Thursday, December 29, 2011

Still Life in Shadows

My next novel, due out in the fall of 2012, is completed! I am so excited to have finished Still Life in Shadows, although I continue to pick at it. It's due at my new publisher's, Moody, on January 9th. So, yes, in just a short amount of time, I will have to abandon it and send it along.

Here's a bit about Still Life in Shadows so that you can be sure to want to read it as soon as you can.

Sixteen years ago Gideon Miller left the confines of his Amish hometown of Carlisle, PA and now has made a life in Twin Branches, NC. Known as the Getaway Savior, he assists other dissatisfied Amish men and women making the transition from Amish to English living. Employed as a car mechanic, Gideon believes in a hard work ethic. When his younger brother asks for help and ends up in jail, Gideon realizes just how inadequate he is. A story of belonging, finding God’s grace and forgiveness, Still Life in Shadows, is about a community in need of accepting all of God’s children.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Name that Character Contest Winners for my Next Novel!

Connected with my Author Page on Facebook, I hosted a contest. Name that Character Contest was specifically for two names I needed for my current novel----a work in progress, which will be my fifth book. I asked for the name of a waitress who calls everyone Sugar and one for the local mountain town sheriff's daughter. I told Facebook friends to LIKE my page and then play the game! From then on the names came in! What fun to read them all.

On December 4th, the contest ended. For the next two days, I decided which of the eighty-plus names to chose for my two characters. Now, some I couldn't choose because either I'd already used similar names for other characters of the names suggested are actual names of people I know. For example, our pet beagle is Dixie, so I stayed away from that one for a person.

Well, I'm happy to announce that the waiting is over.

Della is the name of the waitress, and thanks goes to Sallie Knott Deaton for that name


Ashlyn is the name for the sheriff's daughter and thanks goes to Charlotte Stevenson for that name.

Both Sallie and Charlotte will receive an autographed copy of A Wedding Invitation, my fourth novel. They will also both be acknowledged in my new novel.

Thanks to everyone for playing!

By the way, this fifth novel I just received a contract for will be completed by January 9th, 2012, and published by Moody Publishers in the fall of 2012. The novel is tentatively titled Still Life In Shadows. The story is set in the mountains of North Carolina and is about an ex-Amish man who assists young Amish escape the Old Order lifestyle.

Where did I get the idea for Still Life in Shadows? Carl and I watch programs about an ex-Amish man in Columbia, Missouri who does help dissatisfied Amish leave their communities. Based on these programs, I set out to create.

Stay tuned for more!

Christmas Letter from a Needy Author

Hi, Readers,

As we draw closer to Christmas, I wanted to share with you my letter to Santa.

Christmas Letter from a Needy Author

Dear Santa,
I've baked you extra sugar cookies and put them on a tray
hoping you'll deliver sacks of my novels Christmas day
I really want my books purchased by folks far and wide
my readership to grow, that many will have at their side
copies of Rain Song, How Sweet It Is, Hatteras Girl, too
A Wedding Invitation includes a recipe for beef stew.

So Santa, fill those empty places underneath the tree
with fun, quirky, southern fiction created all by me!
Faces dazzled, gratitude wide, such a joyful sight
when folks receive gifts they'll read long into the night!
This is my Christmas wish, this is my shameless prayer,
Get busy, Santa, help this author from pulling out her hair.

~ by Alice J. Wisler

Monday, November 14, 2011

All Things Southern: Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

Welcome to another posting in All Things Southern.

This is where I blog about certain products or places that are mentioned in my recent novel, A Wedding Invitation. I decided it was time to let the culinary juices take over and research one of Winston-Salem's finer qualities---doughnuts!

What does a secret recipe, a French chef and a hole in a building have in common? All of them are connected to the origins of the delectable, airy doughnuts we've grown to love over the years.

In 1937, Vernon Rudolph purchased a yeast-based secret doughnut recipe from a French chef in New Orleans. Rudolph rented a building (in what is today part of Old Salem, North Carolina) to start creating batches of doughnuts to sell to local grocery stores.

