Lessons Learned While Writing: God Led Me Down a New Career Path

When I started my writing journey, I was a stay-at-home mom with a master’s degree in counseling psychology leading a ministry to women at my church. I didn’t anticipate going back to work for a few more years as I firmly believed in being there for my kids, even though it involved steep emotional and financial sacrifices. Not need to dredge that all up here.

I wrote a book. Gothic Regency Romance. I wondered if I could write contemporary and tried it. Then I wrote another Regency. Then a contemporary and on and on it went. Flip-flopping back and forth and trying to keep my language straight: not putting modern words in a story taking place in the early 1800’s and not putting Regency-era language in a modern romance. Then, of course, cultural differences. And I was enjoying myself immensely. And learning more and more about the craft and editing.

I fell into editing because a friend suggested a position to me. I applied and after much prayer accepted the offer. I could work from home. I set my own hours. Oh, but I only got paid when the books sold and based on the book’s sales. It wasn’t much but I was learning more and more with every novel I not only wrote but edited. And then I started teaching on faculty at Christian Writer’s Conferences as well as meeting with and encouraging other authors who were where I was not that long ago. Again, not a huge financial boon to my family, but I was making an eternal impact in the lives of my readers, my authors, and those who read those books.

I’ve added teaching a continuing education class at my local state university and that’s been well received. And I keep writing.

I don’t know what I thought I’d be doing by the time my kids left the proverbial nest, but writing is perfect for me as my retired but very busy husband likes that I’m home, and travels with me when I speak. He understands the bigger picture of what I do and supports that endeavor regardless of how much, or little, money I might make.

I may not have gone to school to become a writer, but writing well is what allowed me to succeed in school and in my first career. I still use those skills more than you might think. None of that degree was wasted. And the Hard Knock School of Writing doesn’t give out degrees until you’re dead so I’ll keep plugging away at it.

Have you seen God take you down a different career path from what you originally intended or went to school for? What happened? Please share!

The Most Important Thing: The Gospel

I was getting ready for a craft fair and decided to include an excerpt from one of my novellas inside my brochure that lists all my books and contact information. Why? Because whether someone likes my stories or not, the most important thing is their relationship with God. Hopefully, all my stories have some thread or truth of the Gospel in them without being preachy it is usually covert. In my novella Slam-Dunk Christmas, I had a more overt moment, so this is the excerpt I took from that story.

“So tell me what’s on your mind.”

How did he know? “I think God is trying to get my attention.”

Blake grinned. “He’s been trying that for a long time, Sam.”

“Maybe so. I was too busy to listen. I guess I want to make sure I’m not heading down a wrong path. I’m trying to pray…”

“That’s a good start. Let me ask you a few questions.”

Sam nodded. “Go ahead.”

“Do you realize that you are a sinner who can in no way match up to God’s holiness?”

“Duh. Of course. I’ve done and thought unconscionable things. I’m sure every day I screw up in some way in spite of my best of intentions.”

“Do you believe that Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again as the perfect solution to your sin problem?”

“Huh?

“Maybe I’m doing this wrong. Hold on.” Blake rose and left the room, returning with his Bible. “Here we go. Romans 3:23 says, ‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ Do you agree with that?”

“Of course, after all the evil we’ve seen on this planet, it would be hard for anyone to deny that.”

“Romans 6:23 says, ‘For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.’”

“I’ve seen enough of death,” Sam said. “I want to know more about that life part.”

“Great. Romans 5:8 says, ‘But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’”

“So like a criminal who is convicted of a crime, Jesus has taken my death sentence upon himself.  Interesting. A substitution.” Sam marveled. He’d read stories about Jesus, but he’d never really studied the Bible or its tenets.

“Exactly. In Romans 10: 9-10 it says: ‘If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.’”

“So, I just need to accept the gift. Believe and state it out loud, much like we professed our commitment to the military once upon a time?”

“Correct. Verse 13 states, ‘For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ And when we look back at chapter 8:38-30 we see a wonderful promise, ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’”

“Whoa. That’s amazingly all-encompassing. So the punishment for my sin is gone, I can live a life with Jesus forever?”

Blake nodded.

“I want that.”

“Would you like me to pray with you?”

“I think I need to do this myself. Thank you, Blake. Can I borrow your Bible?”

“You can keep it. I have several, and the verses are underlined in here.”

“Thank you.”

“Let me know how it goes.”

Sam nodded, took the book, and his coffee and headed to his room. Once he was inside, he closed the door. How did someone do this? He placed the book on the bed and knelt on the rug that was there, leaning against the mattress he folded his hands. He hadn’t read that this was important but he’d seen images of people praying that way so he figured it wouldn’t hurt.

