Why we write

Forbes Magazine recently came out with its list of top-earning authors for 2013. Here’s a sampling:

  1. E.L. James earned $95 million for “Fifty Shades of Gray.”
  2. James Patterson earned $91 million. One in every 17 hardbacks sold is his.
  3. Suzanne Collins (“The Hunger Games”) earned $55 million.

 Other notables include Danielle Steele ($26 million) who has published 128 titles over her 40-year career and Dan Brown ($22 million) whose “Inferno” was the top seller from January to June this year (I outsold him in one week in one bookstore in Maryland. Woot!).  Virginians John Grisham ($18 million) and David Baldacci ($15 million) also made the list.

Who says people aren’t reading? The problem of course is that a few people in publishing make a lot of money and most make nothing. Or very little. Not only that, it takes me about a year to pen a novel, and that’s if I give up all the “extras” in my life: TV, movies, casual social events, even some ministry opportunities. Why do it?

I can’t speak for any of the authors on the Forbes list, but I devote my time to writing because that’s what I’m created to do. Paraphrasing Eric Liddell, when I write, I feel God’s pleasure. He’s given me an ability with words so I can express His truths, communicate hope, comfort those who are hurting, and to process my own joy and trauma, hope and despair. In fact, I simply can’t NOT write.

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be Indianapolis for the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference. I expect to see over 700 authors, mostly unpublished, milling about the hotel. They’ll be freshly scrubbed and filled with hope, their “one-sheets” describing works in progress stuffed carefully in their bags. Not all will live to see their stories published and sitting on bookstore shelves. I’ll wager none will ever make Forbes’ list. Still, with hearts filled with love for Jesus Christ, they follow their dreams. In the end, no one fails who does her best for God.

Everyone’s created for a purpose. What’s yours?

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COLLEGE BOUND

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It’s a bittersweet time of year–a time when 18 years of parenting walks out of the door to college and mom and dad see miles of possibilities–and an empty room. In honor of all the parents facing that situation this month, here is the first column I wrote for The Free Lance-Star, published 12 years ago when our daughter Becky left for Christopher Newport University:

Aug. 21, 2001

Our children have a river to sail-but not alone, and not adrift

SHE ROCKS gently in the slip, dipping under our weight as we move around the deck. The old sailboat tugs at her lines, tugs like a dog on her leash, ready to go. Swallows flit all around, over and under the dock, scooping up a buggy breakfast on the fly, as we stow gear, find the boat hook, and start the engine.

The put-put-put of the diesel breaks the silence. We check our instruments; we are ready to cast off. Stern lines, spring lines, bow lines-one by one we unwrap the ropes from the cleats, and loose the boat.

At home, the older daughter is busy loosening her own lines. Clothes, books, shoes, supplies disappear into bags. The products of many provisioning trips clutter her room. High-school memories are being stowed, and the dreams of childhood are being updated. She is waiting, waiting for that last line to be freed. College is just beyond the breakers, just over the horizon.

The boat moves forward. “Prepare to fend off,” my husband says. I push against a massive piling kissing the starboard rail, and the 12,000-pound boat moves under my feet.

“Clear,” I say, and she is free, slipping out into the still waters of the marina, gliding like a swan into the pink-gray dawn.

Prepare to fend off, I say silently to my daughter. Fend off bad relationships. Fend off destructive behavior. Fend off anxiety and loneliness and fear. Fend off. I will not be there for you, as I have for 18 years. It’s up to you, now. So fend off.

She is free. The sloop, still graceful in her old age, negotiates the turns in the marina, nodding to the sailboats, powerboats, fishing boats, and trawlers still in their slips. We watch for masts moving, indications of traffic ahead. One more turn, past the fuel dock, and she will be in the channel, heading for the Potomac. The smooth waters of the marina become frilled and then little wavelets begin lapping at the bow.

We are in the channel. Rock jetties line our path toward the open water, like runway lights or highway lane markers. An osprey nesting on a channel marker watches our advance from her stick-built home. Ragged Point Light appears on the port side. The rocks of the channel slip to our stern and we are out in open water, the boat nodding and bowing and cresting with each wave.

