2020: A Brave New Year

Sunlit Path1

Another year has come and gone.  Having completed the second book of my BELLA ghost story series, I finished out 2019 flushed with success and eager to tackle new projects.  My mind teemed with images for Bella’s continuing saga, along with a slew of ideas for two new novels and a children’s series.  Inspired and revitalized, I couldn’t wait to get started.  In addition, I’d finally discovered an exercise regimen I could stick with and already saw results.   At last, I thought, I have my act together.  Bring it on, 2020!

I entered the new year with my usual mix of anticipation and dogged resolve, making resolutions I knew would crash and burn like the Hindenburg before the month was out.  However, it’s a new year, a new beginning.  With lots of determination and hard work, 2020 should bring even more ideas, soaring book sales, and a slim new me, bursting with energy and looking younger than I did twenty years ago!

Cloud over Eden

Ever the dreamer.  January 2 found me brooding and depressed.  Storm clouds gathered over my tranquil garden as Reality reared her ugly head.  My books do not, and perhaps never will, provide a living.  Thank heaven for the budding eBay store and monthly pension that are putting food on the table.  And the slim, energetic new me?  Last month I pored over pictures of myself twenty years ago, when hiking and climbing in the Cascade range kept the pounds off and the waistline trim.  But I have to face the fact I’m older now, the back is going, and I can’t move fast enough anymore to burn off those chocolate chip cookies like I did when I was twenty.

I set those lofty goals with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek; yet I didn’t deserve to see them shot down like clay pigeons on a firing range.  Scores of blog posts attest to the fact that writing is not the fast path to financial independence.   I knew that, even as I took those first faltering steps into indie publishing.  Writing a book consumes a lot of time.  You face fierce competition, and even after you’ve edited and rewritten, polished and refined, it’s never quite enough. Your work may never be discovered or appreciated.  Only a fortunate few attain those coveted publishing contracts and six-figure advances.  Self-publishing costs money that most authors likely will never recover.

So why even bother?

Because my fertile imagination explodes with plot after plot peopled with fascinating characters itching to tell me their stories.  Because colorful and fantastic worlds as yet nonexistent await my creative command.  Because, when I sit down at my desk with a cup of hot cocoa on a blustery winter night and put images into words, I come alive.  Because I love to write!

I’ve made new resolutions, or rather, redefined the old ones.  No, I can’t move as fast as I did twenty years ago—but I can still move and I’m sticking with my regimen.  Last week I read about a ninety-something-year-old woman who runs marathons!   If she can do that, I decided, I should be able to whip myself back into good enough shape to climb Mt. Hood again.   As for writing:  For starters, I need to stop making unfair comparisons.  After releasing Warrior Queen of Ha-Ran-Fel, I fretted and stewed while watching the ratings.  I didn’t enjoy writing anymore and became so despondent I couldn’t even think.  But then I realized I was comparing myself to authors I met at conferences, most of whom specialized in romance or suspense and had written several books, whereas I had just finished my first one.  I also realized I needed to develop a marketing plan and learn to use Amazon’s tools.  Finally, I needed to relax, enjoy my craft, continue to refine my writing style, and just turn everything over to the Lord.

Tree in Crack

Bloom where you are planted, I’ve always been told.  Nature abounds with creatures that, had they any say concerning their location, would probably demand a transfer.  Some die while others overcome and thrive.  Those who thrive bless and beautify their world.  I personally see life as a journey down an inviting path.  While you don’t know what awaits you around the next bend, you look forward to it and even quicken your pace as the bend comes into view.

Some time ago I put together a collage of some of my favorite places.  My photography skills need some honing (which I also intend to do this year), but the words on the glass reflect the way I viewed life then and intend to view it in 2020:  Live every day to the fullest.  Dance like no one is watching.  Love like you have never been hurt.  Sing like no one is listening.  To that I would add, write as if the whole world will read your story.  Give your readers your best effort; they deserve it!

WordsToLiveBy

I can’t wait to see what 2020 brings!  And in the meantime I’ll remain. . .ever hopeful and Ever the Dreamer!

© Everthedreamer, 2020 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given.

The Meaning of Christmas

Lighted Church

Like so many others, I got caught up in the busy-ness of the holiday season.  Black Friday kicked off the Christmas countdown with its jam-packed stores and traffic jams.  Since then it’s hurry hurry hurry, run run run!  Certainly no room for peace on earth, goodwill toward men!

