Mercy to Generations

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Image URL at Amazon’s listing

Book review by Glenda Faye Mathes

Legacy of Mercy by Lynn Austin
Bethany; paperback; 400 pages; © 2018

Because I grew to love the main characters in Lynn Austin’s Waves of Mercy (Bethany, 2016), I was thrilled to read more about the lives of Anna and Geesje in her sequel, Legacy of Mercy. My hopes were not disappointed, and new characters found a place in my heart.

The novel is aptly-named as it effectively portrays the ramifications of withholding or extending mercy within family generations. Austin is at her best when showing the emotional turmoil of women who have been deeply wounded. The engaging plot gradually reveals secrets and provides satisfying resolution.

The first-person, present tense point of view from main characters pulls the reader into the story with a sense of active participation, while the first-person, past tense point of view from secondary characters helps keep perspective among the multiple narrators.

Geesje functions as a believable truth-teller, with wisdom based on personal losses and authentic faith. Her advice and observations in a multitude of situations reflect a soundly biblical perspective.

Austin’s literary touches delight the reader and help convey character. When Geesje meets Dominie Den Herder, she notes that he “has to duck his head as he enters the door of my tiny house. He looks around as if the house is for sale and he’s trying to decide if he will buy it.” While he’s a “handsome, distinguished-looking man,” he “carries himself with the rigid posture of royalty. He doesn’t return my smile, and his expression is one of a man who has been squinting into bright sunlight all his life.”

Another nice touch occurs when Mrs. Marusak describes the change in Christina after a year of marriage: “It was as if Jack had pulled a stopper from a sink full of water and drained all the life from her.”

And when Anna realizes the depth of another young woman’s deception, she observes: “Clarice is as phony as this beautiful conservatory—seemingly green and lush and fragrant, when the cold reality beyond the glass is startlingly different.”

This is another of Lynn Austin’s novels that combines an entertaining plot and delightful literary touches with a sound biblical perspective. Highly recommended!

NOTE: As a member of the launch team for Legacy of Mercy, this reviewer received a complimentary Kindle copy of the book prior to its October 2, 2018, release.

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The Delight and Truth of Fiction

flaming-mapleWilliam Boekestein, pastor of Immanuel Fellowship Church in Kalamazoo, MI, was recently appointed as the social media coordinator for Reformed Fellowship, publisher of the The Outlook. In his continuing task to help Reformed Fellowship build an online presence and engage meaningful internet discussion, he posted yesterday (October 20, 2016) a link to my article on Fiction’s Delight and Truth.

I wrote the article over a year ago, and it appeared in 2015’s November issue. At the risk of sounding like a presidential candidate, I felt then and I still feel it is one of the best things I’ve ever written. In my defense, I submit what Leland Ryken (longtime professor of English at Wheaton College) wrote after I shared it with him:

Your essay is what I call a moon shot in my classes. It is absolutely perfect as a complete coverage of the material in a small compass. Congratulations on work well done. You did it better than I could have.

Considering Leland’s prolific writings on the subject and his astounding output as an author, I take this as the highest compliment. And I give all praise and glory to God, the I AM who writes all our stories as part of His great and never-ending story.

 

 

Living Echoes – it is finished

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This photo I took some years ago reminds me of a scene in my novel, Living Echoes.

Almost six years since the initial idea glimmered in my mind, Living Echoes is finally a completed novel.

For about half that time, I didn’t know how it would end. Every word of the last phrase was clear, except the proper noun subject. It was only as I wrote that the ending crystallized.

Then it took me about another couple of years to write to that point. During recent months, I’ve been fine-tuning the manuscript and running it through my online critique group. Certain spots that needed work and ways to fix them have been occurring to me. But this morning, I feel as if the novel is finished. Although it may need a little tweaking or polishing here and there, I have confidence that the work as a whole is complete. Other authors may understand this feeling.

Living Echoes features a complex plot and construction. The first section, Echoes, contains chapters consisting of short “Now” scenes followed by longer “Then” scenes. The second section, Living, goes forward in current time from the previous chapter.

The book begins with the protagonist, Jillian Norris Gardner, sustaining severe injuries in an accident. As scenes unfold, readers discover her multi-faceted crisis on physical, marital, and spiritual levels. And everything is complicated by her brain injury.

