Writing with Our Hearts Open to God

This is a reblog, with much gratitude to Grace Johnson!

Welcome back to Of Blades and Thorns, folks! I’m back after an accidental week-long sabbatical to bring you another inspiring guest post! This one’s by Colleen Scheid, a Christian indie author who just recently published her first novel, Someone They Can Trust!

I was instantly intrigued by the premise of Someone They Can Trust and the content of Colleen’s latest blog posts, so naturally I was excited to feature her after she reached out to me recently. I know y’all will find her post encouraging and inspiring as fellow writers!

writing with our hearts open to God

~ by Colleen Scheid ~

Writing a book is a great way to experience God’s presence. I’m sure God works differently with everyone, but here’s how it happened for me with “Someone They Can Trust”:

I started off with a vague longing to write a beautiful and true novel that would renew readers, give them a break from their own struggles, help them experience the nearness and love of God, and model a church dealing honestly with its brokenness. My first novel had been largely autobiographical (Drug Free Actors); this time I wanted to stretch myself to create characters who weren’t me.

I tinkered with a few ideas, under a cloud of self-doubt and a sense that writing long was just too hard. I drank too much coffee. I stared out my window at the tall trees, daydreaming. I told myself that Amazon was publishing a million books a year; who would ever want to read mine?

Then I recalled that I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was six, and that things I’ve written in the past have blessed people and given them strength. A strong memory emerged of a time I was walking along a beach and I’m pretty sure I heard God speak into my thoughts, “I commission you to write.”

So I journaled through the barriers until I experienced a sense of God’s love and affirmation. I wrote about writing until I had the clarity and courage to start the book.

As I persisted, I began to sense guidance. My background, interests, causes and passions stirred themselves into a story. It felt like ideas were being gifted to me, like gems, and a higher intelligence was helping to place them in a complex pattern.

In “Someone They Can Trust”, I knew I wanted to depict a thriving, diverse church in an urban setting, the setting where I live. I knew I wasn’t finished with writing about this beautiful and ugly neighborhood where grand mansions stand across from cramped public housing. It was the setting for a book of Christmas short stories I published a few years ago, and I knew it would be the setting for this novel.

Characters emerged out of my imagination’s fog: I knew certain things about them. Maya had been in my head for years, heroine of a failed short story – a talented, enigmatic painter, beautiful and gifted but broken in a way that left her aloof and sometimes unaware of her own motives. I brought Matt back from the last story in the Christmas book; he was too fun to leave back there, and I could imagine him being wildly drawn to Maya. I retrieved Janice from another of those stories as a third protagonist, a generation older than the other two. I wanted to show her experiencing the healing that comes from being in a good church and having a good therapist!

At the same time as these people were showing up in my head, certain themes stood out to me.

I knew I needed to address abusive church leaders and model how to deal with them. The number of news stories about pastors and priests being exposed after years of sexually exploiting people in their congregations was burdening me. How had they been allowed to get away with this stuff for so long? I realized that the American church had real difficulty with recognizing and confronting sexual brokenness and I had a sense of urgency about tackling that.

The urgency increased when an agent I greatly admire told me she didn’t want to publish a book that attacked a pastor. She remained resistant even after I pointed out that in this book, other pastors hold the offender accountable and model how a church should deal with abuse. I understand that sexual abuse isn’t a marketable theme in a genre where people are looking for clean reads, but if we don’t deal with our own brokenness, it will only get worse and be exposed more widely. I longed to write a book that would help book clubs, women’s groups, and church leadership address abuse issues head-on.

Another theme that emerged was healing. I’ve been on a journey of moving from a natural skepticism to being open to all the gifts of God’s Spirit, especially those related to healing. I’ve seen remarkable incidents where praying in Jesus’ name led to outcomes such as a crooked spine being straightened, a child being healed from spina bifida, and a brain tumor disappearing. I knew that to write a true book, I needed to show people praying for healing and experiencing healing. I’ve seen God do so much, but I haven’t read much fiction where healing prayer is part of the story.

The strong healing theme, as well as the humor that naturally came out in dialog, kept the book from being too heavy, even though it has some heavy themes.

It wasn’t until I was almost finished with the novel that I realized its overarching theme was trust – each of the characters had a story arc of figuring out who could and couldn’t be trusted, and the need to trust God more than anyone else. Hence the name.

I have no illusions about “Someone They Can Trust” being the great American Christian novel, but I do know that I had God’s company to help me write the best book I’m able to turn out at this stage of my career.

As I think back on the experience of writing this book, I wonder if God doesn’t value the process of working with us as much as the final outcome. When we work with our hearts open to God, we get to experience God’s creative power in an intimate way. What an honor.

