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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Zondervan Contract and Playing Dominoes in Prison with Joseph

I'm not one to blog much about strictly personal things. My site is more for exploring God, writing, and fantasy. But after twenty years of submitting agented work to publishers, God has kindly dropped a book contract in my hands. It's funny to reflect on this. I had just finished the second fantasy book in my series when I went to ACFW and chatted with Jim Bell. "Jim, I'm going to take your mentor clinic at Mount Hermon in the spring. Whoops--I don't really have anything suspenseful to share." So, I got the idea to write a psychological suspense for CBA (the other contemporary books were ones I'd written years ago for the commercial market). But I had an idea brewing.

I wrote one novel loosely based on Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians" (also sometimes called "Then There Were None"). I thought it might be a great trademark to take her novels and twist then. So my next obvious choice was "Murder on the Orient Express." I wanted to set it in a small town with people quick to blame and distrust a newcomer. I originally planned to make Billy Thurber really evil, but as I wrote, I kept feeling he was redeemable. I won't give away the plot, but I will say that evolved into more than a story just about how quick we are to judge, weaving in themes of faith, hope, security, and forgiveness. So that's how Someone to Blame was born.

Since writing STB, I've gone back to fantasy, finishing book three in the series and book one in my new YA sci-fi time-travelling-camo-alien-dog adventure. Okay, sorry, I didn't warn you about that. After Madeline L'Engle died, I spoke to so many people who had read A Wrinkle in Time and loved it. I read it as a child, when it first came out, and my daughters read it when they were young. I wrote Time Sniffers as a tribute to that book. It has some similar but different elements, and for an older audience and chock-full of science and physics trivia. (Take a look at the sample chapters on my Web site.) Just think of "The Breakfast Club" meets "The Philadelphia Experiment," and throw in some Star Trek and the movie "Dragonfly." I bet you can't tell me what the lowest note in the universe is. Hint--it comes from a black hole in the Perseus Galaxy.

So, I am so humbled, thrilled, and beside myself (yes, that's me, standing over there across the room!) Here I was writing fantasy and God yanked me aside and said. Oh, BTW, I have a completely different book for you to write (which was so much fun) and then you can go back to fantasy where you belong! (Go to your corner and sit on a toadstool!) I am plotting out my ninth novel, which is a commercial psychological contemporary mystery, but I do have four more books in the fantasy series and an untold number in Time Sniffers to write.

So, for any of you who are frustrated and depressed that you are not published yet, I say, try to enjoy the writing journey while you sit in your prison alongside Joseph. I always pictured myself playing dominoes with him, hoping Pharaoh would hear about our predicament. You know the rest of the story. In God's due time--perfect time--after Joseph spent two years wondering what was going on and why God set him on this path, Joseph was remembered and brought out of prison to do great work. I believe God wanted to give him a season of testing, but also teach him patience and trust in Him. (He did have a bit of a cocky attitude back there with his snazzy coat.) So I think God needed to do some work in him. I know for a fact He did with me. It took me twenty years to get out of jail, but I did have something Joseph didn't have-- a window looking out at the world. Through it, I watched and learned all I could about this writing life and, more importantly, this godly life that includes seasons of uncertainty, of feelings of abandonment. God is good. That's what you learn.

I love it that in the Bible God doesn't say, "I have plans for you." God says, "I KNOW the plans I have for you." This nuance is so huge to me. This means he not only has the plans, but knows He has the plans. Now, that may seem silly, since God knows everything. But, it's just that HE wants us to know that He knows. And that is very reassuring to me.


  1. Great analogy about Joseph and being in prison.

    And yes, God knows the plans He has for us. And they are always good ones.

    I'm so proud of you! God is good.

  2. I love the story of Joseph. I think of him there in his prison every time things are difficult and remember that we can't give up before the end of the story.

    So happy for the good things coming your way.