Back on October 26th, JoAnn Durgin blogged about the Christmas Blessings box set and told you a bit about each story and included each author’s personal inspiration for what they wrote. JoAnn only had so much room to spare in her post, though, so I had to give her the short answer. Today’s post is the long answer.
Let me tell you a little bit more about the place in my heart where my story, Nowhere for Christmas, was born. Further down in the post you’ll also find an excerpt and a giveaway. (Because who doesn’t love a giveaway, right?)
I buried my nine-year-old daughter in 2012. I also got my first book contract in 2012. I still look back at that contract and see it as a precious, precious gift from God, a piece of joy in the midst of so much sadness. Something to celebrate in the midst of crushing grief.
As you can imagine, our 2012 Christmas was a difficult one. We did our best, and I made the day as jolly for my son as I could, but still… If you’ve ever been there, you know what I’m talking about. And no matter how many Christmases have passed since, I always feel my daughter’s absence.
In 2013 we passed the first anniversary of my little girl’s death, and as that day crossed into my rear-view mirror, something inside of me changed. Maybe it clicked into place. Maybe it toppled head-over-heels into place. Either way, I looked ahead on the calendar – and in my life – and I saw sunshine. I finally understood that I would never stop grieving for my daughter, but at the same time, life demanded to be lived. As Christmas approached, I wanted to celebrate. I wanted to laugh uproariously and let my inner child discover moments of pure delight. I wanted joy.
And so, as I looked forward to Christmas that year, I poured my heart into a story that still to this day makes me laugh. Nowhere for Christmas was my first romantic comedy, and I loved every minute of writing it. I love these characters and their adventure. I love that a skunk is one of the highlights of their road trip. I love that my heart dances in glee whenever I skim excerpts or read over passages of this book. And I love that one of the characters talks about death and about loss and, in doing so, expresses a tiny piece of how I feel about the loss of my daughter. I love that this book is real and that the characters face challenges and that their lives aren’t perfect…but that they laugh out loud anyway and love God through it all.
Nowhere for Christmas is, a strange way, the story of how I aspire to live my life. I want to be a person who sees people and doesn’t just look through them. I want to be that person who finds joy even when there is sadness and who laughs even when she sometimes cries. I want to be a person who talks about God – and to Him – as though He’s real and right here with her (because, after all, He is). I want to be the person who celebrates happy endings and who knows, deep in her soul, that her daughter already has hers.
And now for an excerpt…
She got out of the car and gazed at the front of the shop. It was the twenty-third of December, but even in New Mexico, there was only one man brave enough to endure the weather outside. A nip in the air had encouraged all other patrons to enjoy the indoor atmosphere of the establishment.
Avery took note of the man as she approached. He was younger than she’d expected. With the stocking cap pulled down low, she couldn’t get a look at his hair to see whether or not it had any grey in it. The scruff on his cheeks and chin was black as night, however, with no indication of aging. She couldn’t see his eyes behind his sunglasses, but he had an angular face, a strong chin, and… he was drinking a fruit smoothie.
A bright yellow frozen beverage. At a coffee shop. In December. I’m going to have to make allowances for his artistic temperament. I get it. But is this necessary, God? Sticking me with a man who goes to a coffee shop and doesn’t order coffee? You’re laughing at me, aren’t You?
Pulling her it’s-okay-if-you-don’t-love-coffee smile out of storage and dusting it off, she approached the man and held out her hand. “Mitchell sent me. Ready to go?”
The man put down his blindingly bright beverage and ran his eyes up and down her figure. His sunglasses kept his eyes concealed, but his perusal still made her uncomfortable. When he made no move to shake her hand, she began to wonder if she had the right person. “What’s your name?”
“I’m Gavin. Who are you?”
Eyeing his luggage, she took note of the oversized backpack and two large hard-sided cases she assumed held camera equipment. This had to be Gavin, but what if it wasn’t? What if this guy had murdered Gavin and stuffed him in an alleyway, then sat down in his spot to lure her into a false sense of security so he could do away with her and Eli, too, at his leisure? Homicidal tendencies might explain the yellow drink.
Before the man had time to sneeze, Avery whipped out her cellphone, took a snapshot of him, and texted it to Mitchell. Is this him?
She imagined the man blinking his eyes in surprise behind his dark glasses. Artsy was definitely not the first word that came to mind when she looked at him. Or the second, for that matter. He was wearing black jeans, a grey jacket hanging open to reveal a like-colored sweater underneath, and a grey scarf wrapped around his neck a couple times. She’d always thought artists wore lots of color. That’s what she got for assuming. He would make a great beatnik.
Avery’s phone chirped at her, and she glanced down at it. Yep. That’s Gavin.
Again frowning at the man’s fruity beverage, she tried to shake off the feeling of dread swirling through her stomach. Straightening her shoulders, she held out her hand for a second time. “Hi Gavin. I’m here to pick you up and head to Nowhere.”
He cracked a smile this time. “Heading to Nowhere – isn’t that a country song?” He looked behind her. “So, where’s Avery?”
She stole a look at the mustard-not-puke colored car. What had he expected? A limo? Granted, it wasn’t much, but still… “I’m Avery. Avery Weston.”
Gavin jumped up out of his wrought-iron chair, knocking it back. “You can’t be. Avery’s a man.”
Avery scratched her head. “I’ve been accused of a lot of things, but that’s not one of them.”
He turned the tables on her then, taking her picture with his phone, presumably to verify her identity with Mitchell.
Eli, evidently tired of waiting in the cramped confines of the car, climbed out. “What’s the holdup? At this rate we won’t make it to Nowhere till two in the morning. Come on, people, daylight’s burning!”
Gavin glanced from her to Eli. Then his phone vibrated, and he peered down at it. The part of his face she could see through the pseudo-beard flushed. His hand clenched around the phone in a death grip before relaxing.
“I don’t travel with women. I thought I was riding with a man named Avery and his teenage son.”
Eli’s eyebrows shot up. “You thought Mom was a man? That’s awesome. Wait till I tell Grandma and Grandpa! They’re going to love it!”
Eli immediately began tapping away on his phone. Great. Now she was a topic of gossip between her son and parents.
Giveaway Time! One commenter will be randomly selected to receive a $5 Amazon gift card. This giveaway will close on Friday, November 25th at midnight.
If you’re one of those people (like me) who struggle with what to comment, I’ll make it easy for you. Answer any of the following questions.
Do you think it’s possible to experience great joy and great sadness simultaneously? Can you tell me about a time in your life when that’s been the case for you? What helped you to find your laughter again?