No Way Out But Through – an honest interview with Graham Aitchison

Living with or being in close contact with someone who struggles with an addiction or depression can be, well, difficult. But is there light at the end if the tunnel? Today I’m interviewing Graham Aitchison about his book, “No Way Out But Through”. Seeing as both Graham and I are storytellers of one form or another, I decided to write out this interview in story form.

So as per Aussie tradition, I’ll invite you to pull up a stump, have a cuppa, and get comfortable. Tim Tam’s, ginger nut biccy’s (cookies), and lamingtons are on the large plate on the table in front of us. Help yourself! 🙂

“G’day Graham.” I settled back into my overstuffed lounge chair, lamington in hand. “Tell us, is there light at the end of the tunnel?”

Graham selected a ginger nut and contemplates it. “There is. But you have to be prepared to spend a lot of time in the dark to be able to get there. There are times when you think the light is getting closer but it turns out to be a freight train coming straight at you.”

I wince. “I know that feeling. Not very pleasant.”

He drums his fingers on the table, a quick riff from one of Metallica’s albums and nods. “Which can really hurt, but you’ve just got to pick yourself up and keep going. Walking through the blackest part of the darkness and coming into the light will gain you everything. But it will cost you everything at the same time.”

“That reminds me of Pilgrims Progress…walking through the valley of the Shadow of Death. A few Bible verses spring to mind as well that support that. Psalm 23, Luke 9:25, Psalm 56:13 etc,” I said.

I hand around the plate of goodies, and refill the coffee cups.

“You are a man of words, right? In 29 words or less, can you describe yourself?”

“Hermit, grumpy, insightful, musical, philosophical, ummm…” Graham stares out the window, tapping the rim of his cup with his biscuit. “Old beyond my years, nuts about football, spiritual, open, honest, cantankerous, senile, sarcastic, warm, funny.”

I smile. “Twenty words. Well done!”

He shrugs.

“So, why write a book such as No Way Out But Through? It’s a deeply personal book. What is the story behind the story?”

Graham drew in a deep breath. “I wrote it because there are others out there just like me who feel the same way that I do and have gone through similar things to what I have. A lot of these people are sad and hurting because nobody understands them. The purpose of my book is to share my deepest struggles to speak into the lives of those who need it. The stories that have impacted me the most in my life have been those told with brutal honesty about the darkness in people’s lives and their brave, sometimes desperate struggle to get better.”

“Agreed.” I brush crumbs from my fingers and nod. “Truth sticks out and stays in my mind long after the words fade. Thanks for being so brutally honest.”

“Mmm hmm. While other stories have washed over my head and been forgotten in minutes, the darkest and most personal stories are the ones that have remained ingrained into my thinking long after I have read them. I have shared my story in a similar manner in the hope of speaking into the lives of others in the same way that those with the courage and honesty to share their deepest struggles have spoken into my life.”

I frown, fingers interlaced beneath the table. “So did you find it uncomfortable exposing your struggles in such an open way to the world?”

“Yes and no.” Graham cocks his head to the side. “It’s definitely therapeutic, getting it all out there. But at the same time I look back on some of it now and feel quite embarrassed. However, as a good friend once told me, that’s a good thing as it shows how far I’ve come since then. It’s kind of weird sharing your whole life with the world as I am a very private person by nature. But I believe it’s what I was meant to do and I believe that the self sacrifice of my private struggles into this book has the power to change lives, which is what I want to be remembered for.”

“I do the same thing with my historical fiction. Turn my life lessons from pain into stories of hope for others.” I put my thumb tips together, index fingers pointing upward. “Picture this: You are stuck in an elevator and have three floors to give the central message of your book to a group of interested people…how would you describe it?”

“There are people like myself who struggle with emotional pain and suffering sometimes beyond belief. Society often writes these people off, and they often write themselves off. But there’s a way to get well. It involves hard work, feeling every inch of the pain within you and through close, honest and sometimes terrifying relationship with God where you must allow Him to take you through the darkest storms as they are the only ones that can help expose your wounds so that they can be cleaned. My journey to health and well being has taken me deeper than anyone I know and beyond the realms of conventional thinking into a spiritual universe I was operating out of, but didn’t really know existed.”

“Sounds good. Do you have a favourite line from your book?”

