Tuesday, August 6, 2019

What I Wish Someone Told Me

I got it into my head to write fiction one afternoon, and I wish someone had sat me down and given me “the talk.” I’m not sure I would have listened. Anyone enthusiastic about a new project goes deaf, at first. You know how it is, you become an expert inside of twenty-four hours. But anyhow, looking back at that decision, there are several things I wish I would have known.

Every first-time writer is an idiot.

Honestly, if someone had told me how stupid I was, and I’d approached writing from said position of dumbness, I would have been better off. I wasted so much energy writing slop that, my fresh dedication to it set aside, needed to go in the dustbin. (It has since gone in the dustbin.)

There will always be a time of learning. No one goes from the bottom rung of the ladder to the top overnight (or halfway, whatever. I’m not being conceited). You need to write the slop to find your voice, your genre, and to learn how to write.

If only I’d gone slower and taken my time, I’d have this perfect shelf of books with my name on them. All organized and pretty, with less tattered pages and out-of-print, I-hope-no-one-sees-this editions.

What do you mean “plot?”

No one told me “plot” mattered. I had no instructions on how to plot. The word “outline” was never breathed in my direction. I didn’t know plot could stall, go awry, make rabbit trails, move at different speeds. I’d read lots of books, mind you, yet still, I knew beans about plot.

Or writing terms. I’d never herd of a protagonist. Or given any thought to writing styles. I didn’t know first person from third. I did have a good handle on punctuation. I was a proofreader for years but knowing commas will not help you write a book.

Books can be looooooong.

I should have known this. I used to love thick books. Now, if a book is only 20-30k, I’m ecstatic. But when I got started, I wrote a lot of stories around 15k and really thought I’d done something amazing. Someone should have mashed me back into my chair and, with a deep voice, warned me that was really only one-quarter of the total length of a novel, if that.

It’s taken me years to learn how to write 40k. I’ve worked hard at scene content, to know what to include. I skipped all over the place in the beginning. I see writers say they have to cut content, and that is like the best joke ever.

Don’t be a lazy writer.

Too many people say to break the rules. But in order to break them, you need to know them. To know them, you have to practice them. Good rule-breaking comes when the rules make sense.

Showing is better than telling. Avoid passive verbs. Don’t overuse “as” and “when.” These and many more serve a purpose, and frankly, the people telling you to break them are usually making an excuse for lazy writing.

Lazy writers rely on editors to fix their mistakes, instead of not making mistakes to start with. Lazy writers don’t think about their writing but put down whatever pops into their head. When most of writing is thinking, planning, squeezing out that one perfect sentence. On a great writing day, I’ve given myself a headache figuring a scene out.

Writing is more about bumps and bruises than it is accolades. Which brings me to my last point.

People can seriously suck.

If I’d known people sucked as much as they do, then I would have squared my shoulders for it a lot sooner. That story I adored, someone thought was “boring.” Another one, the reviewer actually said not to read my book, but instead, she recommended somebody else.

To be a writer, you must have a stiff spine and a good helmet because the darts are going to come. You must know who you are and what you believe and not care two rips what Granny McPherson says about your book. Maybe Granny ate too much garlic and read my book while fighting dyspepsia.

Not that I’m all that, you understand. Yes, writers must be willing to learn and correct their mistakes. On the other hand, so much of what readers say is caca. Knowing that would have saved me a lot of heartache.

In conclusion

Maybe you are that green-faced newbie I was, years ago. I applaud you for your new awesome book thing. At the same time, this is me grabbing you by the shoulders and shaking you so hard your brains rattle. “Are you nuts??”

You will spend hours, days, weeks, months with these fake people, and they won’t cooperate. They will do their own thing, no matter how hard you try to get them to behave. Characters don’t listen to writers. They don’t follow outlines (if you’re into those). They routinely make up their own minds.

When you think you’ve finally got them in line, you’ll release your private, perfect world to the public (or an agent-editor-publisher), and it’ll all go crazy. Before, it was just you and them. Now it’s you and them and other people’s opinions of them. It’s rejection and hair-pulling and defense mode and way too much time counting zeros. It’s talking about yourself in third person, because every writer loves doing that. It’s blurbs (gah!) and marketing and editing and graphic designers and web gurus.

