A Dry Well – Guest Post by Shannon Taylor Vannatter

Shannon Taylor Vannatter's headshot

Lately, my creativity has been at a standstill. It started in March 2019 when I rushed my husband to the ER with severe abdominal pain. My brain stopped when the doctor said cancer in his intestine and liver.

A few days later, they removed a golf-ball sized tumor and re-sectioned his small intestine. The doctor said it was a slow growing cancer and patients with this type usually had a good prognosis. Our brains still snagged on cancer. 

Two months later, we saw a specialist. When he said slow-growing cancer and good prognosis, we finally started believing it. Especially when he said with treatment, Grant could live twenty or thirty years and this disease wouldn’t cut short our happily-ever-after. Grant was fifty-six, when this started, so that sounds good to us. 

We also learned Grant’s liver function is fine. The doctor set up a treatment plan. Carcinoid cancer doesn’t respond to chemo. Instead, Grant gets a monthly shot to keep the cancer from growing or spreading. The shots cause stomach bloating and upset for a few days, but the side effects are mild.

They’ve done two radiation treatments through his blood veins. This zaps the spots on his liver without doing any tissue or organ damage. After his last procedure, one spot was gone, and the others had shrunk forty to sixty percent. Our finances are tanked, but he’s worth it.

But in the beginning of all this, I had just signed a three-book contract, with a completed manuscript due every four months. Normally, that timeline is workable for me. But I lost two months, while we were in a fog after Grant’s surgery. By the time we saw his cancer doctor, I had two months to write a book. 

Even though I was convinced Grant would be okay, I couldn’t have cared less about my fictional characters. Their manufactured problems paled in comparison to what was happening in real-life. I considered asking for an extension on my deadlines, but I had a new editor. I didn’t want to begin our relationship with messing up her editorial schedule.

So I prayed. And wrote the book. I practiced BICHOK—bottom in chair, hands on keyboard. And I wrote. Even though I didn’t want to. I forced that book onto the page and somewhere, in the midst of it, I started caring about my characters again. I turned the manuscript in on time and started the next one.

Woman typing

But the entire series was forced. Once the editorial process was complete on each title and I read the proofs, I was amazed each had turned into a not half-bad book. Definitely a God thing. 

By the end of that series, I didn’t want to write. I needed a break. My writer buddy asked if I’d be interested in being an editor if she bought a Christian publishing company. During my writing career, I’d thought I’d enjoy being an editor, so I jumped. 

I signed on as part-owner, acquisitions, and content editor for Scrivenings Press. In the months before my new job began, I finished up the final editorial process of the last book in my forced series, took some online editorial classes, and wrote a proposal for a new series. I guess my proposal was forced too. It got rejected. I dove into my new editing job. It was chaotic at first, but after a few months I fell into a rhythm. But even with a schedule worked out, I realized I couldn’t write if I wanted to. There simply wasn’t time.

And I was okay with that, at first. The only thing I really wanted to do in my writing career was get a longer book published. One I’d written years ago. My agent advised it was a bad time to break into longer length books, so it languished in my computer. I could publish it with Scrivenings, but that felt like cheating. 

I agreed to write a novella for a collection with four other Scrivening’s authors and checked with my agent. Our contract was all inclusive, so I’d basically have to pay her for writing for my own company. We mutually agreed to go our separate ways. I was agentless with no time to write but contracted to write a novella. Since it was only eighteen thousand words, I figured I could carve out the time.

And then I found out I had thyroid cancer. It hadn’t spread, so I had half my thyroid removed. With no further treatment. We were thankful, but my energy tanked. My ability to focus disintegrated. Meanwhile, I had three books a month to edit. Submissions to accept or reject. And a novella to write. I couldn’t keep up. Even after the doctor put me on daily medication. My focus got better, but my energy didn’t. 

About that time, a friend at church asked when my next book would come out. I told her about the novella and that my usual publisher had rejected my proposal, that I felt like a dry well and didn’t even have an agent. 

Her: “I think you should put Waverly and Ron together.” 

Me: (Two side characters from that last forced book? They had nothing in common.) “Why?”

Her: “Because they’re both city.” 

She was right. Once she put the idea in my head, Waverly and Ron’s story captured my imagination. I don’t think I heard the sermon that Sunday. It welled up inside—I want to write.

I talked to my friend/business partner. She understood how overwhelmed I felt and gave me an out. I’m no longer part owner. I acquire and do content edits on Contemporary Romance and Women’s Fiction titles, genres I know inside and out. Within days, she’d found other editors to take up my slack. This majorly eased my workload. And just in time for a major health crisis with my dad. I was able to push everything aside and be there for him and my mom. 

With my dad on the mend, I now have time to write and still get to discover new authors and help their words sing. It’s the best of both worlds. I’m in talks with a new agent willing to allow me to write for Scrivenings without her. I recently sent her my new proposal with Waverly and Ron and I’m currently revising my long book. 

And I’m determined to live Colossians 3:23 – And whatsoever ye do, do [it] heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

Have you ever felt like a dry well? How did God get you through it?

Get to Know Shannon

Award winning author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter writes contemporary Christian cowboy romance and has over a dozen published titles. A romance reader since her teens, she hopes to entertain Christian women and plant seeds in the non-believer’s heart as she demonstrates that love doesn’t conquer all—Jesus does. 

