Monthly Archives: December 2017

A Shout Out to English Teachers

Ever have an English teacher change your life? Maybe it was a discussion about that story you read in class. Or maybe, like me, you had teachers who flamed your passion for writing.

Today is the official release of my new book, A Packaged Deal, the first story in the Amazon_Front_Cover_1600x2560 JPGTowering Pines series. I dedicated it to three English teachers. My friend Maria Clinton, who teaches high school English a few blocks from my home, my high school English teacher, Mr. Wyly, and my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Duncan. Other names and faces flit through my mind. I’ve had many excellent English teachers, but there’s a reason I singled out these three.

Years ago as I drove up a windy road toward Nederland, Colorado, a story called for my attention. It was a tale from years before, my first attempt at writing a book. I started it my senior year in high school, and I still have the handwritten cursive manuscript on lined notebook paper to prove it.

That story matured with me over many years, but it never went away. It’s the stories that don’t leave you alone that must be written. A Packaged Deal is one of those, and that story I began at seventeen grew into the book releasing today. I remain forever grateful to Robert Wyly for this and more. Why? Because in that nine-week creative writing class I requested permission to write a novel instead of doing the daily assignments, and he cheered me on.

It was one of those touch points that established my dream to become an author. The experience helped keep my dream alive and sustained it during my busy years as a teacher and young mom, when I thought I would write books and didn’t accomplish much more than short poetry and family letters.

I chose my third grade teacher, Mrs. Duncan, for this dedication because her class is the first place I remember knowing I would someday write books. It started when she assigned us a creative writing exercise using personification. I wrote about a pencil and an eraser who always fought but eventually discovered they needed each other when they had to work together to save the third grade classroom. As I wrote that little story, I was hooked. My first “real” job out of college was as a third grade teacher. I can only hope there are a few students out there whose lives were impacted by me as I was by Mrs. Duncan. I read that pencil and eraser story to my students every year, and they always loved it–and loved writing their own personification tale.

Mrs. Duncan also gave me another gift I’m forever grateful for. She discovered that I loved to read and that I finished my work quickly. Instead of allowing me to sit idle, she and the librarian set me up on a speed reading device that helped me read and comprehend more and more quickly. This valuable skill allows me to consume books even now, and I’m very grateful.

I chose to include my friend Maria in the dedication because of her dedication to her students. I am consistently amazed by her passion for them. She cares about their academics and works hard to prepare them for college. She is also passionate about them as individuals. I believe the literature, writing, and class discussion in Mrs. Clinton’s classes open the world beyond that classroom as well as helping her students explore the world within. No doubt the experience grows their understanding and provides forward momentum in their lives. What a difference a passionate teacher makes! (Mrs. Clinton and I share another joy beyond our mutual love of literature, learning, and people. My son, Sam, just proposed to her daughter, Ariel! Wahooo!!)

I’m forever grateful to these three teachers–and to all the English teachers (and librarians!) who called forth my passions. As I reflect, story after story, teacher after teacher, comes to mind who fostered my love of books and writing. The story that made me laugh that our fourth grade teacher read to the class? I read it to my own class of third graders years later. We laughed so hard my co-worker came over and asked what was going on because her class was getting jealous. That serious book about concentration camps in fifth grade? Still part of the shaping within me for justice and compassion. The sixth graders teachers who allowed me to express creativity in numerous ways. Anne Frank’s Dairy, Great Expectations. The immersion into fantasy thanks to a teacher who loved Brigadoon and pookas. The elementary librarian who constantly worked to find me the next books series and keep me engaged in reading. The junior high librarian who became a friend as she shared her favorite authors with me, again finding ways to keep my love of books growing. The list continues into college.

So here’s to English teachers (and librarians) everywhere! Thank you for pouring out on our behalf!

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Blessings,

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PS A Packaged Deal is available in paperback and on Kindle. Tomorrow I’ll share a little more about how this story matured from its beginnings in Mr. Wyly’s class to become the novel of today.

Stories Behind the Stories and Paperback

Ever wonder what drives the spiritual themes in your favorite stories? Do authors plan them, or do they unfold as they write? Are they ever surprised?

Collection picture lower resolutionFor me it’s both. In my new Tinseled Tidings Christmas romance collection, I had some idea of where I was going, but the Lord also added some special surprises. (BTW, the paperback just released! This volume includes the first three titles in the Tinseled Tiding Collection–and I gotta tell you, it’s gorgeous! The original artwork (by Lisa Joy Samson) and interior design (by Carmen Barber) makes the book’s fun, uplifting stories even more delightful because they are so visually pleasing!)

When I wrote The Joy ScroogeI found it interesting that when I wrote Krista and Tait’s pivotal moments, it just flowed. Usually it’s when my characters are in pain that I have to fight through the writing. (Hey, they are real to me, and I hate to see them hurting!) But this time when I got to the happy ending, I had a block. Talk about weird! The hard part was done, but I couldn’t write the fun part! (Makes me wonder how often we fight through pain—or even choose to stay in it—but are afraid of believing in the happy in real life! But I digress.)

