“Faith, I can move the mountain” — Hillsong

One reviewer of Sudden Mission commented on how young the protagonists were and how ready they were to take on the tasks and challenges. The reviewer was skeptical.

I don’t usually respond to a reviewer, other than to thank them. And, really, I’m not responding to or criticizing the reviewer here. The comments just got me thinking, and George Michael’s hit song lyrics started playing in my head. I didn’t quote those for my own reasons, but I’ve often told reading audiences that Sudden Mission is about faith.

Yes, there is spiritual warfare, action and adventure, a dash of science fiction and fantasy, an angel, aliens, zombies, and other things in Sudden Mission. And, yes, the characters are young. But fourteen isn’t too young to have strong faith, or to face difficult trials.

I struggled with character age when I started planning the book. Older teens would have required more difficult, grittier challenges. Younger protagonists, in this setting, would have been just too weird. I remember being fourteen. It just seemed a good fit. A fourteen-year-old, with strong faith, strong family and community, and good friends, just seemed right. Some of that is foreign to me, so I had to do some exploration.

Keep in mind, this isn’t a Christian conversion story. Granted, the characters grew and changed, but they were already believers and faithful. Faith gets tested in several places and the characters come close to failing. Paul, the main character, is constantly challenged.

“I can’t. I have a mission.” Paul felt frustration and discomfort. He was sleepy and wanted nothing more than to just curl up and sleep.

“Are you certain?” The coyote sat on his haunches and his tongue lolled out of his open mouth. “What? Did you dream of an angel coming to you with a message? You don’t really believe you are on a mission from God, do you?”

Bound to a compelling mission and his family held hostage, Paul struggles. His friends, Amy and Joe, act to support him. Paul, in return, supports them when their spirits flag.

“I wish one of us could drive,” Amy said. She wrapped her arms around her legs and rested her chin on her knees. “How about bicycles?”

“Yeah, lets see,” Paul said opening the map. “We have more than eighteen hundred miles left to go. I don’t think I’m up for trying to do that on a bicycle.”

“We still have eighteen hundred miles?” Joe said.

“Yep,” Paul said. “Still, we’ve gone more than five hundred miles just on our good looks.”

Amy laughed. Joe looked disgusted.

At that age, faith is a tough thing to keep. So the three amigos boost each other and help move the story along, even through tragedy.

I might have made one character a foil instead of a friend, and I thought about that in the beginning. But at the age chosen, a foil could have ended the mission too early and too easily. The story had enough conflict and struggle as it was.

The struggle and character development stayed in Paul’s point of view (PoV). Some reviewers commented on Amy and Joe’s limited development as a result. I did experiment in early drafts with bouncing around PoVs and it was a mess. I stuck with Paul. I tried to stay honest about that, though. Paul, in Sudden Mission, is fourteen. A fourteen-year-old boy isn’t necessarily insightful about others or himself, and the internal monologue is more simple and direct.

This is important, as Paul matures and we see things again through his eyes in Nasty Leftovers. Then, in the third novel, we’ll see things from Amy’s point of view and she has a more robust internal monologue. Honest. I read some romance to see how it was done. I think I have it, now.

So, okay. Ya gotta have faith.

Keep writing.

(Note: This is outside of my usual, arbitrary Tuesday posting day. I may have another short post next week, or wait until the next Tuesday. Life is pretty full right now.)




Shoshone Falls

Shoshone Falls near Twin Falls, Idaho. One of the prettiest falls there is. Rainbow included at no extra charge.

We arrived in Twin Falls, Idaho, on a beautiful Saturday morning and immediately went down to take a look at Shoshone Falls. A lot of folks were heading down there and–surprise, surprise–they needed $3 per car for entrance. Good thing we had a little cash handy.

The falls were everything promised and it was wife Connie’s first time there. Then we went to the Barnes & Noble in town and started to set up. Deby Johnson, the person who coordinated this even, had twelve copies each of Sudden Mission and Nasty Leftovers. At noon I started to get nervous, wondering if we would even put a dent in the bookstore’s inventory of my books. Connie got me a venti non-fat mocha and we settled in to watch people come and go.

Signing Table at Barnes & Noble

Connie adding class to the display at Twin Falls, Idaho, Barnes & Noble.

I talked to a few folks, said “Hi” to people who looked our way, but things were quiet at first. Some people came by and mentioned an article in the local newspaper and looked over the books.

Then things started to pick up. My dad arrived with a friend and a nephew. My brother showed up. Folks I hadn’t seen since I was very young walked in. Activity around our table increased. Folks requested signing, shared memories, talked, hugged, shook hands–and then it was 4 pm.

Two copies of Nasty Leftovers were still on the table. Sudden Mission was sold out. Deby asked me to sign the last two copies of Nasty Leftovers and she would put an “autographed” sticker on them. Then we packed up our display. The Twin Falls Barnes & Noble, and Deby Johnson, were gracious hosts and we had a lot of fun there.

Connie and I checked into the hotel down the street, then went down to a conference room where Dad set up a reception. The room was packed and I set up the tabletop displays again, signed and sold a number of copies of each book. We ate, then I talked about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), the journey to publication, answered questions, and read a little of Sudden Mission.

It’s all kind of a blur, now. Connie and I stumbled into our room exhausted about 8 or 9 pm (my watch said 9, but we were in Mountain Time).

I’m blessed and humbled at the turnout, the great people, friends, and family who came to support me. Thanks to Deby and the Twin Falls B&N, and Dad for setting this up.

There will be more.

Keep writing.