A Labor of Love and Friendship

I had no idea! When I asked my dear friend, Jacki Kleinheksel, to record the audio version of my novel, Fly Away, I had no idea how much work would go into making it. Fly Away has been out-of-print for several years but I recently made it available again in print and e-book formats. Many of my readers also enjoy listening to recordings of my stories, so I wanted to make an audio version especially for them. With Jacki’s extensive background in drama and musical theater, I figured she would be the perfect person to record Fly Away—and I was right!

Jacki has been active in musicals and community theater productions nearly all her life. Her debut, she told me, began in third grade when she walked down the aisle at church in her bathrobe for a Christmas program, portraying one the three kings. She was hooked! Her early career involved starring in talent and variety shows in junior high where she always volunteered to sing a song. Starstruck by Hollywood, Jacki’s love of theater was launched when she won the leading role in Guys and Dolls in high school.

What followed were years of fun and hard work, performing in plays and musicals as part of community theater groups. Her favorite role? Performing Anna’s soliloquy from The King and I. “I loved that role!” Jacki told me. She especially loved performing characters who were multi-faceted. “There is such joy in working in a theater production with a good script and an excellent director who brings out the best in you. And I love the teamwork of performing with others.” Jacki has also done a one-woman show portraying blind hymn-writer, Fanny Crosby. She performed the play 24 times— “With my eyes closed, since Fanny was blind.”

Fly Away was Jacki’s first audio book. “I loved the challenge of being able to emote 27 different characters.” (I wrote the book and I had no idea there were that many!) She read through the book three times in preparation; first for the pleasure of the story. The second time to make notes and a list of all the characters. The third time she read it aloud, rehearsing all of the characters’ voices. Once she had a sense of them, she divided the book into 4 parts so she could record one part each day. The night before each recording session, she would practice reading that section again. The first studio session took 4 ½ hours. The longest day took 8 hours. At the end of each day, she would go home and review the next portion. “It was exhilarating and exhausting at the same time!”

“The biggest surprise was how still I had to sit. Every sound showed up, including turning the pages. It was like a play without costumes or scenery or makeup—and I was the whole show!” There were do-overs if she made a mistake, something you don’t get in live theater. Her only audience? Her husband Paul and the sound engineer. Would she do another recording? “Absolutely!”

I’ve listened to recorded versions of some of my other novels and I haven’t always been happy with the way the actresses portray my characters. But Jacki’s narration was spot-on perfect! She put so much emotion into the ending that she made me cry—and I wrote the book! I am so thankful for all her hard work and professionalism, and I’m thrilled to announce that readers can now purchase the audio version of Fly Away. I know you’re going to love it!

Busy Days!

The past few days have been busy ones for me. On Saturday, April 28, the alumni board at Hope College, my Alma Mater, presented me with the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award at their annual banquet. What a huge honor!

Years ago, I chose to attend Hope, a Christian college, because I wanted to build my life and my education on a spiritual foundation. I found what I was looking for there. (And also met my husband—an added bonus!) The education I received at Hope has formed the basis of my writing, and it was thrilling when they chose to honor me this way.

The following Monday I had a great time with the 150 people who joined me for the Dutch Heritage Bus Tour, visiting some of the sites they read about in my novel, “Waves of Mercy.” The novel is based on the true story of the Dutch immigrants who founded the city of Holland, Michigan in 1846. They came to America seeking religious freedom after being persecuted for their faith in their homeland. They tamed the wilderness, endured a malaria plague, and dealt with numerous other hardships including a fire that destroyed ¾ of the city in 1871. The community they built is thriving today and is rated second in the nation for charitable giving. The tour was a testimony to the founders’ faith, courage and perseverance.


