I Wouldn’t Buy This Book….

I don’t follow too many blogs these days, and I confess, I’m usually behind in reading and commenting on those I do follow. There are a few blogs for writers I do think are the best: Joe Konrath, Nathan Bransford, Kristen Lamb and the Self-Published Authors Lounge. All are full of good advice. I get new posts via email so I don’t miss any.

I’ve made no secret of my disdain for the deluge of Buy My Book ads all over social media. The constant stream of posts haven’t made me want to buy books. It’s had the opposite effect–it’s made me not want to buy them. Kristen Lamb recently addressed this problem on her blog, and her take on it is hilarious! If you dare, check it out: Book Spam is for Losers!

“Hurry Up and Wait!”

I’ve been a published author for almost thirty years now, and I’m still amazed at how some things have changed dramatically–while other things remain the same.

When I started out, I thought I knew everything. Everything. After all, I’d read every book I could find on “the biz.” I read all of the writers’ magazines. What was there to learn that I didn’t already know? A great deal, as it turned out.

I started writing my first (published) novel, Alexander’s Empire (later retitled Dance of the Gods by my publisher, and now reissued under the original title) in 1981. After working on the manuscript on lunch breaks and after Collin was tucked into bed at night, I queried my agent in May 1984. She responded quickly, asking for a detailed synopsis and sample chapters. In June, I got a response, asking for a phone meeting, during which she instructed me to send the entire manuscript. The next time we talked, in September, she started with, “This manuscript is completely unpublishable.”

“Hold on,” I told her, “while I go slit my wrists.”

She quickly explained that it could be made publishable with some work. She told me that it reminded her a great deal of a novel she’d repped that had been her first New York Times bestseller (she’s since had at least 100 of those, and many more national bestsellers). She believed my novel could also be a bestseller. Okay, I forgot all about that wrist-slitting business. Things were definitely looking up. She was sending me her agency agreement. I couldn’t sign it fast enough.

What followed was months of blood-letting–or that’s how it felt, anyway–as we worked together, restructuring the story, reinventing the characters, editing, revising, polishing, until she was satisfied it was ready for submission. I had gone into this figuring that, as an unknown new writer with no previous publishing background, a $5000 advance was the best I could hope for. Maria told me she was going to ask for much more than that. It took her fifteen minutes to get me to stop laughing (okay, maybe not that long). She explained that she would be sending it out to twelve publishers, all of which she felt would be a good fit for me and my novel. She did it in late March. Of the twelve, eight made offers. She weighed each offer carefully and discussed them with me. On the morning of April 26, 1985, she called to tell me that Berkley was the one she’d chosen. At that time, paperback original was the way to go. Build a career, then go to hardcover. She also felt the acquiring editor was someone I would work well with She was right, as it turned out.

Damaris was so enthusiastic about the book that she would end up offering us a contract for my next two books in December–while we were still working on (more) edits for Alexander’s Empire. By the time it was published in May 1988, Berkley would have a total of five of my books under contract–and at that point, I still didn’t know what number five was going to be!

Times have changed. The process of publishing, not so much. It can be a slooooow process. One of my fellow authors once called it the “hurry up and wait syndrome.” The authors are expected to hurry up and then wait on the publisher…and wait, and wait.

But now, authors have other options. When I was starting out, there were only two: traditional publishing and vanity presses, where the author paid to have a contracted number of copies printed and had to figure out on their own how to sell them. Now, we have traditional publishing, vanity presses, self-publishing, and indie publishing. I’ve done three of the four. I’m still amazed that we can finish a book and have it available for sale within a week. Sure, self-published authors have to to their own marketing and promotion, but so do most traditionally-published authors. For anyone not chosen to be a lead title with all of the advertising, promotional and marketing dollars that goes with that position, it can be frustrating. Self-published authors get as much as 90% of the royalties and have full creative control, which at this point in my career is the most important thing. And self-published books can remain in print forever–traditionally-published books that aren’t bestsellers have a limited shelf-life. If the author wants to make any changes to boost sales after publication, self-publishing makes that possible. Try getting that from a traditional publisher!

