Friday, December 19, 2014

Book Baby #3

You would think I'd be used to it by now with two books published, having gone through the editing process, the cover design, then the interior, getting glimpses of what the finished book would look like along the way, then finally opening those big brown boxes that land on my front step and finding these inside:

But here I am, third time around, and my reaction is the same and just as strong. My heart still pounds and my hands still shake a little as I draw the first Advance Reading Copy of The Wood's Edge from the box and it still seems surreal that once upon some random day, years ago now, I had an idea for a story, and through all the many steps, all the months of work by me and many others (it takes a village), there now exists a book. 

Hopefully it is one that blesses you, dear reader friends, with characters you will love, hours of enjoyment, and a sense of God's presence and grace.

Come April 21!

Monday, December 08, 2014

Decembers Past & Present: a Christmas Note

Last December, right about this time of the month, I had the last phone conversation I would ever have with my Dad. I didn't know it would be the last. He was 70 and had been in poor health off and on for much of the past 30 years. Many heart surgeries, crippling nerve damage, cancer... but he'd always bounce back, recover, or at least somehow keep pushing on. But last December 22 we had a call to say that this time he was gone.

I was in the midst of final page proofs for The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn. I quickly wrapped those up while we had our quiet Christmas here in Oregon, turned them in a week early, then flew back east to attend Dad's memorial service during the week between Christmas and New Years. I ended up traveling back and forth from Maryland to West Virginia, in company with many family members I don't get to see often. Then, on the first leg of my journey home, having been given a first class seat I hadn't paid for, I had a clear aerial view of the Appalachian Mountain front from DC down to Atlanta. I spent those precious moments imagining Tamsen and Jesse in their much more difficult passage across those mountains that I live so far away from, and (like those family members) am not able to visit as often as I'd like. That was one of many healing moments during that journey, one of those times where God surprised me with His grace, presence, and peace.

Our last photo together
When The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn released, there was a thread of sadness woven through those weeks, knowing I couldn't share it, or any other books to come, with Dad. But he got to read Burning Sky, my debut novel, in his last months on earth, and I'll always be grateful that my publisher, WaterBrook, and my editor, Shannon Marchese, made it possible for me to announce the news of my first publishing contract in person to my Dad during yet another December, 2011, when he spent Christmas on the west coast (his first there in 50 years), where I've live since the early 1990s. That was the last time I saw Dad, though again I'd no idea it would be the last time.

Now another year has flown. December again finds me finishing up the final proof read of a novel that will release in April. The Wood's Edge has passed out of my hands now. I can't change another word of it. But I can still pray over its pages (and do!) and for the readers it will reach this coming spring. My prayer for this book is that readers will, along with enjoying a story near to my heart, meet the God of Heaven in its pages. The Father of us all, in whose presence my Dad now dwells. The Wood's Edge bears this dedication:
This book turned out to have much to do with fathers. It is dedicated to mine, who is loved and missed.

Larry George Johnson
August 24, 1943 -- December 22, 2013

First Look: back cover (click to read)
December 2014 also finds me finishing up another manuscript for WaterBrook. A Flight of Arrows, sequel to The Wood's Edge, is due in January. I'm polishing it up, tightening my typically overwritten first draft, and soon this story too will be out of my hands. At least until the rounds of edits start next year.

And in the back of my mind is a whole new cast of characters waiting to have their story told. Very soon now I will gather up the stacks and stacks of research books I've referenced over the course of these last two manuscripts and put them back on their respective shelves. Then I'll go through my titles, pull out the new research books that have been waiting for me to get to them, decide if I need to find more (most likely, yes!). I keep the reference books for the current novel-in-progress close by my desk, all together, over the months or years I have most need of them.

December is once again proving a month of transition, though a far gentler one (thus far) than 2013. For the first time in a while I will be able to set aside all writing-related activities for a few days and simply enjoy spending time with Brian, his elderly mom, and friends. I'm looking forward to getting a Christmas tree this coming Saturday. I haven't had a live tree for a few yeas now. I've missed it!

My prayer for you, readers, writers, and friends, is that you will sense Emmanuel, God with us, during this busy season. That God will surprise you with His presence in unexpected moments, through whatever this season brings for you. That's the gift I wish for you!

                                   From the Bentons!

Monday, November 24, 2014

The final editing stage

The brown truck stopped outside my house... I heard the knock at the door... my dog set to barking... I opened the door...

The typeset pages of The Wood's Edge are here! 

Time for a final proofread and then... next I'll see of this story it will be bound between covers.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

There are no Depends for the Soul

I can't claim that post title as my own creation. My pastor/Bible teacher, Jon Courson, said it last night during our Wednesday night through-the-Bible teaching. He taught last night through Psalm 51.

You probably know Psalm 51. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy holy spirit from me. (vs 10-11)

It's one of the psalms in which King David, having been confronted by the prophet Nathan about his adultery with Bathsheba and his subsequent murder-by-battle of her husband, Uriah, stops burying and covering his sin and pours out his broken heart in repentance before God. He gets it out. He deals with it. Eventually he is restored (with consequences... there are always those).

