasionally allow my husband to tell me what my ranking was, but I never asked him about Milkweed Manor again. I was done comparing, measuring, coveting. Then I nailed the final death blow to my sin with daily fervent prayers on Julie Klassen’s behalf, beseeching God to send Lady of Milkweed Manor straight to the Bestseller List.

And then His blessings came. In the form of peace and calm (if you know me at all, not a normal thing). Suddenly, I had this glorious assurance that my success or lack thereof was in God’s hands, not mine, leaving me free to relax and write and seek Him with a clean heart. But He wasn’t through with me yet. Not by a long shot.

Fast forward to the ACFW Conference in Minneapolis this year where I was jawing with somebody during a bathroom break. Out of the corner of my eye, I see this tall blond kind of slink down to look at my name-badge.

“Julie Lessman?”

I freeze, my gaze darting to her lanyard. The shock slowed my blood to a crawl “Julie Klassen?” I moved toward her, the dire need to come clean all but burning in my throat. “I have to confess—I've been watching your ranking on Amazon, and your reviews are great."

She smiled and took a step closer, a twinkle of a tease in her very blue eyes. “Yes, but what I want to know is why you have twice as many reviews on Amazon as I do?"

I blinked. Say what?

“I'll tell you why,” she said with a swish of her long, blond hair, “Because your book is selling, that's why."

I couldn’t have been more shocked than if she had shot me with a stun gun. Dear Lord—I knew I wasn’t normal, but apparently I wasn’t alone! That did it—I divulged the whole sordid tale, from the jealousy, to the stalking, to the moment I finally laid it all at God’s feet.

She laughed and told me that she was tired of receiving e-mails from readers about how much they liked "her" book -- A Passion Most Pure!! Hard to believe—that the very person the devil used to make me jealous is the same person God used to bless the socks off of me! Now I ask you, isn’t that just like our God?

That day, Julie Klassen and I forged a friendship I will never forget … and God reaffirmed a Scripture I will always remember: 1 Samuel 2:30—God honors those who honor Him.

Please join me in welcoming debut author and Bethany House editor Julie Klassen to Seekerville next month, Wednesday, December 10. Julie will be on hand to give you a unique glimpse at a writer who has experienced both sides of the picture—as a debut author and an editor. In the meanwhile, be sure to check out Julie’s Web site at and her book, Lady of Milkweed Manor. You won’t be sorry … or at least, I hope, not as sorry I was!! (Grin)


Sandra Leesmith said...

Julie, What an awesome story and so like our God. He does have a sense of humor doesn't He? I just can't picture you with that green-eyed monster but I could picture you battling it. You're a fighter and a great writer. oops sorry for the rhyme.

Your books A PASSION MOST PURE and A PASSION REDEEMED are great reads. I'm glad Julie Klassen's is also. I'll look for it because there's always room for a good book on our shelves. We need not worry that someone writes well. We should be grateful because good authors who write good books bring lots of readers to the genre.

I think the quality of CBA fiction has really raised several notches and that is to the credit of all the hard work of authors learning their craft, attending conferences like ACFW and networking like we do at Seekerville.

Keep up the good work Miss Julie Lessman

Janet Dean said...

Julie, thanks for blessing us with this post! Your honesty is so YOU, as is your repentence. Aren't we blessed that God keeps loving and forgiving us when we ask Him? I love how God brought the Julies together. There's never a dull moment in Lessman Land. :-)

I'm sure most of us upon occasion have looked in the mirror and seen a green-eyed monster. It's hard not to compare our books, our career with others, instead of focusing on the path God has set before us. Thanks for the reminder to keep our hearts pure and our focus on Him.

I look forward to meeting Julie Klassen here in Seekerville in December!


Julie Lessman said...

Sandra, thanks SO much for your kind words ... and so early in the morning too! And, yes, I totally agree that the CBA has done a remarkable job in raising the bar in Christian fiction. We are blessed to be part of this wonderful ministry.

Now go get some of those strawberry blintzes I just put out or if you're on the run, my favorite -- Starbucks cheese danish. Either way, enjoy!


Julie Lessman said...

