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Gleanings– When it Comes to the Writer’s Life…

What is it about being pressed and denied alone time for writing that makes me absolutely furious to write? Some perverse bent within me. I have 10 minutes before a small boy hits my door, demanding my attention. No sooner did I sit here at this blank page, than the new puppy barked to go out. I’ve left her in the backyard and hope she does not get out while where she can squeeze through the fence while I just had to run up here to get out what I’ve been thinking about. The perverseness is that whenever I do have the time to write, I sit and stare at the page or putter and think. Such is myself, a writer.

“When it comes to the writer’s life, there are no formulas, no easy answers, no ‘quick fixes.’ Each of us must still find our own path. But we can acknowledge the ‘bigness’ in ourselves and hold a mirror to others when they lose sight of the bigness in themselves. We walk in solitude as we work in solitude, but we can hold each other’s hands along the way.” ~ Maire Farrington, as quoted in The Writer’s Life, by Eric Maisel.

I had a dear friend long ago suggest to me that many of my essays should be gathered into a book entitled: When You Need A Hand to Hold. Maybe I will do that, someday, when the small boy has grown up, the elderly mother has passed on, and the dog is willing to lay at my feet. For now I hold my own hand, and I write in the crushed spaces. I do what I can with what I have. That’s a place to start, and to keep going.

“When I decided to become a writer, things moved along well for the first few years, then I began hitting some walls. I hit a dry spell. No words came out. The results weren’t as I had planned. It was time to decide if I wanted to stand behind my decision or fold.” ~Melody Beattie, More Language of Letting Go

Once we decide. The decision is everything. Make a decision, commit, and you are sprung forward. I decided to write at this time, and here I am, with the small boy now beside me watching me write, and I’m writing. He told me that my typing was like my fingers were dancing. I never would have heard that, had I not followed through with my decision to write this. I would never have known that I can write amidst distraction. Now I know. I write on.

Get writing, dear hearts.


Bestselling Christmas romance, Miracle On I-40 at 99¢ and now in print!

Miracle On I-40 by Curtiss Ann Matlock, revised and expanded edition published in hardback by Mira Books, now in ebook from Belgrave House.

On sale at 99¢ in Kindle now! And this year back in print!

I am very much like Anna in this story— there exists in me a fair sized piece of the child who still believes in Santa Claus, even though my heart has been torn and battered over the years. I’ve always thought, as does Lacey in this story, that Christmas is just a darn good idea. It is a focus on love. Nothing can be better than that. And this focus on love has continued to shine and grow now through 2,000 years. There’s magic in that in this old world.

My experience with this book, Miracle On I-40 began some 25 years ago now, with a telephone call from my editor. To have a call from my editor always sat me up straight with excitement. I was going on like gangbusters back then, intent on a career as a romance novelist.

“Would you like to do a novella for us? A Christmas story for a special collection.”

“I live for Christmas,” I told her, delighted with the idea and with being asked.

“I had an idea that was the case,” she replied in a dry tone that caused me to wonder at her view of me.

Then she told me, “It’s only twenty-five thousand words. You ought to be able to get that out in a few weeks.”

Thankfully, though, I had nearly six months before a deadline. Good thing I did, because I shortly discovered the disconcerting reality that I am a novelist. It is a great fallacy to think just because something is of few words, it is easily written. I find the exact opposite is true. Writing a short story required that I think, well, short. I worked and prayed and worked and prayed, and grouched and sweated and fumed a lot.

Through the years.

Through the years.

Miracle On I-40 — a title my husband thought of — was published as part of a special anthology for the Christmas season of 1988, when my son was eleven and no longer believed in Santa Claus but still enjoyed that I pretended to do so. The story received a few good reviews in romance publications, nothing spectacular, but the anthology did see well over one hundred thirty thousand copies in print in the United States alone, and eventually went into worldwide publication. I consider that something of a miracle. I received a few letters and kind words from readers, and then pretty much forgot about it in the effort of writing other stories, in the manner of every working writer.

Then one day, in a most delightful fashion,  I got a call from my agent. “They want to reprint Miracle On I-40 as a single and special promotional gift.”

