Welcome to Wednesday Writers! Today’s guest author is LeighAnne Clifton with an excerpt from her book All Your Heart and the story behind the book. Welcome, LeighAnne!
The idea behind the Together for Good series has simmered in my head and heart for decades. When I heard about or experienced tragic, funny, or unusual events, I stored them away, never realizing I’d one day weave them together, heavily embellish them, and create the story of the first book in the series, All Your Heart.
I believe most authors’ first novels, especially first drafts of first novels, rarely see the light of day in their original form. My original manuscript, written many years ago, was organized differently, abounded in shifting point of view, and contained the word “that” about a thousand times. Much of the writing advice I devoured in those early days recommended scrapping the first novel. I was advised to learn from that failed attempt and try again.
When I considered doing this, though, I felt a stirring in my heart. I truly believe God intends to use the words He’s inspired by my life experiences to help someone. With that in mind, I forged ahead. Polishing. Reorganizing. Polishing some more. I learned how to query a book. And I learned how to accept rejection. Not an easy lesson! God grew me immensely in the birth of this book.
The series, and the pregnancy care home featured in the book, take their name Together for Good from Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.” (KJV) Recognizing His sovereignty, His undeniable desire to use us in His marvelous plan is a key aspect of the book. I want this truth to resonate with readers, inviting them to consider how He has and will use their lives to His glory.
The next book in the series, Ready to Forgive, is under contract, release date unknown at this time. The story continues to follow Alex in her journey with God toward emotional healing. There’s joy, sorrow, a wedding, a death, and a whole lot of ups and downs along the way!
All Your Heart
by LeighAnne Clifton
Alex is determined to use college on the other coast to escape her small Southern town and workaholic mother. However, a prom-night assault and the resulting pregnancy require a drastic change of plans. Alex flees with every intention of ending her cross-country trek at an abortion clinic. Instead, finding herself stranded and scared after wrecking her car, Miss Matilda welcomes Alex to town with love and open doors. It just happens that Matilda runs a crisis pregnancy home.
When Alex strikes a deal with Chad, the handsome mechanic with secrets of his own, the citizens of Burton discover Alex’s artistry, prompting a business partnership with Matilda’s nephew. Alex soon discovers the life-altering sweetness of trusting Jesus, but her past hurts make it difficult to trust Chad with her heart. Then, secrets within the pages of an old diary discovered at the home threaten to tear families apart. Can the people of Burton learn to heal the hurts of the past by trusting the Lord with all their hearts?
All Your Heart, a Christian romance, presents the love of God, His undeniable Sovereignty, and His love for the unborn, all woven into a story that will leave the reader surprised and wanting more.
Alex has been assaulted by her step-father. Scared and confused, she hasn’t told anyone. Not even her best friend Brittany. However, when she begins to suspect the attack has left her with more to deal with than emotions, she purchases a pregnancy test, eventually confiding in her friend.
Later, as they waited in Alex’s room for the little stick to reveal its answer, Alex told Brittany the whole story, starting with J.T.’s apology for her mother’s absence on prom night. The girls took turns snatching a tissue from the box on the bed whenever a T-shirt sleeve no longer controlled the tears. Being able to talk about the whole ordeal unburdened Alex in a way she’d not expected, and she admitted for the first time how ashamed she felt.
“Alex,” Brittany’s jaw dropped as she shook her head, “you have nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing, do you understand? I can’t believe you haven’t already told somebody about this. Should you go to the police?”
Mortified, Alex answered, “Of course not. Do you know what kind of scandal that would cause? My mother would freak out! And besides, Britt, do you think anyone would believe me?”
Alex launched into her theory about the party being J.T.’s attempt to protect his reputation around Woodvale. She reminded Brittany how attentive J.T. had been to his clients at the party. And why had his clients been invited to a party for Alex anyway? Sure, they all knew Alex through her position in J.T.’s business, but Alex stressed how odd to invite a bunch of adults to an eighteenth birthday party. With each finger Alex raised to count off the reasons her theory was sound, she watched Brittany grow angrier.
They sat cross-legged on the bed facing each other. Alex reached into the nightstand drawer, wrapped her hand around the piece of plastic that would determine her life’s path, and pulled it out without looking. She told Brittany to close her eyes, and she did the same. They agreed that on the count of three, Alex would open her hand and they would open their eyes and find out together.
“One, two, three.”
Alex turned her hand palm up and opened her fingers, clearly exposing the plus sign in the test stick window for both girls to see. They stared in disbelief. Brittany hazarded a cautious glance at her friend. But instead of tears or anger, quite the opposite met Britt’s gaze. Stoic and quiet, Alex drew in a deep breath and exhaled through pursed lips.
“Now what?” Brittany whispered. She looked scared, and this wasn’t even her trial to face. Alex knew she had Britt’s unwavering support.
“I don’t know yet, Britt. I’ve got a whole lot of thinking to do. This isn’t how I planned for things to go.”
On this last word, Alex lost her voice and her composure, collapsing in sobs into her friend’s arms. Brittany whispered soothing words and stroked Alex’s long brown hair, giving her the time she needed to process the news.
The two of them had always supported each other during times of boyfriend breakups, test stress, mean girl bullying, or any other normal girl drama. They’d planned their future to include each other. But this current scenario had never even crossed their minds.
Pragmatic almost to a fault but reeling from the shock, Alex dried her tears, blew her nose and issued orders to Brittany.
“My hands are shaking too much to take notes, so I’m going to need some help making a list of the pros and cons of my alternatives. I can search for stuff on the Internet, but if you can write things down, I’d really appreciate it. I know we’ve had a busy day, but do you mind staying up a little bit later?”
“I’m here for you. Just tell me what you need me to do.” Alex knew she’d never forget the depth of sadness in her friend’s voice as she pledged her assistance.
“Okay,” Alex said, taking another deep breath and attempting to regain some control over her circumstances. “Here are my options as I see them.”
Thus, their all-night research, discussion, and planning began. By dawn, Alex felt more informed, even if the uncertain future ahead still terrified her. Now, she just had to put her elaborate plan into action. Still, she felt confident she could pull it off.
About the Author:
LeighAnne Clifton and her husband Bill call South Carolina home. After meeting while both earning their degrees in chemical engineering at the University of South Carolina, the pair married and settled in Aiken. They have two grown children, a son-in-law, and a pair of spoiled cats. Before writing All Your Heart, LeighAnne wrote The Little Vessel, a modern-day parable for all who need reminding that God has a unique purpose for their lives.
LeighAnne, like her main character, loves to upcycle old junk into beautiful, one-of-a-kind pieces. She shares her thoughts on Christian living, easy DIY projects, and the latest book news on her blog: A Live-Leigh Journey