But if you’ll hang in there on this rollercoaster we call writing, the target center of your back, your arms thrown wide, all come-and-get-me, the community of writers is great. And words are addicting. And book boyfriends really are better. And that one five-star review is the best high.

And seeing your name in print really is worth it, despite the mistakes, the I-should-haves. No, the writing won’t get easier, but being you, as a writer, will. I wish someone had told me that. To focus on the reward and less on the risk. Less on the potholes, the twisted ankles, the sprains. And more on who I would be, surrounded by stories I’d created.

Suzanne D. Williams, Author


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

There Are No Words For That

What can I say that hasn’t been said? That the voices of thousands of fallen soldiers don't already speak from the grave. That I can’t describe with lines of flag-draped coffins, secured in the back of military aircraft. That I can’t read about on the headstones of Private First Class John Smith or Airman First Class Jane Doe. That I can’t count in the paced footsteps of guards, through rain and snow and summer heat in front of the Unknown Soldier’s tomb.

My words are but pale imitations of the real thing. Of a kid sent to Vietnam, age nineteen, trembling in his boots. Of a mom, finding out he won’t come home and clinging to an old baseball trophy. Of a dad, trying stoically not to cry, but be strong when his heart is breaking. Of a wife, with two kids, who look like their father, but won’t know or barely remember him twenty years from now.

The best thing I could say is, in fact, to say nothing at all. To, instead, show respect in my actions. To live each day with my priorities straight, knowing that nothing I can do will ever compare to that. To hold my chin up when the storms of life beat against me and survive. To always place my hand over my heart in Pledge of Allegiance to more than the flag of a nation, but to the soldiers who secured its stripes. Who founded each brick, each building, each political office, the football stadium, the corner drugstore, and a million houses in suburbia … all created from the blood of people far better than myself.

After all, I haven’t walked, knee-deep, in jungle morass, wondering where the enemy hides. I haven’t suffered desert heat, eating blowing sand, fearing that sweet-looking local woman actually plots my death. I didn’t feel the tear of a bullet or mortar round enter my flesh, thousands of miles from home. Nor shout for my mother in the darkness, which slowly steals my mind.

My life is a weak thread amongst a tapestry of much stronger ones, men and women of steel, who treated the cause as greater than their future. And wore the ultimate form of dedication, with their iron-clad sacrifices, securing the freedom of a woman, who’s written a handful of books some people liked and others, not so much.

There are no words for that. Not on Memorial Day or any other day of the year. Though, I suppose if I were to create them, I couldn’t speak them better than Ol’ Abe:

“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” – Gettysburg Address, 1864

Never. Their deaths assured us of that.



Monday, September 17, 2018

Christians and Books

The very spring of our actions is the love of Christ. (2Co 5:14 PHILLIPS)

There are Christian books and also Christian authors. These two can function together – a Christian author can write a Christian book. Or separately – a book is written by a Christian author. Neither one is right or wrong. A Christian writer can market their book AS Christian. Or choose to NOT place their book under the Christian genre, without guilt, if it doesn’t go there.

Following this same thought, some Christians, who read books, prefer books targeted for Christians, whereas others have an interest in a wider scope of literature, not all specifically Christian. There are also non-Christian readers, who will read a Christian book if it’s presented in the right way. In any of these cases, as in the two groups of writers, no one is wrong.

Christians have a tendency to put people in a box. We create a set of rules and try to cram everyone inside. But God has made us all unique. As in normal, everyday items, what one person likes, someone else dislikes. Nothing is wrong with our differences as long as they do not fall outside of godly principles. (Certain principles of God’s Word are unalterable, and by “rules,” I don’t speak of those.)

Applying this to Christians and books (two separate things), there are stories my friends have written that I didn’t care for. And NOT because I felt they fell outside of the Christian faith. Sometimes it’s subgenre or style of writing that doesn’t work for me. Whatever the cause, IT ISN’T MY JOB TO CORRECT THEM. I must walk in the love of Christ and leave the reasoning behind it to the writer’s heart.

Yet, some readers, who profess to be Christian, rail against anything they don’t care for. What makes them uncomfortable becomes “wrong” and, therefore, anyone who writes or reads it has “fallen into sin.” Don’t get me wrong; sin can creep into writing. A Christian who writes can take things too far. BUT it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to bring conviction. Not mine. Not yours.

