Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Welcome back from the long weekend, BGs. Hope y’all had a marvelous break. I certainly did. We went up to Coeur d’Alene, and the weather was absolutely glorious. Everything on the property is so green, we got the boat in the water, and generally kicked back. Well, on Sunday, that is. On Saturday I interviewed some absolutely wonderful folks up north of Cd’A, who were gracious enough to grant me their time on a holiday weekend. I have more of a sense of direction for my Paige book now. That is the good news. The bad news is, with that more accurate sense of direction, I must do some rewriting on what’s already written.
I don’t have time for this.
C.J. asked on Friday what it is I like about writing now. Is it always just hard getting books written? Yes, it is. I struggle with it constantly. But I so strongly believe this is what God has called me to do, that I can do nothing else but trust Him when I run into trouble.
Which is daily.
And Becky asked some interesting questions about cliffhangers, and why Friday’s hook seemed to work so well when y’all don’t even know the character who was introduced as part of the hook. We shall talk about such things soon. That is, when our NES is done. So I guess you shouldn’t exactly hold your breath.
Okay, speaking of NES. We were waiting for that one word that God spoke to me about this young woman. She was one of a group of four who’d asked me to pray for them. “Whatever God tells you,” they’d said. What was the word that hit me so hard in the chest?
I must explain here. Huh? is a typical response for me when God particularly tells me how to pray for a person. Most of the time what He tells me makes absolutely no sense to me. Like the time I was praying for someone who had healing issues with both knees after double knee surgery. God also impressed upon me to place my hands on the person’s throat and pray for that. So I did, even though this made no sense to me. What’s a throat got to do with knee surgery? Only after that did I hear that this person was having real health issues with the throat as well.
See, God knows.
So I heard this word: worthy. I didn’t doubt it was coming from God. I just didn’t have a clue what it meant. I told the young woman what I’d heard. “Does this mean anything to you?” I asked.
This is the moment that absolutely got my heart. This sweet-faced Christian gal looked up at me with an anguished expression and said, “I’ve never felt worthy since the day I was born.”
Whoa. How awful that must feel. What a weight! God wanted to heal that.
And so prayers went up that God would. And I know He’s been working in this person’s life since then.
That scene wouldn’t leave me alone in the weeks to come. I began to think of other people I’d prayed for with emotional/spiritual issues, and God opened my eyes to just how huge this problem is among Christians. It’s rampant. Satan spins his web of lies among us all the time. He wants us to believe these lies. And he spins them so quietly, so subconsciously, that we Christians don’t realize where they’re coming from. Lies such as: I’m not worthy, I’m not really forgiven, I’m unlovable, I can’t do this task God gave me, I’m no good at this or that, I’m not smart enough, I’m not appreciated enough . . . Whatever. The topics are endless.
We as Christians have the mind-boggling authority to go before God’s throne and claim His help and power in our lives for anything. As the Bible says, “If He is for us, who can stand against us?” But so much of the time, we Christians don’t do that. Instead, we begin to listen to these lies. Then we begin to believe them. Then we begin to walk in them. And then we can’t do all that God has called us to do.
These thought processes and revelations were going through my mind as I needed to start writing Web of Lies. I realized that this was the spiritual thread God wanted me to weave in. We Christians cannot walk in the lies of Satan. That’s unacceptable! God had used that time of prayer not only for the young woman, but for my writing as well. (God’s very efficient that way.)
Look where God had brought me with this book—and totally backwards, remember that? First, the title that I just had to come up with. Then the plot begin to come—the story to fit the title. Then the spiritual thread—again to fit the title. A book about spiders . . . and not listening to Satan’s web of lies.
Hm. That is one interesting combination. Far too intriguing for me to come up with on my own. Only God, with somewhat of a sense of humor, would impress upon me to write a story about walking His truth—via a menagerie of spiders.
Well, hey. The last book used a serial killer to remind folks about the power of prayer. So why not?
Okay, some major hurdles overcome. Now to the next one.
I had to write the book. And I was majorly running out of time.
Read Part 63
Friday, May 27, 2005
Quick housekeeping note. I will be taking Monday, Memorial Day, off. See y’all back here Tuesday the 31st. Don’t leave me hangin’ here all alone, now.
I’m very glad to see that some of you BGs are going to be at the ACFW conference. Evelyn—a choice between some conference in Oregon and ACFW is no contest. Don’t let my good buddy Jim Bell keep you away from ACFW. He’s an ex-lawyer for heaven’s sake, shouldn’t that tell you something? Besides, next year he’s keynoter at ACFW, so you can have both.
Ron—love your “spider-typing” idea for our BG signal. That’s a creeper. I mean keeper.
Jennifer, I am very glad to hear that previous posts here helped you. Keep writing, and keep praying! And Cindy, thank you for praying for me. Believe me, I need it.
ValMarie and the rest of you—info on Web of Lies, plus the cover, is now on my Web site. You can read the back cover copy and my note to readers that appears at the front of the book. As the time approaches for release, I’ll post the prologue.
Speaking of Web of Lies, that’s where we left off yesterday.
So I had meself a title. And I had meself bits of ideas. Most of all, I had meself a deadline.
Okay, here goes the incredibly brilliant and scientific creativity, point by miraculous point.
I thought, Hm, “web” is in the title.
And I thought, Hm, I need another scary book.
What kind of metaphorical “web of lies” can I come up with that’s scary?
After much thinking on this, I yielded a big, fat nothing.
But wait . . .
A literal web means spiders.
Spiders can be scary.
A light bulb went off in my head. I know! I shall write meself a book about spiders!
Bada-boom, bada bing!
I basked in the glory of my immense creativity for a time. Until my brain started thinking again. Which usually means trouble.
Okay, so who would have the spiders? Not the protagonist.
No, silly. Definitely the bad guy.
Spiders aren’t scary in terrariums.
No, but they’d be scary if people are threatened with ’em. ’Specially if they’re big, bad poisonous spiders.
Oooh, I know. I could put ’em in a room.
That would have to be one crazy bad guy.
Hey, crazies are the funnest! (Don't tell my mother.)
So how 'bout this? Chelsea has her vision. It’s a vision about a room of spiders. With people in it.
Ooooh, gimme the willies.
Wait a minute. Which people?
I don’t know.
Shoot. Knew I’d hit a snag sooner or later. And besides that, what does a skull have to do with spiders? And also, how do I get Chelsea and Annie together when they don’t even live in the same town?
Meanwhile, during all this—time ticketh toward the deadlineth.
This idiocy aside, I was also thinking a lot about the spiritual thread. That’s as uncommon for me as backing into a story, because usually I don’t think about it at all. I just try to write the best rockin’ suspense I can, and as I write, the spiritual theme begins to emerge. But this time, I just couldn’t get a wrenching scene from the ACFW conference out of my head. It tugged and tugged at me. And remember, all through my plotting and writing, I pray a lot, asking God for guidance in the story. So I have no doubt that this heart-tugging thing was an answer to those prayers.
At that conference I’d had the privilege of praying for some people and seeing some wonderful healing results. (ACFW conferences have a dedicated prayer room that’s open all day.) Sunday, after the conference was over, a group of four friends asked me to pray for them. “Just whatever God tells you,” they said. I didn’t know these four people at the time.
In the prayer room, one at a time, I placed my hands on their heads, and asked God to show me how to pray. Sometimes He gives me a strong answer, sometimes not. When I receive a strong answer, I know God has plans for healing that area of a person’s life. The healing can be immediate, or it can take place over time. For all four of these dear people, God would impress me with specifics as to how to pray.
I came to one of them, a young woman. This is the scene I will never forget. She was sitting, and I stood over her, placing my hands on her head. I asked God to show me whatever He would . . . and waited.
He answered, all right. One word hit me hard in the chest.
Just one word.
Read Part 62
Thursday, May 26, 2005
All right, I'll get this out of my system. Cari might have won (or however you spell her name), but watching Bo sing Sweet Home Alabama with his fav band was waay cool. Can't wait to buy that guy's CD. Rockers rock!
Now perhaps on Tues. and Wed. nights I shall write, haha.
Okay. Back to the blog thing.
C.J. commented yesterday about writers who talk about “thirty books in their heads just waiting to be written.”
I feel about such writers the same way I feel about women who waltz through pregnancy, never sick a day in their lives, and the baby pops out after two pushes. I want to strangle them.
As for Becky’s comment . . . I wrote two pages yesterday, okay? How’s that, Miss Rebel BG? That makes five whole pages so far this week. When I should have written 18, but hey, who’s counting?
By the way, a couple days ago registration opened for the ACFW conference. Who’s going? Hope all of you can make it. I’m thinkin’ if enough of you writers out there show up, we should have ourselves a secret Forensics and Faith BG sign. You know, some gesture you could make across the room to a fellow BG. Or to me, to let me know you take the time to read my blog. That way I’ll know to scrape the floor in front of you, saying, “thank you, thank you” for not leaving me hanging all alone in cyberspace.
So, where were we in our NES? Oh, yes, I was stranded without a plot. Sort of like I am now.
Back to last fall of 2004, traipsing around on the Bill, Bell and the Babes author tour. Weekend one with marketing Sue, who asked, “You got a title yet?”
Weekend two—“gotta title yet?”
Weekend three—you guessed it.
