Friday, November 28, 2008
God has blessed my dream beyond anything I could imagine. And as you read this I'm preparing ot send the sequel to Deadly Exposure to NYC; I'm opening the content edits for the first book in the Ohio World War Two series: A Promise Kept; and I've turned in all the edits to The Complete Idiots Guide to Business Law. It's been a crazy fall, but God is good. And next month I get to dream new proposal into being. What an exciting business!
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Linda Revere is back and this time her focus is her kids. Nick is up to something, but no one's sure what. And Emma is within months of leaving for college. Life is changing, and Linda's not comfortable with everything being out of her hands.
This book had me chuckling through out because I felt like I was walking through the challenges with Linda. How to handle the girlfriend that doesn't fit what she'd prayed for Nick? What about office gossip? Then there's dealing with her father-in-law's special friend. Her life is layered with challenges -- and I could so relate to that. No matter how hard I try to simplify, there's always something more going on -- and who like that out of control feeling?
While Linda is at a different spot in life with kids that are older than mine, I love this series. Megan has a great writing style and a wonderful sense of humor that comes through loud and clear. And the cover once again is awesome!
This is a great book, and I encourage you to pick it up if you're looking for real life characters with real life issues that become best friends.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
I'm grateful that back in 1990, God introduced a boy from Indiana to a girl from Nebraska in the beautiful town of Colorado Springs. I may have been 16, but I knew at the end of two weeks, that Eric was a man that I should get to know. He loved God in a way that I hadn't seen in many young men. He was good looking, competitive, smart, and fun. My brothers will tell you I was born without a funny bone, but Eric managed to find it. As time passed, I loved the heart I was seeing. And on my 21st birthday he asked me to marry him. He's put up with me for almost 13 years, and I'm forever grateful that God put us together. Maybe that's why most of my books have a romantic thread :-)
Monday, November 24, 2008
Three beautiful gifts from heaven and the knowledge that another waits in heaven for us. I have been blessed with smart, beautiful, fun-loving children. Kids who push me, challenge me, love me -- even when I have to spend time writing and on other projects. I can't imagine my life without them and am so grateful that God has entrusted them to us.
As I get ready to post this I have less than 5,000 words left to write in Deadly Judgment and edits. Thanks for all your prayers. I've definitely felt them as I race to this deadline. Thank you!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
There’s never a dull moment in the Y’Barbo household! From hockey and cheer mom to publicist to bestselling author, Kathleen Y’Barbo somehow manages to do it all - and well. While wearing her publicist’s hat, Kathleen has secured interviews with radio, television, and print media for clients at NavPress, Hatchette, Integrity, Barbour Publishing, and Broadman & Holman, to name a few. She also brings her own unique blend of Southern charm and witty prose to the more than 350,000 award-winning novels and novellas currently in print. Her novels have been nominated for American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year in 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2006; and 2007 will see the release of her 25th book.
Kathleen is a tenth-generation Texan and a mother of three grown sons and a teenage daughter. She is a graduate of Texas A&M University. Kathleen is a former treasurer for the American Christian Fiction Writers, and is a member of the Author’s Guild, Inspirational Writers Alive, Words for the Journey Christian Writers Guild, and the Fellowship of Christian Authors. In addition, she is a sought-after speaker, and her kids think she’s a pretty cool mom, too…most of the time, anyway.
The first book in this series is Beloved Castaway.
ABOUT THE BOOK
In this sequel to Beloved Castaway, Emilie Gayarre is learning to accept her mixed race heritage while finding fulfillment in teaching children of the key. There is no denying the attraction between Emilie and the handsome young naval commander, Caleb Spencer, who is shadowed by his own flock of secrets. But if her heritage is found out, even greater things than his career are at risk. Enjoy this historical romance full of risk and redemption.
If you would like to read the first chapter of Beloved Captive, go HERE.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Most of you know that I had a miscarriage almost two years ago. Last week I was blind-sided again by grief. It is amazing how life can be flowing -- busy but so good -- and then, wham! I'm back in that place.
I suppose all grief is like that.
I'm just pretty inexperienced at it.
Last week two events triggered it. The first was getting one of those lovely emails: you're baby is 15 months old. Oh, that he was! Instead, he's dancing on the streets of heaven. And oh, how I'd love to hold him and dance with him here.
