Today, I’m pleased to spotlight another author on my blog, and this time she’s a personal friend. Last fall, when I set out on my writing journey, I contacted Evelyn because she leads a local Christian writer’s group, and she welcomed me with open arms–even went out of her way to meet me for lunch and offer encouragement and tips for my new adventure.
Now, I’m thrilled to support her and celebrate her debut novel, The Canary Cage, and encourage all my friends and family to purchase your copy and leave a review on Amazon and Goodreads. Reviews are crucial for authors!
In addition to writing inspirational romance novels, Evelyn J. Wagoner writes “Love Stories” for entertainers to present at wedding receptions, edits manuscripts, mentors fellow writers, and has led a local writers group since 2004. She is a member of ACFW and ACFW/Virginia Chapter and serves as secretary on the executive board for Hampton Roads Writers.
Evelyn married Rod, her favorite cowboy and best friend, in 2008 and lived happily for several years in the country with Kizzy-Me-Too (their toast-loving horse), several barn cats, and the constant threat of wisteria consuming the porch. They have relocated to Virginia Beach, Virginia, where they are thrilled to have city utilities and pizza delivery.
The Canary Cage is more than a saloon. Intrigue, lost love, and regret fill its halls. As Lily soon discovers, once you enter its doors, you may lose more than your reputation.
It’s 1899 and socialite Melissa Forrester has traveled from her home in Norfolk, Virginia, to Guthrie, Oklahoma. She’s there to visit her sister’s grave and learn why Augusta had shot herself. Now alone in the world, Melissa is angry at God and at Tyler Buchanan, the man she holds responsible for her sister’s death.
Impulsively accepting employment at The Canary Cage, the saloon where her runaway sister had worked as a singer named “Roxie,” Melissa adopts an assumed name herself and, for a time, lives a saloon girl’s life as “Lily.” She’s determined to seek out Buchanan, the man Roxie claimed to have loved. Lily’s bitterness burns, and she fully intends to make him pay for rejecting her sister.
Buchanan, Guthrie’s most successful newspaper publisher, turns out to be a tougher adversary than Lily expected. Tyler has his own demons to wrestle. Years earlier, he had fled Charleston, South Carolina, leaving scandal behind, and started a new life in Guthrie. When Lily arrives, he’s irresistibly drawn to her, and a familiar battle between head and heart resurrects. The more he tries to avoid her, the more she seems to be everywhere. With an aggressive, marriage-minded debutante added to the mix, Tyler has his hands full.
Will Lily lose her true self and become someone she doesn’t want to be? Will her willfulness rob her of the friendships and the love she’s finally found in Guthrie? Will she, like other seemingly lost souls, be unable to escape The Canary Cage?
Evelyn shared her journey to publication at her Book Launch Party on September 7, and I’ve asked her to share it with you here. I hope you’ll be blessed by her testimony, which is not just for writers, but anyone with a dream.
I Dreamed a Dream
One of my favorite quotes about untapped potential and a spirit that endures is attributed to George Eliot, a prominent female Victorian novelist (Mary Ann Evans) who was only able to obtain publication after adopting a male name as a pseudonym.
“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”
I believed I was meant to be a writer. But the realization of that dream was a long time coming.
I’ve loved writing ever since I was in elementary school. Yet being a writer “when I grew up” didn’t seem to be an option. In those days, girls pretty much became teachers, nurses, or secretaries.
While I pursued other career paths, this writing thing was always there. My goal was to publish a novel by my 30th birthday. Age 30 came … and went. I hadn’t even started a book. I adjusted the deadline to 40. I wrote a chapbook—a collection of poetry and prose—about my friendship with the late Alan Kulwicki, the 1992 Winston Cup NASCAR champion, which was published by his estate. But still no book.
I buckled down, began … and finally finished … a contemporary romance novel. It went nowhere. So, I wrote another, this time a historical romance (over the course of way-too-many years), and pitched it whenever the opportunity arose—by mail and in person. While I piqued the interest of several agents and publishers, my book was rejected time and again. I pushed the deadline to 50.
On my 50th birthday, I was finished. Discouraged by my lack of progress, I announced to the Lord that I was giving up. Being a published author obviously wasn’t meant to be. Clear as day, I heard the Lord tell me I had at least 30 more years on this earth. I set a new deadline. 60. Surely, I could find a publisher by then.
Opportunities to write arose. I was hired by a deejay company to write love stories for couples to be presented during wedding receptions. I wrote devotionals for the church where I was on staff. I edited sermons for my boss and formatted them into booklets for the congregation. I began and led a writers group. I wrote poetry and entered a few contests.
And I pitched … and pitched … and pitched The Canary Cage. Again, I had numerous bites … and nothing but ultimate rejection.
On my 60th birthday, I again faltered. The writers group was still growing and going strong after more than a decade. Encouraging other writers came easily, and I loved being part of their enthusiasm and hope. But enough was enough. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to be a writer after all. Maybe I was supposed to provide support and inspiration for other writers. Maybe I should just pronounce this dream dead. Maybe it would be a relief.
How could it be that the Lord would put this passion, this desire, in my heart and then fail to give it to me? It didn’t make sense. Unless I was way off track.
Again, I heard the voice of the Lord, this time in admonishment. He had not set the deadlines—that was my doing. I had presumed to dictate the timing for my dream to be realized. My job was to continue doing the work. God would see to the rest.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”—Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)
Two years passed. I kept writing and submitting The Canary Cage. I won’t say I didn’t fight discouragement, but whenever despair arose, I reminded myself that I was only required to write what gave me joy and trust God to use it for His glory … and in His timing.
During a session at a local women’s conference, the speaker asked all women over 60 to stand. She told us not to give up on our dreams, even though they had not yet come true. The Lord would give us the desires of our hearts as He had promised. We were to just keep trying and have faith. I grabbed hold of her words and tucked them into my bruised heart, grateful for the encouragement. I again entrusted my dream to the Lord and told Him I was content to wait on Him. After all, I still had at least 20 years!
That night, I collapsed in my recliner and opened my laptop to check that day’s email. And there it was–an email from a publisher offering me a book contract. My dream of being a published author was coming true. Hallelujah!
God is good. He is always true to His Word, and He never fails to keep His promises. If the Lord has given you a dream, entrust it to Him and believe He will make it a reality. Yes, we have to do the work, we have to invest the time, we have to do what it takes to improve our craft, but we must wait upon the Lord for the fulfillment of that dream. We must delight in Him in the waiting. He will use our efforts for His glory … when the time is right. We only fail when we give up.
After decades of dreaming, I have finally become who I was meant to be … and so can you.
“Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.”—Psalm 37:4 (NKJV)
You can connect with Evelyn through the following links:
Facebook: Evelyn J. Wagoner
Pinterest: Evelyn Wagoner
Goodreads: Evelyn Wagoner
Join the conversation: Has God put a dream on your heart you’ve yet to see realized? Would you be bold enough to comment and share your dream? How did Evelyn’s story encourage you not to give up?
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