“More like a favorite few paragraphs.” He picks up a copy of No Way Out But Through from the table and thumbs through it. A smile lights his face as he runs a finger down a page. “This is probably my favorite section in the book – in the chapter Learning to Handle Trials and Tribulations.”

God gave me a vision of a man who had taken a bullet wound to the leg. However, instead of having the wound treated he had simply learned to live his life around the wound by only using one leg. God then put him in a place where he was forced to use his wounded leg, which of course brought incredible pain to the wounded man. Though having to put pressure on his wounded leg was extremely painful, it made him aware that there was a problem that needed to be resolved. Once he felt the pain he had three choices: to stop and honestly assess he wound, then take steps to heal it (keep walking on both legs, ignoring the pain screaming out at him- which would never bring him any peace and only make things worse), or start hopping around on one leg again and wait for the pain in the wounded leg to subside so that he could forget about it again. I realized that I had one of these choices to make whenever God brought up a painful emotional wound or spiritual tie in my life. I could honestly face and assess the wound in order to heal it, continue to charge forward with the pain screaming out at me and make things worse, or try to control the situation so that the pain would settle back down within me and not bother me again. Taking the third option seemed like the right choice, but in reality it was just causing me to stagnate, as I would just get stuck on the same issues over and over again. The second choice never worked for me and only ever made me feel worse. The first choice was the choice God wanted me to take—and the true path to peace and healing.

“A modern day parable. I like that. Great imagery.” I tap my copy of the book and glance up. “Life after book launch…is your  life much different after you wrote ‘The End’ and the book landed in your hands? Was there a line in the sand that you crossed at some point and thought ‘wow. I’m a published author, my life will never be the same’?”

“It still hasn’t really sunk in – I guess because the worldwide launch with Creation House isn’t till next month. I’m not really thinking about it to be honest. It’s been a huge amount of work to get this far. I feel like I’ve run a marathon and though I’ve arrived at the end and claimed the grand prize, I’m mentally and emotionally exhausted. Don’t get me wrong – I am very proud and excited for the future. But for the time being I’m just focusing on getting a bit of normality back into life and recovering from achieving such a mammoth task.”

“Sounds like a great idea.” I smile. “So why the title: No Way Out But Through? What was the inspiration for that?”

“The title of the book is symbolic of the manner of the journey I had to go on in order to begin getting well. There was no way around, over or under the darkness in my life.” He twirls his fingers like drum sticks then points them straight ahead. “The only way to truly face it and heal it was to walk right through it.”

“What about Jesus…” I touch my cross necklace briefly. “What does Jesus mean to you, how does he fit into your life?”

“Jesus has been the central figure of spiritual guidance throughout this entire journey. He’s been orchestrating the whole thing, beginning from the end. Before some of the worst things happened to me He spent years training me mentally through counsel from wise people and insight from the Holy Spirit so that I would be equipped to face some of the horrendous trials I have faced in the last four years. Our relationship is strong but not always harmonious. I know that God has orchestrated some of the horrible experiences I’ve been through over the last four years simply because I had to go through them in order to face the darkness in myself and get through it. There has definitely been some tension in my relationship with God as a result. But as He’s said to me – “Would you rather none of this happened?” And the answer to that in all honesty is no, because if none of these awful experiences He has orchestrated had come to pass, I wouldn’t have been able to face myself and fully heal, and therefore wouldn’t be where I am today.”

“You’ve had quite a journey. Do you have a favourite Bible verse and why is it special?”

“Isaiah 43:19 – Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now that it springs up, do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” He nods enthusiastically. “I especially like the second path as my life has definitely been a wasteland in many ways. Water symbolizes life and water must be constantly moving so that it doesn’t stagnate, so I appreciate the last part of that verse as it says that life is coming to me despite my wasteland experiences and I won’t be staying stagnant but always moving forward.”

“Forward movement is great. Even two-steps-foward-one-step-back is still progress. What does a day in you life look like now? I know I see you on facebook a bit, what do you do with yourself and where can readers typically find you hanging out?”

“I work as a part time cleaner at a local Christian Holiday Park. It’s active, physical work and I work with good people, so it’s good to be there. I also play guitar on the worship band at my church. I enjoy movies, playing and writing music (I play both guitar and drums), tinkering with computers, online gaming and military weaponry. I also enjoy bodysurfing in the summer months and being around nature.”

 “Sounds good.” I pull out my android phone and activate the web browser. “So, links to find you on the web…can we have them?”

“Sure.”

