Saturday, May 30, 2009

How did you realize this is what you wanted to do with your life?

Question 2 from the Eastbrook High School creative writing students is:
How did you realize this is what you wanted to do with your life?

I think this is a tough question for anyone these days, but especially for high school students ready to embark on jobs, careers and choosing colleges, and even life partners. What path do you choose? Where do I go from here? If I choose this, is this forever closed to me?

There are many things you can do to find what is the best area for you to go. You can take a Keirsey Sorter to find out what kind of Myers Briggs profile you have and from there see just what jobs suit you. Different personalities think in different ways. (I'm an INTJ.)

For me I didn't have this sort of information when I was coming out of high school. I won a scholarship in journalism for all the articles I wrote for the school newspaper. I thought I wanted to write newspaper articles.(And I did.) But even then I put down in the high school paper in the section on "senior dreams" that I wanted to write "the Great American Novel." At the time I was kidding--well, sort of. I loved reading more than anything.

I made a series of decisions. I took the Institute of Children's Literature course while I was in college. I changed my major from journalism to elementary education. I read a ton of children's books. And I worked with children. My job in college was in an off-campus preschool as a teacher's aide and since I was an elementary education major, I got to try all sorts of things.I learned as much in that job about children and books that they liked, as I did in university courses.

And I loved to evaluate. If I had known that, I would have made specific choices toward being an editor or some similar leanings, but instead I just lived life. I found the best thing for my own writing and for evaluating others' writing was to have experience and knowledge. So I read some more.

I took my first job reading/evaluating a manuscript for a friend(Daughter of Prophecy by Miles Owens) who was writing his first novel. I did it for the joy of reading and found I had a knack for it. He was so pleased with my work on it, when his editor and agent asked about who helped edit it, he happily shared my name. From there other things happened, but before all this happened, I did book reviews for several magazines for years. I read a ton of books!

So when I look back on "realizing what I wanted to do with my life?" it was actually a slow realization. It stemmed from loving reading so much that I wanted to be a part of that process of producing a fiction book. I think I realized it as a child, but didn't recognize that I could actually do it until I was an adult, had worked other jobs, married, had four boys and did book reviews.

One of my favorite verses that my aunt also gave to me when I graduated from high school is this:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3: 5,6 NIV
I dated it June 1976 in my Bible.

It comes as a simple act of obeying and acknowledging God's purpose in your life. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer? When did you realize it was possible? I want to encourage you in your dreams because if you are called to do something, it will follow you to the very depths of the sea (ask Jonah!)

Right above those verses is something I never thought much about before:

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, WRITE them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. (Proverbs 3: 3,4 NIV)

So if you are being faithful to your purpose to those you love, to that which you love to do, there is a reward for it. Think on this as you choose the path you will take.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Questions from Students: How Did You Get Started?

(In a continuing series focusing on questions posed by Eastbrook High School Creative Writing Students to me, here is today's question. How would you answer this? If you write a blog answering this question, be sure to send me the link to put into this blog.)Comments are welcome, too!

1. How did you get started?

Writing for most people begins with a desire to communicate through the written word, doesn't it? I think my writing began with reading--I loved to read and I wanted to write something to read. Usually I was the only person reading what I wrote. All through junior high I wrote in journals. When I won my scholarship in journalism and headed to Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, I did an incredibly impulsive thing: I burned every one of those journals! I wish now that I could have kept those journals somewhere safe until I was ready to process the things I was writing at the time.

