Friday, April 13, 2018

The Artist In Me and In My Books

It had to happen eventually.  I've been an artist all my life and I decided a few years ago to write about artists.  This desire turned into the Artisan Mysteries. In the series, I draw from my own experiences as well as from a wellspring of ideas and a rather wild imagination. Since I love writing mysteries, the novels had to include a mystery and suspense. And Romance. I can't seem to write a mystery without a little romance. My characters are, of course, artists.  They also come with a variety of life problems that they must overcome, murder being one of those obstacles.

 But more about that later.  First, let me share my own artisan story.

Created to Create

I don't ever remember not being an artist. What I do remember is a father, who despite his poor health, used to cut out pieces of pressed board for me to paint on. He encouraged me to enter art contests and even bought me art books meant to teach me the craft. I also remember never having money for art lessons. As an adolescent, I used to save my babysitting and berry picking money to buy art supplies. Usually canvases and oil paints at a local hardware store.

I don't have any of the artwork I did as a child except for one oil painting that I  couldn't part with. It hung in my son's room until he left home and then I hung it in various places. It now hangs in my office. I'm thinking I may need to find a home for it and right now my great grandson Carlisle seems a perfect choice. Then again, maybe Maddie, my oldest great granddaughter would love it since she is quite the artist and craftsperson herself.  

Or maybe I'll keep it for a while to remind myself of how important it is to never lose sight of your creativity. It was a hard lesson to learn.

 A High Price to Pay

 My artistic side blossomed as I continued to paint. In high school, I took a drama class and became an actor. I worked on sets, played the lead in a number of productions and became a five star Thespian. Then came graduation and dating and working for a living. I found no time to create.
Eventually, I met the guy who swept me off my feet. We married and had two children. I returned to school and became an RN. Then I worked at being the best nurse, mother, and wife I could possibly be.

But something was missing. I couldn't live up to the expectations I'd placed on myself and my life seemed overwhelming. I fell into an acute depression and couldn't escape on my own. My doctor took me out of my chaotic world and put me in the hospital for a short rest.
I was devastated. How could I be depressed? I should have been stronger. The I am Woman song I thought I could sing with gusto became a whimper for God to do something. 

I came to realize that in my desire to be the best and do the most, I'd lost a part of myself. I'd ignored the part of me that needed to create. The artist. When I recovered I knew I had to make the time to be the woman God created me to be. I went back to work part-time and loved my children and my husband. But I also brought art back into my life.

 Coming Into My Calling

My first step back to creativity was to work with ceramics. I made dozens of beautiful things. I learned a lot about ceramics and eventually turned to pottery. With the money I'd made from ceramics, I bought a wheel and kiln and over time the glazes and chemicals used to make the glazes. I became a production potter and loved it.

I loved the feel of clay in my hands and how it reminded me of God molding and shaping his creations. I wrote poetry and prose about my journey back to the light and to the life I had left behind.

The Master Potter

He is the potter, I the clay
He holds me in his hands - centers me - encircles me.
Like clay, I am weak and shapeless without the sustaining power
of the potter's hand.
When I resist, my life becomes turmoil, my impurities overwhelm me.
If I submit he takes control, he opens me, molds me.
I begin to take shape and form. I am real, full of life in His Holy Spirit.
Then again, if I resist, I become worn and weak.
I may break for my walls are thin and transparent as the finest porcelain.
I know that to survive, I must submit once again to the Potter's loving hands.
There I find joy and peace and a sense of being close to God.

One day while I was molding a piece of pottery and distinctly felt God calling me to write. I had already written some poetry, but this was more like a life changer. I resisted at first but agreed that if this was really a message from God, I would comply. I went to a writer's conference because I knew it was where I needed to be. I began writing in earnest and now have more than sixty books to my credit. 

Writing is a craft, a creative outlet, but I've always maintained my soul's need to play in various art forms. I no longer do pottery, but I do paint.  I recently took up watercolors and use acrylics and oils as well.

As you can guess, this drive to be an artisan had to be channeled into writing.  Thus, The Artisan Mysteries was born.  In this series, you will meet artisans, Carolyn Hudson, Alaina Neilson, and Lindsay Montgomery. 

Deadly Deception

The series begins with Carolyn Hudson, a painter, who finds herself in a compromising position when she awakens in a hotel room in a pool of blood. The dead man lying next to her is an acclaimed politician, Adam Burke.  A week earlier, Mr. Burke had commissioned her to paint his portrait, Carolyn has no idea how she got there. She only knows that she was drugged and soon learns that she is the killer's next victim. Carolyn must go into hiding and accept police protection. Still, nothing can prevent her from investigating on her own and clearing her name, even if it kills her.

The Quiltmaker's Daughter

In the second artisan mystery, my passion for quilting comes into play.

Alaina Neilson, a sometimes artist, is taking a Caribbean Cruise with her best friend to recover from yet another failed marriage. Her life is a mess and it's about to get worse. Her estranged mother, a master quilter, suffers a stroke. Alaina knows she should go home, but isn't sure she can. Her mother had abandoned her years ago and Alaina feels nothing but resentment toward her.

Still, Alaine can't fight the urgent need to see her mother before she dies. Once home, she is not only faced with her mother's debilitating stroke, but a suspicious stranger who has eased his way into her mother's life, the theft of her mother's highly valued quilts, and murder.

Watercolor Dreams

My third artisan mystery actually began many years ago.  Watercolor Dreams was the first novel idea I submitted to an editor. My query letter caught her attention and I was asked to submit a proposal, but never did. My career in writing non-fiction superseded my desire to write romantic suspense. Writing non-fiction kept me busy for many years. Finally, in 1986, I decided to write a novel for teens, Kristen’s Choice.  I then submitted an idea to Bethany House Publishers to write a mystery series reminiscent of Nancy Drew. Out of that, the popular Jennie McGrady Mysteries were born.

I was hooked on writing mysteries and romantic suspense. Forty-some mysteries later, Lindsay Montgomery, the protagonist in Watercolor Dreams, burst on the scene demanding I finish her story. I tried to ignore her but eventually realized my protestations would not silence her. Characters can, at times, be quite pushy. Lindsay Montgomery’s decision to leave the family’s lucrative business to become a full-time artist nearly kills her father and opens a Pandora’s box of family secrets. Deception, lies, and murder follow Lindsay as she struggles to pursue her dreams. 

Mark Owens, Lindsay’s crush from high school, has come home to take over the business and wants Lindsay to stay. Can Mark and Lindsay uncover the truth before the killer takes another life?

 I hope you will enjoy reading my artisan mysteries as much as I have enjoyed writing them.  

You'll find my books on by clicking on the titles, and on my web site.