Blog:  http://giaitchison.blogspot.com/

Facebook: http://facebook.com/graham.aitchison

Twitter: GrahamAitchison

I close my phone. “What is one special talent you have, and (trick question) where would you never use it?”

“I have a talent for burping. I am literally amazing at it. A friend in primary school taught me how to open my throat and swallow air then burp it back out, and it’s all gone downhill since then. Places I’d never use it include wedding receptions, funerals, church services and other such places. It’s not the most useful of gifts and probably doesn’t serve me too well in the social scene, but I am proud of it nonetheless.”

“Ha! I learnt to burp on command–self taught–when I was 14, and taught my younger sister too as well, much to mum’s disgust. I like the squirrel in the children’s movie: Over the Hedge, his best line “I can burp my A B C’s!”

We smile. A grin borne of mutual discovery of the International Burp Society. Always good to find new members. 🙂

“Tell me, what is on your heart for others, do you have passion or a burden for something in particular?”

“Yip. I have a huge heart for unborn children. I care very deeply for them and it pains me greatly to see some of the things that happen to them. If you read my book, especially the last chapter of the second section, you’ll understand why.”

“I do understand.” I smile. “I’ll let the others read it first to find out for themselves. Rightio…. Seeing as self worth is something that I have a particular passion for, what is your view on self worth, and do you touch on this subject in your book at all?”

“Self worth in my life has been something that has been built up gradually as I have become stronger and more healed as the years have gone on. When I was in my darkest days, my sense of self worth was very low and I would allow people to get away with treating me as badly as they pleased because I was scared of what would happen to me if I didn’t. As I have become stronger emotionally due to getting well, my sense of self worth has drastically improved and I am now far more confident than ever before. Learning to believe in yourself and value yourself has been a slow journey for me. But I have seen amazing progress. I believe it is touched on in the book as I speak about how I began to be more assertive and confident once I had faced my fears and therefore banished them.”

“Glad to see you have found progress. Even better to have found it to be amazing.” I glance out the window to the dusty brown wheat paddocks and sigh. “You live in New Zealand, right? Tell us about your country…what are the 5 best things about it, and give us the 3 best places to visit there, and one thing to never do…”

“NZ is great! It’s green pretty much all year round (except for the time being as there’s been a drought due to a very long and hot summer), it’s not too populated, you’re never too far from a beach, the people are pretty decent (most of the time) and your accent makes you famous for Lord Of The Rings and Flight of the Conchords when you go overseas.”

“Yes, the famous accent…. We Aussies have a bit of that as well. But we don’t have LOTR to commend us.”

“Great places to visit – Taupo, Queenstown, most of the South Island in general. One thing never to do – jump off the 60 foot high bridge over McLaren Falls in Tauranga, not far from where I live. I didn’t have the guts to do it but a friend did and he reckoned he felt like he was falling for about 15 minutes. He says he had constant sinus pain due to water being shoved up his nose and apparently if you don’t clench, it can also go other unwelcome places. Not to mention people have died jumping off that bridge due to not hitting the water correctly. So yeah, don’t do that.”

I try to keep a straight face…and fail. Miserably. Hysterically. “I think I’ll give bridge jumping a miss then.”

I wipe tears and clear my throat. “So, to recap: we’ve been chatting with Graham Aitchison and his book, “No Way Out But Through”.”

No Way Out But ThroughNo Way Out But Through is the written account of Graham Aitchison’s journey from mental illness to a true sense of clarity and peace. This book takes the reader through the darkest parts of Graham’s soul through the various tools and thinking methods he has used to help himself to heal and into a realm of insight that can only come through surviving the darkest parts of life itself.

“Rated at 4.7 Stars, it’s available from Amazon and christianbook.com for aprrox $7.07 paperback or $2.99 on Kindle … Or, we can buy it direct from you, is that correct?”

“Yip. At the moment I’m only selling my 125 copies to folks in New Zealand as I haven’t yet been able to figure out PayPal, so for the time being you can either order the $2.99 self pub ebook version on Amazon or wait until May 7th when Amazon and several other sites launch the book worldwide.”

“Cool. Thank you for your time, and sharing your journey and insights into what is like to travel through depression, and most importantly, how there is light waiting for us on the other side.”

