I love chatting with readers. Recently, a reader invited me to speak to their local congregation in Utah. Because of Covid-I am doing the next best thing. I am reading Safe House and sharing what I’ve learned about supporting survivors after each chapter. Here is a link to my YouTube Channel and Safe House Reading and Fireside Chat Playlist.
Do you know someone who has experienced intimate partner violence (domestic violence)? Do you work with survivors, have family or friends who are survivors? Are you a survivor and your connections don’t understand or support you? Have people given you unwelcome advice, like why don’t you just leave? Send me your questions and concerns. Let’s chat after each chapter.
Safe House by Shannon Symonds
Welcome to the free video reading of Safe House, published by Cedar Fort Publishers. I thought it would be fun to read my first book to you while sharing the beauty of the Pacific coast or the settings for Safe House, Finding Hope, and my upcoming novels.
After I read the chapters, I will tell you a little about what inspired them. Feel free to end the video before the chat. I know how busy life can be!
Welcome to the first free video reading of Safe House, published by Cedar Fort Publishers. I thought it would be fun to read my first book to you while sharing the beauty of the Pacific coast or the settings for Safe House, Finding Hope, and my upcoming novels. I made this video down the street from my home.
I will add a few chapters to my Tuesday and Thursday newsletters. I promise not to spam you!
After I read the chapters, I will tell you a little about what inspired them. Feel free to end the video before the chat. I know how busy life can be!
Eve Marx of the Seaside Signal not only featured my newest novel, Finding Hope, she investigated trafficking in our small town and researched what it might look like in yours. Do you wonder if your kids are at risk? Do you want to know what to look for?
It was my privilege to be a guest on Valerie Loveless's podcast! Valerie is an author and a world changer. Learn ways to support survivors, tips for keeping teens safe, and why I love Oregon's services for survivors. Hear about Safe House, and my next novel with the same characters and setting, FINDING HOPE.
In honor of my favorite holiday, July 4th, and Safe House’s first birthday on July 11, I am donating 100% of my ebook profits to Operation Underground Railroad and reducing the cost of my ebook to $0.99 for the ENTIRE month of July.
Cedar Fort is supporting the cause and donating 1 signed copy of Safe House to Operation Underground Railroad for their aftercare programs, auctions, or to give away for every 50 ebooks sold during the month of July.
July 4th is my favorite holiday! Since 1921, our family has gathered on the Seaside, Oregon Beach and lit a massive bonfire, made s’mores, and celebrated Independence Day together. So, of course, I want the same for everyone in America, including victims of human trafficking!
Comment below or on my blog, FaceBook page, Instagram, or Twitter, with the word Freedom and I will enter you into a Facebook Live drawing from a jar! One of my beautiful family members will help me on the 4th of July.
Remember, the fight for freedom is far from over. Somewhere out there are children who need us to care. Learn more at OurRescue.org.
And watch for the first annual Seaside, Oregon family fun run on the historic prom on August 18th. I will be there and we will be running to raise funds for Operation Underground Railroad, as well as our local Seaside Sunset Empire Parks & Recreation- providing safe programs for kids!
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.
My change journey. I believe after all these years, I have finally found my area of expertise, rising after failure. Actually, I am no expert on change or life. I am just a struggling author who has searched for ways to climb the rugged terrain of life and reach just a little higher every day, or at least be willing to fall flat on my face as I try. Somedays I rise, and other days I eat dirt and contemplate the universe. Right now, I am pondering change.
2010 Before the journey
Here are some of the things I have learned on the way:
This spring I picked a small change, and yet a change I have never been able to conquer. I decided to give up refined sugar for at least one month and hopefully eat about 32 tons less a year for my lifetime.
Because change is so emotionally charged and can be so difficult, businesses everywhere practice something called change management. Simple but useful ways to roll out change which can work surprisingly well in the business of family and self-improvement.
Tips and tricks for managing change in your life (And the way I stumbled through mine!):
1. Clearly define your reasons for making a change. Make a list of why this change is important to you. A sense of urgency or importance can motivate us to follow through. For example, finding out you have high blood pressure or are close to a disease like diabetes can become your motivation for that diet you have always wanted to go on, but couldn’t quite walk past gelato.
In my life, I have had many motivators for change. Sometimes my motivations come from a sincere desire to improve myself and other times they come at me like a freight train and run me over, like finding out your husbands company is closing and you are going to have to change the way you pay your bills. Wherever the need comes from, what you chose to change and the direction you take is up to you.
