Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mixing Fact with Fiction: The Lawman's Second Chance "Story behind the story"...

Oh my stars, you know that whole mixed emotion thing I love to quote? The one from Dolly Parton as “Truvie” in “Steel Magnolias”?  

“Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion!”

That’s how I felt writing this book, “The Lawman’s Second Chance”, a tribute to my friend Lisa, a 37-year-old mother of four fighting breast cancer and Beth Endlich, the late and beloved mother of my editor Melissa Endlich

We’re not going to talk about our sorrow when Lisa was first diagnosed. And we’re not going to talk about the year of treatments that included a bi-lateral mastectomy, chemo (twice), radiation and reconstructive surgery that followed.

We’re going to talk about the fine line of using fact in fiction.

Fact: Lisa got sick
Fact: This is a possibly terminal condition
Fact: Hearts have broken over this disease
Fact: Children were involved, children I’ve loved and cared for since birth.
Fact: Faith is challenged when cancer walks in the door
Fact: Life goes on around you while you fight for your life and that can be a kick in the head. Mundane problems look tiny when you're facing a grim spector...
Fact: Lisa is not and says she NEVER WILL BE a Yankees fan.  :)  For those of you who've read "The Lawman's Second Chance", you'll recognize that the fictional Lisa LOVES THE YANKEES LIKE THE AUTHOR!!! The real Lisa may have choked upon reading that.  :) But hey, we authors have to have a little fun, right????
Fact: God is good, all the time. And all the time, God is good.

Lisa and the daycare moms... Taylor wanted to organize a party to lift her mother's spirits so ... with a little help from her friends....  We had a "Fight Like A Girl!" Party...
Lisa almost didn't come... She was tired, and sick but we pretended it was a shower for Beth so Jeff pushed her to show up, even if just for a little while... then:


The party was for her, and people came dressed in pink, lugging pink food, young and old, mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, neighbors, Grandma's, Great-grandmas... 

Taylor and Lisa...
God is good, all the time.

That last fact isn’t always obvious when people face traumatic challenges, but it is always true. And when we’d gotten into the treatment phase of Lisa’s battle, I asked if I could do a book about breast cancer, using her battle as my research. (I did reassure her that she didn’t need to go to these extremes for the NEXT book, that really, she’d gone above and beyond anything I would have asked or expected, but since she was there… right there! Jonah, in the whale’s mouth, facing a fairly nasty journey to the gut… would she mind sharing her strength and faith with others?)

For whatever reason she said yes, and I was not about to ARGUE with her… I mean really, take the “yes” and run with it! No one should argue with sick people. It's positively unseemly, right? Then I called Melissa Endlich and proposed the idea to her, sensitive to the recent loss of her mother. No matter how ill... or how old... we're never quite ready to kiss our mothers goodbye, so proposing a book about cancer right then... well, the timing was either wretchedly right or horribly wrong.

Melissa said go ahead... And we did.

Who doesn’t love Susan Boyle’s moments of fame on Britain’s Got Talent? Or Helen Keller’s monumental rise to communication in The Miracle Worker?  Or Jesse Owen's rise to Olympic fame in the 1936 track competition in Nazi Germany, home of the Aryan-race-rules?

We love the moments of triumph over adversity but when you’re dealing with real life people, it’s a fine line between admiration and invasive-ness.

So how did I do this? 

  • I made the story pure fiction like any book I write, BUT….
  • I used the cancer treatment and support group information I got from the real Lisa to build the character’s struggle for the fictional Lisa.
  • I used some attributes of the real Lisa’s three older children, but generally relied on my vast wealth of experience with cute, bratty kids to make them real!  J
  • My holy-hot-hero Lt. Alexander Steele was a delightful compilation of :
Lisa's real-life husband, my good friend Jeff Tydings... While Alex Steele is FICTIONAL, I gave him the qualities we all loved and admired in Jeff during Lisa's treatment... of course now he's gone back to being a NORMAL HUSBAND, but I wanted to have youse see him as larger than life... (kidding, Jeff!!!)


Julie Hilton Steele’s name (she won it in a contest a year or so ago! So I named the hero “Steele” after her cute husband.)

The advice of NYS Trooper Chris Lana who acted as my advisor for my info on the NYS police of Troop A (the Southern Tier/Western New York region).

The reality of a church friend who passed away with a different form of breast cancer nearly twenty-five years ago… I saw her widowed husband’s struggle first-hand as he raised their family, and I used that knowledge to form Alex’s confusion. Life is so desperately hard when a whole family grieves, that often we’re blinded to reality by our own emotional overload.

In addition I layered in: 

  • The individual loss of each child's mother... Because of individual personality quirks, each child is affected differently by the loss of a parent. That means they'll respond to EACH SITUATION in the book differently if you keep them in character. And that was hugely important because every thing this hero and heroine did... or thought about doing... would affect those children.
  • The beauty of the Southern Tier of Western New York, a northern Appalachia wonderland.
  • The need for support groups for cancer patients.
  • The need to get away from cancer and put it behind you.
  • The need to breathe without everyone wondering how you’re doing.
  • The need to have someone put their arm around your shoulders and ask, “How are you doing?”
  • Family support.
  • Community support.
  • Intricacies of loss concerning in-laws and extended family.

All of these factors entered into this book, a consortium of things that needed to edge the truth while merging fact with fiction.

In truth I probably came too close at certain moments, but in the end there were two people whose opinions really mattered on this work:

Melissa Endlich, my beloved editor at Love Inspired books who lost her mother to blood cancer not long before Lisa was diagnosed… This book is dedicated to Beth Endlich and Lisa Tydings, and rightly so.

And Lisa, because more than anything I didn’t want to sugarcoat the struggle behind the strength, or minimize the lessons learned. How to live like you were dying. Through all the love and support and rallying cries, it was Lisa who bore the brunt of everything. The pain, the illness, the surgeries, the extended treatments and the face-to-face battle with mortality at a young age. 

This sweet story takes a hard look at loss... at parenting... at change, at love, at life, at risk... And through it all we realize that life is a precious gift... but that home to our Savior's arms should truly be a celebration of a life well-lived.