For a bit of fun, Graham has a video on his facebook page of himself playing guitar (rather well I must admit!). Link is here if you are interested. All the best, Graham, as you continue to speak truth and deal honestly with yourself. I read your book and quite enjoyed it. Yes, it’s very honest. But the best books always are. 🙂

Hi! Lillian Duncan has graciously agreed to use some of my poems. I hope they bless you. 🙂

Tiaras & Tennis Shoes

God is so good! He’s given us so many ways to share our thoughts, ideas, and feelings with others in so many creative ways. Today, I’m excited to share a poem from a writer friend of mine-Lucy Morgan-Jones.

Lucy Morgan-Jones writes  historical romance novels set in the Colorado Rockies and makes her home in north central Victoria, Australia, and am a mum of four precocious children.   Blog: http://lucymorgan-jones.com You can connect with her at https://www.facebook.com/lucymorganjonesauthor

Thank you.

by Lucy Morgan-Joens

Hark! Listen those who quibble

The Lord Jesus is in the middle.

He is all that stands between us and death

So praise him, praise him with all your breath.

Believe in him, know his word is true

Feel your soul become brand new.

Let his love for you transform your life

Forgiveness the key for ending strife.

The road we walk is narrow and alone

Destination—our eternal home.

Don’t give up…

View original post 95 more words

Does God love me?

Does God love me?

What about my sin…you know…that one. The sins you don’t tell anyone about. That remain unconfessed… Haunting. Squirming just below the surface. Surely God wouldn’t forgive them. Surely they’re just too, well, BIG.

Psalm 103

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

God doesn’t hate you. He already knows what’s in your heart–and he loves you the same.

He. Loves. You.

I’ll say it again: He loves you.

Can I encourage you to just close your eyes, quiet your thoughts, and firstly say sorry to God for your sin (it separates us from God) and just listen to Him.

God is waiting to hear from you. He’s out looking for you. Calling your name. Preparing your home in heaven in preparation for your arrival. Getting ready to throw a part to celebrate.

You don’t need to jump hoops to earn his love. The thief on the cross had nothing to offer, nothing to recommend him to God. And he was accepted. Empty hands are fine.

God bless. Lucy

My Writing Space

My ‘office’.

Messy. Creative. Materials on hand. Index cards. Reference books–currently it’s “Deep and Wide” by Susan May Warren. Highlighter, pencil and biro on hand.

Lucy writing

Earphones in to drown out other noises under the bass and lyrics of Third Day or Nightwish.

I do have a desk and most of the time it looks tidy. I use it to ‘look’ professional and to hold up my growing collection of To-Be-Read craft books. The right is what I wish my office looked like…I can dream, right?

2013-02-27 19.19.55      what I wished my writing spot looked like

I’m working on some re-writes at the moment so it’s all index cards go! 🙂 Note (ha ha) my reference book covered in sticky notes and yellow highlighter. Makes finding important parts much easier!

2013-02-27 19.22.54

Do you have a special place that you write? The kitchen table? Comfy armchair? Only in a hammock in the Caribbean while surrounded by palm trees and cool drinks?

Photo on 2-27-13 at 7.48 PM #2

I offer you an “Invitation to Change” your habits, try somewhere new to write.

To create a new “Black Moment” for your characters…

And to write the coolest “Happy Ever After”

Happy writing and thank you for spending time in my writing space. 🙂

 

How to choose a book.

Book selecting methods. What are they? How do you choose your next book out of the thousands, even millions of other titles out there? Apart from cover design and reading the back cover blurb, how else do I select my next book?

It’s like choosing a radio station….

ID-10024049

Stay with me and I’ll explain how.

My family and I took a rather long car trip recently, we covered many thousands of kilometers, we saw a lot of road between Victoria and Queensland, ate a lot of junk food and listened to a lot of radio stations.

The thing is with radio stations, just like good authors is that you run out of range, or you run out of titles to read from that one supplier. So, you have to flip channels, look for something else that suits your tastes, and my tastes.

So, one eye on the highway and one eye on the dash, I hit the ‘seek’ button. Beep. Click. Sqiggle. Squiggle. Beep. 

Opera. Violins. Weepy piano’s. Something else high-pitched and annoying. Someone hand me a squished sandwich from the nether regions of the backseat floor so I can plug my ears!

Beep. Click.

Country. I listen for two minutes and then decide the singer deserved to be dumped if he whinged that much in real life about his girlfriend.

Beep. Click. Squeak. Click. Beep. Click.

Aha! Something I like. Something decent to listen to. BUT, you want to know what caught my attention? Why I stopped searching….