Grin, Janet, I like that -- "there's never a dull moment in Lessman Land!" My poor husband will certainly attest to that. The poor man -- I think he may be having regrets over becoming an artist. I just got three samples of cover model poses for book 3, and I had him put each one in the book 3 cover I have so far, just to see which I liked best. Say one for him, will you -- living with me is NOT easy!

And as far as the "repentence" thing goes, I am just so darn good at it because I've had so much darn practice. Sigh.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Julie for two things: one, the courage to put your green-eyed monster on display and two, for writing a great book! Because I am trying to read "the best of's" historical romance (to learn the latest about the market I'm targeting), I'd chosen two great examples: A PASSION MOST PURE and LADY OF MILKWEED MANOR. I found it funny to hear your inside scoop about them.

I'm thrilled to hear yet again how our Father blesses us despite ourselves!

Debra Marvin

Glynna Kaye said...

Wow, Julie! Talk about your "everything works for the good for those who love God and are called according to HIS purpose." So wonderful how he brought two great writers together!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Julie -

Thanks for your story. Your willingness to repent and move in a direction pleasing to God speaks volumes about your character.

I appreciate your example.

Susan :)

Julie Lessman said...


Thank you SOOO much for your kind comment, but I am afraid that I don't get much credit for either of the points you mentioned.

1.) I am COMPELLED to put my failings in print because I tend to talk about God and prayer a lot, and I want people to realize that I am not some "good Christian girl" who has it all down cold, but a pretty pathetic sinner who goes around the mountain more times than the Israelites.

And 2.) As far as "writing a great book," of course that blesses the socks off of me to hear that, but the truth is without God in my life, there would be no books. Period.

And I am sooo excited you are going to read Milkweed. Julie Klassen is truly an amazing author, and reading her book will certainly give you a glimpse at some of the best out there in your chosen genre. I wish you well in your endeavors, Debra, and may God open the door for you at just the right time ...


Julie Lessman said...

Hey Glynna,

Yeah, isn't that the truth??? The Christian's bona fide insurance policy in the flesh -- God truly does "work all things together for good for those who love the Lord." AMEN!!


Julie Lessman said...

Thanks, Susan, for taking the time to drop AND to leave a comment -- truly appreciated!

Mmmm ... my character, pretty decent for the most part, I suppose, but Dear Lord, don't get in front of me on the highway ... OR when I'm hungry. YIKES! Still working on those two, among many, many others! :)


lynnrush said...

Great post. Thank you for sharing it with us. Amazing how God works, huh?

God bless your writing.

Julie Lessman said...

Hey All,

I did it again -- planned an all-day outing with my aunt on a day that I should be fielding comments on a blog. Sigh ... keeping a calendar is obviously not one of my strong suits.

At any rate, I'm off and running for the day, but will try to pop in when I can.


Kim said...

Hey Julie!
What a terrific post! Thank you for sharing your heart so honestly and for telling us how God designed that wonderful meeting with the "other" Julie! That was AWESOME! God just has the best design for everything, does He not?

I'll look forward to Julie's upcoming visit to Seekerville as well as more of your terrific stories!


Melanie Dickerson said...

You are so funny, Julie! And so refreshingly honest! I could see me doing the same thing. (The jealousy part, not necessarily the honesty part!)

I have to remind myself why I'm writing. Is it for my fame, my glory, my success? So I wrote out some statements during my quiet time. I modified a couple of verses like this: "Because you are my help, I write in the shadow of your wings." Psalm 63:7, which actually says, I sing in the shadow of your wings. David was a songwriter, I'm a novel writer. Same concept, right?

Here's Psalm 63:3
"Because your love is better than life, my words will glorify you." "Words" in place of "lips." One of the scriptures for today in my Beth Moore study was Isaiah 26:8
"... we wait for you; your name and renown are the desires of our hearts." How applicable that is to me right now. I feel like all I do is wait, and it's not fun. But if God's name and renown are the desires of my heart, I can wait. As long as I need to.

KellyMarstad said...

Okay, now I'm not what I would consider a very emotional person, but THAT was fabulous.