Last night while browsing brainy quotes for my Twitter feed I came across these gems that reminded me of what Christmas truly means,  I would like to share them with you and I hope they bless you as much as they blessed me:

The Christian faith can never be separated from the soil of sacred events, from the choice made by God, who wanted to speak to us, to become man, to die and rise again, in a particular place and at a particular time.
Pope Benedict XVI

And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.   Jesus Christ

Wreath Nativity

Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government is upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.   Isaiah 9:6

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved. John 3: 16,17

Lighted Angel

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.  Isaiah 9:2

When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?
Gilbert K. Chesterton

Wise Men

Finding the real joy of Christmas comes not in the hurrying and the scurrying to get more done, nor is it found in the purchasing of gifts. We find real joy when we make the Savior the focus of the season.
Thomas S. Monson

There is no better time than now, this very Christmas season, for all of us to rededicate ourselves to the principles taught by Jesus the Christ. It is the time to love the Lord, our God, with all our heart – and our neighbors as ourselves.
Thomas S. Monson

What will you and I give for Christmas this year? Let us in our lives give to our Lord and Savior the gift of gratitude by living His teachings and following in His footsteps.
Thomas S. Monson

Magi crib blue silhouette

The supernatural birth of Christ, his miracles, his resurrection and ascension, remain eternal truths, whatever doubts may be cast on their reality as historical facts.
David Friedrich Strauss

The real evidence for Jesus and Christianity is in how Jesus and the Christianity based on him manifest themselves in the lives of practicing Christians.
Lionel Blue

And, of course, Gratitude figures into the equation in a big way:

Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.
Zig Ziglar

Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.
Brian Tracy

Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.
William Arthur Ward

When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.
Gilbert K. Chesterton

The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in his own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude.
Joseph B. Wirthlin

Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.
Denis Waitley

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.
Marcus Tullius Cicero

Never lose the childlike wonder. Show gratitude… Don’t complain; just work harder… Never give up.
Randy Pausch

At the age of 18, I made up my mind to never have another bad day in my life. I dove into a endless sea of gratitude from which I’ve never emerged.
Patch Adams

The dominant characteristic of an authentic spiritual life is the gratitude that flows from trust – not only for all the gifts that I receive from God, but gratitude for all the suffering. Because in that purifying experience, suffering has often been the shortest path to intimacy with God.
Brennan Manning

Everything we do should be a result of our gratitude for what God has done for us.
Lauryn Hill

God’s blessings upon you during this holiday season and throughout the coming year!

Ocean sunset 4

Rise Above It

 

Altitude

Just wanted to pass along this thought from Cara Alwill Leyba:

Don’t get angry or enraged or insulted.  Rise above the [nonsense].  Flick your light back on and shine it brighter than ever, and fall so deeply in love with your own life that anyone who tried to wrong you becomes a laughable, ridiculous, distant memory.

Wishing all of you hope, encouragement, love, and peace!

The Final Victory

M4 IfWeConfess

Many people, upon learning that I had been delivered from crippling panic attacks through a relationship with and the power of the Lord Jesus Christ, turned away in disappointment.  They had hoped for a wonder drug, some kind of 12-step program, or even a mantra they could use to stave off the attacks.  None of those methods ever worked for me.  Jesus Christ, the bondage breaker, broke that awful grip and set me truly free.

Though raised in a godly family, I had no concept of the power and authority in the name of Jesus Christ.  I had heard the Scriptures referred to as the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) but never been taught how to wield that sword.  Indeed, I considered the whole armor of God described in Ephesians 6 a figurative concept.  I mean, how do you put on a “belt of truth,” a “breastplate of righteousness,” or shoes composed of the “gospel of peace,” or a “helmet of salvation.”  The shield of faith made some sense, but the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, did not.  I had never learned to speak Scripture against an attack.  Thus I floundered, paralyzed, for 16 years, unable to function socially or even personally.

My situation reached a head one dark October night in 1991.  As I contemplated suicide God spoke, not audibly but as a thought placed in my mind: Have you ever truly lived for Me?  I answered “No,” and a second thought took shape: Have you ever truly trusted Me?  After my second “No” God asked, Are you ready to trust Me now?

This time I responded, “Yes,” knelt beside my bed and poured out my heart to God.  I came to Him on His terms, acknowledged my sin and need for a Savior, confessed my sins, and submitted my life and will to Jesus Christ.

We naturally hope that one prayer will ‘fix’ everything; that, having committed everything to the Lord, He will now go before us, plowing all the obstacles off life’s path and leaving only the good.  If He did that, however, we would not need Him anymore.  When things go too well, our prayer life tends to suffer and devotion to God often wanes.  Conversely, the same can occur when our situation remains the same or worsens, and we feel our prayers are futile and God does not care.  This is why Scripture admonishes us to pray without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:17), to watch and pray (Matt. 26:41), to come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:16).  Prayer is our lifeline, our connection with God.  Through it we not only bring our requests to Him, He also speaks to us.  That heartfelt prayer was the first of countless more I would offer over the rest of my life.

I awoke the next morning unusually refreshed, cautiously optimistic but with renewed hope, a hope that faded when that day turned out like all the rest.  I floundered in the same rut, suffering still another attack at noon in a fast-food drive-thru.  At the end of the day I left my job, numb and defeated.

Reaching home, I pulled up to my mailbox.  It held but a single item: a flyer from the women’s ministry at the church I had vowed never to enter again.  At seven that evening a guest speaker was giving a talk on overcoming negative circumstances in one’s life.  I first considered throwing it away.  After all, I had listened to several “self-help” speeches over the years.  As I entered my house, however, it slowly dawned on me that a miracle had occurred.  I had left that church six months ago with no further communication with anyone, yet someone there remembered and reached out to me.  That I had received only that piece of mail increased its significance.  God had indeed intervened, He had not forsaken me!

