Friday, July 27, 2012

Virelle Kidder: With No Reason To Give Up On Life, She's Embracing It All

Everyone's Story welcomes its new guest, Virelle Kidder. When I first discovered that Virelle was raised in upstate NY I knew I had to ask her to guest on this blog. And thankfully, here she is. A full-time author and conference speaker, Virelle encourages us to hold onto God's hand through the rough spots in life. She has weathered through many trials, including a childhood with an emotionally troubled and alcoholic father, and then watching her own children and husband suffer through a variety of health crisis. This wasn't what she envisioned for her life as a starry-eyed young girl, but she's glad she hasn't given up.

This week Virelle shares with us a book excerpt  from the memoir she is generously offering as a Book Giveaway (see below), as well as thoughts on what drives her life forward.

Have you had your own shares of rough spots in life? How did you get through it all? Come share with Virelle. She'd enjoy hearing from you ♥

                         Virelle's Special Book Giveaway:
Virelle is generously offering 1 copy of her non-fiction book THE BEST LIFE AIN'T EASY, BUT IT'S WORTH IT to 1 randomly chosen commenter. The winner will be announced here on Friday, August 3rd. For ease, please leave your email address within the body of your comment. Thanks!

Unraveling the Layers of Life:

Writer Shares Importance of Transparency and Authenticity in Life's Journey
Despite our best intentions for a happy and fulfilling life, life seldom turns out the way we once imagined. In her new memoir, The Best Life Ain’t Easy, But It’s Worth It (Moody Publishers), Virelle Kidder candidly reflects on a life filled with bumpy disappointments, hard choices and a deep commitment to her faith and family. Readers will connect with her stories as a young girl losing her father, talking to God as she played in the woods, grappled with a loving but controlling widow-mother, and hungered for the truth about life. 
For a sneak peek at Virelle's book:


by Virelle Kidder

Chapter One

“Stopped on the Way to the Fair”