It's odd. I thought I'd gotten off all the lists, but periodically we'll get something in the mail or a message will arrive. I know I should get off these last lists. It's not that hard with the email ones. But part of me doesn't want to forget. Silly, I know. Baby Gabe will always be a part of our family. Just ask Abigail or Jonathan. They'll tell you about the baby in heaven. And I cannot imagine life or our family without precious Rebecca. But that doesn't remove the ache for Gabe.
The other trigger revolves around three precious little ones. Daughters of a friend, cousin, and brother. Two were born around Gabe's due date, the other a few weeks after. I love those little ones, but it's hard to see them or hold them and not be reminded of the one I'm missing.
Times like that I can't wait for heaven -- and that's not usually my focus.
So if you know someone who has miscarried, please be sensitive. Several dates/anniversaries are hard. And the pain lingers and reoccurs. The date of the loss and due date are tender times. Tread with care. And even though you may not feel that same pain, please acknowledge it even when you don't understand or have moved on.
Sometimes just knowing it's recognized helps.
(The photo is the kids at the Gymnastics Superstars event in Indy on Veterans Day. Very cool!)
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Here's my response again. But I also want to know what you think...so leave comments:
Frankly, writing stories that address the hard, real-life issues is excruciating. The last novel I turned in dealt with miscarriage -- the first book in my Ohio World War Two series. Colleen calls it my historical, married romance, women's fiction. I knew it was a thread I had to write, my editor embraced it, and it is real life. The gritty, ask God hard questions, kind of life. But it's painful as a writer to go there. In my case go back there, and dig up the emotions, the pain, the questions...but that's what leads to the answers and piece of truth God has revealed to me.
The content edit is also pretty substantive -- pushing me to go even deeper with the characters and their motivations. Talk about a gift as a writer, but I know it will pull even more out of me.
Sharon Hinck talks about the pain that came in writing scenes of the Restorer's Journey (3rd book). It's bleak, dark, harrowing stuff, but the truth and light of God shines through. And it's in those pages that I was challenged in my own faith.
As a reader, I seek those kind of experiences. As a writer, I have to be willing to dig deep, peel back the layers, be transparent (though the reader shouldn't sense me in those places -- just the truth as experienced by the characters).
And the hard part is that each book requires that laying it out, risking, and being vulnerable.
So what do you think?
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
This week, I'm going to deviate very slightly from a book review. I have lots of great books to tell you about, but Christmas is bearing down on us, so I wanted to talk about books you can make.
I'm talking photobooks.
I am an avid scrapbooker. But the reality of having a baby, three books release this year, writing four books, and teaching classes is that the scrapbooking has fallen by the wayside. I can't wait to get some work done in December. I love the quick creative feel I get when getting the photos and stories into scrapbooks the kids love.
So I've looked at the online services. I've tried two: Snapfish and Shutterfly. My experiences with the two were night and day. (I've ordered prints from both without incident.)
A couple months ago I received an e-coupon for a photobook from Shutterfly. Great! I'll try anything for free + S/H. Besides I was feeling guilty about not having any of Rebecca's photos in an album, and this would provide a quick solution. So I spent an hour (time I didn't have) uploading photos and putting them in the album. I love the layouts and options, but when I got to checkout, it wouldn't recognize the code. I called customer service and was basically told I was a bozo and it wasn't their problem. I wanted to tell them I'm an attorney who graduated with honors from UNL and George Mason, but I held my tongue. I bought the first book because I had already made it, then made the "free" one. However, I will never use Shutterfly again, and I'm telling lots of people about my abysmal customer service experience. The kicker is I would have paid the difference since their coupon and website didn't make it clear which albums were covered, and I'd unwittingly picked a copyrighted album. But that wasn't an option. There was no option. So I'm no longer a customer.
Friday, I got a coupon for Snapfish's photobook. Call me a glutton for punishment, but I decided to try it. I had a couple Christmas gifts in mind, and thought if this one worked I'd order more. Takes a bit to figure out the differences, but the system is easy to use. The only problem is that I couldn't get the albums to show my photos once they were uploaded. Even though it was free, I wasn't going to order something I couldn't see. I twittered with a plea for help and within minutes had an email from the director of systems and support operations. Notice I didn't even email customer service, he found me! And his solution worked! I finished getting the album ready -- very pleased with it.
