In this post, I want to discuss my favorite aspects of my stories. The settings, you ask? Well, yes, I adore the real-life places in which I set my novels, but they would make a boring story without the people who live there. Having spent countless hours writing those people and refining their lives and characters, I’ve grown to know their hearts and minds, and their faith and dreams. Here’s a brief introduction.
There are four main characters in River of Life (formerly Learning to Live Again and River of Life, a two-novel set that form one sweeping story.) The first is Clay Waters, a former police officer with the fictional Taylors Mill, South Carolina, police department. Clay loved his job, but he felt compelled to leave the department after his wife, Judith, left him. While she claims she plans to return, Clay didn’t want to put his life in jeopardy working a dangerous job, possibly leaving his son without a parent. When the story opens, he’s working as a handyman at various places, including a bed-and-breakfast called the Blossom Inn, until a far safer coaching job with the school district opens in the fall. Tall, stubborn, and prideful, the man who once planned to become an attorney tries to hide the humiliation he feels after losing his wife and having to work odd jobs to make a living to feed his son.
The Blossom Inn is where Clay meets Vicky Morgan, the niece of the inn’s owner. Petite and naive, Vicky is terrified of men and the harm she could meet at their hand after witnessing her husband’s death during an attempted carjacking. Just over a year later, at a time when she’s ready to emerge from her grief and self-imposed isolation, her elderly aunt asks her to move back to the inn that will soon be closed for business. Vicky is willing, but she knows her aunt will expect her to start living a normal life, which includes going outside and attending church. However, Vicky has no idea how to overcome the fear she experiences outside the walls of her home–or how she’ll face the God she once tossed aside to marry an unbeliever. The decision seems providential though. On her first night home, she not only meets a former police officer with a natural instinct for protecting people (especially vulnerable waifs who need protecting) she learns he knows Nick Chapman, the police officer who was nearly killed in the final encounter with her carjacker.
Nick. He has to be the most interesting and most complex of all my characters. An agnostic who finds himself in the midst of believers after his wife is born again and his best friend converts to the faith of his youth during a marital crisis, Nick struggles to understand why the people he cares about most believe in a God they can’t see. But after getting shot twice while apprehending a criminal, he starts to wonder if that God really does exists and whether the Creator of All Universe would allow a malcontent such as himself entrance into the great beyond. The former cop-turned-teacher also harbors demons from his past. Meeting the wife of the man who died while he himself survived an encounter with the same criminal drudges up memories and thoughts Nick would rather not think about. However, his newfound friendship with Vicky provides him with an opportunity to make up for the past and to push his best friend into the arms of a woman worthy of Clay’s love and protection, even if those actions do endanger Nick’s marriage to his beloved bride, Abby.
Mature in character and faith, Abby Chapman is as blunt as her husband, but with a sharper tongue, which she doesn’t mind using to bring the straying sheep around her back into the fold. Abby strives to help Clay and Vicky grow in grace and in their faith, to guide them through their respective crises, and then to keep them apart when their friendship begins to fulfill the desperate needs in each other lives, all while her mischievous husband pushes the two vulnerable believers together. Will Abby succeed, or will the budding relationship between Clay and Vicky destroy more than one marriage?
River of Life, available on Amazon.