Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Launching Out in the Wrong Direction

Guest Blog with Colleen Reece

After winning the bicycle, I had continued to daydream about my “someday” book but did little writing other than homework. Our family camped extensively throughout the western states. We read everything possible about the Old West. This and my high school preparation for a possible nursing career gave me a solid foundation. Yet it took thirty-six years to fulfill my childhood dream of having a book published . . . and a single-page letter changed my dream to a nightmare.

For years I’d devoured inspirational novels. The nurse romances published by Avalon Books particularly attracted me. One day I told Mom, “I could write a better book than some of these.”
She smiled and said, “Why don’t you?”

“I will, but I’ll play it smart,” I told her. “No way am I going to spend the little free time left over from my day job by writing a novel that may not sell. I’ll submit one chapter and do a few more while waiting for a response.” I grinned. “When Avalon says, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ I’ll be ready to offer my work elsewhere. I’ll also have time to get acquainted with my characters, and think more about the plot.”

All I knew at that point was that my nurse-heroine would flee from an intolerable situation and travel with her aunt in Arizona (Mom and I had taken such a trip the year before).

Chapter One flowed like a river in flood. Mom proofed and edited it. I mailed it from Vancouver, Washington, along with a business-like cover letter. Three days later, my dreams of being published shattered. The New York editor loved the chapter—and wanted the rest of the book.

I panicked. “Dear God, now what? The editor is holding the entire manuscript! Avalon is a secular company but they have high standards. Characters ask a blessing over meals and pray for help in times of trouble. Please forgive my stupidity and if it be Your will, let my book be accepted.”

God heard and answered. I received a contract two days after submitting the manuscript. The editor appreciated the fact that my nurse heroine did more than bandage cuts and asked for more books. The Heritage of Nurse O’Hara was published in 1977. Since then, sales of my 140+ “Books You Can Trust” have reached six million . . . but never again have I launched out in the wrong direction! I have, however, continued to write western-based novels. Frontiers and Frontier Brides collections (four novels each from Barbour Publishing) are among my all-time bestsellers.

Some time ago, a good friend gave me an idea for a historical Christian western. I fell in love with it. My heroine, Sarah Joy, and I escaped from St. Louis, Missouri. Trusting God to protect us, we headed west to a cattle ranch and discovered that Romance Rides the Range near Madera, California. (My second childhood dream was to live on a cattle ranch. I’m still hoping to visit one.)

Book Two, Romance Rides the River, is scheduled for fall 2010. I recently submitted Book Three, Romance at Rainbow’s End. I don’t know what’s next, but God’s timing is perfect. He knows our capabilities, as well as when and where our work can do the most good.

If you dream of writing a book, it is never too late to get started. You may think you don’t have time to make your dream come true. Consider this: if you write only one page per day, five days a week, by this time next year you will have a 260-page novel.

I leave you with my mother’s challenge: “Why don’t you?”

Todays Question: What is a dream you dared to pursue or are still dreaming?


  1. I attended my first writers conference this year - a dream of several years come true. It exceeded my expectations and two editors asked for a partial. My dream is to finish a MS I have started that is loosely based on four years of my mother's life. It's set in WWII and it's been a real challenge to balance fiction with fact. It's a dream I hope I can see through with God's help.

  2. Jan, that is so exciting. I'm thrilled for you! May God bless you as you pursue your dream. Writing was a dream come true for me as well. I feel honored and privileged to have had that opportunity.

  3. My dream was realized this past fall when I held my first book in my hands. Since then, I've grown a whole new crop of dreams.

    I love the way you put it, that you and your heroine headed west. Isn't it like that?

  4. Dreams are gifts from God. I am thrilled to see you all reach yours. That first contract from Becky was a dream come true for me as well. Every day I dream big and every night I feel blessed as I lay my head down to sleep.

  5. Thanks, Colleen, to all your encouragement and mentoring during years of published articles, I held my first published book, JUMPSTART TO POWER PRAYERS, at age 75.
    I continue to enjoy your journey and mine.