Friday, August 26, 2011

When Lightning Strikes

My guest today is author, Smoky Zeidel. She's a free-spirited writer she hails from the San Gabriel Mountain area in California. She's worn many hats in her life, wife, mother, teacher, book reviewer for several newspapers and magazines, author, and survivor. 

Smoky shares a bit with us about her writing journey and how an intriguing box of letters dating from the 1920's inspired her book, On the Choptank Shores.

I've wanted to be a writer ever since the fourth grade, when I first picked up the book, Harriet the Spy. I adored Harriet. I emulated her, carrying around a notebook and making notes on everything I saw going on around me. I think—no, I know—I annoyed my friends terribly doing this, so after a few weeks, I quit doing this.

But I didn’t quit writing. I acquired my first diary Christmas of that same year, and have kept diaries and journals ever since. That’s now almost forty-five years of writing something almost every day!

Life got in the way of my trying to write professionally until the day my life changed dramatically: July 11, 1989. At 10:17 that morning, I took a direct hit from a bolt of lightning. I nearly died. I guess technically I did die; I had no heartbeat when the paramedics arrived on the scene.

But, I lived, albeit with a rather broken body. I had heart damage, nerve damage, damage to the cartilage in my knees. My right ear drum vaporized. My jaw was smashed. Flash burns covered my body. Not a pretty picture.

My body was broken, yes. But my mind was as healthy and curious as ever! A few years after the lightning, I was at home, recovering from one of my now more than a dozen surgeries (I’ve lost count). I saw an ad in my local hometown newspaper advertising for freelance feature writers. I wrote the editor a letter, arguing that while my degree was in psychology, not journalism, anyone who took seventeen years to complete their BA degree because they tried to major in everything except physics obviously could write a good paper, and therefore would make a good feature writer. I got hired immediately.

My feature writing career flourished, because I could work when I felt well and turn down assignments when one of my health issues flared up. But deep inside, I wasn’t content. I wanted to write fiction, to follow the dream I’d had since childhood.

Then one day my parents came to visit. My mother brought me a box of love letters written between my favorite aunt and uncle during their courting days, back in the 1920s. They told a fabulous story of love, of struggling through hard times, of separation, of reunion. I somehow knew these letters were meant to be a book.

My first novel was borne of those letters, albeit not in the way I intended. They inspired me to sit at my word processor (this was long before I had a PC!) and imagine what life would be like, struggling to farm land with poor soil, to work with your hands, not machines, to truly survive, not simply exist. My first novel, Redeeming Grace, was borne of that imagining.

Unfortunately, my first publisher went under several months after my book was published. But that really didn’t matter. I quickly found a new publisher, and I’ve been writing books for them ever since.

I still have health issues, twenty-two years after the lightning. I had my third knee replacement only eight months ago (and yes, I have only two knees!); just last week I keeled over in a dead faint at my desk and was hospitalized because of some neurological glitch in my brain. I have chronic pain issues that make it impossible for me to write on some days; impossible for me to even get off the couch.

Yet, I persevere. I have a wonderfully supportive husband, Scott, who himself is an artist, a classical guitarist. He nurtures me when I’m sick and down, but as I heal, he has just the right way of nudging me back into my office to write. And my publisher, Kimberlee Williams of Vanilla Heart Publishing, has been more than fabulous. In fact, she just gave that first book of mine new life—it has just been re-released with a more appropriate title and a beautiful new cover, as On the Choptank Shores: A Love Story. And, to my delight, it is finally reaching readers, who have raved about it, I am happy to say.

I don’t recommend you stand out in a storm and get struck by lightning in order to get motivated to write! But sometimes life hands you a raw deal. You’re going to live through it whether you lie on the couch and moan and grown, and you’re going to live through it if you get up, greet each day with a smile, write your books, and live your life. 

Which life would you choose? I, for one, choose the latter!

ON CHOPTANK SHORES: A Love Story. Available now.

