Greetings from Sarah Sundin in California, where spring—and pollen!—is in the air. Today I have the honor of interviewing Mary Hamilton, who is venturing from kids’ adventure books to writing mystery-suspense, where her heart is.
Mary, please tell us about your book, Pendant.
Haunted by her student’s disappearance from a field trip, Elaine stumbles onto a vital clue and discovers someone is desperate to keep the truth buried. When a friend persuades her to hide amongst the quirky residents of a nursing home, she wonders if he’s keeping her from danger, or the truth?
Why did you write this book?
I love taking real-life dilemmas or situations and writing stories about their impact on the people involved. The story for Pendant had been tumbling around in my head ever since I saw a newspaper article about an elderly woman who showed up one day at a care facility with a jacket, purse, and cane. She was alert and pleasant, but refused to give any background information. The story caught my imagination and I kept asking myself, “What or whom is she hiding from? Is she completely alone? Isn’t anyone looking for her?” Eventually, I came up with my own answers, though I never learned the true ending of that woman’s story.
The handmade collection of misshapen guitars, ukuleles, and banjos made me wonder. Is the museum desperate for displays?
About half of the instruments hanging on the walls were painted barn-red. Others had obviously been pieced together from two or three different types of wood. But the story of the man who crafted them changed my whole perspective.
In the 1960s Arkansas farmer Ed Stilley had difficulty supporting his wife and five children. One day, while plowing his field behind a donkey, he thought he was having a heart attack. Lying on the ground with no one around to hear his cries for help, he prayed and received a vision of God telling him to make guitars and give them to children. If he did, God promised to take care of him and his family.
So Ed did what God told him to do. He didn’t make excuses for his lack of musical training, nor did he wait until he could afford the “right” materials. Instead, he scrounged for wood and other scraps, using what he had on hand. He built instruments out of old door hinges, Masonite siding, circular saws, marbles, and even an aluminum pot.
He wasn’t embarrassed by the amateurish look of his instruments. He simply did what God told him to do. It’s believed nearly every child in the county received a guitar, each inscribed with this message: “True Faith. True Light. Have faith in God.”
Ed Stilley’s obedience inspires me to do what God tells me to do. No excuses for my lack of ability or training. No waiting for inspiration to strike with the right message. No hiding my work because it’s not professional.
Lord, make me an instrument…that plays the melody You’ve chosen for me.
Mary L. Hamilton is the author of four novels, including one adult mystery. Her Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series for middle-grade readers was inspired by the years she lived at a camp growing up. Besides writing, she enjoys photography and traveling with her husband.
We appreciate our volunteers who give of themselves to help others like Mary L. Hamilton. Volunteers like Mary touch lives with a few minutes of their time and have important contributions for the Christian Authors Network and our readers. If you haven’t read Mary’s work, let us tell you a little about this special and generous person and why she’s in our volunteer spotlight today.
Mary L. Hamilton’s writing credits include non-fiction articles, a play, as well as novels for middle readers and young adults. Her years growing up at a youth camp inspired her Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series for middle grade and young adult readers. She’s moved into writing mystery/suspense novels aimed at the adult market, recently publishing Pendant. A graduate of Long Ridge Writer’s Group, Mary belongs to the Christian Authors Network (CAN), American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Texas Association of Authors (TAA), and two local writers groups.
As a CAN member, she coordinates the quarterly Christian Contest with the Munce group, and says it has given her an appreciation for the variety of Christian books and gives her a chance to look over the new releases to find some great books. Being a CAN member has also allowed her to get acquainted with other Christian writers and their books. We hope you, the reader, will check out her books, too. Mary is deserving of praise—and a good read!
My husband, Wayne, doesn’t quite know what to make of my turn to the dark side as I write mystery/suspense stories. But when I was trying to figure out a good place to hide a body in our area, he arranged a meeting with a man he knows who has worked as a police officer in our area off and on for thirty years. For thirty minutes, this friend and I discussed ways and locations for disposing of dead bodies, while Wayne listened and wondered what had happened to his sweet, innocent wife. Finally, after I’d learned fifteen different ways to dispose of a body, my interviewee looked at Wayne and said, “If something happens to you, we’ll know who to look for.”
Not long after that, Wayne received a text message from his friend early one morning asking him to call ASAP. Upon answering, his friend sounded relieved.