One reason this novel took so long to write is due to the extensive research required for its realistic portrayal of brain injury. I didn’t want readers who have experienced it themselves or in a loved one to feel cheated. Those experiences vary widely. And while Jillian’s story may differ from a reader’s, it rings true. At the same time, experiences of infidelity occur on a wide-ranging spectrum. I didn’t want readers to feel as if I sugar-coated the problem or applied a band-aid. Although Jillian’s resolution may not or should not reflect that of readers, it too is true. This novel is a unique and fictional story, but I believe many readers will feel it reflects aspects of their own.

Just as the novel itself consists of two parts, its fruition includes two major aspects: writing and publishing. With the hard work of writing the manuscript behind me, I’m ready to tackle the tough job of shopping it to publishers.

Critique sandwiches

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Image from thesocialjeep.com

Next time you see a writer, you may want to offer a sandwich. If you’re meeting with a group of writers, bring a platter of sandwiches.

I’m talking about the sandwich method of critique recommended by Eva Marie Everson and Janice Elsheimer in Word Weavers, a small book describing how Word Weavers International began as well as how to start and function within a local chapter.

Simply put, the sandwich approach places constructive criticism between two layers of positive praise, like meat between slices of bread. You begin a critique by noting something you liked or something the writer did well. Then you point out things that could be improved, suggesting ways to do that. Conclude by saying something positive about the piece.

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The Des Moines Word Weavers and guest speaker, taken when I (unfortunately) was not present.

My Word Weavers group employs the sandwich method. We try to couch constructive criticism within encouraging comments. This allows us to affirm each other while honing craft.

Over my years as a writer, I’ve participated in many critique experiences. And I must say: some people are better at this than others.

People frequently skip right over the first slice of bread and get right to what they view as the meat. They point out every typo and awkward construction, often repeating what others have already said. Then they end with a negative comment, leaving off that last slice of bread. What happens when you try to eat a sandwich without any bread? It can be pretty messy, can’t it?

The sandwich approach is not unique to Word Weavers; other organizations also utilize it effectively. On this page, Rob Kelly writes about using it in his Toastmasters group and describes the three steps of the method. Some writers within the business community, such as Roger Schwarz, suggest replacing the sandwich method with a more direct approach.

Functioning as an effective team leader in a corporate context, however, is very different from assessing someone’s speaking or writing. In those situations, sandwiches remain palatable and nourishing food.

Writers work primarily in isolation. They don’t have a boss coming by to give them a verbal pat on the back. They don’t receive promotions or performance awards. They may see some sales reports, but they rarely see people actually reading and enjoying their books. Most only occasionally hear compliments about something they’ve written.

While writers differ greatly in personality and self-esteem, their artistic temperament makes them in general a sensitive bunch. Most feel vulnerable within a critique context. It takes courage to share something you’ve written for public view and criticism.

Because words gestate in the womb of the writer’s mind before the finished product is birthed, authors often view written work as their “baby” (see this post on the Birth of a Book, relating how my Matthew juvenile fiction series came into being).

Who wants to offer their precious baby on the altar of criticism? Who wants to see it slashed and bleeding before their very eyes?

Harsh criticism not only seems like an attack on the work, it also feels like a personal attack against the writer. Authors pour themselves into their work. Writing isn’t a hobby or a 9 to 5 job for them. It’s their lifeblood. They eat words and drink inspiration. They bleed ink.

Many writers become reluctant speakers. They know it’s a necessary part of the marketing and promotion they must do. Perhaps they feel God is calling them to share some of what they’re learning. It’s wonderful to travel and meet other people, but timid speakers may prefer to stay home and weave words.

When critiquing someone’s writing or speaking, it’s easy to point out the faults. It’s more difficult to think of something encouraging to say. But it’s far more important.

Writers require affirmation. How can they know they are doing their work well if people don’t tell them? They may frequently remind themselves that they’re working for the Lord, not for men (Colossians 3:23), but how will they know that effort is effective if God’s image-bearers don’t share ways their hearts are touched?

If you have an opportunity to critique a writer, don’t discard the bread and throw only meat, as if the writer is a ferocious beast in a cage. Think about what you can say that’s positive, express criticism in a constructive way to help the writer improve the work, and then end with a bit of praise that will stick in the writer’s mind. Such a sandwich will provide the nutrition necessary for joyful growth.

Fiction’s Delight and Truth

2015-06-nov-dec-outlook-coverAn article I wrote about why Christians should read fiction appears in the November issue of The Outlook. You can page through this online preview to read that article as well as a lovely review of my Matthew books.