I laughed, I cried... seriously. You had me welling up there and nodding my head. I even did a breathy Ahhhhhhh at the end.

God is so very very cool. As I sit here stressing over my MS and wondering how the heck I'm ever going to make it among such fabulous women and men in this genre, I'm going to remember to keep God first. Thank you for the reminder, Julie.

Erica Vetsch said...

Julie, your transparency is much to be admired. It is so easy to slide into that trap of comparing ourselves to others, no matter if it is our writing, our sales numbers, our income, our body type...the list just goes on and on.

What is amazing is, and you pointed this out so beautifully, we're all doing it to each other. We're all--as Angela Hunt said--muddling in the middle.

God blessed you because you were willing to allow Him to help you kill that green-eyed monster, and through that experience you've blessed Julie Klassen, and all the Seekerville readers.

Thank you!

Mary Connealy said...

Julie, This is a great story.

And probably the nicest stalker anyone else had so Julie Klassen is a lucky woman.

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Julie, you never cease to amaze me, nor cease to leave me even more amazed with God and His provision for us and His pleasure in doing good things for us.

Great post!


Jessica said...

This is SO sweet and what a great lesson in obeying God instead of our flesh.
Very Awesome! Thanks for sharing, Julie. :-)

Julie Klassen said...

I'll never forget that bathroom-meeting either. I had planned to try to find Julie Lessman at the conference (although I never imagined introducing myself beside a bathroom stall!)to pass on all the compliments I was receiving on HER book (low guttural groan here :)) only to have her share her "confession" with me. Julie is clearly a funny, talented, and transparent person (my favorite kind) and I'm delighted to call her a newfound friend.

Avily Jerome said...

Great post!

I have those stalker-tendencies. I don't even want to know what I'll be like when I'm published!

Maybe I can learn from your story and nip that in the bud... :)

Cara Slaughter said...

ROFL!!!!! You and Julie K. are both wonderful authors.

Audra Harders said...

OMG, Julie! I began reading this and thinking, is this our JL? Did someone dye her hair green in the middle of the night and pour espresso X 100 into her morning coffee? Jules, the devil you say!!!


And I'm happy to hear you're just like the rest of us -- er, I mean me : ) Gets depressing, doesn't it when friendly competition turns into a mind war. Totally useless and self defeating, but for a time, sure feels good : )

I love how you just dump it in the Lord's lap. I always feel like such a weenie when I do it, but He deals with this stuff way better than I do.

Aren't we lucky?

Anyway, it's nice to see you have a dark side Julie : )

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Julie, I just reread this story and wished I'd heard it sooner. You bless my socks off with your absolute honestly. Love, love, love it.

This story will live in my heart and mind for a long time. LOL. And it's one that will benefit any debut author or authors wrestling with the green-eyed monster. I wonder if there's any of us who have not wrestled it.

Thanks for being so delightfully transparent. You honor Him more than you know.



Cheryl Wyatt said...

and...the OTHER Julie...welcome to Seekerville Comments Section.

Looking even more forward to your post next month.

And we promise not to love one Julie's post over the other.


Too funny.

The two of you should seriously consider doing a workshop at ACFW on Writer Envy. Your story would be perfect for it.


Marcie Gribbin said...

Popping in from lurkerville to say, "GREAT POST, JULIE!!"

Julie Lessman said...

Hey Lynn, YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It IS AMAZING how God works (I know Ms. Fortune is puking right about now with all those exclamation points, but it's absolutely A-OK to do when talking about our God, eh?). Thanks for you comment, Lynn!

KIM!!!!!!!!!! Always love to see your name pop up on a comment, my friend. And, yes, I was hoping everyone would think this story (and what God did with the bathroom encounter) was just as amazing as I did. Thanks for agreeing ... and for your sweet comment.

MEL!!!!!!!!!!! Yes, I can see you doing this too, my friend, because as sweet and gentle as you are, we are all writers, and all writers have that green streak that shows up now and then. Thank you for the scriptures -- they're wonderful and sooooooooooooo true!!!


Julie Lessman said...