I grabbed a quick supper, changed my clothes, and drove to the church.  The room was full and, feeling my customary reticence and the knots forming in my throat and stomach, I settled into a chair near the door.

I honestly do not remember much of Marguerite’s speech, but in her voice and countenance I saw genuine warmth, compassion, kindness, and joy.  She positively radiated Christ’s love.  I decided to try to meet with her.

After her talk the women flocked around her.  I stood on the outside, moving ahead when I could, only to have someone crowd in front.  Twenty minutes passed.  The crowd never lessened.  Perhaps the church would give me her contact information later, I thought, and started to turn away.

At that moment, Marguerite turned and gave me the warmest, kindest smile I had ever seen.  “Could I talk to you?” I faltered, and she laid her hand on my arm and guided me to a seat where we could talk alone.

I thought I would have to confess every sin I had ever committed and the entire string of events leading to my deplorable state.  But as we sat down she told me, “God is greater than anything that comes against us.”

With that sentence indescribable warmth flooded my soul.  Marguerite asked about my situation and I described the panic attacks.

“You are under attack by a spirit of fear,” she told me.  “Panic is a spirit of fear; but as a believer in Jesus you have authority over that spirit, in the name of Jesus, to bind it away from you.”

This blew me away.  Bind panic?  It didn’t seem possible.  No church I had ever attended taught anything like that.

Marguerite referred me to 2 Timothy: 1: 7: For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

She asked about my situation in Christ.  Omitting the suicide episode, I described my commitment the evening before.  She told me then that, whenever the panic manifested, I should speak to that spirit: “In the name of Jesus Christ I bind you, foul spirit of fear, away from me.  In Jesus’ name, begone and do not return.  Lord Jesus, I praise thee!  Please fill that spot with Your love.”

Because that spirit had gripped me so long, it would resist at first.  Marguerite assured me that as I flexed my spiritual muscle and continued, in Jesus’ name, to bind and command it to leave, it had no choice but to release me.

She then prayed with me.  Never had I heard anyone pray so powerfully!  This lady knew who she was in Christ.  She prayed with authority, glorifying God and the Lord Jesus and binding that demonic spirit away from me in Jesus’ name.  I prayed also, reaffirming my faith and trust in Jesus and my intention to walk obedient to His word.

The room seemed brighter after we finished, and I felt a peace that truly surpassed all understanding.  But Marguerite went a step further.  She would stand with me in prayer, praying with and for me every day.  She told me to call whenever I felt overwhelmed.  The hope that had dwindled earlier that day rekindled into a roaring fire as we exchanged phone numbers.  Right then, she became a true friend.

In addition to our prayer time, Marguerite counseled me to read the Bible daily, noting and memorizing passages I could speak to ward off an attack. She emphasized speaking the Word, as opposed to reading it only.

“The Word is your sword,” she told me.  “When you speak the Word you send it forth, and it will not return void.”

That list became a more powerful weapon than I could ever have imagined.  I practiced speaking with authority in the name of Jesus and giving glory to God.  I had a small Gideon New Testament presented to me in the fifth grade, when The Gideons were still allowed into the schools to share God’s Word.  It fit perfectly in my purse, and every time I felt fear or doubt I would take that out and thumb through in search of a passage.  Usually I did not know what to look for; but invariably the right passage would leap off the page and I seized it immediately.

One question nagged me: If I had successfully bound this spirit, why did it return?   It might have had me in a headlock once, but shouldn’t binding it once be enough?  Rush hour traffic, walking along crowded sidewalks, and waiting in fast-food drive-thru lanes still posed problems.  Sitting at an intersection one afternoon at a light that went through five complete changes before I got through triggered such an attack I felt my body would literally explode.  I grasped the steering wheel in a death grip and pressed my forehead against it while gasping over and over, “I bind you, foul spirit of fear, in the name of Jesus!  Leave and do not return!”

My chest tightened.  I could scarcely speak.  The air darkened and I realized I was blacking out.  I wanted to scream, I wanted to cry. . .

Suddenly the panic lifted.  I straightened up and saw the light turning green.  I drove home, praising God for His deliverance.

I had barely walked through my front door when Marguerite called, asking if I was all right.  A half hour before, she sensed I was in trouble and began praying.  The Holy Spirit had alerted her as I floundered and, praise God, she acted immediately!  The Bible talks about strength in numbers.  Ecclesiastes 4:12 notes that, “if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”  How precious is a friend who does not forsake you amid the storm!

But why did this keep coming back?  Some years later a pastor explained there are hierarchies of demons.  The spirit assailing me answered to a superior, and when that spirit started losing me, things did not go well for him.  According to the pastor, the Hebrew text described his punishment as being literally hacked to pieces.  Naturally he would claw and grasp to retain his hold!

And although Jesus Christ has triumphed over sin, death, and the devil, God allows the devil to deceive us for a time, until that glorious day He throws him into the lake of fire.  This time of testing shows us our need to depend upon God and serves to separate the true believers from the nominal and nonbelievers (1 Peter 1:6,7); the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats.  A passage in Ephesians, a must-have in the believer’s arsenal and one that I cling to until this day, graphically describes our foe and provides the weapons required to defeat him:

Eph. 6:10-18  Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.