Here’s the thing about my book titles. I pride myself on them. Yup, I’ll admit it. (I’m needing some uplifting at the moment anyhow.) My titles aren’t just tacked on. They are always carefully created. They must work rhythmically, be intriguing, and refer both to the main plot and the underlying spiritual thread. Lots of “musts” there. Hard to get it just right. And--this is why asking me to name a title when I didn’t have a story was totally foreign to me.
When I got back home after the final weekend of the tour, I had a serious talk with God. Told Him if He didn’t want to give me a plot just yet—to stretch my faith and all that—I really did need a title at least. Then He and I would have to work backwards—weaving a story around the title.
Let’s see. Brink of Death, Stain of Guilt, Dead of Night, and . . . I needed another “Hm of Hm” title. Each “hm” a one-syllable word. Had to be punchy, scary-oriented. So I started writing a list of possibilities. Out of Time . . . On the Edge . . . Nick of Time . . . Stroke of Fate . . . whatever came to mind.
Next I wrote the ACFW loop, seeking input. I listed some of my ideas, asking for the loopers to pick a favorite. I also asked for further ideas, but their titles had to follow the “Hm of Hm” format, as well as sound sinister.
I’ll tell ya, those wonderful ACFWers listened about as well as BG Becky. They sent back scores of ideas, all right—with two- and even three-syllable words. Oh, well, gotta love ’em for trying to help me out.
All along, the title Web of Lies stood out to me best. And most of the respondents who chose among my titles also liked this one. I was praying through this whole process, asking God to bring the right one to the top. After all the input, this one still seemed right. Web of Lies it was.
I happily e-mailed Sue with my answer. Also told her—"don’t ask me nothin' more about the book, ’cause I ain't gotta clue yet."
Now for the plot.
Let’s see. I had Chelsea with her visions . . . Annie with her forensic art . . . something about a discovered skull . . . and the title. Hoo-ah.
In the back of my mind two things were cooking. First, something that had happened at the ACFW conference—a moment that really got my heart. Second, the word “web.” It could be used figuratively, as it often is.
Or it could be used literally . . .
Tomorrow—the unabashed, behind-the-scenes recounting of my scientific and highly inventive approach to creating this story.
Read Part 61
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
First of all, I don’t want any of y’all asking me how many pages I’ve written in the last two days. Because the answer’s not good. So behave yourselves out there, okay?
To distract you, I shall jump right into our NES.
So there I sat at the meeting with my editor, Karen, and the Zondervan marketing director, Sue. We were in Zondervan’s reserved suite area on the CBA convention floor. Mid July. I was thinking I should ask a question. I really didn’t want to ask it, but I just had this nagging feeling. So I plunged in.
“Do you two remember that my contract calls for me to write Dearing Family #1 next, then go back and write Hidden Faces #4? At the time the contract was signed, we were thinking about overlapping the series. But now I’m wondering if that’s a good idea, looking at the momentum we’re gaining with Hidden Faces . . .”
Sue and Karen both gave me surprised looks. “Really? Didn’t remember that,” one of ’em said. “At any rate, it’s a bad idea. You need to write Hidden Faces #4 first.” The other one heartily agreed.
Great. I had to go and open my mouth.
And I’d just come from our annual family reunion in Kentucky. My extended family had all squeezed in around the table one night, throwing out ideas for the wacky characters and their shenanigans in Dearing Family. We'd had a great time. They couldn't wait for me to write that series. Now I had to put the first book off.
“So.” Sue looked at me brightly. “Got any ideas for that fourth Hidden Faces book?”
You mean the one I wasn't even supposed to write yet? “Not a clue.”
“Oh, well, no worries. You’ll think of something.”
Easy for her to say.
I really didn’t have a clue. That is, I knew Annie needed to do a facial reconstruction from a skull—the challenge I’d expected her to face in the third book, but had put aside. Okay so a skull is found. What else?
We’ve been at this long enough, BGs. Time for a little ranting on my part.
Truth is, I wish stories came easier to me. They should pour like melted butter, hot syrup.
They pour more like dried cement.
I try to force it. I sit at my desk and stare out the window, talking to myself. You think the story comes? Heck, no. It just hides all the more. I kick cabinets, I get up and walk around and rail at the heavens. Does no good.
So I’m left thinking about a story over the long haul. I’m jogging . . . and a thought comes. I’m driving . . . another little piece. I’m in the hot tub . . . something else. Unfortunately, this takes days. Weeks. Months even. Which I don’t have. So I go back to trying to force it.
Sigh. In heaven, I shall not lack for a plot.
So sometime around August of 2004 (I needed to start writing in September), a thought came to me. Many readers had asked me when I’d write another Chelsea Adams book. I thought—what if I bring Chelsea into this story, combine the two series into one climactic ending?
Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.
Except that I still needed a plot.
September came. I tried to come up with the story. It wasn’t coming. The ACFW conference rolled around. As usual, I would be the emcee. Plus I'd do some teaching and had scheduled meetings with many writers. So I thought—okay, I’ll start writing after the conference.
Except that after the conference our Zondervan novelist tour started. I, Terry Blackstock, Bill Myers, and James Scott Bell would be running around—mostly on the east coast—signing at these megastores. (Some witty person, I think it was Bill Myers, dubbed the tour “Bill, Bell, and the Babes.”) We needed to do the signings on Saturdays, when they’d be better attended. So instead of hitting the 7 cities all at once, we’d go every weekend, from about Thursday to Sun. So for, I don’t know, 5-6 weeks in a row, I had only about three days in my office. Thursday I’d fly back east somewhere, on Friday we’d do some media event, on Saturday the signing, then I’d fly back home on Sunday.
I am a very focused person. I have to really concentrate on a book to get anywhere with it. This schedule did not work for me. I got oh, about zilch accomplished on the plot.
Meanwhile marketing director Sue started joining us on the weekend tours. She was with us for about three weeks in a row. What do you suppose she had to nerve to tell me? “I need the title of your next book for marketing.”
Title? I didn’t even have a story yet.
“I have no clue,” I said.
This clueless stuff was gonna have to stop. And fast.
Read Part 60
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
I got one lousy page written yesterday. I don’t mean the page was lousy. The page count was, however. Had all this other stuff to do regarding marketing. Which I was supposed to do over the weekend, but my printer broke, and I had to get a new one, and I decided to go wireless, which was about the dumbest decision I’ve ever made, and it took 4 hours of my time to work on setting it up, which didn’t work at all, then 3 more hours of a wonderful computer savvy neighbor who had to do manual stuff that you wouldn't believe.
Yes, that was a long sentence. But the rhythm matches the way I felt trying to get that stupid thing working.
So today—one page. AND—On the acknowledgments page I entered the names of those BGs who gave me character ideas. I got everyone’s last name, so we’re good to go.
We left off our NES yesterday with my editor reading the prologue to Dead of Night, and me awaiting her pronouncement. What I didn’t tell y’all yesterday is that after I’d dashed off that prologue, I sent it to my mom and one of my sisters. With just a simple, “Hey, wanna read the opening to my next book?” type of e-mail. Well. Did I get back letters. Both of ’em thought it was awful. Way over the top. Too much darkness, and no way did they want to read that kind of book. My mom (whom I love dearly, and who no doubt is reading this post) wrote a long letter that basically asked—what did I give birth to, and aren’t you getting rather warped?
I learned something from those letters. I think it was a God thing that I sent them—supposedly on my own whim. I learned that the opening to this book was dark enough that I needed to warn my readers. Later when I wrote the back cover copy, I would use it to begin to prepare readers for that opening. And in my author’s note at the beginning of the book, I did a little more preparation. Plus, whenever I talked about Dead of Night as it was about to release, I warned readers again. I think by the time people read the prologue now, they’ve been prepared enough that it’s no big thing. They’re probably wondering what all the fuss was about. That’s fine and dandy by me. Far better reaction than to have someone read the first two pages and put the book down, vowing never to read anything written by me again. Or anything published by Zondervan, for that matter. Or—how about any book ever published in the CBA market?
I’m telling ya, you just never know how a reader’s gonna react.
Guess how my sister and mom reacted when they read the book. (Yes, they read the whole thing.) They liked it. They really, really liked it. Although both of 'em admittedly had to gear themselves up to read it. Guess they'd been adequately prepared.
Anyway, I am surely pushing ahead of my tale. We need to backtrack to that moment while I awaited my fate as I watched my editor read the prologue . . .
Her jaw tightened.
She got to the end. Pulled up her shoulders and let out a hiss.
“Oh, man,” I thought, “I am dead now.”
She cleared her throat. “Oookay. Well.” She focused on her plate. “I think you should write the story the way you need to write it. And when it’s all done, if it’s too much, we’ll pull you back then.”
Now ain’t that the smartest editor you ever did see? She didn’t want to stifle my creativity.
Then I thought, “Yeah, yeah. She’ll just be sharpening her red pen for 10 weeks.”
Ten weeks. Remember, that’s all the time I had to write the book.
It was an intense time. That story is intense anyway, and to burrow that deeply into it--yow. I’d go every night to our hot tub and try to soak the tension away. As for my brain—forget it. When your brain’s that overworked, it ain’t draining off stuff easily. It talked to me day and night.
I have to admit something to you dear BGs. The killer’s POV chapters were the funnest and easiest to write. (Oh, man. Hope my mom isn’t reading today.) The thing is, the killer is just so crazy. I could let loose and rant. And there was this certain rhythm to the words. I just fell into the beat. People have asked me after reading Dead of Night, "Wasn’t it hard to write that POV? You had to dwell in that awful mind." No, I didn’t really need to dwell there. The rants came quite easily, compared with the rest of the book.
