Susan, thanks so much for letting me visit your blog today and share about my new release, No Longer a Captive.

Why do I write?

I’m always surprised to find myself on a blog talking about one of my books. Ten years ago, if you’d told me I’d be a published author, I would have called an ambulance to have you committed. Seriously, I had been an English major in college because I enjoyed reading—not writing— and I loved grammar. I also planned to teach high school, and I felt the exchange of ideas that can be discussed in a literature class would help me build strong relationships with my students.

I taught for several years, until an illness in my family forced me to leave teaching and take a job in the “real world.” But even when we’re surprised by unexpected turns in our lives, God never is. At the new job, I met Laura, who was responsible for encouraging me to write. She did some writing on the side and often asked me to proofread and edit her drafts (which I loved…grammar and all that stuff…).

In the middle of this, God began to nudge my heart toward writing. I’d always loved good stories. I’d even enjoyed making them up in my mind. I’d just never thought about putting the words on paper. In fact, few things sounded less appealing than writing a book.

Then one day during my devotion time, Isaiah 43:18-19 spoke to me in a way it never had before. 

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

And I took a step of faith, and my writing ministry was born.

My newest release:

No Longer a Captive is my fourth full-length novel. It’s a story about a young woman, Ethne, who is struggling to move past an abusive childhood. Her father, a trusted community figure, is a serial abuser and adulterer. Unable to forgive him, she runs away. She vows never to hurt anyone like she’s been hurt and believes the only way to guarantee that is to never marry or have children. 

The ideas for my novels often come to me through songs, sermons, or Bible verses. The idea for this novel was birthed one Sunday through the words of our pastor, Buddy Hoffman. He was famous for what my husband and I call “Buddy-isms.”

Buddy was unlike any pastor I had ever heard. He had a folksy manner, and he loved tripping all over the English language. Once he told us about his recent mission trip to Asia where he saw Kubotas (i.e. pagodas) dotting the landscape. All I could picture was a hill covered with riding mowers and tractors.

One Sunday morning, he was preaching about forgiveness. Ten years later, I don’t remember the scriptures he chose or the major points of the sermon. I remember only one statement he made. “Unforgiveness is a prison.” My English-major self knew unforgiveness wasn’t a word. But his sentence birthed the idea for a story about a young woman that can only find the freedom she seeks through obedience to God’s command to forgive others.  To forgive her father.

Excerpt: No Longer a Captive

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” 

John 8:36 

            The gravel crunched beneath the tires as Ethne O’Connor steered the box truck onto the shoulder of the narrow country road. Today would be a scorcher. The clock hadn’t yet reached nine in the morning, and already the numbers on her dashboard read ninety-two. The birth of another lovely summer day in Central Texas. 

            The heat waves rising from the pavement in front of her mirrored the waves of nausea that had steadily intensified since she’d left Fort Worth. She shifted the truck into park, flipped on the emergency flashers, and turned the air conditioning on high. Closing her eyes, she pushed her head back against the seat and begged the cold air to rush across her face and relieve her churning stomach. 

            She couldn’t believe she was doing this. One May evening ten years ago, with her suitcase already packed in the trunk of her car, she walked across the stage in the high school auditorium, received her diploma, and made a promise to herself, a vow that had never been broken…until today. Sean’s pleading phone call on Monday had changed everything. She was returning home. 

            The nausea somewhat under control, she shifted the truck into drive, pulled back onto the roadway, and turned off the emergency flashers. One last mile to go. Anticipation was a funny thing. When she wanted something to happen, it took forever to come. If she dreaded an event, it arrived before she knew it. These last several days had gone by way too fast. 

            Slowing the truck, she turned left and began the journey down a meandering river of asphalt. As she rounded the final curve and her childhood home came into view, she gasped. In the ten years she’d been gone, absolutely nothing had changed. The two-story farm house was still painted white with black shutters. Large Boston ferns hung from under the edges of the front porch and swayed in the ever-present Texas wind. Even the flowers waving in the pots beneath them were the same—purple petunias. 