         When I was six years old and my brother Roger was ten. my father piled the four of us into our ’51 maroon and gray Dodge and headed to the Thousand Islands on the St. Lawrence River. To this day, I remember being carsick in the back seat from both parents smoking in the front. Roger patiently kept me entertained and relatively quiet with funny word games and whispered jokes.  No one wanted to make Daddy mad.
         On the way home, we stopped for lunch in a pretty small town named Mexico in upstate New York, just off Route 11, a few miles from Lake Ontario. Driving down Main Street, we passed an impressive brick school with huge white pillars and a bubbling stream next to it. Lining the streets were lush maple trees shading quaint Victorian homes, churches with spires, small stores, a little post office nestled among them, a tiny A & P, an even tinier a barber shop, and a shoemaker next door. My father fell in love on the spot. Right after lunch he found a realtor and bought a six room, 150 year-old gray house on Lincoln Avenue at the edge of town. He had no job there; we had neither relatives nor friends. But no one protested, not even my mother. Moving was an annual event in our family. I thought everybody did it.
         The day the big van unloaded our things, I met my best friend Barbie. Her sister Jane rode around the corner on her bike and invited me home for lunch. Both sisters had cute Buster Brown haircuts with bangs. Barb was shorter than me and shy, but full of adventure. Soon we were inseparable.
         At home mother papered and painted every room and Daddy had the house painted red, built a white fence around it himself in the hot sun, and planted hollyhocks, purple iris and roses. He never worked again, but often sat alone admiring his work in a lawn chair in our side yard. 
         That summer he also joined AA. Dr. Thompson, an anesthetist from Syracuse became his sponsor. The Thompsons often visited us, bringing along with their two enormous black Newfoundlands, both champions, Sam and Mary. Dr. Thompson would let me “walk them” in the yard, which was more like them walking me. I grew to love AA picnics and the people we met there. My father and mother looked happy again. We all relaxed a bit.
         Sometimes I sat and talked with my father in the yard, asking him to tell me funny stories. Telling stories was his favorite thing. I brought Barbie and Jane to meet him one day, hoping he’d entertain them, too, but he didn’t feel funny that day.
         One day my father brought home a baby blue parakeet. We named him Herbie. Daddy spent hours talking to that bird and training it on the dining room table. “Put your finger out and let him sit on it,” he coaxed us. “He won’t hurt you.” And he didn’t.  Roger and I had parakeets for years after that, way into our adult lives. His patience with pets was limitless. Even our terrier Chummy had a repertoire of tricks. People were another matter.
         Even at seven, I knew Daddy was mentally ill, besides being an alcoholic. I’m fairly certain he loved us, but his temper was frightening and unpredictable. No one dared upset him. We were his second try at family life. I learned years later through legal papers in the mail, that an earlier wife and two sons remained in his wake just as we would. I longed to know them and often wondered where they were.
         About the time our little red house in Mexico was painted and pretty, my father left. He had sat up all night smoking in his overstuffed chair in the living room watching our bedroom doors. Mother told me years later she had lain awake all night in fear. In the morning Roger and I went to school, and when we came home, he was gone. I found Mother washing dishes. She never looked up when I asked, “Where’s Daddy?”
         “He left.” Is she crying? I wondered.
         “When is he coming back?”
         “He’s not.” Why isn’t she crying?
         “Where did he go?” Maybe I can run after him and bring him home!
         “I don’t know.”
         The conversation was clearly over. I never asked again, but I cried in my bed at night begging God to tell me where he was. I couldn’t think of anyone outside our family to ask. We had secrets. Talking about Daddy was soon forbidden. There was no one left to ask but God, and I barely knew Him at all. I remember thinking, Maybe a Bible would help.
         Decades later Mother confessed hearing rumors he’d tried to reopen an old office in Detroit. Once she’d received a letter from him threatening to kidnap Roger and me. I remember leaving our house with the shades down and staying in a hotel in another city while the police waited for him in our living room. Dr and Mrs. Thompson came to visit us and brought us toys. It broke my heart to learn Daddy had actually come for us and was taken first to jail, and then to a mental hospital in Utica.  It was the best thing for him, but painful to hear. Finally on medication, he began to improve for the first time in his life, even sending Roger and me two plays he had written once for their church couples’ club. Eventually, he did well enough to work and live on his own, but mother had drawn up legal papers earlier that prevented him from seeing us again.
         No one spoke about Daddy again. It was easier that way for my mother, who suffered silently most of the time. The next fall she went back to teaching school. We all tried to act normal. Roger played basketball, did the lawn and took out the garbage, I rode my bike, played with Barbie, and helped in small ways dusting and wiping dishes. Life was quiet, predictable, and safe for the first time I could remember. Mother tried hard to make life good for us. She sewed clothing, made birthday parties, gave us big Christmases she couldn’t afford. Her light was always on when I went to sleep. She’d work until late at night correcting papers. Roger and I both tried to be good and, hopefully, make her happy. For me, it became a lifetime yoke.
         Most of my growing up was spent with Barbie, hanging upside down in trees, or playing cowgirls wearing my favorite six shooters in the woods, picking blackberries, or building forts and pretend campfires. We knew every trail in the two acre woods behind my house clear through to the hilly backyards of Church Street. It was our happy kingdom. Barb’s family eventually moved to a farm outside of town. We saw each other less often, but remained best friends for years. When she wasn’t around, I made a pest of myself with Roger and his friends until he’d beg Mother to call me inside or do something with me.
