Author Spotlight: Jessica Kate

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We’re getting into the dog days of summer here in these parts, but for my guest, the energetic and bubbly Jessica Kate, it’s the dead of winter. She’s another of the contingent of delightful Aussie authors I had the privilege of meeting at ACFW last year, and her debut novel, Love and Other Mistakes, releases on July 30! Here’s the blurb:

Natalie Groves once had big dreams. But soon after her fiancé, Jeremy Walters, inexplicably broke off their engagement and left town, her father was diagnosed with cancer. Now tasked with keeping her family afloat, Natalie’s grand plans have evaporated . . . and God feels very far away.

Fast-forward seven years, and Jeremy is back in Charlottesville with an infant son and years of regrets. When his niece, Lili, lands on his doorstep in need of a place to stay, Jeremy needs help—and fast.

An internship opening finally presents Natalie a chance at her dream job, but she needs a second income to work around it—and the only offer available is Jeremy’s. They could be the solutions to one another’s problems, provided they don’t kill each other in the process. When they join forces, sparks fly. But they both know there’s a thin line between love and hate . . . and that love will turn out to be the best decision—or the biggest mistake—of all. 

Doesn’t that sound like a fun read? Well, one of you fantastic blog readers will win a paperback copy of Love and Other Mistakes! Details, as always, at the end of the post!

Welcome to the blog, Jessica!

Thank you! It’s wonderful to be here!

What was your inspiration for Love and Other Mistakes? What do you hope readers take away from it?

I have a weird answer for this!

For Natalie and Jem’s romance, my inspiration was entirely fiction: Sweet Home Alabama, The Proposal, all those great love/hate rom coms were a big part of that.

BUT if we’re talking subplots…that’s where the real world comes in. I think it’s because I like to put the ‘comedy’ more into the romantic storyline and then I throw my more raw emotions into the subplots, where I can go deep in short bursts and then go back to the fun stuff.

SO, there’s a few fun ones to dig into.

For Natalie on a personal level, she’s feels like she’s missing out on her purpose in life and doesn’t know how to fix it. Been there, done that. A few years ago I wrote a blog post called ‘No Career, No Man, No Plan’, as I grappled with a feeling that I was failing in so many areas, including my job, my love life, and my spiritual life.

It sounds ridiculous, but I felt like God had a purpose for everybody else but had decided to sit me on a shelf and leave me there, and no matter what I did I couldn’t get off the shelf. It’s been one of the major lies in my life I’ve had to deal with, but thankfully God has been shining his truth onto that area and helping me deal with it. It was great to get to take Natalie’s character through that same experience.

The other major real-life inspiration was in the story around Lili, Jem’s 16 year-old niece who lives with him for much of the book. Without giving too much away, she’s dealing with a major betrayal, and it’s a situation that involves several…well, most, of the important adults in her life. She has to grapple with her faith as she watches the people who taught her that faith completely fail.

That came from a real place for me. The situation is totally fictional, but that feeling isn’t. That feeling of watching multiple people who were your examples suddenly do things that completely contradicted what they said they believed. I’ve been there. It really makes you question everything they taught you.

It was cathartic to let Lili verbalize (and occasionally vandalize) emotions that I experienced but didn’t say aloud.

And there were fun little inspirations along the way! There’s a funny little line that’s a twist on an Everybody Loves Raymond joke about The Great Microwave Wars of 1993, Natalie’s Australian parents obviously come from the fact I’m Australian, their peaches and ice cream dessert is something my grandmother does, my knowledge of babies for Olly’s character comes from having my baby sister born when I was 16 and getting to spend a lot of time with her.

Whew! That was a long answer!

So what do I hope readers take away? Hope. I tend to inflict A LOT of tough situations on my characters, especially in their family relationships. But at the end of the day, no matter how messed up we are, God’s hope is bigger.

 

How has God changed you during your writing journey?

I worked on Love and Other Mistakes from the ages of 22-27, and maybe this is true for every age, but I feel like that’s been an age where I’ve learned a lot!

To be honest, I feel like I mirrored both Natalie and Lili. I started the journey hurt and angry at the actions of some members of the church community (Lili) and not knowing how to deal with it. Plus, I was bewildered at the direction my life seemed to be heading (Natalie).

As the book publishes this month, I can really honestly say that God has healed most if not all of those two areas.

God has taught me that His hope is bigger than the mistakes of His followers, and just because it seems like ‘everybody’ is failing…there’s also a lot of really great faithful leaders out there too. Also, He taught me to forgive and to accept that leaders will make mistakes.

God has also taught me how to recognize and counteract lies (like ‘everyone has a purpose except you’) and to shine His truth on them instead. I really have to meditate on those truths, pray about them, ask for them, write them down and read them to myself, but it works. The truth is, He does have a purpose for me. Now that I’m a bit older, I’ve found out more about where my gifts lie and where I can use them.

A leaders once said to me, “I feel like you’re a puzzle piece we’ve been trying to jam into the wrong spot, but it doesn’t fit and that’s hurt you. But we’re going to stop doing that and we’re going to find the right spot.” And it’s true. We’ve worked out a much better spot. 😊

 

As you look back on your journey to publication, how did God open those doors for you? What is one piece of advice you might give to your younger Writer Self?

God has definitely opened doors through advice from others, competition finals, opportunities and relationships at conferences, meeting people interested in my writing voice, etc.

A piece of advice for my writing self…that’s a tricky one. Stress has always been my biggest challenge—and there is no fast-and-easy answer for that. If there was, stress wouldn’t be the massive issue it is for most people.

But here’s a collection of strategies that, used together, help me deal with it:

-          Write down key truths about God and read them every morning. (A key one for me has been John 15 – God is my vine and I’m His branch. It reminds me I’m not doing this alone.)

-          There’s a ‘marketing prayer’ which includes Prov 3:5-6 saved in my phone that I read and it gives me peace before I look at any social media.

-          I know that if I’m stressing I need to go for a powerwalk and listen to some praise music. Exercising (enough to sweat) burns off stress chemicals.

-          If a particular thing is bothering me, I write it down and pray about it, and it looks less scary.

-          I have breathing exercises.

-          I consciously put effort into getting out there and doing things other than writing.

 

You are one of a very spirited and delightful contingent of Aussie authors in ACFW. What, if any, challenges does having your agent, publisher, etc. based in the US present to you as an author?

The upside is that everyone loves my accent. As an extrovert who loves to talk, it’s fantastic when people say “Just keep talking forever”.  CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!!!

But – that’s also the downside: we’re mostly limited to email. I’m an extrovert, folks, I crave conversation. Skype is useful, but when you’re dealing with a 16 hour time difference, we generally have to book meetings several days in advance, and you have to deal with finicky internet connections. You can’t just pick up the phone and ask a quick question.