1 Peter 5:8 warns us, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”

James 1:12 offers a promise: “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him.”

That spirit of fear had a strong grip.  Nevertheless, as I withstood him in the name of Jesus his grip loosened.  Sometimes I still left a grocery store, but after a few minutes praying in my car I went right back in and finished my shopping.  I ventured into the mall one Sunday afternoon, only to run back out and drive home.  Kneeling beside my bed, I poured out my frustrations to God.  As I finished praying, God placed the thought in my mind: Get up and go back down there.  I obeyed.  Praying the entire way, I parked the car and walked to the entrance—and then proceeded inside.  I strolled the entire length and back again, casually glancing at the store windows and even entering some shops.  An hour later I strolled back out, praising God for His victory!  Six months later the attacks stopped completely.

My last panic attack?  In June of 1992 I bought a brand-new Honda Accord coupe.  The day I bought it I stopped at a grocery store on the way home.  I was coming up the second aisle when it suddenly hit me that, not only had I not locked the car, I had left the spare key in plain sight on the dash!  I flew outside.  Luckily my car was still there and I grabbed the spare key and locked the doors before returning to the store.  A stocker had started unloading my cart but stopped when I bounded back in and resumed my shopping.

Today I walk into any store any time I wish.  The size of a crowd no longer matters.  I sit in the middle of jam-packed rooms, at traffic lights, or in drive-thru lanes with no anxiety whatsoever.  I can strike up conversations with complete strangers, many of whom compliment my lovely smile.  Walking and communing with God is pure joy.  As I seek Him He reveals more of Himself to me.  I begin each day with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving to the loving God who created and redeemed me, and sustains me each day.

I hope that, in telling my story, others come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and to freedom from whatever binds them.  I will be happy to stand with anyone in prayer, encouragement, and support.  Just send me a comment or an email to SAKopp11@outlook.com.  I will not misuse or sell your address.  God bless you!

Learn more about my story here.

MiniPanicCover

© Everthedreamer, 2019 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given.

 

 

Overcoming Panic Attacks

MiniPanicCover

 

Don’t tell God how big your storm is; tell the storm how big your God is!

As of October 4 my book, Overcoming Panic Attics: Emerging from Darkness into His Marvelous Light, is available on Amazon.

This was probably one of the hardest books I will ever write, not because of length or complicated subject matter but because, in writing it, I revisited one of the most miserable, isolated and devastating periods of my life.  For fifteen years—nearly half of my twenties and all of my thirties—I suffered crippling panic attacks so severe they bordered on agoraphobia.  None of the conventional treatments helped.  Drugs rendered me foggy and nonfunctional.  Therapy left me confused and depressed.  Well-meaning family and friends urged me to focus on other things, or to just make up my mind not to let panic get the upper hand.  They offered sound advice, but my malady bound me so tightly it completely dominated my life.  I could see nothing else—and no way out.

I am not an authority on panic disorders.  I hold no degrees nor have I studied the subject in any depth.  This book details my personal struggles, the depression and escalating despair that nearly drove me to suicide, and then God’s miraculous intervention.  He literally pulled me out of the darkness and into His marvelous light, setting my feet back on the path of life.  I can personally attest that Jesus Christ is alive, He is King of kings and Lord of lords, and He grants every born-again Christian authority, in His name, over the demonic spirits that assail us.  Looking back, I firmly believe God intentionally pulled every crutch out from under me in order to bring me to Himself.  And I am grateful!  With fifteen of the best years of my life a ruin, I never believed the rest of it could amount to anything.  With God, however, nothing is impossible!  Joel 2:25 says, in part, “I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar. . .”   I believe God did restore those fifteen years.  Since Jesus drove out that spirit of fear I have enjoyed more happiness and fulfillment than I ever thought possible.  That is why I wrote this book: to share what I learned and to lead others to Jesus, who is greater than anything that can ever come against us.  He is available to all!

The Kindle version is available for free for this entire week, and there is also a paperback version.

© Everthedreamer, 2019 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given.

Vanquishing Panic Attacks

Ryadok

Once you emerge from an unpleasant chapter in life, it is best to go your way and never look back–right?  After overcoming the demons, discovering an abundance you never dreamed you could have, and leaving the ghosts of those wasted, unhappy years so far behind you no longer see them anymore, why revisit them?  What good could that possibly do?  Sometimes, a lot of good.

I had endured 16 years of crippling and debilitating panic attacks that claimed almost half of my twenties and all of my thirties, attacks so severe they bordered on agoraphobia.  I would have gladly sequestered myself, except I had no one willing to support me.  I functioned, if you could call it that, in the shadows, restricting grocery runs to all-night stores in the wee hours when the stores stood largely empty, and only attending functions if I could find a seat near the door so I could beat a hasty retreat in the face of an oncoming attack.  I never dated.  I had no social life.  In fact, I had no life at all–just a pseudo-existence filled with loneliness and misery.  And no one understood.

