Introducing Smuggins, The King’s Messenger

Quite a few years ago (I’m not going to say how many because it makes me feel old), I sat in a Great Christian Writers class in college and listened to my professor talk about one of John Milton’s most famous sonnets, “When I Consider How My Light Is Spent.” As Dr. Bancroft walked us through the final lines of the poem that day, a character was born in my imagination: Smuggins, a messenger for the King.

Illustration by Stephen Hesselman (Smuggins)

Illustration by Stephen Hesselman

I often say that I “meet” my characters, and that’s the best way to describe how it often happens: they arrive in my imagination, not fully formed, but with an essential essence. That was what happened with Smuggins. He showed up that day with an eager desire to serve, but a lot to learn along the way.

The way took quite a few years. Every so often Smuggins would make another appearance in my imagination and have another adventure, getting to know the King and himself better. And for the last few years he’s been sitting around, his story written, but untold to all but a few. One problem that Smuggins has is that his story falls “between the shelves.” It doesn’t fit into one single category, which makes marketing it a bit of a struggle. And no publisher is going to take a risk on something that’s hard to market. Especially in the over-stuffed children’s lit market.

But Smuggins kept tapping on my shoulder, asking me to share him with a broader audience. He would remind me of the moments he and I learned lessons about serving the King together, and the tears he sometimes brought to my eyes as he learned about the King’s friendship, his forgiveness, his justice.

Telling Smuggins’ Story

So earlier this year, I made a decision—it is time for the rest of the world to meet Smuggins. And since his tale defies categories, I decided to self-publish Smuggins’ story. Self-publishing is a lot of work, but I’ve got some very gifted friends who I was able to call on for expertise and assistance. I’ve relied on their wisdom and input as we’ve gotten the ball rolling on this project.

The most exciting element, to me, is that illustrator Stephen Hesselman has agreed to help bring the story to life with pen and ink illustrations that we will strew throughout the book. My imagination is not highly visual, so I’ve been delighted to see Stephen bring faces to my characters and details to my places.

In order to do this well, Smuggins’ story still needs some polishing. And as this is a side project, that will take some time. So I’ve settled on a release date of early March 2017, and we’re working toward that goal.

I can’t wait for you to meet Smuggins like I did in that classroom so many years ago. And I hope you’ll join me in working to get the word out about him and his story as we move toward publication. If you’d like to follow the journey, please sign up for my eNews, where I’ll be sending out updates about the process. Also, follow this blog, like my page on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter or Instagram. Even better, follow Stephen on Instagram so you can see some snippets of his illustrations—as well as all his other great work.

Thanks for your support!