As folks walked past his baking facilities, the sweet aroma of the doughnuts made them hungry. They asked if they could buy doughnuts and thinking like a businessman, Rudolph cut a hole in one of the outside walls and started selling Original Glazed Doughnuts to passer-bys on the sidewalk.

By 1996, Krispy Kreme's fame spread past the southeast and stores opened in New York and in 1999, the first one opened in California. Along with sugary doughnuts, the stores serve hot coffee.

Krispy Kreme was 60 in 1997, and given recognition in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. Artifacts are displayed at the museum for all to see.

In 2001, the company went international and hot doughnuts are now sold in Asia, Canada, Mexico, England, Australia, the Middle East, Puerto Rico, and Turkey.

It sure does make my southern heart glad to know that this North Carolina company's treats are enjoyed around the world.

And with a mission statement as pure as "To touch and enhance lives through the joy that is Krispy Kreme", how could anything go wrong? I think I need to get some enhancement in the form of a raspberry-filled right now.

I'm headed to my local grocery store!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Lessons from a refugee camp

In 1984 I left the United States for the Philippines. My destination? The Philippine Refugee Processing Center (PRPC) in Bataan, a refugee camp for Indochinese refugees, the majority waiting to relocate in the USA.

I was twenty-three. My job? I was an English-as-a-second-language teacher and also taught cultural orientation. I was at the camp seventeen months. I lived with and worked with an organization called World Relief.

What did I learn as I taught and lived among the Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians? That, in spite of turmoil, death, and political unrest, in spite of war, devastation, and loss, courage and hope prevail. The refugees opened their hearts and homes (scanty billets made of wood) to me. They gave freely. They taught me that although life is unfair, there is beauty to be seen. And most of all, no one---no one---can steal your joy and hope.

My newest novel, A Wedding Invitation, captures some of my experiences. A Wedding Invitation is a work of fiction, but I used many of the things I saw and did during my time in the camp.

This first picture is of the market place in Phase II of the camp. My classroom is in the building behind it. The other photos are of my students, many of them Amerasians, as my character Lien is in my novel.

Friday, October 14, 2011

All Things Southern: Moonshine

Sugar, water, malt, cornmeal and yeast. These are the key ingredients for moonshine. No, I'm not planning on making a batch today, but I am interested in the subject, especially since it fits in with my novel A Wedding Invitation, and making moonshine has been quite profitable in my state of North Carolina.

What's the history of moonshine? Well, one thing is for sure, it came about before NASCAR (National Associate of Stock Car Auto Racing). In fact, making a moonshine run in a fast car was how NASCAR got her beginnings. During the Prohibition years of 1920 through 1933, running from the law in order to make a moonshine delivery at night in a souped-up car was common in the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. Once Prohibition ended, the question of what to do with these racing cars was raised. That's when car races became popular entertainment in the rural South. Wilkes County, North Carolina was the hot spot to see the races. Vance Packard called Wilkes County the bootleg capital of America.

Who invented moonshine? We can thank the Scots and the Scotch-Irish, who settled in the Appalachian Mountains 300 years ago and made moonshine like they did back in Scotland. In their Scottish farmlands, these farmers used leftover grains to ferment into liquor. The farmers, weary of over taxation on their properties and the absence of religious freedom, immigrated to America for better lives. They brought their hopes, families, and distillery ingenuity with them.

Today, folks are curbing the 180 proof moonshine of days gone by and giving the whiskey a smoother, gentler taste. Liquor stores sell moonshine flavored with fruit which is easier on the palate. And moonshine is legal to produce as long as you have a license like the makers of Catdaddy, a distillery in Madison, North Carolina.

In A Wedding Invitation, there is much talk of Uncle Charlie, a notorious relative, who had his share of moonshine tales. Here's some about him on page 53.

