Once Beyond a Time ~ by Ann Tatlock

Yvonne Lehmann
Tatlock is a novelist and children’s book author. Her newest novel, Once
Beyond A Time
, was published in December 2014
by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Her books have received numerous
awards, including the Christy Award, the Midwest Book Award and the Silver Angel
Award for Excellence in Media. She also serves as managing editor of Heritage
Beacon, the historical fiction imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the
Carolinas. She lives with her family in Western North Carolina. Please visit
her website at www.anntatlock.com.
Once Beyond A Time
A Non-Paranormal
Paranormal Story
I want to tell
you up front that I don’t believe in ghosts. The idea of disembodied souls haunting
shadowy places—rattling chains, slamming doors, walking through walls–just
doesn’t fit with my world view. People aren’t meant to remain earth-bound. We
either end up in the presence of God or separated from Him eternally. That’s
what the Bible says and that’s what I accept as true.
And yet my new
novel, Once Beyond A Time, was
rejected at several houses for being a ghost story. Too paranormal, they said. As
a Christian publisher we don’t want to promote anything having to do with the
But it isn’t paranormal, I argued. Not a single character in the book is dead.
No matter; they
didn’t want it. Years passed, and I finally found a house happy to publish it. Oddly,
this particular publisher wanted to promote it as paranormal.
But it isn’t paranormal, I argued once again. The premise has nothing to do with ghosts.
That may be, the publisher argued back, but what happens in your book isn’t
normal—what, with people talking to people who live in different times—so that
makes it paranormal.
We decided we
have different definitions of paranormal. Which, I guess–to make us both
happy–means my newest offering is a non-paranormal paranormal book.
What the book
actually deals with is time. Or more accurately, God’s timelessness: “I am
Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and
which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8 KJV).
Unlike humans
who occupy a single point in time, God stretches from start to finish, he is
and was and is to come, and therefore he is the Eternal Now. He created time
for our use, but he remains outside of it and is unhindered by it. So, I
wondered, what if one was able to “step out of time” and experience what God
experiences? That’s the premise of my story.
It’s 1968, and
Sheldon and Meg Crane have just moved their family from suburban Philadelphia
to the town of Black Mountain, NC. Sheldon has resigned in disgrace from the
ministry after an affair. He will now sell used cars for his brother-in-law’s
auto dealership. Sheldon is burdened by his wife’s unwillingness to forgive and
his daughter’s anger over the move. The oldest son is in Vietnam. The only
happy member of the family is his eight-year-old son, Digger.
After settling
into their new home–an old house nearly hidden on the side of a mountain—the
family soon discover it’s no ordinary place. And this is where it gets to be
“not normal.” The family can see and speak with people who have lived there in
the past, and with those who will live there in the future. They are trying to
make sense out of this odd phenomenon when the unspeakable happens: Digger
disappears. They don’t know whether he has been kidnapped or whether he has
wandered off into the mountains and gotten lost.
As the family
deals with brokenness, heartache and—yes—the paranormal experience of “stepping
out of time,” they discover the house is a gift, one that teaches them about
the healing power of forgiveness and the loving sovereignty of God.
No ghosts. No
rattling chains or slamming doors. Just a chance to take an imaginary journey
beyond time. Sometimes the “not normal” can offer a fresh perspective on grace.
I hope it will for you.
It’s 1968, and Sheldon and Meg Crane have just moved their
family from Pennsylvania to the small town of Black Mountain, NC. Sheldon,
recently ousted from the ministry due to an illicit affair, takes a job as a
used car salesman at his brother-in-law s auto dealership. Burdened by his
wife’s unforgiveness and his daughter’s resentment over the move to “Barney Fife
country”, Sheldon finds a measure of solace in his eight-year-old son’s ability
to cope. After settling into an old house high on the side of a mountain, the
family discovers their new home is no ordinary place. Family members
occasionally see and speak with the home’s previous residents ⎯ and the ones who will live there in
the future. While attempting to come to terms with this portal in the past and
future, their son, Digger, suddenly disappears. Was he kidnapped or did Digger
wander off into the mountains and become lost? The answer lies in a place once
beyond a time ⎯ in a realm where the mysterious power of forgiveness removes
sorrow and heals even the most egregious sins. 
Yvonne Lehman is an award-winning, best-selling author of more than 3,000,000 books in print, who founded and directed the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference for 25 years, is now director of the Blue Ridge “Autumn in the Mountains” Novelist Retreat. She mentors for the Christian Writers Guild. She earned a Master’s Degree in English from Western Carolina University and has taught English and Creative Writing on the college level. Her latest releases include eight ebooks for Barbour’s Truly Yours line and a Harlequin/Heartsong series set in Savannah GA: The Caretaker’s Son, Lessons in Love, Seeking Mr. Perfect, (released in March, August, & November 2013). Her 50th novel is Hearts that Survive – A Novel of the TITANIC


