By AMANDA METZGER
BROADALBIN - Pastor William Delia has always been a storyteller.
Sometimes his words come to life on the notes of a strummed guitar - he's written words and music for nearly 100 songs - while other tales he tells from the pulpit.
Now, the minister of the United Methodist Churches of Broadalbin and Edinburg has accomplished a lifelong dream, and at the same time he found a new avenue for his ministry.
"Like most things in my life, it started a long, long time ago, but it just kind of came to fruition recently," Delia said. "I always loved to read, but I can remember saying as a teenager to people, 'Someday I'm not just going to read books, I'm going to write them. I tried a couple of times as a young man, but never really found the right topic, and maybe I didn't have the discipline."
Delia, 63, detailed the process of forcing himself - though he'd never been a morning person - to be ready to write by 6 a.m., giving him about three hours in the morning to work on the book, titled "Healing River."
He had an idea of the beginning and end of the book, but as the characters developed, it morphed into something new.
"I heard an interview on the radio a number of years ago with Elmore Leonard [a current American author and screenwriter behind "3:10 to Yuma," among other works] and he writes very tangible characters. You feel like you must know them because they're so real. He mentioned in this interview when he's writing, he auditions characters. I thought that was a strange idea, but he said when a character appears to him, he writes a few pages with them and in that process discovers what a character is all about. At the time, I thought that was nuts."
But Delia inadvertently wound up auditioning the people in his book as some characters evolved into major elements of the plot.
Delia was born in Connecticut, but lived in nine states as a child before his family settled in Fairfield, Calif.
He graduated from Sonoma State University and attended seminary on the East Coast. However, he took a three-decade diversion into the non-profit human services sector and eventually worked at the American Red Cross Northeastern New York division as its chief executive officer.
He returned to the ministry in 2005 after working as a Red Cross executive in three states. He was assigned to the Broadalbin and Edinburg congregations, and said he loves the foothills of the Adirondacks so much, he set his book in the small fictional Adirondack town of Jericho Falls.
However, he noted with a laugh, none of his characters are purely based on congregants or anyone else he knows.
About seven years ago, Delia returned to writing, hoping to hone his craft. He finished that book about four years ago, but he is rewriting it.
His first completed novel, "Healing River," was self-published by West Bow Press, a Christian-themed publishing company.
It took about two years for the book to make it to print as it underwent the writing and publishing process. It is now available as a hardcover, paperbound and e-book.
In his book, Delia writes about some of the challenges in the process.
"I don't expect this book to change my life," Delia wrote. "But I do hope that it helps to change the lives of some readers. Stories have that power. Stories that ask you to think about things that matter. Stories with characters you can relate to and care about. Stories that hold up the possibilities of this life."
The story, which Delia said he hopes appeals to everyone regardless of faith, chronicles what seems to be a miracle healing for a 57-year-old man named Luther.
Luther is given a few months to live when he is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but the act of baptism seems to miraculously cure him of the disease. From there, the book explores how others in this small fictional town are affected by the healing.
Delia explores what he sees as the difference between being healed and being cured. In the book, a character tells a story of a man who was ill, but not cured like Luther. However, the man was healed in the sense that he spent the last part of his life repairing relationships that were broken along the way, Delia said.
"Healing is a spiritual thing, whereas curing is about the illness," Delia said.
The plot and central theme came from his experiences with the Red Cross and in ministry.
"It seems like everybody has got something they need to make better. Healing to me is really a broad topic. I don't just mean curing diseases - it's broken relationships and personal struggles of all kinds," Delia said. "It's a pervasive part of the human experience we all go through - feeling as though there are things that need to be repaired or somehow healed if we're going to carry on. The book puts that into the context of how that affects the other people around us."
Delia said he does believe in the power of prayer and miracles. However, he said, a miracle can come in the form of a doctor or nurse or EMT being in the right place at the right time.
"It has become an extension of my ministry," Delia said about writing. "It's not something I'm doing in addition to being a minister, and that's a nice feeling."
"Healing River" is available on several different book-retailing websites, but it is also available through local bookstores.
For more information, visit www.wmdeliabooks.com.
News Editor Amanda May Metzger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.