Indie publishing gives authors the best parts of self-publishing without the grunt work. My current publisher, Creativia, is making great progress in marketing and promotion. I’m more than happy to take a smaller percentage of the royalties to be free of that. They’ve landed many of their authors on the Amazon bestseller list. And now, even the New York Times recognizes self- and indie published books.

It’s good to have options. There are pros and cons for each (except vanity presses–I can’t think of a single good thing about them). I learned a great deal from having been traditionally-published for my first fourteen books that’s served me well as an indie. There are authors who have successfully gone with both traditional publishing and self-publishing. Whatever works!

Decisions, Decisions…Maybe I Should Just Flip a Coin!

I grew up on a farm, and I’d love to live on one again–with more animals than people around, no kids hitting my front door with their soccer ball, no noisy neighbors, little traffic. But apartment living is much more practical at this point in my life for a number of reasons–for one, I can’t drive. Intractable epilepsy makes having a driver’s license impossible, along with a number of other activities most people take for granted. Two, arthritis–not only can I not drive, most days I find walking requires a monumental effort. You should see me trying to get off my couch! A small place, easy to keep up with on the cleaning front, makes much more sense. So while I yearn for the solitude of farm life and a good place to set up a telescope and do some serious stargazing, I settle for noisy neighbors and the frequent wail of police sirens. I’m a little fed up with people coming in while we’re not home, though. Collin and I both work at home, so we’re here 95% of the time. Can’t they come while we’re here? The day we came home to find our shoe rack rearranged and a strange device on the wall behind our TV, we bought a security camera so we could see what’s going on in here while we’re out. (It’s cool. We can watch what’s happening at home from Collin’s phone.)

As I grow older, it’s also more difficult to read. Cataracts and glaucoma are a nasty combination. Fortunately, my current favorite authors, Janet Evanovich and Jim Butcher, are available through Audible. These days, though, I find myself choosing nonfiction more often than not. Go figure. Ten years ago, it was all fiction all the time–or almost all the time, anyway. I usually steer clear of my publisher’s Facebook page these days, as most of the authors there are looking for reviews–you know, “I’ll review yours if you review mine.” With my vision problems, it would take so long to read just one book for review, I don’t volunteer, and I don’t ask for reviews. Wouldn’t be fair to ask if I can’t reciprocate.

I have the same ambivalence as a writer. The ideas are there. The motivation isn’t. I can write something funny and it comes as easily as breathing. Mysteries and romance, not so much. What once came effortlessly is now a daily struggle. Eventually, I’ll finish something.

Eventually. Maybe.


I hate doing promotion and marketing, though. That’s one of the few things I miss about traditional publishing–they did all of that for me. I refuse to do it now, even if it means lower sales. No offense to my fellow authors, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who finds the tsunami of Buy My Book posts on social media annoying. There’s promotion, and then there’s taking it way too far. Authors are fast replacing proud new parents and grandparents armed with baby photos as the people everyone goes out of their way to avoid. (Have any of you ever seen the episode of I Love Lucy in which Lucy and Ricky are at odds with Fred and Ethel over Ricky’s nightly showings of his home movies? I don’t want people throwing rocks at me.)

I know self-promotion is a necessary evil for authors trying to build their careers, whether they’re self, indie or traditionally published (unless, in the latter case, they’re lucky enough to be in one of the top spots on a Big Five publisher’s list and the recipient of a portion of their publisher’s promotional budget). It’s not easy. I’ve known talented authors who would rather give up writing than have to do their own marketing. Some of them actually have.

Whatever happened to word-of-mouth being the best sales tool? I guess I’ll find out….

When is a Facepalm Not a Bad Thing?

Answer: When the solution to your problem has been right there in front of you all along.

