RACING TOWARD THE LIGHt — CHAPTER ONE

I’ve decided to offer my inspirational novel RACING TOWARD THE LIGHT for free reading on this website — unabridged — one chapter a day. I wrote the story several years ago, and it was first published in 2016. It’s available in paperback and digital on Amazon, but I wanted to share it with my followers this month for free. At the end of October, the chapters will be removed from this site.

The story is fiction, but it conveys the reality of witchcraft and its dangers, and also conveys the truth that Jesus Christ and His blood are more powerful than all witchcraft. Because the book focus on the spiritual warfare that takes place when demonic forces try to capture the hearts and lives of people, but God’s forces move in to defeat those demonic powers, I felt it was fitting to offer it in the weeks leading up to Halloween. After reading RACING TOWARD THE LIGHT, no one can ever look at Halloween quite the same as they did before reading the book.

I thought perhaps some of my readers might like a little background concerning the creating of the book so I’m offering that background here first. If you’re the kind of reader who isn’t interested in background and just want to get right into the story, you can skip down to where Chapter One begins. 🙂



Here’s How It All Began

Most of my friends know that I have a great love for lighthouses, and several years ago, two of my best friends, Roy and Donna Manasco, came across a small print of a painting by Steven Sundram, “Sureal Moments,” which focused on a lighthouse standing as sentry over a vast expanse of beach during a storm, and a beautiful solid white horse approaching the lighthouse. They bought the print for me and presented it to me as a gift on a Sunday morning at church. I was delighted with the scene immediately, and after arriving home with it, I sat and looked at it for some time before setting it aside to concentrate on my work. I was in the middle of writing two novels at the time, and they needed all my attention. So I had intended to work on one of them most of the rest of the day.

However, I placed Steve Sundram’s picture against the music rack of my keyboard, and sat down on the sofa across from it to eat some lunch. As I ate, I kept looking at the picture, and it literally drew me into it until my imagination began to build to the point that I felt I knew the place personally. Words began flowing through me, as if I were describing it in detail for someone else. I felt that I knew the people who lived there, who walked that beach and shared their lives on it. (Although they are not visible in the painting, they are there.) I even felt as if I knew the horse. I knew his name was Moondancer.

But I also recognized what was happening inside me: I was on the verge of birthing a brand new novel based on that picture. Now, at that time, I had already written six inspirational novels, three of which had been published and were currently on the market. However, every novel I had written previously had been born out of a specific story in my own mind — based on a particular character, problem, or theme. I had never written a novel that focused on a setting of any kind, and even my five-book series The Smoky Mountain Series, keeps the focus on the setting at a minimum.

So starting a book based solely on a physical setting was completely out of character for me. Furthermore, I scolded myself for even thinking about starting a new novel when the current books were still not finished. Immediately, I jumped up, walked over to the picture, turned it around backwards so that I could not see it anymore, and tried to finish my lunch.

But by the time I had finished eating, the descriptive passages flowing through my mind had grown into paragraphs. I fought off the temptation to sit down to the computer and pull up a blank page. I told myself that I absolutely had to finish the other work, one part of which was facing a specific deadline. But those words kept pressing through me. I managed to leave the room and do something else for several minutes, but before I knew it, I was back in the living room, turning the picture back around and looking at it again. I put it down and picked it up multiple times.

Eventually I began to get a handle on the main character — a man who had suffered serious emotional trauma and needed healing. A man who had made his way to this ocean, this beach, this place – in order to find peace and quiet, time and solitude, a touch of eternity — so that he could heal. At that point I didn’t know what he had suffered or what he was running from. Nor did I have any insight into what form and process his healing would take. I just knew that the story would be his story; he would be living there temporarily, and that the other people who lived there were going to have a significant part to play in his healing.

I fought the temptation and the draw of that painting until 3:00 in the afternoon, at which time, I sat down at my computer, pulled up a blank page, and began writing the novel Racing Toward the Light. Of course, it didn’t have the title at that point. But I wrote everything I saw and felt in that painting, and I didn’t stop writing until I had the lighthouse inhabited and the main character named Noah Bennet. I still didn’t know what his terrible past was or what would happen to him in the story, but I was determined to find out. And I can say, without any reservation, that I virtually lived in that painting for the entire three months it took to write the story.

Over the next two weeks, I realized two things: this story would take the bold step of dealing with the subject of the supernatural, which had been experiencing a resurgence in literature and movies at the time. Several conversations that I had with other people concerning the surge of interest in supernatural subjects, especially witchcraft and its effects, led me to realize that I had the rest of the story in that subject matter.

I’ve learned that when an author lets a story begin to tell itself on paper, he finds that it has within itself much more than he ever thought about when he wrote the first word. This story, conceived out of a picture of an unnamed place, built itself into a masterpiece that takes an intimate look into the world of the supernatural while, at the same time, allowing readers to follow the earthly characters as their lives relate to and are impacted by the supernatural realm. The story of spiritual warfare in both realms is sure to inspire and encourage faith in the readers.   

Racing Toward The Light also gradually eased its way into a powerful love story. That’s the second thing I realized: that in every book, whether the author planned it or not, there is a love story just waiting to be told. So I’ve told this one.

I want to express my appreciation once again to artist Steve Sundram for his generous arrangement for the use of his painting for the cover of the book. It you’d like to check out more of his great work, you can find him at sundramstudios.com.

Now, to get into the story …


RACING TOWARD THE LIGHT

© 2009 Sandra Pavloff Conner

CHAPTER ONE

He was forcing his way through bushes and tree limbs that pulled at his sleeves and scratched his face. Moving as quickly as he could, he wasn’t even trying to be quiet. There wasn’t time to be quiet. Please, God, let us be in time! Please let us be in time! But it was so dark. Was it usually this dark? He’d camped in these woods, but he didn’t remember the feeling of being smothered in thick darkness like he was experiencing now.

Three deputies flanked Noah Bennett on either side, each of them sweeping the wooded terrain with the same kind of high-powered flashlight that he was carrying himself. I should have tried harder! I should have made myself stay focused on this! His breathing was ragged and his chest so tight; he wondered if he might actually be having a heart attack.

“Over here,” one of the deputies called out, and Noah turned abruptly toward the clearing on the right, crushing a portion of a bush beneath his boot to get past it in a hurry. All the light beams converged on the spot the deputy was looking at on the ground. There was the pentagram. And close to it a recently dowsed fire.

“This must be the place,” Noah heard himself say,

and as he began to sweep the beam of his light around, one of the other deputies pointed out a silver flash with his own light. The steel of the ritualistic knife glittered tauntingly at all of the men, as one of them reached down to pick it up with a gloved hand.

And then … they saw her.

Noah felt the agonizing groan begin in the deepest part of his abdomen. He felt the full force of it as it raged all the way through him. He felt his knees hit the ground with a painful thud as the groan finally escaped in a tormented cry ….

Sheriff Noah Bennett woke up sobbing like a child … again. He was wringing wet with sweat, and his sobs shook his whole body. He finally sat upright and grabbed his head. He had to get his stomach to settle down quickly, or he’d throw up again too. By sheer willpower, he managed to swallow the bile and begin to take deep enough breaths that the sobbing finally subsided. When he was under control enough to be able to move, he shoved himself off the bed and onto his knees beside it. Burying his head in the damp sheets, he tried to pray … again. This had to end. … Sometime … this had to end!

A mile out from shore, the ocean was a vast, undulating, lead-gray blanket. But as the currents approached the beach that held them in check by the decree of God, the waves became gentle, but persistent swirls of iridescent silver. As they washed against the land, their substance danced high into the air as if a huge bottle of champagne had been poured out into a giant punch bowl.

The dramatic change in the water’s color resulted from the fact that a lighthouse stood atop a modest knoll whose base stretched across the beach almost to the very edge of the water at high tide. The arm of light rushed out to meet the darkness, which was made more intense because of heavy clouds that almost rested on the surface of the water a couple of miles out and covered most of the sky over the coast. The only opening in the cloud cover was just to the right of the lighthouse itself, but it wasn’t letting any moonlight through. So the only radiance came from the beam that swept its ruling arc across its vast domain every fifteen seconds. But the darkness was no match for that penetrating light. The beacon was so intense that it forced, not only the ocean, but even those heavy clouds to reflect that light into the atmosphere. It was in the brilliance of that light that the caps of the waves became like silver lace, and the hundreds of water droplets like sparkling diamonds.

The wind had picked up. But it was often stronger on this part of the beach than it was farther inland, and the combined sound of wind and waves usually served more as a lullaby to the inhabitants of the lighthouse than it did a disturbance. At least that used to be the case . . . until the last couple of weeks. The light itself had been automated several years ago, but the house was still a quaint, but quite livable place. That being the case, the old man who had operated the light during the last decade had opted to lease the house for his home, with the understanding that he would service and repair the equipment that carried on most of the operations now.

His six-year-old great-grandson David had come to live with him almost a year ago, along with his aunt Serenity, the old man’s elder granddaughter. David’s mother was Serenity’s younger sister, and she and her husband had died in an accident while traveling abroad, leaving their son in the guardianship of his aunt.

The boy was sitting now in the window seat of his bedroom, looking out at the beach, the light beam sweeping enough light through the window periodically to bring a glow to his room and turn his blond head into a bright halo. He had his chin propped in his hand, his elbow propped on the windowsill, and he was deep in conversation with the Lord.