I nod, recalling having previously heard the name of this particular cemetery. Uncle Charlie is buried there, with a headstone that has a motorcycle engraved in it. My great-uncle liked to ride fast, and my relatives tell me that his Harley out-sped any police car on the Forsyth County squad. He also made moonshine, borrowing a recipe from Scottish immigrants who settled in the Appalachian Mountains.

Anyway, I saw a program on how moonshine was made in our mountains (and am sure it still is), and ever since then knew I had to incorporate my new knowledge into one of my novels.

Moonshine, truly a Southern tale of adventure, secrecy, and the birth of NASCAR.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

All Things Southern: Aunt Dovie's Oatmeal Bread

In celebration of my newest novel, A WEDDING INVITATION, I'll be posting some columns under the heading All Things Southern. These posts will be about topics related to my novel and to the South.

My first entry contains a recipe which can be found at the back of my novel.

Dovie’s Oatmeal Bread

Aunt Dovie is known by some family members to pick up boarders quicker than a dog picks up fleas. Dovie's old house in Winston- Salem, NC (home to Krispy Kreme donuts) is always open to those in need of some good nutrition and love. Women move in for as long as they need a place to stay, enjoying her company and care. Two of my favorite boarders are Beanie and Pearl. Beanie has a bottle of cure-all for aches and pains and Pearl makes strawberry-rhubarb pies, using a pinch of tapioca.

Along with raising butterflies and hens, Dovie bakes oatmeal bread. She serves it at meals with a mound of fresh butter. At each meal her prayers end with "Amen and Amen!" Then she's been known to dance around the kitchen with a tea towel. The fact that she can't dance to the music's beat never stops her. Dovie believes in being jovial. Her bread recipe is full of warmth, and will make your mouth and tummy smile.

Dovie’s Oatmeal Bread
1 cup of old fashioned oats (not instant)
1½ cups of boiling water
¾ cup of molasses
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
2 teaspoons of salt
2 cups of warm water
1 tablespoon of active dry yeast
4 cups of bread flour
4 cups of whole-wheat flour

Combine the oats and boiling in a large mixing bowl and let sit for at least thirty minutes. Add the molasses, oil and salt to the oatmeal mixture, combining well. In a separate bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Add to the oatmeal mixture. Stir in the flour, one cup at a time. Once the dough starts to pull from the sides of the bowl, turn onto a floured surface and knead in the rest of the flour until smooth. Continue to knead for about eight minutes. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning it so that all sides are coated. Cover with a damp cloth. Let rise until doubled in size, about an hour. Punch down and divide dough in half. Shape into two loaves and place dough in two greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise for 45 minutes to an hour. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place loaf pans in oven for five minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees F. and bake for an additional 40 minutes. Loaves should brown and will be ready to take out of oven when they sound hollow when lightly tapped.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Carolina Journey

A Carolina journey – for the author and characters

The Herald Sun


AUTHOR READING:WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: The Regulator Bookshop
720 Ninth St., Durham
“A Wedding Invitation” (Bethany House)
By Alice Wisler


DURHAM – Four years ago, Durham author Alice J. Wisler realized her aspirations with a book deal and her first novel, “Rain Song,” set in Mount Olive, N.C. Three more novels have followed, once a year – “How Sweet It Is,” set in the North Carolina mountains, “Hatteras Girl,” set on the coast, and now “A Wedding Invitation,” set partially in Winston-Salem. Wisler said she likes writing about North Carolina towns.

While working on “A Wedding Invitation,” she even held a contest for her fans to suggest character names. Lien’s and Carson’s names were both chosen by a Durham resident.With the first book, Wisler said, she was just so excited to be published. “Then as time goes on, there’s so much more to it. It’s not as though you’ve arrived,” she said. “You begin to see the long road ahead. You see others who’ve been continually published and learn from them. It’s not like you can rest – unless you’ve written ‘The Help.’ ”

Wisler has devoted fans, but even so, being an author isn’t quite the piece of cake one might assume.

Speaking of food, gathering at the table or in a kitchen is integral to building relationships in Wisler’s novels – and in most of our lives, too. The characters in “A Wedding Invitation” do much of their gathering in Aunt Dovie’s kitchen or in a Vietnamese restaurant.