Ask yourself this:  who will reach people for Christ if everyone writes only books for those inside of our faith? How will my light shine on anyone if I keep the candle hidden? (Mk 4:21) Being practical, to reach someone who isn’t of like faith, I can’t write the same way I’d write for Christians. Breaking that down further, I can’t write the same for all Christians either because what one person enjoys, someone else won’t.

Some books are NOT written for Christians. They are written BY Christians. And that is perfectly okay. I can choose to pick their books up and read them or set them aside. Whatever I do, though, however I respond to them, I do it with meekness, humility, and patience. I pray for them to use their talent to reach those in their circle of influence. (And by “reach,” I mean something as small as improving their day. They were entertained and forgot their troubles for a while. Not every storyline has to end with fiery salvation.)

Maybe someone who wouldn’t read a book by a Christian writer changes their opinion of Christian books or Christian people, in general, because of something that person published. Something I COULDN’T WRITE, whether because of topic, genre, interest, or culture.

Bottom line:  the principles of love in the Bible work well as a guide to both writers and readers (and especially when writing reviews). (1Co 13:4-8) Sometimes, “if you can’t say anything nice, say nothing at all,” is your best bet. Set the book down and move on with your day. Find something you like better and leave the results of that author’s work up to God. To answer negatively affects both you, the reader, and the writer, as well. Yes, there are times a writer needs to own up and admit their faults, but again, that circles back around to letting God work in them.

Because ultimately, God knows more about that author than we do and all the readers their words will reach. It could be we can learn from them the most by examining our attitude and becoming better, kinder, more loving people.

Suzanne D. Williams
Florida, USA

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Virtuous Man (Devotional)

Rejoice with the wife of thy youth. (Proverbs 5:18)

When did you go astray, her husband? When did your job, your car, your hobbies become more important? That fishing trip, that game night, your “working vacation.” When did your life together become, her life and your life on parallel paths and not your steps together?

This is the woman you pledged your life to. This is for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health. This is the hand that wears the never-ending promise of your commitment. The arms you embraced because you had to get closer, had to feel her there, smell her perfume, and touch her hair.

This is the lame joke you told that made her laugh, age sixteen. Your longing to capture the sound in your ears, with your eyes, with your mouth. To drink it in and savor it, to linger, because it’s hers. Because she made your heart beat faster, your arms stronger, your goals make sense.

She pushed you forward in college. She encouraged you to go for it, to try harder, to try again. She lived in that tiny apartment with you, bumping elbows between the stove and the fridge.

She’s an adornment, a jewel to your otherwise boring existence, the beauty in the room that takes your breath away. A friend, a confidante, a lover. She’s the best of the earth and the sky and the stars, in all seasons.

Rejoice in the wife of your youth. The woman who picks up your clothes, scrubs your dishes, sweeps your floors. Avoids your misplaced, dirty shoes.

Rejoice in her endurance. To give your children life. To stay awake in the wee hours, rocking Jenny and James. Rejoice in what she forfeited to feed, to nourish, and to play.

Rejoice in her efforts. To pay the bills, walk the dog, navigate the grocery store. Find time for the gym, and Jenny’s dance classes, and James’s football games. Your family’s parade of awkward holiday meals.

Rejoice in her failings. That she falls but gets up again, stumbles but walks straight afterward. Rejoice that she chose you to support her, build her up, and carry her through.

Rejoice in her tears, her aches and her scars. Rejoice when she’s hurting. When she cuts her hand or stubs her toe. When her hair thins, her waistline thickens, her back curves. Rejoice when she’s PMSing. When she’s grumpy and ill-tempered. When she’s going through menopause.

Rejoice, remembering she’s tried her hardest to look her greatest. She’s given her all to make your life better. She put her best foot forward. For you.

Husbands, you in turn must treat your wives with tenderness, viewing them as feminine partners who deserve to be honored, for they are co-heirs with you of the “divine grace of life,” so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (1Pe 3:7 TPT)

Much is said of the virtuous woman and rightly so. But be the virtuous man. The man who thinks of her first. Puts himself last. Sets himself aside for her joy, denying what he wants. To eat, to watch on TV. To do at 7 a.m.