Not sure what this says about me. Well, maybe I am sure, but I’m in total denial.
Hey, I can be crazy. I’m paid to be crazy. I’m a novelist.
I finished the book—and died for about a week.
Then--Ooh, yay! Next I'd get to change course—write the first book in my women’s fiction series! That’s what we’d planned—that the last book in Hidden Faces and the first book in Dearing Family would overlap. I was ready for a change of pace. I’d killed off quite a few people in the last three books. Let’s see, altogether in those three stories, I think the number stood at . . . 15.
Okay, Mom, I am warped.
So—Dearing Family, here we come! A series with lots of humor as well as pathos. A wacky, unpredictable family. It was gonna be a welcome change. Yowsa, yowsa! Ain't nothin' stoppin' this now!
And then came the annual CBA convention—and a meeting there with my editor and Zondervan’s marketing director . . .
Read Part 59
Monday, May 23, 2005
How’d it get to be Monday so soon?
Beautiful BGs, thank you so much for all your thoughts from Friday. At this moment I’m planning to take a piece of something that each person suggested and use it. Lynette—the “always nicks himself shaving” idea sounded fun to me. Ron—Wilbur and his heart surgery scar. Evelyn—two guys fighting over which truck is best, Chevy or Ford. Grady—first of all welcome! Thanks so much for joining us and for leaving a comment! I loved the idea about the guy who always has a new entrepreneurial venture going. C.J.—the idea that the coffee shop owner is kind to Paige. Kelly K.—a prickly female business woman. MRSD—sisters who own a B&B. Dineen—Maude, owner of a shop (not sure it can be a doll shop, but I’ll see).
This weekend we will be at our Coeur d’Alene home. I will be interviewing the Chief of Police of one of the small towns near Cd’A. His town is the same size as my fictional town of Kanner Lake (which will be placed a little north of Cd’A), so he’ll be able to tell me how a police department of that small size works, and no doubt tell me some good ol’ Idaho stories. Those true stories are always jewels to work into the book.
So I thank you BGs who participated again. You’ve all earned a place in my acknowledgements. By the way, Ron, Evelyn, Kelly K. and mrsd—please email me to let me know if you want me to use your full names or only what you use when leaving a comment. I have the last names of the rest of y’all.
Well. So. Where did we leave off on our NES? (Which is not too far from becoming our ES.) Ah, yes. Brink of Death released in the spring of 2004, and I told y’all about some reader letters, good and bad. Of course, backing up a little, in the fall of 2003, I had to write the second book in the Hidden Faces series—Stain of Guilt. That book drove me nuts. I couldn’t figure out how to end it. I have this thing about always wanting to twist a story as much as possible. I figure if I give folks a choice between A and B, I’ll come up with the real answer of C. Or maybe even D or E. With Stain of Guilt, however, it was a little less convoluted, so I hade to come up with an ending no one would foresee, including those who understood the penultimate twist about the crime itself. I thought of this and that and finally figured out what to do. Man, I was glad when I finished that book!
Which reminds me—talk about reader letters. A few months ago I got a letter from a man who was absolutely fuming about the ending to Stain of Guilt. I mean this guy was beside himself. Not only did he vow to never read another Brandilyn Collins book in his entire life, but he also vowed to never again read any book published by Zondervan. Ever.
Wow, that’s some power. Kinda puffed me up, you know? Singlehandedly, I, Brandilyn Collins, have the ability to send the entire fortune of a major publisher to the dust.
And of course once again—wouldn’t you know this guy sent the letter (handwritten) to Zondervan, who then forwarded it to me. Good grief. Nothing like letting my publisher see the worst of ’em. Sometimes I think it’s amazing they still keep me around.
So, Stain of Guilt written fall 2003, Brink of Death released spring 2004. SOG would release fall of 2004. Meanwhile as BOD was releasing, I was preparing to write book 3 in the series. Oh, boy.
I originally had planned for my forensic artist’s project in book 3 to be a facial reconstruction from a skull. So I tried to build a book around that. I tried and tried, day after day. The story wouldn’t come. Absolutely wouldn’t come. I was getting really worried. I had to start that book, or I would have so little time to write it. Meanwhile the editorial letter from Stain of Guilt was late, so by the time I did the rewrite on SOG, which was a bigger rewrite than usual—I was really pushing the time with book 3. Teaching at Mount Hermon was coming up, and that would take a lot of preparation time. I realized I would not be able to start book 3 until after the conference.
Then—I would have 10 weeks to write it.
This was not good.
I always pray my way through projects. Yowie, was I prayin’ through this one. More like begging—Please God, give me an idea. Finally, one day at my desk, I hit the wall with the thing. The story I was trying to put together just wasn’t happening. So I chucked it. All my notes, my ideas I’d worked on for days, trying to make into a story—poof—I tossed ’em all.
That’s about the time ya really start praying.
Only then did this other story begin to emerge. The first thing that came was the killer’s POV. I sat down at the computer and dashed off the prologue. Eek, I creeped myself out just writing the thing. Where was this voice coming from? This crazy, ranting, warped-perception voice? Then when I finished, I read the prologue over. My first thought—huh-uh. No way. I’ll never get away with this in CBA. A serial killer—who takes trophies? Yeah, right.
God, is that You behind this? Because if You are, you’d better talk to my editors.
The story kept forming. It wasn’t even about a facial reconstruction; it was about drawing the dead—those victims of the serial killer who hadn’t been identified. The more I prayed, the more I sensed this was the book I was supposed to write. As for the darkness and intensity of the story—yes. I was not to pull back in presenting it. But I was to present the other side of that darkness—God’s light. God’s power as released through the prayers of His people. The more darkness I presented, the more of God’s power I needed to show.
Terrific. Fine and dandy. I now had an idea for a story, and as soon as Mount Hermon was out of the way, I could start writing it. And I’d have no time to waste either, what with only 10 weeks to complete the thing. All right, go for it, no looking back!
Then I got this bright idea. My editor was gonna be at Mount Hermon. I’d just take the prologue and let her read it—you know, warn her a little about what to expect from this book. And hope to heaven she didn’t shoot it down because then I’d really be in the soup.
So I caught her at breakfast one morning. Sat next to her and slipped her these two pages. “Hey, Karen, wanna read the beginning to my new book? It’s kind of . . . Well, it’s sort of . . .” I swallowed, my muscles tensing up. If she didn’t okay this idea, I was doomed.
She started to read.
I buttered my bread with focused intensity.
Read Part 58
Friday, May 20, 2005
A little breather before we finish up our NES next week.
News flash, news flash—BG makes a sale!
Lynette Sowell has sold a novella to Barbour for the romance anthology Get Me To The Church On Time. In each of these four novellas, natural disasters almost prevent four couples from making it down the aisle. Lynette’s novella is Heart’s Refuge, set in the California wildfire country. There will be an element of danger, she says.
I know Lynette is working on writing suspense and has been for some time. I have no doubt she’ll make a sale there, too. Lynette is one of those people who studies, studies, studies, and reads, reads, reads. She will read my suspense books and really pay attention to elements such as story structure, hooks, foreshadow, etc. It’s always fun to receive Lynette’s letter after she reads one of my novels, because she’ll point to many techniques I used and comment. She’s working hard in her writing and her reading. So congratulations, Lynette! May you have many more sales to come.
Questions/Comments from yesterday:
Was teaching at Mount Hermon last year my first time to teach? No, just my first time to teach at Mount Hermon.
How did the I and Randy Ingermanson end up teaching together? Randy gets all the blame for this one. He had this bright idea, see, about us team teaching. He wrote me and pitched the idea. Said between us we’ve covered a lot of genres, so we oughtta be a good fiction teaching team. I’ve done women’s fiction and suspense, plus a how-to fiction book, and oh, yeah, that true crime way back when. Randy’s done futuristic and historical, plus written on erudite subjects like the Bible Code, using his quantum mechanics knowledge (or whatever it is in the world he does—I just know it makes my eyes cross) to debunk certain myths on said subject. And about his fiction—how exactly is it that the first book in a series can be a futuristic, and its follow-up is a historical?
That’s what happens when those mathematical Ph.D. types write fiction.
Anyhow, you can see I must have been crazy to say yes to a guy like that. Except that he had two Christy Awards to his name and had written some cool stories, so I thought, hey, why not? Fun guy to share a stage with. The really crazy part is that, after we put our proposal together and Randy sent it off to Mount Hermon—it was approved! Who’d a thought?
Hence the Randall ‘n’ Brandilyn show. Yes, Evelyn, that’s the way you spell it. Say it fast and it works. Randy’s title idea, of course. See how wittier he is than I? He first suggested the Randy and Brandy show, but there was just one problem with that. People only call me Brandy once.
Final question: How is Paige? BGs, you are so very nosy. The book will be a little over 40% done by end of today. Okay? And Paige is . . . well, she’s out of her immediate pickle, but about to fall into the entire pickling vat. I have gotten Paige into so much of a mess, I’m not sure how I’m going to get her out. I think I should have named her Paige Turner after all, because I have to turn the page to see what’s gonna happen to her. And no, I don’t like writing when I haven’t figured out how everything’s gonna work yet, but such is life. I don’t have time to quit writing to figure out what I’m gonna write. So I keep writing, hoping I’ll figure out what it is I’m writing.