2. Plan your strategy. Map out your change. You can either take it in big bites or little baby steps. Put in in writing and hang it somewhere you can revisit and rework it as you progress. If you are like me and use your phone or computer more than paper, make a note or calendar invites to remind you of the path you have chosen.
Be sure to include rewards in your plan. For example, if you decide you want to go back to school, plan a reward of a movie out with friends after you complete your enrollment forms. Then plan a weekend away after you pass your first finals. When I returned to school, with 5 kids at home, my finals reward was a night at the laundry mat to get caught up and I loved it.
3. Start by changing your environment. If you have decided it is time to diet, start by cleaning the ice-cream out of the freezer. Toss any temptation with vigor and remove barriers to your success. If you have decided to stop a major habit like smoking, but find hanging out with your friends leads to smoking with them, consider adding friends to your circle who don’t smoke.
In a positive way add what you need to your environment. Shop for healthy foods and buy those cute workout outfits you have always wanted. Big changes may require big reminders all around you. Small changes can start with baby steps. If you have clothes in 15 sizes and have successfully completed a diet, gift your clothes to someone in need and spend time rewarding yourself with a clean closet where workout clothes are always ready to go.
4. Build consensus. Sometimes together is better. Explain to your family and friends why this change is so important to you. Let your close friends in on your sense of urgency and ask them for support. Tell them specific ways they can help. For example, instead of saying to your husband, “Don’t buy Ice-cream.” Tell him ways he can support you like, “Let’s find all the healthy restaurants in town,” and, “Let’s take a healthy cooking class together.” Try to get buy-in.
This is a great time to investigate groups, classes, education, or anything that will help keep you focused and give you support. When I decided to spend the first month of my life without refined sugar, I joined a cleanse group. Not only were they knowledgeable, but they were fun! Our leader gave us information while we laughed at our struggles and supported each other. We even used acupuncture in a group and it was a hit! I will miss the group when it is over.
Ask for help. For example, if you have decided you want to start working out by walking every morning, enlist friends. It is a lot easier and safer to walk in the early morning hours in a group than it is to walk alone. And, if you know your friend is waiting for you on the corner, you are more likely to walk even when the weather is bad.
5. Remember balance. If you are planning to take something away, be sure to replace it with something healthy. For example, if you decide to give up midnight snacking, create a midnight bath and book routine to take the place of your friend chocolate.
7. Sustain and evaluate your change. Give yourself permission to care for yourself. When you choose to grow and improve, your children and hopefully your extended family will grow and learn by watching and supporting you. Any positive change can be good for others and is not time wasted. Map out ways to integrate your new found strengths into your daily life for the long haul. If you have lost weight, plan ways to sustain your new healthy lifestyle. If you have given up a bad habit, plan good habits to take their place.
If you fail, no problem! Revisit the need and make a new game plan. Sometimes we make a change, and we decide to change back. I remember in my twenties thinking I wanted to be on my own, but when I brought my first tiny baby home, I wanted my mother (At least for a few days).
8. Accept defeat as a learning experience. You are always better for having tried. I promise you have learned something. We all fail. I have lost count of the number of times I have failed. We had a standing family joke when I was growing up, “We will start that diet…Monday!” Diets may be an easy lift for you and feel insurmountable to others.
I remember my abject terror when I first approached a college campus, and I remember feeling like a failure when I had to step out of classes to care for my family. Life is ups and downs, but hopefully, the rolling hills will gradually raise you to where you want to be. And if not, my guess is your view during the journey will be spectacular. I personally feel the place I stand right now is just a pause on the journey. My struggles and hard work, coupled with my higher power has brought me to this place, and the view is spectacular.
Change is a risk. I hope your risk has great returns.
Storms roll into the Pacific Northwest Coast and change the beach, the trees, our world in minutes. I don’t know about you, but I love to watch a good storm. The power of the wind and water change rolling dunes to flat sand or new cliffs. Trees are tested, dead branches are torn from trunks, deep roots hold while others give way.
Today I ran the beach after the storm. Everything was wiped clean. Logs had been washed into the dunes and it was a new and different kind of beautiful.
Storms of all shapes and sizes roll through our lives, test our roots and strengthen us as we wrestle with the wind. Storms can change us in minutes. I think they can leave us a new kind of beautiful, molded by experience.