Rejoice and give her a reason to wake up and be herself again tomorrow. Because you’re in this together. Your future is hers. Your knee sprain, car accident, hearing loss is hers to bear. The job you quit affects her. The bonus you got, that’s hers, too. It’s not fifty-fifty, but all-or-nothing, 100%. For everything she does, you do the same in return.

Buy her the shoes.

Compliment her dress.

Let her have dessert without counting her calories.

Admire the curves that came with time and age. The gray hair. The wrinkles.

And when she’s not at her best, admire that, too. She’s perfect exactly how she is, and if she isn’t today, then pray for her. Lift her up. Raise her spirits. Build her ego. Give and give and when you think you can’t do it any longer, give some more.

Life is short, and time is precious, and finding someone who will endure your foibles is rare and beautiful. Holding her hands, when you can’t walk anymore because your legs aren’t strong, when you need help in and out of the shower, when you can’t remember what happened, long ago in your youth, those are God-given gifts.

Rejoice while you can and look back at the ups and downs that she traveled with you. Then, when she’s gone, rejoice in how lucky you were for fifty-odd years, or thirty, or twenty, or ten.

Suzanne D. Williams
Florida, USA

Thursday, June 14, 2018

I Planted A Seed (Devotional)

And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?  (31)  It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth:  (32)  But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it. (Mark 4:30-32) 

I plant seeds in my garden, expecting them to become so much more than they appear to be. Rolling them around in my palm, they don’t look like much, and, in fact, are easy to lose hold of. The wind or a sudden movement sometimes tosses one onto the ground amongst other tiny particles where it’s gone forever. But if I can just hang on long enough to place it where I want it to grow, I will, one day, reap abundant things.

My grandfather on his tractor.

There’s a process to planting. My grandfather was a farmer, and long before he dropped the seed in the ground, he prepared the soil to receive it. He had to take into account the land’s ability to retain moisture. In low spots, he’d make great hills and plant the seeds on top. He also had to consider the type of seed. Was he planting tomatoes or green beans or corn? Different seeds will have different requirements. You can plant beans close together, but corn needs space. Knowledge was involved.

He had to know how deep to plant the seed. Most of my flower seeds only need to be barely covered. I’ll dust them with soil and think to myself how flimsy it seems. Birds, rain, any number of things can disturb the seed before it has a chance to do anything. My front flowerbeds are partially beneath the eaves of my house and when it rains, water will pour off the roof and create ruts. I know not to plant seeds there because they will be washed away.

In the spring, when the sun starts to warm the earth in my part of Florida, we’ll find flowers sprouting in the lawn from last year’s plants. Black-eyed Susans pop up between Bahia grass and lawn weeds, oblivious to the fact they shouldn’t be there and might get mowed. Go out further and there are tiny orchids, a natural plant that sits hidden all year, only to appear in full force in April. Our footsteps, the scurry of other creatures, did nothing to keep them from sprouting.

My gladiolus garden

That’s the thing about seeds; they can’t NOT come up. Unless they are dead. I’ve purchased seed packets online and had none of them sprout before, despite the soil being right, the location being what that plant will need to grow and flourish. The seed itself was too old. That’s discouraging at first, but I never let it stop me from trying again. I plant again. I water. And I wait.

The biggest portion of growing things is in the waiting. On the surface, nothing looks different. I know I put the seed there. I know I’ve watered it, and the sun has done its job. But most of the “becoming” is up to the seed itself. Different plants take different amounts of time to sprout. Zinnias are pretty quick, but Black-eyed Susans will stay beneath the soil for a year sometimes, seeds cast from last year’s plants hiding during the colder months.

Faith says, “I planted the seed. I believe it will sprout.” Faith protects the seeds, fencing the area from foot traffic or pets. Sprouts, when they finally emerge are fragile, their tiny roots holding them upright in the barest amount of soil. They have potential to become something great, but to get there, I must keep tending the garden. Different plants need different types of fertilizer. A citrus tree has different requirements from cabbage plants. Different plants need more or less amounts of water and sunlight.

All of them need patience. Faith alone, my ability to plant the seed, to know what will make it grow to its best, isn’t enough. There’s that waiting again.

We do not want you to become lazy, but to be like those who believe and are patient, and so receive what God has promised. (Hebrews 6:12 GNT) 

I learned patience from my dog. I have two dogs, actually, but the young one tests my patience frequently. When I bought her, I thought I knew all there was to know about dogs, yet within a week’s time, I knew I was wrong. She’s difficult. She challenges me to slow down and wait. What has always worked for other puppies I’ve raised doesn’t work for her.