Are you now as confused as I am?
Now, here’s the scary and sad part. This new series is set in fictional Kanner Lake, a little north of my favorite place in the world, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. I didn’t want to set my new series in wonderful Cd’A ’cause I didn’t want yucky murders occurring in that paradise. Now looks what’s happened up there. Such a sad and tragic case! Fortunately our lake house is not near the one currently making the news.
By the way, would you like to name some characters in my novel and give ’em some quirks? (These are secondary characters, not the “personalized” main characters.) I’m just about to start introducing some of the colorful folks about town that hang out in a certain coffee shop. There’ll be a pastor in his, I don’t know, maybe late forties. A retired good ol’ boy who’s lived in that North Idaho area all his life and loves to fish. Couple of business people, maybe one or two on the town council. And who knows who else?—you come up with an idea. (Yes, there is room for some humor in this series.) Leave your comments over the weekend—and I’ll tell ya who and what I’ll use on Monday. If you give me something I end up using, I'll of course include you in my acknowledgments.
Happy weekending, BGs. And to Bo Bice out there—hope you’re practicing up some rockin’ Bon Jovi for the finale.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
First an answer to Tina's question of yesterday. Do I think the suffering from Lyme was worth it? Yes! God taught me so much. Psalm 119:71 says "It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes." Verse 92 says, "If Thy law had not been my delight, Then I would have perished in my affliction." Fantastic Psalm, that 119.
We’re almost to the end of our NES, can you believe it? We left off with my healing two years ago, and finishing Brink of Death. In spring of 2004—just in time for another Mount Hermon--the novel came out. I was excited about this novel. First in my new contract, and in a new series. Plus—I couldn’t remember writing ¾ of it, so I figured it would be interesting reading, myself. Haha.
Mount Hermon was fun in another way—I got to teach for the first time. As in co-leading the major morning track on fiction. Funny thing is, they wanted me to teach with some other crazy novelist named Randy Ingermanson. I’m telling ya right now—I can be pretty crazy in person, and Randy is certifiably crazy. The two of us—on a stage together?
It’s amazing Mount Hermon survived.
It’s been a year now since Brink of Death came out. (It hit the bestseller list, by the way. And guess what—Eyes of Elisha came back on with it, 2 ½ years after its publication! First time for me to have two books on the list at once. Still waitin’ for that to happen again.) Anyhow I thought I’d entertain y’all with a few letters I’ve received about Brink of Death. I’ve got a whole file of ’em, but these are entertaining, especially the one I’ll save for last.
Letter excerpt #1: I gave my hubby (who reads Dean Koontz and Jeffrey Deaver and a few other secular authors who branch into the weird and scary) Brink of Death for Christmas. He looked at it and said rather disparagingly, “Brandilyn? Isn’t that a woman?” I said, “Yes, but don’t hold that against her.” He smiled, thanked me, and set it aside to read his Koontz and Deaver stuff first. He finally picked up yours about a week ago just to please me, muttering about how could a woman possibly write something that would interest him. And now he’s HOOKED! He actually came to me and read parts and commented on how well written it is. He’s asked for more of your work for Valentine’s day and his birthday (later this month). He never expected to read any female authors. Just thought you’d like to know you won over Mr. Picky.
I’d call him more like Mr. Testosterone Prejudiced. Lesson to be learned: don’t be a gender snob.
Letter excerpt #2: Here’s my story about reading Brink of Death. One night after my husband left for work, I read until about 12:30 a.m. Then I tossed and turned for a few hours, finally falling asleep. I woke up sitting straight up, looking at a pair of red eyes, my heart pounding so hard I thought it would explode. I knew something was in my room and going to kill me. I asked Jesus to save me. Then I realized that I had spun myself around in bed and my feet and head were at the wrong ends. The two red eyes were actually red lights on my alarm clock.
After discovering there was nothing in the house but myself and Jake the dog, I fell into a deep sleep, only to be awakened by loud pounding on our bedroom window. Aah! Very cautiously going to the window, I pulled back the shades to find my husband staring at me. He had forgotten his house keys and had been pounding on the doors and ringing the bell, unable to wake me. I’m usually a very light sleeper but remember, I had a very busy night with the boogie man.
I love your books, but no longer read them at night or when I’m alone!
Lessons to be learned about reading my suspense alone at night: (1) Don’t. (2) Never use an alarm clock with red dots that look like eyes. (3) Make sure your spouse remembers the house keys.
And now for Letter #3. First, a word of explanation. This person, who shall remain anonymous for reasons soon to become obvious, did not write me. This person wrote my publisher, using an email address on Zondervan’s Web site. Thinking that the letter would get to the fiction editor. Fortunately for this person, it didn’t. It was forwarded to me instead. Its subject line was: Simile Suicide. Hm. Nice alliteration.
I have been writing professionally for 13 years, but I must confess that Christian thriller is a new beast to me. But when my longtime friend, an editor at ______ [secular publisher of nonfiction books, mostly texts] suggested I check out the genre (she is convinced my latest project, a thriller, ______ [title of manuscript], would be a good fit for the Christian market), I bought Brink of Death.
This writer then goes on to discuss in detail how horribly I write, putting specific emphasis on my techniques for description. Continues on to call these horrible mistakes those of a blaring beginner. (Blaring beginner? Do you think that was supposed to read glaring? I don’t know, blaring beginner has some nifty alliteration.) And then the person ends up accosting my editor, wondering how in the world did these mistakes slip by?
Here’s the kicker ending:
If the editor thought Brink of Death was top notch writing, my manuscript should blow him away. Who should I send it to?
Lessons learned: Let’s see, where do I start? Maybe it’s just me, but taking a publisher to task about one of their authors, calling said author a “blaring beginner,” questioning the efficacy of the editor and wondering how said editor ever let this book get published—then turning around and wanting same editor to look at this person’s own work . . . I don’t know, do ya think this writer won friends and influenced people?
Besides, my editor is a she.
There's that gender thing again.
Read Part 57
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
A couple questions came in yesterday about Lyme. Please go to this site. http://www2.lymenet.org/domino/file.nsf/UID/guidelines This is a medical abstract by Dr. Burrascano, a national expert on Lyme. Scroll down to the Diagnostic Checklist to see the possible 38 various symptoms of Lyme. Everyone is hit differently, so a Lyme victim can have many or a few of these, depending upon how many systems in the body have been affected. (I had 20 of the 38 symptoms, all body systems affected.) And remember if you or someone you know needs to be tested, they need to contact Igenex Lab in Palo Alto, California for forms and send the blood there. Don’t rely on the typical “Lyme” test from your normal doctor.
Back to our NES.
After Mount Hermon and after I’d gotten so much worse, I saw my doctor. She set me up to start another round of new medication, starting the week of May 12. It would be the harshest round yet and could put me in the hospital. After that she figured I would need to go the parenteral route—a needle shunt put in my body for about a 6-month period so I could hook up every day to an IV for antibiotics straight into the blood stream.
Thanks be to God—He chose to heal me before I had to go through with that!
Most of you know the miraculous healing God had in store for me, even as I plummeted physically. The healing took place on May 10, 2003—the day before Mother’s Day. Because that complete story is told in detail on my Web site, I’m not going to reiterate it here. Please, if you haven’t read it, go to my site and do so (click on “My Healing” from the home page). The story will bless you indeed. Our God is merciful and all powerful. Ya never know what He’s gonna do next.
Most of you also know that a couple weeks ago I filmed a segment with The 700 Club about this healing. (Still don’t know when this will air, by the way. I’ll be sure to tell you when I find out.) During that filming we did some reconstruction scenes of when I was sick. They shot a quick scene of me in my robe, shuffling with my cane in front of the wall of windows in the great room of our Coeur d’Alene home. I was in sort of a silhouette against the light coming in through those windows. “Oooh, great shot!” the crew agreed when it was done. I came around to look, and they ran a playback for me.
The scene hit me in the chest. I couldn’t stand to watch the whole thing, few seconds though it was. My throat tightens even now as I remember it. I had never seen myself walk when I was sick. I only knew what it felt like. But now—seeing myself shuffle like that, bent over, with doddering steps--whoa. That's what my family saw, when they had to stand back and not help me because I couldn't take being touched. How awful they must have felt. Watching that scene, the memories stabbed me. Memories of the fear, the exhaustion and pain. All over again, on that day as we filmed the story of my healing, I was hit with the immenseness of what God had done for me.
That’s gonna be a great segment. I can’t wait until it airs—because I know God’s going to use it to reach others.
On May 11, the day after I was healed—Mother’s Day—I put on my jogging shoes—and walked three victorious miles with my husband.
When we came back to California (the following day, I think)—a task awaited me. The new, healed, strong, energetic, able-to-think-again me.
I had a book to finish.
Still, even with the time I had lost, I couldn’t sit down and actually start writing again until about Thursday of that week. I was so euphoric, and so much had changed. You just can’t imagine what it’s like to go from being so crippled and debilitated to being perfectly, completely whole—within a few hours’ time. It would take me about three days to e-mail everyone with the story, and write it for posting on my Web site. Now I could praise God—and want to! How thankful I was that He’d taught me to do so when I hadn’t wanted to. The lessons He’d sent my way during those difficult sick months had changed me, strengthened me in ways that have lasted to this day. I certainly know more now about walking in God’s power and truth, no matter the circumstances.