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It took Collin and me ten years to write Chasing the Wind. The idea was conceived in spring 1998 and the book was originally published in May 2008. In between, there were multiple changes, revisions and rewrites, until the finished book bore little resemblance to the early drafts. It was frustrating at times, but I’m happy with it.

One of the cuts that were necessary involved the storyline of two characters, Alex Stewart and Robyn Cantwell. I loved the characters and decided the sequel, An Army of Angels, would focus on them…but it didn’t take long to discover that I hadn’t really thought it out. As secondary characters, they worked…but was there enough for a standalone novel?

I’ve been wrestling with that problem since 2008. I knew how their story started, I knew how it would end, but I didn’t know how they would get from A to Z. I didn’t want to give up, but I just couldn’t figure it out. I’ve shelved it at least half a dozen times. I even considered turning it into a romantic comedy after plotting a series of comedies featuring Robyn’s five brothers.

Nothing worked.

I tried serializing their story, along with stories involving characters from four of my previous novels, on a separate blog. It didn’t work.

Then, at 3:00 this morning, the solution presented itself. Most of my best ideas come at the most inconvenient times, so it’s not really that much of a surprise.

I’ve wanted to write shorter novels ever since I discovered James Patterson’s Book Shots. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re novels that average 150 pages, fast-paced, perfect for readers like myself with chronically short attention spans. I realized that the format would be ideal for continuing the story Collin and I started in Chasing the Wind. It would be the perfect way to move back and forth through all of the characters’ stories and still stick to the timeline.

Now to find out if it’s going to work….

What’s Better Than Free?

Two of my novels are currently free (ebook editions only) at Amazon. If you haven’t read them but would like to, now’s the time!

Angels at Midnight Complete

Angels at Midnight

From Publishers Weekly

Set primarily in the glamorous art milieus of San Francisco and Manhattan, Beishir’s (Dance of the Gods) novel makes exciting stopovers in Monte Carlo, Venezuela, Big Sur and other exotic locales. The pages are rife with sizzling sex, suspense and conflict, expertly paced, as both hero and heroine are motivated to bend the law by a powerful need for revenge. Abby Giannini, who has changed her name to Ashley Gordon, loses custody of her son in a vicious court battle with her deceased husband’s parents. Collin Deverell, heir to an oil fortune, trades his share in his late father’s company for the rights to his mother’s art and jewelry estate. But when his ambitious twin Justin defrauds him of his inheritance, Collin too has a score to settle. Collin and Ashley’s joint quest for justice and lusty romance make for compulsive reading.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information Inc.
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Amazon review by William Kendall on Aug. 10 2016

The author published the book during her days with Berkely, and gives us two very sympathetic protagonists we can immediately connect with in an intricately plotted, well paced novel that explores themes of love, family, loss, revenge, and how far people will go for their own measure of justice. While our protagonists don’t actually meet until halfway through the book, that’s a good thing, as we get to follow them along parallel lines for more then a decade, getting to know them, sharing their triumphs and their despair.

Collin Deverell is one of two twin sons, heir to a fortune that his father, an oil tycoon, expects him to take part in. While his brother Justin readily involves himself in the family business, Collin has little wish to tie himself down to an executive life, preferring a carefree life of adventure and his love of fencing. With the sudden death of their parents on a business trip, Collin takes the chance to live life on his own terms, turning over shares in the family company and all responsibility to his brother in exchange for the family mansion, the art collection, and his mother’s jewellry. He lives abroad for some years, rarely settling down, living his carefree life, seducing whatever woman crosses his path. When he returns home, he finds that the valuable paintings and jewels have all gone missing, sold off by his devious brother. Collin vows to take back what’s rightfully his, even if it means breaking the law and going after some very dangerous people to do it.

Ashley Gordon is an artist from the Napa Valley in California who establishes a career for herself in San Francisco. After becoming a success in the art world and on the social circuit, she falls in love with Brandon Hollister. They’re happy together, and Brandon wants to marry her, though she’s puzzled by his complete estrangement from his parents. When we meet them, it’s not hard to understand: Bradley and Claudia Hollister are downright nasty to the core. Ashley and Brandon marry, have a son, Robert and are happy together, until Brandon is killed in a plane crash. In the wake of her grief, Ashley is hit again when her in-laws launch a custody battle for their grandson, using bribery, lies, and their connections to take him away from Ashley. Ashley is, understandably, devastated.