         Life could get very boring around our house. Rainy days were especially lonely.  I’d stay in my room and play paper dolls or store, or sweep off the red congoleum rug in our stone basement, arranging porch furniture and pretending it was my home, the one I’d like to live in one day. I folded napkins into triangles and welcomed neighborhood kids as guests for crackers and cherry Kool Aid.
         My imagination became a retreat into a more interesting world. It  probably saved my life. As I grew, my imagination almost took ovee. By the time I was ten, it was getting me in trouble. I exaggerated nearly everything, only I called it story telling. I liked it that way. Real life was dull and full of things we weren’t allowed to talk about, like where babies came from, and what was the meaning of life, and where my father was.
         Then in fifth grade something amazing happened, a district-wide short story contest. My teacher, Mrs. Bullock, insisted I enter it. When she mentioned the first prize was any book you wanted, I knew I wanted a Bible. Instantly, I had a story in mind about a young boy my age who loved his horse, but the horse ran away. He searched and searched for the horse. It became a chapter book complete with drawings. Of course, the horse was found and the boy was jubilant. I had no idea I was really writing about my father. I won first prize, and eventually took home a big red Bible.
         “Why did you want that?” my mother couldn’t hide her disappointment. “Why not some good book like Honeybunch or The Bobsey Twins?”
         “I just wanted it, that’s all,” I said, tucking it under my arm and disappearing into my bedroom. Sitting on the corner of my bed, I opened it gently and caressed the new pages.  The answers to life are in here. It was a holy moment.
         But where to read? I’ll start at the beginning!  I read a few paragraphs, but nothing made sense. Not in the middle, either, not even in the familiar chapters called, “Matthew,” “Mark,” “Luke,” or “John.” I slammed it closed. I can’t believe it! There’s nothing here! No answers at all! It’s a lie! God must be a hoax just like the Easter Bunny and Santa! Waves of acute disappointment turned to tears. I felt completely alone. 
         Two years later, Mother woke me for school one bright April morning. In the same voice she’d use to tell me breakfast was ready, she said, “Your father died last night. He had a heart attack. His landlady called. You’re not to tell anyone about this at school. Only Aunt Char knows.”
         I sat up straight. “Does Roger know?”
         “Yes.” I ran quickly to his room and found him still in his pajamas reading a book in bed.
          “Don’t you know Daddy died?” I asked, stunned by the casualness of the news. 
         “Yes, “ he barely looked up.
         “Don’t you care?”
         “No. Not really.” It was years before I would know of the verbal and physical abuse Roger had endured. For now, I turned away to process my father’s death alone. I learned grief cannot be buried as easily as the dead. Like snakes under the porch, grief and unanswered questions can live underneath your life and frighten you a long, long time.
         I never quite forgot my father or God, but I tried. Both I considered out of my life, less relevant with time, subjects best not talked about.  Mother was right. It was easier that way. I moved on to enjoy high school academics, a mix of achievements, music, and fun with my friends. Barbie had retreated into her own world by that time. We saw little of one another in the years that followed, choosing colleges hundreds of miles apart. I applied at only one school, the University at Albany in the capital, and chose a double major in Spanish and English. At nineteen, college friends invited me to spend an exciting summer studying in Spain where I found life far more colorful than any of my early imaginings.
         Strangely, I still felt agonizingly lonely at times. Friends were, after all, only friends. They only cared about you so much. My mother and brother were busy in their lives. I wanted more. I began to want a man. Not just a man. I wanted a Prince. Impossible. They didn’t really exist. I decided to pray for one.
         Pray? Where did that idea come from? How did anyone really believe in that? God simply didn’t answer. I doubted He was even real. Still…
         I began praying silently on my mile-long walk to class. Lord, if You’re real, show me by three o’clock. At 3:01 I’d check my watch. Nothing. I felt like a fool. Surely, He could have found some way to let me know. I prayed the same prayer again the next day, and the next, trying to give God a chance to prove Himself to me.  Day after day, 3:01 would come, and nothing happened. I didn’t need a Salvation Army band, just some small sign. I stretched the deadline to four o’clock. Nothing. Then, anytime this week.
         I became preoccupied with God, haunted by His silence. I told no one. Only God knew, if He was even real. Seeking Him became my obsession. Months passed. Then, at 10 AM one day in late spring, Steve walked into Dr. Creegan’s philosophy class and sat down right in front of me.
         He was late, too.
         The dark green leather jacket her wore that day still hangs in our closet. The English boots are gone, as is his dark hair. But the Prince remains. I loved him the moment I saw him. The greater miracle was that he loved me, too.          
Life became a romance, days whirled into months and the music lasted. It lasted through college, through our first years of marriage, through a new baby, and grad school, through Steve’s first job at Johns Hopkins as a new Ph.D., right up until that hot Sunday in Baltimore when our new friends, Ginny and Keith, invited us to church and home for dinner.  Until the moment Keith opened his Bible and asked if he could read a psalm, and I saw Steve stiffen in his chair next to me, and felt my throat tighten with some choking, buried anger.  Until the moment after Keith read aloud and I said, “May I ask you something?” That was the moment the music began to die.
         I hardly noticed it go. I was consumed once again with knowing God. Tearing through the boxes in our basement, I unearthed the mildewed Bible I’d won in fifth grade. I read it all summer, barely noticing Steve, or the joy leaving him. You could hardly hear the music any more.
         I took a new lover that fall. His name was Jesus. He was all I ever wanted, the God I’d hungered for so long. How could loving Him not be right? I hung on His words, talked of Him day and night, lived and breathed His Word, and gave myself to Him with abandon.
         I barely looked at Steve except to notice his lack of interest in my new faith.  I seldom looked in the mirror, for that matter, to see how plain I’d become. Steve didn’t understand me now. He wanted the old me back. He wanted the music again. How could I tell him I’d given it away?