“OK, God. You’ve been trying to get my attention and I’m ready. I know I’ve made some big mistakes. What did Blake call it? Oh, yeah, I sinned. I am a sinner, and desperately need You to rescue me from that. You’ve already done that, and I need to accept the gift You graciously offer me. So Jesus, I proclaim You to be the Lord and my Savior. My rescuer. My salvation. I desperately need You to help me live the rest of my life in a way that would honor you, my Commander-in-Chief. Thank you for dying for me, rising again, and finding me, calling me, to be Yours. Amen.”

How about you? Where do you stand with God? HE is the greatest gift of all. Let me know if you’ve taken that step. I’m praying for you!

Writer Wednesday: Lindsey Bell

I’d love you to welcome author Lindsey Bell to Writer Wednesday! I really do enjoy hearing how unique each author’s journey is. Be blessed.

When did you decide you would be an author? Was it something you fell into, felt called to…?

I have loved writing for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t actually take it seriously until a college professor urged me to send in an article I had written. That article was accepted for publication, and that’s when I thought, “Maybe I’m not too bad at this!” That first article gave me the courage to send in another. And then another. And then another. And that eventually led me to write books as well.

One quote that stuck with me that I read years ago was from Kaci Calvaresi. She said, “God can’t use a redemptive story that you’re not willing to tell.” THAT, for me, is why I write…so that God can use my story to help others.

What’s your pet peeve?

I think my pet peeve -which is completely unrelated to writing – is when people don’t do what they say they are going to do.

What was your most embarrassing moment as a writer?

My most embarrassing moment as a writer..that’s a tough one. I’m a people-pleaser and I don’t like conflict, so I think my most embarrassing moment as a writer was when I wrote something that faced criticism. It was difficult to NOT take it personally.

What has been your most difficult challenge as an author?

There are two aspects of being an author that are especially challenging for me: facing criticism and building an audience. I’ve always struggled with self-promotion, especially as a Christian author. It’s challenging to find that sweet spot between sharing God’s story and sharing your own…shining the light on Him versus shining the light on yourself.

How do you process rejections and/or negative reviews?

Not well, lol 🙂 In my head, I know it’s not personal, but in my heart, that is sometimes hard to accept. The best thing I can tell myself is that this particular person was not my target audience. My message must be meant for someone else. It’s also important to learn from the negative reviews that offer helpful feedback. I have a sticky note on my computer that reads, “Mistakes are evidence that you tried.” This note helps remind me that failure (or negative reviews, in this case) can also be helpful, and, if nothing else, they show that I tried…that I put myself out there…that I gave it my best effort.

What do you feel is the best success so far in your writing career?

My books for sure, especially Unbeaten. That is my heart on the page…God’s story in my life.

What is your current work in process?

I’m at the very beginning brainstorming process of my next book, so I’m actually not sure.

Bio:

Lindsey Bell is the author of Unbeaten and Searching for Sanity. She’s passionate about her two silly boys, her husband Keith, books of all kinds, and delicious dark chocolate. Her desire is to inspire and encourage other believers through honest dialogue about faith, family, and learning to love the life she’s been given. As a woman who has lost four babies to miscarriage, Lindsey loves helping others find God in the midst of heartache. Find Lindsey online at www.lindseymbell.com.

Website: www.lindseymbell.com

Newsletter:  http:/eepurl.com/gd9CAb

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLindseyBell

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/lindseymbell01/_created/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindseyMBell

Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/Lindsey-Bell/e/B00H9NQETM

Latest book release: Unbeaten https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01MXZG3CZ/

Lessons Learned While Writing: I’m Not As Good As I Think I Am (aka Humility)

I had started writing in a way many in that genre write, from an omniscient narrator perspective which meant I’d hop from one character’s thoughts and experiences to another without pause. Well, if older writers could do it, why not me?

Oh, how wonderful I thought my first book was, until I began to get the critiques back. What was head-hopping? What do you mean I have too may points of view? What is a point of view anyway?

Because that was then and this is now. I read, and got feedback and I rewrote the book taking out one character as it was too long. Then I rewrote it again with only two points of view. I revised it another time sparsely adding the point of view a villain who appears in subsequent books to give it a darker, more suspenseful tone. Instead of writing a lighthearted Regency-era romance, my novels were more Gothic!

Every time I write a story there is a mixture of pride and fear mixed into the process. Will it be good enough? Will the story resonate with readers?

Sometimes I wonder if big sales have eluded me because I’m poor at marketing or because God is protecting me from pride—that erroneous belief that I wrote those books and I’m wonderful.