So in the early new decade of the nineties, the small story saw renewed life in a few thousand copies as a single paperback gift edition, with Christmas ribbons and holly on the cover. I saw a copy once, and that was all.

After that, on occasion a reader might mention to me having read the novella, but mostly it was retired to gather dust. I again forgot all about it, until 1998, when I had the exciting opportunity to revise and expand the story of Cooper and Lacey and her children, and to see it published as a larger gift book, with a friend who owned her own small publishing company. It got enlivened with tender illustrations from an artist friend, too. I was thrilled. Again it made no great splash, although this time I did get a few nice reviews from a number of small town newspapers to put in the old scrapbook.

Click to link to the print copy at Amazon.

Click to link to the print copy at Amazon.

2005 arrived, and the little story that had started out as a tiny novella once more got revised and enlarged, and my publisher at the time, Mira Books, put it into an elegant hardcover gift edition for the Christmas season. One Christmas, and again it went out of print. But the times were moving rapidly–digital was here! I secured the rights returned to me and the story went into ebook, thankfully, available forever.

Now this year, I’ve seen yet another miracle with this story–I was able to get it back into print. Ebooks, are good, don’t get me wrong. I read them. But for me, there is nothing like a printed book. How gratifying to hand a book with pretty colored cover and printed pages to a friend as a gift! How comforting to curl into a chair with a cup of hot tea, with a solid book.

So here we are at 2014, and I once again share the story of Cooper, Lacey, and the children, and what happens with these four ordinary people one special Christmas that helps to heal their wounds of the past and give them a hope for the future.

People talk about the commercialization of Christmas, but I for one am ready early this year and love going into the stores to see all the Christmas decorations. I already had on Christmas music the other day. My two Christmas stories are my contribution to the precious comfort and joy that this season can bring, when we open our hearts to believing.

Enjoy as much of the coming holidays that you can.





Gleanings–from Deborah Chester and Distractions and Miracle On I-40

And I feel that I must now fight off every kind of interruption and intrusion into my inner space, my mind, my imagination, my thoughts, my very being. ~ Deborah Chester, in her blog post: Pressing Forward

I’ve read this blog post from Deborah Chester many times. It helps me to see myself and my choices, and gives me the encouragement to get up and press forward. When those of us who must write as much as we must breathe come to accept that fact, as well as the truth that our writing is a blessing we give the world, we are more willing to choose to turn from distractions and do the writing.

I say all that now that I’ve first bathed the new puppy (and she is sleeping nearby so I am happy) and read emails and just had to peruse the Disney princess banks for my granddaughter’s Christmas. Then I took myself in hand, am ignoring all the chatter going on below, in order to write and pay attention to my own inner space, mind, imagination, thoughts, my very being. When I put it like that, I feel rather heroic.

I think, too, that there is often good we come to when we go down that path of distraction. Sometimes distraction is the wonderful path to discovery. Each day we have the opportunity to sift and sort this out. It’s called a writer living life. It’s a writer’s job.

From Miracle On I-40:

Miracle On I-40 by Curtiss Ann Matlock, revised and expanded edition published in hardback by Mira Books, now in ebook from Belgrave House.

Miracle On I-40 by Curtiss Ann Matlock, revised and expanded edition on special sale, .99¢ at Kindle!

Cooper said, “You know, there’s a lot of kids wonderin’ why they have just about no gifts under their scrawny tree, and mom and dad in the kitchen drinking’ themselves into a stupor in celebration, while stores all over–owned and run by really good people–are all caught up in making’ their entire profit for the year.”

“You can focus on all of that,” she said. “It’s all true, but you can also look at the other side. People go so crazy with spending and decorating and giving gifts–with all the hype–because they need to do it. Christmas is the only time that such behavior is acceptable. Christmas at its heart is a time when everyone, even the most hardened criminal, can express the love that’s in their hearts without feeling embarrassed or threatened.”

Maybe when we can see the situation in a new, fresh light, we can make distractions work for us, not against us. It’s Christmastime. Blessed distractions all over the place!


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