“And if I did have a horse, You know I’d take really good care of him, so Gramps and Aunt Sere wouldn’t have to do anything at all. I’d feed him and brush him and clean out his stall . . . well . . . when he had a stall.” That point was where he always got stuck in his well-rehearsed plan. He had his eye on an old shed that stood in back of the lighthouse and even had a rather wobbly fence part of the way around it. But he hadn’t figured out a way to convince his grandfather and aunt that he was old enough to help fix both the fence and the shed so as to allow for the housing of a horse.

“Well, Lord, I bet Trent’s dad would help fix it all up,” he finally said now. Trent was the seven-year-old boy whose parents had moved to Hamsted the week after school had let out for the summer. The boys had become almost inseparable friends over the next two weeks, and now they shared their dreams and plans with each other. Naturally, Trent thought the idea of David’s having a horse of his very own was “super,” and he had assured David that he would help all he could to figure out a way to make it happen.

As David continued talking with the Lord, his aunt, in the adjacent room was having her own conversation with her Heavenly Father. Serenity, who had been a writer for the last fifteen of her thirty-two years, was not used to having a child to care for, but she loved her nephew David fervently, and her decision to move him and herself to the lighthouse with her grandfather had been based on three things.

One was the fact that she was especially concerned about Gramps, particularly since he lived completely alone and in a rather isolated area. Since the family’s tragic loss, he hadn’t made much effort to mix with the people in the small town two miles up the road from the coast . . . or with the visitors that rented cottages on the beach during the summer. But Serenity had hoped that her and David’s presence there would encourage her grandfather to rejuvenate his waning friendships and to become an active part of the small community again.

The second reason she had made the decision was that she felt David needed a place of quiet and peace in which to recover from his own grief, and his devotion to his great-grandfather could only be an added help. And thirdly, Serenity knew that if she were going to be able to concentrate on her own work, so as not to lose her income, she would also need a quiet place, as well as someone to help take responsibility for David from time to time. This decision seemed the perfect solution since Gramps was eager to spend much of his time with David, and all three of them were delighted with the arrangement. For now, at least.

Since the family’s tragedy had occurred right after the school year had begun, and then Serenity and David had moved to be with Gramps immediately, she and her grandfather had decided that home-schooling David for the first year would be better than causing him to have to get used to a brand new school and then perhaps be moved again in another year. But soon he would be seven years old, and she felt that before long, he would once again need to be in an environment where he was with other children his own age more than he was now. He went to church and Sunday School, and he got along well with all of the other children there, but he had been so withdrawn and quiet since his parents’ deaths that Serenity had been a little worried. However, just lately, he seemed to be getting back to being the active, joyful child he’d always been previously.

Her thoughts drifted now as she changed into her gown and prepared for sleep. She didn’t usually go to bed at 10:00, but she’d been up writing until 3:00 A.M. the last two mornings, and the need for sleep was finally catching up with her. She started thinking about David’s schooling again.

“I’m just not sure what’s best, Lord,” she prayed now. “It’s so hard making all the decisions for someone else’s life, knowing that if I make a mistake, David could be the one to suffer.” She smiled now as she thought of her nephew in the room next to hers. Maybe he needed to be in a bigger town where he could interact with more different kinds of people than he could in this little place on the coast. The town of Hamsted was hardly more than a village actually, but she liked the people. And most of the town seemed to really care about keeping their school up to date and academically sound.

She let out a sigh. “Well, Lord, there’s still a few more weeks yet before we have to make a final decision. I know You’ll show me what You want me to do.”

She stretched out on her bed now. Sometimes she found herself wishing she had found someone to love and begin a family with, the way her sister had. She loved children and would like several of her own, even if it meant not having nearly as much time to write. She had dated from time to time, and she had a number of men friends and writing associates, but nothing had ever really “clicked” somehow. And, now, she realized she had added another dimension to the way men would see her, because she was now, to all intents and purposes, a mother as well as a successful career woman . . . not the most attractive combination to most single men in their thirties or forties.

Oh, well . . . she’d have to leave all that in the Lord’s hands. And she was usually pretty good at doing just that. But sometimes . . . like tonight she lay in her bed watching the beam of light sweep across the terrain … she felt unutterably lonely for the arms and the quiet, comforting, love words of a strong Christian man.

She sighed gently, rolling over to her other side, where she couldn’t see out the window, and closed her eyes. Then she returned to the prayer she had left unfinished when her thoughts had started to drift. “You know what I need better than I do, Lord. You know that I need more than just someone for myself now. I need someone who will be able to love David and help me raise him up in Your Word. I still have serious doubts about being able to do that by myself. But please, Lord, help me not to jump into some relationship out of fear that I can’t do it alone. That would be worse than anything.”

She yawned and pulled the cover a little higher until it nestled beneath her chin. “Thank You for making us able to come here, Lord. It’s helped all three of us a lot.” She yawned again, and somewhere in the midst of thanking the Lord for working everything out, she drifted into a peaceful sleep.

David was still happily chatting with the Lord about the desire of his heart, convinced that the Lord would provide a horse soon, As he continued to plan, he looked out at the beach. The broad expanse of sand stretched away from the lighthouse, eventually spreading out in front of the summer cottages that dotted that area for about two miles along the coast. David couldn’t see the first cottage from his room, but up in the top of the lighthouse, he could see almost all of them. They were spread out far enough to allow each family to feel as if they had their own private part of the beach, but were within easy walking distance of each other.

As his blue-gray eyes scanned the wave-swept coast, seeing only dim outlines except when the rhythmic arc of light swept around, David suddenly came to attention. Was he seeing things? Had he fallen asleep and started dreaming, he wondered. He sat up straighter and squinted his eyes to try to see better, but he had to wait for the light to pass over the beach again to be sure.

“Yes!” he said out loud, jumping to his knees on the window seat and pushing out the lightweight, temporary screen so that he could lean out of the window. “A horse . . . a real horse!” Right before his eyes a large, solid white stallion came galloping straight toward the lighthouse. A short distance away, the horse stopped and seemed to turn and prance around for a while, almost as if he were frolicking in the surf. Then he ran toward the lighthouse again, stopping again after several yards to do the same thing.

David was enthralled. He’d never seen such a beautiful animal. He’d often imagined what his own horse would look like, but he’d never imagined anything like this. He laughed softly as he watched, enjoying the horse’s antics almost as much as the stallion himself seemed to do. Suddenly, the horse stopped and arched his neck, whinnying softly. He looked right at David and started to trot over closer to the house.

By this time, David was leaning way out of the window, reaching his arm out to encourage the horse to come closer. He was aware that he needed to be quiet if he didn’t want to wake his aunt, but he just couldn’t resist calling softly to the horse. “Come on, Boy,” he said, trying to keep his voice down, but finding it very hard to do since he didn’t want to miss a chance to pet this horse. “Come on, Boy,” he said again, motioning the horse toward him from where it had stopped a few feet away from the house. Slowly, the stallion sidled up to the window, snorting and blowing softly, and David was finally able to touch his nose and pet him.

“You’re the best horse I’ve ever seen in my whole life!” he said now, and was rewarded with the horse’s moving close enough to nuzzle David’s shoulder as he hung way past the window ledge. Finally, David couldn’t resist any longer. He climbed swiftly out of the window, thankful that it was only a couple of feet from the ground, and stood beside the stallion. He hadn’t realized quite how big the horse was until he was standing in his bare feet beside the animal. But he wasn’t afraid. This horse must be an answer to his prayers.

Of course, his very next thought was that he probably belonged to somebody living in one of the cottages, but . . . well . . . he could pretend for a little while, couldn’t he? “Would you let me ride you?” he asked the horse now, and his only answer was the same soft blowing sound the animal had made before. So David figured it was worth a try and began looking around for a way to get up on the white stallion’s back. Finally he spotted the small boat that was turned upside down on a sand dune off to the side of the lighthouse, and he slowly moved toward it, never letting his hand slide from the horse’s neck.

“Come this way, Boy,” he said, and the horse moved with him as if he had been obeying the boy his whole life. As soon as David had himself and the horse in position, he climbed up on to the highest part of the boat and reached up to grab the horse around the neck. He threw his strong young body into one giant jump and managed to land on the stallion’s back, holding onto his mane in a vice grip so as not to slide off. He had no idea it would feel this way to be so high off of the ground. But as he felt the horse shift its stance slightly, moving beneath him, he felt as if they were one, and he knew he was right where he’d always wanted to be.

“Okay, Boy,” he said, leaning over the horse’s neck to talk as close to his ear as possible. “Take me for a ride.” He pulled very gently on the mane to try to turn the animal’s head in the direction of the beach, and then he nudged his heels . . . also very gently . . . against the stallion’s sides to encourage him to get started. “Giddy up,” he said, not knowing what else to say to a horse to get him moving, and to his great delight, the stallion began to trot across the lighthouse yard and move along the beach, back the way he had come. Once he was several feet away from the house, he began to run along the surf’s edge, and David, holding on for dear life, was laughing with delight. By this time, he was far enough away from the house to feel pretty sure he wouldn’t wake his aunt or Gramps.

They raced along the beach, boy and horse, free as the wind and the waves, flying past the first cottage and then the second, but still within the protective arc of light that swept over their path in its appointed intervals. But the wind was picking up even more, and thunder started to roll through the clouds that had continued to thicken during the past hour. After another minute, lightening began to flash in jagged arrows out over the ocean as the brewing storm began to move inland.