Dedicating Matthew, Take Three

Wes-me-1What fun to place the final Matthew in the Middle book into the hands of the grandson to whom it’s dedicated! The first book in the series, Matthew Muddles Through, is dedicated to my oldest grandson. The second book, Matthew Makes Strides, is dedicated to  my second grandson. And this third book, Matthew Moves Ahead, is dedicated to my third grandson. The boys are all brothers, sons of my oldest son.

Matthew began as an experiment in a creative writing class, but grew over the years to a vibrant book boy. This third novel, Matthew Moves Ahead, includes the following “Birth of a Book” section at the back:

My book boy Matthew grew for more years than his age. Although Matthew is eleven, his story is thirteen.

He was an experiment, conceived in a fiction writing course I took in 2002. I challenged myself to write in a point of view very different from personal experience. Could a boring and sedentary mature woman write the first-person perspective of an imaginative and active young boy?

I named that embryo Caleb to reflect the faithfulness and zeal of the biblical believer who urged the Israelites to fight the giants and enter the Promised Land (Numbers 13:30), and who at eighty-five years of age remained eager to fight for the Lord (Joshua 14:6-12). Military matters interested Caleb, the middle child in a minister’s family, who befriended a Vietnam veteran named Fred Winters.

The initial short story began with Caleb washing his toy soldiers in the bathroom sink and went on to show him playing a basketball game with his older brother, while Dad spoke to Mr. Winters in the kitchen. I hadn’t planned that basketball game. It just happened.

I loved this imaginary family. And my instructor loved the story, calling the scene with the two boys playing basketball in the cold “beautiful.” He suggested I submit another Caleb narrative as my next assignment.

That second short story described the chaos of a Sunday morning when everything goes wrong. Later that day, Mr. Winters shared a glimpse of his tormented past, and Caleb witnessed to him about the truths of God’s word and how those things are worth fighting—and dying—for. The story concludes with the two going upstairs for apple pie.

Readers of Matthew Muddles Through will recognize these stories in Chapters 10, 14, and 16 of that book.

My book boy grew in the womb of my imagination until he was born in 2007 as Matthew Henry Vos. Exactly like parents who decide on the right name once they see the baby, I knew this was the perfect choice.

But the poor fellow experienced a sickly childhood, suffering through innumerable surgeries and lengthy hospitalizations. Blog reflections on these can be found on my website: glendafayemathes.com.

Plans for his entrance into society changed from one novel to four, to three, and back and forth between four and three a few more times.

Matthew survived preliminary auditions in 2009 and flew to the big city in 2010 to make a name for himself, but returned home feeling rejected. Occasionally I visited him while he languished in recovery.

Until Thanksgiving of 2013, when my oldest grandson asked, “Grandma, did you ever finish that story about Matthew?”

Well! If my grandson wanted to read Matthew’s story, I wanted to give it to him before he lost interest. And he was almost a teenager. I determined to place the first book in his hands for his thirteenth birthday.

I did.

Matthew now lives in the hearts and minds of more readers than I’d ever imagined.

I love hearing from readers. Moises read the first two books and has been begging his day for the third one for months. Recently I received this message from Moises (age 9), who lives in California:

Dear Glenda Faye Mathes,

Thank you for the books you wrote. They are very good books. I liked them a lot! They are the best books I have ever read! I liked them because they are Christian and Reformed. I liked them too because they were very interesting! There were no bad words or bad pictures in them! I learned not to be selfish, to obey our parents, not to get angry at them, and to help others whenever they are hurt!

Moises

After church services, Asher often came up to me with shining eyes. “Mrs. Mathes, Mrs. Mathes. We’re reading your book!” Only all summer, it was: “Mrs. Mathes, Mrs. Mathes. When will your next book be ready?”

It’s finally here, Asher. Enjoy.

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Wes was happy to receive his signed copy of Matthew Moves Ahead. What do you like about the books? Please comment below.

Dedicating Matthew, Take Two

Logan-MMS-2The second novel about my “book boy” Matthew is dedicated to my second grandson, Logan. During this past week, I had the opportunity to present a copy of the book to him.

Putting a copy in his hands was almost as much fun as writing this stimulating story. Others who’ve read the book find it exciting as well. This is what Douglas Bond, who’s written Duncan’s War and other works of historical fiction, says:

Glenda Faye Mathes writes with energy and intentionality. When she writes about a coming tornado, it feels so real, I start glancing nervously out the window. Young people will feel like the author knows them, is inside their heads, so intimate is her knowledge of her readers. This is a frank and honest portrayal of a preacher’s kid, but one that speaks to the extraordinary challenges and joys of ordinary growing up. Highly recommended.

