Hope Changes Everything

My new novel, Rip Van Winkle and the Pumpkin Lantern, opens with what I can only describe as a dark, gloomy, and near-hopeless situation. It begins with a newborn baby boy being abandoned in a cemetery—left to die on a cold, October night.

But he doesn’t die, and I’ll tell you why.

When I started writing this book, in July of 2014, my original intent was for the main character (Rip) to be an orphan living on the streets of 18th century Boston. In that first draft, thirteen-year-old Rip was pulled into a swashbuckling adventure that took him to the Carolinas. In the beginning, I felt very confident about that story. But the more I wrote, the more I began to feel uneasy. I finished the first draft (50,000+ words) in just under three months… and I felt absolutely sick about it—but I didn’t know why! Here was a perfectly good, 50,000 word draft and for some unknowable reason, I felt like it was the wrong story.

I tried to convince myself that it was the right story, that it would somehow work—but I couldn’t. It was wrong; it was missing something—a COLOSSAL something. But I didn’t know what it was!

Ripped From the Grave

I agonized over the book for months, trying to figure out where I had gone wrong. Then, one night, after my illustrator showed me a sketch of a gravestone, I had a dream. I saw  a woman in Colonial American clothing. She was carrying a lantern and walking purposefully toward a graveyard at midnight. There, she met a living, pumpkin-headed scarecrow with kind eyes. He pointed her to an open grave and she peered down. I followed her gaze and saw, to my great surprise, a baby boy—he was as pale and as still as death. The woman lifted him from the grave and held him in her arms. At length, the boy began to stir and eventually woke up. He was alive!

Ripped from the grave.

I woke up and realized what was wrong with my book: Rip wasn’t an orphan. Yes, he was abandoned by his real parents, but he was found and given a second chance at life. He had an adoptive family, he had a belonging place—he had hope—and that changed everything.

 Hope Changes Everything

I immediately began rewriting the book, adding new characters and new events. My writing reached what I can only describe as a “fever pitch.” I felt driven—compelled to write by some outside force—and part of me couldn’t understand it. There was something in this book that needed to be said. I wrote five to six hours a day. I stopped blogging and nearly every other outside activity. Some days, I woke up at three or four in the morning just to ensure my writing time would be uninterrupted. Finishing the novel became my paramount goal. I could hardly think about or do anything else.  In time, I had managed to change the entire story—growing it from 50,000 words to 85,000+ words.

You see, hope truly does change everything.

And in the end, that’s what my novel is about: hope. Virtually everything in the book is a metaphor or a symbol for the power of hope—or the power of light over darkness. At a critical point in the story, when Rip is struggling to believe that there is hope, he is met by Feathertop, the same pumpkin-headed scarecrow from my dream. Feathertop (who represents far more than a simple scarecrow) tells Rip:

“Have faith, Rip. Believe in yourself, and believe in me—for in me there is always hope. No matter how dark things may seem, know that the sun will always rise. Light will always triumph over darkness.”

I am very grateful I struggled to write this book.  My struggle has deepened my belief in the power of hope—in the power of light over darkness. In the month since publishing my book, I have wrestled with feelings of hopelessness. But then I picture the opening scene of my book—a scene I dreamed, a scene I felt compelled to write, a scene of a little boy being brought back from the dead—and I think: yes, there is always hope—and that changes everything.

You, Unstuck – My NEW eBook!

After nearly two months of complete radio silence, I am happy to announce my triumphant return—and I come bearing gifts!!

First of all, why the silence? Well, my wife and I had to work through a couple of heavy things and it took up a lot of our time and energy. (Don’t worry, we are fine—no marital drama. Just outside pressures.)

Also, I’ve been working on three top secret projects. These projects are so top secret that only a handful of people know about them! It would take too long for me to tell you about them here and now, but you’ll find out more about them by the end of this month (and trust me, you don’t want to miss this!)

But here’s the BIG news: my new ebook is out!! Huzzah! Let us bask in the glorious cover of my new ebook:

My former boss, Jeevan, did the illustration. Isn't it awesomeness?!
My former boss, Jeevan, did the illustration. Isn’t it awesomeness?!

A little background: This was originally intended to go into my first book, Your Life Isn’t For You, but there wasn’t enough room for it (I was contracted for a specific amount of words.) So, I published an extremely watered-down version of this idea and published it as The Most Damning Belief of All Time.

The article did so well that my publisher approached me and asked about experimenting with a short ebook. After one year (and many, many rewrites), the ebook has been published!

Here is the publisher’s summary:

All of us feel trapped, stuck, or unable to move forward in life at some point. What is it that’s holding us back? According to Seth Adam Smith, it’s who, not what. Ultimately, the greatest obstacle to achieving your full potential is you.

But you are also the solution to your greatest problem.

This book combats a destructive mind-set that we all sometimes fall into: I can’t change. I am the victim of my circumstances, and I am confined by my personal limitations. This philosophy, though intangible, destroys more dreams and limits more lives than any actual, physical obstacle. To show us how to overcome this philosophy of fear, Smith draws on literature, history, and his personal experiences with chronic depression, as well as on encounters with remarkable “ordinary” people who’ve embraced a different philosophy: the belief that we possess the power to lift ourselves out of the abyss and into the light.

Smith inspires us to see that no matter how dire our circumstances may be, there is always a positive step you can take, however small it might be. He doesn’t sugarcoat the difficulties or offer promises of overnight success. But he does promise that if you continue to see yourself as a victim you’ll remain frozen and fearful. We may not be able to control what happens to us, but we can always control how we react.

But I don’t want to give any more of it away. Click on this link and buy a copy for yourself! I dare ya. 🙂