Then I checked out. It recognized my coupon on one page, but not after I pressed order. However, the amazing director of systems and support operations solved that problem, too. Snapfish's website says 100% customer satisfaction and they mean it. I will definitely use this site again. And I can't wait to see the book.
The sad thing is that Shutterfly's books turned out great. But because of the abysmal customer service, I won't go back. This may be an online world, but I still want someone who will work with me when there's a problem.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Hot off the camera and real life. This is what big brothers are for :-) Fortunately, she enjoys the attention.
And here's a link to a great interview with Doc Hensley on writing more efficiently. If I wrote more non-fiction, I'd definitely adopt his approach. Wow! Talk about maximizing time and effort.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Makes me think of football.
Heck, lots of life makes me think of football. You've surely heard me say that I'm from Nebraska and have footballs pumping through my veins. Eric calls those corpuscles. Tomato, tomato :-)
Nebraska has a long tradition of handing out blackshirts to the starting defense. It's a symbol of pride to be able to say you were a blackshirt. Last season, the players turned theirs in -- a recognition that they weren't playing hard enough.
Last week -- ten games into the season, they got them back. The dedication, practice, toughness, endurance all paid off with the awarding of that shirt. That symbol that they were good enough.
I think a lot of people think a contract is that way. First, you'll get rich off the advance. NOT. Second, it validates that you are a writer and will have every contract you ever want in the future. NOT. And third, it's tangible proof that you've made it into an elite club. MAYBE.
If God's planted the dream of writing in your heart, then it's time to test. Put your nose to the grindstone and do what you were commanded to -- write. And then write again. And write some more. And at the end of a lot of session, you'll have a short story or a book. Someday you may land a contract and hold your book. But if you follow God's call, then you are a writer.
And thanks for all the great comments about what you look for in a Christian book. The comments have been great. I'll leave it open for a couple more days, then draw at least one person to receive a book.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
Some of my bias probably came through at ACFW. I don't want a book that preaches at me. If there's a salvation, it needs to be realistic and flow organically from the story. I want spiritual threads that are realistic -- a book that keeps me thinking after I've hit "the end". Tamara Leigh's books are good about that. I laugh even while getting pinged. The thread can be very subtle. I think about some of Brandilyn's books.
But what I must have is a thread of hope. The story world can mirror the gritty world we live in, nut justice should prevail. I should get a sense that ev en though life isn't lived in pretty little packages there is light and beauty in the world.
Allen Arnold, fiction publisher at Thomas Nelson, talks about Christian fiction being fiction written by a Christian. I like that definition. It gives me freedom as a writer to write the story God gives me.
Wow, didn't know this would get long. But as a writer, this what I try to do. Nothing is worse as a reader than flying through pages to end a book on a down note.
So what do you think? Inquiring minds would like to know! And I may just pull a winner of one of my books from the commenters. :-) How's that for a tease!
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
I'm currently reading three books:
Shade by John Olson: Not letting myself get deeply into this book yet, becuase I know once I do, I won't be able to put this down. John's editor, Karen Ball, believed so deeply in this book that she worked for close to ten years to find the right home for it. It's the vampire book that isn't. Lots of buzz, so can't wait to dive in. Probably December 1...yep, the day Deadly Judgment arrives in NYC.
Out of Her Hands by Megan DiMaria. This book is turning out to be just as good as Searching for Spice. Loving it. Linda's life is full of chaos again, and she handles it so like I would. Is that me in 15 years? Yikes! But I love Megan's writing. It's funny, honest, vibrant. She really pulls me into books that I wouldn't expect to like, but I do.
The other book I'm reading at the moment is the ARC of Breach of Trust, DiAnn Mills' next book. I'm loving the concept so far. It's the book traveling with me in the diaper bag, but I can tell this suspense will get pulled pretty soon. Fast action. Too bad y'all have to wait until next year to read it. I am such a tease!