But to answer the question posed by the creative writing students at Eastbrook High School, this is basically what I said:

a. I started writing in high school. I published a poem in my freshman year and that fueled the fire.

b. I got on the newspaper in high school –was the sports editor and art editor. Those articles won me a journalism scholarship at Ball State University, where I started off majoring in journalism.

c. Back then I knew I wanted to work with books more than newspapers, so I changed my major to elementary education with physical education, wanting more experience with children—for whom I thought I wanted to write.

d. I took a correspondence course from the Institute of Children’s Literature as I finished my degree, then dove into teaching and coaching. When I had one experience after another, like students who were murdered, beaten by parents, unfair treatment of teachers, etc., I wrote my first article and sold it.

e. Then, I had four boys of my own, and life sort of went into “living mode”—all good. I edited a newsletter, wrote articles for newspapers freelance, and just wrote down thoughts and dreams and insights on parenting.

f. When we moved here (where I live now) in order to be close to our parents and extended family, I no longer was doing the jobs I did in the past—teaching and leading--so I found an online writing organization, and then drove an hour to Ft. Wayne once a week taking the professional writing program at Taylor University with Dr. Dennis E. Hensley. This is a superb program that is coming to the Taylor campus in Upland.

Everything has a beginning, and while my writing took an adventurous turn to evaluating fiction, working freelance for both editors and agents, I still find time to write.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Back to the Beginning

According to this photo of me as a baby, I was always analytical.
By nature I analyze everything I do.

So when I recently spoke to the creative writing class at Eastbrook High School, I wanted to go back over the questions they asked. They asked some great questions! I wanted to share them with here with you and then I'll take them one-by-one not only answer them for you, but allow you to comment with your own answers.

If you would like to add your own answer in the coming days, then I'd love to hear your own story. Be thinking of how you would have answered these and we'll get started tomorrow.

Questions from Eastbrook High School Students
1. How did you get started?

2. How did you realize this is what you wanted to do with your life?

3. What is your favorite thing to read about?

4. How long does it take to review a book?

5. What happens if you do not like a book you review?

6. How did you start reviewing books?

7. What’s the hardest part of your job?

8. Have you always liked reading?

9. What’s the first thing they look for when you want to publish a story?

10. When reviewing a story, what’s the first thing you look for?

11. What do publishers look for?

12. Do you enjoy your job?

13. What is the most popular story type? What is the most popular genre in writing?

14. I LOVE POEMS! How would I go about publishing poems?

15. How long have your been writing for publication?

16. How short of a novel can you have to be able to publish it?

17. How do you break into the market?

18. How do you get a book published? Who do you send it to?
19. Is it hard to write and have another job if that’s your case? Or does your writing make enough to get by?
20. This one goes along with #19: What’s it like living with Max?

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Vote of Confidence

I've read many books by Robin Lee Hatcher, but her historical romances are my favorites. This book came out in April and I read it, defying all my other deadlines and reading that I needed to do! My mother-in-law (Imy) was born in 1918 and there is something about those times that intrigue me. I look at the photos of Imy's parents and wonder about what they thought of the changing times.

What's fun about this story for me is that one of Imy's sisters was named Cleo. I always know that Robin's stories will capture authentic details, and human passions. Be sure to check out her blog and she gives you all a free gift below--a first chapter, as well as a little about how she came up with the idea.


by Robin Lee Hatcher

Who says a woman can’t do a man’s job?

Put up or shut up! Complaining about Bethlehem Springs' dissolute mayoral candidate, Gwen Arlington is challenged to take on the role herself. For seven years, she’s carved out an independent life in the bustling mountain town of Bethlehem Springs, Idaho, teaching piano and writing for the local newspaper. But now she’s a single woman running for mayor — and in 1915 this decision is bound to stir up trouble.

Morgan McKinley is fed up with the delays that hinder the construction of New Hope Health Spa, a place where both rich and poor can come for rest and healing. New to the area, he has determined that serving as mayor would help him push through his agenda for progress.

Gwen and Morgan each want to prove they are the most qualified candidate, not only to voters but to each other, and so sparks fly as the two campaign. Although Morgan has learned to guard his heart as fiercely as Gwen guards her independence, could they learn to be allies instead of adversaries?

This first book in the Sisters of Bethlehem Springs Series provides intriguing insights into how women challenged convention and shaped America in the early twentieth century.