Those warning signals, which would have meant a great deal to any adult considering going out at that time, were lost on the six-year-old boy, who was finally realizing the power of a dream come true. And besides, he’d lived on the ocean long enough to see a number of storms there, especially recently, and he didn’t have any fear of them. Why should he? As far as he was concerned, they were all just part of the water, the sky, and the earth that he’d come to appreciate with a new passion since he’d come here to live. So he felt free to abandon himself to the ride as only a child can do.

About a mile down the beach, in the fourth cottage, Noah Bennett was wakened from his sleep for the second time. As he turned over, he heard the heavy roll of thunder and noticed that the lightening looked pretty intense. Exhausted by the earlier sobbing prayer, he had finally managed to get back to sleep an hour ago. There was just no rest tonight. But since he was wide awake again, he decided to get up and step outside to see what was going on with the weather. It wouldn’t hurt to check on Moondancer either. This was the stallion’s first night in the makeshift corral on the beach, and he wasn’t sure how the animal would take to it in rough weather.

He slipped a pair of blue jeans over the underwear he usually slept in, and since he knew the wind over the ocean was usually chilly, he grabbed up his lightweight jacket and put it on over his tee shirt. When he stepped out the door, he sniffed the air, aware that there was something about the atmosphere that made him feel unpleasant. It was nothing he could put his finger on, but . . . he just stood on his porch, looking out over the water at the fast approaching storm, trying to figure out what it was he felt.

Storms didn’t frighten him. He’d worked right through some of the worst of them in his years in law-enforcement. When he’d been a cop in a midwestern city, he’d had his share of experience with weather catastrophes. Then when he’d made the switch to a deputy sheriff position in the Southwest, and had eventually been elected sheriff himself, it was torrential rainstorms and the dangerous flash floods that he’d had to concentrate on in order to protect his people. He shook his head now, in thought.

No, it wasn’t the fact that there was a heavy storm approaching that made him feel this way. But it was something in the air. Almost as if the whole atmosphere were boiling with a menacing attitude, and as if the storm were just the outward manifestation of whatever it was that was at the root of the situation. Finally, he shrugged his shoulders. He’d come here to get some rest and recuperation. He’d better stop letting his gut feelings have so much effect on him if he expected to be successful at getting that much needed rest.

But he knew the Lord had given His followers spiritual authority over the elements of nature, and it was his habit to take that authority over storms, so he did so now. “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, I take authority over all of you elements of weather right now. I command you to submit to your Creator, and I bind you from becoming destructive in any form anywhere along this beach, or in the town connected to it.” Then he spoke to the Lord personally. “Father, I thank you for that authority, and for Your protection in the name of Jesus. Amen.” He stepped off the porch then and started for the corral and shed where he had installed Moondancer.

But what he saw when he rounded the cottage stopped him in his tracks and struck him dumb. The corral gate was open and Moondancer was gone. He shook his head. That horse! There wasn’t even a moon out tonight, he thought, looking up at the sky and around the beach. Of course, there was the lighthouse, and that arc of light was brilliant. It just might have been enough of a calling card for a horse that seemed to have been born to frolic at night when the moon was bright. He’d never seen a horse so fond of racing around and just plain having a good time in the middle of the night.

That’s how he’d come by his name, of course. Noah had bought the stallion when he was just a year old, and from the first time he’d taken him home, he’d recognized that he had a horse with a unique personality. But it had suited Noah most of the time, because some nights when he’d come home, burdened down by some of the crime he’d had to deal with, Moondancer was literally champing at the bit to get out in the moonlight and run. They’d raced across many a field and country road at night, and even in the wee hours of the morning, letting the crisp night air and the star-studded sky wash Noah clean from the crud that seemed to cling to some parts of his job.

But tonight was different. Moondancer wasn’t at home. He was in a strange place. Noah decided he’d better walk along the beach and see if he could find him before the storm really broke. He didn’t have to guess which way to head. That horse always ran toward the light. Noah chuckled softly to himself at that thought. Well . . . that was a good plan for a man as well as for a horse. Wasn’t that what the Word of God said? Jesus came to bring light . . . and He was the light of men. So no matter what was going on in a person’s life, his best plan was to always turn toward the light and head for it as straight as he could go.

Noah had been walking along with his head down, thinking, but now suddenly he jerked it up. He thought he’d heard a horse whinny. Sure enough, here came that beautiful white stallion, flying like the wind, the ocean spray splashing around his ankles.

But then Noah looked closer. “What on earth!” he said out loud. There was someone on Moondancer’s back. That horse never let anyone ride him unless Noah got on his back with the new rider and let Moondancer get used to him gradually. And then he refused most people even after all of that. How in the world did some kid . . . he could see now that the rider was a child . . . how in the world did that boy get Moondancer to take him up and allow him to stay there?

As they came within a few feet of Noah, the horse slowed to a trot and gradually sidled up to his owner. Noah could see now that the boy was the great-grandson of the lighthouse manager. He’d met the family last season when he’d been here visiting his sister and brother-in-law for a week. He’d really liked Clint, the grandfather, and they had swapped some good fishing stories. Then he’d spoken momentarily to David and his aunt on the beach two days ago. He looked up at the boy whose face was wreathed in an enormous grin. As he did so, he reached out and placed an authoritative hand on Moondancer’s neck. The horse knew to stand still and wait for instructions.

“Well, well,” Noah spoke to the boy in a friendly voice, “what have we here? Are you playing cowboy in the middle of the night?”

“Is this your horse, Mister Bennett?” David asked, excitement still filling his voice as a result of the ride.

“Yep. He’s mine. His name’s Moondancer. And my first name’s Noah, by the way. Why don’t you call me that?”

“Okay. Do you remember my name?”

“It’s David, right?”

David nodded his head. “Right.”

“Well, David, I’m just wondering . . . do your aunt and grandpa know you’re out riding at this time of night?”

David looked a little sheepish, dropping his eyes and letting his tongue slip out between his lips and slide back and forth slowly . . . a habit he had when he was nervous or unsure of himself. Noah almost grinned, but he knew he’d blow his whole image as a disciplinarian if he did, so he fought the urge. “It looks like you’re in your PJ’s to me. Aren’t you cold?”

David looked up then and just shrugged his shoulders. Noah figured the boy was probably just now discovering how chilly it really was out in this damp wind and that he wasn’t going to admit it for any reason. “I’ll tell you what, why don’t you come on in and have something warm to drink, and then I’ll see about getting you back home, okay?”

David nodded, and Noah began to lead Moondancer toward the cottage, David still on his back. “Why do you call him Moondancer?” the boy asked as they sauntered along.

“Well, from the time he was barely more than a colt, he’s loved to go out at night and race in the moonlight. Sometimes, when I don’t have time to ride him myself, I’ll look out and see him trotting and prancing around almost like he’s putting on a show. So the name just seemed to fit him. What do you think?”

David nodded again. “That’s what he was doing over by my house. And then he just came right up to my window and let me pet him.”

“How did you get on his back?”

“I climbed up on an old boat that was turned upside down and then I jumped the best I could, and there I was!”

“And Moondancer didn’t seem to mind?”

“Huhnuh! He stood real still.”

Noah just shook his head. It was certainly a first. But by that time, he had the boy and horse back to his cottage, so he reached up and took David off of Moondancer’s back and stood him on the porch. It was beginning to rain steadily, so he said, “You step on inside where it’s dry, and I’ll be right in . . . as soon as I make sure old Moondancer here can’t do any more running around on his own.”

When the horse had been secured to Noah’s satisfaction, he returned to the cottage and put some milk in the microwave for some cocoa. He got a towel and dried David off the best he could and then dried himself. He slipped off his wet jacket and went into the bedroom for a shirt to put around David to help get him warm quicker. “You know, Dave, I think I should call your aunt and let her know you’re safe, because it’s raining so hard now that we may have to sit here a while before I can take you home. We don’t want her to worry if she checks on you and finds you gone, do we?”

David shook his head, but he was holding it down, knowing there was bound to be some trouble when his aunt found out what he’d been doing. But after a brief moment, he looked up at Noah, his eyes shining and declared, “It was worth it!” He didn’t have to say anything else, because Noah knew exactly what he meant.

In fact, Noah was a little envious right at that moment. It had been a long time since he’d done something just because it fulfilled a dream or a great desire of his heart, not stopping to count the cost, but just throwing himself into living the moment and savoring it. He reached out and tousled David’s blond hair. “I’ll ask her to go easy on you,” he said, and then added, “but . . . I want you to promise me that you won’t take off in the middle of the night for any reason at all without telling your aunt first . . . not for any reason.” David looked at him out of very solemn eyes, and Noah continued. “If you’ll promise me that, I’ll think about letting you ride Moondancer sometimes in the daytime, when it’s safer. What do you say?”

David’s eyes grew bigger and brighter, and then his little face took on a serious demeanor. “I promise,” he said, nodding his head for emphasis. “I promise.”

“Good,” Noah said, and reached into the microwave to get the cocoa. He set the mug in front of David and turned to the phone.


Watch for Chapter Two tomorrow.


