Up and Down Goes the Heart
by Leanne W. Smith
In April I flew to Chicago for a conference. April is a busy month for educators, and this conference took place during the highest peak of my work season. I was tired when I left, and tired when I came home.
Down goes the heart.
Still…perhaps due to the difference in routine tasks—an opportunity to step off the normal hamster wheel of my world—I returned refreshed, with a heart fuller of thought than normal.
And up again.
I flew Southwest on a Wednesday. The day before, a woman got on a routine flight like mine and didn’t live to reach her destination. I may never sit peaceably in a window seat again.
After Ubering to the hotel, I realized Hamilton was playing down the street. So on Thursday between academic sessions I bought a prized remaining ticket.
It is heralded as a great musical for a reason. The writer in me was moved and thrilled by the story, the lighting, the music, the acting.
I walked away wanting to be a braver writer; believing once again in the power of words and stories well told.
Friday, on the flight home, I finished reading The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. Another kind of story—heart-breaking and beautiful.
While I grieved the atrocities of her first-hand account of war and its wide swath of horror, I marveled at the faith and obedience of her family…the ways they loved, and the shafts of light God sent them.
And up again.
I returned to my own house more appreciative of the comfort and sanctity of home, to find my gloriously uneventful life as I had left it—to French-press coffee on Saturday morning in my easy chair, Stan reading the Wall Street Journal beside me, its front page filled with another story of abuse.
A familiar walk through the neighborhood. The azaleas in bloom and my hostas peaking through the soil. Worship on Sunday with people I love.
Then learning of another shooting in a public place.
Some weeks the heart volleys up and down more than others. In seeking to end this week on an upswing, here’s a short snippet from The Hiding Place, in case your heart benefits from the power of words and story as much as mine does.
Once—I must have been ten or eleven—I asked Father about a poem we had read at school the winter before. One line had described “a young man whose face was not shadowed by sexsin.” I had been far too shy to ask the teacher what it meant, and Mama had blushed scarlet when I consulted her. In those days just after the turn of the century, sex was never discussed, even at home.
So the line had stuck in my head. “Sex,” I was pretty sure, meant whether you were a girl or boy, and “sin” made Tante Jans very angry, but what the two together meant I could not imagine.
And so seated next to my father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, “Father, what is sexsin?”
He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads, and set it on the floor.
“Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he said.
I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.
“It’s too heavy,” I said.
“Yes,” he said. “And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.”
And I was satisfied. More than satisfied—wonderfully at peace. There were answers to this and all my hard questions—for now I was content to leave them in my father’s keeping.
From The Hiding Place: The triumphant True Story of Corrie ten Boom
Leanne, thank you so much for those words. I love that reminder in the excerpt from The Hiding Place. But let’s get back to you and your works. What does your research process look like?
When I was working on my first novel, Leaving Independence, my youngest daughter and I traveled to Missouri. The largest overland trails research library is in Independence. We walked through an old cemetery, and a kind gentleman with a booming voice drove us around town in a prairie schooner with his mules. This time, my oldest daughter and I went to Colorado. We rode The Georgetown Loop through the Rockies, visited museums and a mining town, and I could see Hoke charging up over a hillside.
Wow! What a great way to get into the setting! Did you always want to be a writer?
Yes, for as long as I can remember. Two summers in college I worked for my county’s election commission. When new folks moved to town and registered to vote in those days, they often came by the office. I sat at the front counter and filled out the forms. One day when I asked a man, “Profession?” he said, “Writer.” My pen paused mid-air. It was by far the coolest answer anyone had ever given. I think that’s the moment it dawned on me there were real people who wrote for a living; it wasn’t simply the stuff of my dreams.
Tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.
Finishing my first book was like having a first child. I thought, “There will never be a creative high to top this.” But finishing Contradiction was even more thrilling! The day I wrote the final scene I felt like David must have felt when he danced with abandon in the streets. I stayed in my living room, but my joy was no less thick.
Do you have any current projects you’re working on? Care to share?
Yes! Five: three historicals, a contemporary, and an adaptation. I really need to focus.
Thank you again, Leanne, for being on the blog and for sharing a bit more about your process and your work. Now, I’ll turn it over to my readers so they can jump into your newest release!
A Contradiction to His Pride
*This novel is set to debut June 12, 2018*
From the moment James met Corrine as they traveled the Oregon Trail, in Smith’s best-selling debut novel Leaving Independence, he couldn’t resist trying to win the sharp-mouthed beauty’s affections.
Now, as the core group of pioneers in Colonel Dotson’s wagon train begins to settle in Baker City, Oregon and build homesteads, James is restless to make his fortune so he can stake his own claim and win Corrine’s hand with honor.
But when James takes Corrine on an outing designed to impress her, things go tragically wrong. James foils a bank robbery and unwittingly sets a series of events into motion that shatter Corrine’s heart and now threaten her life, along with his and her older brother Charlie’s.
Soon there are several folks heading back down the trail—James, Charlie, Corrine, Harry and Tam Sims, the Baker City Sheriff, a newspaperman, a notorious criminal family, and Hoke Mathews—all set to collide in a final showdown in a Colorado mining town as outlaw Duke Walden seeks to make James pay for his heroic actions.
Enjoy an Excerpt
A cold wind rustled the leaves of the evergreens west of Baker City, building like the crescendo of a symphony. When the wind unfurled and swept into town, it lifted the top layer of a twenty-inch snow that had fallen the day before, sending icy sprays swirling over several residents who rushed to stand in the drifts and on the boardwalk following the gunshots.
James Parker wanted to give Corrine Baldwyn a day to remember him by, not a day to curse his name.
Now, as she thrashed while he tried to hold her, the blood from her hands raking stains over the sleeves of his coat, James squeezed his eyes shut against the wind, the ice, the snow and the slaughter, and wondered if she could ever forgive him.
Buy Link (for Pre-order)
Leanne W. Smith is the author of Leaving Independence, On a Dark & Snowy Night (short story), and A Contradiction to His Pride.
In the 90s she wrote a family humor column for two Middle Tennessee weeklies called “My Two Cents.” These days she writes historical fiction novels and serves on the faculty of Lipscomb University’s College of Business.
Leanne and her husband, Stan, have two daughters and a son-in-law who make the world a more beautiful place through their art, design, photography, songwriting and mandolin-playing. Visit Smith’s website at www.leannewsmith.com.
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For a chance to win a free paperback copy of Leanne W. Smith’s newest book, A Contradiction to His Pride, enter below. (Only valid for continental United States.) Please follow the directions on the Rafflecopter:
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