I did write them—with God’s help and that of others. And I am wonderful, as a child of God which means I’m also a flawed human being.

Every round of edits can bring up fears of not being good enough. But in reality, I’ll never be good enough. I can only hope to grow to be better than the last book I wrote.

My daughter told me not to worry: “You’ll be famous when you’re dead.” I laughed. Guess I’m not in a hurry to be famous then because I have a lot more living to do should the Lord allow me to remain here.

Sometimes I wonder when it will end. Writers don’t really “retire,” so as long as I have the ability and the imagination, I suppose I’ll keep writing, and leave fame in the hands of God.

What projects do you struggle with to find humility? What works for you to keep you from wallowing in self-pity or puffing yourself up too much?

Ode to Benji

Benji – a rescue we adopted as a senior dog in September 2020 with many issues, put down in March 2022 due to biting combined with neurological decline.

Benji was an old pup, overweight, beset with quirks
Peeing in the house was high on the list of what would irk
He could be kind of bossy, and a bully when he played,
But most of the time he snuggled, my Velcro dog by day. 

Spoiled rotten he was and a piggy to boot
He'd scare himself whenever he'd toot.
He lost the weight and the allergies too
But with focal seizures and shaking, his brain was going to-da-loo.

He'd nip and growl if he didn't get his way,
Or perhaps when he was surprised, 
Instead of moving out of the way
He'd lunge and with his teeth - swipe. 

He'd finally crossed a line with the one he loved most
One quick movement and his future was toast.
He took a bite out of my calf, through jeans he left his mark
It was with relief and sorrow that we'd finally come to part. 

I never thought it'd come to this
The decision needed to be made.
A dog that bit was too high a price
For what I'd have to pay. 

To walk around my home in fear
Out of love for a dog so dear
And worry about our friends who came
It was time, but just the same

To say good bye is hard, even when you're hurt
To lose a loved one so cute and bury him in dirt

But I've learned things and know I tried
To give him his best life before he died.
He was loved and cared for, free to run,
And now his journey is over and done.

Bye-bye, Benji with those big soulless eyes
Your whimpers will no longer awaken me before the sunrise
I will not miss your belly bands or cleaning up your pee
But I will miss you snuggling right up next to me.

Spatzle Speaks: Susie (Book Review)

Now maybe it’s because the book has a derivative of my mom’s name that I wanted to review this book, or maybe because it’s different than the usual fiction reviews posted here, but mom spent time reading Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon by Ray Rhodes Jr., and found it fascinating.

Susie Spurgeon might seem like an imaginary model wife, always perfectly supporting her husband in ministry, and she was that, but so much more. Susie lived from 1832-1903 and was married to Charles for 36 years. She continued to minister as a widow and lived for 11 years before passing away at age 71.

In spite of weakness and chronic debilitating pain, she was devoted to her husband and helped him in ministry, reading with him, transcribing notes, and compiling books. She was a prolific author herself. She set up a ministry called the Book Fund designed to help poor pastors by providing them with valuable resources, sometimes beyond theological tomes. Toward the end of her life, she helped plant a church even though she was too ill to be there when it opened.

This book is a charming look at life in the Victorian age of Great Britain and it broadens the scope beyond our modern day. Back then the vocabulary was larger and the culture was different from ours in America–but the truths of the gospel transcend time. Who would be like Susannah Spurgeon in our day and age?

That’s a difficult question to answer because as a couple they supported and encouraged each other and I don’t think you can separate them which goes to the issue that a great man can be all the greater with the love and support of a wive, but to obtain such a prize, he needs to valuer her deeply. Such was the case of Charles and Susannah Spurgeon.

This is a book I highly recommend if you like biographies. The story is told at a good pace with the blessing of her great-grandchild. I give it five bones, because I’m a dog and I don’t have thumbs.

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.

Lessons Learned while Writing: Omniscience vs Free Will

This might seem like an odd thing to learn about while writing fiction but hang in there with me. My master’s degree is from a seminary. I have taught theology and studied the attributes of God. His omniscience vs out free will is an issue people have been arguing about for centuries.

I don’t really have the answer to that debate although I fully believe in both. God knows everything which should terrify us. EVERYTHING. Every thought and intention of our hearts, our motives, the words we don’t say out loud but think. Our wants and desires. Our deepest fears. Amazingly enough, He wanted His human creation, dependant upon Him for every breath we take and every beat of our hearts, to have the freedom to accept or reject Him.

He didn’t want puppets to worship Him. He wanted people willing to give their all to Him because He called and we chose to respond.

