This is the week.
The Engagement Plot officially releases on Wednesday, November 1st.
Of course, Amazon started mailing books over a week ago and even published the ebook a little early, but no matter. Wednesday is still my day of celebrating since that’s when all the other retailers will release it. (Feel free to get it now though, ha!!)
This book has had such a crazy journey with me.
It was the first book I finished writing after my life was flipped upside down and turned completely upside down in 2010. (my youngest was born with half of a heart and spent 308 days in the hospital, culminating in receiving a heart transplant on 4/9/11.)
Here I had this half-finished book that was full of sarcasm and humor but I was struggling, to put it mildly. Everyone said I should be GREAT now since my daughter was “on the mend” and out of the hospital most of the time. But I struggled each day to get out of bed. I cried almost every day. Writing was so, so hard. LIFE was hard. (she was home but on oxygen and a feeding tube)
Somewhere in the midst of it all, though, I finished it. Then set it aside, convinced that it was utter crap and would need to be rewritten or just trashed. But when I came back to it, imagine my shock when it wasn’t complete nonsensical drivel.
God had allowed a message of forgiveness, a message of hope amidst tragedy, a message of God taking our broken pieces and making something beautiful, into this story that I thought for sure was a hot mess. Don’t get me wrong. It still needed a REALLY massive edit to make it presentable. But there was a beauty in that mess that even writing it, I hadn’t really seen.
But the end result was so much different.
I giggle at every review that comes in, saying they had low expectations for the book based on the subject matter, but how they were pleasantly surprised with the content.
I just want to say: So was I, dear reader. So was I.
My hope is that readers will take a chance on this book that looks like a goofy, sarcastic novel on the outside (and make no mistake, it is still that. I’m a fan of goofy AND sarcastic) but will see the undercurrent of God’s faithfulness, grace and unwavering love for his children even when we royally screw things up. God used this story so much in my own life, and I pray that He can do so in the lives of those who read it as well.
And I pray that it will bring a few giggles along the way, because laughter is such sweet medicine.
I thought I’d share a little excerpt from the book to give you a taste. It’s just the first chapter, and if you enjoy it and want to read more, you can the book now on Amazon (or everywhere else on Wednesday!)
“Blizzard-like conditions are expected to last through the evening. Stay inside, folks. If you’re out there on the roads, well, just don’t be.”
Hanna Knight clicked the Power button on the radio as she inched the Dodge Ram pickup down the snow-covered highway. Embarrass, Minnesota, was only a few miles farther. She should have never left the farm knowing a storm was brewing, but she’d thought she could beat it home.
She’d driven in worse before, though.
Hanna tapped on the brakes and squinted to see through the white flakes that waged war on her windshield. Was that something in the ditch ahead?
As the truck neared, she made out a pair of red taillights. The closer she got, the clearer the back of the car became. A rental agency logo was barely visible on the back of the snow-drowned Lexus. Just her luck. She’d have to play good Samaritan to some moron who didn’t have enough sense to stay inside during a classic Northern Minnesota blizzard.
Be nice, Hanna. It wasn’t the moron’s fault the weather was grating on Hanna’s nerves.
As long as it wasn’t another reporter. Those were the only strangers she usually saw on the road to the farm lately. And even they were becoming rare, thank goodness.
On a normal day, she’d have headed on by, alerted her dad, and let him come back and help pull the car out. Picking up strangers on the side of the road, even (and maybe especially) stranded ones, wasn’t the safest activity in the world. But the snow was turning into blizzard conditions faster than she was comfortable with, and there might not be time.
Her pulse picked up speed as she guided the truck to the side and threw it into Park. Hanna grabbed her pink stocking cap and slipped it over her head then checked the rearview mirror to make sure her blond hair wasn’t sticking out all over. If it was a reporter, no sense having another horrible picture show up in the grocery store checkout lanes.
The moment she thought it, guilt plowed into her conscience. Caring about her hair when a person could be scared and hurt? A year ago, she wouldn’t have given it a second thought.
Hanna grabbed the emergency kit from the glove box and her rifle from behind the seat—just in case—and hopped out of the truck. Icy wind cut against her body, and she tightened her muscles to keep from being blown over. Head down against the oncoming snow, she trudged around the front of the truck.
After she made sure the driver was safe, she’d give him or her a good talking-to for trying to drive in this weather.
Probably him. This was something a guy would do.
She was a bit stupid for making the run to Ely when she knew bad weather was brewing, but that was different. She’d cut teeth on icicles during winter and had been driving in the snow since she was fifteen.
City Slicker, on the other hand, probably couldn’t say the same.
She shimmied down the ditch, ignoring the cold wet of the snow seeping into her jeans, and pounded her gloved fist on the tinted driver’s window. “Hello? You okay?”
No reply. Just great.
She reached for the ice-covered door handle, but it refused to budge. The car had been there at least a half hour by the looks of it, but minus twenty-degree weather could freeze a car pretty fast, and the person inside with it.
She set the emergency kit on top of the car, then, rifle in hand, ran back to the truck, sliding to a stop at the back, and grabbed a crowbar. When she reached the car again, she used the end of the bar to chip away the ice forming along the door and handle then tried to open it again. The black metal shifted then refused to budge.
Short of breaking a window, she had no clue what else to try. And the butt of her rifle through the window didn’t bode well for the driver.
Coffee. She’d been sipping a nice hot travel mug full of heaven’s liquid on the way back, and it was still over half full. Maybe it would melt the ice just enough, although it was a long shot.