Kelly!!! Gosh, your comment made ME laugh and cry -- thank you for your sweet, kind words and for taking the time to say them. And, YES, God is sooooo very cool, which means you do NOT have to worry one iota about that ms., girl. You pray and write (and hang out at Seekerville!) and keep your heart clean, and the Big Guy Upstairs will do the rest, guaranteed!

Thanks for your comment, Erica. Yeah, transparency is a good thing, I guess, except when it's showing people your ugly side. I am a very transparent person, but that's not so good when I lose my temper or whine or get crotchety ... all major flaws that I deal with ... uh, or should say, my husband deals with. Pray for him, will you? :)

Hey Mare!!!! You know, I hesitated just the slightest bit to use the word "stalker" in my blog because I did not want Julie K. to think she had to change her phone # or anything, but I guess she took it in stride because she's still talking to me ... :)

Julie Lessman said...

Cheryl, you sweet thing, talk about never "ceasing to amaze," I feel EXACTLY the same about you, both as a writer and a prayer warrior, my friend. Love ya!

Hi Jessica, yeah the obeying God thing instead of our flesh is not a real pleasant (or easy) thing to do, but I have had TONS of experience because 1.) I'm old and 2.) I'm bad. :)

JULIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You made it -- I am SO glad! It's wonderful having you here, my friend. And you had planned to try and find me at the conference??? Wow, that is soooo cool! It makes this story all the more amazing, doesn't it??


Julie Lessman said...

Cheryl, you sweet thing, talk about never "ceasing to amaze," I feel EXACTLY the same about you, both as a writer and a prayer warrior, my friend. Love ya!

Hi Jessica, yeah the obeying God thing instead of our flesh is not a real pleasant (or easy) thing to do, but I have had TONS of experience because 1.) I'm old and 2.) I'm bad. :)

JULIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You made it -- I am SO glad! It's wonderful having you here, my friend. And you had planned to try and find me at the conference??? Wow, that is soooo cool! It makes this story all the more amazing, doesn't it??


Julie Lessman said...

Avily -- I think we ALL have those stalker tendancies (PLEASE tell me you and I are not alone!!), or at least we can all relate. Thanks for stopping by and taking time to comment -- MUCH appreciated!

Cara, thanks, sweetie! Just being put in the same sentence with Julie K or the same blog feels good to me. She's one classy author.

Oooo, Audra, you were one sweet friend I was trying to hide my dark side from. Guess it's too late now, isn't it? And, yeah, I am REAL good at dumping things in God's lap -- it's such a rush -- for both me AND Him!! :) And, YES, we ARE lucky!

Cheryl, you're back again -- get to work on those 6 manuscripts of yours, girl, will you?? Seriously, thanks for rereading my post, but stop hemming and hawing and get back to work! :)

Marcie, thanks SO much for coming out of lurkdom to say hi and take the time to comment -- you're a sweetie!


Tina M. Russo said...

Oh this is the famous bathroom meeting. Must be something about bathrooms. That's where I met Ruth!!

What a great post, Jules. Thanks for sharing from your heart.

Julie Lessman said...

Hey Tina!

Thanks, sweetie. I HAVE to share my heart -- does wonders for the guilt factor, you know?


Debby Giusti said...

Hi Julie,
I'm coming home late from a book club meeting and checked into Seekerville. Your post was such a . . . what? Reality check. Aren't we always worried about something? Amazon ratings or the lack of them? RT reviews?

God has blessed both his Jules with the gift of creating beautiful stories that touch readers' hearts. Looking forward to hearing from the "other" Julie in December.

Missy Tippens said...

I was in the bathroom (the one Julie was jabbering with), and I saw this whole event. It was so funny!! And they were so cute talking together.

So yes, I vouch for this post. I heard the whole wonderful converstaion. God is amazing!! :)


Amy said...

Everytime you share a story, Julie, it just so completely blesses me and even makes my eyes a little moist. I love it when you blog...though it's all too rare!

Arianna said...

Haha, I just had to laugh when I read this ;) Jealousy can be a terrible thing when it sneaks up on you, but good thing we have a loving and forgiving God, right? Great post!

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Aw, Julie we all go through that.