It took about 4 weeks to finish Brink of Death, edit it and turn it in. As it turned out, Zondervan wouldn’t even have to push back the release date.
Whew! First book in the new contract done! Who’d have ever guessed what hurdles I’d have to get over to finish it.
Now—six to go.
Um, God, can these be a little easier? Please?
Read Part 56
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Welcome back, BGs.
I had some questions yesterday about Lyme. This isn’t exactly a medical blog, but I do have a certain experience with the disease, so I’d like to take the opportunity for some quick education on the subject.
Not all ticks carry Lyme. Only deer ticks. But these can be so small in their baby stage that you can hardly see them.
You will hear “facts” about Lyme Disease that aren’t true—from doctors. Such as the myth that it’s only found in the Northeast corner of the U.S., and maybe some in Northern California. Truth is, it’s found just about everywhere, and it affects far, far more people than are diagnosed with it. Doctors in general don’t know about Lyme and will spout what little they know based on CDC (Center for Disease Control) reports, which aren’t accurate. It is not true that you must know you were bitten by a tick. I never knew I was. It is not true that you must experience the “bulls-eye” rash around a tick bite to know the critter was infected with Lyme. I never had the rash (and 50% or even more of patients don’t). It is not true you can’t have Lyme unless you live in the northeast. It is not true that if you have Lyme, all you have to do is take the normal amount of antibiotics for 4-6 weeks and you’ll be cured. This, again, is per CDC regulations. These regulations are way out of touch with reality.
The medical community is slowly catching up as more and more people are diagnosed with Lyme. But it will still be years until they fully understand how widespread and insidious it is.
Here’s the worst part. The typical “Elisa” test recommended by the CDC for Lyme is very ineffective—coming back with a false negative perhaps 50% of the time. Therefore if you need to be tested for Lyme, you must send your blood to a Lyme-specific lab like Igenex in Palo Alto, CA. Igenex tests for nothing but Lyme and its coinfections, and they know what they’re doing. There are plenty of people who’ve had falsely negative “Elisa” tests who go on for months, even years, without knowing what they have. They lose their health as a result.
Bottom line—not to scare any of you. Just to help you understand. It’s highly likely that some of you out there know someone who has Lyme—and is yet undiagnosed. Lyme can be misdiagnosed as Parkinsons, MS, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue, etc. because of its myriad possible symptoms.
Okay, medical lesson over. Back to our NES.
I started taking the new round of meds the day Mount Hermon Writers Conference was over. I expected that the Herx period the meds would cause would begin in a couple days.
The very next day, Wednesday, I took an amazing dive. Every bit of improvement I’d had while at Mount Hermon was gone. In fact, I was far worse. And—whereas the symptoms had been mostly from my waist down, now they spread all over my body. The joints in my hands, fingers, elbows were in terrible pain. I couldn’t even stand to spread my fingers and lace them ever so gently. Could barely open my pill bottles. It was hard using a cane because of the weakness in my arms and hands. And my brain—forget it. No more writing, period. Couldn’t do it. I could barely think. Barely get dressed. No driving, no going anywhere. Just sitting in my chair or lying in bed, dealing with the pain.
Every day I prayed the Psalms. Slowly, with a hard time reading. But I did it. God helped me praise Him. Oh, He was teaching me a lot about praising Him when I didn’t feel like it!
Brink of Death, the first book in my new big contract with Zondervan, sat about ¾ written. No way now I would make that deadline. I didn’t even know when I could start writing again. As terrifying as that was, it was also a huge burden off me. No more getting up every day feeling I had to write no matter what. Now I simply couldn’t do it, and that was that.
Man. And all those people at Mount Hermon had prayed for me. Now look how bad off I was! God, what are you doing?
He had a few things up His sleeve.
Read Part 55
Monday, May 16, 2005
Man, I get no respect around here. I leave y’all Friday with poor li’l moi rocketing down a hill to my certain death, and you all think it’s funny. Yup, just laughin’ your heads off.
Remind me not to ask for your sympathy if I’m ever on my deathbed.
So. Ron asked if I lived. Well, guess so. But here’s the thing. You wanna know what happened next?
I can’t remember.
Honest. Last thing I know, I was whizzing down the hill, straight for Mr. WFAB (Waitin’ For A Bus). Kathleen couldn’t catch me, no one else seemed to around, around WFAB clearly couldn’t care less.
Next memory has me in my room, shaking, calling my husband to try and figure out why the motorized cart won’t work.
In short, the whole scenario so totally traumatized me that all my memory of rescue is gone.
And you all laughed.
I have since asked my pals Kathleen and DiAnn what happened. I mean, curious minds wanna know—my own history. Evidently DiAnn was still in the area. Somehow she and Kathleen, when they saw I really was a goner, were given the divine strength to run like Superwomen, catch up to me, grab on to the cart and tug with all their might until I slowed . . . slowed . . . stopped. They must have been breathing like horses after a race. I must have been near catatonic. Well, evidently I was.
Yeeks. Surely ’twas an amazing scene. Wish I could remember it.
Still don’t know what happened to WFAB. The conference was just beginning that day. You think he’d have come up to me sometime during the weekend and said, “Hey, glad you’re all right” or something. But nope. I’m wondering if he really was an angel sent there to xray some super power to K. and D. Do angels work like that? Suppose not. Anyhoo, WFAB up and disappeared, and today I wouldn’t know him on the street if I saw him.
On the other hand, if I saw him, I might punch his lights out.
So. After death-defying rescue . . .
Idgit brain here called hubby, who patiently told her to flip the motorizing switch so go-cart thingy can zip me around Mount Hermon for the weekend. Idgit brain was incredibly grateful. And felt incredibly stupid. But, hey, I had Lyme. Great excuse.
As I told you Friday I managed to make it to meals and the book signing party that weekend—and that was it. As for my writing, Capture the Wind for Me was newly released. Third and final in my Bradleyville series. Thank you, God, for helping me write that book! That was the manuscript with the grocery store, and the bricks replaced around the store’s door after a tornado . . .
I know now why God allowed me that good week in the midst of such sickness so I could attend Mount Hermon. At one of the meals I was able to stand up (as best as I could) and tell everyone my situation. And the entire conference prayed for me. That was all part of God’s plan—allowing more people to be a part of praying for me, because of what was to come.
Because you see, more was coming right around the corner. Not all good. In fact, it would get worse before it got better. On the last day of the conference—the day everyone packed up to go home—I had to start taking my next round of medication. I’d been warned this one wouldn’t be easy.
Still, I never would have guessed how far I’d fall—and how fast.
Read Part 54
Friday, May 13, 2005
Yay for Friday! I’ve written 32 pages this week and will get up to 40 by day’s end. Eight pages a day. Gimme a dog biscuit. Yahoo.
Now if I only knew what I’m gonna write next week. I definitely have some planning to do this weekend.
We left off our NES yesterday with my losing the ability to read. My eyes were doing such weird things. I just couldn’t look at light or focus on anything, because it would fry my brain. Really hard to explain the feeling. I’d have to put something over my eyes to block out sight and any light, my brain not being able to handle the stimuli.
Zondervan, bless ’em, sent me the complete NIV Bible on CDs. Now I could listen to the Psalms.
January and February passed, then March. Palm Sunday weekend was approaching, which meant Mount Hermon. No way I could go, of course. I’d signed up way back in December and hadn’t pulled my reservation yet, hoping for a miracle. But it didn’t look good.
Then came a break in taking the medication. The high doses in various cocktail mixtures are so hard on the body that a Lyme patient can’t take them continually. Every 4 weeks or so is a week-long break. Wouldn’t you know it, that week coincided with Mount Hermon. And because I was off medication that week, my symptoms lessened considerably. (Quick medical explanation as to why less medicine equals less symptoms. The medications kill Lyme, but those little spirochetes don’t exactly go gently into that good night. Oh, no, they die kicking and screaming—and throwing horrid toxins into the body. Result—worse symptoms.)
So by the time Mount Hermon came, I could actually drive myself down there. (It’s ah hour away.) Okay, so I couldn’t stand for any length of time, and couldn’t walk much, but I got myself a handy-dandy electric sit-in thingy, and I was all set. My stuttering was down considerably, so maybe I wouldn’t sound like a complete idiot. I would have enough energy to attend meals at Mount Hermon and manage the book signing. But that was all. No classes, no evening services. I barely got through the days, but when I was out tootling around on my go-cart, I tried to put on my best face. Which wasn’t worth all that much to look at, I’ll tell you.
Anyhoo, this motorized cart has to be unmotorized when you need to roll it without turning it on. It’s a simple flip of a switch. My husband turned it off so he could roll the thing to the back of our car, lift it up and put it inside. I knew when I reached MH that I’d have to ask someone to take it out of the car for me.
Soon as I drive up to MH I spot an editor pal—I think it was Terry Whalin. (I wasn’t remembering too well at the time, you know.) Anyway, Terry or somebody lifts the cart out of the car for me. Then along comes two ACFW pals—DiAnn Mills and Kathleen YBarbo. They say they’ll help me check in and get my bags into my room. I’m set to be on a main floor so I can drive my cart right into the room.
Great to have friends to help. All seems to be going fine and dandy. Except that the cart won’t work. I climb on, turn the key, and nothing happens. I don’t know why. Think the thing has broken. I completely forget about flipping the switch to re-motorize it.