It’s into this mix that Ashley and Collin meet. Collin’s been busy recovering what was stolen from him by becoming a thief himself, learning the trade from a master who saves his life. What started out for him as a mission to take back what’s his becomes something more, as he discovers his father’s company has been mismanaged by his brother, and is falling into the hands of a criminal syndicate who are readily dismantling it. The syndicate are made up of the same people who have possession of his property, and what began as thefts to recover property gradually shifts, as Collin realizes he does, in fact, have a responsibility to save the company his father built. And since Bradley Hollister is a member of the syndicate, Collin decides to enlist his former daughter-in-law as a partner to bring down the syndicate, save his family company, and restore Ashley’s son to her custody.

It’s a wise decision to keep the two from really meeting until mid way through the book. We, the reader, get to see both characters develop fully on their own, so we care about them and what happens to them (Ashley’s loss of her husband and her son are particularly painful, which is one of the reasons the book works so well). When Collin and Ashley start working together, we see a growing connection between them, an emotional intimacy that comes across as very real. This is a testament to how human the two characters feel. They have depth, quirks, and flaws. As Ashley learns the tricks of the trade, of sleight of hand and the use of disguise, she and Collin find themselves drawn closer and closer. The bond and growing love between them comes across to the reader as the real thing. We come to root for them to achieve all they’re after, and it’s because of how well both of them have been written.

In every heist story, to root for the person pulling off the heist, it requires that the target be unsympathetic. Certainly having the target be a criminal syndicate is a very good way of having the reader dislike the target. And the primary targets, Bradley and Claudia Hollister, are more then worthy of our dislike. Both of them, particularly Claudia, are cruel and malicious. It’s not hard to understand why their son broke ties with them, and as readers, we want to see them brought down, broken, and defeated.

Justin Deverell is another interesting character in the book. Early on it felt like he’d be the primary antagonist of the book, but as things go on, it’s made clear that he’s the dupe, the tool for the syndicate to dismantle the family company after they’re done using it. I enjoyed the premise Norma used that Collin and Justin aren’t the kind of twins we’re used to in fiction… they have nothing in common but blood, barely speak for years, and ultimately are so far apart that it’s doubtful they’ll ever bridge that gap. There’s no closer then blood mental connection sort of bond between these two twins, and it’s a refreshing change.

There is a wild card sort of character I thought I’d make mention of. Anton DeVries, an insurance investigator, lurks in the background of the story. He first comes into the picture after Collin discovers the theft of his possessions. Through the rest of the book, he suspects Collin, looks for proof, and takes part in a pivotal moment towards the climax. He’s an interesting character, something of a bloodhound, or a Javert to Collin’s Valjean. DeVries is a good adversary, conflicted by catching a man who he knows to be morally right.

The attention to detail throughout the book is spot on, and perhaps never as much as during the various thefts that take place in the book. From training sequences in which both Collin and Ashley learn how to become thieves to the heists themselves, each act feels intricate, and brings a lot of variety to the table. An escape from a time lock safe and a judicious use of a mirror stand out particularly for me during the theft sequences. And the attention to detail also reflects itself in the early sequences featuring fencing and the artistic process.

Angels At Midnight is a beautifully written book that you’ll enjoy reading. The plot and pacing of the novel keeps the reader on the edge. The details drawn out in the book about technique, places, and situations give it a very real world sensibility. And the characters really make the novel. Collin and Ashley are a winning couple that we can’t help but sympathize with, to root for, and to cheer.

And who knows? Perhaps Robert has siblings… and all of them have grown up to take after Ashley and Collin’s habit of breaking into high security vaults….

