Thursday, September 11, 2014

Who Is Driving?

Writing – A strange Affair

            Writing is a journey. An author starts out with an idea, knowing where the characters are going. We get in a car, aka favorite chair, start the engine and slowly go on down the road with an acute sense of where we are headed and journal the scenes for the reader as we go along on this wonderful trip of creating a story.

            While working on my most recent writing project I learned something I’d never known before. This is what happened:

            Recently I had finished a 3-book series with, what I thought, was a little heavier subject matter than I usually write about. I was exhausted and extremely happy when the series was done. I felt I had earned a timeout and took a short break.
            But a writer must write, so I said to myself, “I’m going to write something fluffy -- something fun and light-hearted and short on this next trip.”
            I get into my writer’s seat and begin the story, knowing pretty much where I’m headed. A good driver always knows their destination. Right?

            So, with a light heart I begin. The story is moving along. I’m making headway down the road at a pretty good clip, thinking I should arrive at my destination in one-third of the time it took me to write three books.
            When I think it’s about time to wind the journey up, the driving starts taking me further than my planned destination. And further. I’m hanging onto the wheel now.  The trip is taking longer than I expected. Then suddenly I feel the characters take over. They are not so quick to let me drive all of a sudden.
              In the middle of the night, as I was tooling along, before the thought patterns in my head changed, I was heading in a different direction. How did that happen?

I thought I was driving!

I thought I knew my destination!

My story was taking turns. This was not on the itinerary. Where was I going?

About three quarters into the story, my hero and heroine had changed. The “other” guy who was a secondary player flew right up and became the hero. What?

            Shocked, I let the characters drive. I followed their lead and soon enough I realized my destination was not theirs.

            How does an author explain that? Or even understand.

            I knew then that writers are sometimes just the holders of the pen or tappers of the keyboard, and the destination is in the hands of the characters.

            The story went on so long but it wasn’t time to stop. Remember I wanted to write something fun and fluffy and short? None of that happened.

            The word count was big enough that I had to break the story into two books.

            Three months after I started my journey, I finally reached my destination. Collectively tired, fiercely happy that the story ended the way it was supposed to, and glad to let the characters drive, I typed THE END.
            As a writer, it is our job to make sure our characters reach their destination. And sometimes we don’t always know where that is.

            When you’re tooling down the road, let them drive. They know where they’re going. Right? 

Join the conversation on facebook: 

Coming Soon:


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Word Pictures

Life is busy isn’t it? I’m tempted right at the beginning to make a list of everything we do, but I am going to refrain.
Because I would like to paint a word picture for you.

What do you notice as you walk through your daily routine?  
Our minds have the ability to process. Our eyes to see things. Even from our busy viewpoint, 
we choose what we notice. Then we make assumptions.

Word pictures help us see life. I tend to notice things. Everything. Nuances. The obvious.  Innuendo (implications, overtones). And then I process them and come up with a conclusion based on what I see. Here are a couple of examples. 

I tend to notice body language. I see a restaurant patron, crumpled shoulders, no eye contact, eating slowly, alone. And begin to paint a word picture. Here are two: first one is, gosh, something terrible must have happened, maybe he lost his wife to cancer this week, or maybe no one loves him, or I wonder where he’s going from here, what kind of life he has. It must be really sad. Another is maybe he’s really a rich guy with a ton of money, and he wants to stay incognito because if people knew, he’d be paying through the nose for his breakfast.

I watch him, get up slowly, pay the cashier who greets him with familiarity and then as he walks outside and climbs into a rusty old truck with a wheelbarrow in back and slowly drives away.

Do you ever stop to wonder about people as you go about your daily routine?

I’m sure you noticed a young mother who is quietly “screaming” at her misbehaving child so people won’t dislike her? Her lips are tight, she is so distraught that she is about to burst, and the child she’s correcting jerks his arm from her tight hold, as she jerks it back making her even madder?

Instantly, at this last word picture, I’m mad. Mad at her for not being in control. Mad at her for being the adult and not acting like one.

Are you getting the picture?

Okay, here are a couple more scenarios. The guy in the creamy white Lexus  is driving above the speed limit and jerks into your lane for no apparent reason, causing you a near heart attack trying to avoid an accident. Yes, I know, you were probably driving a little too slow in the center lane but he was a jerk because he just drove on without a worry, and he came close to wrecking your vehicle. Mad? Oh yeah.

In those few seconds you noticed he had on a suit and figure he is some rich guy who owns four cars and a four-car garage to park them in. Probably born into a wealthy family and thinks everybody should get out of the way when he gets on the road.