This is a huge compliment, coming from the author of engaging nonfiction and many intensely thrilling novels.

Another excellent writer provided a second meaningful endorsement. Simonetta Carr, author of Christian Biographies for Young Readers, writes:

Well written and captivating, this book—as the previous one in the series—takes us through the everyday life of Matthew Vos, an inquiring and thoughtful fifth grader who faces many typical challenges of a middle child and “Preacher’s Kid.” There are surprises along the way, and important lessons as Matthew strives to overcome his fears and to be more like the heroes he admires. I was impressed by the author’s ability to describe in a very plausible and heartfelt manner the inner thoughts of a young child. Although the book is set in a specific situation (a Dutch Reformed community in 1996 America), many children in different circumstances will easily identify with Matthew’s feelings and struggles.

Simonetta’s books are beautiful with rich illustrations. They include the San Diego Book Awards finalists, John Owen and Lady Jane Grey, and winner of the award, Anselm of Canterbury.

Receiving these wonderful endorsements from excellent writers thrilled me, but I also hoped the book’s portrayals of military aspects and heroism were realistic and compelling.

Paul T. Berghaus is a West Point graduate and U.S. Army Chaplain, who has been deployed in combat situations and currently serves as Ethics Instructor and Infantry Chapel Pastor at Ft. Benning, GA. He writes:

Matthew Makes Strides quickly captured my attention and provoked thoughts and emotions that are sympathetic with those of several characters in the story. Glenda Faye Mathes does an excellent job portraying the trauma, excitement, and relief of events where great danger and courage are present. Her chapters are rich in narration, imagery, momentum, and emotion. They also contain a good amount of humor to guard against overly heavy intensity. I am thankful that she is writing Matt’s story and sharing it with readers of all ages, and I applaud her for taking up topics of fear, loss, courage, and authentic masculinity.

In his communication with me, Chaplain Berghaus confirmed that my portrayals in the story exactly captured the characteristics and emotions of military veterans and memorial services. He even noted how the military veteran helping Matthew cope with being a hero brought healing to the veteran himself. This subtle theme may escape most young readers, but I was delighted when an experienced military man recognized it.

Logan-MMSI’m so thankful these people enjoyed and appreciated this second novel in Matthew’s story, and I hope my all grandsons and you will too!

You can find Matthew Makes Strides, as well as Matthew Muddles Through, the first book of the Matthew in the Middle series, on Amazon.

Matthew two, too

Soon, very soon I hope, the second novel in my Matthew in the Middle series will be available.

PrintThe first novel, Matthew Muddles Through, is already available on Amazon. In this story, readers meet Matthew and his family, which includes a dad who’s a minister, a mom who’s sick all the time, an older brother who harasses Matthew, and a younger brother who annoys him. But he struggles with difficulties on more than just the home front. Trouble swirls around him in every part of his world. Although he’s longed for three years to attend the 1996 Cadet International Camporee, he wonders if he’ll ever go.

In the second novel, Matthew Makes Strides on multiple levels. He meets new people, becomes a faster runner, and draws closer to his Camporee dream. But he really progresses in overcoming his fears and in his understanding about what it means to be a hero.

Because this second novel explores the concept of courage, and because part of that involves Matthew’s deepening friendship with a veteran, I wanted the professional opinion of a military expert. I asked an Army chaplain, a West Point graduate with combat experience who now teaches ethics, if he’d be willing to review some chapters. He was. And he sent me the most encouraging message I’d ever received that said (in part):