On the Choptank Shores is set on Maryland's eastern shore in the late 1920's. Happy endings, in novels as in life, sometimes come at a heavy price.
The tragic deaths of her mother and two younger siblings have left Grace Harmon responsible for raising her sister Miriam and protecting her from their abusive father, Luther, a zealot preacher with a penchant for speaking in Biblical verse who is on a downward spiral toward insanity. 

Otto Singer charms Grace with his gentle courtship and devotion to his brother, Henry, but is unable to share with Grace the terrible secret he has kept more than twenty years. 
Luther's insane ravings and increasingly violent behavior force Grace to question everything she ever knew. Then, tragedy strikes just when Otto's secret is uncovered, unleashing demons that threaten to destroy the entire family. Can Grace find the strength to save them all? Excerpt
Buy:  Amazon, Smashwords 

Smoky Trudeau Zeidel is the author of two novels, On the Choptank Shores (formerly titled Redeeming Grace) and The Cabin, and two nonfiction books on writing. She is also the author of Observations of an Earth Mage, an enchanting collection of prose, poetry, and photographs celebrating the beauty and splendor of the natural world. All her books are published by Vanilla Heart Publishing.

 In a Flash, where she recounts the story of how she was struck by lightning and how the experience has affected her life in the more than two decades following the event.
A popular book reviewer, Smoky wrote reviews for several newspapers and magazines before starting her blog, Smoky Talks Books. She specializes in reviewing books published by small and independent presses and by emerging writers.
Known to her fans as The Earth Mage, Smoky lives her life honoring Mother Earth through her writing, visual art, and spiritual practice. She lives in California with her husband Scott (a college music professor and classical guitarist), her daughter (a college student and actress), and a menagerie of animals, both domestic and wild, in a ramshackle cottage in the woods overlooking the San Gabriel Valley and Mountains beyond. When she isn’t writing, she spends her time hiking in the mountains and deserts, splashing in tidepools, and resisting the urge to speak in haiku.


Mason Canyon said...

Smoky, you are an inspiration in more ways than one. Your journey to writing is amazing and the way your first book came about is delightful. Wishing you much success with your writing and good health.

Sia, you have fascinating authors. Thanks.

Thoughts in Progress
Freelance Editing By Mason

VA said...

What a great inspiration for a story. I can't wait to see our great-grandkids decoding text messages and emails!

VA said...

I suppose I should say, I wish I could see...

Jo said...

It makes you think, we feel sorry for ourselves and then hear other's stories. Many of us don't know what problems really are.

Talli Roland said...

What a brilliant story and an inspirational woman! I love Harriet the Spy, too.

Hilary said...

Hi Sia and Smoky .. what an incredible story - and I agree I'll stay inside with storms around ...

Lucky you with your wonderful husband Scott .. but am so pleased you're writing your stories .. Good luck with it all - Hilary

Smoky said...

Thanks for all the kind words, and for reading my story here. And a big thank you to Sia for hosting me today!

~Sia McKye~ said...

You are more than welcome, Smoky. It's an inspiring story.

As a person with some health problems this past year, I know the frustration of not always feeling up to writing although I love to tell stories.

Thanks for being here!

Anne K. Albert said...

Inspirational article, Smoky. Thanks for reminding us to just get on with it!

Sun Singer said...

Hi Smoky,

Nice to see you here at Over Coffee. Wow, still keeping a journal after all these years. Now THAT is dedication to the writing craft.


Smoky said...

My feeling is, I'm going to hurt if I lie around and moan and groan, and I'm going to hurt if I get up and live my life, enjoying and writing about every moment! If I hurt either way, I might as well get about the business of having a full life.

James Rafferty said...

Hi Smoky. Yours is a remarkable story, but indicative of the kind of perseverence which it takes to find success in writing or in other chosen endeavors. I applaud your choice to live that fuller life.

Smoky said...

Thank you, James!

Clarissa Draper said...

Wow, what a story! I can't believe what you went through but how you persevered.

Smoky said...

Thank you, Clarissa. Persevering beat the alternative, that's for certain!