I recently read Christian Fiction Off the Beaten Path, and I follow JPC Allen–one of the authors featured in this anthology–on Facebook and Instagram. I enjoyed her story and asked her to do a guest blog for me, my first so far. Thank you, JPC, for being my first guest blogger! The following is her post about the story behind A Rose From the Ashes . . .
I couldn’t have heard that right.
Last December I was talking to author and editor Michelle L. Levigne at the Faith and Fellowship Book Festival in Etna, Ohio. Michelle is also the co-founder of Mt. Zion Ridge Press. That afternoon, she said the deadline for submitting short stories for the press’s Christmas anthology was December 15. I’d had a short story accepted for another anthology from Mt. Zion Ridge and assumed the deadline would be in January.
It was December 1. I had less than two weeks to come up with a 5,000-word short story that actually made sense while getting ready for Christmas, teaching Sunday school, and preparing for a visit from my in-laws. And I don’t handle stress well. Or in some cases, at all.
I’d heard about the anthology about a week before and had an idea simmering, but I hadn’t put a single word on paper. Despite the odds stacked against me, I told my husband I wanted to go for it. As much as I hated the stress, the challenge of the assignment stirred my determination.
So on Monday morning, after running my kids to school, I sat down and wrote fourteen completely worthless pages. Something wasn’t working. I was playing it safe. I had the wrong main character, and I was shying away from big emotions.
Because my short story involves a twenty-year-old cold case, I wrote out that part of the story like a book report to see if the mystery held together. Then I told my husband that whole story to see if he thought it held together. By the way, every writer should have an engineer to bounce ideas off of. If you can’t marry one, like I did, try to acquire one as a friend. My husband applies a logic to my plots that is refreshing and invaluable. When he told me the story made sense, my confidence got a terrific boost.
On Tuesday morning, I started over. Over the next eleven days, I wrote like I never had before. I couldn’t wait to get at it every morning. I couldn’t sleep well. The alarm would go off for my husband to go to work, and I couldn’t fall back asleep for an extra hour because the story was running through my head. After suffering from insomnia for years, this inability to catch another hour of sleep would have worried me. But I didn’t care because I was so caught up in my story.
The energy I had to write spilled over into the rest of my life. I got the house cleaned for my in-laws, prepared my Sunday school lessons, and decorated and planned Christmas activities with my kids and still felt like I could work in a marathon if I had to.
That’s when it hit me that all this energy and creativity was coming from the Holy Spirit. I’d been writing for years and had never experienced anything like this.
I wrote 10,000-word YA Christmas mystery “A Rose from the Ashes”, which was accepted and published in October in Christmas fiction off the beaten path. But the publication pales in comparison to what I learned about God during those two weeks.
He loves being creative. It is a joy to Him. And He loves being generous with His creativity. This mystery was His. For some reason, He wanted to filter it through me. I felt a wonderful responsibility to write it the way He wanted it. I’d come up with cute expressions or catchy dialogue, but if it didn’t serve the story, I cut it out. The story was finely balanced, and I didn’t want to wreck it. I was thrilled to be the junior partner in the process.
Eventually the feelings faded, but not the memories of the most joyful writing experience and Christmas I’ve ever had. In those two weeks, I learned so much about God. To know my Heavenly Father better was worth any stress, any work, any sleeplessness, anything. I can’t wait to see what project He has in mind next.
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Christmas fiction off the beaten path
Not your Granny’s Christmas stories …
Step off the beaten path and enjoy six stories that look beyond the expected, the traditional, the tried-and-true.
Inspired by the song, “Mary Did You Know?” – a mother’s memories of events leading up to and following that one holy night. MARY DID YOU KNOW? By Patricia Meredith
A young woman seeking her own identity searches for the man who tried to kill her and her mother on Christmas Eve twenty years before. A ROSE FROM THE ASHES. By JPC Allen
Princess, tower, sorceress, dragon, brave knight, clever peasant – combine these ingredients into a Christmas-time story that isn’t quite what you’d expect. RETURN TO CALLIDORA. By Laurie Lucking
Anticipating tough financial times, the decision not to buy or exchanged presents leads to some painful and surprising revelations for a hardworking man and his family. NOT THIS YEAR. By Sandra Merville Hart
Years ago, a gunman and a store full of hostages learned some important lessons about faith and pain and what really matters in life – and the echoes from that day continued to the present. THOSE WHO STAYED. By Ronnell Kay Gibson
A community of refugees, a brutal winter, a doorway to another world – a touch of magic creating holiday joy for others leads to a Christmas wish fulfilled. CRYSTAL CHRISTMAS. By Michelle L. Levigne
JPC Allen started her writing career in second grade with an homage to Scooby Doo. She’s been tracking down mysteries ever since. She has written mystery short stories for Mt. Zion Ridge Press. Online, she offers writing tips and prompts to beginning writers. She also leads writing workshops, encouraging tweens, teens, and adults to discover the adventure of writing. A lifelong Buckeye, she has deep roots in the Mountain State. Join the adventure on her blog, Facebook, Instagram, or Goodreads.