At the center is Samantha, who lives in Northern Virginia and works at her mom’s ladies’ clothing store, but goes to Winston-Salem for a wedding it turns out she wasn’t actually invited to. She stays with her aunt, who takes in those who need some TLC. Samantha also reconnects with a man from her past. Seven years prior, in the mid-1980s, Samantha worked in a refugee camp in the Philippines for Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian people displaced from the Vietnam War. Carson was the young man she longed for, but he had a girlfriend back home so kept her at a distance. Samantha never got over him. In Winston, she also reconnects with a teenage girl, Lien, from the refugee camp. Samantha gains a new perspective of Lien and herself.

Like a true North Carolinian would know, after first reference, Winston-Salem is just referred to as “Winston.” Samples of Wisler’s own experiences are used in the book, like teaching in a refugee camp. In one scene, Dovie brings butterflies to a cemetery for a Compassionate Friends butterfly release, and Wisler leaned on Compassionate Friends after the death of her young son.

The book’s title, “A Wedding Invitation,” came also to Wisler, meant for the previous person who lived there. Unlike Samantha, Wisler didn’t go to the wedding. But she kept the fancy invitation and always wondered about it. It was the seed for this story.

Wisler’s four novels have been classified as in the “inspirational” genre, and published by Bethany House. The characters’ spiritual life is part of their daily lives, too. They go to church. They pray. They talk about God to each other. They don’t try to drive home a specific religious message or guarantee a happy ending. “A Wedding Invitation” is about second chances. It’s also about accepting flaws and moving on.

She wrote her first novel without aiming at particular genre, but Bethany House picked it up right away as inspirational fiction. She thinks there are more authors now in that genre that write more realistic stories.“I try to put relationships with God in their lives, but not in your face,” Wisler said. “It’s not like a sermon or prayer meeting. Certainly I want Christian characters to be flawed.”

The books Wisler is working on now may or may not be deemed inspirational, and she wants to reach a broader readership – both those who already read her novels, plus those who have yet to discover her. She’ll begin to veer away from 20-something protagonists in contemporary romances. Future books will feature an Amish man who fled the life to the North Carolina mountains, and another about a bereaved mother traveling the country in an RV, who also makes memory quilts.

“I’m looking to see where my writing is leading me,” Wisler said.

Copyright 2011 The Herald-Sun. All rights reserved. © 2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011

An invitation

And so, in one week, my fourth inspirational novel will arrive! A Wedding Invitation has a little of everything from Elvis to missing cats to sorrow to joy. It is based roughly on my seventeen months in a remote refugee camp in Bataan, Philippines where I taught English to southeast Asian children.

I invite each of you to pick up a copy. A Wedding Invitation is about wanting to belong, to be accepted, and the beauty that comes when we are.

Here is a review from Library Review Journal:
Samantha Bravencourt has just returned home to Virginia after teaching English at a refugee camp in the Philippines. When she travels to North Carolina to attend the wedding of an old college friend, Samantha runs into an old flame, Carson, who broke her heart. She also meets a young refugee, Lien, who asks for Samantha and Carson’s help in locating her mother. The search reveals long-buried secrets that cause Samantha to examine her own past so she can move forward. VERDICT Romance and drama meet in this latest by Wisler (Hatteras Girl), who does a wonderful job conveying Southern charm. Readers who enjoy the works of Susan May Warren and Tamara Leigh will also appreciate this.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Almost here!

I'm looking forward to the next all-day writing workshop I'll be hosting in Raleigh on July 30th. The two held last year still hold such fond memories for me. This year, the workshop is brand new---Gateway Through Life's Losses.

One of the things I love about these workshops is the people who attend. I enjoy teaching and sharing, but most of all, I like hearing insights about grief and struggles and loss from others. As they say, the teacher always learns the most.

