It is 1 AM and I had to write and tell you, I just typed the last two words I plan to type on my next novel. The End. What lovely words they are! Not only is the story written, but it has been read and re-read.
This morning early, I finished reading my book out loud. I momentarily panicked when I realized several corrections hadn’t been saved, but then I decided it was an opportunity to do it all again, and better.
I could spend every second, or forever, fixing one more thing, trying one more time to make something, anything, just a little better. Perhaps, I will decide later, I should have worked longer or smarter, but for now. Finished.
Because it is better to take the leap of faith than to never leap at all.
My wish? This story becomes another opportunity to serve and give to
Hope Experience Flanagan had to get out of the Rat’s trailer tonight. It made more sense to wait until her 18th birthday, or until the cold Oregon Coast weather warmed, but everything told her the Rat was dangerous and she was out of time.
“Come on Hope! I just want you to watch a movie with me.” the Rat begged from the other side of her locked bedroom door.
“I’m not coming out until Mom’s home!”
“See how nice I am! Your Mom hasn’t been home for weeks and I let you stay with me.”
“Just let me finish my homework,” she said nicely, trying to hide her frustration.
The flimsy bedroom door in the timeworn 1967 Rancho trailer shook angrily. Poised to move, Hope held her breath until it stopped. “You promise?” he yelled.
Finally, she heard the Rat shuffle down the little hall. Five foot one Richard Culligan, ironically known as ‘Rich’ to his friends, and Rat to her, was her mother’s latest partner in a steady stream of companions. Hope hated them all.
The lacey ice on the windows of the Rat’s ancient trailer was as much on the inside in winter as on the outside. The trailer hadn’t moved for more years than Hope had been alive. It was parked in the Yeti Trailer Haven among other molding heaps of aluminum hidden by forest, vines, and foliage which obliterated their existence. Hope thought it was the best part of the coast. Magic green that erased every sign of man if you gave it long enough.
She sat on an old sleeping bag on a bare mattress, headphones in, music playing, when hailstones began pelting the aluminum walls. Gradually the torrent picked up. Larger and larger hailstones assaulted the windows so loudly it broke through her music and then it stopped.
Everything else she owned was packed in her old orange backpack including a Ziploc bag with a picture of her missing mother. Quietly, she pulled back the red rug, moved a loose floorboard, and dropped her pack into the black hole. Then, Hope slid down through the same hole and out from under Rich Culligan’s trailer forever.
Grace James had a smile painted on her face, but her nylons had gradually fallen until she was sure the crotch was at her bony knees and below the hem of her skirt. She had been wearing two hour high heels for four hours and her feet begged for mercy. She stood tall, at the end of her thirties with her long blond hair sprayed into submission on stage next to her boss in the old Victorian Church, now the Bay City Performing Arts Center.
Grace’s boss Eunice had the microphone. Her gray bob looked purple in the spotlight. She took off her bedazzled cat eye glasses, and said to the audience, “Next I want to introduce our senior advocate, Grace James.”
Hailstones started pelting the large stained glass windows in the ancient hall.
Every head turned to look at the row of 20-foot windows lining both sides of the room as a cascade threatened to break through the glass. The echo was deafening and then ended almost as quickly as it started.
Enter to win a signed copy of Safe House and read an excerpt from my next book! Go back to Necanicum and spend time with Grace James, Joe Hart, and all your favorite characters.
“Grace James, Sexual Assault Advocate and single mother is seeing signs of sex trafficking in the small coastal town of Necanicum, but what she doesn’t see is a way to do her job and protect her own family while Morgan, her ex-husband is out of prison. Will she and officer Joe Hart be able to stop the spreading evil before Hope Experience Flanagan, a homeless 17-year-old disappears forever or will Morgan take Grace’s life at the same time as he and his partner Vlad plan to take Hope to sea forever.”
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
If you have a pulse, it is highly likely that you have experienced challenges, loss, and even trauma at some point between the day you left the womb and now. If you haven’t there is a high likelihood that you are in a coma.
Howard W. Hunter, an international religious leader once explained, “There must be opposition in all things,” but why? Why, when most of us work diligently to do good things do we encounter barriers and how can they possibly be for our own good?
Many years ago I faced a challenge in a lifetime illness. At age 12, I was diagnosed with an inherited autoimmune disease, likely triggered by stress. The doctor explained that a simple daily medication would help me get through life. What he didn’t explain was the disease would cause weight gain, loss of energy, depression, hair loss, problems with my skin and nails. Those may not be big things to you, but to a young woman, they were massive. All I knew was that I struggled with symptoms no one else had. I didn’t understand why.
Later in life, the additional stress of being a survivor and a move back to my beloved coast triggered a downward spiral in my health. I began my wrestling match with a myriad of symptoms, which included gaining 40 pounds in a very few months while eating fewer and fewer calories and exercising more and more.