I wore my period Dutch costume to serve as tour guide

On Thursday, May 3, I was invited to speak at a fund-raising luncheon for The Bible League, an amazing international organization that provides Bibles and study materials to people around the world. I had a great time meeting new friends and eating delicious food. My speaking topic was “Living Fearlessly”—daring to step out and do the “impossible” with the Holy Spirit’s help.
It’s interesting that the Bible League’s founder, William Chapman, did just that. In 1936, he became seriously ill and ended up in a Chicago hospital. An elder from his church visited him and prayed that God would spare his life and lead him to serve Christ. When he recovered, Chapman vowed to give all of his strength to God. He and his wife Betty purchased 1,000 Bibles and went door-to-door, offering to give one to any home that needed it if the recipients promised to read it. Today, The Bible League distributes millions of Bibles and study materials all around the world.

I have one more fun event coming up this week. On May 10, 11 and 12 I’ll be joining a wonderful group of authors and readers for the first-ever “Fiction Readers Summit” in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This event is sponsored by Baker Book House and registration is open to anyone who loves to read and wants to connect with authors. If you live in the area, I would love to see you there! Go to https://fictionreaderssummit.com/ for more information.

Greetings From Germany!

By the time you read this blog, I’ll be in Germany on a book and speaking tour. I know, right? I’m so blessed to have this incredible opportunity! I would love to bring you along with me on my journey, but since that isn’t possible, I’m going to let the two sisters from my newest novel, “Where We Belong,” stand in for you.
If you’ve read the book, you know how much Rebecca and Flora Hawes love to travel, even though they lived in the 1890s when travel was much more challenging. Their trans-Atlantic Ocean voyage would have taken weeks, compared to my 9-hour flight. And they probably would have packed their clothes in something like this steamer trunk—which weighs at least 40 pounds empty. (There goes my weight limit!)
Granted, the trunk is a lot roomier than my suitcase, but ladies’ dresses and petticoats and bloomers took up a lot more room back then than my clothing does. Even so, I’m having a rough time cramming enough clothes and shoes and toiletries for two whole weeks into my suitcase.

You can stay connected with the sisters and me on Facebook and Instagram while we’re on our journey. I’ll be posting pictures of some of the fun things I’m doing and seeing. You can expect to see the sisters photo-bombing my pictures. I especially love to note the differences between our two cultures, and some of the ingenious ways people do things in Germany. Here’s one of those differences—these crazy electrical plugs!
If you have any questions you’d like to ask me along the way, I’d love for you to send them to me in the “comments” section and I’ll try to answer you. It will be fun!

What I’m looking forward to most of all is meeting some of my wonderful German readers. Even with our cultural and language differences, the bonds of fellowship are so strong. I love talking with them about their faith journeys and the spiritual lessons they’ve learned along the way. I always come home so blessed and encouraged.
If you think of it, please pray for my husband and me. For safe travels, to begin with. It’s a l-o-n-g flight across that ocean! And the cars really do drive 100 mph on the autobahn! Then there are the challenges of jet lag, and the cumbersome process of speaking through translators. But most of all, please pray for all of the people I’ll be meeting—that their hearts and lives will be touched by God’s love. I’ll be speaking at women’s conferences in the cities of Gunzenhausen and Kassel, as well as in more than a dozen smaller venues. I can’t do it without God’s power and strength.

Jesus told His followers to “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15). My way of obeying that call happens to be through writing and speaking. But each one of us is called and gifted to be His hands and feet and voice in our own unique way. May you be filled with His power and strength as you serve Him today.

My Newest Baby

People often ask me which of my books is my favorite. I tell them that my books are like children—I’ve labored hard for many months to give birth to each of them, so how can I choose a favorite? Yet the birth of each new book is very exciting for me. And now I can announce that my newest baby, “Where We Belong,” is here!

I wrote a brief summary of the story in my last blog, and told how it was loosely based on the true story of two remarkable, self-educated sisters, Margaret and Agnes Smith who made the discovery of an important biblical manuscript. Their story inspired me because the sisters felt God urging them to pursue a calling that was “out of the box” in their Victorian era, yet they didn’t allow the social and cultural expectations of their day to stop them from doing it. What if we all lived that fearlessly for God?