One day, I hope we get to the stage where we can have more of those quick-and-easy chats!

 

What does your writing routine look like, if you have one? What obstacles or challenges do you face in making time to write?

I write from 6am-7am before work – that’s my best writing time. I’m a morning person. I also write after work, but I try to get all major decisions/planning done in the morning. And I work probably 2 out of 3 Saturdays, too.

I’m single and child-free, and I still feel like I don’t have enough hours! But that’s when I just have to learn to prioritize.

 

If you could have coffee/tea/gratuitous amounts of carbs with any author(s), living or dead, who would you choose? What would you talk about?

I would eat pasta and garlic bread with Jenny B Jones. Her books are so my jam. Funny, sassy, love/hate, and she’s even branched off into funny romantic cozy mysteries, which I love! Plus now they’re making her book into a movie, and I wanna ask her all about that!

 

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I go to boxing training! Love it! I don’t fight, but the training is fun.

I’m huge on family time, love friends, love going to the movies with friends, love watching movies or TV at home with housemates, love talking about movies, books and TV on my podcast, love listening to podcasts about movies and TV and of course love reading.

I am also more passionate than most people about garlic bread.

I realise this answer makes it sound like I never go outside, but thankfully I have friends and family more outdoorsy than me who ensure I get my vitamin D. 😊

 

How can we pray for you?

Pray for encouragement! Every writer craves encouragement and stores every scrap of it in their cheeks like a chipmunk. (Or a squirrel? Which one eats nuts?! I’m Australian, and we don’t have either of these animals!)

It’s a chipmunk, and no worries! You have a ton of amazing animals we don’t have here, either!

Giveaway Details:

One randomly selected US winner will receive a paperback copy of Jessica’s debut, Love and Other Mistakes! To enter, simply leave a comment to this post. We’ll select and notify the winner one week from today!

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Meet Jessica:

Australian author Jessica Kate is obsessed with sassy romances.

She packs her novels with love, hate, and everything in between—and then nerds out over her favorite books, movies and TV in the StoryNerds podcast.. When she’s not writing or discussing fiction, she’s hunting the world for the greatest pasta in existence.

Her debut novel Love and Other Mistakes releases July 2019, while A Girl’s Guide to the Outback hits shelves in January 2020.

Receive her sassy short The Kiss Dare FREE when you sign up for her newsletter at her website. Check out her StoryNerds podcast on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.

Author Spotlight: Joy K. Massenburge

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Have you ever met someone who’s such an accurate reflection of their name that it’s impossible to imagine that person being named anything else? Joy K. Massenburge is one of those people. I first met Joy at ACFW in 2017, and was immediately drawn to her warmth, her enthusiasm, and the sheer joy and love of the Lord that radiates from everything she does!

Joy’s debut novel, “A Heart Surrendered,” is every bit as delightful as she is. I got the chance to read it ahead of its July 8 release date, and you all will NOT want to miss it! it’s got everything: Relatable characters, sparkling dialogue, a dysfunctional, yet loving family, swoony kisses, and music!! Here’s the blurb:

As the teenaged pastor's daughter of New Hope Church, Sharonda Peterson knew finding comfort in Carl's arms was a mistake. But how could the only night she ever felt beautiful be wrong?

When Carl leaves town to pursue an acting and singing career, Sharonda relegates herself to a life of church service--and solitude--rather than face the pain now associated with that one night.

Carl Ray Everhart has been caught up in the fast pace of fame … and female adoration. But a near-death experience has him questioning everything and vowing to set things straight … starting with the love that got away.

When Carl returns home to serve as the worship leader at New Hope, Sharonda finds that it takes every ounce of her resolve to resist his pursuits … not to mention memories that threaten to overturn the delicate balance she's created. Can she finally surrender the one thing she's tried all these years to protect: her heart?

Doesn’t that sound fabulous! Even more fabulous? One of you has a chance to win your choice of either a signed copy of “A Heart Surrendered” or a $10 Amazon gift card! Details at the end of the post, as always, and now let’s give a warm welcome to Joy K. Massenburge!

Thanks for being here today, Joy!

Thank you so much!

What was your inspiration for A Heart Surrendered?

A thirty-minute sprint exercise. It’s the bathroom scene where Sharonda hears the girls talking about her at the church. My mind traveled in time to a person I’d watched and wondered what had happened.

How did God change you during the writing of A Heart Surrendered? How do you hope He works in the lives of your readers?

He helped me to trust Him. This story came to me at a time when I felt I could do no more. I had published a novella in a collection with my mentor Lena Nelson Dooley. Instead of taking a break, I completed the recording for Michelle Stimpson’s audiobook, Mama B: A Time to Speak. Weary, I forced myself to be a disciplined writer. That day I’d said, “only thirty minutes.” I really believed then, what I believe today, this was an obedience walk. I had other projects I felt with a little editing, would be far better than Sharonda’s Surrender, the original name of the book.

Like Sharonda it can be hard to surrender what you know for the unknown, especially when it’s something you hold dear to your heart, like my writing. I’m so glad I obeyed. A Heart Surrendered sold before the book I’d been pitching for two years. God knew best.

 What have you learned since the release of your debut, A Cry For Independence, that you were able to apply to A Heart Surrendered?

A Cry For Independence, my Indie-pub, prepared me to work with a small press. An Indie-pub doesn’t sell itself, the author has to take on the role of writer, marketer, and publisher. This author developed a better prayer life along the way. LOL. I didn’t have a team of workers, so I’ve learned how to do a little bit of everything with the help of friends, family, and ACFW.

You are the first author to release with Harambee Press, an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas which serves to raise up the ethnic voice by sharing stories for and about people of color. How did God open those doors of publication for you? How do you hope He uses this wonderful new imprint in the world of Christian fiction?

It’s an honor to be Harambee Press’s first author. I’d never heard of them when I attended the Publishing in Color, Spiritual Writers’ Conferences for Under-Represented Groups. As a matter of fact, I’d never heard of PIC. My ACFW chapter vice-president had sent me the link and I felt led to travel there. Sitting among other writers introducing ourselves, Harambee’s managing editor, Edwina Perkins, carried on a conversation as if we were all friends. It’s funny looking back on that day. But I liked her. I hadn’t planned to pitch to her. Long story short, I’d pitched to the editors I’d come to see. But something about her made me check her appointment list before I called it a day. All the slots had been filled, but one. I met with her the next day and the rest is history.

My hopes? I can’t begin to speak all that is in my heart. The burden of being the first author, to make sure I represent well, is great. There are others coming up behind me that need this door to remain opened. A bridge. I’d like to see the cultures cross their individual bridges and join together in the Christian market where there is no need to type African American Christian Fiction in the web browser of Amazon to get to the authors of color I love to read.

Unity is what Harambee promotes. I pray for its continued success.