By Yvonne Lehman
Ann Tatlock is the author of
10 novels and eight children’s books (three available, five soon to be
released). Her works have received numerous awards, including the Midwest Book
Award and the Silver Angel Award from Excellence in Media. Her newest release, Sweet Mercy, is a finalist for the 2014
Christy Award in the historical category. Her novel, Promises to Keep, is currently being made into a motion picture by
Big Film Factory. You can read more about her work at http://www.anntatlock.com. 
Cynthia Cope
Rasemas is co-founder of Purple Toad Publishing, along with her artist-husband
Joe Rasemas. You can find Purple Toad on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PurpleToadPublishingInc.
Once upon a time, in a faraway land called
Hockessin, Delaware, two teen-aged girls went to high school together and
became fast friends. Cynthia wanted to become a writer and became a nurse. Ann
wanted to become a nurse and became a writer.
Decades passed and they mostly fell out of
touch until one day Cynthia wrote to Ann to tell her the news. She and her
husband Joe were starting their own publishing house and were calling it Purple
Toad Publishing. Their goal was to produce high-quality non-fiction books for
“And,” Cynthia added, “we want you to write
for us!”
“But,” Ann responded, “I only write made-up
stories–and those for adults.”
“No problem,” Cynthia said blithely. “We’d
like you to start with a book on Medieval England.”
“But,” Ann protested once more, “everything
I know about Medieval England I learned from watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”
“Wonderful!” Cynthia exclaimed. “You’re
So, given a deadline, Ann went to the
library and checked out all the books she could find on Medieval England and
scoured the internet for all the websites she could find on Medieval England
and for a full month she read and scribbled notes and wrote and rewrote and put
her head down on her desk in despair and cried, “This book is no good!”
Nevertheless, she persisted and finished the
book and sent it off to Cynthia with no small trepidation, as not only did she
want to please her old friend, but Cynthia’s mother, Mrs. Cope, had been Ann’s
high school English teacher and Ann was still of the mindset that she wanted to
get a good grade.
After hitting Send, Ann sweated it out for
several days until she saw Cynthia’s name once again in her Inbox. She
breathlessly opened the email to find these wonderful and welcome words: “I
love it! Beautiful! Very visual!” And Cynthia even went on to include a myriad
of comments from her mother, Mrs. Cope, that in Ann’s mind translated into an
After that, there was much singing and
rejoicing in the house of Ann. She went on to accept more assignments from
Cynthia, and she found herself in a veritable Wonderland of Learning as she
wrote about everything from dogs to opossums, from Heart Castle to Mary Queen
of Scots to Ancient China. Good golly, she
thought to herself, this gig of writing
non-fiction children’s books is pretty fun!
And so, while they are still waiting for the
ultimate happily-ever-after, these two friends from the faraway land of
Hockessin are enjoying their work and marveling at the circumstances that
brought them back together as writer and publisher, something they never would
have imagined some decades ago. But then, sometimes truth is stranger—and even more
wonderful—than fiction.
The moral of the story is: Don’t be afraid
to try a new and different kind of writing. You might discover you like it!
That’s Me in History
Imagine living in the days of castles and knights, lords and
ladies, minstrels and troubadours! Medieval life was full of the stuff of
legends, but at the same time, the people of the Middle Ages often endured
plagues, famine, war, and other hardships. Even during times of peace and
prosperity, their days were long and their work was hard. Let’s travel back in
time to Medieval England where ten-year-old William will show us what daily life
was like in a fourteenth-century English city. This Core Curriculum aligned,
library bound book is by award winning author Ann Tatlock.
Yvonne Lehman is author of 50 novels and
director of Blue Ridge“Autumn in the Mountains” Novelist Retreat – Ridgecrest NC Conference Center. 