Oh, man, now what to do? An hour away from home, on that very hilly terrain of Mount Hermon, and no motorized cart. I can’t walk three steps on that slanted ground.
First things first. DiAnn and Kathleen say they’ll get me to my room, since I’m pretty tired From there I’ll call the place I rented the cart from—maybe they can tell me how to fix the thing. My room is across the street and down a hill. A good size hill. (For those of you familiar with MH, I was staying in Azalea, the dorm lodge behind the sanctuary.) So wonderful D. and K. say they’ll just roll me down the hill to my room, then one of them will drive my car around and unload all my stuff for me.
Yay for terrific helpers.
So. I’m on the go cart. Holding my cane, which I will need when I get off said cart in my room. D. and K. will hold the cart in back to keep me from rolling too fast.
They push me across the street. Which happens to be level.
We reach the hill.
My mind is a little fuzzy on how this happens. But somehow D. and K. decide that K. can handle this operation alone. D. will go ahead and drive my car.
K. and I start down the hill. All goes well at first. Then we start to pick up speed.
Boy. We are really picking up speed.
In fact, we are going faaaaast.
This all happens in a matter of seconds. I turn to look over my shoulder, opening my mouth to tell K. to slow me down a little. “Kathleen—”
She’s not there.
I take in the terrorizing truth in a split second. The go-cart has slipped from her hands. She’s running to catch up, a look of abject horror on her face, and she's not going to make it. Not at all.
I pull farther away.
The wheels pick up more speed.
I swivel back toward the hill before me. At the bottom on a bench sits a man, watching our deathly spectacle with perfect calm. Like he’s waiting for a bus. I am headed straight for him.
“Kathleeeeeeeen!!!!” I scream.
The cart pulls further away--and rockets down the hill.
Read Part 53
Thursday, May 12, 2005
Hey, on the downhill side of the work week. Yahoo! I want y’all to know I’ve written 25 pages these last three work days, and will reach 40 by end of Friday. Not a bad work week. Now I’d better hear from y’all how proud you are of me.
I have discovered something about my character, Paige. I met her years ago. I just didn’t know it was her. Probably had something to do with the fact that she came in the package of a young boy. For those of you who’ve read Getting Into Character, this is the character I talk about “seeing” in the Personalizing chapter. The character whose “inner value” is the need to belong. Finally I get to use this dear soul in a story. Sort of. I mean, so she’s in her twenties and female instead of ten and male. Hey, I was close.
So, returning to our NES . . . I’d had my last run for a good long while. It was early January 2003.
The symptoms returned with a vengeance—and brought many new buddies. From the waist down I was attacked, plus in my elbow joints. My feet burned, and I couldn’t stand for more than a few minutes. I lost my balance. My knees wouldn’t straighten. My feet would have bouts of cold for hours, as if they were stuck in snow, and nothing but sticking them in the hot tub would warm them up. I’d be struck with dizzy spells, like somebody hit me over the head with a brick. I lost all energy. My eyes got very sensitive to light, and I needed to pull the shades in the daytime.
What was wrong with me?
Mark and I had close friends, a couple, both of whom had Lyme Disease. They looked at me and said, “You have Lyme.” Huh-uh. No way. I saw what the disease had done to them. I didn’t want any part of it. Still, I went to the Lyme-testing lab, Igenex, right here in the Bay Area. Six vials of blood and $1800 later, plus the passage of a few weeks—and we had our answer. Positive for Lyme. In some of the blood bands—off the charts positive for Lyme. Plus two coinfections. Three diseases at once. Sheesh. That musta been some loaded tick.
Meanwhile, oh, yeah, I had this writing career that I’d been working on for a long time. And I had a new huge contract to start work on. The first book in my new “Hidden Faces” series about a forensic artist was due in May. I tried to write every day. Man, that was hard when my body didn’t want to cooperate, much less my mind.
I started treatment. Huge, mixed doses of antibiotics (like about 6x the norm)—hard enough on the body just by themselves. Plus all sorts of vitamins and this and that. I would eventually end up taking about 45 pills a day. They all had to be carefully spaced out, as A couldn’t be taken with B, and C had to be on a full stomach, but D was on an empty stomach, etc.
More symptoms came. The problem is, as you treat Lyme, you get worse. There are these not fun revolving times of feeling really bad, called Herxes. My brain started to go. I couldn’t think, had a hard time reasoning through things. I began to stutter because words would stick in my brain somewhere. Plus I hurt everywhere—muscles aching, joints paining. Going up and down stairs became really difficult—one slow stair at a time. But no one could help me up them, or out of a chair, because I couldn’t stand for the physical contact of something pulling me. My body hurt too much.
I tried to write. Every day I tried. I would end up writing ¾ of Brink of Death during this illness. How, I don’t know. God did it, that’s all.
My contract with Zondervan was almost ready to sign. Jane had really come through for me. Look where she had brought my career since our first meeting in her cluttered Chicago office. Then I got a call from her #2 person, Danielle. Jane had suffered from back pain for a number of months. It had finally been diagnosed. She had pancreatic cancer and was in the hospital.
She had two weeks to live.
I reeled from that news. Jane? In a hospital? Nobody could keep Jane down! Just days before she’d been working her typical 15-hours days. I called her in the hospital. Wanted to see how she was doing. I couldn’t really believe she would die. Not Jane. She didn’t want to talk about how she was feeling. She wanted to talk about my contracts. How they were all set. What I could expect.
She died within 10 days.
Many would gather for a memorial service a few months later in Chicago. Jane had had a long career in the literary world, and her family knew all sorts of people. As a young woman she’d hung around with the Hemingways and other well known literary folk. I wished I could go to that her memorial party. But I could hardly take a shower and don my robe for the day. I was so very sad to lose her.
The days dragged by. I got worse. Once the pharmacy (or doctor’s nurse) mixed up a prescription for me. Because I couldn’t reason well, it took me two days to realize the pills I was supposed to be taking of one color were a different color. I’d been taking a very harsh medication I wasn’t supposed to have until a few months later—at one and a half times the already huge dose I should have been given. It was Sunday, and I couldn’t reach the doctor, and Mark had left for a business trip he couldn’t cancel, and the pharmacy didn't want to admit the mistake. I broke down that day. I was terrified, I couldn’t walk, couldn’t think, and certainly couldn’t write my book.
I turned to God more than ever before. Started praying the Psalms aloud, willing myself to praise Him. He would help me get through this. I’d often pray them with tears streaming down my face because I was so tired and in so much pain. But doggone it all, I prayed ’em. Aloud. Even if it was a whisper.
Then even that solace was taken from me. I lost the ability to read.
Read Part 52
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Sheesh, we’ve hit the big 5-O.
Ron, forgot to tell you yesterday—yay that you’re coming to the ACFW Conference! Y’all other writers out there—if you wanna hit The Premier Fiction Conference, you need to be heading to Nashville in September. For more info you can check out ACFW’s Web site (link on the left). Besides, where else can y’all BGs see your BGer emcee?
Okay, to our NES. It’s fall 2002. I’ve learned I don’t have MS, but don’t know what I do have.
I’ve also learned it could be fun to strangle a certain nurse.
A strange thing shortly after those Nazi tests. The symptoms fell away, and I returned to normal. Just like that, after almost two months.
It was a good thing, too, because I was scheduled to teach at, and emcee, the first annual ACFW (then ACRW) conference—in Texas that year. I was elated to be able to do that, and by then I was even running again, although not yet back to five miles. So what the heck happened to me anyway?
Also that fall Dread Champion was released. By that time I’d grown more used to holding the first copy of a new book in my hand, but it still was a major excitement to see it. Still is. By then it had been eighteen months since my first novel was published, and with Dread Champion’s release I'd now had five books published in that time—four novels plus Getting Into Character. Copies of my books on the stands sitting on my office partition now equaled about nine, including the two versions of A Question of Innocence (one in German) and German volumes of Cast a Road Before Me and Eyes of Elisha. Other foreign translations had sold. For example Eyes of Elisha was also being translated into Dutch and Afrikaans. These versions were yet to be published. All in all, that partition was filling up quite nicely.
I remained fairly healthy in October, except for one week of some returned symptoms. Also, I couldn’t run very well. My knees hurt a lot, slowing me often to a walk. In November and December I was also pretty well, again except for one week each month. Hm, are we seeing a pattern here?
Meanwhile, believe it or not, negotiations still continued on my Zondervan contract. There was no doubt it would be signed, but sheesh, it was taking a long time. Wonderful Jane was plugging away it, watching out for my best interests. As it would turn out, I wouldn’t actually sign the contract until the beginning months of 2003. Still, I was planning out the first book, reading up on the field of forensic art. I would start writing in January.
We spent Christmas in our Idaho home, and it was glorious. Snow on the evergreens, on the lake. I was healthy, and our family was able to enjoy Christmas together, happily, for the first time in years. That holiday was so wonderful that I thought: nothing else is going to happen now. After some mighty dark years, everything around me seemed quiet and was working with precision. My career was going well, and I was about to start writing the first book in a seven-book contract. In short, I knew how I’d be spending my work time for the next 3 ½ years.
After New Years Day we returned to California. The next day Mark and I went running. Well, I tried to run anyway. It wasn’t working well at all. My knees hurt so much.