Voice.

The style, that something catchy, something relatable (relevant, identifiable etc), an interesting topic, great lyrics, or great words.

Do you see a parallel here between books and radio stations?

In both we look for:

Writing that sings.

A topic/theme that is interesting.

Relatable characters. 

Words that draw us in, capture our attention.

* If that is what captures my attention, what is it that puts me off choosing a radio station to listen to, or a book to read?

Advertisements! Ugh. Hate ’em. No–I loathe them. In fiction this is known as ‘author intrusion’. The author stepping into the story to state their own agenda, own opinions, and in general interrupt the story and make a pain of themselves. 🙂 Both put me off, and discourage me from engaging in either the songs or the book.

1108121219-00Not impressed!

* I discovered something else also. Some hosts/authors are so interesting, whether it be funny or unique that I was prepared to stick with them, and listen as he/she discussed some tough topics because of their personality. It comes back to voice.

* Some radio stations, and some authors are there to fill a need. Whether it be a non-fiction book, cookbooks, romance books with a strong theme of happy ever afters, or sci-fi thrillers they are there to fill a need. Talkback radio is there to fill a need. Tourism radio channels are there to fill a need. They aren’t for everybody, but they are there for the ones who need it.

* We read books for a variety of reasons: education, escapism, boredom, entertainment. Same with radio. But, I think, we sometimes pick up a book/choose a station because it pushes the envelope. Sure, we might not always admit this. But every so often we want a shake up. A stretch of the imagination. To think outside the square. So we pick choose a more risqué book, or a station that deals with more controversial or gritty topics.

And who knows what gems of books we may never have read and savoured. Or which radio station has shared new and fascinating information. Who knows what blessings we may have missed.

Thanks for listening. 😉 Take care in your writing to develop your voice. That unique style that is distinctly you. Who knows how many people, whether online or in a bookstore will stop flipping channels, stop flicking through your book and just stop and be drawn in by your voice. Your story. Your characters. Your theme.

How about you? Do you relate choosing a book to anything? What methods do you employ for selecting you next read?

All the best as you write for His glory. Lucy.

Radio image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Orange pookie knitted by me. He is Susan’s Snopsis.

Bushrangers, horse duffers and heroines to love.

We’ve been on the road again, partly to visit friends, partly to research.

IMAG0088

The rubbish bins holders at Winton are in the shape of dinosaur feet. 🙂

We called in at Augathella, and again at Mitchell, Qld and checked out the information centre there. Found out some fascinating history. One thing that caught my attention was the story of a horse duffer family. *a duffer, of course, is a thief. An old photo listed two brothers and a father as well as “the sister”. Ooh, I thought. What if….

IMAG0259

The two brothers.

What if my heroine was the daughter of a horse duffer family. What if she stole as well. What if her worth is in belongings, possessions, and not in how God sees her. What if, what if….

And I was off and racing with ideas. 🙂

IMAG0113

Me in the bush at Winton, taking photos for location research.

45c/113F temps outside. Stinking hot! Can’t imagine walking for miles in that sort of heat to get from shearing shed to shearing shed like swaggies used to do. (click on the word ‘swaggies’ for a link to explain what one is…).

How hard would it be to love someone who had a light fingered approach to life? What would that relationship look like? What lessons would have to be learnt/obstacles overcome to have a Happy Ever After?

What about you? Have you ever lived, or loved someone who treated your stuff, or your heart with carelessness? Do you have any tips or advice for dealing with that? I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

Free ebooks.

 

Free Christian romance ebooks. Free ebooks for Kindle. Free epub books.

Hi I thought I’d put together a list of ebooks that you can download for free. All legal, of course. 🙂

Each link below opens up to the site with the list of free books. Happy reading!

Christianbook.com: every Friday they update their list of free books.

Amazon.com: this link opens up an Amazon page with Kindle books listed from cheapest (FREE) to most expensive.

Smashwords.com: not all these books should be labelled as “Christian” so read the blurbs/reviews carefully. But who knows what gems you’ll find, they’re free so there’s nothing to lose. 🙂

Free-Online-Novels.com: takes a bit of sifting through, but I have found some good authors through this site.

inspiredreads.com: this is great, especially if you use the subscribe by email function. They email you a list every day of their pick of free or heavily discounted books by the top selling Christian authors. Bonus!

echristian.com: free classic Christian books. Authors such as A.W. Pink, Calvin, John Bunyan, Luther, Spurgeon etc.