I studied very hard when I was in high school so I could go to college and become a clinical psychologist. I clearly recall the day when I met with my high school guidance counselor for advice on which colleges to apply to, and he told me I should re-think my goals. The most suitable careers for women, he said, were teaching and nursing. I didn’t listen to him.

I chose to attend Hope College because I wanted a Christian foundation for my education. And I majored in psychology. Imagine my surprise when my college advisor told me I should pursue a teaching certificate along with my psychology major. He explained that I would need a Master’s degree or PhD. to become a clinical psychologist and I would probably get married and have children before getting that far. I would be wise to have a teaching career to fall back on, he said. (The generations of women after me can be grateful that they aren’t limited to two career choices!)

In hindsight, I can see that it was God who was advising and directing me all along. I’m not sorry that I never became a clinical psychologist. And I’m glad that I worked as a teacher for several years. Majoring in psychology gave me the chance to study human behavior, which helps me immensely in creating my characters and stories.

Each of us will hear a lot of voices telling us what we should do, and what we ought to do, and what society expects us to do. We’ll also hear our own inner voice telling us we can’t, that we aren’t smart enough, or talented enough, or good enough. I hope my newest novel will encourage readers to ignore those other voices and listen to God’s. Like the sisters in “Where We Belong,” we can examine the gifts and resources we’ve been given, along with the unique passions that have touched our hearts, and then decide if we want to live fearlessly for God or not. As you read this story, I hope you’ll decide to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). What a difference it will make!

If you would like a chance to win one of two free copies of “Where We Belong,” be sure to leave a comment below or go to my website www.lynnaustin.org to enter.

 

Congratulations to Bonnie Jean Fulcher and Patti H who were chosen by Random.org as the winners of an autographed copy of “Where We Belong.” Please look in your email for instructions on how to claim your prize.

The notice in the newspaper intrigued me. It called for volunteers to help with a hot air balloon race, which was taking place in a few days in a nearby park. I remember thinking, “Hmmm. Maybe I could use this experience in a novel someday.” We lived in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada at the time, and my children were small, but I talked my family into volunteering with me, thinking it might be a fun experience. And it was!

We were assigned to a balloonist on the day of the race, and our first task was to help him unload the wicker gondola, burners, fans and a huge canvas bag from the back of his pickup truck. Then we set to work pulling the enormous balloon from the bag and spreading it out on the ground. And I do mean enormous! It could have covered our entire house. Next, we set up fans in front of the balloon’s opening and held it open like a huge mouth until the cavity was filled with air. My husband and another volunteer held onto the guide ropes at the top of the balloon so it wouldn’t blow away before we were ready.

Meanwhile, the balloonist set up the gondola and burners, and attached them to the balloon, which was rising up as it filled with air as if coming to life after a long slumber. In fact, we were surrounded by swelling balloons on all sides. What a magnificent sight!

The balloonist had warned us to cover our ears when he fired the burners but I forgot, and the sudden roar made me jump out of my shoes. The warm air from the burners gave the balloon lift and it rose to its full height, tugging against the ground ropes as if ready to soar. It was time for the pilot to jump aboard and take off along with all the others. They would be sailing on the wind and following a chase balloon, which would be dropping a marker flag somewhere in the countryside, wherever the wind took it. The balloon that managed to drop a flag closest to the marker would be the winner.

Our pilot’s gondola was very small, so none of us got to ride with him. But as soon as he took off we became his chase team, following along behind him in his pickup truck so he wouldn’t be stranded in the middle of nowhere when his fuel ran out. The chase was an adventure in itself! We had to watch the skies and the roadway at the same time, always trying to keep the balloon in sight. Winnipeg is divided by two rivers, so we had to backtrack a few times in order to find a bridge across them. Things got exciting with all three kids searching the skies until we spotted our balloon once again.

It landed safely in a farmer’s field outside of town, and he was very happy to see us roll up a few minutes later in his truck. After we helped him stuff the gigantic balloon back into the bag and reload all of the equipment, he drove us to the park to retrieve our car. All in all, it was a fun way to spend a summer evening, and the experience of a lifetime for our family. Years later, one of our kids confessed that he took adventures like that one for granted when he was young. It wasn’t until he spent time with his school friends that he realized not everyone’s mother was a crazy writer who volunteered for outrageous experiences like this.