Isn’t it interesting that the creator of this world didn’t create manicured lawns with perfect white picket fences? He created majestic mountains, raging oceans, cascading waterfalls, frozen tundras, and storms. His creation is a work in progress. Storms still change it daily.
How many times have I stood looking in a mirror for an imperfection, a new wrinkle, a misplaced curl, signs of my storms? How many hours have I wasted angry at the storm?
Today, I worked on embracing all my imperfections as visible signs of the storms in my life. I believe in goals and choosing the direction of my journey, but I also believe in having compassion for myself.
I may have been broken by storms, shaped into someone new, changed forever, but I like what I have become. I am a testimony of endurance. One more day, I choose to lean into the wind and journey on.
Thank you to everyone who nominated Safe House for a Whitney Award! Wondering what a Whitney Award is? Look HERE. And yes- it is for my book! I am so relieved you can’t see my dance of joy! What a gift it is to have you all in my life. I love every person I have met on this journey including Cedar Fort staff, the critics, the other authors, bookstore family, and bloggers.
Okay, there is another Safe House, which came out later by everyone’s favorite author, but she is nominated too! Wouldn’t it be fun to actually make it to the finals and sit together? I would lean over and say, “Hey, nice title,” real smooth and casual like I wasn’t jumping out of my skin to be at the Whitney Awards by Traci Abramson. Then I would say, “So, I hear we share a shelf at Deseret Book.” Do you think she would sign my copy of her book?
Well… a nomination is just the first step. It is such an honor to even be listed. To be in the same room as the people I read and respect would be like Christmas times ten!
This is the happiest photo I own. This is my face one second after finding Safe House in the Deseret Book Catalog. Trust me – you don’t want me to video my dance of joy!
This 2018 I thought I might actually make a video for you WITH my makeup on and NOT after running 3 miles! Still breathless!
I love visiting at book signings. I can promise you if you struggled with anything in 2017 you weren’t alone. I heard a few statistics this year. Don’t ask me to tell you where….but I heard half of all adults under 35 live with their parents, like my kids. I know 1 in 3 women and 1 in 7 men experience domestic abuse. I also know the statistic that says 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime is only for those who report. I hear from more who never, ever told a soul.
But there is still reason to be happy in 2018. We have so much to be grateful for! This video includes my recipe for joy.
Hope. Don’t give up hope. You may feel alone or overwhelmed. You may or may not believe in a higher power or that God has a plan for you. If you’re not sure, just take a good look at me. I live in the middle of nowhere on the edge of the continent in an old money pit and you and I are chatting. I believe there is a God and a plan for you and me. Every day I look for something to be grateful for. I will often share my gratitude list online. In the process of hunting for reasons to be grateful, I have become keenly aware of the miracles that surround me.
Last year, I decided in December to find a way to volunteer and give to Operation Underground Railroad. At the same time, my sister became critically ill. I drove from Oregon to Utah to spend as much time as I could with her during her last moments. While there, someone from Operation Underground Railroad actually reached out to me and I was able to donate a book to a Utah event. We got to talking, and it turned out we had a friend from my small Seaside town in common. It becomes a small world when you start to recognize Heaven’s pattern.
Healing. After years of research, the C.D.C. announced at a national sexual assault conference and training I attended that we have “neuroplasticity” and the ability to heal. The best way to heal is to choose a list of healthy self-soothing activities and turn to them when we have anxiety, are overwhelmed by memories, or need comfort following a traumatic event. Anything that makes you feel better and is good for you works to rewire your brain to turn to healthy soothing methods in times of stress instead of addiction. For example, I take a short run regularly and write to soothe myself, find time to think and make sense of my world. For me, it’s run or turn to chocolate and peanut butter.
Helping. Reaching out and helping someone who may be struggling with something you understand or have experienced is a great way to heal if you are able to keep healthy boundaries. When you are ready, seek ways to volunteer, donate or just be kind to others in need. A pot of soup may be nothing to you and everything to someone else.
As a survivor, I never want anyone to feel as confused, lost, or absolutely overwhelmed as I did. I will always seek to make other survivors experiences better. The sooner someone is helped following trauma, homelessness, job loss, or other life crisis the sooner they will return to as normal a life as possible.
Giving to others can keep you really busy! Serving others reminds me daily how blessed I really am. You may be the one who needs to be served like I once was. Even in the worst times, there are ways to give back.