What does your writing routine look like, if you have one? What obstacles or challenges present themselves when making time to write?

 Life is my largest obstacle. The first two years when I was able to write without working outside the home, I wrote every morning from 8-3, breaks included, except for Wednesdays, and Sundays. Wednesdays are my critique days, giving back to others. Sundays are for God and family. Then, I went back to work. I’d write after dinner. However, since I’ve started the marketing stage of A Heart Surrendered, my writing time has suffered greatly. My writing is directed more at social media posts or material for scheduled speaking events these days. When I do have down time, my family is a priority. This week most of my writing time has been for interviews, but I’ll get up early Saturday to get some writing hours in.

 If you could have coffee/tea/gratuitous amounts of carbs (or Blue Bell ice cream) with any authors(s), living or dead, who would you choose? What would you talk about?

 Francine Rivers, hands down. Everyone knows she is my author of all time. And my drink is always coffee, unless it’s the brand Brandilyn Collins served at the Fantastic Fiction retreat I attended in June. LOL

 The Bible. Her spiritual walk. It’s her relationship with God that pours out into her writing that I love so much.

 What do you do when you’re not writing?

Spend time with family. My husband of 26 years is my best friend. I have elderly parents I adore and visit often to make sure they are behaving. My grandchildren demand a day with Gigi each week. When I’m not with family, I’m at the church or on the road traveling to speaking engagements.

How can we pray for you?

That I do the will of my Father. It’s easy to get distracted from the original course or take on what others feel I should be doing.

Giveaway Details:

Joy is offering the winner’s choice of either a signed copy of her novel, “A Heart Surrendered,” or a $10 Amazon gift card. To enter, simply leave a comment on this post. Our randomly selected winner will be chosen and notified next Thursday, July 11.

Meet Joy:

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Joy K. Massenburge crafts the love stories of pastors and their kids. She was born the sixth child of a pastor. Thinking she had avoided the church scene, she married a football player. She joined him at Sam Houston State University where she earned her Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice. Then on signing day with the Green Bay Packers, Mr. Football advised her she would be a pastor’s wife instead...and they raised pastor's kids; a son, a daughter, and a goddaughter.

She resides in Tyler, Texas, where you can find her surrounded by three grandchildren, curled up on her back porch with a book, or filling her five-acre country home with fifty plus people for a Blue Bell (ice cream) party.

Author Spotlight: Anne Carol

Many of us as Christian authors dream of God using our fiction to change the lives of others…but frequently, God changes us, the writers, just as much—if not more!—through the writing process. Today’s special guest, Anne Carol, is one such author. Read on to learn about her incredible transformation, as well as win copies of not one, not two, but all three of the books in her Faithfully Yours series! She’s writing the fourth and final book in the series as we speak, so now’s the perfect time to get on board. Details at the end of the post, but for now, please help me give a very warm welcome to Anne Carol!

Thanks for being our guest today, Anne!

And thank you for having me on your blog!

What inspired you to start writing?

My love of writing began in early childhood, when I combined my two loves of drawing and storytelling to create colorful storybooks. At age ten, with a new diary in possession, my writing evolved from little girl stories to journaling about fourth grade life. On occasion, I would embellish the chronicles of my preteen years, to the point of full-on fiction. Eventually, I channeled my creative juices into writing my first novel. This was during the 1980s, when the British band, Duran Duran, was all the rage. I crushed on the bass player hard, and I’d daydream about being his girlfriend. Finally, one day I found a blank notebook and filled it with an eleven-year-old girl’s greatest fantasy, meeting a handsome, talented musician before he became famous. What I wrote in those notebooks became the first version of my debut novel, Never Let Go!

 

What does your writing routine look like, if you have one? What obstacles or challenges do you face in making time to write?

<cue laughter> What’s a writing routine? This is something I need to work on as “real life” seems to change from year to year! Generally speaking, I write on the days I don’t work at my part-time accounting job. Sometimes I’m able to write on the weekends. I’d love to get to the point where I set a word count goal or “X” number of hours per week. This year has been particularly busy, as my older son just graduated from high school, my younger son is going into his senior year, and I had a major job change. My biggest obstacles are tax season, when I put in more day job hours, and taking care of parenting/household duties. Additionally, getting caught up in social media and battling self-doubt can act as roadblocks to writing time.

 

What factors led you to your decision to publish independently? How did God open those doors for you?

 

When I decided to rewrite and publish the rock star love story, I did extensive research on the process. This included attending a seminar at a community college and speaking with a friend of a friend who is an editor. They all seemed to point toward self-publishing as my best option. My desire was to put this beloved story out there, not necessarily to jumpstart a writing career, so I wasn’t thinking long-term. I learned everything I could about self-publishing, and along the way God brought many helpful people into my life—writing friends as well as professionals who worked with me on producing a quality debut novel.  

 

What are your favorite—and least favorite—aspects of independent publishing? Why?

One of the reasons I self-published my rock star series is (plain and simple) I wanted to see the story polished and in print. It was a “bucket list” challenge for myself. I didn’t think a traditional publishing house would accept the series, since it didn’t fit into a “mold”, so I never pursued that route. Being able to write and publish the story on my heart is the greatest advantage of self-publishing. Keeping my own deadlines, and shifting them if needed, has also been a big plus.

On the other hand, I like the idea of being held accountable by a traditional publisher. Having a team supporting me sounds ideal, not to mention, being traditionally published would validate me as an author. I wouldn’t mind the financial benefits, either. Even if I only made enough to buy one coffee drink a month, it would be more than I make as an indie author. To be financially successful as an indie author, you need to publish more than once a year (as a general rule), and at this point writing at that pace isn’t feasible for me. I’m grateful my accounting job helps support my writing pursuits!  

 

How has God changed you during your writing journey?

God has used writing to completely overhaul my faith. I was raised Christian, attended Christian schools, and surrounded myself with a faith community, yet my first two books didn’t accurately reflect my values. At the time I wrote Never Let Go and Never Fall, I was only reading general market romance, so I knew what made books sell. The problem was, writing in that style didn’t represent the real “me”, and after my second book released in November of 2015, I went through a period of deep soul searching. God worked on my heart, and it wasn’t long before I felt a strong nudge to change direction. Finally, I gave up writing the third book in the same general market style and took a break to find a Christian writing community. Around the same time, a friend convinced me to attend BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) with her. Between finding Christian writing friends and diving into Scripture, I discovered a longing for God I’d never experienced before. That was about three years ago. Last May I published revised versions of Never Let Go and Never Fall as well as Book Three, Never Change. I couldn’t have done it without God by my side. These days, I’m intentional about spending time in the Word and living (and writing) in a way that represents my faith.

 

If you could have coffee/tea/gratuitous amounts of carbs with any author(s), living or dead, who would you choose? What would you talk about?