I hope you read this book. (Click HERE to go straight to Amazon and grab it, then come back.)

Three of the real Lisa's kids were models for this cover... Taylor, McKenna and Nolan  

I hope you love it. I hope it makes you laugh and cry and run the full gamut of emotions because that's how that year of treatment seemed. We laughed. We cried. We prayed.

And we still pray every single day that God's will matches our hopes to grow old teasing Lisa and watching her laugh... and dance... and sing... as time goes by.

 All right, all right, grab the tissues:

Now come on inside and grab a cup of coffee.... or tea.... or a Coke. We have diet and regular and my favorite, Diet Cherry Coke!  :)  

Let me know in your comment if you'd like your name put in the cat dish (I cleaned it LAST MONTH so saw no need to do it again, right???? Overkill.) for a critique.... and I found some copies of The Lawman's Second Chance hanging around and I thought I'd like to give them away... :) And if you want to leave an honest review (I'm tough, I can take it, peeps!) on Amazon,  Christian or Barnes & Noble... I welcome your feedback!

Let's talk about that fine line of inspiration vs. fiction. I'm here to answer questions....

Well, okay, mostly I'm here for the FOOD because it's spring and Mother's Day and I've got a powerful need for my mother's favorite lemon cake... and one of my springtime faves, strawberry rhubarb pie!


  1. Oh. Am I first?
    Just finished The Lawman's Second Chance last night. It was heart-touchingly beautiful. You handled a tough subject so beautifully well. Thank you.

  2. Inspiring and touching, Ruthie.

    Guess I get the night off, since you've already taken care of the coffee, you ole kitchen gal, you. T'anks.


  3. I brought Lisa home already.

    Hubs found it and said something along the lines of /cue sarcasm/, "You bought a book?!"

    I said, "It's Ruthy's new book."

    /turn off sarcasm/ "Oh. That's okay."

    Not that he knows Ruthy except vicariously through me. ;)

    Love how you use real life. Love how Lisa let you.

    Love you, too. :D

  4. Hi Ruth:

    “The Lawman’s Second Chance” is so powerful that I wrote a review of the first chapter! Here’s the headline:

    “I Can’t Wait to Mention “The Lawman’s Second Chance” – It has the Best First Two Pages and the Best First Chapter I’ve Read in at Least a Decade.”

    I’m now just about half way into the book and I can say without a doubt that no romance has made me feel better as I read it, page by page, even sentence by sentence. I am reading it very slowly because I am savoring the originality of expression. It’s more than a heartwarming story. It’s your best writing, as pure craftsmanship, yet.

    I know this question is very ‘inside baseball’ but would you be willing to tell us why you revealed to both hero and heroine their specific cancer backstory so early in the narrative?

    I was all set to experience rising conflict as these two interacted not knowing that the other suffered from the same pain. I was sure there was going to be a ‘you just can’t understand my pain’ scene where the other party understood all too well.

    I could just visualize the final disclosure scene, near the three-fourths point in the story, where it all comes out. I expected all the misunderstandings and misinterpretations to be erased in one huge heart-wrenching catharsis.

    I would say the above scenario is the typical genre approach of increasing tension. Instead, you seemed to take the literary approach. You did not use ‘conflict’ to hold the reader’s attention but rather the quality of the writing and the power of the story itself.

    People are hurting but everyone seems to want to help everyone else. There are so many worthy people in the story. So many sympathetic characters. So many heartwarming events. So many acts of kindess. So many insights (as the hero’s new understanding of his mother-in-law's pain and his subsequent actions towards her).

    The book seems powered by how good it makes a reader feel to be reading it. It’s like having a great meal. You don’t need conflict to motivate you to take the next bite. (Aroma not conflict.)

    To be sure there is conflict. But the conflict is not what makes me want to turn the pages. It’s not like I even want to turn to the next page. What I want, as I read, "The Lawman's Second Chance," is to be among these characters and to share in their lives and live in such a caring world.

    Indeed, I’d like to step into this book and make these people my friends. Because, fiction or not, these characters are alive...alive in spirit...and alive in all that matters to the human heart.

    It’s an amazing book. I’m not sure it is one that can be duplicated. It’s like the perfect storm. The perfect sea of emotions. It's like watching history being made at the ballpark.

    I consider myself lucky that I still have half the book yet to read. Why would I want a great experience to end.

    This work is a blessing.


  5. Wow, this was hard to read.

    Good, but hard.

    My mother had a double mastectomy when I was about ten. I remember that year of surgeries and more surgeries and tiredness... And then my older brother had a tumor removed during college, and another later... and then my sister had two different brushes, while we lost a great aunt and two friends.

    Hard, hard, hard.

    Have you read' The Fault in Our Stars'? I would never have picked up a book about childhood cancer, especially with snarky and rebellious teen as the hero and heroine, but it was my favorite book of all this year.

    If you've been touched in any way by this disease you'll laugh and cry and fall in love with the characters who just want to be normal... but that time is past.

    Thanks for telling the stories so many of wish we could, but our hearts won't let our heads go there for long enough to get the words on the page.

    Your books are a gift, Ruthy, Pure and simple.

  6. This is a beautiful post and what a beautiful story to base a book.

    I've never seen a battle of cancer up close but I have experienced loss. Your ability to create empathy from your readers to your characters amazes me.

    Enter me for the critique. :)

  7. Lisa is obviously stronger than she might have imagined and very courageous to see her struggle fictionalized. But who better to do this but you Ruthy!

  8. Sigh...I came on the computer to pay bills and made the 'mistake' of checking out Seekerville first. Now I'm all teary-eyed and sniffly and will have to rush around to get ready for work in time. Simba is snuffling too because he knows this is going to mean a shorter walk.

    I've read Lawman's Second Chance and loved, loved, loved it. Now I know why. The depth of your research and the raw emotions you put into it is what make it outstanding.

    I think my favourite thing about the book (well one of) is the way it celebrates life (in Lisa) while paying reverence to the memories of those who have lost the fight.

    Such an emotional read. And I'm another emotional mess now that I've seen that youtube video. sniffle.