Having said that, I received a nice post on a writers' loop from a woman who came all the way from Wilmington to attend one of last year's Writing the Heartache workshops. She wrote:

I attended Alice's workshop last year and was greatly blessed. I highly recommend it to anyone who has suffered loss and I think all of us have at some time. It had been a while since I lost my parents and my husband, but I found it helpful to remember and focus on some of the good things they brought into my life. I especially liked writing letters to them; that gave me a sense of letting go and freeing myself to go on with my life. I did some more writing after I returned home. I shared my writing with other members of my family.

If you live in the area, tell your friends about Alice's workshop. Just meeting Alice was a blessing.

July 30th is nearly here! Be sure to join us by signing up here for Gateway through Life's Losses.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Pamper yourself this summer!

Last year I took a leap of faith and hosted two all-day grief writing workshops in North Carolina. I've taught my "Writing the Heartache" Workshops at other people's seminars, but never on my own where I was responsible for locating the venue, serving lunch, advertising, etc.

I'm happy to announce that this summer I will offer another all-day workshop in Raleigh, NC. "Gateway Through Life's Losses" will be held at the Raleigh-Cary, NC Hampton Inn and Suites' Capital~Piedmont Room on July 30th from 8:30 AM to 4:15 PM.

This is a workshop for anyone who wants to write from any kind of loss (divorce, death of a loved one, financial, etc.) or from broken relationships. The grief/loss scope is wide.

Writing therapy is a wonderful gift you can give to yourself this summer! One of the participants from last year said that she had taken care of so many, now it was time to take care of herself and pamper herself with the workshop.

I've created a page on my website with all the details.

Please spread the word to all your friends and family in this area who could benefit from a day of healing, health, and hope.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Giving away a summer read!

Per my newsletter, Literary Lyrics, this month I'm giving away copies of a most suitable beach read, Hatteras Girl. In order to qualify for the giveaway which will be two drawings, one on the 18th and one on the 25th, you must follow this blog or LIKE my Facebook Fan Club page. After you do that, send me an email at with Giveaway in the subject line and you'll be entered. I hope those of you who are already following my blogs and/or are Facebook fans will enter the contest as well.

Play to win!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Book Review: Chasing Sunsets

Everyone needs a place to heal from wounds. In Eva Marie Everson's newest novel, Chasing Sunsets, Kimberly Tucker, under the insistence of her father, goes to a beloved childhood spot known as Cedar Key Island. There, she discovers truths about herself, her two boys, God, friendships, and the reasons behind her previous marriage which ended in divorce. She also rekindles her romance with Stephen Granger, wanting to believe that he is as good as he seems, in spite of someone who tries to convince her otherwise.

Written in an easy-to-read style, including chapters that convey scenarios from the past, Chasing Sunsets moves quickly and captures any romantic's attention. Everson knows how to create a well-crafted tale.

This book was received for the purpose of review from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Book Review: Steps to Courage

Three young lives are tied together in this debut novel, Steps to Courage, by Sandra Stiles. Plagued with scars, Lucas, Mark and Trina, must battle their own pasts. Little do they know that the past is not all they will have to deal with on that fateful day of 9/11/2001.

Written in third person, Stiles fills us in the background of each youth, as well as their reasons for being in New York City on this day. For those who remember the horror that unfolded in New York, Pennsylvania and D.C, the book will capture many of those events, painting them with realistic emotions. In spite of unfavorable circumstances, the three friends reinvent their lives, seeking hope and happiness.

Recommended for young adults, especially girls.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Just Around the Corner

It's just about to happen! A Wedding Invitation, my fourth stand-alone contemporary novel, is going to be released by Bethany House this October! In honor of its publication, I thought this was a good time to talk about weddings.

Do you like attending weddings? How many do you get invited to each year? Did you watch Will and Kate marry this past April? What did you like best about viewing a telecasted wedding as opposed to physically being there?

Comment below about weddings----the wonderful, the bizarre, the quaint, and the sweet.

I invite you also to talk about wedding invitations you've received. And, of course, I invite you to read A Wedding Invitation.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

And we have a winner!