 

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Final Hours

 

Amazon review by Mark R. Hunter on November 14, 2013

Final Hours fooled me: Despite the title, it isn’t really about the giant asteroid that’s about to wipe out human civilization. On the contrary, if there was ever a story that’s all about the journey, it’s this one.

Jamie Randall has to make a decision in the hours leading up to the apocalypse: Retreat to a secretly built bunker, where he might survive to continue his loveless marriage, or seek out the woman he’s loved for the last fourteen years and die with her? We soon know his decision – the story is about why he made it, and as we wait to know his fate the story flashes back to the events that led him there.

It turns out Jamie is – let’s face it – a jerk, although as we learn more about his history we get to know why. He married his wife to get ahead, to get revenge over those who once had power over him. The events that keep him in the marriage are believable, if tragic.

He’s rescued in every way when Kate appears, quite literally saving his life. The rest of the book is a love story, as Jamie woos Kate but is stymied again and again in his attempts to make her more than “the other woman”.

The truth is, Jamie probably doesn’t deserve either of the women at first, and by the time he starts trying to do the right thing he’s dug himself into a hole deeper than the one the asteroid’s going to make. Kate is practically a saint, while Jamie’s wife is trapped just as much as he is, and I kept rooting for a way for them to all get away happy.

That says something about the story – that we want to know how it all comes out, even though we already know it from the very beginning.

 

on July 14, 2009
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Final Hours is a good book to spend an afternoon curled up with. The story follows a man named Jamie, who has heard that the end of the world is coming, and because his wife is the daughter of a senator, he and his family are secured a spot in a safehouse, where they will be most likely to survive. But Jamie does not want to go. Instead, he realizes that he must face up to his mistakes and do the one thing he’s been wanting to do for the last fifteen years: spend his final hours with the woman he loves.

Forced to choose between his own happiness and the happiness of those he cares about, Jamie spends most of the book torn between the woman he loves and the woman he needs. His wife, the mother of his sons, was able to give Jamie everything he thought he wanted out of life, but when a free-spirited photographer named Kate saves his life, he begins to realize that maybe his priorities were wrong all along, and it’s time to start living the way he now knows he needs to.

Despite some bad choices all of the characters make, they really are what makes the story golden. Everyone makes bad choices, and these characters are all willing to face up to their mistakes, which makes them all the more admirable. They’re doing what they think is right in the current situation, and that’s really what sets them apart. The story really makes you think about life and love, and what it really means to be alive. And most importantly, when everything is stripped away, what truly is important enough for us to spend our final hours doing?

A New Domain, and a Link to an Old One–Merry Christmas!

Some of you are familiar with my longtime blog, The Three Rs: Rants, Raves and (Occasional) Reflections. I also have a new one, an ongoing serial featuring the characters from most of my past novels. Ever read (or write) a book and wonder what happened to the characters in the years that followed “The End?” I did. And I decided to do something about it.  I hope you’ll check out An Army of Angels while I decide what direction–if any–this blog will take. Word Press isn’t as easy to use as it used to be!

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The Unicorns Daughter eCover

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Angels at Midnight Complete

Chasing the Wind: A New Look for an Eight-Year-Old Book

Creativia just launched the new landing page on their site for Chasing the Wind. I hope you’ll check it out!

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As I posted previously, I’ve been learning dictation…and giving a lot of thought to where I go from here professionally. I want to write screenplays. That may succeed, but it may not. I’ve never been one to ever have a Plan B, because that means I’d have something to fall back on if Plan A fails. But I’m no spring chicken anymore and my collaborator is currently busy with other things, so maybe Plan B isn’t such a bad idea anymore. Besides, there are characters I need to catch up with, stories I need to tell. Stories I need to finish. I’ve changed a great deal since most of my novels were written, and so have those characters. I could write about them on my blog, or….

I don’t see myself writing 400-500 page novels anymore, but there is an alternative. For example, James Patterson started something called Bookshots–novels that can usually be read in one sitting. 150 pages or less.  That’s a length I could probably handle. Readers these days (like me) tend to have shorter and shorter attention spans. Several authors have turned to shorter formats. Me? I already have plots for three, possibly four.