  9. Oh my stars.... Well. Talk about getting the convo rolling....

    (grabs tissues because your comments got me stinkin' emotional!!!

    Brats, the lot o' youse.

    CLARI Thank you for reading it!!! That just makes me smile because I know how crazy busy your life is. And your kind words just made me smile! I can tuck the tissues aside for a moment, LOL!

    HELEN!!! I usurped your role. I am consummate evil and should remember that the coffeepot in Seekerville is YOURS!!! Doh!!! :)

  10. Carol.... Your words hit the nail on the head. "I love how Lisa let you..."

    And that was huge, not that Lisa isn't a private person but (like me) she probably wouldn't score all-too-high on the HIGHLY SENSITIVE PERSON test (Connealy would love her to pieces) because she's a "get 'er done" kind of person, but you know what?

    Cancer... and God... humbled both of us to looking deeper... and Lisa is about the most giving person I know, always in the thick of helping so when she saw a chance to give back she jumped on it. Her and Jeff both. And as you can see, I didn't even have to PRETEND they were adorable!!! :)

    I love that book trailer. My daughter Beth Jamison made it, I hire her to do mine now and it's just poignantly beautiful and simple...

    THANK YOU for buying the book!!! And give that cute husband a big hug for me. Please.

  11. Vince!!!

    First, you made me cry and there is absolutely no reason on earth to do that, now is there??? Shame on you!!!

    And thank you, from the bottom of my Yankee heart.

    You asked a great question about why not string out the cancer knowledge and elongate that as a typical conflict and that was Melissa and me brainstorming together about reality. In a small town, everyone knows your business, so the idea of keeping Lisa's cancer history from Alex would be stretching belief and we didn't want to do that... and I totally pictured that opening... the breast cancer awareness drive at the garden center, everything awash in PINK!!! when I walked into Van Putte's Garden Center the week Lisa was diagnosed to get her a pink hanging basket and I was surrounded... talk about a Holy Spirit moment... because all I could see was this woman, using her family business to campaign against breast cancer and this poor guy, just trying to begin anew... stepping into his worst case scenario with his kid.

    If I'd stretched it out, I'd have gone way out of character for the fictional Lisa... and the real one, too. So when Melissa and I talked (I think after the first three chapters were written) we tightened that up and stayed with it. And when I made a wrong turn 2/3 of way through the story, she asked me to revise and I did... and I'm so glad she did. She told me to trust the story's strength and use the emotion and it came out so much better.

    AND!!! I was able to add Lisa in as a great secondary character in the final Men of Allegany County book... she worked at the co-operative developed by the heroine in that story and that way we could see Lisa grow in the series...Caring, industrious, nursing her dying mother, helping her father... and then transition to the new series with a broader geographical base. By making sure Lisa's story would work with Melissa, I bought enough time to feed Lisa into the prior book... And that worked beautifully.

    Thank you, Vince!!! Did you see your Rewards per page brought to life in this book????


    You rock, big guy.

  12. Virginia! Aw, I didn't know that, chica.

    But I'm glad you told us. When Melissa and I discussed this book, and dedicating it to both women (Beth Endlich and Lisa Tydings)we knew we had our personal heart involvement but we also don't know anyone who hasn't ever been touched by cancer.

    So I pray for research miracles/breakthroughs daily. My mom died of lung cancer and I used our hospice experience with her in my debut novel "Winter's End"... the bittersweet peaceful saying goodbye.... And while cancer is a dragon we try to slay with knives, swords and chemical warfare, the topic is worthy of tip-toeing gentleness and faith.

    God bless you.

  13. Just reading your blog post today made me want to reach for the tissues! It's beautifully written and I MUST read this book. It sounds absolutely heartfelt and amazing. MUST, MUST, MUST read :)

  14. Bridget... I have a friend who lost her son to suicide years ago and when she was going through those waves of grief, she said to me, "Everyone keeps saying it's worse because he killed himself, but Ruthy... dead is dead."

    While we saw from the outside in, she was a grieving mother regardless of the illness that took her child.

    Loss is loss, Bridget, and that empathy is a shared phenom. God bless you and thank you for your beautiful words. You humble me.

  15. KAV!!!! Oh, you bless me with your words, my friend. I'm smiling and yes (again!!!) a little teary-eyed because while I love the sweet words about the book... and it's just such a delightful story... watching Lisa go through it all day by day made me feel like a helpless wreck because you really can't alleviate much... and knowing her, I knew the brave face hid the questions of the heart, and that's what I tried to bring out in the fictional Lisa... We are a conundrum of mixed emotions, aren't we?

    Thank you!!! Bless you!!! Here, have a chocolate donut and a tissue... Donuts (or doughnuts) make everything better. :)

  16. Deb, my friend!!! Thank you for your words!!! They just made my day... And you're right, Lisa was challenged but strengthened through this whole thing and God love her, she's such a wonderful example to so many... AND... Coming Full Circle:

    The son of my church friend who passed away 25 years ago e-mailed Lisa a few weeks ago... he coaches the varsity baseball team and they were doing a fundraiser for breast cancer to honor his late mother... and he asked Lisa if her oldest daughter Taylor could sing the National Anthem to open the game...

    And then had the three families of the breast cancer patients there on the field, a living testimony to life goes on, while Taylor sang the anthem.

    Amazing how things come around.

  17. Has it been a year, Ruthy? I remember reading about your party you through for Lisa and praying for her. She is a strong woman to not have throttled you over the Yankee thing. But humor is good medicine, isn't it?

    As I told you, I wasn't sure I would be able to read your book the week before Mother's Day. Mom died of breast cancer. But I waved the book in front of Man O and said, see Alexander STEELE. Then, I had to read the book to assure Man O the guy lived up to the name.

    Thanks so much for these tidbits. My book is based on a real person and it is really helpful to know how to navigate the tricky terrain.

    Peace, hugs, and thank youse a bunch, Julie

  18. Laughter through it.

    I'm only part way through the book (reading it slowly, making the experience last, buying more tissues...), but I can see all the elements you mentioned - the heartbreak, the hope, the children all dealing differently with the loss, and that Alex Steele having to learn to cope with all of it.