I read The Measure of a Lady last week. WOW! Deeanne Gist is a master! She pulled me into the early days of San Francisco and had me caring deeply about her characters. The spiritual challenges were real and ones we can all relate to -- maybe too well. And I felt Rachel's burdens and pain. The way she fought to carve a life out for her brother and sister, the burden when things move out of her control, the responsibility she took on. And the romance is beautiful and believable. Delightful read!
Monday, November 10, 2008
I've been tagged, but rather than make it random, I'm making this reading related. :-)
1) I have loved to read since I was about 4. You'll still find me with a book in my hands all the time.
2) My favorite childhood books were the Little House on the Prairie series. Read them voraciously over and over. It's been a blast to read them with my kids now. Laura Ingalls Wilder was truly a gifted writer. Very active writing that paints the scene ... and tells you how to actually build the door, but I digress.
3) My favorite young adult books were the Anne of Green Gables series. And oh, those wonderful CBC adaptations. I loved Anne. And vowed to be like her. I may make lots of mistakes but I try to make the same one only once. I'm far too creative for duplicates!
4) As an adult I discovered Mary Higgins Clark, and feel in love with her blend of suspense. Can't read all of hers, because some of the early ones get a tad weird, but I'll never regret taking a chance on Loves Music, Loves to Dance. A love was born...and for years I said I wanted to write books like that in the Christian arena. Now I do!
5) I'll never regret discovering Bodie Thoene's early series. The Zion Chronicles and Covenant satisfied the reader in me and the part that was passionate about getting history right. Oh, to be able to write gripping stories that honored history. And now I try to do that as well. Isn't, God good!
6) My first book that I wrote is a toss-up: I can't remember if it was the book set in Boston during the Revolutionary War or my attempt to what if what could have happened to the lost colony of Roanoke. I'd still like to explore that one at some point. Hmm, could make a great modern suspense...
7) I have been blessed and challenged by Beth Moore and Jennifer Rothschild's Bible studies. Those women have poured out their hearts on the page for us...and if we are willing to dig deep, God can transform our lives, too.
Tagging others? Hmmm. Janna Ryan, Joanna Nash, Robin Miller, Tricia Goyer, and Gina Conroy. Have fun, ladies.
Friday, November 07, 2008
The election didn't go the way I'd hoped. But that's okay.
There are several things that I know.
1) God is still on His throne.
2) God controls the affairs of men.
3) God directs the heart of the king. Proverbs 21:1
4) God answers when we humble ourselves and pray. II Chronicles 7:14-15
So I join with Michael Hyatt in his four commitments to Obama. While he may not have been my choice, now that he is president I will pray for him and support him. Now praying his heart will be guided by the king he serves.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
so I was intrigued by this book. Me, Myself and I Am is a great book for those who aren't experienced journalers. It provides simple fill in the box opportunities and takes some of the work out of figuring out what to put on the page. It could be a great tool to capture your spiritual journey to pass on to the next generation. For an experienced journaler, it may seem simplistic, but it did contain questions I would not have thought to explore.
A new experience of God comes one question at a time in this fun and provocative journal. Made up entirely of insightful, profound, and occasionally ridiculous questions, Me, Myself, and I AM invites you to open to any page, open yourself to God, and be the author of your own story.
Questions range from spiritually intriguing—
You overhear God talking about you. What do hear him saying?
You are on a long car trip with a close friend who is not a Christian and the conversation turns to faith. What is your biggest fear about what your friend will ask or say?
Do you believe that all of Jesus’s followers have a responsibility to tell others about him?
to just plain fun—
If your life before you became a Christian were a movie, its title would be:
As Good as It Gets
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
It’s a Wonderful Life
Me, Myself, and I AM will entertain, inspire, and get you thinking about your spiritual life from brand new angles. Whether you use Me, Myself, and I AM as a reflective tool, a way to start conversations with friends and family, or as a spiritual time capsule to look back on years later, their own words will create a powerful journey of self-discovery.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
ABOUT THE BOOK
In this second novel by Megan DiMaria, Linda Revere is back and continuing to struggle with the turmoil of contemporary life. Linda has been praying for her children's future spouses since they were very small. Confident that her prayers will be answered, Linda is not prepared for the young woman her son brings home. But Linda soon learns that while everything she once controlled is out of her hands, God is still in control. Megan uses her trademark humor while dealing with issues to which her readers will relate.
