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

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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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