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Cindy L. Freeman, A Missed Opportunity – 12/31/20

My husband and I enjoy riding the train from our home in Williamsburg to Alexandria, Virginia. We often take this trip after Christmas to celebrate our January first anniversary. It’s a chance to enjoy the shops and restaurants that line King Street and take in an opera at the Kennedy Center. The streets of Alexandria are still decorated with sparkling lights and sometimes a sprinkling of snow. At sunset each day, we bundle up and walk from our hotel near the train station to the riverfront to experience the post-Christmas ambiance.

At the end of one such visit, we had checked out of the motel, deciding to wait in the lobby for our train rather than schlepping our luggage to the station in an icy downpour. With two hours to spare, we made ourselves comfortable near the cozy fireplace with hot beverages and settled in to read on our Kindles, basking in the afterglow of another memorable anniversary celebration.

The man pacing back and forth scarcely garnered my attention, caught up as I was in a riveting plot. I recall a fleeting thought that he was a hotel employee beginning to remove the lavish Christmas decorations or perhaps a contractor working to restore power to a broken elevator. Occasionally, he would step outside for a smoke under the covered portico. It didn’t occur to me until several hours later that his light tee-shirt was soaked with rain, not sweat, and his khaki pants weren’t stained from working in the hotel. Rather, they were filthy from not being washed for who-knows-how-long. With rain-soaked clothing and no coat, his pacing through the lobby was an attempt to shelter from the bitter weather. Each time he walked past the snack bar, his empty stomach must have growled in response to the aromas of fresh popcorn, roasted peanuts, and coffee.

How could we not have noticed that he was homeless? How could we have been so wrapped up in our own comfort that we were oblivious to this man’s plight? It would have been easy to pull a sweatshirt from my husband’s suitcase and offer it to him. We could have bought him a cup of coffee and a snack. We could have tucked a twenty dollar bill into his hand. Such simple gestures would have meant everything to him while posing no sacrifice for us. But it wasn’t until our train pulled into the Williamsburg station several hours later that the reality of the situation dawned on us.

Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Each time I recall the incident, I am reminded of Christ’s parable about the good Samaritan, whose benevolence is contrasted with the priest who “passed by on the other side.” 

I wonder if God whispered to us in that hotel lobby. When we failed to hear the whisper, did God nudge us, but we were too self involved to notice? To this day, years later, I still carry guilt when I think about our missed opportunity to minister to that homeless man. I’d like to think it was someone else’s turn, that God was nudging them instead of us. Even so, I learned an important lesson, a lesson that has taught me to pray, “Oh, God, make me aware of human need, and show me how I can meet that need before it’s too late.”

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of four award-winning essays and three published novels: UnrevealedThe Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Her latest book, After Rain, is a collection of devotions offering comfort and peace in times of trial. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: Cindy L Freeman. Her books are available through amazon.com or hightidepublications.com

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Cindy L. Freeman – The Writer’s Life – 12/11/20

I am an author. Does that sound romantic? Think again.

Don’t get me wrong. I love writing, and I’ve always wanted to be an author. I waited forty-five years to acquire that title. But did I just wake up one morning and–voila!–I was an author? No! Here’s how it happened.

I retired from a long career in music education and music ministry. In 2010, I wrote a novella and not an especially good one. I searched the internet for months trying to find a publisher. I had no idea how the process worked, whether I needed an agent, how to write a query letter, or where to turn for help. 

What I quickly discovered is that, while writing is fun, it is a lot of hard work. As with any craft, there is much to learn. Beyond the basics of spelling, grammar and punctuation, fiction writing includes such elements as plot, characterization, viewpoint, dialogue, and pace. Whatever the genre, all of these elements must work together to craft a novel.

The good news is that there are many books, blogs, workshops, and organizations out there to help aspiring authors succeed. I wish I had known this when I started my writing journey. Like many fledgling writers, I put the cart before the horse. Instead of taking the time to lay a solid foundation upon which to build my writing career, I plunged into the deep end, going straight for the publishing stage. That was my dream, after all! By the way, relying on cliches like “put the cart before the horse” is a major pitfall for writers; and mixed metaphors like “laying the foundation” and “plunged into the deep end” are, by definition, “a succession of incongruous or ludicrous comparisons.” Authors are tasked with being original, not filling their books with tired cliches. Too bad! I happen to love cliches.

Since that first pathetic novella, I have published three novels. So, what is my advice to aspiring authors?