Francine Rivers: amazing author, incredible testimony, lives for Jesus—yes, she would be my dream coffee date! I’d want to talk about her transformation from writing steamy romance to writing gripping, redemptive Christian fiction. Since I had a similar journey, I think talking to her would be so interesting, and maybe I’d get encouragement and advice!

 

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I assume you mean fun things, not work! I read (mostly Christian romance and women’s fiction), watch Hallmark Channel, listen to music (80s and Christian contemporary), hang out with my author buddies on FB, exercise, and attend numerous high school band events, especially during football/marching season!

 

Last question, Anne! How can we pray for you?

I’d love prayer as I begin writing the fourth and final installment of my Faithfully Yours series. I haven’t written in about four months and getting back into the routine has been an effort. Also, please pray that God will lead the right audience to my books. Although I write from a Christian worldview, my stories are edgy and intended for a crossover readership. Therefore, the faith threads are subtle. I like my characters to be authentic, which means they go through hard times and struggle with their faith. This type of story will not appeal to all Christian readers, as I touch on difficult subject matter. However, I do feel there is a niche audience out there who enjoys a thought-provoking, transformative clean read!

We’ll definitely be praying for you in that, Anne!

And now for the giveaway details: Anne will give a free electronic copy of all three books in her Faithfully Yours series to one lucky winner! To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post. We’ll randomly select a winner next Wednesday, July 3, and notify you just in time for the long weekend!

Meet Anne:

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Anne Carol grew up reading, writing, and listening to English rock bands, obsessing over one in particular.  Continuing her fascination with musicians, she married a bass player, with whom she has two sons, both blessed with the music gene. Besides reading, writing, and music, Anne also loves traveling, visiting with friends, watching Netflix, and daydreaming on Pinterest.  A native of Northern California, she occasionally indulges in good red wine and a square of dark chocolate.

Connect with Anne at her website or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Spotify, or her Amazon author page.

 

Author Spotlight: Carol McClain

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Book titles are so hard to get just right. How can one encapsulate a 50, or 75, or 100 thousand-word novel into a few words that capture not only the plot, but a prospective reader’s imagination? But when this is done right, a book just leaps off the shelf, and that’s just what my new friend Carol McClain has done with her newest release, A New York Yankee On Stinking Creek. And the blurb sounds just as compelling!

Alone, again, after the death of her fiancé, abstract artist Kiara Rafferty finds herself on Stinking Creek, Tennessee. She wants out of this hillbilly backwater, where hicks speak an unknown language masquerading as English.  Isolated, if she doesn’t count the snakes and termites infesting her cabin, only a one-way ticket home to Manhattan would solve her problems.

Alone in a demanding crowd, Delia Mae McGuffrey lives for God, her husband, her family, and the congregation of her husband’s church. Stifled by rules, this pastor’s wife walks a fine line of perfection, trying to please them all. Now an atheist Yankee, who moved in across the road, needs her, too.

Two women. Two problems. Each holds the key to the other’s freedom.

Scroll on to learn more about Carol and her cleverly-titled book, which is available now from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Welcome to the blog, Carol!

Thank you so much for the opportunity!

What was your inspiration for A New York Yankee on Stinking Creek?

So many things inspired me to write this novel. I moved to Tennessee about  four years ago. A hamlet near us had a name that made me laugh . Who’d name their town Stinking Creek, especially as this sweet town has no malodorous water?

I’ve always loved Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. The novel is an anachronous romp into medieval times. I figured I’d play up the idea in a modern day world.

I worked in Manhattan for many years. Then I considered Stinking Creek, a small rural village and wanted to play up the perceived differences of the liberal know-it-all and the conservative know-it-all and create a world where we see ourselves, see love and sacrifice, and see what really matters in life.

 

Which character in the book was the easiest for you to connect with, and why?

Ironically, I connect more with Delia Mae “Lia” McGuffrey, the Southern conservative Christian. She’s bound by rules and the desire to please God and to be holy as He is holy  (1 Peter 1:16). I manage to get myself bound up in trying to please God (and others). I can make the whole world—even the Lord—crazy.

I started the last paragraph with the adverb ironically. Most people who know me think I’m the more liberal, free-spirited, artistic protagonist.

In reality, they’re two halves of a black and white cookie.

 

What did God teach you during the writing of Stinking Creek? What spiritual truths or nuggets of wisdom do you hope your readers take away from the book?

The extremes of anything are out of balance—extreme religion or no-religion, extreme liberalism or ultra-conservativism. As the adage goes, there’s a fine line between genius and insanity (which says I’m borderline genius). So too, only a fine line separates the radical liberal and fanatical conservative.

 

As you look back on your journey to publication, how did God open those doors for you? What event or connection that may have seemed insignificant at the time ended up being enormously important?

It seems that as I hang on to writing and my grip loosens, and I’m certain I need to quit, something happens that changes my mind. It’s always little and subtle. Sometimes a reader messages me about how much she loved my work or a writing colleague sends me unsolicited encouragement.

David slew a giant with a pebble. God slays my doubts with the little things.

What does your writing routine look like, if you have one? What obstacles or challenges present themselves in making time to write?

My writing schedule tends to run through the fall, winter and early spring. Once outdoor season and gardens and boating arrive, I take a writing vacation. During this time I spend lots of time reading.

Sadly, I can no longer read a novel without analyzing how the author achieves his/her effects. I study the good and the bad and hope to incorporate the best into my writing.

Haha, I’m selfishly glad I’m not the only person whose reading has permanently changed since becoming a writer!

 

What do you do when you’re not writing?

The question before this one answered much of this question. One might ask, what don’t I do?

My passions are words and glass. When not writing, I create stained glass, glass garden flowers, and sun catchers.

I’m a member of ACFW Knoxville, and I am the current president. I am also the secretary for the Authors Guild of Tennessee.

I love teaching. When situations arise and I can teach, I do so.

Life is short. Grab it all.

When I’m not involved with the above, I play Candy Crush.

 

If you could have coffee/tea/gratuitous amounts of carbs with any author(s), living or dead, who would you choose? What would you talk about?

Annie Dillard.

One year, my AP English Language and Comp students passed around a photo while whispering frantically. They loved teasing me about making them read A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, probably one of my all-time favorite books.

I, of course, received the photo.

“We know why you like Dillard so much,” one student said.

“Why is that?” I looked at the picture of a blonde woman, about my age. She had an oval face with a high forehead over eyes shaped like mine. Her nose and lips also resembled me. Even I could see the similarities. (in this photo, at least).

“You’re her!” the class chorused.

Oh how I wish I could write like her. Of any contemporary author, I’d love to have a style as unique as Dillard’s.

Her books are heavenly.

If Dillard were unavailable, T.S. Elliott or C.S. Lewis would be my next choices.

 

How can we pray for you?

