Wooden flooring—wide plank. Old but well-maintained. Built-in bookshelves with carved molding both painted and original wood. Window seats in bay windows all around the perimeter. Couches in the center of the cozy room. Wingback chairs tucked in any corner, nook, or cranny available. Big-band music playing so softly you really can’t hear it if people are talking.
And books. Great, heaping gobs of books.
I’ve had a mental picture of this place for years, and it haunts my soul. Is it my dream library? Nope. It’s the bookstore I’d own if I ever had the time or money (or both!) to start one. I dream of this place sometimes.
Picture it. You step into the store with your two kids (or ten… or grandkids!) and they’re welcome. There’s a whole section where they can curl up in beanbag chairs, in one of those window seats, or at tables and immerse themselves in books and puzzles.
In a little room off to one side, a book club is debating the merits and demerits of that month’s read. Laughter escapes in regular bursts, and occasionally arguments reminiscent of the movie version of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (regarding Anne Bronte) draw lookie loos.
The staff knows their stuff. If they haven’t read the book you want, they know who has and will get that expert opinion for you immediately. That’s where the old-style store meets modern technology. In seconds a text wings its way to the only other lover of P.Q Humblood’s mysteries, and ten minutes later, you’ve got a list of which ones are the best and which ones are on the top shelf behind the counter next to the untouched Crime and Punishments.
And unlike most independent and chain bookstores, there’s an enormous Bible, Christian nonfiction, and Christian fiction section. Hey. It’s my store. I can have what I want, right?
The only things that comfort me about not owning this dream store (and it may be a reality someday, who knows?) are books about bookstores. I can name dozens, but I’ll try to stick to my favorites. What about…
- The Secrets of Paper and Ink by Lindsay Harrell
- Hope Between the Pages by Pepper Basham
- Brought to Book by Barbara Cornthwaite
- The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay
I have so many pushing at this locked door in the back of my mind that the moment this article goes live, I guarantee I’ll be saying, “Wait! What about?” and “Oh, I forgot!” And all the bookness.
Is it any wonder that I decided to create an entire series about bookstores? My Bookstrings Series features Milton Coleridge (yes, that’s his actual name, poor fellow) and his trusty parrotlet, Atticus (not Finch!). By “day” he rescues companies from bankruptcy or takeover. By “weekend” he rescues bookstores from extinction.
The first book in the series, Spines & Leaves takes place near Joshua Tree National Park and is a short novella to introduce the series. It’s a part of the Song of Grace anthology and will only be available on Kindle through that collection for a short while. The first full-length book is slated for November of 2022.
But then I got an idea for a Christmas novella. See, two years ago, I went home to Noel (pronounce knoll), Missouri and an old dream of mine from back when I was fourteen revived. I so wanted to open a bookstore in the tiny house at the end of the bridge. Just recently, someone put an ice cream shop in there, and that was sweet, but… sigh.
Well… the Mosaic Collection’s Christmas Anthology is coming out, and I realized I could do it. I could write a short little novella about how that little house finally did become a bookstore… and what it took to make that store succeed. Milton and Atticus in “my” little town? I had to do it.
So, look for Hart of Noel in this year’s Mosaic Collection, The Heart of Christmas anthology. I hope you love Joshua Hart, Honey Potts (no, really!), and all of my Noel friends. I’m packing as much of real Noel into a book about my dream Noel as possible.
Meet Valerie Hornigold
If you read these articles every month, you know I have been introducing you to some of my characters in the Independence Islands Series. You have meet Beth Stevens (and a bit of Scott Anderson), Thaddaeus Reynolds, Raylin McReynolds, and Gram. They are all heroes in some way and readers love their stories.
This month, I’m sharing a not-so-loveable character – Valerie Hornigold. You met her in Scrumptious Independence. In Heart Pressed, Ben Hornigold – her cousin – gave Beth a little insight into Valerie’s background. She has been a background character throughout the series but her poor choices make her an absent entity in the storyline.
Valerie isn’t a villain by choice as much as she is by circumstance. Her upbringing wasn’t as nice as some and she found herself at the working and of a daddy’s wrath more times than not. Though she desired to be accepted by the men in her life, they never came to appreciate her the way they did other girls. As she got older, her desire to be loved had her making some very poor choices and using her feminine charms to get what she wanted. Like trying to force her way into Scott Anderson’s life, romantically, or when she committed a crime to get back at him and Beth.
She is the one person who was upset when Beth sailed into the islands with her food truck. And when she and Scott met on the ferry that day, Valerie made a point to make Beth’s Life hectic by spreading gossip and working with a greedy mayor. Her goal of getting Scott to love her to making Beth’s Life so miserable she would pack and leave.
But if you’re reading the stories, you know that’s not happening.
So, why would I write a character like this? My answer is simple—everybody knows Valerie and those that are compassionate desire for her to see the error of her ways and turn over a new leaf.
You see Valerie’s story is ever developing even though she is not a constant presence in the series. There’s a part of me that actually likes her and I feel like she needs her own book, but it would be such a heartbreaking tale. I’m not sure Christian fiction is ready for some of it. Then again, I could be wrong. What I do know for sure is we all know people like her. The kind of people who are searching for something to fill a hole within them. People who need Jesus.
No one told Valerie, yet, how precious she is and that she is worth more than what her looks can offer. That she doesn’t have to degrade herself and do despicable things to be loved. She needs someone to show her, but who will introduce her to that kind of life-changing love? Will she ever find someone to love her the way she should be loved?
Writing can be a scary business. You pour words onto a page and hope whoever comes along picks up what you’re trying to say. You inject a message or a theme in each work, and readers bring their own interpretation to the story. Sometimes those two don’t match up. Sometimes you pick up a story and it’s exactly what you needed and it comes to you at the perfect moment.
As an author, I often don’t know what I’ll be writing next. I have a list of ideas longer than my arm (and I have pretty long arms considering my height). I’m working on my last book in the Independence Islands series right now. Christian finally gets his story! Yay! He’s been slowly creeping into the other books, and now he’s ready to talk to me and let you get to know him. I’m going to miss this series, but I’m also excited to start the next round of books that I have lined up.
I started writing seven years ago, and when I began that first book, I knew I was taking a major leap into an adventure. As Bilbo would say, “I’m going on an adventure!” And what a ride it has been so far. I’m getting to do what I love.
Soon, my ninth contemporary Christian romance book will be published. Next year, I’ll be mixing it up with some historical romance and an Alice in Wonderland retelling with a fantasy twist. I can’t imagine another job where I get to do this thing that I love and meet amazing people who are so uplifting and inspiring.
I had no idea what I was doing seven years ago. I thought this whole writing thing would be a solo gig. Well. A me and God gig. I didn’t realize how much I needed other people. For anyone who knows me, I am not good at asking for help. I love to help other people, but I tend to function solo.
Writing is not a solo activity.
If you’re a writer and you’re trying to do all of this on your own, I beg you to reach out to others. We’re here for each other.
Writing is not for the faint of heart. So have courage. Be strong and courageous.
I picked this verse last year as my verse for the year, and it has kept me going. When I think I can’t press on, I read it again.