I actually prayed out loud, a name came to mind and the phone rang. One of those rare friends, the kind you meet and feel like you’ve known a hundred years, was calling – Haley Miller of HisNames.org and Captures Photography. She said, “I’ve been thinking about you. How can I help you?” I felt like Angels were in the room singing.
Haley was there for me when I launched Safe House. I was so happy to see her!
Today we went to a little known local spot. I had the privilege of watching Haley, a talented photographic artist, create the cover art for my next novel, “Finding Hope.” She asked about the characters, the story, the feelings, and went to work. I can’t wait to reveal the cover.
Finding Hope is a clean stand-alone novel which takes place in the same beloved town as Safe House with everyone’s favorite characters, Grace and Officer Joe Hart. Maybe this time Grace will find love.
17-year-old Hope Experience Flanagan thought she was escaping danger when she walked away from the Yeti Haven Trailer Park and the Rat. But, the world is a dangerous place, unless you have Grace and a little help from friends. Grace James and Officer Hart work together to help Hope find her mother and a place to call her own before she becomes easy prey for traffickers and finds herself in deep water.
So I leave you with this thought, Can Grace find Hope, while Hart saves Grace?
Comment below if you want to know the location of the shoot and maybe, just maybe, I will share one of my favorite local (and often missed) beaches on the Oregon Coast.
AND to keep you in good books for the winter, we are giving away another copy of Safe House at the Rockin Book Reviews Blog Hop HERE!
Haley Miller of Captures photography created the photo above for you to share and let the world know you stand by survivors. Make it yours and pass on the message to the world, we are more than victims, we are survivors who can heal, and help others.
I believe survivors and those who have never experienced abuse need to stand together and choose love, hope, and healing. We can make the world a better place one heart at a time.
Here are some inspirational quotes from a recent LDS conference to get you started. I hope you enjoy them.
Please standby survivors.
Share our Domestic Violence Awareness photo or an inspirational quote and let the world know, we are so much more than what happens to us.
When I wrote Safe House, I never really thought about the world reading it. I wrote it alone in the winter by sea. I sat by a hundred-year-old fireplace which blew more smoke than heat on rainy Northcoast nights. Night after night I fell into the story and although I had an outline, it wrote itself as the characters came to life.
I confessed I was writing a novel to my sister Stacy. Stacy is an avid reader and was a teacher. She had a friend who is a famous novelist, in fact, she knew a few. She asked to let her read it. I sent it to her, another family member and a friend. It was like sending a baby to the babysitters for the first time.
Stacy was my little sister. She was never afraid of telling the truth to me or anyone else. When she read it, she told me it had to be published. She saw what my heart was trying to say. She felt my message to survivors of hope, that the world needs to know your story, that we see you and we love you where you are and as you are. She understood my desire to wake the world up and ask it to witness just a sliver of what I have seen and learn to love the children involved as deeply as I have.
Stacy was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. She began an almost two-year battle that should have only lasted a few months. Even though she was sick, every time she called, we visited or spent time together she asked, “How is the book.” It is her faith in me that pushed me to send the book in on another quiet and dark winter night.
Time and summer flew by. Then I heard Safe House was going to become a paperback book that you may have already held in your hands.
I spent that last summer with Stacy. I walked with her whenever I could. On death’s door she would return to the sea to search for seashells, or what she called, “God’s blessings…little I love you messages from Heaven,” on the sand.
I went to Utah to say goodbye to Stacy in June the year (2017), a month before the book became touchable. But I was able to let her know it was dedicated to her. It was with her in my heart I gave you my first novel, Safe House.
Stacy gave me courage. It took all of that courage to let you see into my little world and share Grace, a small part of myself. Grace is more perfect, thinner, prettier and has 4 less children, but I know her through and through. It took someone like Stacy and my beloved cousin Kristi believing in me to risk criticism. And it took a wonderful marketing director Vikki to push me off the cliff and onto a Blog Tour! How grateful I am for Stacy, Kristi, Vikki, Hali, Erin and Mom. My first readers.
The results are in and the critics have spoken! Winter is on the way and I am gathering firewood in our little truck. Soon the old fireplace will be smoking and I will be typing on rainy winter nights by the sea.
Here is what the critics have to say, Stacy. Thank you all for being there with me…
“I have to admit that reading books about abuse of any kind is very hard for me. I like to read books to escape reality and not read about it. Having said that, this book ended up being such a great book to read.
I loved this story. I am saying this will all love behind it. My sisters and I love these kinds of books. We call them “Mormon Smut Books”….hehe. I really do mean that as the best compliment. I love to read books that have to do with my religion and love. Or any religion for that matter. I know that when I read it, it will be clean.