Miraculously, I functioned well enough to hold a job as a computer programmer, tucked away in a protective cocoon hidden in the bowels of the corporate office.  I brought my own lunch and ate at my desk, arriving early and staying late to avoid as much traffic as possible.  I tried counseling, pills–nothing worked.  The counselors left me feeling worse, while the pills made me foggy and less functional than ever.

One night I was forced to leave early.  A road rage incident in rush hour traffic propelled me straight home and into my bedroom bent on committing suicide.  In that dark room, backed into a corner, I came to terms with how I’d been living.  God asked some pointed questions, not audibly, but through thoughts put into my mind.  I confessed my sin and gave my heart and life to Jesus Christ.  In the days that followed God began to move and the miracles began.  The chains fell away and for the first time in years I could breathe.  In June of 1992 the panic attacks were forever vanquished and my life restored.

3 Yellow Leaves Over Pond

After publishing BELLA I intended to start formatting a children’s book but for some reason felt compelled to revisit this chapter and to write the story of my journey out of darkness into light, out of bondage into perfect freedom with my sanity intact.  The story ends joyfully.  How can I NOT tell it?  And if it helps draw others to freedom and new life, it will have all been worth it.  Looking back, I don’t even consider it an ordeal anymore, but simply another leg of my life’s journey.

Today I start organizing my thoughts and notes for this amazing story.  As the book comes together, I will share on this blog.  Often what helps a suffering person most is access to someone who not only sympathizes, but can empathize with what they are enduring.  Hopefully, I can be that person.

© Everthedreamer, 2019 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given.


 

What are you made of?

Cloud over Eden

No one likes adversity. I know I don’t. When storm clouds gather over my peaceful world I tend to pray for God’s divine winds to drive them away.  Yet nothing makes one appreciate the good in life nor reveals the true character more than fate tossing a monkey wrench into one’s well-ordered routine. Such a monkey wrench smacked me square in the teeth and gave me a profound respect that remains to this day for anyone suffering disability. Early in 2010 I noticed a nagging pain in my neck and right shoulder—not an uncommon thing for someone who spends most days staring at a computer screen. I sought the usual remedies: massage, therapeutic massage, chiropractic—even acupuncture. The pain only worsened. Over-the-counter remedies offered no relief. I began losing motion in my right arm and the pain from laying on it or positioning it wrong kept me awake. Any relief gained from whatever treatment I tried vanished by the time I got home. After a few months I had raw, burning pain that never stopped and I could no longer reach around behind me or lift my arm above my head. I went to a surgeon.

Severe degeneration in my neck had pinched a nerve. In December 2010 I underwent a cervical fusion to fuse my C3 through C7 vertebrae. The surgery went well, but the following morning I could not move my right arm. I had been told that this condition, called C5 palsy, sometimes occurred but usually passed with time. After days and then weeks passed with no improvement I became depressed. I told myself this nerve had been under tremendous pressure for months and simply needed time to heal. You really find out what you are made of during something like this and, sadly, I proved myself a pathetic wimp. What if that arm never came back? What I should have considered, however, was that my mind was still sharp; my dominant arm had taken a nap but the other still functioned; I could still walk; and, to a lot of people’s dismay, I could still talk. I was not disabled by any means! More important, I was blessed with a wonderfully supportive family who rallied around me. I especially appreciated my mother’s care, encouragement, and prayers. I had the care of an excellent doctor. Each day I did the exercises he gave me and tried to move my arm. Finally, one evening in late February I lifted my hand and forearm! I could bend the elbow! I couldn’t lift the elbow but that didn’t matter. My stricken limb was waking up. Five days later I raised the entire arm and after three months of physical therapy regained the full use of it.

I wish I could offer my experience as an inspiration, but I can’t. I was inconvenienced for a time but by God’s grace recovered. Had my arm remained nonfunctional I would have adjusted eventually. But would I have glorified God the way I did when He restored me? Would I have glorified Him at all? The truly inspiring people are those who, although permanently debilitated, not only adjust but surmount their obstacles and then reach out to others. I did some research and discovered the following: a survivor of a land mine who now helps craft artificial limbs; a man left a quadriplegic by muscular dystrophy who helps people with disabilities give back by organizing events where disabled volunteers put together care packages for needy children; a climber who, rendered a paraplegic after a fall, designed a machine that enabled, not only himself, but other paraplegics to continue their passion. I personally knew a man who, wracked by muscular dystrophy, spent his last years in a nursing home. George could turn his head and had almost imperceptible movement in the little finger of his left hand; otherwise, he was totally paralyzed. Yet who did the staff go to when they needed cheering up? George! He entertained everyone with jokes and stories but more important, testified of God’s love and goodness. These people faced inconceivable adversity but looked beyond themselves and extended hope, compassion, and purpose to others. They have bettered the world.

Have I the fortitude—and do I care enough—to do the same?

Ocean sunset 4

© Everthedreamer, 2019 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given

Character Quotes from “The Windwilder Haunting”

3Debook-BellaWindwilderHaunting

“Well, that’s our mystery lady.  I’m just surprised that portrait survived the fire.”  Dorian Andress, volunteer coordinator.