In so many ways. I need clarity in God’s direction. I’m at a crossroads in my professional life. I love writing novels, and want to continue. If this is God’s will, He has to make it abundantly clear.

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Meet Carol

Versatile.

Others say weird.

In truth, McClain’s wacky and wonderful.

As a youth, she believed herself an odd-ball, craved being like others. She even practiced writing in cliches because her classmates did, and if they thought the phrases were cool, they had to be.

Fortunately, that phase passed, and she now celebrates her own diversity. She plays bassoon, creates stained glass, enjoys high ropes, loves to run and, of course, she writes.

 For thirty years she attempted to teach teenagers the joys of the English language. Judging from the prevalence of confusion with their, they’re and there–not to mention your and you’re and the rest, she hasn’t succeeded much. She’s now on a quest to make magic with her own words. Visit her online at www.carolmcclain.com.

Author Spotlight: Amy Renaud

Sometimes God orchestrates a meeting that even the most hard-core planner among us (* raises hand*) couldn’t arrange in a hundred years. Such was the case with meeting today’s guest, Amy Renaud! At ACFW last fall in Nashville, my roommate and I, who stayed offsite to save money, were faced with walking back to our hotel in formal wear. During a thunderstorm. I was steeling myself for this when my roommate informed me with enthusiasm that someone had learned of our predicament and offered us a ride, and lo and behold, here comes Amy on her noble white steed. (Okay, so it was a car rather than a horse. But I’m pretty sure it was white. And it was definitely noble). The ride only lasted a few minutes, but it launched a friendship that continues to this day! We pray for each other, encourage each other, and look forward to our next in-person encounter, whenever that happens to be. I’m so excited for you to get to know Amy a little bit better today!

Welcome to the blog, Amy!

Thanks so much!

What inspired you to start writing?
I had to write a story in the ninth grade, in health class believe it or not. At that time I received the first comments hinting that I should write, and I really enjoyed it, but did nothing about it. Since then, the thought of writing came and went. I had some opportunities (ministry related) arise, including writing articles online. But it was what my sister, Michelle, said to me in 2007 that got me serious about writing.  “You should write a book,” she said. I started writing a short novel (just under 50,000 words) almost right away. I didn’t finish it until 2011, but I thought it was pretty good. Until I picked it up recently. It’s shelved until further notice.

Hahaha, that happens to all of us!

What does your writing routine look like, if you have one? What obstacles or challenges do you face in making time to write?

Well, my youngest is still at home with me, so I have to find writing windows wherever I can. Or make them, really. Even more so now that my four-year-old has given up his afternoon nap. He starts kindergarten part-time in the fall. It’s bittersweet. I’ll enjoy a more scheduled writing life, but I will miss having my little man with me as he joins his big brother at school.

I do find it helpful to write my goals and deadlines on our large family calendar, located on the fridge. Harder to avoid, you know? That way, my goals are screaming at me as I’m making lunches and grabbing coffee creamer.

What is the funniest thing that’s happened so far on your writing journey?

Probably realizing I have ruined my mom as a reader forever. As I have learned the craft of writing, so has she. She is an amazing proofreader, so shout out her way! I’m so grateful for all her help and support. She has become quite the book critic. I love it.

Also, the day I realized you only need one space after a period. How embarrassing. I seriously was about eight years late in getting this memo. It must have changed the day after I left the school scene.

You’re not alone in that, either!

How is God changing you during your writing journey?

Such a loaded question. Many ways, but I’ll just mention one.  

I’m an army wife and a stay at home mom. And I am honored to be those things. But, even though I have amazing friends and family (we happen to live in the same city as my parents and one of my sisters), it’s still lonely when my husband is away. Having my writing waiting for me has been a lifeline, it’s helped me be at peace when I would have been antsy or restless. Once the kids are in bed, and hubby is miles away (and sometimes either in another time zone or without cell reception) writing has been a way that God has kept me focused. It’s an outlet that I need.

 And we are deeply grateful to your husband—and you!—for your service and sacrifice!

If you could have coffee/tea/gratuitous amounts of carbs with any author(s), living or dead, who would you choose? What would you talk about?

I would love to have coffee and almond croissants with L.M. Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables. Through her stories she made people love Anne Shirley and Prince Edward Island, a province of Canada. I’d want to ask her if she thought people would still love Anne more than a century after she wrote the books, ask her how she felt about movies and tv shows coming about based on her books? I want to bring people to Canada through my stories, as she did. Perhaps she might have some advice for me. And, I might ask her if she would consider endorsing my book for me. *Insert chuckle here*

 

What is the best book you’ve read recently, and why?

Amy: I’m still reading it! The Number of Love by Roseanna M. White. I love the history in it, but I also just love the way Roseanna tells a story. Since L.M. Montgomery is clearly not available, I’d love to have coffee or tea with Roseanna. I write around the same era as she does (my books are shortly after World War 1, her latest book is toward the end of World War 1). The job she has done with building her character Margot, the leading lady in The Number of Love, is astounding.

 

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I suppose you mean things other than laundry, cooking, cleaning, and attending the kids' soccer games? Okay then. Spending time with friends and family, for sure. I enjoy singing, either with our church’s worship team or with my husband while he plays the guitar in our living room. I love spending time with friends and family. I lead a mom and kids prayer group, it’s small, and us moms have a pretty cool bond. It’s amazing what happens as you pray together. Of course, I am often reading, drinking coffee, spending time with friends and family, and eating more than my share of the chocolate in the house. That reminds me. I should make chocolate peanut butter squares. I just hope I haven’t been sneaking too much of my baking chocolate. Oh, and did I mention being with friends and family?

 

Last question, Amy. How can we pray for you?

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I am about to begin querying, so I’d love prayer for the right agent, as well as the right home for my book in the world of publishing. I have some beta readers looking at it at the moment… is it selfish to pray that they will love it? *Laughs nervously*

Not selfish at all! I will be praying for your betas to love your book, and for God to bring you just the right agent at just the right time!

Meet Amy:

Amy Renaud is a historical fiction and devotional writer, chocolate and coffee enthusiast, pursuer of Matthew 6:33. Amy and her husband serve on their church’s worship team as well as prayer ministry (Ignition). She is a happily married army wife and mom of two boys that keep her on her toes and on her knees. Amy and her family make their home in Ontario, Canada. Connect with Amy at her website,    instagram,  Twitter , or Facebook.

 

Author Spotlight: Janyre Tromp

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: one of my favorite parts of being a writer is the amazing people I’ve met! Janyre Tromp is one of those people; we met on Twitter first, then met in person last year at ACFW. Not only is she sweet, warm, and encouraging, but her writing is absolutely gorgeous. I can’t wait for you all to get to know her!

Welcome to the blog, Janyre!

Thanks for having me!

What inspired you to start writing?