Seasons are like that. Some years, one thing grows better than another. I like the change. And the challenge of seeing what will do best this year. I like the success the most, late summer looking back and feeling accomplishment that my efforts at weeding, at caring for my small flower garden, brought me happiness. After all, that is the goal of whatever we face in life, that whatever the alternating challenges are, God brings it to success – if we’ll believe and stand in faith over the seeds in our hearts. If we’ll cultivate the garden, we’ll have a harvest when the time is right.

For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.  (29)  But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come. (Mark 4:28-29) 

There’s no instant growth. I can buy potted plants, already at a certain height. They still need time to put down roots and establish themselves. They will still require the right amount of water and fertilizer. Weeds will still sprout around them if I don’t take the time to pull them out. But if I do, if I simply obey God’s Word, then that flower I long to see will, one day, be in full bloom.

That’s the way it works. God is faithful to keep His promise, every time. As long as I choose to believe and act and take one more walk around the yard with the dog, patiently waiting, what I’ve planted will become great things, and someone will see the photos and say, “How did you do that?”

Well, let me tell you … I planted a seed.


Suzanne D. Williams
Florida, USA

Thursday, May 10, 2018

God-Light (Devotional)

“This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.” (John 3:19-21 MSG)

Around 7 a.m. most days, the rising sun shines through my living room window. The shadow it casts at that moment is always riddled with dust. I can see every grain on each table and chair. The floor is filthy. The TV, the cabinets and bookshelves, are coated in it.

Sometimes, I’ll get up and dust or sweep the floor, but my most earnest actions merely move the dust from whatever I’m polishing and into the air. It swirls around me, just waiting for things to calm so it can land again. There really isn’t any good way to get rid of it permanently, and in the end, I usually wait for the light to fade and hide the truth.

Photo by Sigrid Abalos from Pexels

I do this in my personal life as well, keeping my bad habits or sinful actions tucked away while God’s light is on. In the dark, I can pretend they don’t exist. Or even if a sudden ray of spiritual light hits me, shined from one of my friends, a sermon I’ve heard, or the words of a worship tune, I simply turn my good side outward and shield the rest.

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalms 51:10)

I’ve prayed this Scripture for years, asking God for right motives in what I do. But be careful what you wish for, because I’ve found in my life, which is far from perfect, that the person most guilt-ridden when things go wrong is me. I watch as others sweep the moment under the rug, while I struggle to put that argument . . . bad habit . . . incorrect behavior in its proper place. Whether it was mine personally or someone else’s that’s affecting me.

I’m not always successful and, along the way, have become a cynic. I watch the secular world sprint toward hell without a clue it exists, and I feel powerless to stop its downfall. Worse, I’m carried along on the wind of it. My good motives to overcome the thing I’m fighting seem fruitless amongst the criticisms of a displeased, offended age.

Or are they? What did Jesus say, recorded in the book of John?  

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (Jn 16:33)

Victory over sin and the sway of a godless, secular society . . . even stronger, having peace and cheer in its midst . . . comes with constantly bathing in the God-light. I seek out a word from heaven and faithfully apply it to me. Rather than duck into the shadows until it passes by, I face it and commit to change. Change comes slowly. That’s what Christians don’t understand. It’s walking every step, every day, in the light of Christ and allowing Him to alter our motives.

God is working in you to make you willing and able to obey him. (Php 2:13 CEV)

I look back and see how far I’ve come. This gives me hope for the future. And strength for today. God is with me, guiding me, even when I close my eyes, and I take courage in His presence. Because even when things are bad, whether in private or some public tragedy . . . at that minute, I know God’s been there already.

For my sake, He faced death and won.

For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light. (Eph 5:8)


Suzanne D. Williams
Florida, USA

Thursday, April 12, 2018

All Things (Devotional)

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Php 4:13)

We expect everything in our lives of faith to be dramatic. We’re on a constant uphill struggle, an endless battle, slashing at the enemy on every side. We must cross rivers and climb mountains, our lives in constant peril.

There’s some truth to that imagery, of course. But our days are full of much smaller moments, everyday decisions that require wisdom and understanding to perform. Look back at Philippians 4:13 again – I can do ALL THINGS. That includes seemingly silly tasks as well.