That’s all I’ve got to share. How about you? Do you know of any good websites that have free ebooks? Post any links in the comments. 🙂 Happy reading!

I have an agent!

Hi! Today I am downright ecstatic to announce that I have an agent! Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary.

So begins a whole new chapter of my writing career. 🙂 Thank you for following my journey so far and for taking the time to encourage, explain in the most gentle way possible, teach, Snoopy dance on my behalf (you know who you are!) and cheer me on.

This past year has been a roller coaster of ups and downs of learning the writing craft, finishing a complete novel and then the work of revising and editing it.

God’s hand has been upon me the whole time, guiding (sometimes pushing…), guarding and girding me to where I am now.

A look back on the previous year:

Mid-June 2011: Wrote the first line of my story, and then the next and the next.

November 2011: Joined ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and the Christian Writers Downunder facebook group.

My first meeting with other Christian writers. 🙂

February 2012: Joined Scribes, the ACFW critique loop and went on a steep learning curve of applying edits and craft rules to my work-in-progress.

April 2012: Decided to attend the  biggest writing conference in the world- The ACFW Christian Writers Conference.

May 2012: Joined my critique group and dropped off the big critique loop. I have 5 wonderful critique partners, who I’m sure drink red ink at breakfast time along with slices of grace. They are such a blessing to me. 🙂

June 2012: Finished writing the first draft of my first novel, A Certain Woman of Worth. Came in at about 96,000 words. I was pleased to have written a book in a year.

August 2012: Started my 2nd book, A Certain Woman of Mettle. Wrote 34,000 words in a month. My best ever.

September 2012: Edited like mad… 1st book stands finished at 100,000 words. I flew to Dallas, Texas in the USA to attend the ACFW conference. I met nearly all my critique partners and had an absolute ball with them. Learned lots of things in workshops and met with agents and an editor. Out of three appointments I had two requests for my full manuscript and one request for a proposal. Very humbling and exciting.

October 2012: Both agents liked me and my work and offered to work with me. I chose Chip. He’s funny, brilliant and kind.

So… that’s my writing life up to now. I know this blog post hasn’t offered much in terms of humor or anything writing wise, but I wanted to take the time to thank you for your input into my life and for sharing with me. 🙂

All the best,

Lucy

Balloon Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Writers Imagination and the characters that frequent that place.

Hi! Welcome to Writers Imagination. Yes, in case you were wondering, it’s an actual place. 🙂 Two of my critique partners and I share this story back and forth, adding a scene here and there and revealing all sorts of tidbits and characters that frequent that interesting place.

And for the record: I write Historical Romance, not Fantasy. Promise. I hope you enjoy this weeks edition. 🙂

A dragonfire tongue of warmth wound its way through Lucy’s middle. Drag Susan into a Historical Novel… It’s almost irresistible. She’s so deliciously low. So horribly dirty. I’ll take it! I’ll make a Duchess out of this draggle-tailed guttersnipe. She waved the line of script out of her face. “Go back to My Fair Lady. I’m thinking.”

Lucy focused on her friend opposite her. “Open your eyes, Susan.”

Susan shook her head. “No. It might be some horrid Edwardian drawing room.”

Lucy giggled. “Can’t you just smell the stuffy scent of gentleman’s cigars, and the chalky smell of ladies make-up…”

Susan groaned and clutched the carved arms of Lucy’s living room chair. “No way. You can’t make me look.”

Lucy smiled and slid a plate stacked high with lamingtons onto the table. “But all those smells are overlaid by the scent of cream cakes, and chocolate éclairs and—”

Susan’s eyes pried open. “Food sounds good.” Her mouth dropped open and she pointed. “What on earth is that?”

Lucy swiped a sweet off the plate, leaving a trail of coconut to her lap. “A lamington. Standard Aussie tucker. G’on, have one.”

Susan picked a square lamington off the fine bone china plate and turned it over in her hands. She broke off a corner and stared at it. “What’s it made of?”

Lucy swallowed her mouthful. “It’s a sponge cake, dunked in chocolate and then rolled in coconut.”

“Sponge?” Susan poked the cream colored middle that showed through the broken corner. “But that’s for wiping dishes.”

“Not in Australia. A sponge cake is a bit like an angel food cake.” Lucy started on a second lamington. “Just eat it, or I will.”