Buy from
Buy from


Ideas come to writers in lots of different ways. The idea for The Sisters of Bethlehem Springs series came to me back in 2003-2004 and had its genesis in a couple of other books. From Catching Katie had come a fascination with the decade leading up to the passing of the 19th Amendment that gave American women the right to vote. From a secondary character in Speak to Me of Love came a fondness for a woman in an unusual occupation. While those two things were rolling around in my head, up popped the final ingredient. A question: Who says a woman can't do a man's job? And the next thing I knew, I'd met Gwen and Cleo Arlington, the heroines of the first two books in the series. I had to wait to meet my third heroine until the hero of A Vote of Confidence walked into my imagination. Guess what, Morgan McKinley had a younger sister, Daphne. Each of these women have jobs that weren't considered a woman's domain in their time (1915-1918). I hope readers will become as fond of Gwen, Cleo, and Daphne -- and the men with whom they fall in love -- as I am.

Excerpt of chapter one:
A Vote Of Confidence

Zondervan (April 2009)

Chapter 1

Idaho, May 1915

The Torpedo Runabout cut the corner from Shenandoah Street onto Wallula Street, driving over two of the boarding house’s rose bushes in the process. The automobile then weaved dangerously close to Guinevere Arlington’s white picket fence.

With a gasp, Gwen jumped up from the porch swing.

In the nick of time, the Model T Ford veered away from her fence, avoiding disaster.

“Hello, ladies.” The driver tipped his hat to Gwen and her sister as if nothing was amiss.

“And there goes our next mayor.” Cleo shook her head and cast a look of despair at Gwen. “Ten o’clock in the morning and drunk as a skunk. Can you imagine him holding the reins of government?”

“No, I can’t.” Gwen sank onto the porch swing again. “Hiram Tattersall is a fool, not to mention his penchant for strong spirits.”

Cleo crossed one booted foot over another as she leaned against the porch railing. “Why don’t you run for office, Gwennie? Not a reason in the world you couldn’t do it.”

“Me?” Gwen looked at her twin in disbelief.

“Of course you. There’s nothing in the law that says a woman can’t be the mayor of our fair town. You’re a nicer person than Mayor Hopkins, the old coot?”

“Cleo. Don’t be unkind.”

“I’m sorry. I know he’s sick or we wouldn’t be having this special election. But he hasn’t done a single, solitary thing of worth while he’s been mayor, and everybody knows Tattersall will be an even worse mayor than Hopkins.”

“I have no qualifications for political office.”

“And Tattersall does? You’d do a better job than Hopkins and Tattersall put together. Folks like you.” Cleo winked. “Especially the men, pretty as you are.”

Gwen wasn’t amused. “If I were to run, I wouldn’t want to be elected for my appearance.”

“So don’t let that be why. You got that fancy education burning to be put to use. Why not let folks see you’re as full of information as a mail-order catalog?”

It was a ridiculous idea. Gwen had no intention of running for mayor. She was content giving piano lessons to the children of Bethlehem Springs and writing her columns for the local newspaper.

Cleo drank the last of her iced tea, set the glass on the porch floor, and pushed off from the railing. “I’d best get back to the ranch. I’ve got a load of chores still to be done.” She slapped her floppy-brimmed hat onto her head, covering her mop of short, strawberry-blonde curls. “You’d be doing this town a favor if you were its mayor. We could use a little forward thinking, if you ask me.”

Gwen smiled as she rose from the swing. “Darling Cleo, I could never be as forward thinking as you.”


Gwen followed her sister off the porch and around to the back of the house where Cleo’s pinto was tethered to a post. Cleo stopped long enough to give Gwen a hug and a kiss on the cheek, then untied her horse, grasped the saddle horn, and swung into the seat. “You think about it, Gwennie. I’m telling you. It’s the right thing to do. You pray and see if the Lord doesn’t agree with me.” With a tug on the brim of her hat, she twirled her horse away and cantered down the street.