God’s Love Drives My Life Every Day by Virelle Kidder

Shortly after returning from teaching at a writers’ conference, I was in a deep sleep one night when I sensed God talking to me, nudging me awake in the middle of the night.

“Virelle,” He said, “I thought you’d like to know how you really got your name, because you were wrong, you know.”

“My name, Lord? But I know how I got my name. My mother told me, and she wouldn’t lie. ” Hadn’t I just offered my standard explanation it to a group of friends at the conference? I’d been spelling and explaining my strange name all my life when my parents put their names together, Virginia and Russell. When I was twelve, my mother added an “e” because everyone called me “virile,” something that never failed to make people laugh, although I never thought it funny at all.  

“That may be what your parents thought, Virelle, but actually I named you. I just told them what I wanted.”

“You named me, Lord?”

“Yes, I named you because I love you. I’ve always loved you, since before you were born, you’ve been mine.”

And for the next twenty minutes or so, as tears rolled onto my pillow, God spoke His Word with my name inserted to tell me how He loved me.

“I’ve loved you with an everlasting love, Virelle. I formed you in your mother’s womb, I know every hair on your head, planned every day in your life. I saw your tears as a child and saved them in a bottle. I have betrothed you to me forever. You are my bride, my beautiful one. There is no flaw in you. I loved you so much, I gave me Son to redeem you.”

I can’t recall all God said, but I’ll never forget what He meant.

Until that night, nearly thirty years after receiving Christ as my Savior, I’d always known God loved me as He loved all His children, and I was the least of them. But never since have I felt so loved by God, so permanently loved and fully redeemed, so chosen and cherished. He has always had my heart, but now He had every molecule in my body, every breath, every moment.

Author Bio:

Virelle Kidder is a full-time writer and conference speaker. She has hosted her own daily radio talk show in New York's capital district. Virelle has a deep passion for providing women with relevant, accessible, spiritual materials. She served for many years as contributing writer for Today's Christian Woman and is presently a mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writer's Guild. Virelle is the author of five books in addition to her current title and resides with her husband, Steve, in Florida.

To Connect With Virelle:

Friday, July 20, 2012

JoAnn Durgin: Shining Light For His Glory

Everyone's Story warmly welcomes author JoAnn Durgin. I've met JoAnn on-line and am so excited because I will be meeting her in person at the upcoming ACFW conference. Why? Because JoAnn is a genuine, lovely, funny, and an always-there-for-you woman. This week, JoAnn shares with us a very personal account of her motivation behind writing the characters in her stories. So, enjoy a little quiet time and reflection with us... and remember, JoAnn looks forward to hearing from you.
Book Giveaway Special:
JoAnn has written the The Lewis Legacy Series: AWAKENING (Book 1), SECOND TIME AROUND (Book 2), and TWIN HEARTS. Though a series, these novels can be read as stand-alone books. One randomly chosen commenter will win the opportunity to select either the print or e-book version; the winner will be announced next Friday, July 27th. Please leave your email contact information within the comment. Thanks!
Series Blurb:
Join the fun with Sam and Lexa (Clarke) Lewis in The Lewis Legacy Series from Torn Veil Books. Sam and Lexa mentor the lively volunteers in Sam's TeamWork Missions organization as they navigate life from Texas to Massachusetts, Montana, Louisiana, New York, England and even the International Space Station. Each contemporary romance combines faith, family, humor and adventure with one or more members of the TeamWork crew as they find love while leaning on the Lord and each other for encouragement. The Lewis Legacy Series is available from all major online book retailers in both print and ebook editions.

Why And How My Characters Overcome Obstacles In Their Lives
By JoAnn Durgin

My theme verse is Matthew 5:16 (NASB): Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.” I’d like to tell you a little about my son, Matthew. His “light” shines bright, and as a writer, I try to see the world as he does. As a result, it’s made me a better writer. You see, in Matthew’s eyes, the world is beautiful: there is no hate, no distrust—only a deep compassion and love. In essence, the way God wants us to see others.

Matthew and his sisters
Matthew is now 16 and diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism on the high-functioning end of the spectrum. It’s often misinterpreted by others as a mental deficiency, but nothing could be further from the truth. If he met you today and didn’t see you for months or even years, he’d call you by name from memory. He disconcerts strangers by waving, saying hello or telling them he loves them. Our son is atypical for the syndrome in that he’s extremely social and looks others straight in the eye. Experts don’t have definitive answers as to what causes Asperger’s, and there is no “cure.” In Matthew’s case, I wouldn’t want a cure. He’s not perfect, by any means, but he accepts life—and all that comes with it—with an untold measure of grace. He teaches me more than he knows.

We lived in the Boston area when we first understood Matthew was developmentally delayed. He didn’t walk on his own until he was 15 months old, didn’t speak “our” language until well past his third birthday. He wandered off and got lost at a busy mall when he was a toddler, found by an anonymous angel of mercy we never met. Not long after, he wandered out the front door and into the middle of our fairly busy street. I thank the Lord every day for His faithful watchcare over our little guy, and know He has big plans for him.