“I will, I will. In my own time.” Susan nibbled on her it for several minutes. “It’s not too bad. Better than being stuck in some drawing room with a bunch of overdressed ladies.”

Lucy dusted off her fingers, littering the sandwich plate in front of her with coconut crumbs. “Now, as I said, open your eyes.”

“They are open.”

“No, no. Look around. You are in a Historical Romance.”

Susan glanced around the room. “Um, I know you filled your story house here with prissy antiques, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been dragged into that era.”

“They’re not prissy…” Lucy arched a brow.

Susan reached over and bumped a side table. It wobbled and then settled back onto the brick that propped it up. “Hmmm, my point…”

“Not that one. It doesn’t count. He’s in training.”

“What on earth for?”

“The three legged race.”

Susan shook her head. “Now that’s just sad.”

Lucy smiled. “Sorry, couldn’t resist. But you are in a romance.”

“Ah—”

Lucy pointed out the bay window. “Look at all the houses. Look at the books. The threads that run through them are threads of love. Of romance. Of sacrifice, sometimes the ultimate sacrifice.”

“Umm, examples?”

Lucy wriggled back in her chair, rustling the satin of her gown. “Let’s take your story as an example…”

“Let’s not.”

“I’ll be kind. Here, have another lamo, and I’ll explain.”

Susan shook her head. “No, I’m watching my girlish figure.”

“Suit yourself. Now, where was I… oh yes. Romance in your fantasy story…” Lucy leaned back and drummed her fingertips on the table. “There is great examples of love in Lightrise. Of the extent that the great Lightkeeper himself went to provide a path for others to walk back to himself. The cast of thousands that work together, helping each other, caring, and showing hospitality.”

“Mm hmm. I suppose.”

Lucy fluttered her lashes. “And lets not forget Layna and Artek.”

Susan rolled her eyes. “No, can’t forget them.”

“So, you get my point. You’ve written a romance, like it or not.” Lucy folded her hands atop each other and tried not to look smug. “And seeing as you are in my story at the moment, you are in a historical romance. Ta da! Talk about sneaky. And you didn’t even know you in one.”

“Now, where the devil are my slippers?”

Susan turned and pointed. “What on earth is Rex Harrison doing here?”

“You mean apart from giving Ginger pointers in pronunciation?”

“What?” Susan swung back, mouth agape.

“Gotcha!” Lucy giggled. “No, he um, may have heard my mumbling something earlier and decided to pop in to help.”

Rex propped his thumbs behind his suspenders. “By George, it’s enormous. It’s the biggest offer I ever had.”

Susan leaned closer. “Does he have to be here? He’s weird.”

“I’ve been trying for a while now. He must have heard me talking about romance. For a gruff fronted fellow he knows a little about it.” Lucy stopped to dab the corners of her mouth with the cuff of her gown.

“Ahem.”

She looked up and accepted the handkerchief Rex held out.

He frowned at her. “Remember, that’s your handkerchief and that’s your sleeve. Don’t confuse the one with the other…”

Lucy ducked her head. “Thank you.” She kicked Susan under the table, just hard enough to get her attention.

“I think we need some help,” she hissed.

Susan held up a gadget the size of a rock but twice as shiny. “I’m dialling Elizabeth now.”

 

Exploits of a Research Junkie

Recently I spent some time in the United States, both for the ACFW 2012 conference in Dallas, and then afterwards in Colorado for a research trip.

Today I’ll just focus on the Colorado trip, as Tanya Eavenson is graciously hosting me on her blog in the next few days about what I got out of the conference.

So, without further ado here are some highlights of my trip…

In tiny Georgetown, CO we intended to visit an underground silver/gold mine and ride a historic steam trian. We get to the mine and it was shut for lunch so we go downtown and check out the antique shop… and I find the antique books. 🙂 Oh, I’m a happy girl! Spent $104 and got: (all 1800’s or early 1900’s copies) a dictionary, Jo’s Boys by LM Alcott (signed!), Broken Dreams poem book (for one of my characters, Ethan, to quote), the Merchant of venice, Nursery Tales and The Children in the Scrub (a book about children in TASMANIA!!!). Most of those are cloth bound and in pretty good nick. 🙂


