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BOOK ENDINGS: Writing a Compelling Narrative from Start to Finish

I’ve been told that by the end of your first paragraph a writer should capture the interest of a potential reader. How you begin a manuscript is important. How you end your manuscript is equally important. Many writers write the ending of their manuscript near the beginning of their intended book in order to keep their writing on course as they develop the plot.


Currently I’m in the process of writing the ending of a memoir manuscript I’ve been working on for the past two years. For this particular task I’ve chosen for the person whose story I’m telling, Doctor Phyllis Edwards Miller, to reflect on the markings–good and bad–she wants to address from her journey thus far and to conclude the manuscript with a ringing affirmation of her future goals.


I chose to end my own memoir, Tarnished Haloes, Open Hearts, with a section entitled Finding, Giving Grace. This section of my narrative chronicles the spiritual liberation I experienced when I began to focus on changing me rather than my gay son.

BEHIND ENEMY LINES (Historical Fiction)

Behind Enemy LinesHome, Sweet Home is the concluding chapter in my Civil War book entitled Behind Enemy Lines. One of the things I asked myself was how I was going to create a satisfactory conclusion to problems introduced in the earlier chapters. For instance, in the earlier chapters I relate how Bobby loses his father’s pendant, but claims to know nothing about its whereabouts. I had to create a scene where the pendant showed up among the charred remains of a cabin. Since Bobby’s dog, Cleo, had run away during the thick of the explosive battle I chose to end the book with Cleo returning to their new cabin bringing with her three puppies. This book was about a real battle, so I couldn’t end it with an ‘they all lived happily ever after’ theme. I chose to end it with hope and family love.

WHERE THE RABBITS DANCE (Historical Fiction)Rabbits Dance full cover

I had to employ the help of Cherokee mythical people to rescue Lightfoot’s family from a prison stockade manned by the Georgia guards and U.S. soldiers. To end the story we traveled a dangerously fraught escape route until we landed on Choestoe Mountain, close to the Georgia-North Carolina border where a group of Cherokees had been spared from being forced to move west. Once again Cherokee legend came to my rescue. Legend predicted that during the winter months rabbits congregate on the bald mountain tops of Choestoe and danced. Witnessing this phenomena Lightfoot is convinced her family has been saved.

Lynelle & Johnny

All three titles framed for a recognition dinner by my publisher, Nurturing Faith

TRAILBLAZER, Parts One, Two, Three

All three Trailblazer books focus on Doctor Noble Wimberly (N.W.) Jones, whose life extended through colonial Georgia’s formation (Part One) until his death in Trailblazer, Part Three.

Trailblazer, Part One ends with the death of Chief Tomo-chi-chi, the Creek Indian who became the friend of James Oglethorpe and the struggling Georgia colonists. Part One closes with N.W. and his friend John exchanging thoughts as to what life will be like for them as they grow older. In keeping with the theme of all three books, namely his desire to become a doctor, N.W. performs a simple surgery without the help of his Jewish mentor giving us hope for his future success.

Trailblazer, Part Two deals with the N.W.’s connections to his family and his expanding medical practice. Part Two closes with N.W. being unable to save his newborn infant son’s life.  This scene is followed by a cry for medical help in a neighboring village. N.W. is reluctant to leave his wife so soon after the death of their son but under the urging of his wife he does leave to bring healing to someone who needs him.

Trailblazer, Part Three is about N.W.’s involvement as a statesman during the Revolutionary War. To make it more relevant to readers I interlaced each chapter with what was happening in N.W.’s life in colonial Georgia with what was happening in the other 12 colonies. Part Three fittingly ends with the funeral service for N.W. where accolades were heaped upon him as doctor, husband, father, and leader in Georgia’s fight against English tyranny, along with his crowning achievement: forming Georgia’s first medical society.

In the ending of your manuscript–whether yours is a work of fiction or nonfiction–you need to make sure you haven’t ignored solving key points that you initiated earlier. You also want to create an ending that leaves your readers satisfied.


Rachel Held Evans’ Insightful Words Leave Lasting Impression

Rachel Held Evans was a progressive Christian blogger and writer of four best-selling books. In the short span of the 37 years she lived, she broke ground advocating for women and LGBTQ rights in the church while debating the big questions evolving around theology, gender, sexuality, and science. She espouses a variety of biblical thoughts that resonate with me.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from her books Searching for Sunday and Inspired, written in 2018.

1423422279150Searching for Sunday quotes:

“In the U.S. 59% of young people ages 18-29 with a Christian background have dropped out of church.”