Recipe For Creative Writing — Revisited

What?  You don’t think I’m serious about this recipe? Well, I assure you that I am. In fact, I’ve been writing — very successfully, I might add — for many years now using these ingredients on a regular basis. I originally posted the recipe about five years ago, but when I revisited the article recently and thought it over, I realized that I’m even more convinced of its effectiveness now than I was then. So I’m re-posting it just for the fun of it.

BLACK TYPEWRITER w. quiet1. A Quiet Corner:

I must have quiet when I’m creating.  If I’m simply relaxing — or doing housework — or eating — I often enjoy listening to music, a TV program, or a lesson on a subject that interests me. But if I am intent on creating something with words, I do not want any conversation or music whirling around me. I want to be closed into my own private world — just me and my words — until I have received conception of and given birth to that brand new entity that has been waiting on me to bring it into the world. So this ingredient is a must.

2. A Cup of Coffee — or Two:This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is coffee-computer-engin-akyurt-px.jpg

My, there’s just nothing that quite equals the soothing, uplifting aroma of fresh-brewed coffee. And I’m tired of hearing all the uninformed critics out there who try to make coffee drinkers feel guilty because there is an element of caffeine in coffee. I have always maintained that, since the Lord told us in Genesis that He made the seed-bearing trees and plants for us to eat, then we should be able to partake of coffee with a clear conscience and a happy heart. And let’s not forget that God made the coffee bean with the caffeine in it.

Furthermore, there have been numerous medical and scientific experiments done over the past half dozen years that prove coffee has many beneficial qualities for the human body — everything from quickening our brain function to eliminating headaches as quickly as aspirin to protecting the body against several kinds of cancer and heart problems. Naturally, nothing is good for our bodies if we partake of too much of it, to the exclusion of other important elements. But in moderation, coffee is a great blessing. And considering the fact that, in my family, a good cup of coffee has always been associated with family togetherness, wonderful fellowship, and comforting relaxation, coffee is, for sure, a substantial ingredient in my recipe.

3. Chocolate:

BOX OF CHOCOLATESAs with coffee, the medical field has grown in its understanding over the past decade concerning chocolate. Researchers in the field have learned that chocolate has many helpful — and healthful — benefits for our bodies. Again, we remember that everything we ingest is most helpful when taken in moderation. But there’s one more quality associated with chocolate that we must add to our evaluation of it. We need to consider the connotations associated with that delicious treat — you know: mother’s love, romantic love, comfort, and a little extra surge of energy. Now, given all those positives, how could I possibly leave chocolate out of my recipe?

Combine all ingredients in whatever ratios make you happy.