If you would like to read the first chapter of Out Of Her Hands, go HERE
"No sophomore slump for DiMaria! This novel (Out of Her Hands) is as engaging and meaningful as her first, Searching for Spice. Her realistic portrayal of the characters' lives should endear them to readers and help Christians to feel less alone in their daily trials."
~Romantic Times Magazine, 4 ½ stars TOP PICK!
“Life in Linda's world is messy...but filled with love, laughter, struggle and faith. Megan has created a most real heroine for us to love...and I adore her!”
~Deena Peterson, reviewer: A Peek at my Bookshelf
“Megan DiMaria crafts a novel so compelling, so real, you forget you're reading fiction.”
~Darcie Gudger, reviewer: TitleTrakk
"This is a great read for a quiet afternoon or in those times when you feel your own life spinning out of control and need the reality check of knowing you're not in it alone."I have started this book, but haven't had a chance to finish it yet. However, I am loving it. It's been fun to step back into Linda's world. There are enough references to the first book to keep it fun, without making it difficult for someone who picks up this book to read it. And Megan's trademark humor is back. Don't make the mistake of thinking these books are only for baby boomers. She does a wonderful job of making them entertaining and meaningful for all. And don't you love the cover!
Rain Song is the debut release from Alice J. Wisler. This book is sweetly lyrical, and definitely southern. The characters form a beautiful cast around our heroine, Nicole Michelin. Another young woman who essentially lost both parents at a young age through a tragedy, it could have seemed a copy of other books I've recently read, but contained its author's unique stamp. The book kept my interest as I wondered how Nicole would face so many of her fears in her quest for truth she is hungry to learn. Romance plays a role in this book (maybe 20%), but this book's focus is on the question of what we are willing to sacrifice to learn the truth. Unlike some general fiction, this book kept me firmly in its grasp. As I struggled with Nicole. A beautiful story!
ABOUT THE BOOK
Nicole Michelin avoids airplanes, motorcycles, and most of all, Japan, where her parents once were missionaries. Something happened in Japan...something that sent Nicole and her father back to America alone...something of which Nicole knows only bits and pieces. But she is content with life in little Mount Olive, North Carolina, with her quirky relatives, tank of lively fish, and plenty of homemade pineapple chutney. Through her online column for the Pretty Fishy Web site, she meets Harrison Michaels, who, much to her dismay, lives in Japan. She attempts to avoid him, but his emails tug at her heart. Then Harrison reveals that he knew her as a child in Japan. In fact, he knows more about her childhood than she does.
If you would like to read the first chapter of Rain Song, go HERE
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
I'm in an all out effort to simplify my life right now. I know, those of you who know me are rolling your eyes. My life and simplicity don't seem to go hand in hand. But I am taking active steps to reevaluate the many things I am involved in and be intentional about putting my husband and family first after God.
So one step I'm going to take is to start posting on the blog three times a week.
On Mondays, I'll post something about the writing life. Sometimes it will be interviews with writer friends. Sometimes it will be my experience/take on things.
On Wednesdays, I'll post book reviews and giveaways. Some weeks there may a couple posted, but they will routinely fall on Wednesdays now.
And Fridays will be my rant day. I may rant about the wonders of sweet tea. Or the idiocy of campaigns. It'll be a potluck day of Cara's thoughts. Just what you wanted, right :-)
If you really miss me, you can still find me at CRAFTIE Ladies of Suspense every Thursday. And I may even be able to get back on a regular rotation at Generation NeXt Parenting. We'll see. So join me in this effort to simplify life a tad as we head into the holidays.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
This book is set in Texas and weaves historical events with the story. I read the section at the end about the history and how it related to the story...fascinating! One reason I can't wait to read it!
So without further ado, here's the interview.
Each year, at the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference, Barbour Publishing awards first contracts to lucky recipients. In 2007, they thrilled me out of my skin by awarding me the first three-book contact ever awarded at the ACFW conference. I’m trying very hard to live up to the confidence Barbour has placed in me.
Has being a published novelist differed from your expectations?
Yes. I’ve discovered that when you do it right, it’s actually work.
Do you plot your novels out or are you a so-called seat-of-the-pants writer?