The church secretary heard him “preaching” in the sanctuary one day. He’d pushed a chair to the podium and was pointing to the Bible. She couldn’t understand anything he said except for “Jesus!” every other word. When he was six, we took Matthew to a highly-esteemed child developmental psychologist in Boston who basically questioned his IQ and gave us the “he can become a functioning member of society” speech.

Through the years, Matthew was in special needs classes. He wore a weighted vest to keep him upright and received help for speech and motor skills. He’s always been coordinated, never clumsy. His drawings and Lego structures reveal an uncommon sense of depth and perception. He’s never been bullied in school and his schoolmates and teachers have overwhelmingly embraced him. What a blessing! Now, he only needs extra assistance in English; he made the honor roll last term with the highest grades in his biology and algebra classes.

Matthew looks “normal,” but when he speaks, others notice something is different. It’s in the slight head tic every now and then or his body language. He adores his sisters and has always been a loving child, but with none of the emotional difficulties often associated with autism. At a special school event, he befriended a girl born with no arms. He asked her, “Does it hurt?” and ended up pushing her wheelchair all evening. In church, he asked an elderly widow, “How are you doing today?” In both instances, he listened, he cared, and he gained a friend for life.

We dropped off Matthew at church camp recently. It was the first time he’d ever been away from home without anyone he knew. My husband, Jim, seemed hesitant to leave him. I felt a peace and said, “He’ll shine.” When we picked him up six days later, Matthew was on the front row, clapping and singing along with the praise band. The kids made posters where they wrote their names and others added comments. Beside Matthew’s signature? “An angel in disguise” and “Lives and breathes his faith.” The director of the camp as well as several counselors told us our son led the prayer in chapel twice. Many embraced him and hugged Mathew goodbye. Part of Asperger’s is inappropriate emotional reactions. He used to laugh in sad times, but this time he cried when he said goodbye to his new friends. Our boy is growing up.

When I write, I try to incorporate that life-affirming positivity and let my light shine for His glory. My characters struggle with the inevitable challenges of life, but strive to live for Him the best way they can. My Matthew is embodied in a young boy named Michael coming later in my Lewis Legacy Series, at a time when I’ve hopefully gained more readers to bring more awareness and attention to autism. All in all, I strive to live my life the way my son does—for the Son.

Do you have a loved one with Aspergers Syndrome? If you're a writer, how do your characters overcome their difficulties? JoAnn looks forward to hearing from you. 


Twin Hearts is JoAnn's third published novel in The Lewis Legacy Series from Torn Veil Books. The fourth installment in the series, Daydreams, releases in December 2012 as well as Meet Me Under the Mistletoe, a fun novella from White Rose Publishing. She is a full-time estate administration paralegal in Louisville, Kentucky, a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and Louisville Christian Writers. JoAnn lives with her husband and three children in southern Indiana. Her books are available from all major online book retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble (in both print and ebook editions). She can be reached on Facebook or you can send her a message via her website at She loves to meet and interact with her readers!

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Sean E. Thomas: Making The Best Of All Situations

Everyone’s Story welcomes its new guest, author Sean E. Thomas. Known on social media sites as the Alaskan Novelist, Sean’s story is truly inspirational. Sean  refused to permit a health problem deter him from writing, and achieved the publication of his mystery novels after retiring from years of civil service work. And, I must admit: his living in Alaska has definitely seized my attention! 
How Alaska And A Health Scare Shaped My Writing by Sean E. Thomas

Alaska’s been my home since on and off since 1955 and I grew up mostly in Eagle River, just north of Anchorage. In a few minutes, one can drive north or south of Anchorage/Eagle River and be surrounded by pristine wilderness with clear unpolluted lakes, rivers, and creeks loaded with fish and surrounded by green forests flush with wild game.

The state is rich in history, minerals and oil, diverse native cultures, and lots of mystery—missing planes, missing people and very few roads. For a serial killer, there are many places to hide a body. Alaska has had several serial killers. One was baker and businessman Robert Hansen, who kidnapped prostitutes, held them captive, tortured, and sexually assaulted them, then took them to the Alaskan bush and to hunt them down. Nicholas Cage came to Alaska this last fall and filmed a movie, On Frozen Ground, based on Robert Hansen.