Gwen shook her head. Cleo could come up with the most outlandish ideas. Imagine: Gwen Arlington, mayor of Bethlehem Springs. It was preposterous. Not that she didn’t believe women should serve in public office. She did, and she was glad she lived in a state where women had the right to vote. But she had no political ambitions.

With a sigh, she returned to the front porch and settled onto the cushioned seat of the swing, giving a little push with her feet to start it in motion.

The air smelled of fresh-turned earth, green grass, and flowers in bloom. The mountains of southern Idaho were enjoying warm weather, although snow could be seen on the highest peaks to the north and east of Bethlehem Springs.

Gwen loved this small town. She loved her neighbors, the children who came for lessons, the women in her church sewing circle. She loved the long, narrow valley, the river that flowed through it, and the tree-covered mountains that overlooked it all. She loved the sense of the old West and the new century that surrounded her, horses and automobiles, outhouses and indoor plumbing, wood-burning stoves and electric lights.

Her mother, Elizabeth Arlington, hadn’t felt the same about Idaho. She despised everything about it, so much so that after four years of marriage, she’d left her husband and returned to her parents’ home in Hoboken, New Jersey, taking two-year-old Gwen with her.

“Be thankful, Guinevere,” her mother said on many an occasion over the years, “that your father allowed you to come with me. We’re alike, you and I. We need society and fine culture. Think of the advantages you’ve had that poor Cleopatra has gone without. The opera and the theater. Fine schooling. You would never be suited to live in that backwater town where your father chose to settle.”

But her mother was wrong. Bethlehem Springs did suit Gwen — a truth she discovered soon after her arrival in Idaho seven years before. At the age of twenty-one, and with the reluctant blessing of her mother, she had come to Idaho to meet the father and sister she couldn’t remember. She hadn’t intended to stay, but in a few short weeks she’d fallen in love with the area. Her heart felt at home here as it never had in New Jersey.

A frown puckered her forehead. What would happen to Bethlehem Springs if Hiram Tattersall became its mayor? He wouldn’t try to better their schools or improve roads or help those who had lost jobs due to mine closings. And if the governor of the state succeeded in passing prohibition in Idaho, as many thought he would, Tattersall wouldn’t enforce it in Bethlehem Springs. She was convinced of that.

I would do a better job than he would.

But of course she had no intention of running for mayor.

No intention whatsoever.


Morgan McKinley wanted nothing more than to punch that artificial smile off Harrison Carter’s face.

“You’ll have to wait until after the election, Mr. McKinley. I’m sorry. The new mayor and the county commissioners must be in agreement on these matters.”

Before Morgan did something he would regret—something that would get him tossed into the jail one floor below — he bid a hasty farewell and left the commissioner’s chambers. When he exited the municipal building, he paused on the sidewalk long enough to draw a calming breath.

Harrison Carter had delayed this decision for personal reasons, not for anything to do with an election. Several times over the past year, the commissioner had offered to buy the land where New Hope was being built. If he thought these delays would change Morgan’s mind about selling, he was in for a big disappointment.

With a grunt of frustration, he turned and headed for his automobile, parked on the west side of the sandstone building. Fagan Doyle, Morgan’s business manager and good friend, leaned against the back of the car, his pipe clenched between his teeth.

“Well?” Fagan cocked an eyebrow.

Morgan shook his head.

“Then I’ll be asking what it is you mean to do about it?”

“I don’t know yet.”

Morgan got behind the wheel of the Model T while Fagan moved to the crank. Once the engine started, Fagan slid into the passenger seat and closed the door. Morgan turned the automobile around and followed Main Street out to the main road, thankful his friend didn’t ask more questions. He needed to think.