Ever think that way? I do.

How about this. You see a beautiful woman in an upscale store you can’t afford to shop in and she is making noise at the cashier. She is dressed exquisitely , probably walked straight out of the beauty shop, her blond hair swept up in a perfect classic do, her electric blue dress and four inch heels that match perfectly, and she is actually, and you really hate to admit this, but she’s beautiful.

What do you know about these people?


So, why do we  feel we know everything about a person just by looking at them?  I ask myself that question all the time.

Here is the rest of the story.

Remember the guy eating breakfast and driving the old truck with the wheelbarrow? His son is a congressman. He has two daughters who adore him. Why? Because he’s a nice, quiet guy who works hard and loves his children. His wife adores him too, but knows he enjoys eating alone at the restaurant and she lets him.

Remember the woman who’s grabbing her child in anger?  She just learned that her husband is having an affair and the reason she married him was because he said marriage was forever and he would be faithful. 

Her husband turned out just like her father who ruined her family’s life because of his affairs. The thing is, she made sure to marry the man who said he’d be faithful to her. Now he’s leaving her too. Promises broken. Her son was jerking his arm from her, feeling the same hurt as she did when her father left.

Now for the man who cut you off this morning on the way to work in his beautiful creamy white Lexus, acting like he owned the road?

He is a jerk. His father raised him to be one. Taught him that if you weren’t first in life you were nothing. Oh yeah, he’s got the Lexus, the nice suit, the business that is successful, but his wife hates him, his kids have nothing to say to him, but by golly he’s got the nice house and perfectly trimmed yard.  

It’s what his father calls success.

Funny, but he doesn’t feel it. He was thinking about life as he was driving down the road, wondering why he wasn’t happy. Why he didn’t have any friends. He knew how to function as a boss, but had no idea how to be a friend. He actually envied guys at work who went home to wives and kids who loved them. But he didn’t know how to love his family.  No one showed him.

And for the beautiful woman. Now which of us ladies think she couldn’t possibly have any problems with those looks, those clothes, those shoes that matched that electric blue dress, for heaven’s sake?

Remember the guy in the Lexus? She’s his wife. When she married him, he was a young man striving to grow a business. She loved him for that. He worked hard and even though they started with a small house, she was happier back then.

Now she rarely sees her husband and when she does he wants her to look the part of “the boss’s wife.” Which means she has to be made up all the time. She was returning a dress her husband said made her look dumpy.

He wants to impress a potential client he is wooing at dinner tonight at the best restaurant  in town and no matter what she shows him she is wearing he dismisses as not good enough. To the world she is gorgeous, to him she is never enough. No wonder she was stressed at the cashier that day.

All she ever wanted was a close family. Mostly because her dad was the owner of a huge manufacturing business and she hardly ever saw him as a child. She thought she’d married a better man, but alas, to her ever-growing realization, she married someone like her father and her children felt the same way about their father as she had about hers.

Making quick judgments is easy. Truly understanding a person means getting to know them before you paint a word picture that isn’t true.

It may take a little time, but we can change how we see people, even if just a little at a time.

* * *

Here’s one more word picture. Several years ago I met a man as I waited in a train station.

He came in rather disheveled and yelling at the clerk behind the window, upset because he had missed his ride. When he turned around something inside me said to speak to him.  I did and he sat down on the bench

We exchanged first names and he began to tell me about his life. He talked about his hurts and failures, things that made him happy.  He needed someone to listen. For over an hour we talked, then as the conversation came to an end, I offered him an unopened bottle of iced tea I had in my bag, figuring he would be headed back to the streets.

That evening I rode the train home praying for the man I’d met and told my son about the encounter later that night, including the name of the band the guy played in.

My son gasped and said, “No way.”  

I had never heard of  the group so didn’t know the man’s face or name.
When I look back I believe God did not want me know his name or who he was. I might, because of his status in the world, looked at him differently.

Instead I just saw the man.

Word pictures. They can mean so many things. When you walk through life, notice things. Notice people. But don’t judge them. You don’t know where they’ve been or how many times they’ve been hit by invisible sticks and stones. How many verbal or physical beatings they’ve taken. How many rejections.

Look deeper instead. God will show you something in people if you just look a little deeper. You’ll find truth if you are willing to listen instead of forming a word picture in your mind.