“That lady knows something.  I’m going to request an interview and, like it or not, she’s going to talk to me.  Madelyn Springer

“You’ll have to get used to Philip Windwilder.  He’s–what shall we say–eccentric.”  Dorian Andress

“I…I saw a little girl.  Maybe the shadows were playing tricks on me but…I swear I saw…I tried to talk to her but she turned as if to run and just–vanished!”  Madelyn Springer

“Arleta Willoughby’s sole function is bedding the lord of the manor, and I understand she does that well and often.  Well, often anyway.”  Tess Carpenter, docent

“Oh-ho-ho.  John Edmonds?  You haven’t met his dark side.  That man has a temper and one of the foulest mouths I have ever heard in my life!  But then, so does Philip Windwilder.”  Tess Carpenter

“It was a long time ago.  I’m over her now and. . .well, life goes on.  Anyway, I wonder if I could interest you in, say, dinner or a movie sometime?”  John Edmonds, curator

“I’m getting sick of the crap Arleta is dishing out.  Speaking of which, it appears we’re under the scrutiny of the wicked witch herself.”  Tess Carpenter

“For the last time, John: No…damn…way!  I mean it!  This creeps me out like nothing ever has before.  I’m not just disappointed, John, I’m flat-out angry.  Angry and disgusted.”  Madelyn Springer

“That medium–Madame Corviere–was totally out of her mind.  They kept her in the hospital here overnight but Saturday she insisted on going home.  Sunday morning they found her in bed–dead.”  Riva Winston, historical society

“The last time I spoke with John, when we had the fight–he growled.  Like an animal.  It’s like he was possessed.”  Madelyn Springer

“Get out of there, Philip!  Edmonds set the house on fire!”  Madelyn Springer

“Something happened during that seance to everyone involved, especially Edmonds.  Dorian described him as flat-out frightening afterwards.”  Riva Winston

The Windwilder Haunting is available on Amazon.com in Kindle and paperback formats.

© Everthedreamer, 2019 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given.

Getting Your “Button Gear”

 

Button Gear

 

We all do it: Push aside that project we know we want–or need–to do.  I’m probably more of a procrastinator than most.  Sometimes I hold off because I don’t want to face another mundane, tedious, time-consuming chore.  Sometimes I’m looking at an exciting writing project I’ve spent days, weeks, or even months planning but don’t want to start because I know that when I sit down and open a new Word document my mind will go as blank as that screen.  I recall the daily assignment from one community college writing class I took: Start writing and continue for 10 minutes.  If you can’t think of anything, start with “I can’t think of a thing to write but I have to write something for this dumb class” (The professor’s words).  And it always worked.  As the pen moved across the page the creative juices started flowing.  Even if those ideas headed opposite my original intent I could still reign them in and get back on track.  And yes, that still applies today–that is, when I finally get my ‘button gear.’

Of course, there are valid excuses.  Something around the house always needs doing.  However, that hulking black beast lurking in the corner of the living room isn’t one of them.  Turn it on and it hypnotizes you with its glowing eye, all the while spewing nothing but blood and gore, sex and violence, courtroom dramas, soap operas. . .the list goes on and on.  Occasionally one might find something enlightening, even entertaining, but in my opinion, that is the exception rather than the rule.  Suddenly the kids come home, hubby wants supper, and you realize this beast has devoured your whole day.  I generally turned it on for background noise while I wrote, thinking maybe I’d just glance over once in a while when the action got interesting.  Didn’t work; the boob tube distracted me to the point I never managed more than a paragraph–if that.  I finally came to my senses and just turned the thing off.  Most programs are garbage, anyway, regardless of how many channels you have.

A major hurdle I face every day is too many tasks.  As an indie author I’m responsible for my own marketing which I find daunting, particularly since I have yet to develop a decent strategy.  So. . .do I tweet, write a blog post, work on a website. . .write?  My head gets into such a whirl I often do. . . NOTHING!  (Maybe arouse that black beast in the corner and let it regurgitate Judge Judy.)  This past weekend I made some resolutions: Get my ‘button gear’ and devote a specific amount of time to each one each day.  I’ve decided on no more than an hour on Twitter.  As far as the blogs go, I may not have enough material to write a complete post but can at least jot down a few ideas. Even a few are enough to inspire the thoughts necessary to complete the post the following day.  After that I move on to my books.

A side note (you may find this helpful if you feel as I did about Twitter):  I actually considered Twitter a waste of time.  Most of my writing friends, however, regard it an invaluable and powerful marketing tool.  I found two books, both entitled, Twitter for Writers, one written by Jesper Schmidt and the other by Rayne Hall.  (I’ve provided a link on each author’s name.)  I’m about 25% of the way through Schmidt’s book and already found tips and info I hadn’t known before.  I’ve only glanced through the Table of Contents of Hall’s book and that appears even more in-depth.  I plan to read them both cover to cover.  The little bit I have read has already made my Twitter time more profitable.

A final note concerning writer’s block: After a loooong stretch of not journaling I decided to start again.  I might not be writing my latest book in those pages but often jot down little notes here and there.  AND–journaling is writing!  Every little bit coaxes those creative juices into play.  I’m finding it a big help in my overall writing.