She gleans fodder for her fiction in rural Arkansas where she spent her teenage summers working the concession stand with her rodeo announcing dad and married a Texan who morphed into a pastor. Shannon is Scrivenings Press Acquisitions/Content Editor. In her spare time, she loves hanging out with her husband and son, flea marketing, and doing craft projects.Connect with her: Shannon’s WebsiteShannon’s Bookbub. Sign up for her Newsletter to get a free e-book, recipes, behind the scenes info, & enter exclusive giveaways: Shannon’s Newsletter

Check Out Her Latest Release Candy Cane Wishes and Saltwater Dreams

Candy Cane Wishes and Saltwater Dreams

Cover image for Candy Cane Wishes and Saltwater Dreams

By Amy Anguish, Hope Toler Dougherty, Linda Fulkerson, Regina Rudd Merrick and Shannon Taylor Vannatter

Mistletoe Make-believe by Amy Anguish – Charlie Hill’s family thinks his daughter Hailey needs a mom–to the point they won’t get off his back until he finds her one. Desperate to be free from their nagging, he asks a stranger to pretend she’s his girlfriend during the holidays. When romance author Samantha Arwine takes a working vacation to St. Simons Island over Christmas, she never dreamed she’d be involved in a real-life romance. Are the sparks between her and Charlie real? Or is her imagination over-acting … again?

A Hatteras Surprise by Hope Toler Dougherty – Ginny Stowe spent years tending a childhood hurt that dictated her college study and work. Can time with an island visitor with ties to her past heal lingering wounds and lead her toward a happy Christmas … and more? Ben Daniels intends to hire a new branch manager for a Hatteras Island bank, then hurry back to his promotion and Christmas in Charlotte. Spending time with a beautiful local, however, might force him to adjust his sails.

A Pennie for Your Thoughts by Linda Fulkerson – When the Lakeshore Homeowner’s Association threatens to condemn the cabin Pennie Vaughn inherited from her foster mother, her only hope of funding the needed repairs lies in winning a travel blog contest. Trouble is, Pennie never goes anywhere. Should she use the all-expenses paid Hawaiian vacation offered to her by her ex-fiancé? The trip that would have been their honeymoon?

Mr. Sandman by Regina Rudd Merrick – Events manager Taylor Fordham’s happily-ever-after was snatched from her, and she’s saying no to romance and Christmas. When she meets two new friends—the cute new chef at Pilot Oaks and a contributor on a sci-fi fan fiction website who enjoys debate—her resolve begins to waver. Just when she thinks she can loosen her grip on thoughts of love, a crisis pulls her back. There’s no way she’s going to risk her heart again.

Coastal Christmas by Shannon Taylor Vannatter – Lark Pendleton is banking on a high-society wedding to make her grandparent’s inn at Surfside Beach, Texas the venue to attract buyers. Tasked with sprucing up the inn, she hires Jace Wilder, whose heart she once broke. When the bride and groom turn out to be Lark’s high school nemesis and ex-boyfriend, she and Jace embark on a pretend romance to save the wedding. But when real feelings emerge, can they overcome past hurts?

Buy it HERE.

The Courage to Heal from Church Hurt – Ep. 75 Faith Over Fear

What happens when the places God designed to lead us closer to Him, to healing and wholeness, and freedom, become hurtful and toxic? When past hurts create present anxiety that make it challenging for us to enter church buildings, join community groups, and connect with Christ? Unfortunately, many people wrestle with these questions as they try to make sense of God. For those who have been wounded by people in positions of authority, it can be hard to untangle truth from human criticism and God’s character from the false representation of Him. In this episode, Minister Dawn Gentry, the Executive Director of Adult Ministries at Christ Community Church in Omaha, Nebraska, and Jennifer’s daughter, Ashley Chester, discuss some of the church hurts they’ve experienced and witnessed and how God helped them move toward increased wholeness and gave them the courage to overcome lies spoken into their hearts in order live for Him. Find Dawn Gentry at: https://followinggodanyway.com https://www.facebook.com/dawn.gentry2 https://www.instagram.com/gentry2987/ Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Book Dawn mentioned: The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk Group Discussion Questions: 1. What resonated with you most in today’s episode? 2. Why do hurts related to faith hurt so deeply? 3. When have you been told, in the context of religion, that you’re not enough or that you’re “too much”? How did this make you feel? 4. How would you describe a toxic faith group? 5. How would you describe a healthy faith group? 6. When has a past hurt hindered your ability to attend church, join a group, or connect with God? 7. What are some healthy ways group members can respond to another member’s doubts or questions? 8. What are some unhealthy responses to someone’s doubts or questions? 9. What are some ways a person can begin to separate hurts they’ve experienced from the love of God? 10. Why is it important to always remember who we are in Christ? 11. What is one action step God is inviting you to take based on today’s episode? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Image_Jungle
  1. The Courage to Heal from Church Hurt – Ep. 75
  2. Introducing: Reframed The Power of Perspective
  3. Healing from Religious Abuse (with Philip Yancey) – Ep. 74
  4. The Courage to Seek Counseling – Ep. 73
  5. A Practical Resource to Battle Fear – Ep. 72

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