Occasional complications and delays were expected when a man undertook a large building project, but this felt different. Morgan had half expected Harrison to ask for money under the table, but that hadn’t happened. Just as well since Morgan wasn’t the sort who bribed public officials. Nor allowed himself to be blackmailed by them. Not under any circumstance.

Twenty minutes later, the Touring Car arrived on the grounds of what would one day be a unique resort—the New Hope Health Spa. The main lodge had taken shape at the upper end of the compound. Morgan no longer needed to study the architectural renderings to imagine what it would look like when finished.

He wished his mother had lived to see it. This spa had been her dream before it became his.

Before the automobile rolled to a stop, the site foreman, Christopher Vance, ran toward them. “Morgan, we’ve got a problem”

Another one? “What is it?”

“The dam on Crow’s Creek. It’s leaking. I’m not sure it’ll hold. I’ve got a crew up there now working on it.”

Morgan’s gaze shifted toward the narrow road at the east end of the compound. About a mile up they’d built the dam that would provide and control the cold water used in conjunction with the natural hot water from the springs.

“I’d better see it for myself. Hop in,” he said to the two men, “and we’ll drive up there.”

If that dam broke, a good portion of the resort compound could end up covered in several inches of water. Not the end of the world, but it would stop construction until things dried out. Another delay.

“Somebody did this, Morgan,” Christopher added. “It’s no accident.”

He frowned at his foreman. “Are you sure?”

“Sure enough.”

Why would anyone want to sabotage the dam? It was deep into his property, and he hadn’t diverted water that was needed by anyone else. No farmers or ranchers were dependent upon the flow of Crow’s Creek. He’d made sure of that.

Could Harrison Carter be behind it?

On her way to the Daily Herald with her latest article, Gwen stopped by the mercantile to inquire about Helen Humphrey. The poor woman had suffered with severe back pain for more than two months, and nothing she’d tried had relieved it.

“The doctors say rest is the only thing that’ll help,” Bert Humphrey told Gwen. “And even then they’re not sure she’ll ever be without pain. Maybe the health spa that fellow’s building will do her some good. Nothing else has. Not that we could afford it. Something that fancy’s bound to cost more than we could come up with.”

“I’m so sorry to hear you don’t have better news, Mr. Humphrey.
But, no matter what it costs, do you really believe taking the
waters would help her? I’m afraid I’m somewhat skeptical.”

“I don’t know. I’d try just about anything at this point.”

Gwen offered a sympathetic smile. “Please tell Helen I’ll make
some of my chicken and dumplings and bring it over.”

He swept a hand over his balding head. “She hasn’t had much
appetite, but I know we’ll be glad for it, all the same.”

“I’ll keep her in my prayers.”

“We’d appreciate it.”

Gwen bid the proprietor a good day, then left the store. As
she walked along Wallula Street toward the newspaper office, her
thoughts remained on the resort. There were varying feelings in
Bethlehem Springs about the construction of the spa ten miles to
the north. Many people thought it would be good for the town;
quite a few local men were already employed as carpenters and
general laborers. Other townsfolk thought the resort would change
Bethlehem Springs for the worse, bringing in too many outsiders.
Of course, there were a few in town who thought the spa would
fail, so what did it matter?

Gwen didn’t know what to believe. She’d never frequented a spa, although she had gone with Cleo a few times to sit in one of the
natural hot springs on their father’s ranch. Enjoyable, to be sure,
but was it a cure for physical ailments? For all she knew, McKinley
was a snake oil salesman of the worst kind, offering a cure to the
hopeless — a cure that didn’t exist.

There was also the matter of McKinley being a newcomer to
the area. No local had heard of him until he arrived in the area a
year ago. And although the wealthy Easterner had purchased the
old Hampstead home on Skyview Street, it sat empty. Folks said
the new owner was at the resort site every day of the week, coming
into town only long enough to send a telegram, pick up his mail,
and purchase supplies. Not once had he spent the night in town.