So there you have it folks. There’s just no other recipe quite so perfect for the dedicated, committed creative writer. And if you haven’t yet used this particular recipe, give it a try the next time you sit down to write.  Your masterpiece may be just a quiet corner, a cup of coffee, and a chocolate bar away.

~~~

Smoky Mountain Series Continues

Just a little update to say Book # 6 of the Smoky Mountain Novel Series will be out around the first of May. GRACE FOR ATTICUS  has been one of my most challenging books in a long time, but I’ve been in love with it from the first paragraph. I thought I’d give you a little sneak preview just to stir up a tad of interest. See the excerpt below:

GRACE FOR ATTICUS

Copyright © 2021 Sandra Pavloff Conner

Excerpt: Chapter One

The glass front door of Tsalagi Craft and Trade Center flew open, the bell at the top of the door jangling so hard it sounded like an alarm. Grace Walela Ross looked up from the accounting work she was doing at the desk in the back left corner of the store.

Her black hair, cut in short tousled layers accented her black eyes and her bronze Cherokee skin. She rose to her full height of five feet, seven inches, and although she was quite delightful to look at as she stood behind her desk, the man stomping his way toward her had such fire in his eyes, it was unlikely he had taken time to notice.

“I understand you’re the one responsible for this trash,” he said, slamming a copy of The Sword newspaper down on top of the desk.

“I’m the editor of the paper, if that’s what you mean,” Grace replied, standing straight and looking him in the eye. He was a good half a foot taller than she was, and all powerful, barely restrained muscle. She felt only slightly intimidated, but had no intention of letting fear have a place.

“Do you have a problem with something in the this week’s issue, Mr. – ?”

“ A problem? No, I don’t have a problem. I have a legitimate complaint against your libelous excuse for journalism. You’re the one who has the problem, Ms. – ” He stopped and glanced at the masthead of the paper to double-check her name. “Ms. Grace Walela Ross! Because unless you print an immediate retraction – and on the front page – you’re going to court and pay through the nose.”

“And just what exactly are you referring to as libelous, Mr. Whoever-You-Are?”

“St. John.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Atticus St. John. Doctor St. John to you.”

“Oh, I see.”

“I don’t think you do see, Ms. Ross. I don’t think you even try to see the whole picture. You’re so focused on your own personal rant that you don’t care how distorted you make your articles.”

Some kind of righteous anger mixed with personal hurt rose up in Grace. She rounded the desk and advanced toward him until she stood mere inches away. “I never distort my articles! How dare you come stomping in here and speak such lies!”

“Me speaking lies! You have the gall to accuse me after you’ve written and printed this hideous excuse for journalism?! You should be tarred and feathered!”

Grace’s head almost buzzed with the anger she felt. She prided herself in all the effort she put into being sure of all her facts, even down to the exact spelling of every single name she used. And she was always hard on herself to make sure she’d used proper restraint before assigning responsibility and fault to anyone in her articles. Such an attack as this on her character as a credible journalist was more than she could bear, and before she could even think about what she was going to do, she spit in his face. Instantly, the shock of what she had done hit her so forcefully that she gasped, and her hand flew to cover her mouth. Her eyes, wide with the horror of her actions, locked onto his.

But her shock was nothing compared to his. Followed by a new level of anger. “Why you little savage!” he said, grasping her by the shoulders and, without thinking, pushing her backwards against the desk, and pinning her there with his own body. Grace put up her hands against his chest in an instinctive defense, but he was much more powerful than she. Her eyes focused on his shoulders now, and her self-defense training came to mind, but for some reason, she felt a kind of dazed lack of energy to inflict any kind of retaliation.

He wasn’t sure what he’d intended when he’d grabbed her, but was responding to some primal need in him to exact revenge for such humiliation and put her in her place somehow. He fought within himself over whether to spit in her face as well or kiss her forcefully enough to prove his mastery over her.

He had decided on the ruthless kiss when, suddenly, her eyes met his again and held him with a look that said she knew he was in control, but she wouldn’t even consider backing down. There was something so pure in her eyes – an assurance of being in the right – something that pulled on him to side with her unflinching commitment to what she believed – that his own thoughts came crashing to a full stop.

In response, he gradually leaned forward almost touching her lips in what would have been an entirely different kind of kiss, but he caught himself just in time. He pulled back slowly and heard himself say in a tone of disbelief, “Grace? … You’re name is Grace? And if I’m not mistaken, your middle name is the Cherokee word for Hummingbird, is it not?”

Grace was silent with surprise at the sudden change in him, and she just nodded. He laughed softly then. “What a mistake your poor parents made. You most definitely are not a hummingbird. In fact I’d say you’re more like a she-bear – defending her domain – a spitting bear in fact,” he added, taking his right hand from her shoulder and wiping his cheek where her spittle had landed. He quickly grasped her shoulder again, but couldn’t hold back more laughter.

The laughter was genuine, but he was having a hard time understanding everything else he was feeling. Something powerful had passed between them in those moments – something so elemental he couldn’t put a name to it, but it pulled on him and caused him to want to stay close to her. A ridiculous feeling since she represented everything he had to fight against in order to carry out his own work – work that he believed in and had labored hard to be able to accomplish.

He finally released her and stepped back, glancing toward the floor and running his hand through his hair in a frustrated manner. But he looked right at her again and spoke in a disgruntled tone. “Never mind. I don’t really have time to bother with you.”

He turned away from her and started for the door, but just before he pushed the door open, he turned and almost spat out the words, “Just be careful, my little Spitting-Bear. The next victim of your irresponsible journalism may not be as willing to forego exacting his vengeance.” And with those words he walked through the door and almost stomped down the street.

Grace still leaned against the desk, almost as if she needed its support. Her adrenaline was rushing, and she knew she’d been frightened a little by the encounter, but there was something else involved that she couldn’t identify. She realized with a quickening of her breath that she actually wished he had followed through on his actions and kissed her. She shook her head in disbelief now and finally pushed herself away from the desk, making her way around it, where she sat down in the chair again. She closed her eyes and relived the whole experience.

In the heat of the moment, she hadn’t been conscious of noting his appearance, but now, in her memory’s eye, she saw again the strength that showed in the muscles of his arms and chest even beneath the fabric of his long-sleeved dress shirt. His hair was sandy brown and had been tousled by the breeze. She saw again the firm jaw, and the olive green eyes – eyes that kindled with his barely restrained temper as they bored into hers. She felt a stirring inside as she remembered those eyes – and the way his body felt barely touching hers. Suddenly, she shook herself lightly, trying to escape those memories and clear her head.

Everything about the man was the antithesis of her beliefs and agenda for her own life. How could she have wanted to kiss him – to stay in a place where she was touching him and looking steadily into his eyes? She leaned back in the chair and just sat, waiting for her thoughts to clear and for her day to get back to normal somehow.

She heard the bell again, but at a normal volume this time, and when she glanced toward the door she saw her brother Blaze heading her way. “Hey, Sis, I read your article this morning.”

Grace looked up at him as he stood now in front of the desk, but she seemed to be having trouble focusing.

“Is something wrong, Hon.” he asked, concern in his eyes now.

Grace really looked at him then, finally focusing, and shook her head again slightly, as if still trying to clear it. “No, not really. I guess I’m just a little dazed after having a confrontation with Dr. St. John.”

“St. John? As in the man you wrote about in the front page article?”

Grace nodded her head and, to Blaze’s relief, her impish grin kicked in, and he felt reassured that she was her old self.

“What happened?”

Grace told him how Dr. St. John had stormed into the store and accused her of being irresponsible in her journalism and of telling lies, and how he’d threatened to sue if she didn’t print a retraction of her accusations.”

“I guess you set him straight, didn’t you?”

“Well … about that.” Grace said and started to squirm a little in her chair.

Blaze was intrigued by that move, because his little sister was generally straight-forward and outspoken with everyone, so he just stood there and looked at her intently until she glanced away and then, finally, looked back at him.

“Hummingbird, why do I feel that there’s something you should tell me, but you don’t want to? What really did happen?”

“Everything happened just like I said, except that … well … I guess he just made me so angry and so hurt … you know everything he said was totally unfair and just wrong … and … well … I … before I realized what I was doing, I spit in his face.”

“What!”

Grace leaned forward on the desk putting her face into her hands and groaning. She felt ashamed and so guilty. Not only was she ashamed about what she had done to the doctor, but she was just as much ashamed to have her brother know that she had acted in such an un-Christlike manner to anyone. Tears sprang to her eyes, and she lifted her head just enough to reach for a tissue from the box on the corner of the desk.

“Oh, Honey, don’t cry. I can’t imagine your doing anything like that unless you were seriously pressed beyond endurance,” Blaze said and sat down in the chair in front of the desk.

He sat quietly for a few moments while his sister blotted her eyes and blew her nose. He thought back to last fall when she had decided to move back to Cherokee to be closer to their family and to help him with his craft center and store because the Lord was using him so much in a traveling ministry now that he didn’t have the time to devote to actually running the business alone.

She had worked for several years for a publishing company, but had long had a dream to begin her own newspaper with the aim of focusing on much needed moral and social change in both the local community and the nation. After deciding to move back home and work with her brother, she’d felt it was the right time and place to launch the paper, and she had been working hard at making it a real success for the past six months.

He smiled now as he watched her getting control of her emotions and blotting her eyes once more before looking up at him.

“You want to tell me the rest of it?” he asked, grinning at her. “What did he do when you spit on him?” Grace thought back through all of his reactions – and her own unexpected response to his grasping her and almost kissing her. She wasn’t ready to share that part with her brother just yet, but she could at least tell him about the doctor’s words.

She grinned now too as she answered. “He called me a savage.”

Blaze’s eyebrows rose at that. “Wow, that’s a little cowboy-and-Indianish, isn’t it?”

Grace laughed out loud at that. “But that’s not all. He also said that he knew my middle name was the Cherokee word for hummingbird but that my poor parents had made a serious mistake because I was more like a she-bear – in fact a spitting bear. And just as he walked out the door, he addressed me by that name again.”

“And he’s going to sue?”

“Well … that’s the really odd part,” she said. “He acted like he sort of got better control of his own anger and said he didn’t have time to fool with me. Then his parting words to me were that I should be careful because the next victim of my irresponsible journalism might not be so willing to forego exacting his vengeance.”

“Whew!” Blaze said, leaning back in his chair. “You’ve had quite a day, haven’t you?”

Grace nodded and leaned back in her chair as well. “But I don’t think he’s actually planning on a lawsuit now. And, of course, even if he did sue, he can’t possibly win because, as you know, I make absolutely sure of all my facts – right down to correctly spelled words – and he doesn’t have a leg to stand on.”

“Still, I’d hate for you to have to be dragged through court over all of it.”

“Yeah,” she said, nodding her head again. “Me too. But, you know, Blaze – well, we both knew from the beginning – some of the situations I’m addressing in The Sword are going to be pretty volatile from time to time.”

Blaze nodded. “It’s true. And, as you say, you didn’t go into the work blind. I think, though, that this whole abortion issue is something the devil and his forces fight more intensely than anything else right now. It’s going to take the true sword of the Lord and a lot more prayer to make any headway against it.”

“And concerning my articles … it’s not as if I’m trying to shut down every abortion clinic in the country. Of course, you know I don’t believe they should be legal at all, but my recent articles are mainly fighting against adding another abortion clinic to this area when we already have enough of them. It’s a valid argument. But it’s true that I am hitting hard on the whole fact that abortion is immoral period, wherever people have it performed.”