I loved that this book covered a hard topic, and showed how people could get out and move on to bigger and better things. I am a HUGE advocate for Sexual Abuse, and the author of this book is a HUGE advocate for Domestic Violence. I think that’s why I liked the book so much. Hard topics are hard to read, so they have to be done well. The author definitely did well with this book.
We all take the chance when we marry someone, that they are not all they say they are. We may not know what their demons are until after marriage. Then sometimes they have groomed you so well, that it’s impossible to leave. Amber and Kelly realize this after they have gotten married and are both faced with the challenge of what to do now.As they navigate their lives with the help of Grace, they realize that there is a possibility of life outside of an abusive marriage. They find their faith in God again, and the power to fight for what is missing in their lives.
This is such a good book about love, life, faith, religion, and suspense. Their stories are heartbreaking, and life changing all at the same time.
I hope that you take the time to read this book. It is so wonderful.”
“I connected with this book. It reeled me in and kept me there with an intense and fast-moving plot. The emotional intensity was a unique aspect of this book for me. I had never read a book addressing domestic violence and abuse, and I found myself incapable of putting it down because I just couldn’t leave these characters in the unjust and demoralizing circumstances.”
“Q.1. Do you plan to write any more books? Could there possibly be more to Grace’s story? (I’d read it!)
Thank you for asking! I would love you to review it.
I planned another story as I was writing this one. It has been taking shape for a while now. I have a working outline and can’t wait to get started! This autumn when the rain starts falling, it will be me, a fire in the fireplace and “Insert surprise name here.”
The next book will be in the same location, same characters with some new friends.”
“Safe House by Shannon Symonds is not an easy book to read, but it is impossible to forget. It deals with the difficult subject of domestic abuse. If anyone has ever wondered why an abused spouse doesn’t just leave, this story will answer that question. An abused spouse is usually penniless and worries about how and where she’ll live if she leaves or worries about her or her children’s safety if she leaves and becomes homeless. Shattered self-esteem is another factor. This book also points out how to find help. It’s also a great story.”
“Author Shannon Symonds brings to life the bitter and devastating truths of domestic violence in her novel Safe House. Her story is heart throbbing and gut wrenching. It hurts so much to read these truths, but powerful at the same time. It teaches readers of the hardships of the people in these situations and about how hard it can be to get out, but that it is possible. The story is a little hard to follow at first due to the way it switches between characters and their stories, but once that is sorted out, readers will not want to put this novel down. It is a captivating and powerful read!”
“Q.2. What is your favorite beverage? Well! Here is an indication of my inner oddball. If I could have anything I wanted it would be a coconut milk, banana, peanut butter, protein powder smoothie with spinach and a tiny bit of raw ginger. But, since I am a writer and often find myself up until all hours of the night creating, I often resort to a drink that you can also clean your driveway with, diet coke. If I could just stay on the wagon and give up caffeine I know I could write and not be weary, but movie popcorn simply screams for diet coke.”
“I liked this story, and it had me on the edge of my seat at times. It was heartbreaking reading about what each of these families were going through with all of the abuse. It was also kind of eye-opening to see just how much psychological damage can be done by the abuser. It’s easy for someone who has never been through it to say “Well, if they’re in a horrible relationship, why don’t they just leave?” but for someone who has been beaten down so much, that they’re worthless, and been made to feel like they are completely dependent on their spouse, they feel like they have no choice but to stay.
I liked Grace and her caring and empathetic manner towards those she was trying to help. It must be pretty emotionally draining to have a career like her, especially knowing that you can’t save everyone, no matter how hard you try.
The two complaints I have about this book are that there were so many characters in it, and the chapters were so short, switching back and forth so quickly, that it was really hard for me to keep track of who was who. I had to constantly flip back a few chapters to remind myself who I was reading about. Also, I don’t feel like things were resolved with Emily’s husband Berk.
Other than those two issues, I did enjoy the story and would read more from this author.”
“On the heels of the release of her new book “Safe House,” longtime Seaside resident and local author Shannon Symonds was the guest at the July Lunch in the Loft author series hosted by Beach Books.
‘I’m very happy to have Shannon. Her book is fantastic,” said Karen Emmerling owner of Beach Books. “It highlights things you probably didn’t know were going on inSeaside, or hoped weren’t going on in Seaside, but it’s definitely a tribute to her work and to her faith. I hope Shannon and her characters will be back at some point, soon.”….by Rebecca Herren
“Q. Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
Grace, the main character in Safe House, is an advocate who responds with handsome Officer Joe Hart to serve survivors of domestic assault. She works twenty-four hours a day to offer survivors and their children safe shelter and a way out. She is the stranger that shows up when your whole world comes crashing down and asks you to trust her and leave everything you know behind.