I used to fly by my seat from start to finish. My first experience with working a plan came after discovering Randy Ingermanson’s snowflake method for plotting a novel. After working through Karen S. Wiesner’s First Draft in 30 Days, I’m a born-again plotter. These days, I don’t think I’d do it any other way. I sort of like knowing where I’m going when I sit down to write.
Describe the place you write in most often.
Awhile back, my hubby spent far too much on a desktop computer for me. We set it up on a big desk in my office and attached all the geeky peripherals we could find. Um…I use it to play PC games. For some reason, I prefer to curl up in the corner of the sofa squinting at my laptop.
Has being a writer brought you closer to God and if so, how?
Not really closer. More in tune, maybe? I just know there’s no step in the writing/marketing process that I could pull off without His guiding hand. That teaches you to report on a regular basis for your marching orders.
What’s your favorite part of the writing process?
The first draft. Once you’ve developed characters, tweaked the plot, and come up with a satisfying ending, that’s when the fun starts. You can let your fingers fly while you flesh out the story. At this stage is when the surprises come. One of your characters gets a mind of their own and takes off in a direction you didn’t have the vision or the foresight to predict. Or your heroine gets sassy and insists on having her way on some minor detail that winds up the most important scene in the book. I love this part. The first draft is when the magic happens.
How have your life experiences helped you as a writer?
I believe all of life’s experiences are fertile fodder for fiction. Try saying that three times really fast.
I’ve traveled some bumpy roads in my time. I was a hippie in the 60’s, a yippie in the 70’s, a groupie in the 80’s, and a yuppie in the 90’s. Who else but a bona fide baby boomer can say that? At the dawn of this new century, I’m just a droopy—with a passel of kids and grandkids. I long to impart to them the nuggets of wisdom old granny picked up along the way, but since none of them will listen, I’m wrapping fictional stories around the lessons I’ve learned and slipping them to the rascals. Like hiding spinach in applesauce. Not to compare God’s grace to a slimy green vegetable, but the truth is both of them are good for you.
Saturday, November 01, 2008
First up: the $30 gift card for someone who left a comment. This giftcard can be to B&N.com, amazon.com, cbd.com or carpentersson.com. You're choice :-): The winner is.....Lindsey!!! Congratulations!!!!!!
Consolation winners (because we had so many commentors and I'm excited) can pick a book. Either one of mine or one from my stash of unread giveaways... Pam Meyers and Amber (Mommyof3inva), and Jonah :-)
Second: Winner of the $30 gift card to a feedblitz subscriber: Leoandchelle!!!!. And a runner-up prize (same as above): Tricia Goyer!
I had 64 people leave a comment to be entered for the Irishwoman's Tale. Because of all the comments, I am giving away two copies. The winners are Kat C. and Katy Lin.
Petite won the copy of Stepping Into Sunlight....because I can't email you, you must leave a comment by November 7, or I will select another winner. I loved reading each of the comments on that post! Thank you!
Paula Shene won the copy of the Shape of Mercy ARC. ....because I can't email you, you must leave a comment by November 7, or I will select another winner.
Congratulations to everyone! And stop back soon. I've got more giveaways ready to run. And plans for a big one in December.
It is time for the FIRST Blog Tour! On the FIRST day of every month we feature an author and his latest book's FIRST chapter!
and his book:
James David Jordan is a business litigation attorney with the prominent Texas law firm of Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr, P.C. From 1998 through 2005, he served as the firm's Chairman and CEO. The Dallas Business Journal has named him one of the most influential leaders in the Dallas/Fort Worth legal community and one of the top fifteen business defense attorneys in Dallas/Fort Worth. His peers have voted him one of the Best Lawyers in America in commercial litigation.
A minister's son who grew up in the Mississippi River town of Alton, Illinois, Jim has a law degree and MBA from the University of Illinois, and a journalism degree from the University of Missouri. He lives with his wife and two teenage children in the Dallas suburbs.
Jim grew up playing sports and loves athletics of all kinds. But he especially loves baseball, the sport that is a little bit closer to God than all the others.
His first novel was Something that Lasts . Forsaken is his second novel.
