I don't think I've mentioned it to anyone yet, but I'm about to tell the world.
You know those silly little "Year in Review" videos that Facebook automatically compiled for each of its users? I cringed after watching mine. I was so mortified by it I refused to share it.
It's not that I'd posted unflattering photos or drunkbooked any status updates. At the very least, that would've been entertaining. (Note to self: Log out of all social media accounts before opening that bottle of Jose Cuervo in your desk drawer.)
My embarrassment came from the fact that almost all of the photos and updates included in my video were related to #ThrowbackThursday or some bit of reminiscence from my childhood.
Oh my God, I'm wasting the present by living in the past!
That's an uncomfortable realization to make.
So I decided 2015 would be different. It would be the year I would do something I'd never done before. It would be the year I would find the courage to reach for a lifetime goal.
I would make "The Long Road to Heaven" available to the world.
On June 1, 2015, I did just that through Sunset Street Publishing. And as the heroine, Heather Montgomery, says in the last scene of the book, "That's no small feat."
Here's another secret only the people closest to me know: These characters -- Heather, Dave, Nick, Roxann, Jen, Neil, Gloria, Jordana -- have been living in my head since 1987.
Yes, you read that right. No, it's not a typo.
I was 13 years old the first time I put pen to paper with the beginnings of this story in my mind.
Need proof? Here you go:
That's all anyone will ever see of the original draft, which obviously had a different working title nearly 30 years ago. It's entirely too embarrassing to show more of it.
Not only is the writing awful, my view of the world (and how certain things worked) as a 13 year old is laughable. Seriously. Not kidding. ROTFLMAO hilarious.
So how did that turn into this:
I wish I could tell you something poetic, something like, "A lot of blood, sweat and tears," but that would be a lie.
Example No. 1: I knew the town of Brayton, Nebraska, actually existed at one time in Greeley County. I drove around looking for it one day, many moons before the age of Google maps and GPS. I ended up driving right to it.
Example No. 2: I knew what Elizabeth Avenue on The Hill in St. Louis looked like long before I ever visited there. Again, this was long before the days of Google StreetView and the ease of image searches.
Despite the emotional nature of the story, I enjoyed the way writing #tLR2H from Heather's perspective pushed me out of my comfort zone.
Heather uses a balcony railing 19 stories above the Las Vegas strip as a balance beam. I'm a sheltered goodie-two-shoes who hasn't set foot on a balcony higher than 20 feet in the air since December 1988. (It collapsed. I slid about 12 feet down a stucco wall, ripped the skin from my back and landed on my butt less than 10 inches away from a pine bush. See? I have my reasons.)
Most of all, I enjoyed what I discovered about my own faith and what I believe about the afterlife.
And I hope YOU enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
"The Long Road to Heaven" is available as a weekly serial at www.norfolkdailynews.com. It also is available on Kindle for 99 cents until July 1 and in paperback on Amazon.
Please check it out. Please tell your friends. Please feel free to ask me questions.
I love talking about these characters. I love talking about this story, and it makes me so happy when readers contact me out of the blue to tell me their thoughts about it.