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.  (John 14:26)

We’re afraid to pray for those. But I can do all things because the Holy Spirit shall teach me all things. That’s profound . . . and comforting. When some new responsibility falls on my desk, even if I feel like I’m not smart enough, I know the One who is. This could be as simple as doing your taxes. Or maybe your teenage son or daughter needs help finding “x” on their algebra assignment. Maybe you promised to take a friend somewhere you aren’t sure you can find, GPS or not. Those are also “all things”.

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work (2Co 9:8)

God cares about every part of our lives, no matter how trivial they may seem. He wants us to “abound” when we bake a cake for our mom’s birthday, when we call the cable company to straighten out our bill, when we take our car to be serviced and need to choose the right auto repair shop.

Sometimes it’s the small things that cripple us the most. We don our armor to fight giants, but take it off when it’s Uncle John asking for help to clear trees. Or to locate a baby gift for our cousin’s wife, who we don’t particularly get along with. Or the refrigerator needs replacing, but we have no idea what to buy.

I want to be sufficient in those tasks, too.

I’ve found, in my life, personally, that my need to shift responsibility onto others – a “you do it for me” attitude – never works out. Any time I think I can get him or her to take care of it, it’ll fall even harder on my shoulders, and those moments are when I pray, “I can do this through Christ.” I need supernatural strength to walk the dog some days, especially when it’s cold and windy and she’s decided to play.

I can do all things and have patience. I can do all things and understand how to fill out this form. I can do all things and find a perfect vacation rental within my budget. I can do all things and select the right doctor, hair salon, or lawn company.

All things includes all things.

And the Lord give thee understanding in all things. (2Ti 1:7)

Does a God who knows our soul, who saw us when we were made in secret, a God of such infinite detail to create the smallest part of us, abandon us when we need to change a flat tire? He’s only here for me when I’m slugging it out in some spiritual battle, but not when I’ve had an argument with my spouse? (Ps 139:14-16)

No, that’s when I need understanding the most. I know God is for me; therefore, who can be against me? Always. For everything. Even if today it’s as small as calling the electric company. God is with me for that, too.

What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? (Rm 8:31-32)


Suzanne D. Williams
Florida, USA

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

I Just Want To Read

I just want to read a book. Reading makes better writers, they say. But writing has made me a horrible reader.

I remember reading for the fun of it, losing my day amidst the pages of some novel . . . 200,000 words or more. Now, I can’t manage 1,000 without dissecting every sentence. I’m bothered by grammar and structure, by character names and plot lines. I’m changing the story to fit what I think is best.

I just want to read a book. Not edit it. I don’t mind editing for my friends when I can find the time. But when I’m reading something by someone I don’t know, I’m still editing. They missed a comma, misspelled a word. Their pronouns, apostrophes . . . something is off. I might get a laugh here and there, amused by the author’s cleverness, but then it happens again. I must correct the story.

I’d be so great to read a book . . . that I didn’t write. Don’t get me wrong. I love my stories. I love my characters. I’ve lived their lives vicariously in my head over and over. But sometimes I want to enjoy finding out what will happen without the stress of the ending coming from me. I don’t want to make choices or decisions about who will get with who, if she misunderstands him and walks away or not. I want someone else to do it . . . some other author to get the headache, to stay up late or get up early, to write in their car, on the bed stand. Wherever.

If only I could read a book . . . and not be involved in its creation. Not the formatting, the book cover, the marketing end. I don’t want to tweet or post on Facebook or Instagram. If only, I could go back in time and just READ. Back to the girl I was at age 16, curled up on my bed, lost in a war that happened hundreds of years ago. I want to learn from the story and come away wondering what it was like. Not be who I am now trying to decide if the author got the facts wrong or not. Was that object invented then? Is the female character dressed incorrectly? Would she really say that, or did Shakespeare invent the phrase?

Reading is my career, and as such, it has changed how I write. Writing is my profession, and it has changed how I read. The fact is I can’t ever go back. I can’t unbake the cake, unscramble the egg, etcetera. I can’t unwrite my stories and take away my ambition. I can’t be carefree and innocent within a book’s pages again. Those are facts.

Reading would make me a better writer, but writing stops me from opening books.