That would be my last run for a long time.
Read Part 51
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Well, we left off yesterday we me rather in a bad way. Sitting on the floor of my kitchen, wondering why my legs wouldn’t work to get me up. I sat there for a while, my daughter and husband not around, and thought, well this is really stupid. Then I scooted over to the sink, wrapped my fingers around its edge, and pulled myself up.
Sheesh. Must be coming down with the flu or something. I was a 5-mile-a-day runner. My legs were strong, baby.
But the weakness continued.
Amberly and I went up to our Idaho home for the month of August, Mark taking a vacation from work and soon joining us. I got worse. Begin to lose my balance. Couldn’t stand for any length of time. The bottoms of my feet felt like they’d put in a fire. August passed this way with no change. We began to think I had MS.
I called a neurologist at Stanford to make an appointment. It would be in September, after we got back to California. Those were scary days, wondering if I had MS, and if I’d ever walk normally again. I’d gone from running 5 miles a day to barely making a lap inside the house.
Meanwhile my wonderful agent Jane continued with the negotiations on my contract with Zondervan. And I got back my editorial letter for Capture the Wind for Me. I rewrote the manuscript in a couple of intense weeks around the end of July/beginning August.
When we got back to California in September, I went for my tests for MS. These tests, no kidding, are straight from the Nazis.
I knew the test was in two parts. The first involved shocks. The second involved needles. Waaaaay long needles.
Well, I figured I could handle the needles pretty decently. But shocks? Listen. I can’t stand even those static little zaps you get when you touch metal in a dry room.
I knew I was in trouble the minute I walked into the test room. On one of those white eraser boards on the wall was written in big red letters: “Dr. Shock-a-matic.” Ha-ha, very funny.
The nurse came in and brightly informed me that she would do this part of the test. It was really very simple. She would zap my legs with shocks, higher and higher voltage each time, until she saw the required reaction on the computer screen from the electrodes attached to my skin. Hey, no sweat.
She started in.
She looked at me, like, for heaven's sake,we've just begun. I told her I didn’t do shocks. “Oh,” she said, “hang in there.”
The next shock went higher. “Aaaaah!” I glared at her. I couldn’t believe this. We were only at number two, and she predicted we’d have to go to 3 or 4 with each placement of her zapper on various muscles. She hit 3, and I nearly came off the gurney. I started blathering. Okay, so I use humor when I’m in the doctor’s office and scared to death. Only this was rather black humor. But she deserved it. I said things like, “What’s wrong with you, you like doing this stuff? How can you do this all day? Where did they train you—Auschwitz?”
She told me one patient actually enjoyed the test very much. Then she admitted he was a teenager, dressed all in black, with lots of piercings. Pain was in for him.
I somehow survived the first four zaps, then she moved her super shocker to the next muscle. I blathered some more about her apparent lack of sanity. In fact, at that point, the entire field of neurology seemed totally insane to me. The 21st century, and this was the only test they knew to give for MS? I loudly informed her she ought to go work for the Russian Secret Service. She’d get a medal or two. I moaned and I groaned, generally accusing her of lacking a heart. And soul. After about the third shock on that second muscle, I pulled the plug. I said, “Listen, Nurse Rachet, I’m outta here. Like now.” And I yanked off the electrodes.
She looked at me in shock. (Haha.) Told me I was the only person in her over 10 years experience who’d had the nerve (ho-ho-ho) to stop the test.
I told her I was happy to be the first.
Nurse left the room—and good riddance. I waited. In came the doc. Oh, wow, the guy’s gonna cream me. Well, fine, I didn’t care.
Amazingly, he didn’t even make a fuss. In fact, he said they got enough data to show him that part of the test was fine.
Fine? I practically jumped off the table to go strangle the nurse. Apparently she got her jollies completing tests that didn’t need to be completed anyway. I told the doc he needed a new assistant. He gave me a look like you wimp.
Part two of the test. The needles. Long needles. Dug into my leg muscles, all the way in, then shoved this way and that, while he watches my nerves do their virtual scream on the monitor.
They screamed all right.
But I stayed silent, even though it hurt like the dickens. Hey. I can do needles.
Test results—negative. No MS. My family and I were so very relieved.
Now, if only I could walk normally.
Read Part 50
Monday, May 09, 2005
Greetings, BGs, on a new week. Glad to see you back.
I was thrilled to read the comments from Friday. To know that God has used this blog to help others—wow. That is way cool. Thank you, God!
So. Here we are on part 48 of our NES. Can you believe it? I started this tale back on February, and here it is May. Sheesh.
So last week we left off with The Call and its results—a 7-book contract with Zondervan in the works. Because of the size of the contract, it would take months to hammer out details and actually sign the thing.
Meanwhile Palm Sunday weekend rolled around—which, of course, means Mount Hermon Writers Conference. I attended that year for the fourth time in a row. It was amazing for me to think about where I’d come from since the first time I went. Just three years later, and I was writing full time with plenty more stuff comin’. On a personal level, however, I was exhausted. The spiritual warfare battle—both within me and surrounding me—had taken its toll, and I’d had no time to recuperate. One big part of it that had been going on for years (details of which I’ve not covered in this blog) had suddenly lifted, and for that I was almost nauseous with gratitude. But I was totally worn out emotionally. And our 12-year-old daughter, who’d been mysteriously sick for going on two months, missing school all that time, was still sick and facing more tests when I returned from the conference.
So I attended Mt. Hermon still feeling in the thick of spiritual battles flowing around me, and enervated. By that time these battles had been going on for almost four years straight.
I had a good time hanging out with my friends at the conference that year. I needed it. Then a surprising thing happened.
I was chosen Writer of the Year.
Well. I’d sat quite a ways in the back for that evening service when winners are announced, so I had a long walk down the aisle. As I strode down, my first thought was, “Wow, this is way cool. Thank You, God!” I saw it as a special gift He gave me—not necessary, just something extra. He is merciful that way, isn’t He? Then my second thought as I reached the stage was, sheesh, the other writers accepted their awards far too quietly. I mean, come on, let’s rejoice a little. So when Dave Talbott handed me the award, I stretched out my arms like he was some long-lost love, wrapped my arms around him, and gave him a huge, hard smack on the cheek.
Those of you who know Dave will understand how deeply he blushed. He tried to cover it by quipping, “Too bad you can’t show a little more enthusiasm.”
By the way, I want to make sure to note that a second Writer of the Year was chosen that year—Karen O’Connor, author of Help, I’m having a Senior Moment, among many other things. I’m honored to share the award with her.
When I returned from Mount Hermon I had to finish Capture the Wind for Me—and write like mad, since I’d had such a tough time writing in the previous months. Problem was, writing like mad was rather difficult with a child sick every day. I also had to take Amberly for tests at Stanford, one of which involved putting the tube down her throat to check out her stomach. For kids, they use full anesthesia during this procedure. It’s such a hard thing to watch your children go through something scary like that.
The tests were negative. Everything seemed to be fine with her stomach—except that it hurt all the time and she had no energy. And this is kid with high pain tolerance. At least she wasn’t throwing up every day, as she had been for almost a month. At this point the doctors basically gave up on her. At least that’s what it sounded like to me when they started talking about sending her to a clinic so she could learn how to “live with the pain.”
Yeah, right. I knew where this pain was coming from. My prayer warrior friends and I kept praying.
When the medical docs gave up on Amberly, I took her to my chiropractor/kinesiologist. I should have done that in the first place. A few visits to that doc, and Amberly got well very quickly. God had answered our prayers for my daughter through those treatments. I can remember one afternoon seeing her energy come back. In the space of an hour she went from lethargic to her old self—laughing and with lots of energy.
Now, finally, I could concentrate on writing. Amberly went back to school, our son was now in a wonderful program and turning his life around, the oppression on my writing was lifted, and all was quiet in our household for the first time in years. I finished Capture the Wind for Me by the end of June, and Amberly graduated from seventh grade. In July I attended my first CBA conference. Negotiations were continuing for my contract with Zondervan. In short, we had two and a half wonderful crisis-free months.
Then, three days after I returned home from CBA, I stooped down to pull a pan out of a low cabinet, fell down hard on my rear when my legs gave out—and couldn’t get up.
Read Part 49
Friday, May 06, 2005
Yay for Friday!
Dear Bloggees, even though we ended on a high note yesterday in our NES, do remember that the story’s only up to spring or 2002. A few things have happened since then, so NES will continue. And meanwhile my life and writing goes on, so there will continue to be interesting stuff to post.
For today, however, instead of proceeding with our NES, I wanted to post excerpts from a letter I received from a BG. This person had given me permission to use the email and will remain anonymous. Although we’ve covered this topic pretty well, I thought this letter may also help some readers out there. Here goes:
. . . I wanted to comment on your blog. The last few posts about spiritual warfare is so where I am at right now. [You wrote:] “Are you willing to give up that sense of “being no good” at writing? Are you really willing to renounce it and to claim the power I want to give you for doing the job I have called you to?”
That was like a slap in the face. I mean I have known that I've been under attack, but I guess I didn't realize that I allowed myself to wallow in it. Reading that post made me cry. I prayed the prayer you did. Also prayed "I believe, help me with my unbelief." Since reading it I have been reading and quoting all those Psalms you mentioned in the previous post.
