Posted on

Cindy L. Freeman – From Idea to Novel 01/06/2021

One day in 2017, I was shopping in the Peanut Shop of Williamsburg when the idea for my book, I Want to Go Home, came to me. If you have visited Merchant Square at the edge of Williamsburg, Virginia’s Historic area, you know that the Peanut Shop is always bustling with customers. We who live here contend that it sells the most delicious peanuts and boasts the widest range of flavor varieties anywhere, from sweet to savory. The best feature of this local treasure is that the counters are lined with samples, allowing customers to taste before committing to a purchase. 

As I glanced around at the myriad samples, I began to wonder if homeless persons ever ventured in to take the edge off their hunger. Would anyone notice if a seventeen-year-old girl wandered in and began helping herself to enough free samples to stop the growling in her stomach? Could she pretend convincingly to be a normal shopper or blend in with students from the College of William and Mary who frequented the shop?

From this simple idea, a novel began to take shape and my protagonist, Abigail (Abby) Jordan, emerged. As I began the research for I Want to Go Home, I decided to set it in Williamsburg. Not only is it a town I know from living here for more than thirty years, but it is assumed to be a middle-to-upper-class community. Surely there are no homeless here. My research confirmed that, indeed, Williamsburg has a considerable homeless population, not just individuals, but whole families living on the streets or sheltered temporarily in motels.

My church participates with other local faith communities in a winter shelter program for these people, further evidence that they exist. With economic hardships resulting from COVID-19, the numbers have increased. Thankfully, the available services have ramped up in response to this growing number of citizens needing food and shelter. But such measures are temporary at best, especially in large cities where homelessness is rampant.   

In my novel, I Want to Go Home, Abigail Jordan, the daughter of a college professor and a stay-at-home mom, lives in a middle-class neighborhood where her family is comfortable and her future is predictable… or so she assumes. As a high school senior, Abby is focused on getting into college where she can study to become a documentary filmmaker. She has no intention of marrying and having children right away, but when she is forced to parent her younger brothers, she must abandon her dreams.

First, I had to create a plausible scenario in which the Jordan family lost their home. Then, I set up a situation that compelled Abby and her brothers to run away. Where would I have them go, and who would they meet along the way? Would they be able to find shelter? Who would help them? These were questions I needed to answer as the plot developed.

I had fun including familiar local spots like the Peanut Shop, train station, and public library, also places I had visited in Washington, DC: Union Station, the Metro, the Smithsonian Museums, the Reflecting Pool, and the zoo, all places Abby and her brothers encounter on their odyssey. But I also enjoyed creating a fictional motel in Williamsburg and a fictional shelter, Harmony House, in DC. Finally, I needed to figure out how to restore hope for Abby and her brothers. After a harrowing journey, would these children finally find redemption and the security of a home? You can read their story here and discover the answers for yourself.  

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

Posted on

Cindy L. Freeman – Pass it On, 1/18/2021

My husband and I like to walk along a trail that meanders through the woods. The gravel portion of this trail is closed to bikers, allowing us the freedom to take in our surroundings.

Along the way, we look for small painted rocks that have been left by others who traverse the same path. Every time I discover one of these smooth, colorful stones, I act as excited as a small child. One would think I had found a twenty dollar bill. I pick it up, admire the artwork, then turn it over in my hand to read where it has been. I have found stones from Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and even Alaska.

This simple childlike quest has brought me joy during the last year in which there has been so little about which to rejoice. Disease, political violence, racial unrest, and poverty have marred the landscape of our daily existence. Searching for painted rocks is a temporary distraction from the events and images that seem determined to cause fear, frustration, and even rage. But this daily pursuit is so much more than a child’s game.

Someone I will never meet has taken the time to decorate a palm-sized rock then left it for a stranger to find and appreciate. Similar to geocaching, the idea is for that person to retrieve it and move it to another state or country for someone else to find. With so little travel happening during the pandemic, it’s a rare stone that travels beyond its state border.

The seemingly insignificant act of leaving a tiny, joyful, yet worthless gift serves to connect strangers with an unspoken greeting that says, “Hi, fellow citizen of the universe. I was here. We’re in this together. Pass it on.” 

I decided to do some research into the phenomenon of painted rocks. It turns out there are websites and Facebook pages dedicated to this movement. According to paintedrocklife.com, its mission is “to spread happiness to as many people as possible through simple acts of kindness.”

I whisper a prayer of blessing for each person who has touched the rock. I place it in a new location and walk on with a smile behind my mask and a burst of warmth in my heart. Thank you, stranger. Mission accomplished!

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

Posted on

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

Posted on

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.

Posted on

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