My mom says that I was forever telling stories. But I wasn’t one of those kids who wrote on the high school newspaper or wrote poetry in secret. I didn’t even consider writing as something I could do until college, and even then, it was something I fell into. Seriously.

 I started college as a chemistry major. I was getting straight A’s my first semester in Inorganic Chemistry, Calculus, and all the related subjects. The problem was that I hated it.

 I called my mom in tears, dreading taking 2nd semester Calc at 7:30 am (seriously, who does this to college kids?). She said, “Do what you love.”

 To which I replied, “Ma, nobody gets paid to read.”

 But she made a good argument so I declared myself an English major with an emphasis in writing because there was no way I was teaching.

 When I graduated, I was hired in the marketing department of a publisher (using my minor) and then switched to another publisher and eventually started freelancing for editorial reading the slush pile. In case you haven’t put it together yet, I was getting paid to read. Ah, the wisdom of mothers.

 A few years into my freelancing, the managing editor told me I should write something. So, being an impressionable 20-something, I did what I was told. I wrote a YA mystery (That Sinking Feeling) and then two board books (All About God’s Animals). And I kind of got hooked from there.

 By that time I started having kids though, and switched to the editorial department as part-time staff. I couldn’t write and edit and take care of small children (as well as myself), so I took a hiatus and I’m just getting back to writing after taking about 10 years off.

 Many writers have a day job, but yours is particularly unique: you’re an editor for Kregel Publications. What unique challenges does your dual role as author and editor present?  How does your work as an editor influence or inspire your writing?

 I’ve worked for Kregel for 20 years, so I’m fairly comfortable in my role as a developmental and acquisitions editor. It’s when I started taking my writing more seriously that things got a little more complicated. Writers are typically solitary creatures, but we need community. I have to be careful that my need for community doesn’t get confused in my job. I can like an author, and I can like their project and still not publish the book because it isn’t right for Kregel. That’s a hard line to walk.

The good news is that I’ve always been an editor that’s encouraging and hands on. So really, not much has changed. I just make sure my new writing friends know what I do and offer to help in ways that don’t get tangled with acquisitions. 

 But I seriously do have one of the best day jobs for a writer. As an editor:

(1)    I’m uniquely aware of the marketing side of things—trends, expectations, etc.

(2)    I’m required to read a lot and in a variety of genres, which means I’m exposed to a huge variety of writing styles, thoughts, premises, etc.

(3)    While my daily to-do list doesn’t require hands-on grammar editing, I am more aware of grammar rules and current trends in editorial styles than your average writer.

(4)    To a certain extent, I’m a known entity in the industry, which helped me land an agent, and will hopefully give editors a higher level of confidence in my professionalism, reliability, and skills.

 But there are negatives. One of my favorite things to do as an editor is help an author rework their book, but sometimes my creative brain gets sapped by fixing other people’s work.

 What does your writing routine look like, if you have one? What obstacles or challenges do you face in making time to write?

 I schedule writing time like I schedule work time. It ends up being about 10 hours per week. But I also tithe 10% of my writing time to other authors—promoting their books, editing for my critique partners, sending out writing tips (which I do regularly on Twitter).

 Probably my biggest challenge is protecting my writing time. I work from home so everyone assumes I have all the time in the world. Until this last year, I didn’t treat my writing like a job and my writing time got squeezed out pretty quickly. Now it still gets set aside for bigger priorities (like taking my kids to doctor’s appointments), but it doesn’t happen as often anymore.

 My plan this year is to not actively write during the summer with my kids home. That doesn’t mean I’m not writing. I’ve already begun to research and I’ll start plotting and doing some character development. I’ll also be reading. I firmly believe that reading is one of the best things a writer can do to improve her craft—read craft books, read books in her genre, read books outside her genre. Look out TBR pile, here I come!

 How has God changed you during your writing journey?

 The themes I work into my book are often things I’ve struggled through in my own life. Writers write what they know, not in the sense that we only write about experiences we’ve had, but in the sense that we write emotions, feelings, themes that we’ve dealt with in our own lives.

 So the book I just finished is about a soldier returning from war. He definitely has PTSD and is struggling with things, but then he starts seeing things and no one knows whether he’s actually seeing things or if he’s just seeing things.

 I have never in my life had concern over seeing things that weren’t there, but I’ve struggled with people not understanding where I’m coming from. I’ve had issues with a broken family, fear, depression, etc. I’ve tried to keep it all together on my own, and (like my character) I’ve realized that not only am I not enough, but life is a journey. Sometimes, when we’re in the midst of things, we need to remember that there is another side.

 If you could have coffee/tea/gratuitous amounts of carbs with any author(s), living or dead, who would you choose? What would you talk about?

 I don’t know that I could choose one. Could I own a coffee shop where historical authors just drop by for an occasional chat? No? Umm…how about visiting the original Inklings (Lewis, Tolkien, etc.)? Or maybe Madeleine L’Engle? I’d love chat about how fiction changes culture and how to communicate faith in a way that crosses boundaries and changes lives.

 I would be SO on board with that Janyre’s Café idea. A shelf lined with classics and craft books, free-flowing (and low-priced) caffeinated beverages, and time-travel portals to enable authors from the past to pop in and chat with us…this sounds like a book waiting to happen, if nothing else!

What do you do when you’re not writing?

 Read . . . and take care of kids and do their laundry . . . and occasionally take pictures (sign up for my newsletter or check out my Insta page). I really have no life.

How can we pray for you?

My agent is just starting to pitch my book to editors. It’s fabulous to be an insider in the industry, but it can also be a little awkward for obvious reasons. I’m also starting research for the next book and I am tackling some issues that are a little more volatile and I want to do that with respect and humility.

We’ll definitely be praying for your submissions and for your new project, Janyre! I can’t wait to see how God uses you and your writing!

Meet Janyre:

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Janyre Tromp is a traditionally published author of three children’s titles (Kregel Publications). In addition she is a developmental book editor who has worked in the book industry for more than twenty years, spending time in both marketing and editorial. She is a Bible Study leader, writer’s conference speaker, member of ACFW, wife, and mom of two kids and their menagerie of slightly eccentric pets. She lives her life hunting beauty—even when it isn’t pretty. 

Author Spotlight: Sherrinda Ketchersid

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If you’ve been following this space long, you know I have a special love for historical fiction. I’ve heard it said that stories set in other eras are the closest thing we have to time travel, and I’ve enjoyed my voyages into eras such as the Civil War, World War II, and the American Revolution.

My guest today, Sherrinda Ketchersid, has written a book set in a time period I’ve not yet visited in fiction, but can’t wait to dive into: medieval times! Here’s a little more about Sherrinda’s debut historical romance, Lord of Her Heart.

Lady Jocelyn Ashburne suspects something is amiss at her family’s castle 
because her father ceases to write to her. When she overhears a plot to 
force her into vows—either to the church or a husband—she disguises 
herself and flees the convent in desperation to discover the truth.