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Sometimes I wonder what will happen if the paint begins to fade. Will the wallpaper show? I thought so for a long time. But I have hope now that it won’t. Simon Mason helped me find that hope. That’s why it’s important for me to tell our story. There must be others who need hope, too. There must be others who are afraid that their ugly wallpaper might bleed through.
What does sleeping on the ground have to do with a world-famous preacher like Simon Mason? The story begins twelve years ago—eleven years before I met Simon. My dad and I packed our camping gear and went fishing. It was mid-May, and the trip was a present for my seventeenth birthday. Not exactly every high school girl’s dream, but my dad wasn’t like most dads. He taught me to camp and fish and, particularly, to shoot. He had trained me in self-defense since I was nine, the year Mom fell apart and left for good. With my long legs, long arms, and Dad’s athletic genes, I could handle myself even back then. I suppose I wasn’t like most other girls.
After what happened on that fishing trip, I know I wasn’t.
Fishing with my dad didn’t mean renting a cane pole and buying bait pellets out of a dispenser at some catfish tank near an RV park. It generally meant tramping miles across a field to a glassy pond on some war buddy’s ranch, or winding through dense woods, pitching a tent, and fly fishing an icy stream far from the nearest telephone. The trips were rough, but they were the bright times of my life—and his, too. They let him forget the things that haunted him and remember how to be happy.
This particular outing was to a ranch in the Texas Panhandle, owned by a former Defense Department bigwig. The ranch bordered one of the few sizeable lakes in a corner of Texas that is brown and rocky and dry. We loaded Dad’s new Chevy pickup with cheese puffs and soft drinks—healthy eating wouldn’t begin until the first fish hit the skillet—and left Dallas just before noon with the bass boat in tow. The drive was long, but we had leather interior, plenty of tunes, and time to talk. Dad and I could always talk.
The heat rose early that year, and the temperature hung in the nineties. Two hours after we left Dallas, the brand-new air conditioner in the brand-new truck rattled and clicked and dropped dead. We drove the rest of the way with the windows down while the high Texas sun tried to burn a hole through the roof.
Around five-thirty we stopped to use the bathroom at a rundown gas station somewhere southeast of Amarillo. The station was nothing but a twisted gray shack dropped in the middle of a hundred square miles of blistering hard pan. It hadn’t rained for a month in that part of Texas, and the place was so baked that even the brittle weeds rolled over on their bellies, as if preparing a last-ditch effort to drag themselves to shade.
The restroom door was on the outside of the station, isolated from the rest of the building. There was no hope of cooling off until I finished my business and got around to the little store in the front, where a rusty air conditioner chugged in the window. When I walked into the bathroom, I had to cover my nose and mouth with my hand. A mound of rotting trash leaned like a grimy snow drift against a metal garbage can in the corner. Thick, black flies zipped and bounced from floor to wall and ceiling to floor, occasionally smacking my arms and legs as if I were a bumper in a buzzing pinball machine. It was the filthiest place I’d ever been.
Looking back, it was an apt spot to begin the filthiest night of my life.
I had just leaned over the rust-ringed sink to inspect my teeth in the sole remaining corner of a shattered mirror when someone pounded on the door.
“Just a minute!” I turned on the faucet. A soupy liquid dribbled out, followed by the steamy smell of rotten eggs. I turned off the faucet, pulled my sport bottle from the holster on my hip, and squirted water on my face and in my mouth. I wiped my face on the sleeve of my T-shirt.
My blue-jean cutoffs were short and tight, and I pried free a tube of lotion that was wedged into my front pocket. I raised one foot at a time to the edge of the toilet seat and did my best to brush the dust from my legs. Then I spread the lotion over them. The ride may have turned me into a dust ball, but I was determined at least to be a soft dust ball with a coconut scent. Before leaving I took one last look in my little corner of mirror. The hair was auburn, the dust was beige. I gave the hair a shake, sending tiny flecks floating through a slash of light that cut the room diagonally from a hole in the roof. Someone pounded on the door again. I turned away from the mirror.
“Okay, okay, I’m coming!”
When I pulled open the door and stepped into the light, I shaded my eyes and blinked to clear away the spots. All that I could think about was the little air conditioner in the front window and how great it would feel when I got inside. That’s probably why I was completely unprepared when a man’s hand reached from beside the door and clamped hard onto my wrist.