Grace is also a single mother trying to keep her family going. Grace’s mother Mable, one of my favorite character’s, lives in an in-law apartment in Grace’s house with her younger brother. Grace is only thirty-eight, but she is already a survivor herself and wonders if there is anyone for a clumsy, curly blond.
Grace’s talent is to be the eye of the storm. No matter what dangers swirl around her, she is calm and when you are with her you can’t help but believe that maybe, just maybe, everything is going to be alright.”
“In addition to the social issues and the tensions they provided the characters, this was an exciting adventure as the characters in the town find themselves dealing with a force of nature that threatens to overpower them all, including the modern technology we take so much for granted in this day and age. The action kept me reading….The focus of the book was not romance, but the romance elements present were sweet and clean. Not all romances were resolved, which leads me to hope the author may have a sequel to this novel. It was an enjoyable and enlightening read, and I recommend it.”
“The author did a great job of giving enough detail to let you know these women lived in bad situations without getting too graphic. I am fortunate to not have firsthand experience with this and cringed at what I read, while also realizing that the author didn’t go too dark.
Grace, as well as some other characters, are LDS (or Mormon) so there are some religious references. Each of them are able to help the women and their families in different ways. Women in these situations can be misunderstood and blamed for the situation they are in and Ms. Symonds did a great job in humanizing them and helping the reader see how they can get there. She also shows the incredible courage it takes to accept help and gain control once more of their lives.”
“Q. 1. Safe House is your debut novel. Have you written anything else? You’re the first person to ask me!
Recently, I attended a book signing at a hospital where I worked last year. I confessed in front of a large group of friends that I had been a closet writer for years. I explained that I had written around 200 self-help articles for FamilyShare.com or Deseret Connect. I had written for the BillionClicks.org blog created by Hilary Weeks, singer and songwriter. I had also written lyrics to a love song which is on a CD sold on the coast. I am hoping the song stays hidden! The music is great but the lyrics are sappy.
I came home from the signing and told my mother my secret was out. I was no longer an anonymous writer. She laughed and told me I was meant to be a writer. She said even when I was a small child, if I got into trouble, I would write her an apology letter.”
“While Safe House deals with some difficult and troubling issues, it is also full of faith, optimism, and healing. It gives me hope to think that there are people who genuinely care and truly want to help those who are victims of domestic violence. I really enjoyed reading this book. It is exciting and eye-opening, and it has just a little bit of romance mixed in for good measure. Safe House is written from a Mormon perspective, so if you are not a Mormon, some of the language will not be familiar to you, but it also contains a universal message of faith in God that all Christians can identify with.”
I honestly hope readers will be drawn into the story. I don’t want readers to think about statistics or anything but the characters and the seemingly impossible conflicts they must overcome to survive. I want readers to be surprised at every turn by the life-threatening situations the characters are faced with and their ability to not only endure but to overcome. I would love it if readers laugh at the absurdity of Grace’s life, believe characters with broken hearts can love again, and glimpse the miracles I have witnessed over and over.”
“I first have to say that I think the information and overall message of this book is so important. I haven’t had a lot of experience with domestic violence and knowing there are so many women and children (and men) in the world suffering through this is heartbreaking. The author of this book works as a victim’s advocate so her personal, first hand knowledge and experience go a long way in making this novel valid and real. And honestly? Thank goodness for Shannon and people like her to help, support and love to people when they need it the most.”
Many times I have sat with a survivor of abuse while they wrestled with the decision to stay or go. It is a decision they have to make for themselves because no one knows their story better than they do. Ultimately they alone have to live with the consequences of their choices.
Change, leaping into the unknown can be totally overwhelming. But, every once in a while a survivor doesn’t get to choose. Life, police, a call from a neighbor who heard the fight change the course of their lives in one day, like a storm blowing in and washing away anything familiar and comfortable. They find themselves battling for their children, their freedom and the right to choose.
July 4th we celebrate Independence Day, or the day our nation declared independence following the Revolutionary War.
As a mom and peacemaker, there is a part of me that wishes we never went to war and that peace would follow a lovely bake sale, awareness march and agreement to disagree. However, some of the greatest warriors I know have had to face some of the darkest places on earth to win, maintain and fight for our freedom. Just like some of the most amazing survivors I know have endured the worst kind of abuse, power, and control.