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Anything is possible….

Maybe I Won’t Retire, After All….

Writing used to come easily for me. I wrote one of my best novels, The Unicorn’s Daughter, in four months. Final Hours took six weeks. It was almost too easy, which is why I was surprised that The Unicorn’s Daughter required almost no editing from Berkley and became, along with Chasing the Wind, one of my best-reviewed novels.


As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve found it more and more difficult to finish a project. I asked my neurologist if I might be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. “No. You’re way too sharp for that,” she assured me. Okay. If not that, what about epilepsy? I was first diagnosed as a teenager, and due to my own stupidity, was off the anti-seizure meds for a long time (I don’t have convulsive seizures, so I assumed–incorrectly–that I wasn’t having seizures at all). Again, the answer was no. My previous neurologist told me I was just distracted. ADHD, maybe?


My eyesight is not what it used to be–not that it was ever all that good. Arthritis has been an issue, so writing first drafts in longhand, as I’ve done throughout most of my career, was no longer possible. It was also a problem in using a computer, tablet or smartphone–especially the latter two, since I had to hold the devices at an angle close enough to be able to see the screens. I’ve joked here about my “Kindle elbow.”

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I’d tried dictation, but that was also a struggle–until I found this book.

Dictate Your Book: How to Write Your Book Better, Faster and Smarter by Monica Leonelle is a gem. Really. She points out that, like learning to type and use a computer are skills that require training and practice, dictation isn’t something you just do. Her book is short, concise and gives you all you need to learn to dictate your books, screenplays, short stories, etc. Collin is even considering it for doing his classwork, time being a big factor for him.

 

What a Character!

Last week, Collin and I went to see a special sneak preview of Doctor Strange. We’re both big fans of the Marvel superheroes. Why? Because they don’t take themselves too seriously. There’s a lot of action in their movies, but also a healthy dose of humor. And their characters are people first, superheroes second. Their movies have some of the best characterization I’ve ever seen. Their heroes are flawed, men and women with questionable pasts, dark sides and emotional issues.

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Dr. Stephen Strange is a brilliant, arrogant neurosurgeon who believes only in himself and his skills as a surgeon–until a career-ending accident puts him on a path to a world he could never have imagined, and a life in which he could save millions rather than one life at a time.

In Captain America: Civil War, the Avengers are divided when a tragic mistake made during a mission causes the deaths of many civilians. It pits genius Tony Stark (Iron Man) against Captain Steve Rogers (Captain America). Tony has daddy issues–he never felt loved by his father, Howard. “My father never told me he loved me, he never even told me he liked me,” he says. By contrast, Steve had a close friendship with Howard back in the ’40s, when Howard assisted Dr. Abraham Erskine in creating Captain America using his super soldier serum for the US  military. Tony remembers hearing Howard talk about Steve over the years, and there’s clear resentment there. For Tony, it’s akin to sibling rivalry. Steve had a relationship with Tony’s father that Tony never had. When Tony discovers that Steve’s best friend, Bucky Barnes–the brainwashed assassin Winter Soldier–killed his father and mother twenty years ago, he realizes their deaths weren’t an accident, as Tony had been led to believe–and that Steve knew the truth.

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Tony is a complex character. He’s always been terrible at relationships, even when he really wanted them to work. He was deeply loved by his mother but felt rejected by his father–a fact that shaped all of his interpersonal connections.

Actor Chris Pratt, who portrays Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Peter Quill, describes the character as “emotionally stunted.” Peter’s mother died when he was just a boy, and he never knew his father. Add to that being abducted by aliens the night his mother died, and it makes sense that Peter would miss the maturity train, so to speak. He grew up a thief, part of a group of intergalactic pirates called Ravagers, but something deep within him yearns to be the hero, the Star-Lord his mother nicknamed him. It takes him twenty-six years to open the package she gave him on her deathbed. She told him not to open it until she was gone. Perhaps somewhere in his subconscious, he doesn’t open it because as long as he doesn’t, she’s not really gone?