The chapters quickly captured my attention and provoked thoughts and emotions that are sympathetic with those of several characters in the story…. Your description of the accident…especially the fear, injuries, and actions of [multiple characters] prompted in a cathartic way several memories of my and my soldiers’ experiences in Iraq. You did an excellent job describing and portraying the trauma, excitement, and relief of events where there is great danger and courage present.
You also did a wonderful job introducing [the veteran] to the circumstances of this particular event as a wounded yet compassionate figure who is being healed while he helps heal Matt. I found his conversation with Matt to be very touching and also appropriate. He could have said more about courage, heroism, and his combat experience, but what he did say was just the right amount for a boy of Matt’s age and for your audience to hear.
Lastly, I thought the chapter on the Memorial Day flag-raising ceremony was very good. You rightly begin it with the rifle salute and playing of Taps. Those two parts of every memorial or funeral service typically occur at the end of the service, but for all practical purposes they are the beginning and the invocation of the emotions held unexpressed up to that point. In the dozens of services I have performed, the rifle salute and Taps are followed by the sobs of those who have lost those whom they love.
Your chapters are rich in narration, imagery, momentum, and emotion. They also contain a good amount of humor to guard against overly heavy emotion or intensity. I am thankful that you are writing Matt’s story and sharing it with your readers of all ages. I applaud you for taking up the topics of courage, authentic masculinity, fear, and loss. I pray that the Lord will use these books as well as the other things you have written on these topics to comfort and encourage many others. You certainly did that for me.

How wonderfully his words encouraged me! They reinforced my commitment to keep marketing Matthew Muddles Through, the first novel in the Matthew in the Middles series, and made me eager to share Matthew’s continuing story with you when Matthew Makes Strides, the second novel in the series, becomes available, too. Soon. May it please God.

Self-publishing: double-checking

DSCN2130Do you make lists when you’re preparing for a trip? I do, even if only in my mind. I think about specific things I need to do before I leave. I figure out what I should wear for each day or function, and I write down items I’ll need that I might forget to bring along. And during the packing process, I double-check everything.

Double-checking is also part of the self-publishing journey. It’s a huge factor in creating a finished product that looks professional rather than self-published.

I’ve offered advice about self-publishing packing and expenses, and in this post I’ll address the comprehensive issue of double-checking.

Before I uploaded my completed manuscript (MS) for Matthew Muddles Through, I double-checked it with these steps:

1. Personal Revision

This is the step writers repeatedly hear about as “revision, revision, revision” and it can’t be stressed enough. Go through your work again and again. Then go through it some more. Make sure it says exactly what you want it to say.

Look for word “echoes” (repeated words in close proximity), weak verbs (is, was, had), excessive “ing” words (don’t use “was looking” when “looked” will do), and “ly” adverbs (avoid descriptors such as “spoke harshly” and convey harsh speech through the words themselves or in an action beat).

What’s an action beat, you ask? That’s a good question. I learned how to use action beats well through the wise counsel of my online critique group (more about critiques in a moment). An action beat identifies the speaker and helps create a visual in the reader’s mind.

Let’s look at the following copyrighted excerpt from the third novel in my Matthew in the Middle series, Matthew Moves Ahead (Do not copy or paste or imitate this excerpt in any way; however, feel free to link to or share this blog post with appropriate credit to me, Glenda Faye Mathes, as the author. [Sorry for the legal interruption, necessary in this twisted world.]):

“Guns don’t bother me.” Sergeant Winters’s spoon scraped his bowl. “Just the way some people use them. A gun’s a tool. And any tool can be used for good or for evil.”

Mom tilted her head. “That’s very profound, Fred.”

“I did lots of hunting when I was a youngster. I still have the gun I used for deer hunting when I was in junior high.”

“Junior high?” I swiveled toward him. “You hunted when you were my age?”

“Let’s see.” Sergeant Winters squinted. “You’re in fifth grade, right?”

“Well, technically, sixth grade since it’s summer vacation—”

“Sixth grade was the first year I went deer hunting.” He pushed his chair away from the table. “But my daddy took me squirrel hunting when I was a lot younger.”

“Did you shoot a deer when you were in sixth grade?”

He shook his head. “I never even saw one that first year. We went with a big group of my relatives and I was a driver.”

My jaw dropped. “You drove a car when you were my age?”

“No, no.” Mr. Wilson chuckled. “A driver is someone—usually the snot-nosed kid—who walks through the woods and drives the deer ahead of him,” he made shooing motions with his hands, “toward the posters—the guys standing on the other side of the woods ready to shoot the deer when they come out.”

“Oh.” Walking toward people ready to shoot in your direction sounded very dangerous to me, but I wasn’t about to say that in front of Mom.

Do you see the action beats in the above excerpt? Notice how much work they do? They identify the speaker (crucial in group scenes like this discussion among several people around a dinner table). Action beats help create visuals and convey emotion. They intuitively provide natural breaks in a speaker’s words. They’re a lot more effective than “he said, she said,” although there’s certainly a place for that kind of invisible dialogue tag as well. Some people advise sticking to the invisible tags; others advocate nothing but action beats. I counsel you to go with your gut: use action beats as long as they work well, don’t be afraid to sprinkle in a few invisible dialogue tags, and avoid either when the speaker and scene are apparent.