“The time I met him, he was genial enough,” Nathan Patterson,
owner and editor of the Daily Herald, had said once. “A
newspaper friend of mine from Boston says the McKinley family
is among the wealthiest in America. Doesn’t it seem odd that he
would end up here, of all places?”

“Thinks himself too good for the likes of us, I gather.” That
had been Edna Updike’s opinion — something Gwen’s neighbor
never hesitated to share. “He doesn’t even go to church. A heathen, no doubt.”

“Not much mail ever,” Dedrik Finster, the postmaster, had said
in Gwen’s presence just a week ago. “He is mystery, ja?”

Arriving at the newspaper office, Gwen shook off thoughts of
the resort and the mysterious Morgan McKinley. “Hello, Mr. Patterson,” she said as she stepped through the doorway.

“Ah, there you are, Miss Arlington. I was wondering when
you would have your column for me. What’s your story about this

“The expansion of educational opportunities for women in the
past fifty years and the importance of women taking advantage of them. Did you know, Mr. Patterson, that there were only five women lawyers or notaries in 1870 but almost fifteen thousand by 1910?”

Nathan shook his head. “Not sure I think women should be

“Why not? A woman doesn’t have an inferior mind. She is as
able to grasp the written law as any man. Deborah was a judge in
Israel, if you’ll recall. And if a woman is widowed, isn’t it better
that she have an education and a profession that will allow her to
support herself and her children rather than to be dependent upon
the generosity of relatives or her church?”

“Well, of course. But — ”

“But not in a man’s profession?” She offered a smile, taking the bite out of her question.

“You have me there, Miss Arlington.” He chuckled. “There is certainly nothing inferior about your mind.”

“Thank you.” She held out the carefully penned pages.

Nathan took them. As he glanced down at some other papers
on his desk, he muttered, “Wish I could say the same for our one
and only candidate for mayor. Tattersall.” He growled in disgust.
“I can’t figure why no one else has stepped forward to run against
him. The election will be here before we know it.”

Cleo’s words echoed in Gwen’s thoughts: “Why don’t you run
for office, Gwennie?” She ignored the shiver of excitement that raced up her spine and posed her sister’s question to the newspaperman. “Why don’t you run for office, Mr. Patterson?”

“Politics wouldn’t suit me. I’m better reporting the news than
making it.”

“Not a reason in the world you couldn’t do it,” Cleo’s voice whispered in her head.

Gwen glanced at the pages in the editor’s hands. She’d written the article to encourage women to step forward, to better themselves, to make a difference in the society in which they lived. Was it possible God had been speaking to her even as she wrote those words to other women?

Softly, she said, “My sister thinks I should run.”

Nathan stared at her.

“It’s a silly notion, of course.” Her heart hammered and her
pulse raced. “I told Cleo it was.”

Wordlessly, he leaned back in his chair, rubbing his chin with
his right hand. “Silly?” A long pause, then, “I’m not so sure it is.”

“You’re not?” Her throat felt parched.

“Isn’t a woman mayor a little like a woman judge?” He shot
up from his chair, knuckles resting on the top of the desk. “Do it,
Miss Arlington. Run for mayor. The newspaper will put its support
behind your candidacy.”

“But Mr. Patterson, I’ve never held public office before. Why would you support me?”

“My gut tells me you would do what needs to be done. You’re articulate and well educated. You obviously aren’t afraid to speak out when you see a problem the community needs to address. You’ve done so often enough in your columns.”

She wished she hadn’t spoken. She wished she’d kept her thoughts to herself.

“Do it, Miss Arlington. The town will be grateful. And I must
admit it would give me plenty of interesting things to write about in the coming weeks. Never been a woman mayor that I know of.” He jotted a note on a slip of paper. “I’ll have to look that up. Wouldn’t it be something if we were the first?”

“I haven’t said I’ll do it yet.”

“Think about what it’ll be like here if Tattersall’s elected.”

