Several thousand words into the story I lost ALL of it.
Well, I had my hands full with a baby. I shrugged and thought I would probably come back to the story one day. If it wasn’t dead and buried for good. Maybe God would resurrect it…Who knew?
Fast forward to 2007.
I took a job working for a vanity press doing author promotions. One day at a book signing, I was watching the author talk about his story and the thought came to me, “I can do this.” Meaning, write a book. I didn’t know anything about plot structure, character arcs, POVs, but I had to write. It felt almost like a compulsion.
The story of three sisters stranded in a lawless mining town roared back to life in my brain. I dove in and had the first draft finished in March of ‘08, mere weeks before the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.
I honestly don’t even know who suggested I attend a writers conference. I’d never given it any thought and I’d never heard of this one. It was (and still is) held in Black Mountain, NC though, and I was up for any excuse to visit my mountains.
When I looked into it, I discovered that I could have a critique done on my first 30 pages by a seasoned professional writer, and even pitch the story to editors and agents! The possibilities were exciting and terrifying. I told my boys–five, eight, and forty-seven at the time–that I had no idea what to expect or even pray for. I just knew there was an adventure waiting.
I remember my eight-year-old said the most interesting thing then. He said, “It’s like that scene from Indiana Jones when he steps out into thin air. But there’s really a bridge there to catch him.”
Wow. That’s called a Leap of Faith. And what a picture of how God holds us up and leads us. Instantly I knew I was supposed to go to this conference.
It turned out to be a life-changing event.
More next time…
Going back through some old research notes, I stumbled across the story of an immigrant to America. An unsung heroine who came here to make America a better place and give something back…not just take and remake the country in the image of her old country.
The early immigrants to America, the ones who thrived here, were independent, strong-willed, stubborn, adventurous risk-takers. They didn’t want handouts. They wanted the freedom to make their own way.
Just this morning I read the story of Sarah Thal, a German-Jewish immigrant who came to America with her husband in 1880. The couple settled in North Dakota. Her first child was born in a cabin so full of cracks that a make-shift tent was made around her and the baby. They literally camped in front of the fireplace to keep warm. She watched prairie fires light up the distant sky on more than one occasion. She lost a baby because 10 feet of snow prevented her from getting to a doctor. This was Sarah’s existence. It never broke her. She didn’t let it turn her into a bitter old woman. She accepted her circumstances, praised God in the storm, and plowed on.
One year the German community decided to get together and celebrate the 4th of July. It was a 22-mile trip each way for the Thal’s to attend, but they were proud and eager to do so. As she wrote in a letter, “Each foreign colony celebrated in their own fashion, loyal to the traditions of the old land and faithful to those of the new. . . .”
Faithful to those of the new.
Unfortunately, stout bloodlines like Sarah’s are getting “watered down.” It’s a shame. American women were strong and resilient as a rule, fiercely independent, the toughest in the world. And she wanted to be an American. Therein lies the crux of the matter with the flood of illegals at our border.
Today, I think women like Sarah are the exception, which is why it’s important to remember them! Do you think I’m wrong? Speak your mind, politely, please.
Life is messy and gritty. People can be simply awful, totally unlovable. And God loves us anyway. These were the things going through my mind when I started writing A Lady in Defiance. One of the main characters is based on my sister Suzy’s life. Suzy went through a lot. Overcame even more. A beautiful, victorious woman of God who inspires me every day–even twenty years after her death.
If you’ve never read the Foreword to A Lady in Defiance, I wish you would. If you need a lift today, a hug from God, a little inspiration–it’s there. Read on and be blessed:
They say truth is stranger than fiction. I prefer to say that truth is more miraculous. What we as authors can make up in our own heads doesn’t compare to what the greatest Writer of all can do. Take for example the story that inspires my character of Hannah:
In the early 70′s, my family used to drive up from Florida to camp in the mountains. In the summer of ’73, we discovered a beautiful, sleepy, small town in Western North Carolina. My sister also discovered a boy there—her soul mate, really, but who would have believed that? The following summer we moved from Florida to this town and, not long after, my sister Suzy announced she was pregnant…at the tender age of 15.
I cannot repeat the things my mother said to my sister. Sadly, while my sister forgave her years later, I don’t think my mother ever forgave herself. Certainly, my father and most of the locals weren’t much kinder. Florida trash. Floozy. Slut…you name it, they said it. I can still hear my mom’s high-pitched, screechy voice as she screamed hysterically at Suzy.
