ORLANDO – An immigrant from Bolivia comes to the United States to start a new life, with dreams of being a published author. Along the way, she suffers from a hereditary condition and loses her sight. But that only inspires her to soar to even greater heights, and today her book is at the top of the charts.
It sounds like the perfect plot for a great novel – only, Janet Perez Eckles has already written.
And just as remarkable, it’s not fiction.
Her novel, “Simply Salsa: Dancing Without Fear at God’s Fiesta,” was released on Tuesday, Aug. 9, and has already soared up to the No. 1 spot in the religion and spirituality category on Amazon.com. “Janet will have you dancing to the melody of God’s joy in her #1 best-selling book,” her web site notes, and so far, audiences have responded.
“It’s coming along very, very well,” she said.
One reason for that, she said, may be her message: an irresistible one of hope, and overcoming adversity, and embracing the joyous, wonderful gift that God provides in giving people life – if they simply know how to deeply, richly appreciate it.
“I think the message I want to give very clearly is this comes when you conquer fear,” she said.
Eckles, who lives in Hunter’s Creek, knows what it’s like to be afraid, even devastated, by the unexpected challenges that life confront’s people with. For her, it was that diagnosis that at a very early age, she would lose her sight.
“When I was 31 and I lost my sight in a matter of 18 months, I was so active as a young woman,” she said. “I was totally devastated. That could have ended my life. I didn’t expect to go blind at age 31.”
She was suffering from Retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease that affects the retina, which is located at the back of the eye and sends visual images to the brain.
“My dad had the disease,” she said. “He lost his sight at age 55, and I lost it at 31.”
Lost at first, Eckles turned to the Bible. She found inspiration in a book that guided her to a higher calling, a higher sense of purpose and being. Suddenly, it was as if she was no longer blind.
“I gave my life to Jesus,” she said, “and began reading scripture. My bitterness and anger began to disappear. Even though I was blind, I said to myself, ‘You know, there’s so much I can do.’ “
Eckles found a job as a court interpreter, and proved to be one of the fastest and most efficient workers they had.
“When I lost my sight, my brain kicked in,” she said. “I don’t have any visual distractions.”
She was hired by the largest phone interpreter company, and her blindness was no impediment to her success. As it turns out, it was also no impediment when she began writing her book.
“I work with a computer that reads the screen to me,” she said. “I never dreamed we’d have this technology. That’s been a blessing.”
But even more of a blessing, she said, has been the realization that her disability does not to stop her from chasing her dreams – and fully accomplishing them. Her attitude changed, as she rushed into the arms of an active life and career as an author.
“That’s exactly what happened,” she said. “When I could see, I was like, ‘We have to get a better car, we have to get a bigger home, we have to get our kids into designer clothes,’ ‘ she said. “I was focused on the silly things.”
Not anymore. Today as Eckles celebrates the success of “Simply Salsa,” she feels like she has an inspirational story to share – and a lot of hope to bring to the lives of others.
“I decided to write a book that I wanted to read,” she said. “I actually like what I wrote.”
So do her readers, judging by the response she’s gotten.
“The one feedback I got that almost brought me to tears was the woman who wrote and she said, ‘I was sobbing on my keyboard reading this book,’ “ Eckles said. “I want to empower these women.”
To learn more about Eckles and her work, check out her website at www.janetperezeckles.com, her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/janeteckles, or her blog, www.janetperezeckles.com/blog.
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