Now to reach our church is about a thirty minute drive from our home. It meanders first through our town, then out through a historic gold mining town in the foothills, then up over a mountain pass and down into the neighboring valley. You need to watch for deer. Sometimes turkeys. Bear and mountain lion have also been seen, though not by us. Often Brian and I are listening to music on this hour long round trip, sometimes to an audio book.

Last night we talked about his mother. She's 88 and struggles with dementia. We are her primary care givers, emotionally. There are always challenges. The little practical things she can no longer manage or remember to do, so we have to talk her through them again and again. And again. And the big things that cause heart pain, as issues buried deep in her soul are coming up, issues difficult to deal with because they aren't based in reality, or seem based on things that might have happened to her long before we both were born.The people involved have long since passed on. It can make a son and daughter-in-law feel helpless to help, at times.

As we drove last night our discussion turned to what we might be able to do for ourselves, to help prevent such issues from swelling out of proportion and dominating our minds, should we find ourselves still on this earth at such an advanced age. Of course there are studies that deal with what we eat, how we exercise our brains. Advice abounds. But I was thinking more along the spiritual lines.

One thing was clear to me, and I tried to put it into words. "We have to be practicing walking in trust, knowing God's promises for us (especially those that apply to when we're old), and believing them now. Get them so engrained in our souls that that's what comes out when our minds are on the way out."

In other words, we need to sow now the crop we want to reap when we are much older, and weaker in body or mind. Not that this is a cure all for what ails so many of our elderly. But... I believe it when God says a man (or woman) reaps what he sows, so why not sow to our future selves a crop of truth, faith, and an eternal outlook of promise? The seed is there at our fingertips, in the pages of God's word.

So, after that rather weighty discussion, we arrived at church, and Pastor Jon began teaching through Psalm 51.

See me sitting in the back row against the wall (my introverted need for being on the periphery of a crowd in play). I'm scurrying to take notes. This whole dealing with the sin in our souls, one-on-one with God, getting that junk out of us in confession and being restored, with a clean heart--wow, is this ever relevant to the novel I'm working on.

One character in particular (you'll meet him in The Wood's Edge, next spring) has buried and refused to deal with a terrible sin committed not, as in King David's case, about nine months earlier, but TWENTY YEARS earlier.

And then.

And then... Pastor Jon began to talk about a woman he'd spoken to recently, whose elderly mother is suffering from dementia, and has begun to spew all sorts of vile things from her soul, and how difficult that is as her daughter to deal with and bear...

And Brian and I looked at each other, knowing this was one of those times when the Holy Spirit was saying... listen. Listen. I am speaking to you. Not just for the book you are writing, but for you

So we listened.

If you are also caring for someone with dementia and finding it a challenge and burden hard to bear, will you listen?

If you need to work out something between you and God by means of confession, will you listen?

If you want to do something to help prevent your own soul from spewing gunk over those you love, now or in the future, will you listen?

^Audio and Video available^

There are no Depends for the soul

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A devotional & a giveaway

Today I'm visiting with Charity Lyman, aka The Giveaway Lady, sharing a devotional I wrote with tie-ins to The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn....

2014 Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide with Lori Benton!

And giving away two copies of the book! Please drop by, hope you'll be blessed, and don't forget to enter the giveaway (if you have a USA mailing address). If you've read Tamsen's story already, books make great Christmas gifts! :)

Monday, November 03, 2014

Thanksgiving Book Giveaway (I'm talking 20 books!)

Here's a different kind of contest for readers of Christian books…win by giving thanks/praise. And the more praise and thanks you give, the better your chances to win a pack of 20 AUTOGRAPHED BOOKS!!
Author Lisa T. Bergren (Waterfall, Remnants) has invited me and other authors to share what we are thankful for this year. And she's giving away copies of our books. Two winners will receive a signed set of the books below.

That's 20 autographed books!

I'll share what I'm thankful for below, but visit Lisa Bergren's website to read what all these authors have to give thanks for this November, and for details on how to enter this drawing. 

Here's what I'm thankful for this year.

1. I’m profoundly, joyously thankful that my sins are washed away by the blood of the Lamb, Christ Jesus. Without that, the greatest earthly blessings would be hollow. With that, the toughest trials are put into their proper perspective—a light affliction not to be compared with the eternal joy and wholeness that awaits the child of God.

2. I’m thankful God grants us the desires of our hearts. In my case, the opportunity to share my stories, and His grace, with readers. For nearly twenty years I prayed a specific prayer regarding this. “Lord, if You don’t desire my stories to be published, then change the desire of my heart. Make me to desire what You see is best for me.” I’m thankful He maintained that passion for storytelling in my heart through nearly two decades of waiting, and writing.

3. I’m thankful for my godly husband, Brian. During those twenty years I was writing and waiting—and not earning a penny—he was steadfastly providing for us, allowing me the time I needed to hone the craft of writing, and find my place in the publishing world. He did this all in faith, never knowing if the day would come that God might open one of those doors I kept knocking on. Without his support, I’d have given up long ago.

I'll close comments here, and see you over at Lisa's!