Waking From a Long Hibernation
You know how you feel when you wake up from a fourth month nap? You don’t? Well, that means you’re definitely not a box turtle. Our aged box turtle of 33 plus years recently awakened from her hibernation. Did she spring into action? Gobbling up everything in sight? Er, no. As a matter of fact, we’ve had to prod her along with warm baths and sleeps in the house at night to keep her forward momentum. Boydie is just not all that eager to leap back into action. I feel simpatico with this reptile. All during this pandemic, I have been chomping at the proverbial bit to restart life and now that the world is showing signs of reopening, I find myself hesitant.
Crowds? Hmmm. Airplane flights? Umm…Handshakes and hugs and kisses? Well….The world hasn’t just stopped, it’s changed. It will take some effort to reengage in the new ways. At first blush, that can seem disappointing. Will we ever return to free spirited congregating without a thought of the virus that shall not be named? Probably not. And that could be discouraging, but I choose not to be daunted.
I have always had the notion that I would not trade the life I have, for the life I have not. Meaning, while I would like to have made different choices, been more daring, learned and experienced more, been braver about career choices, I am choosing to be grateful for what I have now and will have going forward. I’m a long way from mastering this, but it seems like the post pandemic phase is a good time to practice. So instead of…
“Uggh, I have to wear a mask everywhere…” I say, “It’s so good to be out around people again.”
Instead of…“I sure miss going to a packed movie theater”…I appreciate being able to enjoy amazing movie selections from the safety of my home.
And rather than…”I missed out on so many moments with my friends and family”…I am so excited to reconnect as time and circumstances allow. If it’s masked, if it’s short, if it’s socially distanced…that’s okay.
That’s my plan and I’m going to try and stick to it! Post-hibernation…here I come!
From Bookworm to Bookwriter
One of the questions I get asked the most is if I’ve always wanted to be an author. My answer is no. Writing was never on my radar but it was in God’s plan for my life.
I have always loved books, though. Some of my earliest memories with my grandmother involve the library. I would make my way downstairs to the children’s section while grandma would spend time researching genealogy.
My love for reading followed me into adulthood. My preferred genre was mystery/suspense. No romance. None. Ew. Yuck. In 2013 I started keeping track of the books I read that year, I think my total was 63. In 2014 I started reading one of James Patterson’s series. I believe I was on the fourth book in the series when my father was rushed to the emergency room with pneumonia and admitted. I continued reading. I’d go up at night and sit with him. He’d watch some show and I’d read a book. Much like high school. One week turned into two weeks. Two into three. He spent 23 days in the hospital until he was placed on hospice. He died the next day.
I mourned. I grieved. I cried. A lot. I continued to read. I threw myself into books. I escaped the pain with books. Again, I kept a log of the books I read that year. By December 31, 2014, I had read 135 books. I doubled the previous year. Reading was my therapy.
I remember being at my mom’s house once day and needing something to read. She’s not a reader but a coworker had given her two books for me. Which, if I’m honest, did not appeal to me. They were Love Inspired Suspense books. Remember, romance, yuck. Plus, I hadn’t read any Christian fiction. But I was desperate. I read those two books and was hooked. Fast forward to March 2015, 135+ books later, a large chunk of them Love Inspired Suspense, I was reading one day and thought “I can do this. I can write a book.” And I did.
I have a vague recollection of starting NaNoWriMo in 2011 with a friend. I think the only thing I accomplished was completing a profile and never looked back. But I dove in and started writing this book. The words flowed.
The main character comes home to take care of her recently deceased father’s estate. Something I know a thing or two about. I found a contest hosted by Love Inspired Suspense, #blurbtobook. I stepped out of my comfort zone and entered. I didn’t make it past the first round but I dug in and finished writing the novel and submitted it through their regular channel. All my hard work ended with a form rejection. By this time, I had already started on book two and decided to sit on book one for a while.My best friend continued to encourage me to find a publisher for the book. I kept saying I’d do it one day, maybe when book two was complete.