    Love it.

    And spring must be here (finally!). The birds are singing this morning! Robins outside the window :) Leaves are beginning to unfurl...and eventually we'll start to see the spring flowers. (But can you believe there's still snow hanging around in spots?)

    Please put my name in the cat dish - clean or not!

  19. ANNIE!!! I'm putting your name in the cat dish, honey, and I'm so glad you liked the post!!! Sometimes it's tricky to see what goes on behind a book... and once you see it you realize I CAN DO THAT!!!!

    And then you go on to huge fame and fortune and I'll be saying "I knew her when!!!!" and I'll pretend I taught you everything you know.

    Yes, I am that self-promotional. Hey, I DID take my friends precarious health situation and shamelessly exploited the poor woman for monetary gain.

    Okay, let's put a different spin on that.... :)

    She allowed me to use her story to help others affected by traumatic turns in the road.



  20. Oh Ruthie,

    You made me cry this morning. Thank goodness I don't have my mascara on yet.

    It sounds like a great story, please toss my name in the cat dish.

    We have a good friend named Steele, and I named a character after him. It's a great name.

    Thanks for sharing and having the courage to write about such a tough subject.

    Jackie L.

  21. I love how you have Lisa is not a Yankies fan like her namesake in the book (wonder what revenge she will inflict on you over that issue) I would be like using me in a book and making me a Crows supporter when I dispise the team!
    Looking forward to the book (and the others I have gained.) I know its waiting for me in Washington state.

    Todays update civil war battlefields.

  22. Great post as always, Ruth! This one is extra special, though, because for so many of us, we or someone we know has dealt with this heart-wrenching disease. That you brought it to life in your book is a wonderful tribute to the Tydings and other courageous families like them.

    No need to enter me in the drawing--it's already on my Kindle :)

  23. About a year ago, I took a workshop from a published author who said that you had to put your heart in your book or it won't sell. Took me a bit to figure out that she meant that writers have to be brave to confront your the emotions in a difficult situation and put that on the page for others to connect with.
    Her death three months later helped me to realize that those words were spoken from someone who was close to the end of her life who had the bravery to tell the truth--which is what writers must always do.
    Thank you so much for being brave, Ruthy and for showing other writers how to make these connections.
    Please put me in the cat dish for your brave book.


  24. Oh, Ruthy, why'd you have to go and make me cry this morning??? One of my dearest friends, even though we don't live in the same state, fought breast cancer and won a year ago. When she was diagnosed, her older daughter was about 8 and her younger daughter was about 1, and I was just horrified and heartbroken, but she's doing wonderful now. Thank you, God!!!!!

    Another job well done on the book, Ruthy, as Vince will no doubt attest to. ;-) Love ya, Ruthy girl! Now gotta go do my edits, after I wipe away the tears so I can see all those commas I need to delete.

  25. Yep, I was right. Vince is attesting already!!!

  26. Julie Hilton STEELE!!! :)

    Yup, that's how Alex got his name, from a name-that-hero contest.

    And I love it because Julie picked a great name. Perfect for this hero.

    I knew you were going to wait to read the book... Mother's Day can be a kick in the head for so many... So what a lovely time of year to have this book come out, to celebrate all mothers... those here and those in heaven... and to praise God for our blessings.

    And youse guys bless us in Seekerville all the time. I think we should throw a party for YOU.

    Just because.

  27. Jan, your name is in!!! And I love these glimpses of spring. I was in Nebraska last week and they got belted in Minnesota and points south with a nasty snowstorm... We were not tempted out of our writing bungalow!!!

    Perfect weather for hunkering down and working. Between food fests, of course!!!

    I'm so glad you're savoring the book! Highest of compliments... tears and stretching it out... Did I remember to pay you for saying that? Send me a memo if I forgot, 'kay???


  28. Jackie!!! (Ruthy marks a check in the YES!!!! for admitted tears!!!


    It is a great name... I've always loved it since Remington Steele.... :)

    And you know the courage in this all went to Lisa and Beth Endlich. Fighting cancer is no easy road, it's a tough road to wellness with no guarantees... but man or woman, standing strong and doing your best is huge when fighting illness. And faith, regardless of denomination, is what keeps us going.

    Jackie, you're in!

  29. AusJenny, have so much fun!!!

    And laugh-out-loud, you're so right!!! She will find a way of getting even with me.

    Her husband Jeff is a big Yankees fan like Dave and me, so tagging the fictional Lisa as a Yankees fan was just SO MUCH FUN!!!


    Have fun on your trip! Welcome to America!!! Again!

  30. My cousin is losing her third parent to cancer.So not fair!!!!!!!
    Her mother went first, then her Dad remarried, he died and now her step mother, and this is the cousin who sat beside me, held my hand and cried with me when my Dad died of, yes, cancer. (Too many in my Dads family died of cancer, and people wonder why it seems to us to be a death sentence when someone is diagnosed with it) anyways, Ruth, I would love to read and review this one,so please put my name in the at dish, though I feel sorry for kitty...thanks for an awesome look behind this book. ( if I win, can I use this post on my blog?)

  31. Mia!!! Have I mentioned how much I love working with you in Love Inspired???? Where's the "LOVE" button, LOL!

    Thank you, and thank you so much for downloading/uploading whatever!!! I am smiling and grateful!

  32. Oh, Piper.... That was one of those Holy Spirit teachable moments we all remember, when something touches us, heart and soul... It might be a "light bulb" moment, but it's God that flips the switch.

    You're in!!!

    And thank you so much for sharing that story. It means a great deal...

  33. Melanie, we could write a new song..."Tears on my Keyboard"...

    Like that old "Tears on my Pillow" tune.

    Oh, shoot, you're most likely too young.

    Dagnabbit. :)

    Thank you. I'm so glad to hear of your friend's story and she'll be in my prayers... God is good, all the time...

    He just doesn't feel obliged to match our frail human timelines.

  34. Oh, Ruthy! What an uplifting post about a subject that hits too close to home for so many folks. Who among us has not been touched by cancer??