I don’t stress if I can’t work on everything each day.  I just focus on the tasks I feel most inspired to do at the time.  The main thing is just getting my BUTTON GEAR and doing SOMETHING!

© Everthedreamer, 2019 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given.

Author Spotlight: Rebecca Carey Lyles

 

This week I would like to introduce Christian author Rebecca Carey Lyles, author of the heartwarming Kate Nielson series. Rebecca grew up in beautiful Wyoming and currently resides in Idaho with her husband, Steve.  She writes in a warm, flowing style that puts her readers into the heart of vividly stunning locations alongside engaging characters facing what most would deem insurmountable obstacles. Elements of Christian love, faith, hope and trust expertly woven into riveting action produce stories that will keep readers turning the pages.

Her Kate Nielson series proves that fact as the books follow the life of a young woman from the confines of the Pennsylvania State Penitentiary to a fresh start at Wyoming’s Whispering Pines Guest Ranch. The stories feature romance and marriage to the owner’s son, even as she takes a defiant stand when evil remnants of her past catch up with her.

In addition to her fiction series, Rebecca also writes nonfiction and serves as an editor and mentor for aspiring authors. She and her husband host a lively and entertaining podcast, “Let Me Tell You a Story,” which can be accessed through a variety of podcast providers as well as her website:

http://www.beckylyles.com/podcast

She has several other projects in the works which, along with her complete bio, you can read about at:

http://www.beckylyles.com

Rebecca kindly agreed to an interview, which follows below.

SK: Tell us a little about yourself (background, hobbies, special interests).

RCL: I love the West! I grew up in Wyoming, met and married my husband in Colorado, and then moved back to Wyoming, where we raised our three children. Shortly after the last child left home, we moved to the Southwest (Arizona) and now reside in the beautiful Northwest (Idaho).

In addition to gorgeous vistas, the West offers friendly people, wide-open spaces and wonderful opportunities to explore the outdoors—hiking, biking, skiing, snowshoeing, camping, kayaking… The list goes on. I’ve enjoyed all the aforementioned activities, but the last couple years, I’ve mostly snowshoed in the winter and hiked in the summer with friends and family. My year-round exercise includes walking and yoga/Pilates classes. I also like to read (no surprise!), cook healthy stuff and hang out with other authors. Funny how we can talk books and plots and characters for hours on end.

SK: What made you feel you wanted to be a writer? 

RBC: As you know, writing seems to be in the blood or the genetic makeup of certain individuals. I’ve always enjoyed putting pencil or pen to paper, even when writing those dreaded high school essays. I wish I’d listened when my English/Lit teacher encouraged me to major in journalism…

But I was determined to attend a small Denver Bible college that offered only a handful of degrees, none of them related to journalism. Yet, that school was a great experience. It grounded me in Biblical truth and connected me with wonderful lifelong friends, including a certain cute guy named Steve, who eventually became my husband.

After graduation, I worked a variety of jobs, most of which were secretarial in nature. And then, almost as soon as our first child was born, I decided the literary path was more to my liking and something I could work at during naptime.

SK: How did you choose the genre you write in?

RCL: Looking back, I think I felt compelled to write faith-based fiction because I’d read so many less-than-stellar Christian novels. That was years ago, so I’ll be quick to say the market now offers a host of high-quality fiction books for all levels of readers.

SK: Where do you get your ideas? 

RCL: When I started writing my first novel and the first book in the Kate Neilson Series, “Winds of Wyoming,” my heroine was a young woman who wanted to move west—because the West is best (smile). As you can see, that was a rather weak premise. Took me fifteen years and multiple writing classes and seminars, how-to books and magazines, contests (with judge feedback) and critique groups to deepen the story.

And then came the night I was driving home from a Bible study at an Arizona women’s prison. Looking out across the flat dark desert, I had a revelation—the protagonist needed to be an ex-inmate. I’d met so many sweet women in prison who were flawed, just like I am. And, just like me, they longed for a do-over. My heroine, ex-inmate Kate Neilson, would move from Pennsylvania to Wyoming to “reboot” her life, not realizing her past would follow close behind.

In that first book, I wanted to honor prisoners’ humanity through a romantic suspense story. In the following books, “Winds of Freedom” and “Winds of Change,” I used the same characters to show that human trafficking is a tragic problem in America as well as overseas. My current series, which I hope to finish by late spring/early summer, delves into religious cults and their deceptive, manipulative, totalitarian practices. Despite the tough topics, every series has a happy ending (smile).

All that to say…I tend to tackle current issues. However, the idea for the first story in the “Passageways” anthology came to me in the middle of a Kohl’s Department Store. Kinda crazy, but it was a fun story to write.

SK: Do you work with an outline, or just write? 

RCL: Over the years, I’ve used several methods, one being Randy Ingermanson’s famous Snowflake Method. And over the years, I’ve learned I’m not an outliner, I’m not a plotter, I’m not a pantser (who writes by the seat of his or her pants). I’m a discoverer. For the cult series, I’ve read books, watched documentaries, interviewed ex-members and immersed myself in that world, disgusting as it is. I have pages and pages of notes and a general idea of where I’m going with the plot. But I’m always open to discovering the next scene, which oftentimes veers from my intended path—or the direction I assumed the story would go.