Don’t get me wrong. I love what I do, and really, at the heart of it, I don’t want to change anything. Except when it comes to reading. Because knowing how my head works keeps me from reading at all. I’m more apt to watch television. It’s far more mindless, especially since I’ve seen this episode three times already.

Didn’t the man’s wife burn the house down for the insurance money? Hit pause, for a moment, and let me turn my computer off . . . We’ll watch it together.

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Suzanne D. Williams
Florida, USA

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Aw, God, Do I Have To?

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? (22) Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. (Mt 18:21-22)

I had a bad day. You know, one of those where even the dog doesn’t cooperate? Well, ‘round about 10 a.m., I exploded. I screamed at everyone within a two-mile vicinity. And regretted it afterward.

You know the drill. “I should never have … and now they will always think of me like …”

Regret is a good thing, though, because it got me thinking about forgiveness and repentance. “Lord,” I said, in a sort of prayer, “Seventy times seven is REALLY hard to do.”

It looks good on paper. As Christians, we should be all “turn the other cheek,” “love the unlovely,” etcetera. Except I’ve seen anger and offense creep into the church. Someone lit into me the other day over something trivial, and I was taken aback. But struck harder by the thought I was supposed to pray for them and move on.

And I don’t mean pray they’ll trip.

The Bible says, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” (Rm 12:19) We love to quote that, picturing lightning bolts striking someone and God up there beating his chest, “Bwahaha!” Truth is, He’s more apt to show them mercy if they’ll receive it.

Fixing the other person is not our job.

I heard speaker, Joyce Meyer, say she spent years trying to fix her husband, Dave, only to realize it didn’t work and she was the only one who was miserable. This helped me with my own relationships. I am apt to blow up first then swim in my regret for several days. But if I let God handle the one who’s antagonizing me, if my prayer is, “Give me a clean heart, O God,” and not, “Let Sister So-and-so stump her toe,” I can place myself in the Holy Spirit’s control and overcome those awful moments.

Overcome them and defeat them. Because God’s instructions to us are tougher than simply not fighting back. God said to forgive “seventy times seven,” then He said to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Mt 5:44)

“Aw, God, do I have to?”

Yep. And notice, all of those things require ACTION on our part. To DO GOOD we must actually DO something. To BLESS someone, to PRAY for them, we must speak peaceful words. To show God’s love we must be the antithesis of everything our flesh and mind asks us to do. I heard a preacher say, “The nose doesn’t have to associate with the armpit,” referring to the body of Christ. So, take comfort that your prayer doesn’t mean you have to spend a day with Mr. Grumpy, it does mean we must seek to react differently. To actually crucify our flesh. (Gal 5:24)

And become like Jesus, who loved the least of men, but faced the devil in faith and power and won. We grow strong in Christ. Strong enough to love when, at that moment, it’s the last … the hardest thing we will ever do.

Suzanne D. Williams
Florida, USA

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Blog About Nothing … Or Everything

*This was originally published on the Grace & Faith 4U blog.

I sat down to write, but the earth seemed to conspire against me. The phone rang. My older dog threw up. My younger one left me a gift on the carpet (she’s 8 weeks old). My husband arrived, mid-shift, looking for dinner. I am sidetracked, afterward, by a half-dozen mundane chores. By the time I have it all sorted, folded, and washed … walked, fed, and answered … my brain is as blank as a sheet of copy paper.

Again. Because the truth is I’ve been in this pattern for days. There’s gifts to buy, errands to run … my daughter needs to get to work or be picked up … decorations to hang, food to prepare. The never-ending cycle of my existence keeps stealing precious minutes, hours, from me. All of it counterproductive to my writing. All of it unavoidable.

What I’m left with at 8 p.m. on a December evening is, instead, a disparate selection of thoughts that I wished all hinged together somehow, but actually don’t. Things I’ve read bleed into stories I’ve seen or situations I’ve experienced. My brain oozes with conversations on social media and texts from my brother, my aunt, my mom and dad. Best friends.

This is not me. In my mind’s eye, I am organized, capable, and efficient. I meet or exceed my goals. In reality, I can’t remember my name … and it seems like there’s something I meant to do just now. What was that? For that matter, what day of the week is it? Wednesday? Wasn’t there something I planned for tomorrow?