  1. Read, read, read! Then read some more.
  2. Find a critique group. Most public libraries keep a list of local groups. Working with other writers who give honest feedback is the best way to grow as a writer.
  3. Join a local writers’ association, preferably one that is associated with your state’s writers association. Attend their workshops and conferences. If you learn one new thing about writing, the registration fee is worth it.
  4. Have someone (several someones, actually) other than a loved one, proofread your work.
  5. Hire a professional editor. Note: if your manuscript is accepted by a traditional publisher, an editor will be provided. 
  6. Don’t be tempted to submit your manuscript to publishers until it is both complete and polished. Not only is the competition fierce, but once your book is out there, you can’t take it back.
  7. Avoid vanity presses. Whereas traditional (mainstream) publishers make their money from the sale of your books, vanity presses charge the author thousands of dollars up front.
  8. Do your research. Be sure you know the difference between self-publishing, vanity publishing, hybrid publishing and mainstream publishing so you can make an informed decision.
  9. Don’t be afraid of rejection letters. Rather, use them as tools for improvement. 
  10. Be prepared to spend a good deal of time marketing your work. No one, not even an agent, will do it for you.

Finally, don’t give up! If you are a writer who dreams of becoming a published author, you must be prepared to put in the work. No author, except J.K. Rowling, became an overnight sensation. Even Rowling, who seemed to rise to the top overnight, struggled, but she never gave up on her dream.

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of three award-winning essays and three published novels: UnrevealedThe Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: Cindy L Freeman. Her books are available through amazon.com or hightidepublications.com  Coming soon: After Rain, Devotions for Comfort and Peace.

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Cindy L. Freeman – After Rain – 12/18/2020

The other day, a friend asked, “What inspires your writing?” It was a good question that I couldn’t answer immediately. I guess I hadn’t considered the idea of inspiration until I began writing my latest book, After Rain.

I’ve published a novella and three novels, but After Rain is a departure from novel writing. Rather it is a book of weekly Christian devotions.

The inspiration for After Rain came last spring shortly after the pandemic reached America’s shores. During my daily prayer time, I began to hear what I like to call holy whispers. I had finished reading 1 Thessalonians 4:18 where Paul says, “Therefore comfort one another with these words.” Paul is encouraging the Christians at Thessalonica to comfort each other with words of hope. The early Christians were often faced with persecution, even to the point of martyrdom. But because of Christ’s sacrifice and the promise of resurrection, they were never left hopeless, even in death.

By March, the pandemic had just been identified as COVID-19, and already millions worldwide were infected with this mysterious illness. Fear spread quickly, especially when the death toll began to rise. As businesses were forced to close, many families found themselves without income and housing. 

That was the situation prompting me to write fifty-two devotions, but I never intended to share them. The words were for me, only… or so I thought. Then one morning as I meditated, embracing the silence, the holy whisper came: People need comfort and peace. They need to hear words of hope, not only for a vaccine but the hope that comes from embracing the message of Jesus Christ. Keep writing and trust the outcome to me.

I prayed for inspiration, searched the scriptures, and wrote. Remembering some previous blog posts that seemed to fit, I included them. From there, After Rain became a collection of devotions and then a book. When I told my publisher I wanted to donate all proceeds from the sale of After Rain, High Tide climbed aboard and pledged to donate the publishing costs. We chose Hospice House and Support Care of Williamsburg as the recipient.

After Rain will soon be available in paperback and hardback. Within its pages, I hope you will find comfort and peace. While you wait for it to launch on Amazon, you can read a FREE excerpt on my website: cindylfreeman.com.  

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of four award-winning essays and three published novels: UnrevealedThe Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Her latest book, After Rain, is a collection of devotions offering  comfort and peace in times of trial. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: Cindy L Freeman. Her books are available through amazon.com or hightidepublications.com

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Cindy L. Freeman – The Bitter Joke

 I’ve never written in the genre known as flash fiction, so I decided to give it a try. What is flash fiction? you ask. According to Wikipedia, “Flash fiction is a fictional work of extreme brevity [usually around 1,000 words] that still offers character and plot development.” The idea is to hint at or imply a larger story.

    Here’s what I came up with. Let me know what you think.

    Unlike George and Stephanie, Rebecca had returned to the family home after college. Marshall Worthington trusted only his youngest daughter to run the business and manage his considerable estate.

After the divorce, Marshall’s first wife had succeeded in vilifying him to his eldest children. Rebecca–born ten years later to Lily, the deceased love of his life–scarcely knew her half brother and sister.

    Now, a mere two years after Rebecca’s homecoming, nurses provided around-the-clock care for her father, allowing her to soak up the precious hours of his final days.