    I absolutely love how you rallied around your dear friend and brought the community in to help her fight. We all need the cavalry to come to our aid at one time or another.

    I've got The Lawman's Second Chance in my hot little hands...well, actually it's on the dining room table...but it's a treat I'll dive into this weekend.

    Bless you, babe!!!

  35. Ruthy,

    You are so right. When she died, I realized that her advice came straight from God...and I appreciate that I was in a point in my life that I recognized it as such!

    Your daughter did a great job on the trailer! I'm so impressed!


  36. Marianne, yes, yes and yes...

    And I actually cleaned the cat dish this morning on the chance that we might have a bunch of company... Puttin' on the dog, so to speak.


    I am so sorry that cancer has touched your family in this way. It's really a scary concept, especially then because you just kind of grow to expect loss...

    Hugs to you!

  37. I love Ruthie's posts. It's like reading a cookbook! I can't wait to read about your lawman!

  38. Ruthy, this is DEEP. So much for people who think category (and romance in general) doesn't touch on the real issues of life. I'm going to pick up a copy this weekend.
    Actually, I think it's better that you didn't tell Lisa's whole story and that you fictionalized your POV character. One of the best things I've learned in writing classes, critique groups and the like, is not to write "This is how it really happened." One, crafting fiction makes a better story; two, you avoid lawsuits.

  39. Hi RUTHY, What a great testimony. Thanks for sharing. And I'm so happy you were able to write about this topic in such a heartwarming way.

    As you said, dead is dead and we've all experienced facing it with loved ones. I have several friends who fought valiantly with breast cancer and triumphed with years of remission to be taken at the end. But they blessed our lives with those battles. My mother was diagnosed with cancer in 1973 and told she had 6 months to live. She passed in 2008. The family joke is "no one tells mother what to do" chuckle.

    I'm enjoying all the comments, because truthfully I wasn't going to read this because of the cancer. But now I will put it on my tbr list.

    And how did you know rhubard strawberry pie is one of my favorites? Love a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. So I brought gallons of homemade.

  40. Thank you!!! And it wasn't just me by any means... Lisa is a special education teacher, so the school staff jumped on board everything to help... a high school senior did a benefit for Lisa as her senior project... The Breast Cancer Coalition (which was the model I used for the Breast Cancer group Lisa and others founded in the story...) was a huge help to Lisa... and her church, St. Leo the Great in Hilton New York just rallied around in big fashion. You know the saying, "Everybody dies famous in a small town???"

    In this case it was the best-case scenario. ;) Bless you, hope you enjoy it!!!

  41. Piper, I rue the times I've ignored those Holy Spirit messages... And I've learned to stop thinkin' I'm so darned busy that I don't lift a phone... or pay attention!!!

    So, yes, you and I are in full agreement, and just so the rest o' youse know Piper won a critique from me and SURVIVED!!! So if you're afraid...

    As Well You Should Be!!!


    Ask Piper.

  42. Ruthy, your story brought tears to y eyes. I love how you showed mixing fact with fiction. Having my mother face breast cancer, and my MIL, it's a topic close to my heart. And you're right, there are no guarantees.

    Your story sounds incredible!! I definitely want to read it, and I'm going to make sure I have plenty of tissues o hand. :)

    Throw my name in the cat dish, please!

  43. Yes, ask for the critique, potential winners! I survived Ruthy's critique! Do not be afraid! Just get in that cat dish!

    I'm going to make myself a tee shirt to mark the occasion.....


  44. I saw Ruthy cook once.
    It's a sight to behold.
    Like ... I could have set it to music.

  45. I'm reading Second Chance Lawman right now. Well, not RIGHT NOW! I'm typing a comment on Seekerville right now!

    But if I was reading, that would be the book....and I'm loving it.

  46. VINCE I know what you mean about the beginning.
    I told Ruthy she's winning a Rita with this one....when I was on page NINE.

  47. Cindie, I even linked my post today in the Yankee-Belle Cafe to do the traditional Mother's day strawberry rhubarb pie.... Because food is important, right???


  48. Kaybee!!!! You know, your classes are right. First the lawsuit thing, because just about every life occurrence will inspire (or could inspire) something...

    And second, that weaving the fictional story my way allowed me to bring in past elements... like my church friend's husband's task of raising a brood of kids alone... the well-meaning folks who tried to ply my mother with "health" shakes and vitamins when she was in hospice... And she felt like she had to placate them, rather than just be able to talk about her death.

    So those seemingly minor elements were woven into the fiction aspects.

    Great call, kaybee...

  49. SANDRA!!!! Oh, first, ice cream, YES!!!!!

    And I'm so glad you love strawberry rhubarb because my rhubarb looks State-Fair Friendly right now!!!


    Plenty to share.

    You know, someone else e-mailed me, a book service reader who said he (yes HE!!!) almost didn't read it, and then he did....

    He lost his mother to cancer and then others in his family and he said the book was such a help to him of looking forward... and remembering the past. And he was the second young male reader that contacted me this past week, so how nice is that??? Well, by young I mean 30's-40's... Can I count my sons????


    Thank you, Sandra... And I haven't gotten my copies for Seekers in the mail yet, because I'm clearly a SLACKER!!!

  50. Piper!!!! A PINK tee-shirt, right????


  51. I made Mary, Erica Vetsch and Audra Harders homemade bread pudding with leftover cinnamon rolls Mary's mother brought us....


    But when they're two days old, making them into vanilla/cinnamon/nutmeg bread pudding is like honoring them.

    With my mother's "Butter Balls"...

    We put a hurtin' on that pan of puddin'!!!

  52. Rita????

    Oh, Rita.


    She was a character, the heroine in Made to Order Family.... And of course she was the sad and desperate alcoholic sister-in-law in Waiting Out the Storm.... I love that character.

    Any other USES OF THE NAME will be ignored as being sweet compliments but I'll take whatever God sends me...

    We need a "MINCE" award... A combo of Mary and Vince!!!


  53. Oh Ruthy!! I started reading the book last night and you have NO idea how hard it was to put it down. But please don't tell me Alex is fictional ... what a guy. What. A. Guy.

