As a young couple, Larry and I were like so many of our peers: Deeply in love, but young, naïve, and struggling, financially. And, like so many others, step-parenting was an added strain: Larry had won custody of his little girl, and was still struggling to make things work with his ex, who did everything in her power to make those first few years as unbearable as possible! Then, just when I thought I'd exhausted every ounce of patience, a friend invited me to her church. When her minister said "You aren't responsible for what others do to you, but you are responsible for how you react to it," I understood why I'd felt such a powerful urge to say yes to that invitation. Everything he said that night spoke to me, right where I was in that moment. I joined the small parade of parishioners who went forward that night, and acknowledged how truly weak and powerless I am without my loving Savior. I'll never forget the rush of warmth, peace and joy that filled me. And today, when life threatens to overwhelm me, I only need to remember that on May 5, 1979, 8:25 p.m.—because I was washed clean by the blood of Jesus—to renew that sense of calm.
There's nothing else in the world like that feeling. You’re planning a writing retreat where you can only have four other authors. Who would they be and why?
I'd invite Jesus, the author of my salvation, and my husband, who wrote love and acceptance onto my heart. Finally, my daughters would just have to be there, as gentle reminders that I am what and who I am because of the gift of their love. In the midst of a circle like that, how can I help create stories that will bring glory to God!
Do you have a speaking ministry? If so, tell us about that.
One of my greatest joys as an author is sharing learned-the-hard-way lessons about the craft and the industry. There weren't many mentors when I started out—especially not for writers of Christian fiction, so I feel it's important to support authors who are answering that all-important call. Several years ago, a serious health situation forced me to close the Leading Edge Writers Studio, founded at the request of former students who felt that occasional need to revisit the how-to lessons. I genuinely miss seeing that "Ah-ha! Now I get it!" light go on in students' eyes, so I rarely pass up an opportunity to lead a workshop or seminar!
What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you and how did you handle it?
Goodness, there have been so many "Uh-oh!" moments in my life that I'm hard-pressed to name just one! The thing that stands out in my mind at the moment took place many years ago, during my "sing for my supper" years, when I made a point to visit VA hospitals in the cities I visited to perform for wounded Vietnam veterans. (Yes, I’m that old!) I remember one young soldier, paralyzed from the waist down, who was smoking a cigarette that was attached to a tube. Overwhelmed with sadness that his young life had been so dramatically changed because he went into battle to fight for my freedom, I tried to lighten the atmosphere with a joke. "Those things will kill you, you know," I said. (I know, I know. Feel free to join me in blaming my clumsy stupidity on my age—barely 19 at the time.) The soldier raised one eyebrow, which was just about the only thing he could move and stared at me for a long moment. And then he said, "What are you gonna sing for me today?" I grinned and said, "How about Amazing Grace. Maybe I'll develop a little social grace by the time I sing the last bar!" He laughed so hard that the cigarette nearly fell from his lips. I don't think you'll be surprised at what I said: "See? I told you those things could kill you!"
People are always telling me that they’d like to write a book someday. I’m sure they do to you, too. What would you tell someone who came up to you and said that?
Oh, if I had a dollar for every time someone said that…
! I love to see their different reactions when I say "Go for it!" Those who weren't serious reflect wide-eyed fear, if only for a moment; the ones who are serious light up like the big Christmas tree in Times Square, and I can almost hear them thinking: A published author thinks I have a chance.... Most will never start "the books of their hearts." Of those who do, very few will finish—once they realize how much work takes place before we type "Once upon a time…."
An Accidental Family is the 3rd and final novel in my "Accidental Blessings" series for Love Inspired. In the first two books (A. Hero and A. Mom), I featured two of the four daughters, raised single-handedly by widowed Texas rancher, Lamont London. In this book, Dad gets a second chance at love in a suspenseful, heart-tugging story that puts trust, faith, and unresolved issues to the ultimate test.
I love second-chance-at-love stories. My Never Say Never is one. Please give us the first page of the book.
Lamont had never felt more alone in his life.
Strange, since the church bulged with longtime friends, family and neighbors, here by invitation to witness his youngest daughter's wedding.
They stood at the back of the church, just the two of them, waiting arm and arm for their cue to march toward the altar. Lily smiled up at him through the gauzy mist of her veil. "I love Max like crazy, Daddy," she said, tears shimmering in her big green eyes, "but you'll always be my best guy."
He wanted to tell her how beautiful she looked, that he was proud of the woman she'd become, that her mama would have been proud, too. But a sob caught in his throat, so he patted her tiny, white-gloved hand and ground his molars together as those first strains of "The Wedding March" came through the closed chapel doors.
The roses and lilies of the valley in her bouquet began to quake, and he tried again to come up with something, anything that might calm and comfort her. But now the choking sob had made its way to his brain, making him feel just plain stupid as he continued patting her hand.
The doors opened, and a couple hundred parishioners turned simultaneously in their pews, smiling and craning their necks to get that first glimpse of the bride and her dad. Evidently, his hearing wasn't bad for a guy in his fifties, because despite the window-rattling crescendo of the music, he could make out "Isn't she pretty?" and "He's so handsome in a tux" rushing down the aisle like an ocean wave.
Next thing he knew, Lamont found himself at the altar, lifting her veil, kissing her forehead…and handing her over to the man who'd take care of his Lily from this day forth.
"Who gives this woman?" the preacher asked.
They'd practiced this, just last night, but Lamont didn't want to spout the two simple, one-syllable words they had assigned him. "She's not a woman," he wanted to shout instead, "she's my baby girl!"
But after his mechanical "I do," he walked woodenly to his seat and sat tugging at the stiff collar of his tuxedo's white shirt, trying to pay attention as Lily recited her vows and exchanged rings with Max, trying not to blubber like a toddler when the bride and groom shared their first kiss as man and wife.
When they faced the congregation, Lily looked at him and sent a silent reminder: "You'll always be my best guy, Daddy…."
It put a lump in his throat and tears in his eyes, and Lamont tried to hide it by lifting his chin. But Lily saw, and knowing what it meant, blew him a kiss, the way she had since she was a toddler. And, as always, he pretended to catch it and tuck it into his pocket.
"Ladies and gentlemen," the pastor droned, "I give you Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell Sheridan."
All in attendance stood and applauded, including Lamont—though his heart wasn't in it. Because this was it. The end. Tonight, he'd go home to that big house, empty save the constant companionship of his ever-faithful mutt, Obnoxious.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
Facebook, Twitter, and Shoutlife
Loree, I'm looking forward to it.
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