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A Christmas story: Author draws on memories, upbringing for debut novel
A story began to build in Toby Lynn's mind as he sat with his wife Cindy and their family in a hospital waiting room in November 2008, waiting to hear news on his mother-in-law. Bernetta Lankford had became critically ill after a surgery and died that same month.
Lynn's story became his first fiction novel, "Daddy's Secret Christmas Wish," which he dedicated to Lankford.
The book tells the story of Allen, a college student home for Thanksgiving whose father is injured in an accident. It details Allen's subsequent struggle past disappointments and distance from God.
Lynn, a Jackson native, drew on some of his own upbringing for Allen's story and modeled another character after his wife.
There are differences, he said, in that Allen is from a poor family, while Lynn was middle class. Lynn also had both his parents, but the character has only his father as he sits awaiting news from doctors. In the book, Allen often recalls his childhood memories.
"His parents are a little similar to mine," he said. "There are a lot of things he depends on his parents for, especially his father. His mother plays an important role in his life."
Lynn said Allen's memories of holidays represent where he felt the most disappointment in his life.
"He was kind of a selfish kid growing up as he looks back on some of those days, so while he's reflecting back he's struggling with his faith in God," he said.
A lot of people go through that struggle, Lynn said, which is why he thinks many people will relate to the story. He said faith is an important part of his life, so the book has several religious aspects.
Although the story begins in tragedy, Lynn said it has a happy ending.
The book took Lynn about 18 months to complete.
He self-published through Authorhouse, and it was released the week after Thanksgiving on websites like barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com.
Lynn has high hopes for the book and plans to donate a portion of its proceeds to Operation Finally Home, a program run by a not-for-profit in Houston. Operation Finally Home builds houses for wounded service members, military widows and families.
Lynn said he does not have any close relatives in the military, but since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks he feels the military is an important aspect in the lives of all Americans and he wanted to find a way to give back.
After several months, a friend told him about Operation Finally Home.
"These soldiers are fighting for our freedoms, and in some cases giving the ultimate sacrifice with the loss of their lives," Lynn said. "I really felt the need to give back in some way, and I felt this was a great opportunity. They deserve more recognition than I could ever possibly give."
Lynn is writing another book, which he said is an action-adventure novel, and plans to have it in print by the end of 2011.
"Daddy's Secret Christmas Wish" is available online through Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Borders and Books-A-Million.