Thanks to all who played the Hiding Food Contest at the Alice J. Wisler Facebook Fan Club Page. My daughter, Elizabeth, just turned 14, and since she has the birthday this week, I let her pick the name from the names of all who LIKED the fan club page and wrote a post about hiding food from yourself or other family members. (I do this all the time, and so does a character in my novel.) Elizabeth drew Faye McCord of Mississippi's name!

Congratulations, Faye! An autographed copy of my latest novel, Hatteras Girl, will be sent to you soon!

Thanks, everyone, for playing!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Contest! Win a Novel!


Here's a contest you can't miss out on.

In my newest novel, Hatteras Girl, Jackie hides tortilla chips in the kitchen pantry (behind a can of green beans) from the five-year-old who lives with her. Do you hide food from your kids? Your spouse? Your roommate? Go to the Alice J. Wisler Fan Club Page, click LIKE and join in the discussion. On May 1, there will be a drawing for a copy of Hatteras Girl for one lucky winner whose name will be drawn from all who participate. Open to all, as long as you LIKE the page.

Happy entries! Tell your friends!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Book Club!

What a treat to be invited to the book club at Colonial Baptist Church in Cary yesterday!

Not only was the table filled with food from my novel, and a cake with my novel's title, but the discussion about How Sweet It Is was insightful. That's right; I wrote the novel, but these women who read it provided me with new thoughts and their ideas about the motivations of my characters.

The refreshment table was prepared by Joan (in the picture above). She even had chips and salsa which Deena makes for her cooking class. The lemon is from Grandpa Ernest's childhood story about always keeping a lemon in the fridge. Joan liked his words in his letter to Deena, his granddaughter, and so Joan added the quote to her lovely table as well.

What a fun time I had!

Monday, February 28, 2011

And the times they are a changin'

I write to inspire.

Lately, with our changing markets, I need some inspiration.

I set out on this publishing venture with high hopes and a smile in my heart. My first novel, Rain Song, came out in October 2008. Offered only as a trade paperback for $13.99, sales did well. A new author, first novel, a small publishing house and yet Rain Song sold 25,000 copies within 18 months of publication.

I was not on Facebook then. I didn't have a Facebook Fan Club Page. Tweeter had not been created. I was not a member of the American Christian Fiction Writer. My website needed a make-over. I did not attend writers' conferences. In fact, I did not really know but one inspirational fiction author on a personal level.

But I arranged book events at bookstores, and marketed my novel and the next one---How Sweet It Is--when it arrived on bookshelves the following spring. I sent out newsletters and emails and slipped promotional postcards into everyone's hands. I blogged. My publicist was impressed with my efforts.

Now things are changing. Seems it doesn't matter about that number of 25,000 or that it is now at 28,500. Rain Song is going out of print. Immediately.

So is How Sweet It Is.

Oh, they will still be available in e-book format. People won't be able to dog-ear the pages, or underline sections with a pen, but they can download my novels onto their electronic devices.

When discussing sales at Penguin, Penguin Group CEO John Makinson said, ". . . We all recognize that the ebook is a fundamentally more profitable book with cost benefits for consumer, author and publisher alike."

My husband is not a CEO, but he's told me what Makinson stresses. Yet, I still wonder how the author benefits more with e-book sales over trade paperbacks? E-books cost less, yes, and authors get a higher royalty rate, but it all balances out that I get nearly the same amount whether it be 18 or 20 percent from a print book sale of $13.99 or 25 percent from an e-book sale of $9.99.

Are print books dying? Are e-books here to stay?

For five months, paperback How Sweet It Is has been in the TOP 100 categories on Amazon for Christian Fiction and Christian Romance. The novel ranges from #40 to #90 on these charts. I used to keep track of where it stood, now I realize that doesn't seem to matter. Paperback How Sweet It Is is not selling enough to make room for it anymore in the warehouse.

The times are changin' and I'm not liking it.

I need a good cup of inspiration.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Characters in Grief

[I wrote this about a year ago, and just found it again to post here.]