    Thanks for the pix and the link to the trailer. It's great getting to see the people who inspired your book, and even greater to know they've had a real-life HEA.

    It's cloudy and threatening storms today. I am practicing extreme self-control not to just sit down and read to the end of the book. I seem to do that a lot with Seeker books :-)

    Oh! Don't include me in the drawing. Reading the book and have a critique. Besides, I have three cats and I know all about cat bowls ...

    Nancy C

  54. Could anything be more beautiful ?

    The stories, the love, the hugs, the support, the way that Ruthy remembers everything (no, not like an elephant...but close! lol) and incorporates it into her stories.

    Just beautiful.

    No mention of Jeter by name, though. I think she's slipping.

    Ruthy, is your nursing home insurance up to date? Just watching out for you, dearie...

  55. MINCE Award?
    This is an idea with merit.
    Vary isn't quite so good.

    Mooney and Connealy??? The ... no forget it, that's going in a weird direction in my head.

    Let's stick with MINCE. It can be an award for the book with the most:

    >Reward per Page...Shootings to Solve Plot Problems.

    The MINCE RPP/SSPP Award

  56. First- I want a piece of grandma's special lemon cake. I was out of town the last time you made it and that's just not fair. It's to die for. (No pun intended with all this death talk.)

    Second- I really didn't need to clear out my sinuses with this book, but apparently that's what happened. Story hits close to home, close to my age, and brought mortality to the forefront. Can't say I like that aspect so much. But I love you and I love Lisa and would walk through any fires with you two arm in arm!

  57. The AusJenny Crows fan character is up for grabs.

    I got first dibs! ha!

  58. I finished this book a few nights ago and have absolutely NO idea how I managed to not cry during it. I thought of the real-life Lisa and her struggles during it, and of course I fell in love with Alex (who wouldn't???).

    I also lamented over your stunning ability to write, Ruthy--lamented because I don't think I can come anywhere close to your ability to capture emotion, setting, in general. That, of course, was due in part to my anxiety over the LI pitch yesterday, but it's still very true. Your writing is amazing!

    I have all your books (some of them autographed!) *big grin* so don't need it. Not sure about the critique either because I am doubting my writing at the moment (don't ask--just me and my insecurities!).

    Thank you for sharing with us how you did this!


  59. Ruthy,

    What a wonderful post! And so true about putting your heart and emotions in the book.

    (Don't put me in the draw because I MAY already have this at home. Bought a bunch of Seekerville books and can't remember which ones I own. I blame it on Menopause - it's pausing my brain!)

    I'm laughing at Mary and Vince (such a beautiful review by Vince - it almost made me cry!) I think MOO - NEALY is a great name!

    I'm in for a critique for sure!


  60. This comment has been removed by the author.

  61. Beautifully moving "story behind the story," Ruthy! I know this book will touch many hearts!

  62. I'm laughing through the tears, Ruthy. Beautiful post. Beautiful Lisa.

    Thanks for taking her struggle and allowing it to touch thousands as they read this story.

    Surely this is a God-inspired book!

    I bought a copy yesterday. Can't wait to get started reading.

  63. Nancy Connally, lol!!!

    First, I'm so glad you're enjoying it! That just makes my day...




    Okay, you are not in the drawings... But you're in the cherished friend department!!!

    I need coffee...

  64. PAM.... Dagnabbit, no nursing home insurance.

    Oh my stars, do youse think my kids will welcome me with open arms????

    I'm so very easy to get along with.


    Pam, thank you! I do believe you said something very nice about my memory, but I can't seem to recall what it was.

    Laughing in upstate...

  65. AMANDA!!!!! Guys, that's the beautiful daughter of my heart that I stole from my sister when she wasn't looking!!! That's my "Mandy" that I talk about all the time!!!

    Amanda, thanks for stopping in! When youse guys see the book trailer, Mandy's in the group shot of daycare moms... (she's the mother to my namesake "Mary Ruth"... How did Conneally get TOP BILLING to my grandkid????? Oy...) and she's also working in the garden, the "Pink garden" we planted in Lisa and Jeff's front yard.

    AND THEY LET US... Silly people.

  66. I suggest we boycott cancer.

    And pray for a cure.

    We need more medical breakthroughs...

  67. Melanie!!! Oh honey, don't you know that we all feel that way when we first start writing... or come back to it?

    It's so normal. You're normal. And delightfully talented, so you just hang onto your dreams and forge ahead. I'm totally serious about that!

    I'm so glad you liked it, and isn't it kind of cool... in a weird, mad scientist kind of way... to diagram it or "dissect" it to see the parts that made up the sum?

    I'm so glad you've come aboard over here and I expect I'll be critiquing you at some time... when you're ready.

  68. SUSAN ANN-with-an-E Mason!!!

    Yes, hormone spikes and ebbs tend to rob us of brain cells at times or make us remarkably smart! What a conundrum!!!

    First, thank you for buying Seeker books and talking them up... those reviews, the nice comments, the moments you guys spend being not only our friends and colleagues and readers but cheerleaders... There is truly no way we can repay that.

    Making fun of Mary is a START....


    But just a start, LOL!

  69. BE-U-TIFUL!!!!
    Love this, Ruthy.
    You and I've had this chat before in the past, but real-life add spine to our fiction - and it touches lives in some of the deepest ways!

    Thank you for sharing Lisa's story with us.
    I already have the book. It's on my list...if I live through grading for my 'bratty' ;-) grad students. (who occassionally remind me of preeschoolers)

    But I'm all in for the crit :-)

  70. Myra, thank you! That's always the best thing, isn't it? To touch hearts, maybe help someone feel better about what's happened to them.

    You know I say this now and again, that I love getting paid for what I do... when you practice long and hard, it's just a lovely reward. But if I never got paid again, I'd still write because it's just stamped on my foot, like "MADE IN CHINA"...

    Mine says...

    Teller of tales...

    With a little Celtic cross alongside.


  71. Deb, good morning!!! Aw, thank you so much! Lisa went through so much, as does every cancer patient, so for me to bask in any kind of glory would be wrong....

    And yet I appear to be doing it, right????