~ Patricia Strefling

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Stay In Your Lane

         Being a people-pleaser and someone who loves to encourage people, I recently found myself plagued with a reoccurring malady: overwhelming requests and not enough time. Add to that my penchant for needing to process life at a slower pace and think things through, I found myself in a race I couldn’t win.

          As I was thinking about this a word picture came to mind.

          I was down at the local high school track running in my lane, others in front of me, beside me, behind me. We were all running through life each looking ahead to the purpose we had inside of us.

         Then I pictured myself changing lanes. Doing something that was not me. When I found myself trying to run in someone else’s lane, I created chaos on the track. We were tripping and running into each other in a ball of tangled humanity. I instantly lost my focus.

      It became increasingly clear that every time I listened to someone’s voice telling me I should be doing this or that, I risked losing my place. We can be good people in a messed up world but if we try to be everything to everybody all the time, we lose the most important point in life -- knowing what we were created for.

       Staying in my particular lane meant writing. I love to write, create things, encourage people. When I stepped outside my box because of fear, guilt, or jealousy, trying to do things that people thought I should be doing, I was knocking everyone else out of theirs.  When I tried to be like them, I was stealing their purpose and trying to make it mine. Suddenly the word picture became clear in my mind.

        I began to feel less pressure to perform and stay where God had placed me. I no longer feel like I have to be anything more than what I am. And I’ve learned to enjoy running at my pace, doing my work.

        There are days we need to stop running, get off the track, smell the roses, take a long walk or check out our surroundings; let the wind lift our hair, take in a deep, full breath, and see other places and other people, before we get back on the track.
       Some of us run a little slower, enjoying the views that others might miss. For others their calling may require them to be “eyes straight ahead.” That’s okay too. But for me, I want to notice when the wind is blowing through the fields bending the wheat, when the leaves on the trees are bursting with color, when someone falls by the wayside and needs a hand.

                  When I stay in my lane,  I encourage others to do the same . . . to stay in the place they were born for. We don’t have to be everything to everyone. Just be ourselves and while we’re at it, become really good at what we do. Then we will achieve what we were born to do. Life can be a lot simpler. Just stay in your lane. I can’t think of a greater place to be, can you?

By : Patricia Strefling

Join the conversation on facebook. 

You can find her online.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Book 3- Cover Contest

My graphics guru, Leah, came up with several book cover choices for Lace’s Legacy, the third book in the Lacy series.  Lacy’s Lane (available at Amazon now), Lacy’s Life (coming soon) and finally Lacy’s Legacy (currently writing).
I loved both of these covers and couldn’t choose, so wanted my readers to have a chance to choose the cover they like the best. The one with the most votes goes to press! 
Thank you! You’ll make my decision easy since they are both gorgeous! Thank you Leah Banicki for your lovely work!

Please feel free to vote for your favorite by commenting on this blog post or voting on my facebook page. 

These are just the examples. The finished product I'm told will be better quality. (Graphics guru wanted that added.)

I hope you have enjoyed Lacy's Lane, book 2, Lacy's Life should be available in a few months, currently writing book three.

You can find Lacy's Lane on amazon.  

Lacy's Life is Coming Soon!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Story Listening

As a writer I have learned a lot about story reading and story telling. But there is one aspect that I have also learned but didn’t realize until I decided to write about it! Story listening. 

Yesterday I had the privilege of sitting with my neighbor and listening to her recent struggle about saying yes or no to one of the many obligations that came her way.

It was time for the annual tea at her church. She had done  it for two years running, but this year was particularly busy and she wasn’t excited, didn’t feel she even had the time to shop or set it up. She is a busy woman, so who would blame her if she didn’t say yes this year.

My day was changed, because of our conversation. It put me in the mindset of looking at my life. How was I living it? Was I giving it my all or just putzing around looking for ways to please myself?  Before she came that morning I had been mostly thinking about what I wanted to do that day, things I wanted to accomplish.
Our conversation helped me see the value of looking for ways to help others. And what the reward had been to her, even though initially she had tried to avoid the annual tea.

My friend  had a very tight schedule for the day of the tea so prayed and asked God, that if He wanted her to sponsor a table at the tea to show her. She prayed and sensed the answer was yes. Her second prayer was to ask God to do it inexpensively, so she went shopping.

She did her best to buy something beautiful and yet save as much money as possible. She found  a beautiful white table cloth that was on sale for $7.99 (its original price much higher). When she got to the front there was a “special” going on and she paid eighty cents for it! That was sign number one.  
On the day of the tea she he set up her table and it was lovely. The group of ladies were a blessing and she finished, and packed up her things.  Because she had such a tight schedule, immediately after the tea, she rushed to pick up her friend for Bingo and they slid in late.  She won about $40. That was sign number two.