“Did he say specifically what he considered libelous?”

She shook her head and picked up the paper, scanning her front page article again. “No … but I’m pretty sure he was going to focus on the fact that I called him ‘another professional exterminator.’”

“Is there any chance at all that he can make his charges stick?”

“ I don’t see how. I was very careful in my choice of words. I would have liked to use the term murderer, but the technical definition of murderer is ‘someone who illegally kills another person. And right now, in most states almost all abortions are considered legal. There are still a few states holding out on late-term abortions, but the scale is sliding downhill fast. And the states where he has his other two clinics are one hundred percent pro-abortion at any time during pregnancy, so that term would have left me open to question. But the term exterminator specifically means ‘someone who kills whole groups of people or animals. What he does fits the term exactly.”

She leaned back in her chair again and sighed. “I think when he gets rid of all his anger, he’ll be sensible enough to know that even if he forced me to retract the article, or even won a lawsuit, it would just prolong the attention people are giving the story, and if I made it clear that I was forced to retract, he would still end up looking like the bad guy to our readers.”

“I think you’re right. And I’ll let Joy know about your little … uh … adventure today,” he said grinning again, “and we’ll both be praying for the Lord to cover you in this. But, listen, I came in to do some work on the leather moccasins I started yesterday, but I wanted to ask you if you’d like to take a couple days off and get away from the store. You know Joy and I will be gone four days next week for that seminar in Dallas, but I’m here for the rest of this week, and you’ve been working non-stop for months now. I don’t want you worn out with this, especially since you’re still doing some editing for Milton Publishing.”

“Well, if you wouldn’t feel abandoned, I just might think about taking a couple days. I’d actually like to take Mom shopping in Nashville one day, and if we stayed over and went out to dinner, that would be fun for her and me both. I can also make a quick run by the publishing house and check in with the main office.”

“Hey, that sounds like a great idea.”

“Do you think Joy might want to go with us?”

“Well … I guess she might … but … I rather hope she doesn’t,” he said, grinning.

“You really are still newlyweds, aren’t you?” Grace teased him. “You don’t want her out of your sight if you can manage it.”

“Oh, it isn’t that bad, but I do really like having her around all the time. And after all, we have been married only five months.”

He heaved a sigh and added, “But I don’t want to be selfish, and it’s only fair that she have some time with you girls if she’d like to. I’m sure I can survive forty-eight hours,” he said grinning again.

“I know you can, but I just can’t keep from teasing you. I think I will ask her if she’d like to go with us. We haven’t all three had a chance to do anything like that together.”

“I know, and, honestly, I’d be happy for her to get that time with you and Mom if she’d like to go. Call her and let her know what you’re planning.”


The Wait Is Over

 

Yes, it’s official. Book # 5 of the Smoky Mountain Series of inspirational novels is on the market. THIS FIRE IN MY HEART, which continues the story of many of the original characters from the earlier books while introducing us to new ones as well, is finally ready for readers.

Many of my readers who have followed my website for a few years know that when I lost my best friend (who had also been my best book editor) a little over three years ago, the grief and the loss were such that I was not able to return to any of the novels I had been working on, or to start any new works. I was able to write poetry during those years, which provided a healing process for me, but after writing and publishing 11 novels, I was suddenly at a complete standstill when it came to fiction writing. It was a terribly unhappy time for me, not only because of my personal loss, but because of the creative loss as well.

Many of you prayed for me, and the Lord did a wonderful work, particularly during the past year.  Earlier this year, I was able to pick up the second novella in another series that had been about half done when my friend and editor died. And I was able to finish that short work and get it into the marketplace. But taking up the task of writing a completely new novel again — and one that fit into the series which has been the most popular of my works — was still quite daunting.

But during the past few months, I’ve experienced a fresh flow of creativity, and I am thrilled with the results. Not only did I write book 5 and get it into publication, but book 6 began to push its way into my psyche so strongly that it almost interrupted my completing book 5 just because I had to keep stopping to write down notes for book 6 that I didn’t want to forget. It’s a very happy problem for an author to have.  🙂

Anyway, folks, that’s a long way of saying that I’m celebrating. So I’ve launched both the E-Book and the Paperback versions of THIS FIRE IN MY HEART  at special sale prices through the end of the month.

E-Book — $0.99

Paperback — $6.99

I’ll include a brief description of the story below, and if you’re interested in your own copy, you can find the book HERE.


What’s it about????

He was Cherokee, she Scottish-American. But the moment they met in the airport coffee shop, they were connected. Waiting out the fog, they talked like old friends. When her plane was called, he carried her bag to her boarding gate.

With disappointment in her voice, she said, “Wow, Chicago and Dallas – talk about two people going in opposite directions.”

Light flared in his eyes as he realized she didn’t want their connection to end any more than he did. Her pull on him was so strong that he reached out, thinking to touch her cheek, but caught himself just in time. Such an intimate touch with someone he hardly knew wasn’t like him, He quickly bent and picked up her bag and handed it to her, smiling.

“Opposite directions today,” he said, “but not always, I think. I will see you again, Joy.”

How do you know when you’ve met the right person to spend the rest of your life with? For a Christian believer, the Lord has guidelines. Even so, Joy McDaniels struggles with her heart and mind in conflict. But determined to focus on God’s Word and His way of doing things, she finally allows her heart to take the lead.


The Author Adventures – #2

People often ask me where I get ideas for my novels, and they also like to know the “behind-the-scenes” details of the actual writing. So periodically I share some of those details — especially the ones that I found personally enjoyable or that helped me grow as a writer. The writing of Quenton’s Honor taught me much about dedication and commitment to a project — the kind of commitment that refuses to throw in the towel because tracking down those miniscule details takes multiple phone conversations, some with foreign speaking individuals, and hours poring over dusty facts and figures and then double-checking to see if any of them have changed since I started the research. But it also taught me that even the drudgery work has its own rewards in the positive results of self-discipline.

Quenton’s Honor was actually my third novel, but it was the first of all my novels to be published, with the first printing coming out  in 2008. It was marketed by its original publisher for several years, but now it is currently available on Amazon as well. The basic story had been hanging around in my mind and my heart for months before it took enough shape to send me to the keyboard to write the first words. Once I was started, however, there was no stopping. I had to do a considerable amount of research where Pakistan was concerned, and I had to keep reminding myself that I was dealing with a huge time difference between St. Louis Missouri, and Karachi, Pakistan. That time difference didn’t cause me nearly as much trouble, though, as the loss of 12 whole days when I decided — after finishing the novel — to substitute Chapter 3 for Chapter 1.

As often happens in writing a work this long, once it’s done, the author can look back and see new possibilities for the beginning chapter — scenes that will better help grab the reader and get him involved with the story immediately. I realized that Quenton’s Honor would be a better story if I took Chapter 3 and gave it to the readers first. It was a beautiful trade, and I was very happy with it, except for the fact that I had lost 12 days of action. Not to be thwarted, however, I managed to squeeze in a little flashback to grab those 12 days. Of course, I’ll admit it took me 3 days to figure out how to make it all work. But in the end, all was well.

Another editing change came when I turned it over to a friend who reads all my novels critically. I like to have him read my works before anyone else, if possible, because he is very particular about the quality of books he reads and is eager and quick to speak up if a book is lacking in any area. When he read Quenton’s Honor, he loved the book overall and was genuinely touched by several parts, but he was not at all happy with one scene where Quenton’s life is about to be snuffed out by his terrorist guards, and the men sent to rescue him have not arrived. My friend insisted the scene needed more energy and physical action.

Now, this friend is a very shy, introverted, quiet-spoken person, and definitely not the physical confrontation type. However, when I asked him for his ideas about changes to that particular scene, he got up from his desk and began to act out all the parts of the physical confrontation for the scene. I sat and watched him with my mouth open. Here was an entirely different person from the one I’d known several years. He was so energized as he acted out all the parts that he made a believer out of me, and I went home and re-wrote that scene exactly the way he had acted it out. Of course, I acknowledged him gratefully in the front of the book.

Making those changes before publication seems to have been the right decision. The feedback from the book has been very positive — more positive, I think, than it would have been if I hadn’t gone beyond just writing a good story. The fact that I grabbled with the troublesome places until I got them “right” has made all the difference in my opinion.  Any of the rest of you who read the book are welcome to let me know what you think as well. To say that writing Quenton’s Honor was an adventure is a bit of an understatement. I think the extent that I grew as an author during its creation makes it more of a major life event for me. I love that I was able to write the story and share it, and I love that I learned so much that helped me hone my craft more effectively for the sake of all the books that came afterwards.


If any of you readers would like to check out Quenton’s Honor for yourselves, you can find it here.


The Author Adventures – # 1

There’s a quote floating around out there among writers and readers that says, “Every book you’ve ever read is just a different combination of 26 letters.” I don’t know where it came from originally. I’ve searched the Internet for a reference, but found none. However, I know that quote is true. And this past week, I’ve found myself thinking about that truth more than usual.

As many of my readers know, I’ve recently taken a dive back into my “Smoky Mountain Novel Series” to get book number 5 completed. It’s been a few years since I finished the first 4 books, and I actually had to go back and read a bit of some of them to make sure I still knew the characters well enough to continue the series. I found that I do, indeed, still know them and love them. And after a couple unsuccessful attempts at birthing book 5, I have finally managed to get it into the birth canal far enough that delivery is imminent.

But as I sat this morning pondering on this quote, I thought back over all the books that I have written. Now, I’m not even thinking about books by others that I’ve read — the multiplied thousands of them — and I wasn’t even considering them as I meditated on this thought. But considering just the books that I have written, I stand totally amazed at the vast differences in the subject matters, the characters, the environments, and the stories themselves that have all been created by using only these same 26 little letters.

I guess I’m unusually focused on language and it’s amazing power in the lives of human beings at this particular time because in book 5 of the series, I’m telling the story of a full-blooded Cherokee man who is very personally involved in a movement to restore the original Cherokee language to his people. While many of the elderly Cherokee still speak their native language, most of their children and certainly almost all of their grandchildren barely know and understand that language.

A major reason for that lack, of course, is the result of the U.S. government forcing thousands of American Indian children to leave their homes and families and attend boarding schools for years at which they were totally stripped of everything about their culture and their heritage. They were forced to use only the English language for all communication and were severely punished if they even spoke to each other in their native tongues. Naturally, that kind of treatment could easily and quickly eradicate an entire nation’s communication skills.