Sometimes, all I can do successfully in the whirlwind of life is keep walking the pathway in front of me. I must set aside plotlines and sentences and characters and be a mom, a wife, an employee first. Some days, the best action I make is getting ready for bed, and the closest I come to my WIP is five minutes of muddled thought right before I nod off.

I make excuses saying tomorrow will be better. I’ll have hours of free time to play author again. I’ll finally make more progress than two paragraphs describing a dinner scene. I’ll get an idea where the book will end. Another notch in my belt, star in my crown, ring on my hand.

Then again, I must water my vegetable garden. I should sweep the front porch. I promised my daughter I’d take her to the store. Maybe, once the sun’s gone down, the dishes are washed, and I’ve taken my bath … Maybe I’ll write a blog article about nothing (or everything. Which is it?) while a dog sleeps on my chest, the TV plays on mute, and … oh, yeah, the phone just rang again. It’s my husband. He’s working late. I may or may not be awake when he gets here.

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Suzanne D. Williams
Florida, USA

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Story Of My Life

You know how we lived among you. You remember how you set yourselves to copy us, and through us, Christ himself. You remember how, although accepting the message meant bitter persecution, yet you experienced the joy of the Holy Spirit. You thus became examples to all who believe in Macedonia and Achaia. You have become a sort of sounding-board from which the Word of the Lord has rung out, not only in Macedonia and Achaia but everywhere where the story of your faith in God has become known. We find we don’t have to tell people about it. They tell us the story of our coming to you: how you turned from idols to serve the true living God, and how your whole lives now look forward to the coming of his Son from heaven—the Son Jesus, whom God raised from the dead, and who personally delivered us from the judgment which hung over our heads. (1Th 1:6-10 PHILLIPS)

I heard my mother tell the same story for the thousandth time and dismissed it as yet another retelling. Truth is, I’ve heard her tell many stories many times. They are like old hat to me now, so much I can recite them.

My mom is a Bible teacher, and for 17+ years I have edited her sermons for resale. You’d think hearing her speak would get old, especially since I know all the stories, but instead, it’s become my most enjoyable part of the week. I have my own office. I am, for most points, my own boss. If I need to know something, I walk out and just talk to Mom.

We have lunch together twice a week. We don’t talk about anything important, necessarily, but, looking back, it’s the togetherness that matters. It’s the fact I’ve spent so much time with her and Dad that I have all these memories, this comfortable “Thanksgiving” feeling that causes people to travel hundreds of miles, or perhaps only ten, to sit around a table each year.

Photo by Dawid Sobolewski on Unsplash

I know her well now, and I imagine, she knows me. Our two days together matters to me significantly, and the stories – the stories. It didn’t seem important to hear how some woman I’ve never met tolerated a situation and overcame it until it applied to me. I saw myself walking in her shoes in part, and I said, “I can do this. I can overcome.” I would have never known that without hearing that story.

Or another tale she routinely tells that also, one day, there I was and realized, “Hey, that’s me.” Those people, who lived their lives as best God gave them to live it, will never know that some girl from Auburndale who writes books found inspiration from their walk with Christ. And I may not realize how the example I strive to set influences others who see me.

Join in imitating me, brothers and sisters, and pay careful attention to those who live according to the example you have in us. (Php 3:17 CSB)

Someone, somewhere on this earth might change their behavior because of what I’ve overcome. That is a sobering thought that stands with me often and guides my reactions. After all, if I found comfort in an unknown woman’s example, then it stands to reason others could find comfort in mine. Or worse, I could lead them astray. I don’t want to be responsible for leading anyone away from the cross and the grace God has extended to all men.

This changes my behavior. Many times, I have an opinion. But what if my bad temper, my snappy response turns someone off to the gospel? Or what if, like those stories, a woman I’ve never met hears a story about me and says, “I can handle this. God and I, together, will overcome this situation in my life?” That fruit, years after it is sown, will abound to my account. (Php 4:17)

So, as I gather this holiday amongst the family that God has given me, I’ll be grateful for many things, greatest of all for surviving this tough year, but also for other people’s walk of faith whose stories, whose victories have changed mine.

Suzanne D. Williams
Florida, USA

What I Wish Someone Told Me

I got it into my head to write fiction one afternoon, and I wish someone had sat me down and given me “the talk.” I’m not sure I would have ...