~ the book ~

Three devoted staff of a thriving, creative church are derailed when a corrupt leader breaks their trust

When art school graduate Maya Devin moves to Pleasant Hill, she’s warmly welcomed into its thriving, diverse church. Music minister, Matt Schuller, who is more than a little attracted by Maya’s faith, talent, and beauty, invites her to be a part of his creative arts ministry. Janice Williams, also on staff, befriends Maya too, supporting her as she learns to be a caregiver to her grandmother with Alzheimer’s. Janice is healing from a wrenching divorce and draws strength from the welcoming community.

The church is a haven for all three until a new pastor puts their faith, hope, and love to a severe test. Not only is their happiness at stake – so is the survival of the church.

Their courage to stand against evil will hinge on one thing – how willing are they to deal with their own brokenness?

snag your copy

~ the author ~

Colleen Scheid was born in California and moved to Australia at the age of ten, where she learned to subdue her American accent to avoid gales of laughter when she said words like, ‘aluminum’ and ‘oregano’. Experiences like this tend to bake-in a useful cross-cultural sensitivity. She converted to Christianity at the age of sixteen, after discovering that she was not, in fact, smarter than all Christians who had ever lived. She is a believer with deep empathy for the cynical.

She moved back to the States when she was twenty-one and has lived in Cincinnati ever since, where she divides her time between freelance writing, acting with Friends of the Groom Theater Company, doing ministry with her urban church, and enjoying life with her husband and three sons.

Colleen has a B.A. in Journalism and an M.A. in Counseling. She has published a book of short stories, a novel, and several collections of drama. When her husband asks her what kind of movie she wants to watch, she says, “Aesthetically pleasing, positive character development, happy ending”.

Learn more about Colleen and her work at her website!

When a Book Just Shows Up in Your Head

Tenth Reason I Wrote, Someone They Can Trust

“Someone They Can Trust”, my new novel, is available on Amazon. To receive news about what I’m writing, please subscribe to the author email at the bottom of this post.

I tend to look back and have some insight into why I chose to write a book. In the drafting phase, though, I’m far less aware, less conscious. People, situations and issues just show up in my imagination.

They’re kind of irresistible – beckoning me like an open door to a walled garden.

The other nine reasons I wrote Someone They Can Trust are all good reasons, but I don’t think many novelists just crank out books for logical reasons.

There are many logical reasons not to write a novel – they take a super long time, they’re hard to get published and even with healthy sales, you wouldn’t want to calculate your hourly pay. Probably about as much as someone who knit a scarf getting ten bucks for it at a craft show.  

We pretty much do it for love – we knitters and novelists and artists of all kinds. Many of us feel like that’s what we were made to do and that’s the gift we can give people.

To have someone enjoy it – that’s compensation too.

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Someone They Can Trust

Nancy Ruegg and Mitch Teemley from my writer’s group both posted this review of my latest novel. Nancy wrote it and then Mitch reposted it on his blog. I ‘m so very grateful to both of them. The writing journey is lonely until you gather a community around yourself, and these two have been precious: Their blogs are well worth checking out.

From the Inside Out

Impressions Becoming Expressions

By Nancy Ruegg

Within the first year of moving from Florida to Ohio in 2014, I happened* to read about a writers’ group that met at a church not far from our home. It’s been my privilege to meet with these talented folks twice a month ever since. Among us are a few bloggers, several poets and short-story writers, a filmmaker, and four who are working on novels.One of those novelists is Colleen Scheid whose third book was published this spring: Someone They Can Trust (available on Amazon.com).

The three main characters—Maya, Matt, and Janice—are members of the same church and participate in the same small group. Though diverse in age, race, and background, these people become extended family for one another. Colleen shows us through story how such meaningful relationships can be built.What she doesn’t do is paint a perfect picture of perfect people. Maya, Matt, and Janice are each dealing with their own difficulties and fighting their own spiritual battles. Their struggles and imperfections, however, make them believable, and very quickly the reader cares about each one and how they might find release from what troubles them.One over-arching problem faces them all: their new pastor is not what they’d thought him to be. Matt and Janice are among the first to notice he seems a bit too charming and even manipulative.

And yet there are those within the church, even among the leadership, who think he’s wonderful. Given what Matt and Janice (and eventually Maya) discover, they must determine the best way forward for the sake of their beloved church.  

Along with the intriguing plot, I also appreciated these aspects of Colleen’s book: the unique urban setting, the well-developed characters and the relational dynamics among them, the pleasure of three points-of-view instead of just one or two, and Colleen’s delightful, descriptive writing style.Here are a few examples of that style.[When Maya, an artist, is sketching swans]: “. . . she could rely on a delicious slip into a serene, joyful state. It seems to her that the Creator was letting her in on secrets, free to anyone who paid attention” (p. 2).“Maya could tell that the yard was landscaped by professionals. Impressive stone stairs angled up through three terraces with walls of the same stone, containing well-behaved plants that bloomed purple, pink, or white” (p. 113).[When worship leader, Matt, arrives at church one Sunday morning]: “Matt . . . found himself dragging his feet in the parking lot. It felt like the wind had changed. His enthusiasm used to sweep him into the building; now reluctance sucked him back” (p. 157).

