As usual, time sprang a new year on us right after Christmas. I knew it was coming, but I was so busy writing in 2019, I couldn’t really give 2020 much thought. Today, I’m forcing myself to take a short breather to assess what I accomplished last year and what this crazy writer’s life might be like in the new year. As painful as it is to break away from writing a book that is due in 34 days (who’s counting, right?), I feel I must. If we don’t pay attention to where we’re going we might accidentally walk off a cliff! I think that’s why elected folks do state of the union addresses—to remind us where we’ve been and where we need to go.
Writing full time remains the fulfillment of lifelong dream. At times it’s harder than I thought it would be. Or it’s made harder by the challenges life has sent my way. I continue to battle ovarian cancer, with another recurrence this year. By God’s grace, I’m currently NED (no evidence of disease). I’m continuing with maintenance treatment to try to extend this NED period. My motor neuron disorder remains stable.
With a renewed sense of how precious and finite time is, I treasure my writer’s life. It’s the gift that never stops giving. In 2019 I published the last book in my Amish of Every Season series, With Winter’s First Frost. I loved writing about a great-grandmother in her seventies finding love a second time.
Next came a romantic suspense novel set mostly in Laredo, Texas, called Over the Line, published in June. This project had been on my back burner, simmering to be told, for about ten years. It delves into gun smuggling on the border while examining how far we must go to forgive the people we love. I’m so thankful HarperCollins and my editor Becky Monds gave me that opportunity.
Then came a new series, the Amish of Big Sky Country and the first book Mountains of Grace, published in September.
Along the way my novellas, Mended Hearts and Cakes and Kisses, were included in two novella collections.
A good year filled with dreams come true. On the flip side, writing in two genres with staggered deadlines has required intense focus and discipline. I’m still there, trying to finish a romantic suspense novel due on Feb. 15. Looking ahead, I’ve decided to be more careful with my contractual commitments to make sure writing never becomes a chore.
Which brings us to what exciting projects are ahead for 2020. First up, the second book in the Amish of Sky Country series, entitled The Long Bridge Home, debuts on February 11. This book, dedicated to my church family of Northwest Hills United Methodist Church, caused me to reexamine what I believe and why. I hope it will cause readers to do the same, while entertaining them as well.
Here’s the back-cover blurb:
After her home in the awe-inspiring Montana mountains is suddenly consumed by a raging wildfire, one young Amish woman finds herself in a new town where she’s introduced to the Native culture of the Kootenai people.
When the Mast family is forced to evacuate their home in the West Kootenai region of Montana, Christine chooses not to move with her family to her father’s childhood home in Kansas. Instead, she wants to stay closer to home and to her beau, Andy Lambright, who has yet to ask for her hand in marriage and who seems to be holding tightly to secrets from his past.
Now, living with her aunt and uncle in St. Ignatius, Christine is on her own for the first time in her life. While working in her uncle’s store Christine meets Raymond Old Fox, whom she befriends, and he introduces her to his rich native culture with strong ties to the earth and nature. Despite the warnings of her aunt and uncle, Christine is inexplicably drawn to Raymond, and her mind is opened to a history and heritage far different from her own.
With her newly expanding horizons, Christine wonders if she can return to the domestic life that is expected of her. Her heart still longs to be with Andy, but she isn’t the same person she was before the fire, and she wonders if he can accept who she is becoming. Has too much distance grown between them? Or can they bridge the gap from past to present and find their way back together?
I’m so excited for readers to meet Christine, Andy and Raymond and the whole cast of characters in St. Ignatius, Montana.
Then comes my next romantic suspense novel in June, Closer Than She Knows, which explores how lives touched by a serial killer are forever changed. Is it any wonder I seem to have a split personality? Writing in two genres is such a gift. It allows me to refresh and refocus in each genre. After fifteen years of only writing Amish romances, I needed that.
In September, it’ll be time for the third book in the Amish of Big Sky Country series. It’s entitled Peace in the Valley and chronicles the story of a young Amish woman who has to move in with grandparents who belong to an evangelical Amish district after her family flees wildfires in northwest Montana. Again we have to examine what we believe and why as we watch Nora do the same in Libby, Montana.
Again there will be novellas sprinkled along the way. One is called The Holiday Hope and will be included in the An Amish Christmas Wedding collection to release in September
It’s a big year with writing, editing, marketing, deadlines, and development of new book proposals. For years I wrote, worked, and prayed for a writing life. It’s everything I thought it would be and much more. The joy of creating these stories never dissipates. I’m still thrilled when I see the books in libraries, bookstores, and in readers’ hands. This is the life God created me to live. His hand moves in these stories. I’m so blessed.
I still struggle with my cancer treatment and my motor neuron disease. Some days, I’m cranky and overwhelmed. But I’ll never forget what an honor and a privilege it is to write for Christ and for the readers who plunk down their hard-earned money for these stories. I am always, always in your debt.
I humbly ask you to pray for my work—that I would write the stories God calls me to write and do his work well. If you have ideas for stories you’d like to read in either genre, share them in the comments below. I love new stories.
Now back to work finishing that book! Only 30 days left to that deadline!