And guess what? If you read my newest book, “Fly Away,” you’ll find that my characters also volunteer for a hot air balloon race. Nothing is ever wasted in the life of a writer! “Fly Away” was successfully launched four days ago as an e-book and in print. An audio version is also in the works. It tells the stories of two very different people—one learning how to live and the other how to die. But it isn’t a sad book at all. In fact, my early readers tell me they laughed out loud in places. If you would like to enter for a chance to win one of two free copies, be sure to join my newsletter by adding your email in the box on the right side of the screen and scroll all the way down and leave me a comment below.

And while you’re waiting to see if you win, be sure to check your local newspaper like I did to see if there are any interesting adventures you can volunteer for. You don’t have to be a crazy writer (or one of her children) to have fun. Enjoy!

Time to Fly Away

It’s nearly time for lift off! I’m happy to announce that my novel, “Fly Away” is coming soon on June 15 in both print and ebook versions. Since one of the main characters, Mike Dolan, is a pilot who owns a small, charter airplane business, I visited a local airport with my friends Susan, Bruce, and Doug Formsma to celebrate. Doug was kind enough to let me pose in his airplane.

The first thing you’ll notice about “Fly Away” is that it takes place in 1987. That time period is too new to be a historical novel like most of my other books, but too old to be a contemporary novel. That’s because “Fly Away” was one of the very first books I wrote when I was just starting to dream of being a writer. The story came to me so effortlessly that I remember writing it out longhand on a yellow legal pad. Later, I typed it into my computer and saved it on several 3 ½ inch floppy discs. It was published by Beacon Hill Press in 1996 and has since gone out of print.

I remember very well the genesis of the story. Within a short period of time, our family struggled with a series of losses. My father, a World War II veteran like the main character in “Fly Away,” was hospitalized with a stroke and died a few months later at the age of 62. Dad had been caring for my grandmother so she had to be moved to a nursing home. My father-in-law also had a stroke and was moved to a nursing home because my mother-in-law was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. Mom and Dad Austin both passed away within a few months of each other.

My husband and I and our three children drove down to Michigan from our home in Canada to take care of my mother-in-law in her final weeks so she could remain at home rather than be hospitalized. Our daughter Maya was a newborn when we left Canada and one month old when Mom died. We took care of Mom and Maya simultaneously, one at the very beginning of her life, the other at the end; one growing stronger each day, the other weaker. After just experiencing the miracle of birth, we learned that death is also one of God’s holy moments.

As you read “Fly Away” you’ll probably see how my own thoughts and emotions became intertwined with my plot and characters. The book deals with dying and loss, but I didn’t want it to be a sad book. All of my beloved family members had loved life and lived it well. They taught me that our faith in Christ gives us the strength and courage we need to face whatever plans He has for us—even when it means saying goodbye.

Telephones still had cords when I wrote “Fly Away” and hung on kitchen walls. Shag carpeting and Star Wars figures were all the rage. But I hope you’ll find that the themes of God’s goodness and love are timeless. Enjoy!

Click here to pre-order.

Time to Launch

dutch-statue-2

The fun began this week. Last Friday I got to leave my lonely office and travel to four different bookstores to meet with some of my readers. I was very excited to present my newest book, “Waves of Mercy” to them. The novel is based on the true story of the Dutch immigrants who left the Netherlands in 1846 to settle the town of Holland in the wilderness of Western Michigan. I even bought a new outfit to wear for the occasion. It’s a typical Dutch costume from the province of Zuid Beveland, and is the type of dress that the characters in my book might have worn. What do you think?img_3663

My first stop was the Kregel Parable Christian Store in Grandville, Michigan. Here are some of my new friends.

img_3697img_3695img_3687

Next, I traveled southwest to Banner Books – Parable Christian Store in St. Joseph, Michigan. More new friends!

