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Chris Fabry
Married to Andrea since 1982. We have 9 children together and none apart. Our dog's name is Tebow.
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Where We Are Now

After finding and remediating mold twice in our Colorado home, we abandoned ship in October 2008. Because of the high levels of exposure, our entire family was affected. After months of seeing different specialists for all of the problems, we came to Arizona to begin comprehensive treatment to rid our bodies of the toxic buildup. In August 2009 we moved into a larger home, four bedrooms, south of Tucson, north of Mexico. I am doing my daily radio program/ writing from that location. Thanks for praying for us. We really feel it.

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Sunday, August 31, 2008
For those who have read Dogwood--and for those who have yet to visit this wild, wonderful, West Virginia town, I want to give a peek into the writing process. I'm not a big fan of the term "writer's block," but there was a time when I was stuck in Dogwood. Here's what happened.

I had the characters, the setting, and most of the plot. I had great conflict within the characters and without. The whole thing felt like a movie to me as I wrote. There was a love storiy of a father and son, as well as the pursuit of one farm boy for the love of his life. However, that love story was the place of the most conflict for me. Here's a young woman, married to a pastor, three children, lots of responsibility, lots of expectations, and into her life comes this past love. How do you reconcile that?

I won't give away any more of the plot than that, but this was the point where I was stuck. I was about halfway through the book and the decision I made at this point would affect the whole thing. I'm a perfectionist and I hate hitting a rabbit trail and having to go back and start over.

Keep in mind, no one other than my wife and Kathy, my friend and agent, knew I was writing this book. No one cared. I wasn't being paid a dime for it. I had no guarantees that I would be paid a dime for it. I've written other adult novels before, but thankfully, none of them have been published. Kathy was adamant that because I had never published in the "adult fiction" category that I should complete the entire manuscript before I submitted it to any publisher. I agreed and set off to continue the writing in the midst of other projects, hoping that at the end I would have something worthy of someone's time and money.

I talked with Jerry Jenkins, my friend and writing mentor. We had written more than 50 children's books together by then. He's written about 200 books, many novels, and is a lot further down the writing road than I am. I didn't explain the plot much, as I recall, I just told him what was going on with the process.

He thought a moment. Usually, it doesn't take him long to figure out what answer he wants to give, but this seemed to be taking longer than usual. I think he had been where I was. Or maybe he hadn't. I don't know.

"Let your subconscious do the work," he said.

"What do you mean?"

"The next step of the story is there, it's just hiding. Relax. Don't force it. Let your mind play with the story and tell you where to go."

That's not an exact quote, but it's what I remember. So I relaxed. I made some notes. I looked over the first half of the story I had written. I liked most of what I saw. It moved me. If it took a couple of weeks to get ramped up again, that was okay. I let my mind wander about possibilities, about ways I could twist this story. I let my mind have free reign. I asked, "What if?" If I had to go back and start over, that was okay. The point was to have the best story possible. I was committed to the process anew.

It was a Sunday morning. Sundays are low pressure days. As a rule, I don't write on Sundays, even though most writers say you have to keep up the momentum and write every day. I figure if God can't get me from Saturday to Monday, it wasn't worth writing in the first place. (This is not to say I haven't written on Sundays, but that's my goal.)

The sun was just coming up over the hill to our east. The front range of mountains is to our west and in my mind I could see the orange glow on the pine trees as a stream of sunlight lit the shades. Andrea, my wife of nearly 26 years now, was asleep beside me. Face turned toward the ceiling. I watched her breathing, the gentle rise and fall of her chest. The human body is an amazing thing, blood pumping through us, coursing through our veins. I looked from her to the window again, yawned, and put my head on the pillow, relaxing.

That's when it hit me. Like a sledge hammer. Like some mental tsunami. I wasn't thinking about the story at all. I was thinking about the kids and church and when the dog needed to go out and wondering about the bank account and whether I had enough money for the withdrawal of our mortgage payment and a thousand other things. It was like lightning on the brain.

What if...

I sat up on one elbow and looked at nothing in particular because I could see Karin and Will and Ruthie, the three main characters, their interaction, the conflicts all three had. I saw Danny Boyd, the young boy whose sisters are dead. It all made sense. It was what I was writing toward all this time. It was what my mind was doing as a subtext and I didn't even know it. And not only did the pieces fit in the puzzle of a story, it perfectly illustrated a theological point about each of us, that we are dead in our trespasses and sins. We can't respond to God without his movement in our lives. We have to be touched by the truth in order to respond to it because none of us seeks after God.

I lay propped up like that a few moments, mouth agape, going through all the permutations of the story, gasping, I guess. Andrea had no idea what had just happened. She was still asleep. The dog didn't care. He just wanted to go outside. The kids slept peacefully in their rooms. Everything was quiet in the house. But I felt like screaming, "Yes! That's it! That's it!!!"

You might think I jumped up and wrote the idea down quickly. I didn't. I'm a believer that if you have a really good idea it will stick with you. I do write down bits of dialog I hear, just to get the flavor of conversations, but with these types of ideas, if I can forget them, they're probably not really that good in the first place.

I put my head on the pillow and watched the sun some more. I don't think I've ever had a moment of that type of clarity in the writing process. It was a breakthrough that catapulted me back to the computer the next day and it was as if I were writing downhill. The whole thing made sense. The whole thing fit perfectly with very little change to the first half of the book. And it made the ending, what I call "the reveal" that you're waiting for in every book, much more shocking, jarring, and satisfying. Others may not agree. Some have criticized what happens. Others see the beauty of it, the wonderful, terrible beauty.

Was it simply my mind, or did God have something to do with that moment? I think he did, though I wouldn't go so far as to say, "God gave me that idea." That's a bit presumptuous, I believe. I don't want to blame God for something that's not up to par. He made my mind. He gave me a desire to flail away at words. He gave the perseverence to start and slog through to the finish. And I will give him the honor and glory for any accomplishment I achieve, certainly. That he would show up on a Sunday morning and speak something true and creative is within his power and purview. I did feel the hair on my neck raise when the thought came.

I guess I'll let you decide the answer to that question after you've paid a visit to Dogwood.
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