On writing: What I could write and why I don’t.

For as long as I can remember, I could write. And not just write, but write well.

When I decided to write books for publication, I surprised some folks.

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“Do you really want to be known as something eone who writes about sexual abuse?” (A pastor asked me that one.)

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“Why can’t you write stories like ___(insert favorite Christian romance genre writer here)___.” (A relative asked me that.)

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I’ve fielded countless other similar questions since then. Still, my novels (with all gratefulness and glory to Him) sell well enough that I have a fourth one coming out in 2018, and a re-release of the said sexual abuse story in less than two months, September 1 to be exact.

The people who asked those questions above were right. Kind of. To be sure, my novels are meant to entertain. Each has threads of romance, intrigue, and even a little mystery in them. But those things aren’t ultimately what propels the characters, or me to write them.

I’m well aware that I don’t write what I “should” write–at least not in the eyes of others. I write the stories I argue with God about until I’m 100% certain that’s what He wants me to write. I write as a reluctant introvert and as someone who could write genre romance or Hallmark-esque stories, but I’m not called to write those. Some writers are, and that’s spectacular for them. Truly. Readers want and need and buy those books. They sell well. But whenever I’ve tried to write something more like so-and-so or less personally honest or less edgy or whatever descriptives/labels you’d like to use, I just can’t. My mind goes blank. Either that, or what comes out is a linguistically shameful blob of nonsense. (Just ask my beloved editors.)

Nevertheless, if a lifetime of Bible stories have taught me anything, it’s this: Most people won’t understand the work of someone who is listening to or following the Lord.

That doesn’t stop me from struggling with what I feel called to write. It’s downright scary to put stories out there I know are going to ruffle some feathers.

Gratefully, what I write and why made a little more sense to me when my pastor spoke this weekend about Proverbs 24:10-12. Here it is in The Message version:

“If you fall to pieces in a crisis,
there wasn’t much to you in the first place.
Rescue the perishing;
don’t hesitate to step in and help.
If you say, “Hey, that’s none of my business,”
will that get you off the hook?
Someone is watching you closely, you know—
Someone not impressed with weak excuses.”

 

See, I was perishing once. Still am, if I’m honest. Back when I wrote my first novel, How Sweet the Sound, I was perishing under the weight of having been sexually abused for over 10 years as a child and I had questions…BIG questions…for a God I grew up believing could stop such evil, and yet it had happened to me. I learned there were hundreds of thousands of others who had suffered the same way, so I couldn’t say sexual abuse wasn’t any of my business. Sexual abuse was all about my business. And when I argued with God about why it all happened, well…

How Sweet the Sound was born.

How Sweet the Sound is an unlikely novel about an unlikely family in Southern Alabama torn apart by the same fate I suffered. I wrote and wrote and re-wrote and re-wrote, until not only did I have a book about it, but I had a book of hope. And that’s the key to my stories right there.

I wrote a book of hard and a book of hope.

Whether or not it ever makes a best-seller list makes no difference, especially in light of Proverbs 24:10-12.

What makes a difference are the tens of hundreds of notes and handshakes and nods from others who’ve been sexually abused and say to me, “Me too. Thank you.”

Me too.

Thank you.

What they thank me for is not a book as much as for the hope the characters in that story found in the midst of their perishing circumstances.

Each one of my books is like that. How Sweet the Sound is about not turning my head to and finding hope in the midst of sexual abuse. Then Sings My Soul is about not turning my head to the plight of the aging and elderly. Lead Me Home is about not turning my head to the plight of small churches and small communities and overlooked people in our midst. And my fourth book (title TBD), releasing in 2018, is about not turning my head to the plight of the unborn, the plight of birth mothers, and the plight of those in the midst of the opiod epidemic that’s happening right smack in the middle of each of our back yards.

The sexually abused, the aging, small folks, and the unborn and birth mothers…all of them have two very real things in common:

1) People turn their heads to them.

2) They’re all desperate for hope in the midst of perishing situations.

Because when you’ve got nothing, hope means everything.

(((which just might be a direct quote from my upcoming 2018 novel)))

Could there be any greater reason to write–or to read, for that matter–than that?

Hope.

Hope in the midst of struggle. In the midst of terror. In the midst of grief. In the midst of abuse. In the midst of even death.

If one person picks up one of my books and finds that, well then I’ve done my job.