The definition of freedom, “Noun. The power or right to act or speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.”
Safe House is a fictional novel about two women who crave freedom and yet love their families. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (www.ncadv.org), 1 out of 3 women and 1 out of 4 men have been victims of some sort of intimate partner violence. The National Human Trafficking Hotline took 7,572 calls from people reporting they were being trafficked in the United States in 2016. It is estimated 20.9 million people worldwide are victims of forced labor.
What does this mean to you?
This means the battle for freedom is far from over, but the battlefield has changed. It is now our own homes and neighborhoods. And while a part of me wants someone else to fix it, as survivors, or supporters of survivors we can choose to become Advocates.
From survivor to advocate!
Many times I have spent long hours with men and women who came to my attention as victims and then decided to become survivors. Every once in a while I see a survivor come out of their own personal storm and become an advocate, fighting for the rights of other survivors, sharing their stories, and celebrating their freedom. When I see that spark of fight, that fiery survivor and warrior say, “No more!” I have been known to smile and declare, “Happy Independence Day!”
I may be a little unraveled, like a dress caught in the rip tides of the cold Pacific Ocean, weighed down by sand and coming undone, but I survived. And even if the tide comes in again and tries to drag me back to the cold, dark sea, I will survive. I have learned to swim, I have learned to navigate the currents. If I can just reach God’s hand someday, I will learn to dance on top of the water in celebration of finding the joy beyond the horizon of endurance.
There was a time when I spent my nights watching the moon and moving stars, anxiety rolling me over and over. Then I realized, I could travel with fear or faith, the outcome was always better with faith.
When I looked at my life through the lens of fear, the sun never seemed to rise and the day was a chain of storms, and energy spent trying to control an uncontrollable universe.
When I finally let go and swam, I looked up at the Son, and let the mighty waves carry me to shore. I learned that I arrived at the almost the same destination, filled with joy. In the light of hope and faith, I saw the miracles which had been there all along. I was delighted by the blessings laying scattered on the sandy beach. In the watery reflection of each day, I caught a glimpse of Heaven.
New Testament, Matthew 14
28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
Have you ever felt broken? As an Advocate, I have heard survivors use the term over and over.
Beautiful Broken Heart
What you didn’t know
When you shattered me
Is you left my heart wide open,
Making space for hope to get in,
Letting passion burst through the cracks,
Lighting the way to a better life.
I choose to keep the myriad fractures,
Places to look out from within,
Space to see other broken.
Let them in.
Patterns mapping the way,
Beautiful broken symbols revealing my power,
The power of survival.
Only visible to the broken,
Survivors carrying the gift of seeing out,
You didn’t know when you shattered us
You improved our view,
We all see you.
There is no place to hide from the broken.
All of our pieces bring us together.
And when the mosaic is complete,
We will be more beautiful,
Than ever before.
By Shannon Symonds
After a particularly difficult day, I once again said to a family member, “I feel broken,” while driving to Washington to hear Jeffrey R. Holland speak.
Holland began his talk, and then stopped midsentence. He said he felt inspired to talk about something else, and then he said the words that will forever be written on my heart. Frantically I typed them on my cell phone, so I would never forget.
He said, “God loves broken things.” Those words struck members of the congregation, silencing the room. He went on to explain, “He loves a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” A contrite spirit is someone who feels guilt and remorse.
Announcing an exciting new collaboration to illuminate healing from abuse and capture hearts!
What happens when creatives have an idea and they collide? Vikki Downs, Cedar Fort Marketing Director sparked an idea. What if we combined art and writing to bring awareness and hope to survivors and their loved ones?
And what if you could contribute?
That was all it took!
I called Haley Miller of Haley Miller’s Captures Photography. Haley, a true creative listened, was inspired, packed and here in two days! Driven by the power of an idea and the family van!
Haley had been creating beautiful photographic art like the pieces below.
I have long believed in the power of changing one heart at a time.
Abuse is a difficult subject. It is easy to swipe past it on our screens. One-second glance and it is gone. But that same one second of time can be used to touch a soul.
What if every day we all shared one positive thought, we cared for just a minute and we all encouraged the survivors in our world?
That is why I will also be adding a page to my website for Haley Miller’s Photographic art and for you to share your stories. We want to hear about moments that have changed your heart or acts of service you are doing to touch others.
Haley’s art will be traveling with me to bookstores, book clubs, firesides, and events.
Has an act of kindness captured your heart or changed the way you feel about yourself or a survivor you care about? Have you participated in a service project for others?
Please share your experiences and we will share some of ours.
I hope survivors and the world can walk together towards healing.