“I can talk about growing up evangelical, about doubting everything I believed about God, about loving, leaving, and longing for church, about searching for it and finding it in unexpected places.”

In speaking of why young people are disenchanted with today’s churches she wrote, “We’re tired of cultural wars, tired of Christianity getting entangled with party politics and power. Millennials want to be known for what we’re for not what we’re against. We don’t want to have to choose between science and religion or between our intellectual integrity and our faith. Instead we long for our churches to be safe places to doubt, to ask questions, and to tell the truth even when it’s uncomfortable. We want to talk about the tough stuff—biblical interpretation, religious pluralism, sexuality, racial reconciliation, and social justice—but without predetermined conclusions or simplistic answers. We want to bring our whole selves through the church doors, without leaving our heart and friends behind, without wearing a mask.”

“When our gay, lesbian bisexual friends aren’t welcomed at the table, then we don’t feel welcomed either.”

HiResQuotes from Inspired (2018), her final book:

“This ancient collection of stories and poems, prophecies and proverbs, letters and law, written and completed by countless authors spanning multiple centuries is cited by everyone from William Blake to Beyoncé.”

“America is no ancient Babylon or Rome. On the other hand, America’s no kingdom of God either.”

“Jesus invites us into a story that is bigger than ourselves, bigger than our culture, bigger than even our imaginations, and yet we get to tell that story with the scandalous particular moment and place in time. We are storytelling creatures because we are fashioned in the image of a story telling God. May we never lose our love for telling the tale.”

“We may wish for answers, but God rarely gives answers. Instead, God gathers us up in his arms and says, ‘Let me tell you a story.’ ”

My commentary:

I find it hard to believe this potent Christian lived 42 miles from where I live, and I never heard of her until her death on May 4th, 2019.

I’ve got a word for the millennials. Some of us top-heavy with gray hairs grapple with the same issues that hold them hostage. I’m now 88 plus and long for authenticity and openness in the church to discuss “hot-button topics” without being labeled a liberal or worse still to be tolerated.

I’m thinking that in the 1950s many Southern Baptist leaders held a high view of biblical interpretation that I fell heir to at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. What followed was the demise of the SBC I knew. The new SBC became an arm of the moral majority political movement and an inerrant Bible!

While feeling betrayed by our global group I sought refuge, dialog and understanding within the church my husband pastored. I didn’t find it there. During that same time (1970-1980s) my son shared with me that he was gay. That story is chronicled in my book Tarnished Haloes, Open Hearts.

I’m so sorry I never met Rachel Held Evans! I know we would have bonded instantly. Perhaps in God’s eternity a meeting time is still plausible.

Find out more about Rachel Held Evans at this website.

The Afterglow of Easter

Evangelical parents of gays and lesbians find the subject of homosexuality extremely troubling.  Two sources contribute greatly to this view: pulpit sermons and social mores.

tarnishedIn 2008, I wrote Tarnished Haloes, Open Hearts hoping my experiences with a gay brother and a gay son would open doors for dialog and acceptance.  Like an ever-spiraling circle Tarnished Haloes, Open Hearts, from its inception, bought me treasured remarks.  Sometimes it came as a soft whisper of acceptance, as if the person didn’t quite know how to express their view.  Strong notes of affirmation and acceptance came from the community where I now live, from parishioners who know my son or me personally, and from of host of friends.

I found your book moving, enlightening and inspiring. I have a good relationship with my gay son.

Your writing comes from deep inside.  I feel honored that you shared your growth in life so openly.  Your understanding of the Bible matches mine.  My lesbian daughter is a joy for me.

I felt your voice and conviction in the Lord.  Your book is an outstanding accomplishment.

Lynelle & Johnny

In April 2019, a group met in Knoxville for the 19th annual Judson-Rice Award Dinner given by Nurturing Faith to honor Wayne Smith for his outstanding work with people living with HIV.  Dr. John Pierce,  Nurturing Faith’s executive editor, also elected to give recognition to several authors.  Each honoree received a framed copy of the jacket of their published book.  John introduced me with my six books as their most prolific writer and told the following story:

One day I asked a minister friend if he’d trust me with 15 dollars.  The minister said yes and I in return handed him a copy of Lynelle Mason’s Tarnished Haloes, Open Hearts.  When the minister got around to reading the book he immediately called me saying, “Here I am thinking I’m thinking I’m way ahead of others in preaching inclusion while this little old lady has been doing it for over 40 years!”