The Art of Listening by guest blogger Ann Tatlock

Ann Tatlock is the author of eight novels. She enjoys teaching and acting as writing mentor at numerous conferences and workshops throughout the year. Her greatest joy is her daughter Laura, with whom she shares a love of life, laughter and Chihuahuas. Ann lives with her family on the side of a mountain in beautiful Western North Carolina. You can read more about her work on her website.
The Art of Listening
If you can’t figure out exactly who your characters are and what it is they ought to be doing next, it may be that you’re trying too hard. Your characters will tell you everything you need to know, as long as you’re willing to listen.
Maybe you remember that wonderful scene from “Finding Forrester.” In the movie, Sean Connery plays William Forrester, the reclusive Pulitzer Prize winning novelist who never writes a second novel and who hasn’t left his New York City apartment for years. Unexpectedly, he is befriended by a 16-year-old basketball player named Jamal Wallace who has a secret passion—he wants to be a writer.
Once Forrester reluctantly consents to becoming Jamal’s mentor, he brings out a couple of typewriters, starts tapping away at his own and tells Jamal to “go ahead.” Jamal says he can’t go ahead, he has to think first. To which Forrester replies, “No. No thinking. That comes later. You write the first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is to write—not to think.”
While I agree with Forrester (he is, after all, a Pulitzer Prize winner!), I would back up one step. Even before you begin to write, just listen. Just go about your business—clean the house, mow the lawn, pay bills, play with the kids—and at the same time try to be aware of the voices at the back of your mind that are telling you their story. Because if you’re a writer of fiction, that’s the best way to give your imagination the freedom it needs to work.
It’s impossible to explain exactly how this happens, but it may be something like this: Picture those times when you were about to say something but suddenly you forgot what it was. The other person says to you, “Well, it’ll come to you when you’re not thinking about it.” And it does! As soon as you move on to the next topic, your mind retrieves the lost item that had disappeared from the tip of your tongue.
The mind and the imagination—what a wonder! Especially when our inspiration comes from the Holy Spirit. The word “inspire” in fact means “God breathed.” Just as God breathed life into us (Genesis 2:7), He continues to breathe life into our minds and souls so that we may create works of beauty that glorify Him.
Before I start a novel, I pray for God’s inspiration and I listen. And then my characters rise up and become real, three-dimensional people with minds of their own. They tell me everything I need to know for the story to take shape, and though I’m the one who must sit at the keyboard searching for the right words and putting the scenes in order, they are always there, guiding me and correcting me whenever I take a misstep.
Believe me, they have minds of their own. They don’t like it when I attempt to change their story. When I tried to kill off Doc Eide in my first novel, A Room of My Own, he made me feel guilty and out of sorts for days until I realized he had no intension of dying. Thankfully, I relented and let him live. The story is much better with the good doctor alive at the end.
Ditto with Howard Draper in All the Way Home. As far as I was concerned, he was going to meet his Maker on that lonely back road in Mississippi. “Not on your life,” he said. “Kill me, and your readers will rise up and revolt.” Of course, he was right. Had I succeeded in doing Howard in, the story would have been ruined. When All the Way Home won the Christy Award, I could hear Howard–still alive and playing his violin somewhere in that place where all satisfied characters reside–saying, “Told you so.”
Tillie Monroe of Promises to Keep was another character full of surprises. She first came to me about 25 years ago, long before I was a published author. I tried to write her into a novel, but the story fell flat. “What’s the matter, Tillie?” I asked her. “Not time yet,” she replied. “I’ll let you know when it is.” That dear old woman patiently sat around for a quarter of a century before finally showing up in force. “All right,” she said. “Now’s the time. And here’s the story.” While she spoke, she was sitting on the front porch of a house she used to own and she was reading the morning paper. And there begins the first chapter of Promises to Keep.
Now you may wonder whether I tried to kill Tillie off. I can’t tell you, of course, or I’ll ruin the ending of the story for you. But I can tell you that she rather snippily said to me, “You do tend to lean toward killing people, don’t you? And you’re not even a writer of murder mysteries.” I like to think that she and I came to a good compromise on the story’s ending, though that’s all I’ll say about that.
Like the proverbial pounding of a square peg in a round hole, it doesn’t work to force characters to be who we want them to be or do what we want them to do. They are their own people, and the story belongs to them. They will tell you their names, and you must accept them, even when the name seems ridiculous. (I told Satchel Queen of Every Secret Thing that Satchel was a boy’s name, and that the only Satchel I ever heard of was an African-American baseball player while here she was a young white girl. I tried to change her name to Susannah, but my attempts were useless. Satchel said she wouldn’t tell me her story if I didn’t call her by her real name.)
They will tell you what they look like and what their dreams are and where they have been and where they are going. Sometimes they will come upon you suddenly, when you may be halfway through the book already and you had no idea any other characters are involved. But there they are and you must include them, because the story won’t be complete without them.
As someone who believes fully that Christians must be thinking people, still I offer my first word of advice to writers both published and not-yet-published: Don’t think. At least, not at first. Instead, get into the habit of listening. Give your characters the freedom they need to become fully formed people, rising up to populate that wonderful world of your imagination. First, they will surprise and delight you and then, in turn, they will surprise and delight your readers.
Eleven-year-old Rosalind (Roz) Anthony escapes an abusive home life when her mother decides to leave her husband and take the children to another state. Leaving Minnesota behind and settling in Mills River, Illinois, the family is surprised to wake up one day and find a stranger on their front porch, reading the morning paper.
That stranger is 70-year-old Tillie Monroe, the former owner who aims to die in the house her husband built for her and where she lived all her married life—before her sons sold the place out from under her. Tillie’s insistence on coming home proves a godsend for the family in ways they could never imagine.
Alan Anthony has followed the family to Mills River, but reveals himself only to Roz. What Roz wants more than anything is for her daddy to quit drinking, to be the good man she knows him to sometimes be, and to take his rightful place as husband and father. He promises to change. But should Roz trust him?

To read my review of Promises to Keep, click here.