In grade school, I was an average student. I spent more time reading novels instead of concentrating on my schoolwork and polished off a book a night. My favorite authors were Jack London and Edgar Rice Burroughs. At 13, in the seventh grade, I wrote my first story based on a plane crashing in the wilderness and the passenger’s survival. My teacher liked it so much she had me read it in front of the class. I was so embarrassed it killed my inspiration to write.  In high school I buckled down and excelled scholastically in high school. I attended Alaska Methodist University, majoring in chemistry and minoring in mathematics.  At the University of Idaho graduate school, I went into organic chemistry and enrolled in ROTC for the deferment. ROTC leadership requested I take over as the editor of the Vandal Review, a ROTC newspaper. I didn’t seriously start again until 1990.  At that time I was records/copy machine manager for the Army in Alaska and wrote an article and submitted it to ARMA. It was accepted and published. Shortly after, I stepped up to chief of the administrative services division. Later I became a manpower manager and financial analyst until I retired in 2006.

The writing bug had bit me, but I really wanted to write fiction. I picked a writing partner, a former coworker of Aleut heritage. She wrote children’s books while I wrote a science fiction detective novel. We joined a local writer’s group that met weekly and everyone submitted 10 pages a week for review. After a couple meetings, my partner quit. She said the members were the meanest, most vindictive people she’d ever met and quit writing. I continued on with the group, accepting their harsh criticism. But, I found with all the editing on other member’s works, there was little time to work on my own novel and took creative writing courses. My writing kept improving. I outgrew my writer’s group and moved on without them.

In 1998, I took a screen-writing course at the University of Alaska Anchorage taught by Kim Rich. Kim had written numerous screenplays and a book, Johnny’s Girl, about her life with her father, an Anchorage Mafioso. Through her course, I finally understood how stories were put together following the Greek tradition. I had four books in the hopper and in 2002 and 2003 my Alaska State Trooper mystery novels, Dark Project, Dark Soul and Dark Gold, were published by Infinity. My third mystery, actually more a horror novel, Dark Shaman, was published in 2003 by Trafford, a Canadian press (now an American press).

From 1998 through 2003, I had been diagnosed and was living with congestive heart failure with atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat). I was on a handful of medicines that on any given day had a 14% chance of killing me. My congestive heart failure reversed itself, but the irregular heartbeat remained. Several of the drugs that had helped keep my heart in sync failed. So, doctors at the Alaska Heart Institute performed ablation therapy. That’s where a laser is used to cause a scar that blocks the path of the irregular signals. I was on the operating table for nine hours, and during that time the doctors cardioverted me eight times—that’s being hit by the electrical paddles 16 times—stopping and starting my heart. 

As a result of the cardioversions I lost eight months of short-term memory and my ability to write. I found I had gotten my energy back, but when I looked down at the computer screen, it looked like gobbledygook, like Sergeant Snorkel from Beatle Bailey cussing. I couldn’t string sentences together and it took three years to get back my writing abilities. In 2006, I retired from civil service as a management/financial analyst with 33 years, 25 years of civil service, plus eight years of military service I had bought back.

Around that time, I started to have a dream, a nightmare about a Roman Legion expedition to Qin (China) that had been blown off course, went up the Yukon, and merged with Athabascans. Tons of gold were hidden with their ancient weapons and Roman armor.  I had to get the story down on paper to stop the nightmares. So Robert Sable, my Alaska State Trooper, emerged again in a new, different mystery novel, Lost Legion.  Other Robert Sable Mystery novels quickly followed: Stalker, Silent Killer, Alaska Dutchman, Deadly Rites and Frozen Treasure.  Lost Legion, Silent Killer, Stalker were picked up in 2010 and published in August/October 2011 and May 2012 respectively.  The other three will be out from Whiskey Creek Press in September and November 2012 and spring 2013. I submitted Lost Legion to the Alaska Professional Communicators annual contest and won an award. I am currently working on a new novel in the series, Blood on the Moon (tentative title). Synopses of my novel can be found at my website and blog.

Author Bio:

A longtime Alaska resident with a Native American-Finnish heritage, Sean E. Thomas graduated in 1970 from Alaska Methodist University with a bachelor of arts in chemistry.  He attended graduate school at the University of Idaho for two years studying organic chemistry, then served eight years as an Army officer, working with missiles and laser weapon systems.  He later went into federal service, working in different endeavors, and retired in 2006.  He published four novels between 2002 and 2003.  After recovering from congestive heart failure, he started writing again. His three newest novels were published fall 2011 through spring 2012.  An avid boater, he has been a Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteer for more than 35
years, teaching boating safety and supporting search and rescue programs.  Member: Sisters in Crime (SinC), Pacific Northwest Writers Assoc, Alaska Professional Communicators, National Federation of Presswoment (NFPW), Alaska 49 Writers, Association of Alaskan Writers and Alaska Writers Guild.