Your teen years, I think, have been lived between two jetties-family and good friends. These, along with your faith, have guided you. That beacon, the knowledge of God, always points the way to safe harbor, if we will only look. Don’t forget to look, child. Search for Him, even in the fog, especially in the storms, and maybe, most particularly, when the night is bright and clear, the stars sparkle overhead, and everything seems perfect.

The air is definitely salt. We turn into the wind, throttle down, and go forward to raise the sails. Wrapping the line three times around the winch we begin cranking. The canvas rises, flapping and complaining until it reaches the top of the mast, when it catches the morning breeze, fills, and takes its shape. The boat heels over slightly, acknowledging the tug of the sail. We go forward, hank on the front sail, and up it goes.

Under full sail now, we silence the engine and an incredible peace descends. The Potomac lifts us forward on gray-green shoulders as the wind pushes us along. A gull swoops and skims the water. I think of the great blue heron I saw once, crossing the river, swiftly gliding just barely above the water, intent on reaching the other shore. My husband told me he got more lift by staying low.

Brown pelicans, on the other hand, put on a show. They wheel and soar over the water and then, spotting a fish, they dive straight down, head first, hitting the water with a tremendous splash. The first time I saw a pelican do this I thought it had been shot. Now I know better-things are not always as they seem.

My mind goes back to our children, all so different. What we learned from parenting the first didn’t work on the second, and what worked on the second has no effect on the third. Did we discipline enough? Listen enough? Love enough? As this one leaves the nest, will she have wings to fly?

I know in my heart she will. I know she will. Despite our mistakes.

We sail all day, under the sun, over to Maryland and back, salt spray flying, the boat heeling, one eye on the instruments, the other ahead. As the sun dips to the horizon and the day cools we head home. Look for the light. Into the wind, and drop the sails. Fire up the motor. Follow the jetty.

The waters of the marina are still and flat. Swallows dart in the shadows and a gull laughs from a piling. We glide, like a swan, past sailboats and motorboats, fishing boats and trawlers. We slow to a crawl, pass the slip, and my husband puts the engine in reverse. As he backs us in I grab the lines off the pilings with the boathook. Bow lines, spring lines, stern lines. One by one we cleat them off. The boat is secure.

At home, the older daughter is counting the hours now. Her room seems bare. I think to myself, where did the time go? Soon the throbbing stereo will be silent; soon the frenetic schedule of athletics and academics and music and youth group will be a memory. Soon I will need to schedule visits with her.

Three hours away from her hug, three hours from her laugh, three hours from her tears. So much of life is loving and letting go.

Someone once said, a ship in a harbor is safe, but then, that’s not what ships were made for.

Sail on, daughter. With love.

LINDA J. WHITE is a member of The Free Lance-Star editorial staff

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Oceans of Grace

ImageWe live by faith in the ever-arriving power of future grace.

–John Piper

This morning, as I walked our Sheltie, Keira, I listened to the John Piper sermon on II Thessalonians 1. The air was cool—unusually so for August, and Keira was frisky. The sky, cleared of clouds by rain the night before, formed a robin’s egg blue canopy above me. I leaned into Pastor John’s words.

II Thessalonians 1:11-12 reads, “To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (ESV)

Rich wisdom fills that passage and Pastor John served it out, piece-by-piece, word-by-word, precept-by-precept. I chewed on this statement of his: We live by faith in the ever-arriving power of future grace.

Ever-arriving grace. Grace coming “moment by moment.” Grace fulfilling our resolves. Grace as the power of God. Grace. Grace. Coming into my life in waves, one grace after the other. Constant. Ongoing. Eternal. Like the ocean.

I love the beach. I love the sand, the gulls, the sun, and the great, green Atlantic. When I go out into the water where the breakers roll, sometimes the waves crash onto my head. Sometimes they carry me gently on their great shoulders, sailing me into the shore. And sometimes, they wash over me as if I am the sand on the beach.