We go back to the mine and meet the guy out front… then step into the workshop area and I’m hit by a certain… odour. “That smells like pot,” I say, never one to pull punches. “Yeah, it does that sometimes,” the weathered looking guy says. Mindy and I don a hard hat and dog tags, grab a flashlight and follow him into the mine. I stand a good couple of feet from him as he must have just finished a bong as we drove up, his breath REEKED! We hop on a mine car thingy and head on into the inky blackness, our flashlights lighting up sparkles and water drips. I learned lots of interesting stuff on the way in there. As we head back we stop at different side shafts and learn new stuff. At one point he lets us off and then takes off for a minute. Mindy starts freaking out, I didn’t. I thought, “Hey, this guy has been bragging about how he likes adrenaline and is a adrenaline junky and the crazy stuff he’s done, well if he has left us… then cool, I know the way out and we’ve got flashlights. No biggy. But, I thought he’d come back, and he did within a min or so… we learn more stuff and ooh and ah over the ore seams. THEN, he lights a candle and shows what it was like back then etc mining. We hop back on the cart and he then explains he’s going to light a stick of dynamite and we’ll have 20seconds to get out of there… so he takes his time lighting the stick in the wall and I’m the one who starts freaking out! I’m about 2 seconds off getting off that cart and running when he hops back on, blows the whistle (which I have no idea WHY!! we are the only freaking people for 1,000 feet in there!) and we take off. I plug my ears and it’s the longest 20 seconds of my life before I hear a nice BOOM behind me. Heart was pounding and skin clammy. Ok, maybe the clammy skin is from the damp air in the tunnel… but still… I shake my head.

We get out and look at our ore that we crushed and he starts talking mustangs. Oh goody! Man oh man he is as mad/wild as my character, Danny in my story. Perfect! So I pump him for info on mustangs and other stuff, explaining why I need to know for my book. We head over to the office and look at some pictures from that mine and area. His friend opens the adjoining door and I want to exit the building asap. MORE pot smoke drifts out in a dense cloud. I may or may not be stoned now for the 1st time in my life!! Our guide, Bill gets a bit excited and starts telling his friend about my book (I know… weird) and how his friend has written a 800 page book on mushrooms. I don’t know why I’m surprised… he probably lists every know species of Magic Mushies.

I don’t have enough cash to pay for the tour so we head back down town to get some from the only bank. I pop back into the antique shop to pick up my books and my credit card, then get my money out and head back to pay the guy. I pay him, shake hands, extract my hand from his grasp (it still smelled hours later) and thank him. He asks if I can send him a copy of my book. I raise my brows and say “It’s a Christian Romance story”. He laughs and says, “So, I’ve like read the Bible 3 times”. I tell him his nose will grow. He then says “Ok then, I’ll buy it from the bookstore.” I’m not sure if he’s talking about the Bible or my book and I don’t ask him to clarify… Mindy and I have nicknamed him “Bongo Bill”.

About 8pm it dawned on me that I now have the ability to describe exactly what it feels like to deal with explosions and will now be able to describe fear, as well as faith that God saves from my hero’s POV rather well.
My friend and I rode a historic train on the Georgetown Loop. Beautiful scenery and freezing air! I look lots of photos. Thank goodness they replaced the train bridge the year I was born, as it used to sway 5 feet in either direction when the train crossed it… and the bridge is 300 feet in the air. Yeah. Very thankful! We took the 2nd class carriage, as that’s what my characters would take. No heating for them, or for us. 🙂
After the train ride I waded into the little creek that runs past the train line and winds its way through the mountains. I tasted the water, all just so I could describe its taste in my story via my characters. My feet FROZE as I was only wearing a pair of good ole thongs (flip flops to the non-Aussies). Turns out that the water is melted snow. Figures. No wonder I didn’t get feeling back into my feet until we’d been driving for at least half an hour with the heater on full blast!
The next day I took heaps of photos of appropriate ranch land for my books, went to the Molly Brown house in Denver, checked out Antique Row. Walked and walked and walked. Got some lovely items…. and I brought a cupboard to bring home. As you do. 🙂
I scouted out lots of locations that my characters could live, and seeing as I’m writing a historical book which is set in a fictional town I have the advantage of being able to put together my own idea of what their surroundings look like. So many beautiful places to look at and see. 🙂 Here is a short video of the scenery on the way into the mountains.
There you have it! I hope the snippets of my trip have been interesting. 🙂 What is one thing you’d like to experience in the name of research, OR, what is one interesting thing that you have already experienced and wove into an existing story?