As I’ve been pondering these terrible events in history and working them into the story where they need to go for the sake of developing my main character, I’ve been thinking anew about how powerful language really is. And how powerful words are. As a devout Christian and one who tries to write mostly for the sake of sharing Gospel truths through my work, I’m very well acquainted with the importance the Lord puts on words. In fact He comes right out and tells us in Proverbs 18:21 that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

So our words have great power to effect others. And as a writer, I try to always be aware of that fact. I know that words have driven men to hateful, heinous acts against each other, and words have brought an end to wars and brought comfort and courage to thousands in times of need. I try to be aware that all my words carry some degree of power to affect others and even the atmosphere around me — for good or for bad. I believe that the words I write are just as powerful as the words I speak aloud, so it’s my aim as an author to be the most responsible purveyor of words that I can possibly be. It’s a challenge, but it’s also a great adventure — taking 26 little letters and crafting them responsibly into brand new life-sized people and their stories.


If readers would like to check out “The Smoky Mountain Series” novels for themselves, they can find them, along with many of my other books, at this site.


My Latest Watercolor Project

My latest watercolor project.
DREAMCATCHER W- CROSS
In book # 5 of my “Smoky Mountain Novel Series” — which is currently in the writing process — the main character, a Cherokee artisan, is inspired by the Lord to create these Christian-themed dream catchers as a way of helping spread the Gospel truth that Jesus and His Holy Spirit are the only true protection in our lives and the only trustworthy power for man to believe in.

Back In The Saddle???

HORSE & SADDLE -- James DeMers -- PX
James DeMers @ pixabay.com

Well, my three-week hiatus from writing for any websites — and focusing on my art instead — has done me some good. I’ll try to get back in the saddle now and focus on some things that have to be written out in words. But even if I’m back in the saddle, I think I’ll move forward at a trot, rather than racing speed. I’ll work my way back to writing publicly in as relaxed a manner as possible — beginning with this light-hearted poem:

Writing
Can be a joy,
Except when it’s a drag.
Words must be disciplined,
And that’s the gag.

Therefore,
I took a break
From writing anything.
And gave myself to art,
And had a fling.

So now,
I’m in the mood
To write a thing or two.
Thoughts that have been backlogged
Are now in queue.



 

‘QUENTON’S HONOR’ – Now Available on Amazon

QUENTON FRONT COVER -- NICE AND SHARP FROM CD FOR KINDLE - croppedWhat happens when twenty-first century technology comes face to face with the most powerful force the human race has ever known? Find out in this story of intrigue, romance, courage, and faith:  QUENTON’S HONOR.

A man’s love for his country; a man’s love for a woman.

Securing a nation; capturing a heart.

It’s a story of patriotism.  It’s a love story.  It’s a story of one man’s journey to God.

American industrial magnate Quenton Sutherland’s efforts at humanitarian aid carry him on a fact-finding tour into the Middle-Eastern hotbed of war-torn Pakistan. While there, he uncovers a terrorist plot involving three cells already poised for attack back in the U.S. Before he can foil their plan, he is taken hostage to prevent his exposing their plot.

In the days that follow, Quenton comes face-to-face with his need for the God he abandoned decades before — while he, along with investigative journalist Honor Fairfield, and the Department of Homeland Security, begin an ever-twisting adventure and discover life-changing connections that none of them could have foreseen.

I wrote this book years ago, and it was first published in 2004. But this is the first time its been offered in paperback through Amazon. I still love the story. Even though I’m the author, the story still makes me cry in all the right places, makes my heart beat faster with each embrace of the lovers, and thrills my soul when the characters encounter a God whose love is focused on blessing them every step of the way on this journey.

The story has been called a cross between ‘You’ve Got Mail’ and ‘Song of Solomon.’ I don’t know about that, but I do know amazing things — even spiritual things — can happen through the wonders of computer technology and in the world of cyberspace. You’ll just have to see for yourself.

Get your copy in paperback or digital here.
The E-book is on sale for $1.99 through June.

You can read a short sample at this link, but bear in mind that Amazon’s samples on the product page are sometimes a little screwed up. Hopefully, you’ll at least get enough of the text to make a decision on whether the story’s for you or not.



What Happened to ‘The End’?

BOOKS W. END

Over the past decade, the publishing world has experienced an interesting, but, in my opinion, sad phenomenon. Almost all fiction authors and/or publishing houses have started leaving out the words “The End” on the last page of novels. It’s now become passe, and I guess in some minds, even unsophisticated to write those two iconic little words below the last paragraph of a story.

It’s sad. I’ve been an avid reader all my life. My earliest happy memories involve reading stories and having them read to me, and I started writing my own in elementary school. In fact, I wrote my first full-length play in the 6th grade. I get totally immersed in the books I read. I can pass hours and even go without food — even chocolate and coffee — once I get entrenched in a story. I live the experiences with the characters — laughing with them, crying with them, loving with them, fighting with them — and rejoicing in the final resolution of the climax in their favor. ( I do not read stories where the main character ends up defeated.)

But when I come to the end of those stories, I’m generally so much involved that I need closure in order to let them go and move on. Those two little words — “The End” — have always given me that. Now, many have been the times when I hated to see them come. I didn’t want the story to end, and I would have pushed those words forward for another twenty pages or so at least. But eventually, all good stories have to reach their resolution, and when they do, I’ve always found a quiet acceptance and even a serene pleasure in reading those words. I can’t begin to count the times I’ve leaned back after reading “The End,” closed my eyes, and taken a slow deep breath and relished the fact that all was resolved and every loose end securely tucked away.

Those two little words close a story and let me know that it’s all right to let those characters go and move on to the next story — the next adventure — the next romance — the next journey. Yes, I know that any reader of average intelligence is able to figure out that if there is no more text between the covers, then the story has come to an end. But that doesn’t satisfy me at all. Somehow, those two words typed onto the page just make the reading experience complete, and finishing a story without them is not the same. Perhaps I’m the only one who feels that way. I don’t know. It’s not a subject I discuss with other writers — or readers. But it’s something that touches me powerfully enough that I continue to type “The End” at the completion of every novel I write.

And I will continue to do so from now on. The publisher that I have worked with for years is in agreement with me, and, of course, any books that I publish through Amazon don’t require my considering anyone else’s opinion. So I’m free in both situations to do as I please. And what pleases me is to be able to say to my readers  — in effect — “Well, now, we have come the distance together in this story; thank you for sharing it with me; I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have; we’ve solved the problems for the hero and heroine, and they are satisfied and secure;  I’ve taken great care to leave you in a good place; All is well = The End.”



 

Weekend Coffee Share 5/16/20

COFFEE & COMPUTER -- Engin Akyurt -- PX
photo courtesy of Engin Akyurt @ pixabay.com

Hello again, everyone. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve had an opportunity to participate in the coffee share, and I’m feeling happy this morning that I have time to just sit here and talk to you as I’m enjoying my coffee. To be honest, there are several things I need to be doing, but they are not pressing me very hard, so I’m ignoring them and choosing to visit with you for a few minutes instead.

I can’t say that I’ve had any important experiences this past week, but I am looking forward to what I have planned for this weekend. It’s related to a victory in my life that took place a few months ago, and I’ll share a little of that with you so you can rejoice with me.

Some of you are aware that about 2 1/2 years ago, I lost my very best friend in an accident. I’ve shared a little about that experience from time to time, but not anything recently. Not only was he my best friend, but he was also my best editor and had such a vibrant, creative mind that he had been enormous help to me in my writing. He was at times my toughest critic, but at all time my greatest champion.

And he was the kind of person I could call on the phone and say, “Hey, I have this character who needs to end up so-and-so, but I’m having a hard time figuring out how I can set him up for this experience.” In no time at all, my friend would come up with at least one and maybe three or four possible scenes that fit right into where I needed to go in my story. And he was available to offer feedback at any time of the day or night.

So, as you can see, when I lost him, I lost someone very personal and emotionally supportive, but also a great catalyst and creative inspiration at the same time. As a result of that loss, I came to a place where I was unable to write any novels at all. I had been working on three when he died — and one of them had already benefited from input from him. Every time I tried to go back to any of those novels, I ran into a brick wall. It wasn’t what some writers refer to as “writer’s block.” It was a deep sense of emptiness that I couldn’t seem to get out of enough to bring words and scenes to life again. I struggled against that barrier repeatedly, but to no avail.

I’m very grateful that the Lord allowed me to write more poetry during that time. It was interesting to me that, while I could not write any stories, I could still write non-fiction work that is part of my Christian ministry, and I could write poetry. In fact, writing poetry was the most healing experience I had during that time, and I even created a brand new poetry website where I could share it. That creativity was powerful blessing.

But, thanks to the Lord’s healing work in my soul, I finally came to a place a little earlier this year where I was able to pick up one of the novels I had been working on and finish it completely. In fact, it was just birthed into the marketplace in April. What a great victory that was. As the author of 20 books before that time, I can’t even put into words how it felt to sit for two whole years and not be able to write one complete story. But victory is mine, and now, I believe I’m ready to take the bull by the horns, so to speak, and finish some of the other novels that have been waiting a very long time.

Now, back to this weekend. My plan is to take this weekend to finish one of those books. Sadie Rose Donovan: Coed Detective is actually a little different from most of my other novels. This book is more of a young adult novel, but I’m hoping and believing that mature adults will enjoy it as well. If I can’t finish it completely this weekend, I’m thinking about posting it one chapter a day on my website and promising to post every day until it’s done. That procedure has helped me push myself to finish novels in the past. We’ll have to see how things go today and tomorrow. But, for sure, the book is coming to its rightful conclusion this week!

Personally, I love the story. It was inspired almost exclusively by a photo of a young friend of mine who snapped a selfie while standing in a hallway in one of the main classroom buildings on a local college campus. She was posed as if involved in some clandestine activity, and the moment I saw it, the story sprang to life in my head. I’ve told her that I consider her my inspiration, and I’ll be dedicating the book to her — Hannah Herron.

The main character is named after a sweet young lady who waited on the table at a restaurant I visited a couple years ago. My cousin and I were eating supper there, and Sadie Rose stopped to visit a while. The conversation led to how she had come by her first and middle name. I instantly fell in love with that name and told her I knew it would be perfect for a story I’d be writing. I told her I’d let her know when it came out, but I don’t think she works at that restaurant any longer. See the sad pitfalls of taking so long to finish a story???  Anyway, I hope I can locate her and let her know when her namesake is finally on the bookshelves.

So, that’s my weekend coffee share for today. And that’s my weekend plans: I’m going to get out of my robe and start pounding the keys to finish Sadie Rose’s story. And I feel sure there will be plenty of pots of coffee involved as the work progresses.


To participate in “Weekend Coffee Share,” visit our host’s website: Eclectic Ali.

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11 Things I’m Looking Forward to in 2020

2020 LOADING -- Elisa Riva - PX - purple letters

I do not make New Year’s resolutions.  But each year, I do look to the Lord and seek His face and His heart to learn what His plans are for my upcoming year, and what He wants from me during that time.  And, of course, there are things that I want for myself as well. This year, I decided to just make a list of all the things I’m wanting to accomplish in 2020. Some of them are on God’s list as well as mine, and some of them — well — they’re probably on my list only —  but God will tolerate them out of His merciful love for me.  🙂

