I’ll start off with a confession. My husband, Rick, plays the banjo. There, I’ve said it. Not a lot, but enough to make me wonder if we’re cousins. For a time, he would jam with his bluegrass friends, a sweet group of people prone to wearing denim bib overalls and playing the saw as a musical interlude. After a few months, Rick started to rave about this one particular banjo picker. He extolled this fellow’s abilities so much that I was forced to politely respond. I asked if he had all his teeth. Unable to arouse my slightest interest, Rick moved on to point out that I simply had to meet his beautiful wife. She was gracious, slender, and movie-star beautiful.
Right. I felt dumpy already. I ignored Rick’s ranting about the banjo-picker-and-his-beautiful-wife and ate another slice of pie. I was depressed so I added extra whipped cream.
Rick’s crusade to have me meet this wonderful couple continued. “Did you know,” he asked me one day, “that my banjo-playing friend is an author?”
Okay, he had me there. I love books. “What has he written?”
“I think it’s called ‘A Clear and Present Darkness.’”
Great. A Clancy wannabe. Rick persisted, however. In desperation, he told me they owned a Great Pyrenees. That was the deciding factor. I’d owned Pyrenees since just after Noah’s flood. We invited them to dinner. Frank and Barb Peretti.
I had no idea who Frank was. I’d never read his books. When they returned the favor and invited us to dinner, I got some inkling of Frank’s reputation and success. Their home was gorgeous, sprawling on emerald green lawns and overlooking the river. Discreetly tucked on the walls leading to the
basement were a variety magazine covers and awards for selling a bajillion
Clever person that I was, I put it together that Frank wasn’t just an author, he was an Author. Big time. Important. A list. I could have been intimidated, but Frank and Barb were such lovely, down-to-earth folks that we became friends. I discovered that Barb wasn’t just movie-star beautiful, she was
a talented artist (actually, so is Frank, but he’s pretty busy writing.)
I’ll skip over all the great times we had, because I’m sure you’re now chomping at the bit to find out how Frank came to mentor me in my writing. Fast forward a number of years. It was Christmas and I’d not found a single thing for Barb. We usually exchanged simple gifts-well, mine were simple, Barb’s were delightfully thoughtful. So I wrote a story. An adventure about two women on a quest: one fat and jolly, the other movie-star beautiful.
I know. I know. I’m so original…. I wrapped it up and gave it to Barb. She started to read it at home and burst out laughing. Often. Frank wanted
to know what she found so amusing and she read excerpts to him. He called and asked to see me. And he did. He told me I had writing talent and that he would “teach me to fish.”
I was stunned and thrilled. I decided to not enter any art shows that year and devote myself to learning the writing trade from the master. That was January of 2004. Two months later I was diagnosed with stage two breast
Funny thing about God. He sure knows how to time things. Throughout that awful/wonderful year, through surgeries, chemo, baldness, sickness, everything-hurt-times, Frank would sit across his kitchen table from
me and listen to what I’d cranked out on my computer. Barb would listen and ply us with lattes.
It was a time of refining fire. I posted on my refrigerator Hebrews 12:1 and took courage from the last line that said, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Not only was I battling cancer, my mom was slowly dying of emphysema and I was caring for her. She died a year later, never knowing about my disease.
I finished my first manuscript that summer of 2004, but my writing, like my life, needed that refining fire. I had much, much more to learn. Rejections, rewrites, more rejections, writer’s conferences, classes, critique groups, still more rejections, classes again, and finally, finally success. Through all of this, Frank patiently, skillfully, taught me to fish.
An article about a skull posted on the internet caught my attention. The material was a scholarly report on something called a “Le Forte” fracture found on the bones of the exhumed body of Joseph Smith. Exhumed body? Hmmm, this sounded interesting. I’d reconstructed numerous skulls for a variety of cases in the past and had known of, and read about historical reconstructions.
On the web page, the author noted that Joseph Smith’s facial bones were shattered when he fell from a second story window onto his face. They quoted the following as eyewitness proof of this fact:
“He fell on his left side a dead man." –Willard Richards
“He seemed to fall easy and struck partly on his right shoulder and back…” -Wm. M. Daniels
Hmmm again. Left side? Right shoulder? Neither account said he landed on his face. This was enough for me to begin researching the entire event and led me to several obscure books about Joseph Smith’s death, burial, exhumation, death mask, and skull. I will post the research and sources on this blog.
Fine artist, forensic artist, author.