In 2009, I made friends on Facebook with Vonda Skelton, an author and speaker, who inspires as she entertains. She encouraged me to attend the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. She said, “Mary, you can do this.”
About this time, Dr. Wilton Wall, who was my pastor, preached an insightful sermon about the wife of Simon of Cyrene. He planted the seed in my thoughts for this novel. Who was Simon’s wife, and what kind of woman would the Apostle Paul consider a mother image in the last chapter of Romans?
At the Blue Ridge Conference Ann Tatlock, award-winning author, who writes with a sensitive touch, making novels feel like paintings, conferred with me about my book idea. She said, “I wish I’d thought of this myself.”
After the conference as I waited in the airport at Asheville, bestselling novelist DiAnn Mills, introduced herself to me and invited me to present my idea for a novel. “Make her a Nubian,” DiAnn said. She discussed the characterization and plot with me until her plane arrived.
When I returned to Louisiana, I was bursting with ideas. I wrote the novel, and rewrote it for six years. Now it feels ready for you to read. Most of all, I appreciate you, who will read this book.
Early in the process, Jane Butel, famous Southwestern cook and author of acclaimed cookbooks, nudged me to keep working on this book and to finish the project.
John Cooke, my beloved fiancé, designed the book cover and helped style a map related to the book’s setting. He provided expert knowledge about seafaring vessels. John continues to give me enthusiastic support. Christie Underwood, my daughter, has listened to me as the story unfolded. She has read the final draft and suggested some excellent editorial changes. My nephew Jameson Gregg, author of Luck Be a Chicken, is a kindred spirit, who discusses the writing process often with me. Susan Shepard, my niece, offers encouragement. Ruth Ishee, my sister, listened to me read all of Abi four years ago. Her suggestions are always useful. My mother, Myrtle Hathorne Gregg Jordan, read the Bible to me.
My friends have blessed my writing career. Mark Bradford, who was living in Egypt and visiting Nuba, while I wrote Part One, posted pictures on Facebook, introduced me to a Nuban friend, and shared recipes. On Facebook friends from all the chapters of my life have affirmed my efforts in amazing ways.
Rosie Buhrer has helped as a designing consultant. She is also an excellent teacher. Linda Yezak, noted author and editor, has challenged me to develop my technique. Lenora Worth, a prolific best seller of inspirational romances novels, has directed me to bring my thoughts together. “Don’t ever throw anything away,” she said regarding writing. “You may need it.”
Katheryn Haddad, a Bible teacher and author of biblical novels, read the book and wrote me this note: “You've got to get Abi of Cyrene published. What are you waiting for?” Thanks to Katheryn for igniting my desire to release the book after years of procrastination.
Writers’ groups have contributed to the development of Abi of Cyrene. The American Christian Fiction Writers’ Critique Group made suggestions one chapter at a time. Shreveport/Bossier City’s local ACFW group, the International Writers Alive! chapter in Amarillo, and Panhandle Professional Writers in Amarillo have provided helpful information about the writing process.
I will be eternally grateful to the online writer-critics who have not only shown me how to improve my writing but who have allowed me to comment on their manuscripts. Greg Austin brought my writing to a new level. Janine Islam inspired me with her outstanding ability, dedication, and vast knowledge. Using special software designed for blind authors, Kathy McKinsey proofread Abi and found more comma errors than most sighted people are aware of. Kim Stewart, who has considerable knowledge about Jewish customs, gave me valuable suggestions. She also made a priceless suggestion about the organization of the beginning of Abi. Heidi Kortman, a talented author who writes about sailing, helped me with expertise and moral support.
Among the writers who’ve helped me are Carolyn Hill, Vicky Bray, Marguerite Martin Gray, Chad Cossette, Julie Fugate, Nancy Kimball, Lauren Lynch, Deidra Romero, Amber Schamel, Judy Sliger, TQ Quirk, Donna Stone, and Marcy Dyer. Please accept my apologies if I omitted someone inadvertently.
I appreciate the opportunities provided by Amazon Kindle. When I look at my bookcase full of books about writing, I’m amazed at all the writers who have given helpful information. Also I’m thankful for the God-given time to write this book, a laptop, and the inspiration.
Please accept my apologies if I've failed to list some of you who helped me.