My sister was pushed by both families to have an abortion and she agreed. How could she refuse? After all, it was pretty clear this would “ruin her life,” and there was “no future for an unwed mother,” especially since she would “never claw her way out of poverty.” With prophecies like that, abortion was a godsend. In the doctor’s office, however, Suzy changed her mind and said she couldn’t go through with it. The phone rang and it was the father of the child; he didn’t want Suzy to go through with it, either, but he still wouldn’t marry her.
Suzy went instead to a half-way house in Alexandria, Virginia to have the baby and give him up for adoption. A month before she was due to deliver, the father of the baby finally stood up to his father and told him he loved Suzy and was going to Virginia to get her. Suzy told me years later that this boy had asked her to marry him much earlier . . . on their first date! They were simply meant to be.
The two teenagers were married and God’s plan unfolded for their lives. She and her husband gave their hearts to the Lord and went on to have two more children. Suzy matured into a mighty, spirit-filled woman of God, finished her GED, earned a degree as an R.N., and became a licensed minister in the Church of God, all while raising children and helping her husband farm. She was a popular speaker at women’s conferences, went on mission trips and also worked as a Hospice nurse for over two years. During that time, Suzy led many people to the Lord, some literally from their death beds.
No one who met my sister was immune to her infectious smile, vivacious personality, gentle faith, and graceful ways. The love of Christ literally shined from this woman like a beacon on a hill.
When breast cancer claimed Suzy in 1999, over 800 people attended her funeral. In a town that twenty-five years earlier had spurned her, affection poured out. The funeral was standing-room only; former patients wrote good-byes in the local newspaper; people we hadn’t seen in years called with condolences.
Suzy is not only the inspiration behind my character of Hannah, but her story is the reason I know God can take the grimmest, most hopeless situation and show us the beauty in it. Profound, miraculous happy endings are possible when we “let go and let God.”
If you are the mother of a pregnant teenage daughter, I pray you will think before you speak and then speak with love. If you are the daughter, please don’t abort that baby. Give God a chance to do what He does best—bring beauty from ashes. He loves you; He loves that child you’re carrying. Trust Him to work it out.
If you’d like to read A Lady in Defiance, it’s on sale all month for only .99 and is available in audio as well!
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I often get asked if any of my characters are based on an actual person. Sometimes, they are, sometimes they’re straight out of my imagination. I thought it would be fun to share with you today who I saw in my head when I was writing one of my favorite and most popular characters, Charles McIntyre.
Who can resist a man running from love because he knows it will be his undoing? Think John Wayne’s classic character of Quirt Evans in Angel and the Bad Man. Well, Charles McIntyre is my sexy Southern scallywag (now mostly redeemed), lord of Defiance and the main man in my Defiance books. His character was born when I watched the movie The Harvey Girls. The actor who played opposite superstar Judy Garland in this flick was the up-and-coming John Hodiak.
Hodiak was one of the first to play a saloon owner AND bad boy redeemed by a good woman. Ned Trent was the name. Selling whiskey and women was his game.
Keeping these archetype characters in the back of my mind, I fell in love later on with Eric McCormack’s looks and portrayal of Clayton Mosby, entrepreneur, saloon owner, and bad boy in Lonesome Dove: The Outlaw Years. When I sat down to write the first Defiance book, A Lady in Defiance, these three characters and actors swirled in my head.
Eventually, of course, HBO released the graphic and gritty western Deadwood. The ruggedly handsome English actor Ian McShane played Al Swearengen, an entrepreneur, saloon owner, and bad boy with apparently no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I only watched one episode of Deadwood and that was a good three or four years after I’d finished ALID. The profanity, violence, and sex in this show went waaaay beyond my limits, so I can honestly say there is no direct link between my McIntyre and Swearengen.
But I will say this for McShane’s character: Swearengen was exactly the kind of soulless villain Charles McIntyre was based on. And the darker the soul, the more amazing the transformation when light touches it.
I adore those tough men brought to their knees by love. Charles McIntyre is my absolute hero. One reader called him swoon-worthy. I love that. He was unrepentantly cruel, selfish, violent but turned to jello in Naomi’s hands–because real love, both of a good woman and of a perfect Savior, cannot/will not leave a man unchanged.
Apparently, author Amélie Wen Zhao hasn’t heard the famous Lincoln quote: You can’t satisfy all of the people all of the time.