Twitter: AlaskanNovelist Sean E Thomas  (Over 12,900 Followers)
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Member: SinC, Pacific Northwest Writers Assoc, Alaska Professional
Communicators, NFPW, Alaska 49 Writers, Alaska Writers’ Guild.
Alaska Association of Authors, The Alaskan Writer’s Directory

Friday, July 6, 2012

Cynthia Ruchti: An Author Who Offers Hope To All

Everyone’s Story welcomes Cynthia Ruchti. Cynthia is known to many as a beloved author of the novel THEY ALMOST ALWAYS COME HOME, past president of the American Christian Fiction Writers and presently serves as its Professional Relations Liaison, but did you know she’s also a radio show producer, a magazine editor, and a mentor to other writers? What I appreciate the most of Cynthia is her genuine warmth and smile—I will always remember Cynthia taking the time to return my hello at one of the ACFW conferences.

Book Giveaway Special:

Cynthia is offering both one copy of her devotional HIS GRACE IS SUFFICIENT... DECAF IS NOT, plus one copy of her upcoming release of CEDAR CREEK SEASONS to one commenter. Please leave your email in the body of your comment for convenience. Thanks!

A Few Questions For Cynthia:
If I remember correctly, at the 2010 ACFW Conference I heard that before the conference attendees began to arrive that you walked up and down the halls of the hotel and prayed for God’s blessings on the conference and for each of the attendees. I was quite touched by that. Did you receive any blessings during that particular conference that you’d like to share?

I’m sure there are others in ACFW leadership who have done the same, but it was Robin Miller, ACFW’s conference director, who first mentioned the practice to me. After all the details, all the planning, all the scorched midnight oil preparing for a conference of the magnitude and importance of ACFW’s, it seems the perfect prelude to walk the halls, walk through all the rooms, and pray for what will happen in each of those rooms, invoking the Lord’s blessing on even the air we breathe, every conversation, every thought. Prayer has always been an undergirding foundation for ACFW…and for my life. Officially “inviting” the Lord to take over, to reign in every corner, always sets my heart in the right place and lays the groundwork for amazing things to happen. And they always do!

And at the conclusion of the conference, when I served as president, I would seek out the prayer room, which was usually empty at that time, get on my creaky knees, lay my hand on the open Bible in the room, and sing “Praise God from whom all blessings flow!”

On your website you state that you prefer to think of your lifestyle as “active” rather than busy. As an author, a radio show producer (congratulations for accomplishing 33 years of this ministry!), a magazine editor, a mentor to other writers, and last but not least, a wife, mom, and a grandmother, do you ever have moments of juggling-stress? How do you manage to pull it all together?

A better question is, “Do I ever have moments FREE from juggling-stress?” Sure! A few. J My home is an empty nest, but it’s amazing how many distractions and stress-producers still hover. I’m learning to crave quiet, though. I try to find some time every day when I shut off the noise so I can hear God “speak” to my heart. Even music, which is a strong faith-connector for me, can sometimes mask what He really wants me to understand. I take advantage of the fact that we live in a quiet country home. But I’m also constantly intentional about what I’m adding and what I’m removing, what I allow to fill my days and what I boot out. I weigh the value of what I allow to consume my time. As active as I am, I’m walking a more balanced path with fewer outside involvements beyond what God’s called me to do and my family needs me to do. When I’m at my best, I lay a blank sheet of paper before the Lord (in a virtual way) and ask HIM to write my to-do list rather than than scribbling down a million things and asking Him to bless those tasks, many of which don’t fit at all with His plan for my day.

I loved your novel THEY ALMOST ALWAYS COME HOME. It’s a beautiful, moving story that touches the heart, especially for anyone in a marriage/relationship. Did you have to “go” deep into your writer’s zone for the story? Also, because of the novel’s more mainstream type of feel, was it a bit more difficult to sell to a publisher?

Thank you for your kind words about THEY ALMOST ALWAYS COME HOME. Yes, I did dive deep into that one…but I find it imperative for any novel I write. I knew that to authentically express the kinds of emotions Libby experienced, I’d have to allow myself to relive a few things, imagine others, and draw on all the empathy the Lord built into me.

About ten years before the book released, my own husband almost didn’t come home from a disastrous canoe trip to the Canadian wilderness. Two days into his trip, he grew deathly ill with no way to get to help or for him to communicate with the outside world. His rescue came just an hour, the doctors said, before he would have breathed his last.

I revisited some of the gut-twisting trauma of that personal experience when writing Libby’s unique story. It’s been an incredible blessing to hear how the story has had an impact on people, on their relationships, on their approach to grief and disappointment.