Recently I finished reading Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. (He was a writer who, in his time was often misunderstood and ridiculed and chastised. I’m smitten!) So many things moved me about that story, in particular the parallels between the hopelessness of the dust bowl era and migrants searching for survival in California, and the hopelessness of America’s current small towns and the poor and marginalized within them. These words in particular brought me to tears (and do again even as I type them):

“Where does courage come from? Where does the terrible faith come from?…The people in flight from the terror behind–strange things happen to them, some bitterly cruel and some so beautiful that the faith is refired forever.” ~John Steinbeck

I’ve seen a lot of bitter cruelty first hand, whether personally, or in the eyes of friends in Ukraine where abortion is seen as simple birth control, or on the faces of an aging hospital patient who never has visitors, or at the bedside or graveside of someone riddled by the effects of an opiate addiction.

Some may say my faith is terrible, and in many ways I’m sure is. I doubt. I wrestle. I sin. And I sin again. I have often prayed the prayer, “Oh Lord, help me overcome my unbelief.”

But in and because of all of that, my faith is refired forever.

The perishing are my business.

Therefore my writing will never be off the hook.

Someone’s watching, after all.

Someone’s watching.

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Stay tuned for details about my novel, How Sweet the Sound, releasing September 1 with a brand new cover and a chapter from my brand new 2018 novel.

Also, Lead Me Home is on sale for e-readers across all your favorite platforms. Click here for options: http://ebookdeals.net/

 

Lead Me Home #bookgiveaway and $0.99 e-book special!

It’s the pinnacle of summer, brimming with homemade ice cream, backyard barbecues, kids catching fireflies in the small town park as they wait for fireworks, and evenings on the front porch swing. 

It’s 4th of July weekend, and the only thing else you need is a good book.

Well, I’m happy to oblige you with a month-long e-book sale and prize package giveaway of my novel, Lead Me Home, the perfect book for summer, set in the sweltering heat of the fictional, heartland town of Sycamore, Indiana. There’s tragedy and romance, a little suspense and heartache, a few cute cows and a lot of hope.

To enter the contest, there are two simple rules:

1) POST THE LINK to this blog post AND ONE OF THE PICTURES BELOW on Instagram or Twitter ALONG WITH THE HASHTAG #LeadMeHomeNovelSpecial.

2) Tag THREE friends in each post. 

You can enter more than once on either Twitter or Instagram, as long as you tag three different book-loving friends each time. I will collect all the names of the entrants and announce the winner on the morning of July 4th.

Winners must will receive a signed copy of Lead Me Home, the barn wood framed sign in this picture, and a $10 Dairy Queen gift card. (Sorry, I’m not giving up the typewriter!)

The great news is if you don’t win, you have through July 31 to buy the e-book for less than a buck at your favorite e-book retailer. (Click here.)

Now that’s something to set off a few fireworks about, don’t you think?


On birth and hope and Memorial Day.

She was having trouble.

My cousin and his son worked quick to wrap the twine around the hooves protruding from the mother cow as she worked to push her calf from her womb. Then they used the weight of their bodies, in rhythm with the contractions of the cow, to try to pull the calf free.

In the end, a third man had to help them before the calf finally slipped out and onto the bed of hay.

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The dazed mother began to lick her calf, each stroke of her giant tongue massaging life into it lungs, stinging, I imagine, from the first shock of air. (Can you stand the preciousness of the onlooking calf in the next stall?)

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And within the hour, the calf was standing and eating from its mother.

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I’ve been hoping for years to see the birth of a calf, and it was every bit as beautiful and amazing as I expected.

What’s more, the events played out nearly exactly as they did in the second chapter of my novel, Lead Me Home, thanks to YouTube videos and the generous input from my cousins I used during the writing process.

Many of the things that inspire my writing I have never seen in real life.

Besides spending time at my cousins’ dairy farm yesterday, I had the privilege of attending three high school graduation parties. One of them gave attendees the chance to highlight a favorite Bible verse for the graduate, and I picked this one:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. ~Hebrews 1:1

Which brings me to today, Memorial Day.

The men and women who gave their lives for our country were convicted enough about the importance of freedom to give their lives for it. Hope kept them slogging across the beaches of Normandy and the jungles and rice paddies of Vietnam, trudging through the frigid mountains of Korea, and fighting along the Western Front.

Freedom, indeed life, is worth the fight.

As we kick back and enjoy a day off, may we keep the memory of these men and women in the forefront of our hearts and mind.

May we never forget, and may each of us be as convincted of hope as the men and women we honor today.

Here are some pictures from a trip our family took to Washington D.C. last spring.

Have a beautiful, blessed Memorial Day, friends.

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