Because I couldn’t seem to write the happy part of The Joy Scrooge, I went back and did couple of rounds of editing on the deep parts of each of the main character’s journeys. As I rewrote Krista’s, I realized that her issue was bumping up against one of my own. I needed to be willing to walk with someone I love on a path of suffering. I needed to do it whether or not this person could ever come out on the other side. It helped me be willing when I realized that the simple act of loving when it means hurting with the person we love is part of entering the suffering of Christ. It helped me feel closer to Jesus and to trust Him with how the other person’s pain affects me.

To be clear, I’m not saying that in every situation we should choose to walk closely with someone in pain. None of us have that bandwidth, and not every need is the call. We help where we can, and we follow God’s leading in that. There are also abusive situations where we have to remove ourselves from the more intimate act of walking with a hurting person who is acting out. But all of us face situations where we need to choose to enter the suffering of a loved one. Sometimes they cause their own suffering, and sometimes it is thrust upon them by health issues or evil. It brings me comfort to know in these situations, when loving means entering someone else’s painful journey, that it is part of entering Christ’s suffering. It comforts me that He understands and is with us in the pain.

Once I processed all of that, the happy ending for the book came more easily.

If learning this kind of backstory for my latest stories is interesting to you, you’ll enjoy an interview I did with Peg Thomas. Check it out! Peg is a fellow author and we are both published in a novella collection, A Bouquet of Brides, which releases January from Barbour Publishing.

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PS If you’re joining me by reading Soul Scents: Flourish Selections for Advent this December, you might enjoy liking my Facebook page and following me there. Each day I’m posting short thoughts connected to the reading. (And you can still get that as a free download at my website.)

PPS The Tinseled Tiding paperback would make an uplifting, fun Christmas gift–and for those electronic readers, all three novellas could be bundled and gifted electronically for less than $3!

Launch Day and FREE book to celebrate!

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Launching TODAY!!

My face-to-face friends allowed me “drop off the earth” for a crazy fall. Good friends of authors know that they have a “deadline” friend, who disappears for a while, and their regular friend who comes up for air ready to play! If you’d like to learn a little more about the life of an author, visit Moving the Ancient Boundaries, my friend DiAne’s blog. She asked me some great questions in her interview posted there today!

Honestly, Tinseled Tidings, the first series Free to Flourish Publishing launched this fall, was almost like playing, even with all the work! The characters are fun, a little zany, and a whole lot lovable. I fell for them all. They laughed and cried with me and until their stories were told. With today’s release of this last title, I’m happy and sad. Happy because YOU get to meet my imaginary friends, sad because I won’t be spending as much time with them. (I will get to keep talking about this series as the PAPERBACK 3-in-1 collection releases next week!)

Fruitcake Fallout is the only book in the series (for now) which has an historical setting.  As you might guess from the title, the hero is a private and his gal-to-be is a WAC in World War 2. For interesting tidbits on what I learned about this time period, visit my friend Donna’s blog, History Thru the Ages. As I write I often am surprised by little nuggets of truth and grace that appear, unplanned, in the story line. I’ve also learned that when I do historical research the Holy Spirit leads me to special true stories of LIGHT. I share some of this today on Donna’s blog.

FREE BOOK INFO

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FREE today!

To celebrate today’s launch day, Free to Flourish Publishing is offering the first title in the series, You’re a Charmer, Mr. Grinch, FREE today and tomorrow. It was an ACFW Carol Award finalist for novella of the year. In this story retired police officer Rick Stanton dons a Grinch costume for the holidays and “patrols” Christmas, Florida to promote the festive town. Everyone falls under his charm except the person he most wants to impress—Postmaster Edie Hathaway. If you’re like me, you’ll be cheering for the Grinch, hoping he can steal Edie’s heart before they both give up on love.

The second book in the series, The Joy Scrooge, is featured today on ALLBETSAREOFF. Check out that interview and see where your own scrooge barometer is! lol Remember this is the book which prompted me to offer my Advent devotion for FREE on my website. I hope you’ll download it and journey with me this Christmas season!

As I close out this post, I want to offer a shout out to some amazing people who make it possible for these stories to get to YOU.

Thank you to the Free to Flourish Publishing Team!

Carmen Barber ~ Copyeditor, interior design, and formatting

Lisa Samson ~ Artwork for cover and interior

Kim Liddiard of the Creative Pixel, Cover design

Wendi Wilkins ~ Proofreading

Laurie Spies ~ First reader

(And special thanks to Carmen, who also should have the official title of “holding the author’s hand through it all.”)

Also thank you to every person who reads, reviews, and buys my books. Reviewers–you have NO IDEA how valuable those reviews are. I REALLY appreciate you taking the time!

LEAVE A COMMENT TODAY AND I’LL PUT YOU IN A DRAWING FOR A FREE COPY OF A PACKAGED DEAL, THE FIRST BOOK IN MY NEXT SERIES, TOWERING PINES.