    But truly, what God joins together... in this case our friendship... and then he cemented it with our love for each other, and respect, oh, and LACK OF HSP...(for those of youse who don't get that, there's folks 'round here who are "Highly Sensitive People..."

    I did not make the cut in that category, LOL!

    Mary and I took the test and we are Highly Insensitive Brats....

    Which seems to work for us.

    Anyway, God truly put us together years ago, and little did we know what would come of things then...

    It's a friendship I'd like to cultivate for a long, long time.

  72. Wow, Ruthy, your daughter did a fabulous job on the book trailer. Know you did a fabulous job telling Lisa's story. Know many of us are Lisa's prayer warriors. Wonderful to see her and her lovely family looking healthy and happy. Can't wait to read The Lawman's Second Chance, and after reading Vince's awesome review, I'm chomping at the bit.

    I love Rhurbarb pie! A lovely sweet/tart taste of spring.


  73. I'd love to read your book, Ruth. You did a great job selling it.

    Thanks for the story behind the story. I always find those fascinating.

  74. Ruthy, just tell your kids that you'll up the ante on what you put in your books, and they'll cave and take care of you!

  75. Hi Ruth:

    You wrote:

    “Did you see your Rewards per page brought to life in this book????

    Yea, it was kind of like Ozzie Smith doing cartwheels in the outfield! A little bit in your face! A lot a bit hard to miss!

    But what amazes me is your unique use of words. You’ve been using words in sentences that I’ve never seen used that way before and yet they work fine as they are apropos to the context of what else is happening in the story. I just stop reading on some of these gems and think about how I could do it too. This book is not on my Kindle so I cannot easily find and round up all these examples. : (

    At one time my wife had six friends, relatives, and coworkers all with breast cancer. One died almost at once. A wonderful high school French teacher everyone loved. Two had the very aggressive stage four type and they went to M.D. Anderson and they survived! Against the odds. You never know what makes the difference. The others were treated early and survived as was expected.

    Some of these women wanted material to read during chemo which I guess took hours! I sent out copies of “Thanks for the Mammogram!: Fighting Cancer with Faith, Hope and a Healthy Dose of Laughter" by Laura Jensen Walker. (I listened to it first.)

    I also recommended Janet Tronstad’s “The Sisterhood of the Dropped Stitches” a YA quartet of books about young cancer survivors dealing with the aftermath of losing their high school years to treatment and growing into adulthood. They have a knitting support group so as not to remind them of cancer.

    Tronstad’s books have been my all time favorite romances up to now. I think “The Lawman’s Second Chance” may now take that place in my heart.

    I'm very thankful that ebooks can keep these timeless books 'in print' forever.


  76. Hi Susan:

    I like that “Moo-Nealy” prize. It rhymes with “touchy-feely” and has a certain melodic bovine quality which fits both of us. For some years, as a child, I lived on a farm and there where cows everywhere. They were Houdinis. They could escape any fence. They just loved fertilizing our lawn. This is why I just love Mary’s facebook calf pictures. They bring back very loveable memories.


  77. GREAT GREAT post with insight into this marvelous story.

    I am loving the lemon cake recipe as well. Rhubarb...not so much lol.

  78. Hi Mary:

    I had that exact same feeling after reading the first two pages: RITA! I could not wait to read the whole book before doing a review. (I've not done that before!)

    “The Lawman’s Second Chance” really transcends the romance genre. People who never read romances, will enjoy and find great comfort from “The Lawman’s Second Chance”. The marketing needs to go well beyond the romance blogs.

    I’m a little worried about the judges and their love of GMC. If the judges evaluate this as only a romance they may feel Ruth missed a golden opportunity to jack up the conflict. I hope not. I think it took a lot of courage to write this the way Ruth chose. It was by far the best approach. I’d love to see some really strong mainstream reviews. The audience for this book is in the millions. Really!

    (Perhaps a tour of cancer awareness and support blogs.)


  79. Thank you for sharing this with us, Ruthy....and I confess--I read your post a few minutes after midnight when there weren't any comments yet--but I was so touched and emotional, I knew I couldn't comment then. I feel sure that your book is going to touch countless readers.

    One of my daughters has a very dear friend who has been through what Lisa has (except this precious girl is 31 and has no children, but thankfully does have a very supportive husband). I'm planning to read your book, and am going to get a copy for my daughter's friend also.

    Okay, dropping off some Georgia Pecan Pie for an afternoon snack--Enjoy!
    Hugs, Patti Jo

  80. Thank you, Ruthy, for explaining how you merged the facts with fiction in this sensitive story based on Lisa's experience. A test of faith for Lisa, you and those close to her. It's hard enough to put my fictional characters through excruciatingly painful experiences. So I can only imagine how very difficult this story based on your friend's real health challenges was for you to write. I can feel the emotion here today from others who've coped in similar situations. Thanks for the reminder that God is good all the time.

  81. mmmmmmmm, strawberry/rhubarb... mouth watering just thinking about it.

    this story sounds inspirational. i've nothing to critique, otherwise i'd love to put my name in the cat bowl for that - so may i settle for my name in the cat bowl for the book? i'm placing it on my kindle wish list for purchase should i not be so lucky to win.

    buying stock in kleenex too. i went through a bunch with Yuletide Hearts. i'm betting this book will be a two-boxer for me.

    i love seeing the "rest of the story", Ruthy. thanks for sharing such about such an inspirational family. that, and the lesson in how to use real life for story ideas.

  82. Ruthy, beautiful post about a sad and difficult topic. I hate sickness, especially cancer.

    On a happy note, I love strawberry rhubarb pie! I grew rhubarb in Vermont.

  83. Ruthy, what a beautiful post. I can't wait to read the book! I'm sure you'll make me laugh and cry. Just the post had me nearly boo hooing! :)

  84. Pam good way to lose a fan!!!!

    went to the battle field today and had a blast (not literally) but did see a turkey, deer, squirrel. it was fascinating. Lunch at roys I think a diner and a burger and a really really good milk shake. Oh and dipping dots this afternoon.