            Nine o’clock and no Sean, but she wasn’t surprised. Punctuality had never been expected of him. On the other hand, Vaughn had always demanded she be on time. Even early. That requirement had served her well over the years, birthing in her the organizational skills that helped her successfully start and run her business. 

            She parked the truck at the top of the circular drive, and despite the heat, slipped on her sweater, and inched across the pavement and up onto the porch. She grasped the doorknob. As she expected, it was locked, and she didn’t have a key. Years ago, she’d thrown hers away because she would never need it again. If she’d kept it, she could have at least gone inside and escaped the heat. 

            She turned and walked toward one of the rocking chairs. A forgotten green turtle with a chipped front leg smiled at her from underneath one of the pots of flowers. She picked it up and slid back the door on its belly. A key fell out into her hand. When she was a little girl, she always believed the key was there for Sean and her—in case they got locked out and Vaughn was still at the office. That was certainly one of the reasons, but when she was eleven, she’d discovered another. 

            She returned the oblivious little turtle to his home and then inserted the key into the lock. Taking a deep breath, she turned the key and pushed the door open. Cool, silent darkness greeted her as she stepped into the spotless—Vaughn would have it no other way— foyer. 

            She set the key on the console table beside the door and then tiptoed, for some unexplainable reason, further in. She paused and glanced first toward the living room to her right and then toward Vaughn’s home office to her left. There was only one choice to make. She headed right and walked to the wingback chair next to the fireplace. Sitting, she nestled into the cushions. She pressed her nose against the fabric. Even after all these years, she could imagine the soft fragrance of Mother’s perfume lingering in the ivory brocade.

            Heavy draperies hung closed over the living room windows. A shaft of light shot out from the middle space where the panels failed to meet completely and illuminated a flock of dust motes as they floated in the bright morning sun. When she was five, Mother told her the particles were tiny fairies dancing in the sunshine, but they were usually invisible. Only the magic of the sun unveiled them. 

            One day, Ethne had asked Vaughn if she could borrow his magnifying glass to see the fairies, but he’d refused, saying Mother had filled her head with nonsense. Fairies weren’t real. 

            Turns out, that was one of the few truthful statements he’d ever made to her. She now knew the ‘fairies’ were nothing more than a combination of dead skin cells, fabric fibers, pollen, and dirt. He was right. Nothing magical about that. 

            As she walked over to the window and threw open the curtains, the fairies disappeared. 

            “So, the prodigal sister hath returned.” 

            She jumped and spun to face the foyer. Her little brother spanned the doorway. He had grown up. The last time she’d seen him at his college graduation three years ago, he was at that stage where the calendar said he was a man, but his body was trying to catch up. He had certainly filled out, and he now sported a short, precisely-trimmed, chestnut beard. His hair, unlike hers, had deepened from bright copper to rich auburn. 

            “Sean. You’re late,” she snipped. This was not the way she’d envisioned their first meeting after all this time. She took a deep breath, reined in her emotions, and smiled. “Or maybe I’m a little early. I have a reputation for that.” She pulled him into a sisterly hug. 

            His grin answered hers. “Early, late, whatever. I’m just glad you came. I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever see you again.” 

            “The road runs both ways, you know.” 

            “Yeah. Sorry.” He held up the key she’d placed on the console table. “I see you remembered the turtle. I figured I’d find you sitting on the porch in one of the rockers.” 

            He set a small, black gym bag on the floor. “Where’s your suitcase? Need me to get it out of the truck?” 

            “I’m not staying here. I’ve got a room in town.” 

            “Eth, I can see how hard this must be for you.” Tears filled his eyes. “Believe me. I know.” 

            He really had no idea. The man he knew as Dad was not the same one she knew as Vaughn.


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7 thoughts on “Meet Carol James

  1. I’m just past the halfway point and eager to see Ethne’s spiritual release from captivity. Great story, Carol. Grateful you chose to return to your love of story. Cudos to Pastor Buddy for that little bit of inspiration. It resulted in a trad length novel!

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