I've been so desperate to finish my book, and I would believe that voice telling me I couldn't and even if I did it would be a terrible book. That I was just wasting my time and playing with this writing thing, etc. And the sad thing about listening to all that is I really do believe that I have a talent for writing. But all that unworthiness creeps in there. What's even sadder is God told me in a dream once, that I was a writer. Ok, don't laugh but in the dream I was talking in an instant messenger with God (I love my instant messengers, LOL) and God was typing all this stuff but I kept scrolling back up to read this one line and it said, "You're the writer you are given permission for freedom." Never was for sure what all of it meant. But I loved that 1. God said I was a writer and 2. that there was freedom involved.
I have had a few people praying about the attacks, but do you realize how many Christians don't even believe in that?? Now I don't think that everything bad that happens is an attack. I think once you have had an attack you can certainly recognize it the next time.
The attacks are on more than just the writing front. Satan has started attacking my friendships. And headaches. Oh my. I haven't had a migraine in 6 years. Had one on Thursday. Every day since then I have had tension headaches, bad ones. Now normally I would just think something was odd going on but with all the attacks, me getting close to doing what I believe God wants me to do, starting to believe in myself a little, etc, that is just to big of a coincidence.
Hope you all take encouragement from this person’s email. If you’re not having similar problems yourself, you might recognize them in a friend’s life and better know how to pray for that person.
Check back Monday, BGs. More’s a-comin’. Promise.
Thursday, May 05, 2005
This is going to be a shorter post today. I’ve had trouble since yesterday with the wireless in my office. Yay for Starbucks and T-Mobile.
So we left off yesterday’s NES with waitin’ for the biggy. It was spring of 2002, 12 years after I’d started writing fiction. I’d come through 10 years of rejection and was now on a pretty good roll. God had just straightened out some stuff with me, and I was ready to walk in His power, refusing to heed that nasty little “you know you can’t do this” voice.
Then one day the phone rang.
Y’all authors out there—what’s your idea of The Call from heaven regarding your writing? Well, I think for me, this was my Call.
It was Jane, my agent. With a question. “I’ve had a conversation with the folks at Zondervan,” she began with that no nonsense business tone of hers. “It’s occurs to them that you’re about to finish your last contracted book with them. They wondered if you have any ideas for other series. Their question to you is: “How many books would you like to sell them?”
I can’t remember quite what I did at that moment. Other than think I’d died and gone to heaven for sure. Or that I was dreaming. How many would I like to sell them?
Um, actually I didn’t have a clue.
But I really liked the general concept.
By the time I got off the phone I’d promised to come up with one or two other series to propose to Zondervan. I probably blathered to Jane like an idiot. Or maybe said very little because my tangue was all tongled. I simply can’t remember. I do remember kinda being in a daze for the rest of the day.
Oh, yeah. I do remember one thing. I was writing desperately on Capture the Wind for Me, and wanted to make deadline as usual. So I told Jane that I couldn’t propose anything until after that book was done. I simply had no time to think about it at the moment. She said not to wait too long. “Strike while the fire’s hot,” she said.
I wrote like mad and finished Wind. Then turned to figuring out a new series. Actually two new series. I was thinking of a new suspense and a new women’s fiction series. Why not? After all, they had asked a rather open-ended question of me.
I started looking around the Christian suspense market. Noticed something interesting. Forensics was hot, hot in the secular world—books, movies, TV. But little of it in the Christian world. So I then looked into different aspects of forensics and figured out that the forensic artist would be a great character to have. Someone with both left brain and right brain capabilities. With knowledge of science and aging and bone structure, but also the ability to empathize with people, interview victims of crime. An interesting character. This idea sounded great to me. I wanted to be one of the first to fill the niche of forensics in CBA fiction.
And so I developed the Hidden Faces series.
Then I turned to a completely different series, called the Dearing Family. A wacky extended family with unpredictable occurrences at their reunions. Four generations worth of interesting, colorful characters.
I wrote the proposal for these two series. Not really saying much about what the stories would be, because I didn’t know (except for the general premise in the first book of each). I described the settings for each series, the overall feel of the books, then gave a line or two of what could happen in each. All in all my proposal included 6 books—3 in Dearing Family and 3 in Hidden Faces.
Yup, back to that.
Zondervan did answer without too much delay, however. Yes, they liked the proposal. Yes, they would take both series!! Oh, my. I’d just sold six books at once. Six books. Head spin time. Snoopy dance and cabinet-polishing time.
But hold on. Zondervan had one problem with my proposal for Hidden Faces, Jane said.
Oh, great. Here it came. Some quid pro quo I couldn’t deliver.
I had offered ’em three books in that suspense series, right?
“Thank you very much,” Zondervan basically replied. “But we want four.”
Read Part 48
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
I appreciated the comments from yesterday. Found myself nodding my head, saying “Yes, yes!” to numerous points made. And honestly, BGs, last week when I began to write about those spiritual warfare days, I didn’t want to do it. But I felt I should. Now I see why. Sometimes God kicks us out of our comfort zones.
After the victory that I described yesterday, I took up writing the rest of Capture the Wind for Me—and found plenty of passion for doing so. And when the rewrite time came, although that was one of my harder rewrites, I threw myself into it as well. In the end, I really did like the book. I confess, Color the Sidewalk for Me remains my favorite in the Bradleyville series. But Wind is not too far behind it. The good thing about Wind is, since it features a 16-year-old protagonist, it has become a favorite of teenage girls as well as adults. Women mostly. But the male readers will surprise ya. Recently I heard from a man in his, I don’t know, late 60s maybe, who confessed he never would have read the book because of its “womanly cover” but did so because his agent told him to study the prologue for his own writing. He planned to read only the prologue but later wrote that he was “hooked from the first paragraph” and absolutely had to read the whole book. He really enjoyed it.
You never know the readers you’ll reach.
I tell you this simply as another example of God’s grace in my life. He gave me victory over the forces that would have kept me from writing this novel, then look what He did with it. He helped me create a story that would touch both young and old, male and female. This is God’s mercy and power, and He gets the credit as far as I’m concerned. As the Psalm says, “Not to me, O Lord, but to You be the glory.”
Of course, telling about the completion of Wind and its rewrite is getting ahead of my story. I need to return to the end of February 2002, right around the time when I had my spiritual epiphany. Numerous things would happen in the next two months—enough to make my head spin.
That spring Color the Sidewalk for Me was released. My third published novel. Second novel to be published by Zondervan. Now, BGs, those of you who’ve been with me for this entire story will know what the release of this book meant to me. Remember the years I spent writing it? The number of times I had to rewrite it? Remember how the manuscript got lost in my agent’s office, and she re-read the old version, costing me a number of months ranking very high on the cabinet-kicking scale? How I’d poured out all my passion in this book—the second novel I actually wrote, and the first women’s fiction I’d written? If you remember all those “How I Got Here” parts, you’ll have a taste of what I felt when I held that first published copy of Sidewalk in my hand. I was absolutely elated. What a tremendous blessing after the dark months of writing I’d just come through.
A month after its release, I started checking ye ol’ bestseller list, waiting, waiting for the new list to be posted. Finally it came online.
Sidewalk squeaked on at #20.
Hey, I’ll take squeak, especially when I was such a new name on the scene. I was thrilled!
I barely had time to turn around. Within a few weeks of Sidewalk’s release, Getting Into Character was released from John Wiley & Sons.
Okay, here we go with more vulnerable honesty from me, just for y’all BGs. Wanna know how I felt about this book hitting the shelves?
I was terrified.
I just knew the literary world would laugh me right out of it. First of all, who was I to write a book on how to write fiction anyway? When I sold the proposal, I didn’t even have a novel published. Now I’d had three, but a Donald Maas or Dwight Swain that did not make me. What’s more, I’d written a book unlike any other, a book that dared to take 7 of the techniques from method acting—sacrosanct to many actors—and adapt them for novelists. What if people laughed at my concepts?
And so the book hit shelves. And so I shivered in my shoes, wondering at the results.
Well, I didn’t get laughed out of the literary world. In fact, readers seemed to like the stuff. Yeah, it was different. Some writers couldn’t quite handle all the concepts. But I think that’s true for any how-to book. You take what works for you and leave the rest. In fact, I advocate doing that very thing. Getting Into Character is not a bunch of “rules” for writing anyway. It presents concepts and guidelines for using those concepts. But rules? Not me, folks.
So GIC’s birth turned out okay. Not an ugly baby after all. A baby that was all in all, quite agreeable. And remains that way today. Last year in a panel packed with fiction editors at a writers’ conference, each editor was asked about his/her favorite how-to books for writing fiction. I was amazed at the number of them who included Getting Into Character. It seems the book has become pretty well known among Christian novelists, editors and agents. I only wish it were as well known in the secular market. I mean, I’ll check the writing section of a B&N and always find a book on writing by some guy named Stephen King, but won’t always find my book. The thing is, if you write a book about writing, you need to have a big name in the writing world. Even if the ideas you present are pretty nifty, the lack of being Somebody Big is going to hurt your sales. And that’s where I am today with Getting Into Character. It’s a book I am now proud of, and I hear from many novelists whom it has helped. In fact many who’ve read it tend to rave about it. But apparently many still don’t know about it, because it doesn’t exactly rake in the royalties.
So. Spiritual epiphany, the release of Sidewalk, and the release of GIC. Think that’s enough for the spring of 2002?
Hold on to your hats. The biggie’s a-comin’.
Read Part 47