I’m grateful that Abingdon Press was open to the idea of a story that didn’t shy away from real and raw concerns with pitch lines like these: She’d leave her husband…if she could find him. He was supposed to be fishing. He was supposed to come home. And she was supposed to care.

A few months ago, a mainstream national magazine spotlighted the book. The women who picked up that magazine and were drawn to order the book have joined other readers who are perpetually in my heart and thoughts.
Life + Imagination + Inspiration + Experiences = A Novel
by Cynthia Ruchti

Elaine, thanks for setting such a lovely “table” and inviting so many fascinating friends of ours to this virtual gathering! And thanks for the invitation to take a few moments to share something from my heart.

For 33 years of writing scripts for a fifteen-minute daily radio drama/devotional broadcast called The Heartbeat of the Home, one of the most frequent questions listeners asked was, “Where do you get all your ideas?”

Now that I’m writing novels, devotional books, and inspirational non-fiction, I’m often asked, “Where do you get all your ideas?”

The short answer is, “Life.”

The view from Cynthia's
front porch, which stirs
her muse and soul
Using a few more words, I might answer, “Life plus imagination.”

A Twitter-length response might be, “Life plus imagination plus inspiration equals a novel.” In fact, pardon me for a moment while I go Tweet that!

Maybe a quote worth stenciling or cross-stitching (used to do that before writing deadlines) would read: “Life plus imagination plus inspiration plus what you’ve been through equals a novel.”

My mom experienced multiple traumas and dramas related to her heart disease.  She had countless heart attacks, every heart procedure known to man, and a few that resembled things seen only in science fiction movies…like the one where the surgeon went in under her arm, opened the ribs, then bore tunnels through her heart muscle with a laser beam to try to create artificial blood flow to dying areas. It didn’t work.

Cynthia's gaze often strays
away from the kitchen sink
as she does dishes--do you
blame her?
She was especially traumatized when she woke from one procedure to find the skin on her chest bruised and burned. They’d had to “shock” her heart six times to bring her back to life when it stopped beating. “Why didn’t they let me go? Why didn't…they…let…me…go?” Hot tears accompanied her grief.

An especially compassionate nurse stood at the hospital bedside and listened as Mom listed every heart episode, every reason for her pain, every surgery and procedure, poke and prod.

Rather than responding with, “How awful for you!” the nurse said, “Oh, Dorothy! The things you’ve come through!”

That line changed Mom’s perspective.

She no longer took inventory of how horrible it had been, but of how many things she’d survived. Rather than dragged down by the anchor of what had been done to her, she was buoyed by the growing raft of circumstances on which she floated.

I wrote a radio script about it. The script became a newspaper article. The family sent a copy to the nurse whose gentle, profound statement changed Mom’s perspective. The nurse wrote that she received the copy and our thank you note on a day when she had her pen raised to sign her resignation from nursing. The story let her know she was making a difference. She’s still nursing today.

The concept became a devotion that will appear next month on The Christian Pulse. It’s working its way into the fabric of a novel that will release in 2014.

And it’s part of the answer to the question, “So, where do you get your ideas?”

Life. Imagination. Inspiration. And what I’ve come through…by God’s grace.

All those factors weave their way into the stories I write. My husband’s near-death experience in the Canadian wilderness helped inspire my debut novel—They Almost Always Come Home . Vacations with my daughter added realism to “The Heart’s Harbor” in A Door County Christmas (no longer available in paperback, but still accessible in digital form) . Life showed up in the devotions I wrote for His Grace is Sufficient…Decaf is Not  . Imagination colored between the lines in “Maybe Us” in the upcoming September release, Cedar Creek Seasons . What I’ve been through appears more than once in two key projects releasing in 2013—a non-fiction book titled Ragged Hope—Surviving the Fallout of Other People’s Choices (Abingdon Press Christian Living) and When the Morning Glory Blooms, a full-length novel from Abingdon Press Fiction.

I’d be honored if readers and prospective readers would join the conversation about how something they’ve come through has become encouragement for others, whether in print or face-to-face. I’d be doubly honored if you’d join me on Facebook , Twitter  , or through my website:

Thanks again for hosting this discussion, Elaine, and for giving me an opportunity to share why and how I write stories of Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark!

Author Bio:
Cynthia Ruchti is an author and speaker who writes stories of Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark. She teaches at writers' conferences and women's retreats. Currently, she serves as professional relations liaison for ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) after serving as president for two years. She and her plot-tweaking husband live in the heart of Wisconsin.

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