Now we could debate about how could God, who knows everything we will do, give us free will since He already knows we will do it?

I can’t answer that. Some thoughts are far too lofty for this mere mortal.

But I came to a place of peace with this because of my writing. It is not a perfect illustration because again, as a writer, I’m a mortal, not eternal like God is.

When I write my story I have an idea of what the journey for my characters will be like and who they are. (Remember, these people don’t really exist even if they seem to in my mind).  I have a general concept of my ending. Since I write happily-ever-afters it will be a happy ending. There will be love. Maybe a kiss or a wedding, and regardless of where my characters start on their journey, they will have grown emotionally and spiritually. Because I’m human and haven’t written the book yet, I’m not sure of all the details of those journeys to love and greater wholeness.

Whether a writer is a panster (write by the seat of his/her pants) or a plotter, planning out general points of the story’s plot, our characters sometimes surprise us. I can have in-depth interviews with these imaginary people but they sometimes throw me for a loop with a memory, or an issue I wasn’t expecting. Sometimes they make a choice I didn’t anticipate. However, I get them to my desired end for the book.

Once the book is written I am fully aware of their choices and decisions and the precise ending.

God knows my beginning and my end. He has a plan and a purpose for my life but I still make choices. Unlike me as an author, God is never surprised because He’s already read the end of my story. He read it before I was even born. That doesn’t mean He dictated my path.

I’m not even sure if that fully makes sense to you, but it does to me. I can’t understand just how it really works with an all-knowing, sovereign Lord, only that I can listen for His voice and maybe I’ll make mistakes, but He will get me to my desired end and use me to fulfill His purpose here on earth. Maybe I’ll sport some bruises from my failures, but He will never stop loving me on the journey through my story.

And He is also the One who leads me as I write. How else can my characters surprise me if my God-given imagination didn’t let that happen? An imagination designed for me combined with my history and past experiences to create a story out of nothing because I am an image-bearer of the Creator Himself.

Maybe this is too lofty, but I’ve found peace in not understanding how it all happens. It is a holy mystery beyond my ability to grasp but His omniscience doesn’t negate free will and there is wonderful security in that truth.

Lessons Learned from Writing: Divine Fun

Now, why did I start this series of posts with this one? Because initially when I started writing in 2009 and understood nothing much about the craft, I had fun. So much fun! I believed God told me to write that November for National Novel Writing Months (nanowrimo.org). When I started I was fearless because I didn’t know any better. I had a blast finally writing the story I wanted to write: The Virtuous Viscount. I’d started years ago on paper and I think I scared myself. But God called and I obeyed.

I wrote a lot of words in 21 days – more than winning two NaNoWriMos. I was exhilerated and in my ignorance thought I’d written a wonderful tome. I cut my teeth as an author on that novel and still love the story.

So I had fun and thought that was it. I was a stay-at-home mom and lived in the country and served in Women’s Ministry at my church and didn’t have much interaction with those who didn’t share my faith in Jesus. I reached out during that month and connected with another stay-at-home mom in my community. We both crossed the finish line and I reached out again to suggest we get together. I gave her my real name, not the name on NaNo and she responded.

She was a friend from high school I’d been praying for, for over twenty years. Wow. Just wow. We connected in person along with others from back then and I heard many sad stories. Now my own story wasn’t that wonderful as I was in a difficult marriage, but I listened and loved. I was newer to Facebook in those days and invited my friend to connect with me there.

She remembered my strong faith in high school and even though I didn’t usually post spiritual stuff then, I was usually more silly, she told me it was as if God was poking her in the shoulder with every post I made. She understood my life was challenging. She was aware of my ministry work, and never once did I talk to her about Christ. She was well aware of the truth she’d turned her back on years ago. I was just being silly old me.

God led her back to Himself. She said later that she believes the only reason she was to write that November was to reconnect with me so God could get a hold of her. She joined a church, she led worship, she’s taken a theology class that I taught, and she made dramatic life changes. Life has been challenging for her in the process, but she’s stood firm.

I thought I was just having fun—but God had a bigger plan.

Her name was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life long before my humble gothic regency ever saw the light of day in print.

So go ahead and have fun. Enjoy life. If God calls you to do something unusual because it might be fun? Do it! You may never know the heart you may touch just by being yourself in those moments.

“Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words.” Saint Francis of Assisi.

What kind of fun might God be calling you to? Don’t dismiss it as frivlolous–He may have a bigger plan than you realize.

Writer Wednesday: Lori Ann Wood

I want to welcome Lori Ann Wood to my blog as she shares her own unique journey to publishing. I personally love hearing these stories because it’s a good reminder to us all that God’s call on each of us is unique and the path He puts us on will also be distinctively our own. I hope you enjoy meeting Lori Ann.

