Dear Reader: Tell me something I don’t know.

IMG_7413Last week, the local librarian raised her eyebrows as I approached the circulation desk with a stack of books up to my chin.

“Can I leave these here for a few?” I asked. “I gotta run downstairs to get some more.”

Thankfully, they have baskets to borrow too, for people like me.

My third novel, Lead Me Home, is in the thick of the editing process, which frees up my time to 1) get my teenagers back to school and 2) start my fourth book.

I’m not precisely sure what this fourth novel will be about–at least not enough to talk much about it yet. But I do know a few things, like setting (somewhere in Appalachia) and time (late 1940’s-50s).

The other day I was talking to a friend about this story.

“Have you ever been to Appalachia?”

I hesitated.

“I’ve driven through it on the way to the beach,” I replied.

To date, all of my books are set in vastly different times and locations. How Sweet the Sound was in rural, southwest coast Alabama. Then Sings My Soul had dual locations of Ukraine and South Haven, Michigan. Lead Me Home is set in my home state of Indiana. Some of these places I’ve been to, but (except for Lead Me Home), I’ve never spent more than a few days in any of them.

So no, I’ve never been to Appalachia.

And I wasn’t even a twinkle in anyone’s eye in the 1940’s/50s.

Sometimes I have a lot of fear and angst about writing about places I’ve never really lived. My greatest apprehension is that I won’t be able to do a place or a people justice, or that I’ll misrepresent them. When that happens, I rely on a lot of prayer…and my beloved editors.

So by and far, most of the information about the setting and places of my novels is from research.



The internet.

Phone interviews with locals.

Video documentaries.

And more books.

By the time it’s all said and done, setting becomes a sort of character of its own within my books. 

One of the most unexpected places I’ve discovered for great research is the juvenile section of the library. Often, I just need a nugget of information to spin a chapter or a scene, and the in-depth, “grown-up” books have too much information to sift through. But books targeted to elementary aged kiddos often have the basics, explained in basic ways.

Perfect stuff for a novelist.

Here’s the stack I came away with last week.

***  ***

As I type, I’m watching a three-disc documentary about Appalachia. Johnny Cash is crooning in my ear. Time-lapsed video of mist rising over and above the Blue Ridge Mountains catches my eye. Old photographs with the black eyes of people who lived generations ago stare at me from the screen and haunt me and I know…

…I have to tell a story.

I’m sure not every novelist does so much research. I’m sure James Michener did reams and reams more. No doubt, the amount of research depends on what each individual writer feels called to write.

As for me, now I know why it was so hard for me to choose a college major. I loved–and still love–learning about everything…biology, geology, politics, sociology, psychology, food, music, history, and did I mention food? The world is an amazing place.

Writing is an amazing way I get to keep on learning.

And to write about it, to boot.



What about you, dear reader?

Do you like research?

Did you like to do research when you were in school?

Would you rather read a history book or travel guide, or would you rather read a novel based on those things?

newsletterthanksDear Reader is a series I post on every week. If you’re a reader and have an idea or question you’d like me to write about, relating to books or writing or editing, etc., jot me a note and I’d be much obliged to take a stab at your request. Also, if you’d like to read all the Dear Reader posts, click here. If you like insider information into my books or writing life, be sure to sign up for my author newsletter by clicking here.

Introducing “Dear Reader,” posts just for YOU! 

Have you read my books?

Then this post, and others like it in the future, are just for you!

I’ve been thinking about better ways to communicate with folks who’ve read my books, and although I already have this blog, I’m not the greatest about “talking” specifically to my readers. Sure, I write poems and post photographs and stuff, but I don’t really TALK to you.

Shame on me, right?

YOU, after all, are the reason I do what I do!

So, while the rest of my posts are sporadic (sorry!), on Tuesdays I will try my darndest to write posts just for you.

I hope to write about things like what it’s like to work in the traditional publishing industry, insider information into different pieces of my books, personal writing habits and quirks, background research, and whatever else I can think of that might interest folks who’ve read my books.

Which reminds me…

…what would YOU, as a reader, like to hear about in “Dear Reader” posts?

Today, I’ll just share a little bit about my third novel, tentatively titled, Lead Me Home, and which will be published next summer (2016) with Tyndale House Publishers. I am so excited about this novel. As different as How Sweet the Sound and Then Sings My Soul were from each other, Lead Me Home is different still. The setting is small town Indiana, and the main characters are a pastor with a dying church and a young man, forced to grow up too soon, who runs his family dairy farm. Each of them struggles with their place in the world…where they are, versus where God wants them to be.

Do you ever struggle with that?

I know I do. It’s the great temptation of most Americans, if we’re honest, don’t you think? We’d rather have our neighbor’s home, job, money, looks…life. Wouldn’t it be nice to know for sure that we are right where God wants us to be? And to rest in that assurance?

This next book, as with the others, is an attempt to reconcile the way the world is with hope and assurance from God. At the end of the day, I think this is the task and motivation of all writers, all artists…we throw words and color and images out of our minds in frenzied attempts to rearrange them into some sort of sense, into something that matters, into something that shows that we can overcome tragedy and pain and the craziness of this world and find hope.

So, dear reader, let’s connect!

Tell me what you’d like to hear me write about.

I can’t wait to visit with you again soon!

A special month. A special book.

I’m going purple today, in honor of June, which is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. 

My passion for this issue is related in large part to my work as an RN caring for patients suffering from this, but also because of loved ones who have struggled with it, too. As you might know, the main character in my novel, Then Sings My Soul, is battling his own form of age-related dementia. It’s a story of love and loss as Jakob and his daughter, Nel, navigate their days and learn to find hope in the midst of it all. 

The number of people suffering from Alzheimer’s and other brain/memory loss disease processes are striking. Chances are–and especially as our population ages–if you’re not related to someone who has it, then you know someone trying to balance the often overwhelming caregiving needs of these patients.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association

Worldwide, 47 million people are living with dementia.

The annual global cost of dementia is $604 billion in U.S. dollars.

The number of people living with dementia worldwide is set to skyrocket to 76 million by 2030.

In the United States, Alzheimer’s disease is a triple threat, which means that:

  • Every 67 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s.
  • Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
  • Alzheimer’s is the only cause of death in the top 10 that can’t be prevented, cured or slowed.

Do you or someone you know afflicted with these issues need hope?

Visit the Alzheimer’s Association website by clicking here to learn about steps you can take to join the fight against Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders. 

You can also pick up a copy of the novel, Then Sings My Soul, for you and a friend. 

Because even when it seems all hope and memory are lost, there’s always a story to be told.