Grace is like that. Sometimes, God’s grace hits me hard, leaving me sputtering and gasping for breath.  Hard knocks are needed to change my heart and make me “worthy of his calling.” Sometimes grace carries me on its great shoulders, “fulfilling every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power.” Sometimes it washes over me, cleaning away whatever has been scratched into my life, making me smooth, “that Jesus may be glorified” in me and me in him. Christ in me, the hope of glory.

Grace, grace, ever-arriving grace … as sure as the ocean, as deep as the sea.[1]


[1] Copyright 2013 Linda J. White

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Love those Chincoteague ponies, part 3

My love affair with Chincoteague began long before my grandparents moved there in 1961. In fact, it started with this book.

Marguerite Henry, born in 1902, had rheumatic fever as a child and was bedridden for six long years, between the ages of 6 and 12. For Christmas one year, she was given a writing desk, and with the help of pen and paper and a vibrant imagination, she began to write. “At last,” she said, “I had a world of my own.”

This prolific children’s author had her first story published when she was just 11 years old. What an encouragement that must have been. She went on to publish 59 books, mostly stories of real-life animals (like Misty) and books that taught about the geography of faraway lands.

She actually traveled to Chincoteague to research Misty, absorbing the “feel” of the island, and her writing conveys that well. Her 1947 “Misty of Chincoteague” helped Pony Penning become a tourist event and the island a beloved destination. I inherited my original copy of Misty from my aunt; the one shown here is a replacement.

Married at age 21, Miss Henry and her husband of 64 years never had children of their own. Still, millions have been impacted through her beloved stories. By the way, the real Misty died in 1972. Miss Henry lived to the age of 95, dying in 1997.

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Love those Chincoteague ponies! Part 2

Every year, on the last Wednesday before the last Thursday in July, Salt Water Cowboys from the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department swim the wild ponies from Assateague to Chincoteague, where the colts will be auctioned off the next day.

But where did the ponies come from to begin with?

 European settlers have lived on Chincoteague since the 1600s. A small village once existed on neighboring Assateague as well. On both islands, livestock was allowed to roam free. Once a year, islanders would round up the sheep, cattle, and ponies and brand them. This “penning,” accompanied by drinking and feasting, clearly dates back to the early settler days: It was described in 1835 as an “ancient custom.”

 According to the National Park Service and Fish & Wildlife Service websites, the ponies are probably leftovers from those days when livestock roamed free. But any native Chincoteaguer will testify that the ancestors of today’s ponies were the survivors of the wreck of a Spanish galleon in the shifting shoals offshore. In the days when Europeans were discovering the New World, it was common for ships (especially Spanish ships) to be transporting ponies to work in the mines in the Americas and for other purposes.

 Writer John Amrhein (“The Hidden Galleon”) is convinced that the wreck of the Spanish galleon La Galga in 1750 holds the key to the ponies’ origins. The year before the wreck, a hurricane wiped out all the livestock on Assateague. Another storm put La Galga on the beach, in a place Amrhein believes was an inlet, now covered by sand. And La Galga was carrying ponies. Amrhein believes these are the ancestors of today’s Chincoteague ponies. Thus far, Amrhein has not received permission from the federal government to test his theory.

Whatever their origins, the ponies have been on Assateague a long time and they’ve adapted to what sailors call the “harsh marine environment.” The marsh grass they munch on is salty, and the ponies drink twice as much water as a “regular” horse. Their bellies are rounded because of that. 

In my eyes, they’re beautiful!

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Love those Chincoteague ponies!

Anyone who has read “Misty of Chincoteague,” Marguerite Henry’s classic children’s book, has heard of Pony Penning, the annual round-up of the wild ponies that live on neighboring Assateague Island. I can tell you, Pony Penning was one of the highlights of my summer when I was a kid and my grandparents lived on Chincoteague! Every year, I’d buy tickets for the raffle pony and imagine taking it home to Rockville, Maryland in the back seat of my dad’s car. In my mind, if I won the raffle, he’d HAVE to let me take it home, right?

