Even as one of my greatest fears was being realized, a long-held dream was coming true.
Ever since I won a Butterball turkey in a short story contest in sixth grade, I dreamed of penning novels. After I got married two decades later, a story grew in my heart, one I felt compelled to share.
Yet 98% of books submitted to publishers get rejected. And only 16% of traditionally-published writers debut with their first book. Most write at least one novel before finally being able to get the second, third, or fourth published. Did this story even have a chance?
Despite the odds, I decided to pursue that long-delayed dream. After all, the faithful One who had called me was the God of the impossible. To learn how to write fiction, I took classes, attended conferences, and joined critique groups.
In 2014, our second daughter was born on June 10th. Meanwhile, the deadline for the Operation First Novel contest was September 10th. Between round-the-clock diaper changes, plus caring for our two-year-old, I finished my fictional book.
That December, I discovered my novel made it to the semifinals! The next month, Jerry Jenkins announced I’d won third place. Snow out of Season—that original story that wouldn’t let go—would be published!
From March to May, in-between moving, selling our house, and buying another, I revised my story. Then I worked with Carol Kurtz Darlington from Mountainview Books to hone it more. Finally, my novel was off to the copy editors and typesetters.
In October 2015, the same month as Sugarloaf, bestselling author Sandra Byrd read an advance review copy. She wrote, “The story caught me with characters so real I feel I might see them on the street, and it held me with breathtakingly clever story telling.”
That November, Library Journal gave it a starred review:
“Brunke deftly weaves Shannon and Leslie’s stories to create an astonishing tale with a gratifying ending. The author’s skill at crafting sympathetic protagonists and lively accessible prose helps to make the emotionally intense story line completely engrossing.”
They also named it their Christian Fiction Debut of the Month.
The book officially released December 1, 2015. The following month, it topped Amazon bestseller lists.
Meanwhile, Lyme spirochetes were multiplying in my body, causing my health to slowly deteriorate. During that exciting season of my life, my developing symptoms were drowned in a flood of euphoria.
Looking back on my journals, medical records, and Mom’s One Line a Day memory books, it’s easy to see. But, at the time, I was distracted by the fulfillment of my impossible dream. With my husband, daughters, and the birth of my fictional book, God had given me the desires of my heart.
But He’d also allowed an intruder into my body, for purposes I’m only now beginning to see.