Guest Author: Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy

Why I Became A Writer

By, Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy

I grew up listening to stories. My Granny told tales of the past, her own and the family’s, with the powerful delivery of an Irish seanachie, a storyteller. I eavesdropped with a little girl’s curiosity when I accompanied my other grandmother to her standing Friday afternoon appointments at the beauty shop down the block. My parents read me stories, everything from Little Golden Books by the dozens to fairy tales. Once I could read, I read whatever came my way.

I discovered at an early age that I liked to tell stories too. I made up creative versions of childhood favorites like House and made my companions play a frontier version I dubbed Western Days. By the time I was nine, I scribbled some of my stories and in the fifth grade, I spent a good part of the school year writing a novel in the back of my binder.

Despite my goal, it might never have happened without my Granny. On a winter’s day when I was fourteen, she opened her cedar chest, a rare but always a favorite event. One thing, though, I had not seen.

The paper had yellowed and the ink had faded when my Granny brought forth her essay, tied together with red ribbon turned a soft pink with age. She had written it when she graduated from eighth grade in 1912, an honor bestowed upon her. I stared at her with surprise because I had no idea she’d ever written anything beyond a letter or a list. After I read it, handling the fragile pages with great care, I turned to her, awed by her raw talent, and asked, “Why didn’t you become a writer?”

“I couldn’t,” she said and the soft words echoed in the quiet bedroom that my father once shared with his oldest brother. They spoke volumes. She couldn’t, because she had too much living to do, too many responsibilities from an early age. During the Great War, later known as World War I, she had been a telephone operator and dated a young soldier. She later married my grandfather and raised three sons. Her sole daughter was born and died on the same June day. My Granny was a working woman when it wasn’t common, first as a telephone operator, then in a hospital laundry. She was widowed twice but she persevered.

Her favorite Scripture came from 2 Timothy 4-7: I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith and she did.

“I couldn’t,” my Granny said, then added. “But you can and you should.”

An invisible torch passed from her to me on that day. I vowed I would.

And I wrote, from that day forward.

I write because I have stories to tell. I write because my Granny couldn’t but she thought I should. I write because I was taught there is no such word as can’t because you can do anything.

I write primarily romance. Somehow, I often write about former military men who suffer from PTSD. That’s not an accident either. One of my grandfathers, Claude Roberts, suffered from it after his active combat duty in the Philippines during World War II. I’ve known other individuals and since my dad was at one time an Army sergeant, I have the utmost respect and admiration for military personnel.

Scarred Santa, my latest release from Clean Reads, is not just a Christmas story although, as one might guess from the title, it does involve the holiday.

Here’s the blurb, then a little taste from the story:

His Persian Gulf service as a Marine left Rafe Sullivan wounded and scarred. His return to civilian life has proved difficult at best. He’s quit more jobs than most people ever hold in a lifetime and he’s become a near recluse. Although he interacts with his widowed mother and his brother’s family, Rafe lives lonely. A chance glance at a beautiful woman at a church dinner leads to another encounter. Sheena Dunmore comforts him during a PTSD moment and because of her, he accepts a job playing Santa Claus at the mall for the holiday season. Being Santa offers many challenges but as Rafe grows closer to Sheena, he finds it easier and easier to overcome them. Rafe falls in love but he soon decides it’s best if he backs away so Sheena can meet someone better. He realizes his mistake but must face his greatest fear of all – fire – or there may not be a chance for a new beginning with Sheena.

Excerpt from Scarred Santa:

Heart racing, Rafe hurried out of the store and into the mall. He resisted the urge to run but he searched for the closest exit. Once he had some air and calmed down, he would require something cold, sweet, and caffeinated. A bench loomed just outside one of the side entrances and he made for it on wobbling legs. When he reached it, Rafe all but collapsed onto it and gasped in the cool October air. After several deep breaths, he shuddered hard and put his head in his hands, willing the moment to pass. He stopped shaking and thought he might be able to sit upright when someone tapped his back.

“Are you all right?”

The voice was soft and feminine, the tone kind and questioning.

“I will be,” he said. “Give me a minute.”

Rafe raised his head and saw her. He froze and wondered if he could fake a faint. Embarrassment sent heat blasting through him. The woman who sat beside him, her hand resting on his back and her face furrowed with concern, was Sheena Dunmore. Up close, he found her even prettier than at church, but he wanted to sink out of sight into the concrete at his feet.

“Hey,” she said. “What’s the matter?”

He said nothing, had no words to explain to her that he’d freaked out.

“Talk to me.” Her voice became lower but urgent. “Do I need to call someone or an ambulance? Dig through your pockets to find some meds or what?”

If he didn’t answer, she probably would do something he would regret. “No, I’m okay. I just had a… I freaked out…”

Babbling made him appear unstable and he knew it. The fact she sat on his left bothered Rafe too. He figured she hadn’t noticed the ruined side of his face. When she didn’t respond, he expected her to go away, but instead she took his hand. She fingered the stainless steel Marine Corps ring he always wore.

Let's Meet the Author

Love and life lessons, fiction with a heart, the fiction of Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy, also writing historical fiction as Patrice Wayne. Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy is a native of St. Joseph, Missouri but has long made her home in the southwest corner of Missouri, in the Ozarks. She is currently a staff writer and reporter for The Neosho Daily News. She has written more than two dozen full-length novels, numerous novellas, and many short stories that have appeared in many places. Her weekly column, A Writer's View, appears on Tuesdays in the pages of the Neosho Daily News. Her non-fiction have prose have appeared in Chicken Soup For The Soul, Classic Christmas, True Real Estate Stories, as well as many anthologies. Lee Ann lives in what passes for the suburbs in a small town and shares life with husband Roy, two grown daughters, a son in high school and a very spoiled Jack Russell terrier.

You can connect with Lee Ann on her Facebook Page, Facebook Profile, Twitter, Blog, and Amazon Author Page.

A special thank you to Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy for guesting today at Pandora's Box Gazette.

Lee Ann is giving away an eBook of Scarred Santa. Please comment below to enter to win the giveaway. Be sure to leave your email in the comments if you would like to enter to win.

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