Amid the outcry of Snowflakes who thought she had treated the issue of slavery without enough sensitivity, the debut author asked her publisher to yank the release in June of Blood Heir so she could re-write some scenes.
As Publisher’s Weekly put it, “…particularly that a slave auction scene in Blood Heir was insensitive to POC readers due to the history of slavery in the U.S.”
Well, uh, I would suggest the mere historical FACT of slave auctions is pretty darn insensitive to POC (People of Color, if you’re not familiar with yet ANOTHER hip acronym).
This is a shame. The mob is telling this girl what to write and how to write it. And she caved. As did her publisher. As an author, you can probably imagine how much this bothers me. Where does it stop? Shall we run all our ideas by some PC filter group? Put some kind of warning on our books?
Here’s a thought: maybe we could just figure out who we’re writing for and keep that group happy. I know, crazy, right? Hitting our target reader. What a concept.
I’m sorry Amelie was ambushed by a virtual mob of “tolerant” liberals. I am sorry that she caved and won’t get to write the book she envisioned. That really does make me sad, but not just for her. Reading a book the way the writer saw the story is like sitting down to chat with a friend. It’s a personal experience. Her readers aren’t going to get that now.
As for me, well, I bet you can guess what I would say to a mob telling me how to write a book: don’t buy it.
My stories are written for folks who have at least passing respect for the Almighty, are okay with guns, happily salute the American flag, like fiery, determined heroines, long for a world that honors old-fashioned values like kindness and decency, and enjoy watching my flawed characters overcome steep odds. I’m pro-God, pro-gun, pro-life, pro-Bible, pro-US Constitution, and pro-freedom of speech.
If any of these statements offend you–well, I must ask, what are you doing here? I’d love for you to read my books. I think most of them are pretty entertaining and inspiring. They’re really well rated on Amazon. But my world view isn’t changing for anybody.
Abortion. Yeah. I’m going there.
As a history freak, I’m pretty well acquainted with how hard life was for the women who settled and–might I add–fought–for this country. Sometimes they manned cannons or rode through hell and high water to deliver intelligence. They fought marauding Indians, beat off snakes with sticks, stared down cattle rustlers, stamped out brush fires with handmade quilts, heck, even crawled through blizzards. And a lot of the time our ancestors did these amazing feats with babies in their arms and toddlers clinging to their apron strings.
I read somewhere the average woman in the 19th century had six children. Most of these ladies probably would have liked to stop before then. Six babies is a lot, but having them was a fact of life because successful birth control (short of abstinence) wasn’t a fact of life. I surmise, however, if they’d had magic wands and could have “undone” any of these pregnancies, I’d bet 99.99% of these gals would have balked at the proposition. In fact, I’d bet they’d be willing to walk through hell covered in gasoline to protect their infants.
Fast forward to the 1970s when all a woman had to do to prevent pregnancy was pop a pill or slap a condom on her partner. Yet, Democrats and spineless Republicans pushed ahead (Roe v. Wade) to legalize abortion, though with “strict limitations” because those words make “murder” so much more palatable. Pro-lifers warned this was a slippery slope; man is after all evil and rebellious at heart.
So here we are today. The New York state legislature comes along and votes into law the right of a woman to kill her baby in the 3rd trimester. And she doesn’t even have to have a doctor perform the homicide. I heard this morning the Virginia legislature is considering a similar bill.
If you know me, you know I’m not politically correct so it won’t surprise you where I come down on these horrific “laws.” I am DEEPLY DISGUSTED by New York Assemblywoman Deborah Glick and NY State Senator Liz Krueger and Virginia Delegate Kathy Tran. The “sponsors” of these bills. I’d call them death merchants.
Ladies, a law that allows the murder of a child for no reason other than the baby is an inconvenience is diabolical. Abominable. Dastardly. Evil. Heinous. Soulless. As are you.
And I’m sorry for you.
I can talk politics all day long and not lose my temper. THIS is the one issue on which I struggle to maintain patience and kindness. I’m not just dealing with ignorance or fear (as I see so often when discussing the 2nd Am), this is EVIL. Pure and simple. And I stand in Defiance of it.
Pray, people, pray. Vote Pro-Life. Donate to pro-life candidates. Support our pro-life president.
Our ancestors didn’t fight and struggle to keep their children alive to build this nation and settle a country just so we could treat human lives as if they are less valuable than cattle. Think about it. If the politicians feel this way about a 9-month old baby in the womb, who’s next? Senior citizens? The mentally challenged? Jews?
Can I get an amen?