On July 3, 2012 a story was born. It always amazes me at how random those moments are. I wasn’t expecting anything special to happen that day. I’ve tinkered with this particular story line for nearly a year, and I certainly didn’t expect to suddenly have all the pieces fall into place. But that’s what happened…or so I thought.
On July 5th, I laid aside a series I had been tinkering with and began something completely different. The transition was a difficult one for me, but that’s a story for another day. Jumping in with both feet, I began researching and writing a novel that I titled, Ancient Words.
Ancient Words is about seventeen-year-old Allie Redman who moves into an old home and finds a stack of letters written during the Civil War. As she reads the letters, her own story unfolds.
I began to fall in love with the Harper family as I told their story through letters. But that was the problem, their story was only told through the letters. Small snatches and snippets of their lives were revealed, but the greater part was held back. It had to be. There’s only so much you can say in a letter, after all.
In my personal reading time, I was reading through a collection of short stories written by Lucy Maud Montgomery when an author’s favorite question, “What if?” began to pull at me. What if I tried my hand at short stories? What could I write about?
I kept pushing the thought away. I was knee deep in my new novel and didn’t have time for distractions. Besides, I honestly couldn’t think outside the novel at the time.
I’ll never forget the morning I was cooking oatmeal at the stove when the “What if’s” began pulling at me again. What if I didn’t need a new story but told the same story in a new way? Immediately, my mind zoomed in on one of the lines I wrote for Claire’s letter. The original line is no longer in the novel, but it spoke of Olen’s bitterness toward God and his recent surrender to this same God. Such a simple line told a story all its own. And a powerful one too. What if I zoomed in and wrote a short story centered on Olen’s conversion?
Immediately following that idea, came another. Inspired by a second glance, came a love story of redemption featuring Allie’s best friend, Katherine.
And just like that, Where Can I Flee and Katherine’s Good News was born. As I sat down with my oatmeal, story possibilities and plot lines began to roll around in my mind. In time, it would become apparent that Sally Chandler would need a feature story all her own, and In the Shadow of Thy Wings would grow from that idea.
I now had 1 novel and 3 short stories. The plan, at that time, was to publish the novel but tack on the short stories for bonus reading material. It would be a way to give the readers what they always want at the end of a good book: a way to keep the story going.
Then the unexpected happened. The short stories outgrew themselves. Nine months after I began the Ancient Words novel, the story took a drastic change. After a very stressful 24 hours, I put a halt on the original novel and started over. This time with Where Can I Flee as the first novel of the Ancient Words Series. Overnight, both Where Can I Flee and In the Shadow of Thy Wings were upgraded to novels, and Katherine’s Good News would follow their example a year later.
The opening scene of Where Can I Flee is 100% original to the short story. Several of the early scenes featuring Olen’s conversion are also, in part, original to the short story. Several scenes from the upcoming release, In the Shadow of Thy Wings, are also original to the short story version.
Allie’s story is now titled His Love Endures Forever since I decided to use Ancient Words as the series title. The other novels kept their short story titles.
I pulled up the original files to compare.
Where Can I Flee short story: 7,647 words and 14 computer pages long
The novel sits at: 118,269 words and 215 computer pages long
In the Shadow of Thy Wings was never a very short story. Originally it had: 42,619 words and 65 computer pages
The novel is still growing in its editing process, but today is sitting at: 152,114 words and 272 computer pages.
Talk about humble beginnings!!
However, this would not be the last time that God changed my plans. Just recently, He intervened again, and the Ancient Words Series added a new novel to its lineup. Out of the Ashes now sits as book three and concludes the Civil War generation.
If you’re still looking for your copy of Where Can I Flee, you’ll find it on Amazon.