Sometimes It Takes a Valley

Ann H Gabhart One Writer's Journal 9 Comments

Scent of Lilacs 2nd Cover

Scent of Lilacs redesigned cover

I write Christian fiction. For years I wrote for the general market with varying degrees of success. I remember when I first started noticing Christian fiction books in stores. They were mostly in Christian bookstores. The majority of the books were nonfiction, but then a shelf or two or maybe a rack would have novels. I wondered if that was something I could do. But I didn’t want to be preachy. I mean, who was I to preach to anyone? That wasn’t something I could do. All I wanted to do was tell a story. Characters came to life in my imagination and went off on life adventures. I didn’t want to preach to them or have them preach to me.

Sometimes we are too stubborn to see the doors of opportunity the Lord opens up for us. He knew the desires of my heart. I wanted to write and had been writing most of my life. Telling stories. One after another. I’d even been blessed to have several of those stories published by national publishing companies. Some of my books for young adults were translated into foreign languages, German, French, Spanish. People overseas read my stories. How amazing was that for a Kentucky farm girl!

But then the stories stopped finding publishers. I spent several years in rejection valley. Sometimes it takes a valley to get a person’s feet back on the intended path for her life. The most important thing I did while I was walking through that valley was that I didn’t quit writing. I kept coming up with characters. I kept hoping. I kept telling stories.

Scent of Lilacs original cover

The original cover

And then one day I decided to write one more story. To throw aside worries about sales and markets. I would write about something I knew – small towns and country churches. I had no plans to preach to anyone, but I made one of the characters a preacher. I let my young protagonist be that preacher’s daughter. I gave Jocie a thorn in her side with her great aunt Love who was continually finding fault with Jocie’s behavior and quoting Scripture to try to make her a better preacher’s kid. And then I gave Jocie Wes with his crazy Jupiter wisdom. And his secrets. Aunt Love had her secrets too. Even Jocie’s father had his secrets. Then I plopped them all down into a little town modeled after the little town I grew up in. Last of all, while I wrote the story, I turned the result over to the Lord. I prayed for that story. I hoped for that story. I loved my Hollyhill people and wanted them to come to life not only in my imagination, but in the imagination of readers.

The Lord answered my prayer. The story ended up on an editor’s desk who happened to love lilacs. My book was, at that time, titled, The Smell of Lilacs. Later I changed that to Scent of Lilacs when it dawned on me that scent conveys the idea of a pleasant odor better than the word smell. The editor liked the story and I found a place to tell more stories.

The Lord knew all along that I would love writing for the Christian market. He knew I wouldn’t have to write “preachy” stories but that I could write stories filled with faith and family. He gave me my words for that story and He continues to give me words. I am so blessed to be able to write stories for readers like you. You seem to like getting to know characters who struggle with life problems the same as you and me and who search for answers from the One who has all our answers.

Scent of Lilacs now has over 700 reviews on Amazon. That’s partly due to the fact that it was a free download for many months and so found some readers who might not have read the book otherwise. I’ve been blessed that the majority of those reviews have been favorable. And while a writer can’t get too high with good reviews or too low with bad reviews, I am encouraged when a reader is touched by my stories like this Amazon reviewer. This book was uplifting and powerful. Prayers can work miracles…”

You know what? Prayers can work miracles and sometimes help a writer find the best place to tell her stories.

Comments 9

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  1. Linda Clement

    I loves this series of books! They are my favorites. Your words brought back so many memories of my childhood. I shed a few years when I finished the series. I would miss them. I was blessed when you brought some more of the story back on your blog. I am so happy you found your way to Christian fiction. 💕

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      Ann H Gabhart

      So am I, Linda. I love writing for the Christian book market and readers like you. And I loved writing those Hollyhill stories. I’ve let Jocie get lazy about reporting from Hollyhill. All that homework she has since she got to high school. LOL. But I may let her got back in time and do some more reporting again.

  2. Diane Adams

    I bought three ebooks in this series and loved them so much, I ended up splurging and buying print copies. Scent of Lilacs is one of the best books I’ve ever read and I recommend it whenever I am given an opportunity. Please don’t ever stop writing!

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      Ann H Gabhart

      That’s so extra nice of you, Diane. I love it when readers love my stories enough to tell their reading friends about them. Jocie and friends were such fun to get to know. I still have her and Wes sharing some Jupiter talk sometimes when Jocie reports from Hollyhill on her Heart of Hollyhill. I need to decide if I’m going to let her continue that. It may need a new direction.

  3. Diana Flowers

    What a lovely post, Ann. Thank you for sharing about your writing journey — the highs and the lows! I am thrilled about Scent of Lilacs and how God opened doors for you and answered your prayers. I am a writer of reviews and have no aspirations to be a novelist, but I do have hopes and dreams and I need a miracle, too!

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      Ann H Gabhart

      I honestly thought I might never publish another book before I wrote Scent of Lilacs, Diana. And now I’ve been blessed with many more published titles and new reading friends who like Christian fiction. You do a great job writing those reviews and I’ll say a prayer right now that the Lord will help you realize your hopes and dreams. Blessings and miracles wished your way!

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