So what’s my novel REALLY about? A universal answer.

That’s what folks want to know.

Many of the authors I follow talk about a phenomenon where readers assume everything in a work of fiction must surely be based on real life, the author’s real life, in particular. How else, they reason, could the writing be to true and deep and realistic?

I read oodles of books and blogs, articles and textbooks on writing, by people who are experts on the subject. People who study literature. People who hold doctorates and win prizes and have great followings of readers. One of the threads stringing through most of these is that yes, effective writing comes from deep within an authors heart, his observations, snippets of conversations she overheard in Super Stores and along pee wee soccer sidelines. How each author processes these often daily, sometimes life changing observations depends on the author…and to a great extent, his imagination…

…her ability to take the real and make it more real…

…his skill at morphing the daily into something shiny, glittering, and capable of rising like an orb of hope above the cacophony of those who, rushing to complete tasks from morning until night, miss

everything. 

Authors, writers like me, are often accused of having too-thin-skin, of having their heads in the clouds, having ridiculous imaginations, wearing feelings on sleeves….

Turns out these “weaknesses” are strengths to those who would embrace a pen.

So.

What’s my novel really about?

One day, about four years ago, I sat on my back patio praying, asking God what He wanted to do with my story. I was at a bit of an ends, as the manuscript currently stood, and I knew it needed a major overhaul to turn it into something marketable. The story had bones–a coming-of age plot, an Alabama pecan farm setting. And as the hummingbirds buzzed among the Rose of Sharon blooms, I heard God whisper: Tamar. Re-read the story of Tamar.

And so I did.

How Sweet the Sound is a loose allegory, set in 1980, of the Tamar of II Samuel 13, one of the daughters of King David. Raped by her half-brother Amnon, who was then killed by her real brother Absalom, Tamar’s story ends there, when scripture tells us she was left to live a desolate life.

How can that be? I asked God. Argued with Him.

That’s not the God of the New Testament, the God who promises restoration, the Christ who raises men and women alike.

You’re right, I heard God whisper. Tell the rest of her story. 

And so, How Sweet the Sound is my attempt to do that.

That’s what it’s really about.

Because one out of every three women in America alone have experienced sexual trauma, molestation, incest, rape. I have never been shy about admitting I am one of those statistics. But my story is not Comforts. Nor is my story Annistons. In the end, my personal story is not important.

What is important is that the majority of those one-in-three women feel like their stories end there, that their lives lay useless and dirty, tainted and worthless, at the feet of their abuser–or abusers.

My hope is, after reading How Sweet the Sound, they’ll feel different.

They’ll know different.

They’ll have hope.

The reality?

The story of Anniston and Comfort, Princella and Jed, Ernestine and all the characters in How Sweet the Sound is universal. Early reader reviews which include heartbreaking, “me too’s,” and “hurt people hurt people,” verify this. Families tear each other apart, even with rape and murder. Tamar experienced all of these things thousands of years ago. Pick up a newspaper or listen to the evening news, and these tragedies are rampant, still, today.

The truth is, story has a way of uniting souls around common hurts, common celebrations, common tragedies, and ultimately, common hope.

The truth is, this story is fiction.

And because of that, it holds more truth than a lot of things in this world.

Plain and simple.

And true.

*****

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better. `- Anne Lamott”

*****

hummer11

the lie and light of Christmas.

nativity6photo by He Qi

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John 17:18 was my advent reading for the day.

Nothing about shepherd or mangers, angels or the sweetness of a newborn babe.

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“As you have sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:18)

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Many–I suspect, perhaps most–during the holiday seasons, cannot escape the tension between the pull of the world, of advertisements, of vignettes of perfect family gatherings, and the pull of our hearts toward truth. And yet, into the world we are thrust, like the emergence of Emmanuel, every cell of our beings recoiling at the cold, wet shock of being. Human.

***

Come thou long expected Jesus … 

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Followers of more than evergreens and silver bells are more acutely aware than ever of the discomfort, the lie, in fact, that a season, a single day on the calendar, somehow makes brokenness whole … somehow erases injustice …  somehow requires the downtrodden to return to the taxing origins of their pain.

Stand still and watch the unfolding of glory in the distant fields, knees bent in the mossy grace of our healing, and the scarred are accused of not following the star.

***

The first Noel the angel did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay…

***

Understandable, the need of the oblivious to throw stones at those with leaky alabaster jars, those whose incense and myrrh have been long spent. Where else, after all, could they catapult their own pain, but at those whose forms are already bent?

***

Long lay the world in sin and error pining…

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Few know that, as John Piper wrote in my advent devotional today, “God makes every dagger a scepter in our hand.”

A scepter for lighting the way for future generations.

A scepter, lit by the original star, in the darkest of nights, to ignite hope once again.

A scepter which must be chosen, and held with fervor, with doubt, with diligence and with fear.

But a scepter which must be held, just the same.

***

Fall on your knees!
O hear the angel voices!
O night divine…

***

Divine is the night, indeed, when the morning comes.

At last.

At long, long last.