Malcolm Castillon of Berkham is determined to win the next tournament 
and be granted a manor of his own. After years of proving his worth on 
the jousting field, he yearns for a life of peace. Rescuing a scrawny 
lad who turns out to be a beautiful woman is not what he bargained for. 
Still, he cannot deny that she stirs his heart like no other, in spite 
of her conniving ways.

Chaos, deception, and treachery threaten their goals, but both are 
determined to succeed. Learning to trust each other might be the only 
way either of them survives.

Doesn’t that sound great? You can pre-order your copy here (it releases next Tuesday!), or enter Sherrinda’s giveaway for a free copy of your very own! Details on that at the end of the post. For now, let’s give Sherrinda a warm welcome and get to know her a little better!

Thanks so much for being here today, Sherrinda!

Thank you for having me!

What was your inspiration for Lord of Her Heart?  

While researching about women in history, I learned that rich young women were sent to convents for an education to prepare them for their duties as chatelaines (managing an estate or castle) after marriage. I wondered if girls ever chose to remain at the convent and take their vows to become nuns. Then I wondered what would have happened if a family left a girl at the convent—or ceased communication with her—or she was forced to take her vows to God or be married off to an old man? These ‘what ifs’ helped to create the plot for my story about Jocelyn. Her father stops writing to her and then the abbess of the convent tries to force her to either take her vows or marry an old man willing to pay the convent a large sum of money.

What drew you to set this story in medieval times? What’s your favorite thing about writing that era? What do you find most challenging?

My dad loved medieval fantasy stories—like those by George McDonald. He’d read to us girls when we were little and even drew coloring pages filled with knights and fair maidens. The Middle Ages have always been a favorite time period for me. My favorite thing about writing in that era is creating manly, warrior heroes. I love the chivalry and protectiveness of knights in shining armor. What I find most challenging is creating dialogue with a medieval flair. There are so many sayings that you just can’t use because they are too modern. It’s difficult to create something completely new or tweak something to sound ‘old world’.

That would be a special challenge!

Next question: How did God change you during the writing of Lord of Her Heart? What spiritual truth do you hope readers take away from the book?

Oh goodness, what a good question. I’ve wanted to write since I was in high school, but, like many others, put off writing while I had young kids. It wasn’t until I turned forty that I decided I wasn’t going to let life pass by without at least trying to write a book. I’ve always been one of those who didn’t have a lot of self-confidence, so as I wrote, God helped build my confidence level. Not a confidence in myself, per se, but a confidence to at least try new things and trust God with the outcome.

I would love readers of LOHH to come away with the spiritual truth that God is trustworthy. So often we think we have to work out our problems and then ask God to bless our efforts, but God is our Father who loves us and wants us to run to Him first. He longs to hold us close and give us strength to face whatever life throws at us.

What does you writing routine look like, if you have one? What obstacles or challenges do you face in making time to write?

Before December of 2018, I wrote from 9am-12pm and 1pm-5pm every week day. I have an empty nest and it was easy to devote that time just to writing. But I got a puppy in December and my life has been crazy ever since. Who knew puppies were so time-consuming?! Now I pick up around the house, get ready, take Phineas for a walk, and then sit down to write while he naps. Usually that is from 10am-12pm. After lunch we go out in the backyard and I wear him out playing fetch or I will write on the back porch while he plays. I try to write during the afternoon, but depending on Phineas and his energy level, it is hit or miss. Evenings are spent either watching TV with the hubby, reading, or blogging.

Phineas!! That just might be the most adorable puppy name ever!

What is one thing you’ve learned on the writing journey that you would go back and tell your younger Writer Self?

 Just write a little every day. Your words will add up over time. Also, don’t compare your journey to anyone else. God’s timetable for your stories are the best for YOU! Oh, and don’t wait for the muse to hit. You won’t ever get anything done if you wait. Just sit in the chair and write.

 If you could have coffee/tea/gratuitous amounts of carbs with any author(s), living or dead, who would you choose? What would you talk about?

Oh dear, this is a difficult question, but I would have to say Pepper Basham. She was one of the first writing friends I ever made online and she has been such an encourager and supporter of my writing. Plus, her brain is just plain fascinating. The stories that bubble around in her head … whew! But what I really love is her heart for the Jesus and how her stories point to sweet truths found in Him. I would love to sit and have her detail every minute of a normal day for her. How does she find time to write all the stories brewing in her imagination? Maybe I could learn something. ;)

 What do you do when you’re not writing?

I love to read, watch Netflix, or hunker down in my art room to do some Bible journaling. Playing with paint frees my soul. I don’t know what it is about getting my fingers all messy, but the creative process lets my mind rest from all the pressures of marketing and writing. Bible journaling has become a sweet time of worship as I meditate on the scripture I’m journaling. My Bible is getting so thick from all the painted pages within.

 How can we pray for you?

What a sweet question! Goodness, I would love it if you could pray that God would unleash my writing to better communicate the truths He wants to use in my current story. I had originally wrote the sequel to Lord of Her Heart (the story of Ian, the head guard) as a clean read, but didn’t feel good about the final product. So I’m adding a faith thread into the storyline and am paralyzed with fear that I’m not going to be able to communicate the theme of worthiness. Pray that I can rest in God’s leading and be free to let the words flow. I’m tired of procrastinating the rewrite!

Definitely praying for that, Sherrinda!

If you’d like a chance to win an electronic copy of Lord of Her Heart, just leave a comment on this post! We’d love to know your favorite period in history to read about, what era you might travel to if time travel were an Actual Thing, or anything at all! We’ll draw the winner randomly and notify a week from today!

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Meet Sherrinda:

Sherrinda Ketchersid is a lover of stories with happily-ever-after endings. Whether set in the past or present, romance is what she writes and where her dreams reside. Sherrinda lives in north-central Texas with her preacher husband. With four grown children, three guys and a gal, she has more time and energy to spin tales of faith, fun, and forever love. Connect with Sherrinda on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Goodreads, Book Bub, Amazon, or at her website.

 

 

Author Spotlight: Kass Fogle

Although I’m a fiction writer, and my guests are primarily fiction writers as well, I do number among my friends many amazing and wonderful nonfiction writers. These writers have spotted a need that’s not being met in the current market, and are doing their best to fill that need!

And then there are the rare unicorns like Kass Fogle, who writes both fiction and nonfiction! You may know Kass better as The Introverted Believer (and if you’re not following her on social media, you’re missing on some hilariously true introvert memes)! The heart of Kass’s mission is to help introverts recognize and celebrate how God created and gifted them, and to use that gifting to further the Kingdom in their own unique and very necessary way.

Read on to learn more about Kass, her writing, her love for baking, and the conference—yes! conference!—she’s planning just for introverts! There’s also a giveaway!!