Some people say they write the ending or at least know the ending to a book before they write the beginning and the middle. I think I can safely say I have never known the ending of any of my novels until I was almost there. I always aim for that “happily ever after,” but I don’t usual know how it will materialize. In a sense, I’m discovering the story right alongside the reader.

SK: Did any particular author or book influence you, either growing up or as an adult? 

RCL: I loved “Heidi” because it’s a wonderful tale about a girl who’s sent to live with her grandfather in the beautiful Swiss mountains. Then there was “Christy,” a young woman who moved to the Smokey Mountains to teach. Notice a theme here? A book about a girl reporter’s adventures also intrigued me and helped spark the writing gene. Sad to say, I don’t remember the title.

In my twenties, “The Grapes of Wrath” captivated me during a Colorado blizzard (nothing better than having a good book to read when you have a legitimate excuse to stay home). Filled with beautiful writing, complex characters, heartrending challenges and a believable storyline, that book taught me about an important time in history I knew very little about. In addition, I learned the power of story is in the details.

One more—my last job in Wyoming involved working for a man named Chuck Box. At that time, his writing career was just beginning to take off. Written under the name C.J. Box, his many novels about a Wyoming game warden are now international bestsellers. Chuck is known for his amazing descriptions of the West. I recently heard him being interviewed on a podcast. He said description is not about the vistas but about the details. When I want to enhance my own portrayals of the West, I open a C.J. Box novel for inspiration.

SK: Your book titles (Winds of Wyoming, Winds of Freedom, Winds of Change) evoke images of living free in an unspoiled and wide-open territory; but winds also bring storms and uncertainty. What inspired these titles? 

RCL: I’m impressed with your insight into the titles, Sandra! What inspired the series titles? All that you wrote above. Some parts of Wyoming are known for wind, and I experienced plenty of it growing up. At times, the wind was helpful. When I walked the four or five blocks to school, the wind would blow me there, almost lifting me off my feet. But it was an ever-moving barricade on the return trip. I’d struggle all the way home, leaning into the wind. Before backpacks came along, an armful of textbooks served as ballast to keep me and my classmates from being blown to Nebraska.

Back to the book titles—winds are rarely constant. They come and go, blast and change course, cleanse the air or stir up dust devils, irritate or sooth, heat or cool, knock down or lift up. Metaphorically speaking, a fiction author’s job is to hit their characters with gusts that blow them off-course and then show their struggle to regain equilibrium.

For interested readers, the series has a prequel titled “Winds of Hope.” All four books are available at a reduced rate in a “Kate Neilson Series” boxset that’s available everywhere digital books are sold.

SK: How do you market your work? What avenues work best? 

RCL: Wow, I wish I had a good answer. For a time, Facebooks ads were the moneymakers. And then it was Amazon ads. Now, BookBub is the place to inspire readers to click the “buy now” button. The end result is that the best way to sell books is to write more books. Some people can whip out four or five books a year and develop a huge backlist (mine is growing at a much slower rate, but it’s growing). Series are good because readers who like the first book in a series are likely to purchase the others. Social media enables authors to connect with readers, some of whom will share our book news on their sites.

SK: What has been the toughest criticism given you as an author? What has been the highest compliment? 

RCL: Toughest criticism? Hmm. In the series I’m working on now, a beta reader who proofed book one said the second book needs more description and emotion because the protagonist comes across as plastic. Yikes! Back to the drawing board…

My highest compliment is when readers say, “I stayed up all night reading your book!” or “I didn’t get a thing done today because I couldn’t put your book down.” Warms an author’s heart, for sure.

SK: Will you have a new book coming out soon? 

RCL: I’ve written two-and-a-half novels of a three-book series set in Montana called “Prisoners of Hope” about a young woman trapped in a religious cult. The titles are “Shattered Dreams,” “Tangled Truths” and Tattered Veil.” My goal is to show how easily we can become ensnared by controlling groups and how hard it is to escape a cultic world. As I wrote above, I hope to publish all three books in late spring/early summer.

SK: What advice would you offer aspiring authors? 

RCL: Read, read, read to get a feel for tension, motivation/response sequence, structure and flow. Write, write, write to get a feel for pulling thoughts out of your head and arranging them in logical order on paper (or computer screen).

SK: Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans? 

RCL: Thank you, Sandra, for inviting me to be a guest on your blog. Great questions! And, a big thank-you to those who encourage me to keep writing. If you enjoy or profit from an author’s books or articles, consider telling him or her. Writers don’t need ego boosts. We need to know our hard work is valuable, that it inspires, informs, entertains or educates our readers.

If you enjoy listening to stories, check out the podcast Steve and I host. We call it “Let Me Tell You a Story” and feature a wide variety of authors and stories (real and imagined) plus fascinating interviews. http://beckylyles.com/podcast.html

Website: http://www.beckylyles.com

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

Twitter: @BeckyLyles

Amazon Author Page: https://tinyurl.com/y6kldx32

© Everthedreamer, 2019 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given.