The after glow of Easter reminds me that Jesus expects each of us to be ministers by encouraging each other and demonstrating in tangible ways there is a place at his table for everyone.

sunrise glow

Katharine Bruner, A Treasured Joy!

For my spiritual growth during Lent, 2019, I’ve joined with a group of friends at First Baptist Church of Chattanooga to study the book, Because of This I Rejoice by Max O. Vincent. Our springboard for reflection and celebration is Paul’s letter to the Philippians.Because-of-This-I-Rejoice-1

Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi resonates with the word JOY.  Thus our study sessions include Joyful Prayer, Joyful Witness, Joyful Humility, Joyful Hospitality, Joyful Asceticism, and Joyful Giving.

Our home preparation includes:

First Reading: Daily reading a selected passage from Philippians and considering how the passage relates to the Philippians.

Second Reading:  Contemplate what the passage says to me about how I practice the discipline in my life.  I am encouraged to jot down/journal my thoughts and insights.

Finally:  Read the passage as a closing act of worship.

As I reflect on those persons who have and continue to inspire me to become more authentic as a Christian believer I’m thankful for Katharine Bruner, better known to her friends as Katsy.


Katharine Everett Bruner
November 9, 1929 ~ March 6, 2019 (age 89)

The very thought of Katsy ignites my heart with joyful feelings.

We’d been members of First Baptist Church of Chattanooga for several years before our friendship blossomed.  In 2008, Katsy and I, now senior citizens, joined with a medium adult family group

from FBC to spend a week assisting a struggling CBF mission community at Never Fail, near Sparta, Tennessee.  Katsy and I helped with the food preparation and spent lots of time washing huge pots and pans.  We helped sort out a trailer full of clothing by size and gender.  We assisted in weeding a garden plot, mingled with the people and children of the community and participated in Vacation Bible School each evening.

To save on expenses five of us seniors occupied one room at a local Sparta motel. During our down time we did what women everywhere do:  we shared our stories, played board games and made sure we made at least one trip a day to get a cone of ice cream.

It was during this downsize time I realized Katsy was pure gold!  She was intelligent, witty, thoughtful and discerning.  We both had married men who became pastors of Southern Baptist churches. Katsy and I had also pursued occupations in public schools.  Consequently we always could conjure up a discussion.

Katsy, I discovered during our Never Fail days, loved to play board games and she loved to win.  If you know me at all you know that I too enjoy playing board games and I love to win.

It didn’t take me long to find out she had a high view of biblical interpretation and that she found herself at home with those in society who needed her most.

Katsy died on March 6, 2019.  Every Lenten season I’ll remember how Katsy loved life, valued her family and friends, was always growing intellectually and spiritually.

Untitled design



Education Proves Key in Two Diverse Memoirs with Common Threads

west_9780399590504_jkt_all_r2.inddSince writing my own memoir, Tarnished Haloes, Open Hearts in 2008 I’m often drawn to the memoirs of others.  From the moment I began to read Tara Westover’s memoir, Educated, I couldn’t put it down.  I kept thinking:  “The next chapter will be the one here she defies her father’s screwed-up ultimatums.” Instead she repeatedly returned to her dysfunctional family knowing she’d be physically abused by one of her brothers while her parents refused to call his hand.

I’m working on a memoir for Phyllis Edwards Miller, who despite spending her childhood and youth strapped in a family overwhelmed with economic and social barriers, casts her dream of becoming a medical doctor toward her education. From her entry in the first grade onward, Phyllis latches on to education to fulfill her dream of becoming an M.D.

Thus, I have found it intriguing to consider the similarities, as well as the radical differences, on education shared by Phyllis and Tara.

First, let me state my premise. Both women are mentally gifted individuals endowed with strong self-determination goals who find their lives expanded through education.  From that point on their differences abound.

Mr. Westover, Tara’s father, is a Mormon survivalist whose interpretation of Scripture leads him to isolate his family from many things—among them is public education.  Tara is 17 before she steps foot in a classroom!

Mr. Edwards, Phyllis’ father, whose mother taught school, strongly backed the pursuit of education for his children.  Phyllis was like a sponge, absorbing the offerings of academia.

Hospitals and doctors are on Tara’s father’s “bad list”.  Consequently when Tara and other members of her family become sick the only cure they’re offered comes from Tara’s mother, an unlicensed, self-proclaimed midwife.

While the Edwards family welcome doctors and medicine they cringe over the cost of such services.