God had other plans though. I was browsing Facebook on my lunch break one day when a friend mentioned #pitmad. I thought “Why not?” I pitched and got a like within 5 minutes. That was such an amazing feeling. I submitted and eventually signed a contract. Thus, Hidden Danger was born. I’ve since written and published two more novels, Expecting Danger and Deadly Connection, and one novella, Giving Grace. And there are many more to come.
God has given me a career I didn’t know I wanted.
It’s been nine years since I first began writing, and June is release month for my debut novel, Shattered Guilt. I can’t believe it’s here, and celebrating Father’s Day this month, makes me wish my dad were here to share in the excitement. We shared dreams together, but writing was not one of mine when he was alive. Yet, way back then, he was overjoyed when a short family memory I wrote, was published in a Christian Perpetual Calendar. That was eons ago, and my head is still spinning over the steep learning curve I embarked on once I got serious about writing. I’m still climbing that roller coaster.
Looking back on my old pages, I chuckle at my characters. I think they are my favorite part of writing. I’d begin with some snippet of a personality in mind. More often than not, it was someone I knew, and it evolved from there. But when I studied how to write, I realized that my good guys were really good, and my bad guys were really bad. When I learned that my heroine needed flaws, the thought made me squirm. I came to discover that I’d created characters out of my idealized reality. My characters were like Mary Poppins. Practically perfect in every way. Not human.
Consequently, I left out the other side of humanity—fallen man. Somehow I missed the notion that when writing Christian Fiction, it’s about God at work in our lives. He’s the focus. The story is not just about a man or woman overcoming trials. I’m forever reminded of that in my daily quiet times. I begin, with my sins past and present looming, but when I’m bathed in God’s love through His Word, my shortcomings fade away. He is forever at work in my life. How could I forget that? His grace slays me to humble gratefulness.
Here’s an example. The first draft of Shattered Guilt was not about Melanie, the current main character, the mom. It was about Lacey, her teenage daughter. At the time that I wrote it, my youngest daughter was fifteen, and when she read the first few chapters, she came to me and said, “Mom, it’s me. Isn’t it?” She rolled her eyes. “Don’t you like it?” I asked her. She did. My daughter found it amusing, a little embarrassing, but she liked it. Of course, she would. There were no flaws to speak of! Funny physical antics, but an impeccable character, especially for a teenager.
Another case in point. When I wrote about Melanie’s father, I drew from my dad. His wisdom, love, and his adventurous spirit. This wonderful man is depicted initially in Shattered Guilt—just a brief mention. But, as the years went on, and I wrote Melanie’s backstory and a prelude novelette, Revived Hope, (scheduled for a November release) the dad had to be authentic. In digging up his past, I had to show his faults.
Here’s a little backstory, not in the book.
Charlene giggled. “He’s cute, sis!” She elbowed her sister, but suddenly her eyes grew wide as her gaze focused across the room. “Is that one of the Ridley girls?” She raised a chin and nodded towards the pregnant waitress. “When did that happen?”
“She probably doesn’t even know who the father is.” Their dad spoke abruptly. He stared straight at Melanie with hard eyes. “If you don’t watch it, that could be you.”
“Whoa! Whoa! Dad, that’s pretty harsh. Melanie hasn’t even been on a date yet.”
Harsh is right! But overprotective fathers often are, and Melanie’s was no different.
Because I live my life in idealized reality, I usually write that way at first. Then I go back and insert my character’s misgivings and imperfections. Even still, I tend to see the best in those I love the most, making excuses for their faults, but all the while begging God to draw them to Him. It’s because He has been so gracious to me in forgiving my transgressions. When I’m remembering this, it’s easier to put in the flaws vital to the growth, the arc of my character’s development. To trust God, so to speak, and then we can see … Him at work.
So, idealized reality? I made that up, but I kind of like it, and what better time to utilize it than in the month of June, when we celebrate Father’s Day. I always remember the good things about my dad. He was sometimes ideal but always real. I hope that you enjoy the good memories of your dad. And if that was or is difficult, set your eyes on God, the good, good father. Explore the depths of His love for you. He left a whole pile of love letters to remind you.