Colleen writes on her About-the-Author page that her love of realistic stories set in real locations is an outgrowth of her journalism degree. Her interest in the interior worlds of her characters stems from a master’s degree in counseling. I would add that her years of performing with a Christian theater company have also fine-tuned her expression of character.

And all three of these areas of interest and expertise contribute to the authenticity of Colleen’s story—a story to enjoy and learn from. P.S. You might also like to celebrate Christmas in July with her collection of delightful stories for the season: Christmas on Pleasant Hill. You can access a review of this book here: https://nancyaruegg.com/2016/11/17/christmas-on-pleasant-hill/.

*Those of you who regularly read my posts know that I don’t believe so much in coincidence as I do in God-incidents. My introduction to this writers’ group is a prime example. Photo credits: office scene, http://www.pxfuel.com. All others used by permission from Colleen Sheid.

God Loves Beautiful Art – Written, Painted, Sung, Built, Forged

Seventh of Ten Reasons I Wrote, “Someone They Can Trust”

“Someone They Can Trust”, my new novel, is available on Amazon. To receive news about what I’m writing, please subscribe to the author email at the bottom of this post.

God is obviously a good designer, as the varied gorgeousness of Earth testifies.

BAL183671 Allegory of the Creation of the Cosmos (oil on canvas);Wijnen, Domenicus van (Ascanius) (1661-c.90) (after);oil on canvas;600 X 482;Pavlovsk Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia;Out of copyright

I’m assuming God also likes good art to be part of worship gatherings, since his instructions to the Hebrews for building their first temple were specific to the last detail and He had master artisans in mind to do the work (Exodus 35 to 40.)

In my latest manuscript, “Someone They Can Trust”, one of the main characters is an artist, and her love for God is both inspired by beauty, and returned with skillful, beautiful painting.

Another character is a worship minister who uses the arts to the best of his ability in planning powerful worship experiences. He also uses the arts as a way of reaching out to the community with invitations to a fabulous gathering, based on something I saw Charlie and Ruth Jones do in Greensboro, N.C. a few years ago.

Every month they opened their downtown home to 20 to 30 people for a wonderful meal, followed by an open stage for local artists.. I had never seen a more diverse group of people enjoying themselves together more.

My theater company, “Friends of the Groom” joined them, performed some sketches, and were delighted and renewed by the great food, spoken word and music.

Good art and hospitality are a powerful combination. I wanted to show how they build strong community. That’s why I wrote this book.


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I Wanted More Time With My Characters!

Sixth of Ten Reasons I Wrote, Someone They Can Trust”

Sometimes you get so attached to characters that you just can’t confine them to one book. Two of the three protagonists in “Someone They Can Trust”, my latest novel, first showed up in short stories in my collection, “Christmas on Pleasant Hill”.

Matt was a funny, talented, self- deprecating music minister who pulled off a bizarre but successful Christmas concert in, “The Best Christmas Concert Ever”.

Janice was an attractive woman recovering from a wrenching divorce, the departure of her grown children, and a difficult mother needing care in “The Painting”. I just had to see what was going to happen next for these people I liked so much!

The third lead character in the novel, Maya, has not appeared in any other book, but has lived in my head for a few decades. I have no idea where she came from, but I knew I wanted her story to weave in with the other two!

That’s why I wrote this book!

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10 Reasons I Wrote, “Someone They Can Trust”:

3. Church, We Have a Problem

“Someone You Can Trust”, my new novel, releases on Amazon on May 23. For more information, subscribe to the author email at the bottom of this post.

The novel I recently finished, “Someone They Can Trust”, takes place in a church a lot like mine, in a neighborhood a lot like mine. Because the setting will be familiar to some readers, I want to make one thing really clear – the abusive pastor in this novel is radically different from any pastor I have ever had in any church I’ve ever been to. I have only ever known pastors who are kind, decent, respectful and morally above reproach.

So if anyone reads an excerpt and recognizes my setting, please don’t think I’m talking about any of its pastors!

The fictional pastor in the book, is a compilation character who emerged from several alarming stories I heard from friends. Unfortunately these kinds of stories keep emerging in national media, and holding abusive leaders accountable doesn’t seem to be a strong suit for our churches. If we can’t discipline our leaders in a biblical way, we have a problem on our hands – that’s why I wrote this book.

“Someone They Can Trust” is available for preorder on Amazon Kindle.

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