I often find myself with tiny thoughts of "why not ME, Lord?!"

Yes, I said tiny thoughts, but don't belive for one minute that the word is relavent. They are sharp and cut deep. And remember, the bible says it's the "little" foxes that spoil the den. :-)

But as you say, our God is good!

I've learned to turn the thoughts over to Him and rest in His plans for my future....after all....He promises me that His plan is "for good"

Take care my friend.


Julie Lessman said...

Deb!! Thanks SO much for stopping in after your book club meeting -- if you're anything like me, you were beat, I'm sure, and I appreciate you taking the time to comment, my friend.

MISSY!!!!! Oh man, I feel sooo bad because I was sooo blown away by Julie Klassen in the bathroom, that I'm afraid I forgot what we were talking about!! :) Please forgive me for just walking away (albeit, it was in a state of shock that I did so, so hopefully that will excuse my rudeness.).


Julie Lessman said...

AMY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I always get tickled when you stop by, sweetie. How in the world do you have the time with all the blogs you visit???? Thank you for your sweet comment, but MOSTLY for your precious friendship. Meeting you is one of the nicest things that has happened to me in the world of blogs, my friend.

Hey Ariana ... uh, YEAH, it is definitely "a good thing" we have a "loving and forgiving" God or I'd be in a HEAP of trouble!! :) Thanks for stopping by!

Hey Pamela!!! Yep, "tiny" or brazen, those thoughts of jealousy can take us down because with that sin, I'm convinced size doesn't matter. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment -- you're the best!


Joanne Sher said...

Oh...WHAT an amazing story - and so encouraging to me :)I LOVE it

Anita Mae said...

Awh Julie - of all the days to miss Seekerville. I would have loved being in on this discussion.

You are so brave to have posted this. A first-hand lesson in how God takes our indiscretions and uses them for His good.

Good job for coming clean. For what it's worth, I'm proud to call you friend.

Julie Lessman said...

Joanne -- Soooo glad I could encourage you! Thanks for your sweet comment, which encourages me!

Anita Mae!!!!! Don't worry about missing yesterday -- your comment today is blessing enough, my friend.

And, grin, "brave" or stupid -- not sure which, but either way, it's out there now! And I'm proud to call you a friend, too, sweetie. Thanks for your kind comment.


crittyjoy said...


What a beautiful story...I love how God uses the worst things in our lives for the best, out of jealousy He gave you a new friend. :o)

You know I love your books, but sometimes I think more than your writing it is YOU that is the drawing point. You are a fabulous writer but you are also an authentic and warm person.

Thank you for sharing this it was a blessing to read.


Julie Lessman said...

Oh, wow, Christy, your sweet comment brought tears to my eyes!! Thank you soooo much for taking the time to leave it and for the amazing sentiment. One of the greatest gifts God has given me in this whole writing adventure is incredible friends like you!

Love you!

vince said...

Hi Julie:

I’m a little late but I had to say how much I enjoyed your blog. It reads just like the short inspirational stories I read from time to time in “The Daily Word” a Unity publication. I think your piece is very publishable if the right eyes see it.

By the way I was so curious by the story that I immediately ordered “A Passion Most Pure” and “Lady of Milkweed Manor” and I am going to use your printed-out post as a book mark in both books. Your book arrived the next day! Did you know that “A Passion Most Pure” is available as a Sony eBook but “Lady of Milkweed Manor” is not? This is good because if the type proves to be too small for me, I’ll just order the eBook.



Julie Lessman said...

Gosh, Vince, your comment made my day!!! Thank you SO much for your kind words AND for ordering both my book and Julie's -- what a blessing to me that is!

I hope you enjoy A Passion Most Pure (I KNOW you will enjoy Milkweed Manor as it is written in a beautiful Jane Austin type prose that will enthrall you). I'd love to hear what you think of APMP when you are through, as a man. My husband loved it, except he wanted more action scenes. Sigh -- typical man, I suppose. :)

Again, thank you for your kind comment -- you add SO much to our Seekerville readership!


Linda Marie Finn said...

I just love the sound of Milkweed Manor, I love Jane Austin.
Linda Finn