And the best news was when a couple of days later, the husband of one of the ladies that sat at her table came up and talked to her. He told her that his wife feared coming alone, and did so, only because she could bring a couple of extra ladies. He told my friend how much his wife loved the tea and sitting at  her table. That was sign number three, which my friend said, was the best one of all.

Whew…by the time she got through telling me all the details, I was ready to jump up and set up my own tea-table!

As time passes, I’m beginning to realize I learn so much more when I sit with someone one-on-one.

Everyone has a story. Find someone today and be open to listen.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Kindle Fire HD Giveaway- Patricia Strefling

Please include full name, email and mailing address.  
Trouble with the click to enter? 
Just email your name address and email to

You will be able to send extra entries- you will be emailed a list of all ways you can earn extra entries. No purchase necessary.
The contest ends at midnight December 9th, 2012.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Falling Star

There are some things that need to be written down. Moments of clarity in the midst of hurt and pain in this world. There are moments when it seems that understanding death, divorce, broken lives, deep hurts from words or deeds that have affected our life forever, will never be understood.

I was having some of those moments, when late at night a friend called to talk about a recent hurt she was experiencing. She was sludging through the muddy mess, trying to understand what had happened. We talked at length about why -- and if God was there why didn’t he answer the prayer of her heart? Why did it seem he had thrown her under the bus? We knew it wasn’t true. But right then it seemed so true.

Both of us were hurting. For very different reasons. She, suffering from a most recent devastating break-up of a relationship she thought was sent from God. An answer to a life-long prayer. And now it was over. What had happened? And why?

There were moments of silence. 
There were no answers.

Struggling with my own emotions that night, I wasn’t much help to her, except to know that the depth of pain sometimes is deeper than our understanding. We discussed all the why’s and what-for’s. But came up silent at the end. There was no magic answer for either of us.
One thing did become clear as we talked out what we couldn’t fix in our lives: that those who have experienced deep pain are the only ones others want to talk to when they are hurt. And how could we ever understand another living soul if we ourselves had never been devastated by life’s storms?

How could we earn the right to say to someone, “I know what you are going through?”

The conversation slowly came to a sense of understanding that we can’t always know why. She, for her deepest feeling of rejection AGAIN, me for a lifelong trial with the same issue; a lifelong feeling of rejection that had taken up residence in my life.

These emotions can’t be “thrown up in the air” hoping they will magically disappear in thin air. They have to be dealt with. At the time neither of us wanted to quote Bible verses. We knew them. For the moment, we needed to grieve.

And so we grieved for the loss of a relationship she had long prayed for and thought had finally arrived, me for a lifelong sense of rejection that never goes away, no matter how much I want it to.  We had both prayed for years about these struggles and we were mired in them again.

All the time we were talking, I was sitting in a rocking chair facing a big picture window looking out on the back yard behind our house on a cool early November evening. It was nearing midnight and this was my view from the window:  huge full moon high in the midnight blue sky, long white streaks leaving jet lines crisscrossed across the moon’s path. Stars so explicitly bright they seemed hardly able to contain their brightness as they formed the ancient constellations.

The trees had lost all their leaves so the vein-like branches created a beautiful view in front of the moon. The ground was white from the light of the moon. And then realization struck: the fact that God, though his majestic creation, was standing right there looking through the window at me.  Displaying the works of his hands before my eyes without saying a word.As my friend and I talked out our frustrations it became very clear that God was there. Just looking, waiting, hoping that I would see his presence.

My friend was talking and suddenly I interrupted her . . . “You are not going to believe this!” I was breathless.

Across the sky, for the first time that I can remember I saw a falling star. A quick arc-like slide and then it disappeared.
She was excited as I told her what I saw. Our conversation became quieter. A sense of amazement began to fill us.
All that we had said, commiserated about, hurts we didn’t want to face, became suddenly less powerful. I could hear it in her voice. 

One small star, a momentary second of brightness and then it was gone. We realized it was like our lives. Seen for a millisecond and gone.

Could we stay too long in our hurt places and miss what shining moment we might have?

We talked a bit more, but the conversation had gone full circle. We needed to be heard, and we were. The small interruption lasted a nanosecond, but it had soaked into our souls somehow.

I had to wonder if that star fell just for my friend and I . One November night in the middle of deep hurt.

~ Patricia Strefling