  85. Janet!!! Thank you! I'll pass that on to Beth! And that sweet/sour taste of strawberry rhubarb...

    Yes. Spring. Totally!

    Sally.... I'm not a salesmen but I play one on T.V. (deadpans toward camera...) :)

    Hey, kid, thanks for stopping by! 'Preciate it. (that's my "Mayberry" talk.)

  86. Pepper!!! We've had many chats and I loved Phoebe's graduation pics on Facebook!!!! A-stinkin'-dorable!!!!

    Hey, no one has checked in about the Happilyeditorafter stuff, have they????

    Oy, am I obtuse?

    Mary Connealy, do not answer that.

  87. TINA... Mandy(Amanda) stopped by tonight... oh wait, she HAD to stop by, I have her kid here...

    Oh, and I made supper for her...

    Two good reasons to come see me, right????


    And she offered to make the lemon cake for Mother's Day... and I'll do the pie. And maybe something else, we'll see. That lemon cake is like the 100% perfect picnic cake.

    So moist and crumb-happy.

    Love it!!! Glad you liked the insight. Every now and again I surprise folks by doing something nice... Well... we don't want to SPOIL my record and make it too often.

    Pshaw. :)

  88. Helen, loving rhubarb is a wonderful thing. I salute you!!! :)

    Pat Jeanne it was hard. You know I joke a lot... and my faith is strong, mountain-strong... but I also know that God's will transcends ours, that His vantage point is grander... and that ran through my head all the while I wrote.

    I love happily ever afters. But I'm a realist when it comes to life, and so I'm not afraid to ask God to bend his will to mine this time.

    Just because. :)

  89. Oh, Patti Jo, you got me all worked up again.

    Dagnabbit, what a wonderful person you are.

    Thank you. And I hope that it's one of those books that people pass around until it's so stinkin' dog-eared tired that it just falls apart at the binding and then they buy it on Kindle.


    Because it's the kind of story that just gets better with sharing!

  90. Deb H, you're in and thank you for the pics you sent me!!! LOVE THEM!!!

    You're such a sweetheart and that little guy is two thumbs up adorable!

    I'm so glad you found us, Deb!

  91. I'm hiring Vince to be my publicist.

    Vince: you rock. Totally. And you are just overwhelmingly appreciated over here for just being you.

    Thank you for being my friend, big guy. It makes me smile every time I think about it.

  92. Truly inspiring!
    I recently had someone recommend a person's life to write about. The person turned out to be a distant relation of mine and the obstacles she's facing amaze me.
    But I've got so much to learn about writing, I may wait on that story until I think I'm able to do it justice.

    Loved learning about your book! Put me in the cat dish! :) Umm... my name that is. lol

  93. "Hey, no one has checked in about the Happilyeditorafter stuff, have they????"

    Did you miss everything re Happily Editor After? A lot of posts were in the 1K1HR group yesterday afternoon, and some were on here, too, in comments for Nancy's blogpost.

    But you're a busy lady--writing in the early morning, daycare all day long, recovering from an out-west trip, blogging for Seekerville and Yankee Belle...did I miss anything? ;-)

  94. Natalie, you're in! Virtually speaking, of course! :) And I know what you mean about "holding" a story....

    You'll know when the time is right.

    Melanie!!! I did miss it! I'll go back and check. Puppies take a lot more time at this stage and my computer time is hampered by that, but only for two more weeks...

    Thanks for clueing me in!

  95. I have a question. How do you determine the difference between "inspired by" and "based on" a true story? I want to make sure i label it right mainly because of my book, Seeds That Shatter, which deals with child abuse and mental illness. Who knew when I told an old friend who found me on Facebook that i wanted to look at how faith is broken down and built back up that he'd send me to his blog and i'd find out what i now wish i didn't know. His blog did not have any details---it was more or less a philosophy paper on how being beaten by his mother because God told her to affected him. I fictionalized her past, changed his brother to a sister (who didn't get abused---my storyline is that the mother character takes out her hatred of men on her son but not her daughter---in reality both boys were abused.) I have very vaque memories of our childhood which i drew on. I did not get a chance to interview him before i dove right in but i do have his written permission to share his story (pretty smart on my part since he's a lawyer) but he hasn't read it yet as far as i know. My gut instinct tells me that this book is "inspired by" but i wanted to ask.
    i'd appreciate it if my name were put in the cat dish

  96. Your stories have taught me a lot about effective characterization. Can't wait to read "The Lawman's Second Chance"

  97. RUTHY!!! Forgive me for being a day late and more than a dollar short!!

    But this blog was SO worth the wait, my friend, and so very touching and inspiring. I love ALL of your books, but I have to admit, knowing that so much of this story is inspired by Lisa's own story has me chomping at the bit all the more.

    And for TWO people to say this is Rita quality within the first few pages is HUGE, girl, so now I'm gonna have to bump all kinds of books aside for this one. :)


  98. Lisa, what a good question...

    I would say that's "inspired by" as long as you make the story FICTION... which means you don't bring in the actuality of what happened, but you portray a similar case... and then you delve into the emotion from the past as it affects the present and the decisions for the future. That would be my take on it, and what a brave story to write! Good for you, it's important to spread our wings and touch on life's hardships... and then how we can overcome with God's grace and probably some very hard work on the part of the victims, right?

    I'm so glad you stopped by! You're in the cat dish!


  99. Preslaysa-of-the-amazingly-pretty-name!!!.... Great name, and I would call you "Pres" and you'd probably get mad, but "Pres" is such a great name for a woman. Love it!

    Huge thank yous... Wow, what a nice thing to say and I consider that the highest of compliments. Well, except when Connealy deigns to come off her high horse and say something NICE about me in public... You know how that goes...


    I will smile all day thinking of your kind words!

  100. Thanks Ruth. That's what i figured. It was a tough story to write. He has 2 little boys that look just like him so i had this "character's" pic in front of me. I changed his looks in my book though, except for the mohawk. I have sat at my keyboard and cried, apologizing to my character and my friend for having to write that scene. I only have one scene where we actually see him being whipped with a belt but it's alluded to throughout. In real life and in my book series he's doing fine now. Thanks for putting me in the cat dish.