    During the months since Marshall’s diagnosis, George and Stephanie couldn’t be bothered to visit or even call to check on their father. Why had they shown up now when he drifted in and out of a morphine stupor?

    Rebecca hadn’t meant to eavesdrop that day, but hearing her name mentioned, she slipped behind the half-open door to Marshall’s study. It wasn’t the first time she had caught them discussing her in hushed tones.

    “We need to find it before it’s too late.” It was Stephanie’s voice mingled with the furious tapping of computer keys.

    “Rebecca will get everything if we don’t change it. She already has the business.”

    “He’s barely conscious, George.”

    “That’s no problem. I’ve mastered his signature.”

    “Are you serious? Forgery is a felony!”

    “Sh! Not so loud. Only if I get caught.”

    “Even if we find the original, Father’s attorney will have a copy. Hurry up! Before somebody comes.”

    “I can’t crack the pass code. It’s encrypted.”

    “Great, just great! I thought you were an expert hacker.”

    Raising a hand to cover her mouth, Rebecca slipped from her hiding place. She charged on stocking feet up the marble staircase, reaching the master bedroom just as Mount Vesuvius erupted. As she collapsed onto Marshall’s hospital bed, her muffled laughter sent shivers through the mattress. Marshall started, but his dark-rimmed eyes remained closed. A pale limp hand reached to stroke his daughter’s silken hair.

    “Oh, Papa! You were right. How could I have been so naïve? They’re downstairs right now hatching a plan. But you’ll have the last laugh, won’t you, Papa? The joke will be on them.

    A weak smile lifted the corners of Marshall Worthington’s lips. Then, with one final puff of air, he lay motionless. It was over. Rebecca wept until evening shadows darkened the room.

    The next day, George and Stephanie each discovered deposits of two million dollars to their checking accounts.

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Cindy L. Freeman – Fulfillment or Destiny? 10/23/20

Have you considered what contributes to your fulfillment? Not just your enjoyment, but that deep sense of “This is what I’m supposed to be doing with my life.” How does one go about discovering one’s life’s purpose or destiny? Somehow, I don’t feel fulfilled unless I’m expressing myself creatively.

At one time, my destiny was to be a singer. At another stage, my destiny was to be a teacher and choral director. Then, my destiny became founding a music school. Upon retirement, my destiny was to publish a novel. Have all of these things happened? Yes. Did they fulfill my life’s purpose? Perhaps these career goals contributed, but career goals don’t necessarily equate with destiny. 

Some years ago I read Eckhart Tolle’s inspiring book, A New Earth. It had such a profound effect on my thinking that I decided to read it again. In it, Tolle refers to this idea of fulfillment as “awakened doing.” He defines “awakened doing” as “the alignment of your outer purpose–what you do–with your inner purpose–awakening and staying awake.” It’s about discovering your life’s purpose and then thinking and doing life in such a way as to fulfill that destiny.

Do you think every human is born with a destiny? While Tolle describes destiny as becoming “one with the universe,” I’m convinced that true fulfillment comes from becoming one with God. Actually, that’s what Tolle is saying, too, when he writes about “align[ing] your life with the creative power of the universe.”

If one is moving through life in a constant state of awareness or “awakening,” this process of finding one’s destiny, Tolle claims, is possible. However, it is also a gradual process, even changing with different life stages. Why? Because finding and accepting one’s God-given purpose involves purging the ego. Ouch! Try accomplishing that in one sitting! Or even in one lifetime!  

Yet, it’s exactly what Jesus calls us to do when he says in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).” Who are the meek? The meek are those without egos or rather those who are not controlled by their egos.

Ego tells us that we are better than/more deserving than others, that we must be famous, wealthy, and top in our field to live a fulfilled, purposeful life. Ego wants us to step on other peoples’ toes to get where we think we’re supposed to be, to achieve what we think we deserve. Ego encourages us to boast about our accomplishments instead of supporting and affirming others. Ego keeps us focused on ourselves and seeking constant approval.

It is challenging to sort out whether one’s career goals are in alignment with one’s destiny (God’s purpose for one’s life). At my stage of life, God is inspiring me to write…not to become a New York Times best-selling author, but as another step in fulfilling God’s purpose for me. How God uses my destiny is up to God, not me.

What creative fulfillment is God awakening in you?

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of four award-winning short stories and three published novels: UnrevealedThe Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: Cindy L Freeman. Her books are available through amazon.com or hightidepublications.com  Coming soon: After Rain, Devotions for Comfort and Peace.