When did you decide you would be an author? Was it something you fell into, felt called to…?

Since grade school, I had written short pieces and filed them away. I have always loved the art of arranging words into thoughts that stir emotions and evoke action. So for most of my life, I have known there was a book inside me. However, practicality convinced me to study business in college. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with end-stage heart failure a few years ago that I started blogging, writing articles for publications and websites, and eventually writing a book.

What’s your pet peeve?

I particularly dislike inauthenticity, whether on social media, in writing, or in person.

What was your most embarrassing moment as a writer?

I strolled into my first writing conference expecting to snag a contract on the spot. I had no idea what genre I would write in or even who my audience was. My very first blog post came out on the second day of the conference. I had about 50 subscribers, mostly family, at that time.

What has been your most difficult challenge as an author?

As for most authors, my biggest hurdle is building a platform. I started from scratch on Facebook and Instagram just over three years ago. It has been a steep learning curve for someone who thought she’d never need social media. (My next challenge will be learning Pinterest.) Using social media to form relationships with my audience and other writers has been paying off. My email list is growing as I continue to share with other authors and serve their audiences as well.

How do you process rejections and/or negative reviews?

I had conditioned myself from the beginning of this venture that rejection was part of the process. I soon learned that if I wasn’t getting several rejections in a given month, I wasn’t trying enough. Now I see rejection as a honing of my audience and purpose. When I learn what not to write or where not to submit, I have a clearer focus on where I should be spending my time.

What do you feel is the best success so far in your writing career?

My best success is having my manuscript acquired by CrossRiver Media. Although I have had dozens of articles published in the last three years in national and international publications, the vote of confidence from a Christ-centered team to pick up my work and invest their time and resources into it is by far the best kind of success.

What is your current work in process?

A book of essays on life’s three biggest questions titled Divine Detour: The Path You Didn’t Choose Can Lead to the Faith You’ve Always Wanted

Biography:

Lori Ann Wood lives in beautiful Bentonville, Arkansas, with her husband, the love of her life whom she found in 9th grade. She is mom to three great young adults, one amazing son-in-law, and a miniature dachshund named Pearl. Lori Ann currently serves as the founding leader of the Parenting Education Ministry at the church of Christ in Bentonville. She also serves as WomenHeart Champion Community Educator for Arkansas and American Heart Association Ambassador.  Lori Ann was awarded the Frederick Buechner Narrative Essay Award and her work has been published in numerous print and online venues, including Heart Insight Magazine, The Christian Century magazine, Just Between Us Magazine, The Joyful Life Magazine, Bella Grace Magazine, Sweet to the Soul FAITH Magazine, Pepperdine University Press, and yahoo.com. Having discovered a serious heart condition almost too late, Lori Ann writes to encourage others to find joy in the divine detours of life. Read more from her at https://linktr.ee/LoriAnnWood.

Website: https://loriannwood.com

Newsletter:  https://loriannwood.com/hope

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DivinelyDetoured

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/loriannwood/

Latest book release: Coming early 2023 – Divine Detour: The Path You Didn’t Choose Can Lead to the Faith You’ve Always Wanted

All Understanding

I was cleaning up a workspace that had been left for over three years. I tossed out so many boxes of garbage! It felt soo good tossing them into our wood stove/boiler. I even found some things that I’d thought were lost forever.

This was a poem I wrote back in the spring of 1990. I was so young back then, but it still speaks to me. Maybe you’ll enjoy it as well.

All Understanding

Broken people

Broken hearts

The sin of our parents

Now tearing us apart

Satan doesn’t have to work too hard

The damage has been done

The patterns long established

Started before our lives had begun

Yet Lord, You give the courage

To help us right our past

Convicting us about our status quo

You bring healing and peace that surpasses all understanding

So we struggle

With hurts from long ago

Satan has to work harder now

He doesn’t want to let us go

Yet we belong to Jesus

Our hearts washed white as snow

We are cleaning out our closets

The skeletons must go

Yet Lord, You bring the strength

As we change our wrongful ways at last

Encouraging us by Your Spirit

Bringing healing and a peace that surpasses all understanding

You understand us, Lord

More than we ever could ourselves

With compassion, You look upon us

As You bring us to Yourself

Your love abounding always

Though we slip and fall at times

Your grace still reaching out to us

A love that doesn’t constrict or bind

Lord, continue to give us the stamina

To change the grains of time

Gifting us with wisdom and patience

Bring healing and peace that surpasses all understanding.

Have a beautiful week trusting in Him.