Tara grew up in rural Idaho where her family, consisting of a mother, daddy and six children, was self-quarantined by her father’s psychotic decrees.

Phyllis’ home turf was an isolated rural community in East Tennessee, consisting of a mother, father, one brother, Aunt Laurie, and a host of relatives.

Both Phyllis and Tara were victims of poverty and social mores.  Tara’s situation was far more debilitating than that which Phyllis experienced.  Tara’s father spoke as God’s prophet.  Phyllis’ mother was the religious anchor in their family with her father giving it lip service only.

The home Phyllis grows up in a family welded together by the love and laughter of her mother and a father who had trouble expressing his feelings.  The home Tara grows up in, while displaying several genuine heart moments, is riddled with mental health issues.

For more than 50 weeks Educated has remained on the New York Times bestseller list.  Educated left me with an annoying conclusion:  How can one girl at 17 educate herself enough to pass the entrance exam to Brigham Young University, get a degree from Cambridge, England, then Yale and back again to Cambridge?  While she is piling up a stack of degrees she still returns home, hoping against hope she may change her family!

Please read Educated and share your thoughts with me.  I’d love to read your reactions to this powerful memoir.


shutterstock_1238137693I plan to watch less national news coverage and to balance my preferences between my favorite and least favorite commentators.

I plan to maintain an inner core of peace, joy, and hope.  This way I’ll accomplish focusing on the things that matter most to me.

I’ll deepen my relationships with family and friends who share my spiritual and vocational goals.

I’ll intentionally increase my contacts with those in my community who need a hug, a love pat, an encouraging smile, or just someone who will listen to them.shutterstock_1226064001

I’ll use my God-given talent as a writer to magnify the lives of lesser-known people who do extraordinary things for others.

I’ll continue to monitor my Type 2 diabetes with check-ups, medication, diet, exercise, meditation, and laughter.

I’ll intentionally accept the “Glorious Impossibles” of life, believing the things that matter most defies our rational minds.

In all aspects of my life may it be said of me that instead of arriving I’m always moving toward becoming. And when, not if, I falter on any of my above goals I’ll work harder at finding something each day that makes me laugh or heightens my joy.


Giving Back Reflects Bible Story


Advent, always a moving spiritual journey to me, has been greatly enhanced this year. A card I received from my Alan and Timothy reads:

Merry Christmas, Mom!

We have given $1,000 in your honor to the First Baptist Church of Chattanooga Homeless Brunch for 2018.

Love, Alan and Timothy

They also said: Mom, your service and care for those less fortunate inspires us. We know how much you care about the homeless adults and children in Chattanooga and wanted to honor that noble work!

Alan and Timothy were referring to the 12th brunch First Baptist Church, Chattanooga provided for the needy in our midst. I would estimate that, this year, at least 150 of our church members were actively involved in making this venture a huge success. We ministered to well over 300 people despite inclement weather. It was particularly moving to see young children delivering biscuits covered in gravy or handing out orange juice to our guests.

packing bags

Me, helping pack bags for clients

Table hostesses, like myself, saw to it that everyone felt welcomed and that no one went away hungry. Volunteers had pre-packed bright red goody bags for the guests that included easy-to-open cans of meat and fruit, socks, body care tools, and even toilet paper. It gave me deep joy to know that all of the $1,000 donated in my behalf went into the goody bag contents.

More than 60 sacks of books and goodies also were given away. A highlight of the brunch was when a pre-teen girl came to my table and handed me a copy of my book, Trailblazer, Part One, asking, “Would you please sign this for me?” All I can say is, “WOW!”

Other brunch-time activities involved the visitors having their picture taken with Santa, gifts being given to each child, and musical offerings were played throughout the morning. Of course, the day involved lots and lots of hugs too!

In Matthew 25: 31-46 Jesus tells a story of what it will be like in the final days. The characters in the story are Jesus, sheep, goats, and massive groups of people in dire circumstances. The King is identifying certain good and bad traits of what he refers to as “Kingdom people.” His distinguishing markers are:

I was hungry and you fed me.
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink.
I was homeless and you gave me clothes.
I was sick and you stopped to visit.
I was in prison and you came to me.

Then Jesus adds the compelling statement, Inasmuch as you did to one of the least of these you did it to Me!

It strikes me quite powerfully that this passage offers no biblical requirements for entry, but it simply addresses a life that responds in loving deeds to the plight of mankind.


photos of the community Christmas Brunch from the weekly Gateway publication

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