Here’s my list — so far:

1.  Eating lots of chocolate  No surprise there, right?)

2 . Drinking gallons of great coffee  You didn’t think I’d forget coffee, did you?

3 . Finishing the three novels that got shelved after my best friend/best editor died. I’ve recovered from the grief of losing my best friend, who was also my most trusted and efficient editor — and my reservoir for all kinds of creative ideas. But even though I don’t deal with the intense pain of the loss as much, I’ve still found it impossible to let my creativity flow back into those projects that he was working on with me. I know I’ll be able to do so eventually, and I’m trusting the Lord that this year will see a breakthrough.

4.  Writing scores of Cinquain. I do love Cinquain — as most of my readers know. And I can’t wait to dive into all kinds of subject matter that can be disciplined into this wonderful poetic form this year.

5.  Writing scores of Tso’i.  This new poetic form that I created last year is still a challenge. Of course, it had to be somewhat intricate in order to be a genuinely “new” form. If I had followed the disciplines that are comfortable, I’d have been staying in the same groove of all the forms I’ve written in all my life. So, I accept the challenge to write loads more Tso’i  in 2020.

6.  Writing a new series of Christmas stories  I haven’t written anything holiday-themed in a couple years, and that’s surprising, considering how much I love Christmas. I did put out my Holiday Planning Journal last year, and that was loads of fun. But this year, I want to do some more short stories that relate the special excitement, warmth, and love that belong to the Christmas season.

7.  Painting more than I did last year and arranging for a showing of some of my work.  During this past year, some people have been encouraging me to do a showing of my artwork at a couple local places, but I haven’t had the confidence in my work that they seem to have. However, I think it’s time I considered it seriously.  This venture is more a “maybe” than a sure thing, but I’m definitely going to consider it.

8.  Making connections with more Christian artists. I’ve taken the first steps in getting this goal accomplished by creating a brand new Facebook group called “Art From God’s Word.” It looks like there are quite a few other Christian artists out there who want to participate. Twice a month, I’ll post a scripture prompt on that FB page, and all the members will meditate on that scripture and then create artwork that the verse inspires. They are free to use any medium and form of art that they choose, as long as it relates to the scripture passage. It’s a way to focus on God’s Word and fellowship with others who are like-spirited and want their gifts to glorify the Lord.

9.  Teaching more”Writing Poetry” classes.  It’s been hard to get people to sign up for the “Writing Poetry” classes. They come to other creative writing classes, but the poetry always lags behind in enrollment. It’s such a fun class, and if people realized that, they’d want to come. So, I need to work more diligently this year at making them understand how much fun it really is.

10.  Taping a number of live videos, where I teach in front of the camera.  Except for a very few, my Bible teaching videos are mainly audio teaching — with the help of a few pictures or graphics for people to look at as they listen. I’ve never been photogenic, and have a complex about being on camera — video or stationary cameras either one — so I’ve held off on this venture. But I do believe the Lord says its time — maybe past time — that I got this part of the ministry off the back burner. As long as I don’t go back and look at the old live videos that I do have of myself, I think I’ll be able to accomplish this goal in 2020.

11.  Increasing my focus on the Lord and becoming more conscious of His presence within me.  This desire is last on my list in this post, but it is certainly not least. In fact, it is the most important thing I will do this year. And, in truth,  unless I do manage to accomplish this one, most of the others will probably fall by the wayside unfinished. But I have faith that this year will be a year of new growth — even great growth — for me spiritually. So, with the Lord’s help, I’m expecting to get this last item on the list accomplished, as well as the other nine.

If you’d like to share your goals, desires, or plans for this new year, please do. Use the “Comment” windows below to tell us about them — or put a link there to a post on your own blog where you share in more detail.

HAPPY 2020!!!


Graphics courtesy of Elisa Riva @ pixabay.com (edited for this post)
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‘Stories That Leave You Thinking …’

GIRAFFE COVER W. SHADOW

Well, I’ved dithered, and dallied, and delayed for a year. I had all kinds of excuses and reasons — some good, some not so good. But all that’s behind me now, and I FINALLY have the enlarged second edition of my short short story anthology ready for public consumption. 🙂

Yep, it’s out there: STORIES THAT LEAVE YOU THINKING … (A Collection of Diverse and Slightly Unconventional Short Short Stories)

Some of you helped me choose which stories needed to be included. Many of you have read several of them over the past few years, and your response played a part in decideding which stories to include and which to leave for another project. The book contains 20 stories in all. Three of them are also featured in my Christmas anthology, but the other 17 have not been published previously in book form.

Even though the book is actually a totally new entity and will replace the old, smaller version completely, I still wanted to use the same cover. My great friend, professional photographer Bob Mielke, generously gave me permission to use his amazing work. This cover photo inspired one of the first stories to go into the book, and, as far as I was concerned, it just HAD to be the front cover. Thank again, Bob. You’re one of the “good guys.”

Here’s the blurb to tell you a little more about what you can expect if you pick up a copy of STORIES THAT LEAVE YOU THINKING … .  And I hope you do — one for you and one for a friend. It’s currently available in paperback only.

“Have you ever come to the words “The End” when reading and just couldn’t seem to turn off your own imagination? Did your mind keep working on the plot and planning out possible ways in which the story could continue? Did you enjoy the process? Then you’ve come to the right book. The stories included here, on a wide variety of subjects and themes, offer the reader the opportunity to keep thinking past “The End.” Each story comes to a stop, to be sure, but most of them will tempt the reader to let his own imagination get involved and do some thinking about what would happen next – if the story continued. A refreshing approach to short story telling.”

Purchase your own copy for $6.00  from Amazon.




 

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Weekend Coffee Share — 11/2/19

COFFEE, TABLE, RESTAURANT -- Zaccaria

To participate in this week’s “Coffee Share” click on this link and visit Eclectic Ali for the details.

If we were having coffee together this weekend, I’d probably tell you about my book signing gig today. It was the kind of book signing that every author hopes he never experiences even once in his whole career. Not only did no one ask me to sign a book, but no one even wanted to buy a book. In fact, only two people even went so far as to pick up any books to look at them closer.

Yep, as sad as I am about it – and as embarrassed as I am to admit it – that’s the truth. My last book signing was pretty successful. I had a good time with people taking real interest in the books and asking intelligent questions – and most importantly – buying books and asking me to inscribe and sign them.

So why was this event such a failure? Well, as all authors know, we have good times and not-so-good times when it comes to book sales, but there are some specific circumstances that can lead more to one result or another. I was talking with my sister after the sad experience today, and she reminded me that the event took place in a county of our state that is known for its illiteracy, poor educational system, poverty, heavy drug use, heavy crime, witchcraft, and financial and political corruption. What does that fact mean in terms of selling books? Well, to begin with, the majority of people in that county are not interested in reading books much, period. But even when they do want to read, they are not looking for books with Christian-based themes and the propagation of the Gospel. Those two facts gave me an automatic two strikes against me before I even set up my table.

“So,” you ask, “why did you even participate in that event?” Well, my answer is two-fold. One: I’m an author who believes I’ve written books that will help people and make their lives better in a few different ways, and I naturally want to sell those books. So any possible market is worth at least considering. Two: I believe everybody, no matter what their culture or past experiences, should be given opportunities to choose to step out of what is negative and into something positive. I just believe that, given the opportunity, many people who live in a negative culture want to change that experience and will take advantage of such possibilities as reading good books in order to do so. I’ve been proven right about that theory in the past, and even though no one stepped up to make any of those choices today, I still believe there are people out there who do and will in the future.

So am I sorry I took part in the event – that I paid money for my place in the vendor’s fair that hosted us – that I spent hours getting all my materials together, traveling to the event, setting up everything, and then taking it all down and hauling it back home? No, I’m not. It was an experience that will have its own rewards for me it its own ways. However, when the coordinator of the event asked if I would come back to do another similar event before Christmas, I said no. I have to be a good steward of my time, my energy, and my finances, and when the evidence is staring me in the face as it did today, I’m smart enough to recognize that one of the lessons learned today is that this particular venue is not good stewardship.

Now, on the other hand, while we were sharing over coffee, I would also tell you about how I received shipment today of my first big order of the HOLLY JOLLY HOLIDAY PLANNING JOURNALS. I love these journals, and I’m so glad I decided to create them this year.

HOLLY JOLLY RESIZED
Moreover, half of this first batch is already spoken for, and that’s a pretty happy situation for an author and book creator to be in. With only half of this batch left in stock, I have to order more for the next book event that I’m participating in – in a totally different county, by the way, with a much more educated and literature-conscious culture. It takes place in a couple weeks, and by then I will have licked all my emotional and financial wounds from today, and I’ll have a great time interacting with potential readers at that event.

So — you win some, you lose some. As authors, we know that’s how life goes. It’s like the old song says — with a little paraphrasing from me:
You’ve got to give a little, take a little …
You’ve got to laugh a little, cry a little …
You’ve got to win a little, lose a little …
That’s the story of – that’s the glory of – being an author.

 


Lyrics taken from “The Glory of Love,” written by Billy Hill


 

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The Music of Words

Exif JPEG

I’m a musician. I play keyboard instruments mainly. Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of using my talents to entertain audiences, to minister as organist and choir director for two different churches, to help facilitate weddings and funerals for scores of families, to compose and orchestrate numerous songs, and to teach others to use their gifts and talents to bless the world with music from their own keyboards.

These days I rarely sit down to a musical keyboard. Instead, I’m nearly glued to the kind of keyboard that is attached to a desktop or laptop computer. For,  you see, I’m also a writer. Now, some people feel that I have left music behind as I’ve devoted so much of myself to the writing. But you know what?  I’ve discovered a truth that, ten years ago, I may not have even thought about:

I’ve discovered that music — true music — doesn’t come from a keyboard on a piano, an organ, or an accordion. Nor does it come from a horn, a guitar, a violin, or any other instrument. On the contrary, music comes from the soul. It’s the melody, the harmony, and the rhythm of life that courses through our beings and finds its release through any number of avenues. Frequently, it is released through instruments constructed for that specific purpose, but the music of the soul is also released through words.

I find that I’m releasing the music of my soul constantly as my fingers whisk over the letter keys of my laptop. I’m letting all those melodies, harmonies, and rhythms of life course through me to touch every reader. And when those readers are touched, my words create emotions, thoughts, actions, and reactions as surely as the strains of sound vibrating from a piano or a horn. I’m calling to and capturing the soul of the reader as surely as the chords from a guitar call and capture the soul of the listener.

It is not the instrument that creates the music. In truth, the music is created from the deepest part of our being and simply seeks an avenue — any avenue — of expression. So, personally, I believe I am offering music to the world through the words that flow from my soul onto the page as surely as I have offered it in the past from the keyboard that sent forth vibrations of sound.

So, my fellow writers — let your music flow.


 

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