Marvel’s got some well-developed villains as well–Loki, for example. The second son of Odin, King of Asgard, he grew up in the shadow of his older brother, Thor, heir to the throne. When he discovers he’s not Odin and Frigga’s biological child, that Odin found him during a battle with the Frost Giants, having been abandoned, left to die, Loki concludes this is why Odin always favored Thor. Even when Loki does his worst, fans relate to him. They get him. When an angry Odin tells him his birthright was to die, the fans feel for Loki.

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Zemo is another interesting bad guy. Having lost his entire family during the Avengers’ battle with Ultron, he seeks revenge. He knows he can’t destroy the Avengers, but with the right push, they can destroy each other. “An empire destroyed from outside can be rebuilt,” he says, “but one that is destroyed from within is dead forever.”

Throughout his quest for revenge, Zemo is seen listening to a voicemail message. It turns out to be the last message he received from his wife before her death.

When I started writing, I was focused on plot. I was young and lacked the life experience to understand the importance of well-developed characters. One editor I knew used to call me “The Master Plotter.”

Now, I prefer more character-driven stories.

The Advice Most Often Given to Writers: Write What You Know

The trouble with that advice is that a lot of thrillers, supernatural suspense novels and tales of horror would never be written if we followed it. I’ve written about killers, genetic experiments, financial empires, supernatural powers, espionage, the Middle East and other topics of which I have no personal experience. If I only wrote about what I know, the list would include idiots, self-absorbed and spineless jerks, nutcases, liars, and false friends.

Okay, so I could write political novels. As we all know, Washington is full of all of those type of characters.

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My friend and fellow author, Shelly Arkon, has lately been writing a  great deal about matters of faith on her blog. Shelly has spent the past few years studying both the Bible and the Torah and has learned a great deal. While bloggers are often warned about writing about matters of faith in a cheesy manner, Shelly’s posts are honest, from the heart and thought-provoking. I’ve done a lot of thinking myself. I’m a Christian, and I’ve experienced a great deal in my life that has confirmed my faith–but I still have more questions than answers. I’m by no means an expert, but still I want to write things that make people think and hopefully find a door opened to them that they haven’t seen before. So how to do it?

Fiction, mostly. In Chasing the Wind, I write about characters who also have more questions than answers: cynical FBI agents, an agnostic photojournalist, a Biblical archaeologist who has faith but challenges it, and an atheist who is called to be a prophet but still can’t believe what’s happening to him. I put them in situations where they get pushed to their limits and their faith (or lack of it) is tested. They witness miracles. They deal with loss and rise above it. And they face many of the same questions I’ve faced.

I always believed in God–but as the Bible says, even demons believe in God. They know He exists. Believing is not the same as putting one’s faith in God. I wasn’t able to do that completely for a long time. That door opened for me twenty-two years ago, on a dark night in which I felt more hopeless than I ever had. I went to bed that night, facing a situation for which there seemed to be no resolution. I prayed, more than I ever had before, and was still praying when I finally fell asleep. I was awakened the next morning by what first seemed to be just a ringing telephone, but in fact was God’s answer to my urgent prayers–the miracle I needed.

That miracle has led me to write my first work of nonfiction–a memoir that’s (finally) almost finished, Riding Out the Storm. It’s not easy to lay bare one’s soul for all to see, as my close friend William Kendall discovered with his most recent blog post. But sometimes, we need to write about the things that make us most vulnerable. Sometimes, as in William’s case, it’s a way to exorcise our personal demons in order to be free of them. It took tremendous courage for William to share the things he’d kept so private for so many years. For some, like Shelly, it’s a way to share our discoveries of faith…and to provide a warning of what’s ahead. For me, it’s hopefully a means to testify, to show others that anyone can–and will–change. And that it really is darkest just before dawn.