“Oh good. You’re still alive,” he said. He’d found an obituary in the newspaper for a man approximately the same age and the same name as my husband. But what made it even stranger was the deceased’s parents’ names–Wayne and Mary Hamilton!
I love the ever-changing colors and textures of a sunset. There’s something so peaceful about it, almost as if the day exhales its worry and stress in preparation for the night.
Maybe that’s why the best sunsets include clouds, those masses of water vapor we usually associate with storms. In fact, some of the most beautiful sunsets happen in the aftermath of a storm when the abundance of cloud surfaces all reflect the varying hues of light as the sun slips below the horizon.
Several decades have passed since I took my first airplane ride, but I still remember that day when dark clouds hung low and rain made everything especially dreary.
The difference when we burst through the cloud deck astounded me. Sunlight shining on brilliant white cotton-ball tops of the clouds took my breath away.
We landed again in that dismal rainy weather, but I felt like grabbing everyone I saw and encouraging them to believe there was incredible beauty right above us on the other side of those clouds.
Jesus said, “I have told you these things so that in me, you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
If life’s clouds have got you down, trust there’s amazing beauty on the other side, and prepare for an awesome Son-set once the storm passes.
Mary L. Hamilton is the author of the Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series for middle grades and Pendant, a cozy suspense novel, under the name M. L. Hamilton. When not writing, she enjoys photographing sunsets like the one above. She and her husband live in Texas.
When the unexpected happens in a story, we call it a plot twist. In life, it’s
sometimes called an adventure.
My husband’s retirement meant a chance to move from the big city to a smaller town, with a lake to satisfy me, and a university to satisfy him. But initially, our move wasn’t the sort of adventure I’d envisioned.
Thinking it wise to rent until we decided what part of town we wanted to buy into, we arrived at our temporary quarters on a cold January day. Mind you, this was Texas, not North Dakota, but it was still cold to us! And there was no heat in the house, thanks to a mix-up with the utility company. Thankfully, we found a hotel for the night that accepted us, and our 80-lb. dog.
The next day, the movers unloaded all our furniture and boxes, the heat came on, and that night we climbed into bed—only to hear the storm siren go off. Did they really use the storm sirens for a hard freeze? It turned out to be a malfunction.
Apparently, the house hadn’t been occupied for a year or more. Built in the 1960’s, it also hadn’t seen any updates, recent or otherwise. The single pane windows leaked cold air in drafty waves, and rattled whenever the jet propulsion company, located over ten miles away, tested their rocket engines. The dining room floor sloped toward the back yard, thanks to a cracked foundation. One of the toilets leaked. And there were no three-prong outlets in the house, forcing us to go out and buy adapters for all our electronics. We also couldn’t figure out why we had hot showers, but no hot water in the kitchen—until we discovered a second water heater, which soon needed to be replaced.
With no gas hookup for our clothes dryer, we had to buy an electric model. It was delivered a week after we moved in, and I could finally wash our clothes. But of course, the drain was plugged, resulting in flooded floors in three rooms.
Then the furnace quit…twice. My husband and I still laugh about crawling into bed under four layers of blankets wearing long underwear, wool socks and ski hats. The electric heating pad helped, too.
Since we weren’t planning to stay in the house for long, we unpacked only the things we used on a daily basis. But when my daughter visited and asked me to help her sew up a hem, I couldn’t even find my needle and thread!
More than once in the seven months we lived in that house, I became overwhelmed and frustrated. But most of the time, I laughed it off and reminded myself this was an adventure.
I wish I could say I always keep that kind of attitude when things go wrong. Too often, I develop a short fuse and vent my anger and frustration. But I think I’ve found a way to hold onto that perspective. In John 9, when asked about the cause of a man’s blindness (surely a reason for frustration and despair), Jesus answered, “…this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”
What if I look at the things that go wrong in life and see them as an opportunity for the work of God to be displayed in my life? Now that sounds like an adventure!
Bio: Mary L. Hamilton grew up at a youth camp in Wisconsin, much
like the setting for her Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series. Her experiences during twenty years of living at the camp, as well as people she knew there, inspired many of the events and situations in her novels. Mary is currently working on a women’s mystery/suspense. When not writing, she enjoys a little amateur photography, knitting, reading, and spending time with her family. Mary and her husband live in Texas.