An elderly missionary was asked to sum up his life which had been filled with sorrow and anguish. His words shocked many, especially those who were expecting something more profound. “Jesus loves me, this I know,” he said. Then he sat down.

Once upon a time, I wrote happy. As a little girl of ten, I wanted everything to turn out well. I thought that if you ate your vegetables and said your prayers life would be grand. I conveyed this in my writing. I also planned to save the world, although that was a bit later in life.

When my four-year-old son died, I could not write happy. Like the words in many of the Psalms, my tears were my food; despair filled every ounce of me. Writing helped to get the sad out, and pretty soon, I wanted to live again and had hopes for my fiction.

There is no surprise now that my novels depict both happy and sad, joy, light-heartedness, distraught, and confusion. My goal is to write real.

When I created Monet, the three-year-old in my first novel, Rain Song, some questions arose. Why was this child so loud and naughty? Was it the case of poor parenting? Her mother took her to many doctors to try to find out why she was the way she was, and while there was some conversation about autism, I never said that was Monet’s diagnosis. Yet, some readers were quick to label her with that and their reviews showed it.

Whether you like Monet in the novel or not, to me, she is the symbol that things are not always neatly-labeled in life. Everything is not black or white. My son was not immediately diagnosed with cancer. The doctors gave him other labels first and eventually he had to go through a surgery and a biopsy. A lot of waiting was involved.

I believe life in novels should mimic life in reality. I don’t have all the answers, and neither do my characters. They don’t get over grief, they heal a little. They might overcome some adversity, but they still have wounds. Mentally-challenged Jonas, in How Sweet It Is, will never be a scientist or a professor, yet he has the qualities of a humble man that surpass most scholars. We don’t know why God made Jonas the way he did, but we like him.

Can we live with not knowing everything? In our lives and in our novels? Is grappling with our faith okay? Is it acceptable to some days barely hang onto the hand of the God? I believe that creative ways to show our characters have not yet arrived are necessary in our stories.

Just like in my life. And in yours.

Sometimes when our days are a blur of uncertainty, when the future looks dismal, when our spirits have been crushed, what comes from our feeble lips is both simple and profound, “Jesus loves me, this I know.” It is a sacrifice to say it, and yet, it rings true.

~ Alice J. Wisler

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Long Corridor

"How can I remember his life without the impact of his death?"

This is not like hitting a large pothole on a dark road and being caught off guard. It cannot sneak up on you because every year the familiar dates do not change. When I get a new desk calendar in January, I mark his dates. My son Daniel was born August 25th. And he died February 2nd. Both of those days have a heart drawn around them.

What continues to surprise many bereaved parents is the long corridor that leads up to the anniversary day of a child. How do our bodies and minds know that the date is approaching? I often tell people that I could be on a deserted island without my calendar, but my mind would still know.

The anniversary date of a child's death wreaks havoc with all our senses as we remember. The date of his death is not like his birthday, where as painful as it is without him, we can celebrate that he was born. The anniversary date is the flipside, reminding us that it all ended. Anniversary dates mean saying good-bye. No more memories. Gone. Finished here on earth. It's over.

We try not to let it take its toll. After all, most of us do not seek to dwell on every detail that killed our child. We hear the world say, "Still? It's been ten years." Or twelve, or like me, fourteen. Even so we wonder why we get this knot in our stomach as flashbacks snap before us on our memory's picture screen.

"The days leading up to Ethan's death anniversary date of January 19th are like this long corridor I have to walk alone. I even sometimes forget the dates leading up to the 19th are going to be hard," my friend Brina wrote to me recently about her infant son.

How well she described it! We replay those events that lead up to our child's death. Even years later, we still think that if we could have changed one or two of those circumstances, we would continue to have our son or daughter. Could have, should have, would have. Those are the phrases we learn early on not to say. But we still say them. If only. Why didn't I?

The days leading up to that marked date on the calendar can be lonely, painful, agonizing, irreverant. Yet each year we have to walk through them, until, at last, the day passes, and we are on the other side of the long hallway. For now. Until next year.