14519732_10154125821883822_6637695737909651168_n14516484_10154125822248822_1139420750697920080_n14446073_10154125822373822_3983715441772461050_n

On Saturday morning, I met all of these wonderful people at Light of Grace Book & Gift Store in Nappanee, Indiana.

nap1nap2napanee

And finally, I drove to J.Farvers Bookstore on Saturday afternoon in Shipshewana, Indiana. Thanks for a great time!

ship2 ship1

I met so many wonderful people, and I can’t begin to describe how contagious their enthusiasm is. I came home determined to finish writing my next book because I know that all of these amazing new friends will be waiting to read it. I cautioned them to read s-l-o-w-l-y, though. They can read my book in a matter of days but it takes me a year to write it!

14560178_10208494069283086_6255560714484562699_oI’m not quite finished launching “Waves of Mercy” yet. On Tuesday, October 4, I’ll be speaking at Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, Michigan at 7:00 PM (2768 E. Paris Ave., SE, Grand Rapids). I’ve put together a power point presentation with some of the pictures that inspired the novel—and I’ll tell a little bit about why I decided to write it. I hope to meet more of you there.

Two days later, on Thursday, October 6, I’ll be giving the same presentation in Holland at 7:00 PM at Christ Memorial Church (595 Graafschap Rd., Holland). Maybe some of you are descendants of those first settlers? I would love to meet you. “Waves of Mercy” will be available for purchase at both of those places.

img_2284So, I have to say that while it was awkward at first, I’m growing fond of this Dutch dress. You can’t tell from the picture but there’s a voluminous petticoat underneath the skirt, and a black apron on top of it. Twenty yards of cloth is very effective at hiding any and every flaw in my figure. But don’t try to drive a car in wooden shoes…just saying.

Happy reading!

Welcome!

One of my favorite hobbies is interior decorating. I’m an avid fan of magazines and TV programs that transform a rundown house or a piece of outdated furniture into something beautiful. I love scouting thrift stores and yard sales for bargain items that I can repurpose, just like my favorite interior designer Joanna Gaines from HGTV’s “Fixer Upper.” As anyone who has visited my home knows, I enjoy rearranging my furniture and changing accent pieces every now and then for a totally new look—without spending a dime, of course. In fact, I have a “décor closet” filled with items I can swap out as the seasons (or my whims) change. My goal is always to create a comfortable, welcoming space that my family, friends and guests can enjoy.

A few months back, I looked at my website and decided it was overdue for a change. I wanted a space that reflected my style and personality, but that was also a warm, welcoming place where my readers and I could get to know each other a little better. I wanted it to have information about my books—especially when a new one was released—and a place for readers to contact me. I wanted an up-to- date event calendar so that I could meet some of my readers in person the next time I’m speaking or visiting a bookstore in their area. And since I wanted to send out a newsletter occasionally when I have something new or fun to share, I wanted to feature an easy way for interested readers to sign up.

I confess that my talents are limited to writing (and maybe amateur interior design), so I needed lots of professional help with my website redecorating project. I’m very grateful to my savvy marketing and publicity expert, Christine Bierma, for all her hard work and great ideas, as well as to the very talented graphic and web designer, Cori De Roos, for the beautifully renovated site. It has been under construction for the past few months, and now I can finally open the door and welcome you in for a visit! Thank you for your patience while the reconstruction has been taking place.

We’re inching closer and closer to the October release date for my newest novel, “Waves of Mercy,” so I hope you enjoy this sneak peek at the cover. And here are behind-the-scenes photos from my research that I hope will pique your interest. I’ll be revealing more about “Waves of Mercy” in my coming newsletter so make sure you sign up for it.

GetAttachment[1] (2) GetAttachment clothing3

 

 

 

 

The welcome mat is out! Please let me know what you think. I look forward to visiting with you here in the future.  As a thank you for visiting, I will be giving away a signed copy of one of my books to two of the readers who comment below. Contest Ends on Sunday, August 14 at 7pm EST

 

Blessings,
Lynn