Hanna trudged up the incline again and returned with the stainless-steel thermos. She poured the coffee slowly around the car door and handle, careful to avoid the glass so it didn’t shatter. Please, Jesus, let this work.
Bracing a foot against the car, she leveraged and pulled with all one-hundred-twenty-five pounds of her weight. Her efforts were rewarded when the door finally popped open, and she went sprawling into the snow. Ignoring the wetness clinging to the back of her blue jeans, she heaved herself from two feet of snow and bent down to assess the person huddled in the car.
“Sir, are you all right?”
The man had wrapped himself in a blanket—at least he’d done that right—so she couldn’t make out his features, but she did notice a slight nod of his head.
“We aren’t gonna get this car out of here tonight, so why don’t you get in the truck so you can warm up?”
The body shifted but didn’t get out. Probably from shock and cold. She shrugged off her coat, which she knew would already be warm, and threw it over him. The biting cold nipped at her skin through her oversized Vikings sweatshirt, but she was still much better off than the poor guy in front of her.
She reached in and grabbed his legs, swinging them out of the car and into the snow. His leather shoes were no match for the kneedeep snow drift. “I don’t have the muscles to carry you, but if you can walk, just lean on me, and we’ll do this together, okay?”
Putting her back into it, she grabbed his arms and pulled. After two tugs, a grunt from her, and a moan from the man, he stood.
Together, though his steps were stilted, they made it to the cab of the truck, where she all but hoisted him in.
She ran back down to his car, grabbed the keys from the ignition, and locked the door. Not like anyone was going to steal it out here, especially in this weather, but with his dress pants and shiny, expensive-looking loafers, he looked like one who might worry about such stupid things.
Hanna hopped into the truck and cranked the heat on full blast then turned to the man, who still shivered under a combination of the blanket and her coat. “I’d offer you coffee, but I used it on your car to get the door open. Here, let me get that cold blanket off so the heat can reach you.”
The man jerked away from her as she tried to remove the blanket. Stubborn cuss. “I just wanna help. You have to be freezing.”
He shook his head.
Fine, let him suffer. Men.
Slamming the truck into gear, she headed down the road toward the little town of Embarrass. Some might balk at the term town considering it wasn’t much more than a post office and community center, but it had been her home since she was born. These people loved her regardless and were some of the few in this world who hadn’t turned their backs on her over the last six months.
Just on the outskirts, she turned down the gravel road that led to her dad’s farm. How sad was it that she, at twenty-seven, lived back at home yet again?
She’d have given anything to be back in her cozy little apartment in Duluth, teaching a group of giggly kindergartners in the nearby elementary school. They probably had a snow day today, so she’d be sipping hot chocolate and binge-watching something on Netflix. Shaking the memory out of her brain, she determined to focus on the invalid next to her. “We’re almost there. Dad will be able to help you into some warm clothes once we get inside. They may not be all fancy like you’re used to, but they’ll be warm.”
The stranger nodded again, or, at least, that was how she interpreted the shift of the blanket.
As she parked the truck in her usual spot, Hanna laid on the horn, then jumped out of the cab when her dad opened the door to the old farmhouse.
His thick Scandinavian accent shouted out as he pulled on a coat and hustled down the steps. “Hanna, what’s going on?”
She gritted her teeth against the bitter, snow-filled wind. “Picked up a straggler on the side of the road half-frozen. You wanna help me get him inside?”
Dad was already headed toward the passenger side. “You’re gonna freeze to death without your coat. No, you go on in and start some soup and coffee. I’ll see to him.”
Her teeth started to chatter as she trudged through the snow-filled path to the front deck of the house. She didn’t love the idea of leaving Dad to help the man inside all by himself, but there wasn’t much she could do to help if she froze, too.
Hugging her arms to her chest, she headed into the house and let the warmth embrace her once she closed the door.
The familiar house stood as it always did when she got home in the winter. Floorboard heaters going at full blast. Cookstove that heated the living room filled with burning wood. She stood for just a minute in front of the old black stove, allowing the warmth to thaw her fingers.
But Dad would be in here with the crazy rich guy any minute, so her comfort was going to have to be put on hold.
Ignoring her wet clothes, she grabbed a pair of Dad’s flannel pajamas and long johns from the basket of clean clothes she’d planned to fold later, laid them out in the guest bedroom just off the living room, and headed into the kitchen.
She poured two large cans of chicken noodle soup into a pot then took a break to try and unstick her jeans from her legs. She really should have changed into dry clothes first. But before she could head upstairs, the front door opened.
Wet jeans would just have to wait a few minutes longer. Flipping on the burner, she yelled toward the front of the house. “Need any help?”
“Nope, you stay put.”
Hanna wrinkled her forehead at his demanding tone. Her dad was usually laid back and easygoing, rarely commanding her to do a thing. Of course, she was an only child and was used to pitching in.
Shaking off her confusion, she tossed the soup cans into the trash and put on a pot of coffee.
When the soup started boiling, she inhaled the warm aroma, letting the steam from the broth thaw her insides the rest of the way.
She ladled it into three bowls and set them on the table along with spoons and toast. As she grabbed for a TV tray in case the stranger wasn’t able to walk to the table, a throat cleared behind her.
She turned, and the tray clattered to the floor.
In front of her stood a slightly blue-hued, oversized flannel-clad William Preston, CEO and handsome bachelor who had won the hearts of America’s women. That was, until seven months ago when he’d stomped on her heart and left it to freeze to death by humiliating her in front of millions of people.
What’s a book you’ve read that has has a lasting impact on you and your walk with Jesus?
What’s the last book you read that made you really, truly laugh out loud?