Gwen took a step back from his desk. “I . . . I’ll want to pray
about it and . . . and talk to my father.”

“Of course. Of course. You do that. But I’m telling you, Miss
Arlington, you should do this.”

Fortunately, Christopher Vance’s worst fears weren’t realized. The
damage appeared less serious than first perceived. By late afternoon, the crew of men had stabilized the dam on Crow’s Creek. More permanent repairs would be undertaken in the morning.

Later that evening, after the camp cook had served dinner and
the men were settling in for the night, Morgan walked up the draw
at the north end of the compound and sat on a log where he was
afforded a view of the resort site. Behind him and across from him,
ponderosa and lodgepole pines blanketed the steep mountainsides. Wondrous. Awesome. God’s handiwork revealed for all to see. Morgan had traveled many places around the world, seen many beautiful things, but few had come close to stirring his heart the
way this place did.

His gaze was drawn to the lodge. Four stories tall, the exterior
was made of logs, giving it a rugged, western look. But the interior
would be anything but austere. The plans called for fine wall coverings, elegant carpets, original artwork to satisfy the senses, and large, comfortable guest rooms. The kitchen would have all the latest innovations, a place where the resort’s chef would create meals for lodgers that were both healthy and delicious.

On the opposite side of the clearing from the lodge, work had
begun on the bathhouse and the two pools that would be fed by
the natural hot springs on the property. The bathhouse was fashioned after some of the European spas Morgan had visited with his mother — private bathing rooms with large, porcelain tubs and two steam rooms, one for men and one for women. But there would be one major difference between New Hope and those European resorts. Morgan’s spa would be a place for prayer as well as for relaxation, a place for both spiritual and physical healing. In fact, he was sitting near where the resort’s Danielle McKinley Prayer Chapel would stand.

“What good is physical health,” his mother had often said to him, “if one’s soul is sick?”

iGod, I believe You gave the vision for this place to my mother. Help me make it become all that You desire.

On the heels of his prayer, he thought of Harrison Carter. Why was the man set against him, against this resort? Was it all because Morgan had refused to sell the land? Surely Carter saw how the resort would benefit Bethlehem Springs. The railroad. Telephone lines and electrical power. All of which would benefit the people
who lived here. Morgan knew he’d find a way to get what he needed, but it would be difficult if the town and county tied up the lands where the railroad needed to come through.

“If I had a hand in making the laws, things would be easier for honest businessmen.”

If I had a hand in making the laws . . .

He stiffened.

If I had a hand in making the laws.

No, that couldn’t be the answer.

And yet . . .

If I had a hand in making the laws.

Bethlehem Springs was gearing up for a mayoral election. From what little he’d heard, there was only one candidate — and not one people were happy about. Morgan was a citizen of the town. He must be eligible to declare for office.

“The new mayor and the county commissioners must be in agreement on these matters.”

What better way to make certain the new mayor supported Morgan’s plans than for Morgan to be the mayor. Still, that was a bit drastic. There had to be a better way. Besides, he had no desire to run for office. God had brought him to Idaho for a different purpose. He didn’t have time to devote to the day-to-day administration of a town like Bethlehem Springs. Governmental bodies were a necessary evil, but not one he need be part of.

And yet . . .

He cast a glance toward the sky. “Father, is this what You’re telling me to do?”

Saturday, May 16, 2009


"A King may move a man, a father may claim a son, but remember that even when those who move you be Kings, or men of power, your soul is in your keeping alone. When you stand before God, you cannot say, 'But I was told by others to do thus.' Or that, 'Virtue was not convenient at the time.' This will not suffice. Remember that. –King Baldwin IV, Kingdom of Heaven (2005)

This week I was a part of something bigger than myself, where I had to state whether I believed a man is responsible for his own behavior, even if he had a "bad childhood." I do believe that it is hard to go against those who would threaten you with death without compliance, or that sometimes the lure of easy money and pleasure woos strongly. Our ancestors, "Adam and Eve," failed when temptation became so great they would not resist. Note that I said would not.

