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Uncovering the Cover

As you scroll down a few paragraphs, you’ll see the cover for Destiny at Dolphin Bay revealed. This first book of mine, written during our last year in Chile’s Chiloé Islands, has had almost as many trial tapas as opening chapters. But today we’re unveiling the final cover.

The design you find here combines many of my creative dreams into a reality. Unlike most of my other books, Destiny at Dolphin Bay has always worn the same working title. But for the cover’s graphic elements, I’ve experimented with island storms, misty seascapes, and moonlit coves. I’ve imagined every kind of boat from dingy dinghy to ghostly galleon, from ferry to fishing launch. In the end, the cover shows the one component it just couldn’t lack—the dolphins, right?

“The…writer needs to approach his work in the spirit of an entertainer with a serious purpose.” –James N. Frey

 Inside the cover, the story opens with a figurative doorway. The main character, Melissa Travis, walks down a long quay, across a gangplank, and onto a wooden craft called the Ambassador. A portal, in a sense, to a totally unfamiliar world. Her journey’s destination becomes her ultimate destiny as her journal expands to a book.

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Unwrapping the Call

Though I wrote Destiny at Dolphin Bay between Bible studies and baby bath times as a young mom and pastor’s wife, I never identified with Melissa’s missionary sister, Linda. (I’d have casted some of my admired co-workers for that role!) My character in the story was only always Melissa, in my heart of hearts.

Yet working on the book—originally a course assignment—became a labor of love and turned into a clarion call to an unexpected ministry. No longer merely educational or escapist or Diana’s inexpensive little hobby. And not just a way to relax or express my mental ponderings and wanderings, but an integral part of my “real” life.

“Fiction can keep you transfixed. It can travel deep in your soul, leave its mark, and perhaps rearrange a portion of your heart. And isn’t that the intended outcome of your cross-cultural service? Could a good story, concocted by you, get you over the threshold and into your…audience’s heart?” –Women of the Harvest Writers’ Blog

Writing for me has become another means to the end of “going into all the world” and “making disciples” (Mt. 28:19). It’s an extension of my heart’s desire and soul’s burden to share the love of Jesus. To open my sometimes-dim eyes to the Seaglass Sagas all around me, to see how God’s gracious touch transforms people’s lives.

Like the “sea-change” Melissa undergoes when she gets involved in the island world of Chiloé. The process starts out anything but easy or entertaining or convenient. Even the fun parts serve merely as a distraction while she waits to get back to her “real” life. Until the day her perspective shifts, and she realizes that the true adventure lies beneath her feet, unveiled before her eyes.

“An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” G. K. Chesterton

Unpacking the Challenge

I tend to set my stories in our contemporary and natural world. My characters don’t wield superpowers, utter magic words, maneuver parallel universes, or travel in time. Though fantasy it’s not, I still discover an amazing power in the word and in the pictures words can conjure.

Over the years I’ve learned to use my DaDB characters as they mature to develop and link to other series in the same literary family and community. By widening and deepening the “universe,” I can show a glimpse of ongoing challenges and continuing transformation. Because that’s real life, isn’t it?

“The most demanding part of living a lifetime as an artist is the strict discipline of forcing oneself to work steadfastly along the nerves of one’s own intimate sensitivity.” –Anne Truitt, sculptor

And it’s not a smooth and straight trail to blaze, either—this unveiling of so much of my introvert’s inner odyssey. Honestly, I’m afraid to write about many things. It hurts to touch—or be touched—too deeply.

But the moment of truth is coming. Sometimes, as in uncovering the cover, I might feel vulnerable. Peeling off the heart’s band-aids reveals the scars and imperfections. Not everything that’s buried is treasure. Sometimes it’s plain trash. Yet it can all be recycled and redeemed.

“Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case. What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon? What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?” –Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

Ms. Dillard raises some shattering questions. Thought-provoking and game-changing. However, you know what? If I were dying, writing for the dying—which I am and we all are, day by day—I think I’d celebrate life and write it as beautiful and joyful and fun and wholesome as I possibly could. “Suck the bones,” as we say in Chile.

Unveiling the Crown

And I’d go on endlessly about Jesus and grace and children and spiritual realities. I should throw the biggest, happiest, holiest party ever held.

Our opportunities flee on paper wings, like the flipping pages of a book, at every stage of life. Though it felt like a lifetime then, we spent only eight years in Chiloé, after all. My own babies are long grown and flown, and the children and teens we taught in those days are parents and even grandparents themselves now.

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”C. S. Lewis

But I always knew my time, my life, were not my own. I couldn’t control much of anything or anyone. I don’t choose my legacy or even my daily agenda. Which doesn’t mean I don’t work, pray, and plan.

God knows I want to be remembered fondly by my family, to serve my own generation faithfully, and to leave a worthwhile heritage for the next. But building a monument to my own accomplishments is not in the program. I only hope that whatever awards and accolades accumulate—or not—in my portfolio may compose a song for Jesus.

On the other hand, a cover unveiling and an upcoming book launch provide a chance to savor one of the writing life’s crowning highlights. “It’s a grace” (as we used to finalize formal government petitions in Chile).

So right now, I’m celebrating with God the release of Destiny at Dolphin Bay on August 3 (Kindle previews now). Join us, if you will.  

And Lord, give me the spirit of the missionary poet who writes serious joy. When they uncover the cover of my life, may they read a story whose hero is Jesus.

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