The first years without a child are all gut-wrenching, and when the anniversary day looms, parents wonder if they can survive another year. As time goes on, the harshness softens to some extent. Yet I've heard parents say that certain years were harder than others. My friends Gene and Linda just experienced fifteen years since Steve, their only child's, death. Because Steve was fifteen when he died, this particular year marked fifteen years with him, and fifteen years without.

I think of Stephen King's The Green Mile and what walking along it signified to the inmates. They plodded along that long corridor until they reached a chair. By being strapped to that chair, they would be removed from this world.

We parents re-walk that mile every year. Yet it is not we who sit in the chair, it is those memories of our child who died. The call is given, the act is done, and breath stops. There was nothing we could have done to prevent that action. Nothing, no loophole, that we can find, to bring our precious child back to us.

And so we walk. Scenes from years ago grab us like horrific nightmares, only we know we will not wake up and find our child safely in bed. We are still bereaved and that is why, year after year, we must make that lonely walk.

As Christians, we believe in life after death. This brings much comfort. Yet, I must emphasize that walking the mile is still treacherous, at times scary, and sorrowful, despite the promise that our child is experiencing the magnitude of Heaven. For those who want to say, "Be glad he is in Heaven," I would like to add, "Yes, but I want him here. Just like your child is here with you, living each day as part of your family."

For the corridor is not about life after death or that we will again be reunited with our child, it is about the truth that death, plain and vast, occurred, and every year we are impacted by this horrendous truth we cannot escape. Some of us have more events along their corridor, especially those of us whose child was hospitalized, had medical procedures, or suffered before his last breath.

Is there a way to make the approaching days easier? My friend Brina called a friend and planned to attend a chapter of a grief support group in her area. In December, Pam sent out an email message letting others know that the anniversary date of the death of her daughter Paula was around the corner.

Pushing aside the pain and need to be heard is not wise. Reach out, and hopefully, those you reach out to will help to shoulder the monumental walk. Cliches don't substitute for comfort. Loving the broken-hearted is always a good practice.

This year I plan to invision God holding one of my hands and Daniel holding the other as I make my way through the flashbacks from January 22 leading up to February 2, 1997.

And I will continue to follow the advice of my four-year-old Daniel during his own demise: "Deep breaths, deep breaths. That will help me."

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Half a Century Reflections

On this birthday, I reflect. Isn't that what birthdays are for these days? When I was younger, it was all about cake and presents, and hoping everyone would remember. Now I have lived long enough to have that wonderful thing called perspective. With perspective, comes gratitude. So here's a list of some of the many things I've come to be grateful for. And, oh, I still hope for cake, presents, and wishes from friends!

* It's really not all about me.

* Scented candles do enhance moods from sour to sweet.

* Saying "I'm sorry" are two of the most freeing words in my vocabulary.

* Taking time to watch a sunset is not a waste of time.

* I've learned to stop trying to get people to like me. They either will or they won't, and that's not up to me to determine.

* The longer I live, the more I realize we live in a broken world.

* The longer I live, the more I'm thankful for a God who shows His mercy and grace to broken people.

* Fifty actually is NOT old!

* Sending kisses up to Heaven does wonders for a bereaved mom's heart

* True friends are treasures and come in all shapes and sizes.

* As long as their is breath, there is hope for our children. They might seem on wayward paths, but hope remains.

* Being forgiven is wonderful!

* The capacity to love is life-giving.

* The more I know, the more I realize that I don't know much at all. (And that's okay because I never knew it all----even when I was younger and thought I did.)

* The race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep on running.

* Make love your aim.

* Writing out my feelings does provide peace.

* The more I discover about God, the more mystery I see. I have stopped putting God in a box or in my pocket. I do not understand His ways; my faith remains.

* The sun might come out tomorrow, or it might wait a few days, but it will come out.

* The smallest of gestures, done with self-less-ness, can bring the most meaning.

* Patience is one of the highests forms of art.

* Knowing when to end a list is also an art. :-)