We still have a choice. Eat the double chocolate raspberry chambord cake, or stick to your eating/health plan. Sneak out into the night against your parents' wishes or stay home to do homework. Speed instead of following the law.Covet your neighbor's wife or car when you already have a wife (or car!) Follow God or divert from His path for you and give in to the ways of man and the world.

It's really a series of little choices, but then one day you come to the big choice. In this case the man in question made a long series of choices which led to his downfall, but his pattern of living is what became his downfall. Evidence was overwhelming and he left many witnesses to a continued series of bad choices. In the end his choices hurt us all and some much more than others.

But I was really proud of the many I observed during this week who chose wisely and bravely. Theirs were not easy choices. One even took 13 bullets to his body (two still are in his body) for making his choice to be on the right side of the law, but I got the feeling he would've made those same choices again, even knowing what the outcome would be. Just because you do the right thing does not mean that your life suddenly becomes easy--sometimes it becomes worse.He has many trials ahead of him, as it is not over.

At the end of the day I had some choices to make of my own, but I went home (under protected circumstances) feeling I had made the right choices that day. I could rest easy. (Though I'm ever wiser and keenly alert to my surroundings.)

Choose this day whom you will serve. Avoiding the choice will not get you out of it. No choice is a choice, too.

Friday, May 08, 2009

How Did You Get Started Writing?

I just got through speaking at Eastbrook High School to a class of creative writing students. They were very polite and listened, but I'm sure what I told them was overwhelming. It usually is when you first start thinking about writing for publication. Sometimes you have to hear the same things several times before it becomes a part of you.

I wish that every writer who wanted to be published could be published. That is not reality. You start with an idea--maybe something from your past, maybe something that happened, or maybe just something that intrigues you. Sometimes it takes years for a story to get published, but one thing is certain--you have to serve an apprenticeship and learn. And whether you are someone who has 75 books published, or are just publishing your first book, or are still trying to find that place to write--all writers have to learn and start somewhere and must continue to learn.

The students at Eastbrook asked some great questions. In doing so, I hope that they learned a little about themselves. The first question was "How did you get started?" Ask this question of authors and writers, and some answers will be the same, and some different.

I started off my writing journey in my freshman year of high school. I published a poem and seeing my own byline was a rush.Then, I got on the newspaper staff as sports editor and art editor in my senior year. Those articles were sent in to Ball State University and I won a journalism scholarship.

"Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere," so says Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird, as she describes what her father tells her brother whom has a rough start when trying to get going on a school project about birds. "Just take it bird by bird," her father, also a writer, told him. "Do one bird, then do the next." Writing is like that.

I stuttered along in the years following college doing newsletters for organizations, curriculum material in my teaching, had four boys of my own, and taking a course here and there in writing. Then, when I was 40 years old, I took a professional writing class at Taylor University. That is really where I got my start. Dr. Dennis E. Hensley pushed us to publish. Early on in the class, when I barely knew him, we were on a break in the hall and he walked right into my "personal" space.

"I hate you," he said. I think he scowled.

"Really?" I didn't know what to make of this, but I'd heard he was a Vietnam War vet and it crossed my mind that this could get ugly.

"Why," and I laughed for effect, "do you hate me, Dr. Hensley?" I made a point to not move away from him.

And then he passionately proceeded to tell me what I had done to him, the reader of my story, to evoke such an extreme distaste for what I'd written. In that moment I knew he cared about what I had written and wanted it to be better. It WAS personal. It was personal to him, the reader. It was personal to me, the writer. And between us we needed to come to an understanding. That is what writing is--a communication between the author and the reader. It is just the two of you in that space--that very personal space.

If you write, tell me how YOU got started.I'll be sharing with you the questions the students had for me and a little of what I shared with them, too.