You can thank me for the free action beat lesson by linking to this blog. Now, as promised, here’s more on that critique group mentioned earlier.

2. Group Critique

A big benefit of attending writing conferences is networking, and sometimes that networking yields the sweet fruit of a critique group. I can’t stress enough the value of participating in a group, whether online or physical, in which members submit writing and critique each other’s work.

I’m blessed to belong to both online and physical groups. My longtime writing buddy, Angela, and I have been meeting regularly since we first met in a creative writing class more than twenty years ago. My other good writing buddy, Susan, and I met at a mentoring retreat six years ago. Susan inducted Angela and me into an existing online critique group (which, coincidentally, included several members who had attended the same mentoring retreat where I met Susan but not them). About a year ago, the three of us became members of a newly-formed local chapter of Word Weavers. Check the Word Weavers website for a chapter in your area.

All groups have their own rules or guidelines, but each provides an avenue for writers to submit short sections of work for critique and to critique other writers’ work. You can learn a lot from both aspects of the process. Others point out your common mistakes and suggest great ways to improve your work. Critiquing other people’s work expands your horizons in terms of genre and style as well as introducing you to new techniques. In my online critique group, I love the Trini expressions and customs that come to life in Angela Joseph‘s trilogy based in Trinidad. I love traveling through the Gateway to Gannah in Yvonne Anderson‘s books. And I love entering the lives of Susan Lawrence‘s realistic characters, like Emily.

You can find like-minded writers at conferences, perhaps discovering someone who lives close enough to meet regularly with each other. Or, more likely, finding people with whom you feel an affinity and can form an online group through social sites such as Yahoo. If you can’t get to a conference, try searching Yahoo or a similar network for existing groups that might be a good fit for you.

Running your manuscript through a critique group saves numerous errors and improves your work exponentially. It’s amazing what mistakes another pair of eyes sees. Even when five or six people read my work, they make unique contributions. It often happens that someone will catch something all the others missed. Every reader comes with personal preconceptions and experiences that influence his or her reading, and hearing the different perspectives is invaluable. You realize that you aren’t being as clear as you could be at a certain point, or that someone with a different background will understand a particular thing very differently than you do.

If you run your MS through a critique group, you’ll be uploading (or submitting to a publisher) a much cleaner MS. No question.

You can thank me for this free advice about critique groups by buying my books.

3. Professional Proof

Finally, I highly recommend paying a professional to proofread your manuscript. Your high school daughter may be getting all As in English composition, but I guarantee a professional is going to do a far better job of proofing your work.

This will increase your cost, but it’s worth the money to me for professional expertise that greatly improves the finished product. Your critique friends will already have caught a lot of stuff, but they may not know as many grammar rules or be familiar with industry standards. And they’ll be reading your work in disjointed segments, while a professional plowing through the entire MS notices inconsistencies with previous chapters.

Many, many professional proofreaders and editors have websites. You should be able to find one in an online search. Most of them seem pricey and I’d be leery of simply choosing an online service with no knowledge of the quality of their work. I suggest first tapping into your network of writing friends for advice.

If you still don’t believe in the importance of proofreading, you may change your mind and will at least get a laugh out of this video posted by Michael Hyatt on his website.

You can thank me for the laugh and the free advice on proofreading by hopping over to Amazon and leaving some positive reviews on my books.

Dedicating Matthew

DSCN4896Last Thanksgiving, my oldest grandson asked, “Grandma, did you ever finish that story about Matthew?”

His question motivated me to resurrect my poor book-boy, who’d languished too long in a forgotten ward of the hospital. I started completely over on my Matthew in the Middle series, reorganizing it for the umpteenth time and finally deciding on three novels.

Matthew moved into my life, consuming my thoughts and my time. Words poured onto pages in a torrent more forceful than Niagara Falls. Weekly word counts creeping from around 5,000 to over 9,000, and then to an astounding 18,133 words in one week! In six weeks, I’d written nearly 67,000 words.

My goal was to finish the series and get the first novel published in time to put a hard copy into the hands of my oldest grandson on his 13th birthday. By God’s grace, I did it. This week I handed my grandson the first book in the Matthew series, Matthew Muddles Through. It’s dedicated to Gabe, the first person to hear and love Matthew’s story.

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