Well, that never happened, but I loved the ponies, nonetheless. This year, we’ll spend a week in Chincoteague for Pony Penning and we’ll be introducing our grandchildren, Noelle and Zeke, to the wonders of that island. I’ll also have four book signings at Sundial Books … but more on that later.

What is it about the Chincoteague ponies that intrigue us so? It begins with their origins … which I’ll write on next.Image

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Wow! What a nice review …

My Book Review:

In Seeds of Evidence, author Linda J. White transports the reader to the idyllic Virginia seashore locations of Chincoteague and Assateague Islands for a fast paced intriguing mystery thriller that will keep them sitting on the edge of their seat in suspense.

Written in the third person narrative, this riveting story follows FBI Special Agent Kit McGovern and D.C. Homicide Detective David O’Connor as they investigate the mysterious death of a young Latino boy whose body washed up on the beach while both were vacationing on Chincoteague Island. In his pockets are half a dozen acorns, and rolled up in his sleeves are tomato seeds. These small seeds of evidence are the key that leads Kit and David on a search to solve the mystery of the young boy’s death, which ultimately takes them into the tawdry underground world of human trafficking.

This complex and gripping tale is simply spellbinding! You can’t help but become captivated by the mesmerizing flow of the story. Author Linda J. White has a wonderful way of weaving a tale with amazing attention to detail, whether she is describing the beautiful shores and landmarks of Chincoteague and Assateague Islands, to the well researched investigative techniques and forensic science, the reader will feel like they are right beside Kit and David as they investigate the murder case.

Kate and David are a wonderful pair of characters who are realistic, down-to-earth people who have flaws and issues that are easy for the reader to relate to. Both are struggling with their faith and painful pasts, yet find themselves attracted to each other as their relationship develops. Their journey will take them to the edge and challenge their professional experience as well as their faith to overcome their own personal struggles.

Seeds Of Evidence is a compelling mystery thriller that has a little bit of everything: intrigue, suspense, drama, action, and romance. This thoroughly engrossing and enjoyable story takes the reader on one heck of an exhilarating thrill ride, it simply is a must read!

 
http://bit.ly/YO95wc

RATING: 5 STARS *****




 
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ON MOTHER’S DAY

There was a time in my life when I thought she was mousy, hopelessly behind the times, irredeemably out of style. 

Now I know she is impossibly brave, incredibly beautiful, a survivor with amazing courage.

Mom is 87, and undergoing one of the most difficult transitions of her life: She’s moving from the house she’s lived in for 50 years, moving away from memories and trinkets and the stuff that has surrounded her like a comforter all these years. Moving away, to a retirement home.

It was hard when my dad died five years ago. Hard to live without the man she’d married when she was 18, when she was just a young girl, and he was off to war, and they’d lived through a Depression already, and the future was not at all secure.

But there was love.

“My darling” he would call her, in letters to home. And she lived with his parents, and worked, and waited for Hitler, then Japan, to fall so he could come back.

And then there were kids: My sister, then me, then 10 years later, another girl. “I’ve learned you can never have too many daughters,” one aunt wrote to them. And that was a good thing.

It isn’t easy to leave a home, especially for the unknown, for the inevitable decline, the one she’d seen her mother go through. It isn’t easy, but neither was Depression, or war, or building a life and raising a family. She has survived those, survived with courage and humor and a profound selflessness. I suspect she will this one, too.

Because there is love. Love from me, my sisters, her grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. And most of all Love from God, the God who numbers the hairs on our heads, and knows our days.

It’s going to be ok, Mom.

Because there is Love.Image

 

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Me & Frodo?

Faith Farrell writes fun reviews. Here’s what she wrote about my first book, “Bloody Point.” (By the way, if you want a copy, contact me at linda@lindajwhite.com.) Can you see me and Frodo in the tower together? Wow, what company!!

http://foundachristianbyhisgrace.blogspot.com/2013/05/bloody-point.html

 

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Thank you, Kathy Harris!

Quite a nice profile … thank you!

http://www.divinedetour.com/?p=20451

 

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