I began my wrestle. I had an invisible challenge like so many of us do. I recently became friends with a group of wonderful woman. We support each other’s effort to write and publish. As time passed we began to talk more honestly. Then one day, one of us confessed our lives weren’t perfect. We realized none of our lives were perfect, but they were also perfectly beautiful.
Guess what? No one has a perfect life. Some of us have serious struggles but spend our days caring for others, often with a smile on our face. If you think you are the only person who struggles with diet, addiction, or other invisible challenges you are not alone.
“Are you willing to engage in the wrestle? In an ongoing spiritual wrestle? If we want to grow spiritually, the Lord expects us to ask questions and seek answers.
We live in a sound-bite world where “tweets,” “likes,” “posts,” and “shares” have become the way we keep informed and share ideas. We are accustomed to expecting instant answers. But the most compelling questions in our lives rarely have quick, easy, Google answers. That is because receiving revelation and gaining knowledge, particularly divine knowledge, takes time.
It takes a wrestle.”
Nothing is ever a straight path. My life so far has been a series of hills with hidden valleys containing some pretty hefty challenges. The difference is, I know now, I am not alone. I am entitled to drop to my knees and get the answers I would never have come to on my own. And in my wrestle with survivorship, health, healing, family, love, finances, jobs, and the weeds in my garden I will be building muscle, spiritual and personal muscles.
I am not done wrestling and I don’t ever expect to be done. What I am done doing, is looking for an easy answer. I hope to continue to build my spiritual and physical muscles daily. The face you see in the video above is a full fifty or more pounds lighter, and healthier than before the struggle began. I wouldn’t trade the journey, the knowledge, my new friends, or my time on my knees for anything, even sugar and diet coke. I hope I can keep it up! But if I fail, I will wrestle some more.
Just remember, my answers will not be your answers. I am an author and feel compelled to write my feelings, what I learn, and ideas. The direction you choose and the mountains you climb are all yours. The good news is, you don’t have to go it alone.
So when all else fails, drop to your knees and wrestle.
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.”
“For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, honoring the Sabbath is a form of righteousness … Truly keeping the Sabbath day holy is a refuge from the storms of this life. It is also a sign of our devotion to our Father in Heaven.” Quentin L. Cook
I don’t know what you believe, but my church commands me to rest! We are given lists of commandments, but to be told to just stop and rest….and for me read ….is the best commandment ever!
What a gift it is to spend one day focused on family, yummy dinners, visiting, and today reading one of Jennifer Beckstrand’s Amish romances, “Sweet as Honey,” and it was.
Now, I didn’t appreciate being commanded to rest as a child. I felt like it was keeping me from going to the city pool, hiking or fishing. But as an adult, I am totally converted. I try to stay offline, off grid and if I reply to your email, consider yourself special to me.
Sunday is the day I use to rest, rejuvenate and do my heart work.
Heart work is anything I do for others without expecting something in return.
This Sunday, I am going to share my efforts to find some support for Operation Underground Railroad, an organization working to end human slavery in the form of sex trafficking. I invite you to leave this website and look at all the good work they do.
What is your heart work?
Here is mine! A portion of the proceeds from Safe House will be donated to Operation Underground Railroad and I will share their story whenever I can!
“SALT LAKE CITY — Heather Smith Wolsey had tears in her eyes as she thanked Salt Lake County leaders Tuesday….”You don’t know it yet,” she said, choking back tears, “but you’ve done a great thing….Wolsey told of how she lived in fear of her abusive ex-husband, how she “would scream so loud and he would hit so hard,” and yet she felt alone, wondering why none of her neighbors ever called police for help… Wolsey celebrated the expected passage of a resolution declaring “freedom from domestic violence a fundamental human right.” KSL.com
After seeing the KSL news story linked here, I asked a friend and Utah resident what they thought. They shared their family member had been a victim and at the time they had no idea.
Understanding domestic violence saves lives!
You can make a difference. You can learn the signs, ask questions of your loved ones and call for help.
Signs someone may be a victim:
Their movements, spending, clothing, choices are controlled by their partner or they have to ask “permission”
They wear long sleeves in hot weather or have injuries that are not consistent with their explanation
They seem isolated or have excuses to avoid connections outside the home
Their house may be very clean because if it’s not they are in trouble.
Signs of extreme jealousy
The Abuser shows up unexpectedly at work, school to check up on or help the victim
Here is a great description of what an abusive relationship may look like from the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
If you hear someone screaming or calling for help, call 911. Don’t put yourself in harm’s way
If you suspect a friend or family member may be a victim, ask. Give them the National Domestic Violence Hotline phone number- 1-800-799-7233), so they can locate services in their area
Become involved in local services and awareness events. Learn and share your knowledge
Break the silence!
Safe House is a fictional novel, meant to both entertain and enlighten. My hope is to bring awareness through the story. What is your story? What are you waiting for?
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?