Thanks for being here today, Kass!

Thank you so much, Amanda, for having me as a guest and helping me spread the word about The Introverted Believer!

What inspired your passion for helping introverted believers find their place in a church culture that seems geared toward extroverts?

Personal experience. Confusion. Guilt. There’s a big difference between an invitation (“We’d love to see you…”) and shaming (“If you’re not in a small group, do you really love Jesus?”). I wanted to learn more about the difference between the Church (believers worldwide) and the church (local congregations). and their unique significance as a Christ-follower. Above all, I wanted to make sure I was obedient to God’s word, so I set out on the journey of the Introverted Believer.

How did you discover your own introverted nature? How has knowing that about yourself strengthened your faith?

As a high school student in the late eighties and early nineties, I participated in a Leadership Group and the instructor gave us an MBTI crash course and submitted the Type Indicator©. When my results came back as an Introvert, I fumed. Introverts were weak, and I was a dominant force (read: not well liked). Introverts were mopey and self-loathing and I was dynamic and confident. I was so angry that I lied to the class about my results.

Of course, the teacher had my results as well. They tried to tell me I had it all wrong about what it meant to be an introvert and encouraged me to embrace it. I would hear nothing of it and continued to suffer through many years understanding my identity.

As a believing adult, I’ve come to learn my identity is in Christ, whether I’m introverted or extroverted. I’m still studying line by line and word for word what it means to be one in the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12-24 has been instrumental in shaping my writing and understanding of how and where I fit in this world. More importantly, it’s helping me understand how and where I fit into eternity as I navigate the world through Jesus.

Needless to say, though I still maintain an off-the-charts dominant personality (yes, I’ve been tested), God has also made me unashamedly introverted.

What is the most important thing you’d like to teach people in your ministry?

I want to dispel the myths that many people hold of introverts – those similar to the perception I had as a teenager. I want people to know that the quirks, traits, mannerisms and preferences of introverts do not mean they are shivering in the corner waiting for extroverts to take over. We have very special and unique gifts and I want to help introverts love what lives Beneath the Surface of what the rest of society sees.

What is the best book you’ve read recently, and why?

I have two. Jane Eyre – I think she is the poster child for a strong and introverted person. My non-fiction pick is Introverts in the Church by Adam S. McHugh. It’s literary without being textbook. It’s humorous without making light of introversion. As a Human Resources professional, I’m often assigned tasks that promote engagement, fun or other activities I typically see non-work related. In this book, I am challenged to think beyond my perspective and look instead at what God wants for a project, team, or individual.

Seconding that Adam S. McHugh book; I’ve read it, and it’s phenomenal. If you’re an introvert, do yourself a favor and grab a copy!

What does your writing routine look like, if you have one? What obstacles present themselves in making time to write?

My scheduler is everything. If I haven’t planned it, it doesn’t happen. Saturday morning is when I write blogs, devotionals, and work on my two books. Ruth’s Garden is contemporary fiction and is running through my Word Weavers critique group now. I am also working on a Romance where the hero and heroine meet on a televised cooking competition. My work in progress, Beneath the Surface: A Devotional Journal for Introverted Believers, is what has me celebrating and crying. I am querying agents for this work right now. Send chocolate.

I have to find, create and schedule memes for my social media, so I’ll take a day and schedule out two weeks of memes, I have days set aside for research, for reviewing others’ work so I can share it on social media, and I have time set aside for learning each week.

I spend vast amounts of time sitting in one place staring at the screen because I’m mind mapping. I create the story structure in my mind, build my characters, and set the scene, and then I’ll type it all out like a madwoman. The trouble with that is if I am interrupted, I lose hours of productivity. I haven’t found the best way to store what I’ve mapped very well (I’m old).

 I know the querying road well. Virtual chocolate is heading your way!

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I love to bake, but my husband doesn’t have a sweet tooth. If I bake a batch of cookies, he’ll have one and feel satiated for a month. That leaves me with the rest and I tend to sprint through anything sweet. I also love to hike, though I have the knees of someone who’s ran dozens of marathons (I assure you, I have not) so I don’t do much of that anymore.

When I’m not writing, I am also planning a conference for Introverted Believers. It is tentatively set for April of 2020 in either Northern Indiana or Southern Illinois. I know, a conference for Introverts? YES! Introversion doesn’t mean shy, but they can be. Introversion doesn’t mean “hate people” but we can be perceived that way. There is so much to learn about what introversion is or isn’t and how we can use our powers for His Good, that I think we need a conference for it. The chairs will be spaced out, I hope to have a quiet room for people to find space to recharge, and I have a scavenger hunt that includes lots of brain teasers so people can work individually or together. Sessions will be encouraging and challenging.  And there will be a taco bar, so there’s that.

 

If you could have coffee/tea/gratuitous amounts of carbs with any author, living or dead, who would you choose? What would you want to talk about with him or her?

 

I’d love to sit down with Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume. Margaret and Ramona were in the hearts of millions of young girls back in the day, including me. Especially me. They walked us through how to handle every possible embarrassing moment a young female could have. When I think of having coffee and muffins with Ms. Cleary and Ms. Blume, I see a lot of laughter.

 Oh, man! You just named my two favorite authors from childhood! I’m totally crashing that coffee and muffins extravaganza (which, wow, that sounded very extroverted of me, didn’t it?)!

Last question, Kass: how can we pray for you?

This is such a sweet question and I am honored you have asked. Please pray that my writing is God-honoring and that it triggers people to open their Bible. Whether it is to fact-check me, understand the context or study, I pray that what I write gets people in their Bible and I’d love for you to join me. Secondly, will you pray for the conference? I am so passionate about executing this, but there are so many things financially and strategically I need to make this happen. I pray for provision of wisdom, friendship, organization, and finances so that I use each resource to bring glory to Him.

Definitely praying for you and your ministry, Kass! Thanks again for being here.

And now for that giveaway!! Kass is offering a $5 Starbucks gift card and a small surprise gift to one lucky winner! Leave a comment on this post to be entered, and we will randomly select our winner one week from today, April 25th.

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Meet Kass Fogle:

Kass Fogle is a fierce Introverted Believer (ISTJ) with a side dish of social anxiety who loves Jesus, coffee, and chocolate.

She blogs weekly, encouraging fellow introverts in their work, marriage and friendships. Be sure and subscribe to her website at kassfogle.com for freebies, lists, printable journal pages and more.

She is working on her devotional journal, Beneath the Surface: A Devotional Journal for Introverted Believers and is busy organizing IBCON, a conference for Introverted Believers.

When she is not working the day job you can find her at the local coffee house writing, at home baking, hanging out with family or causing trouble with her tight-knit group of girlfriends. She is also active on social media, uniting introverts from the comfort of her stretchy pants.

Follow Kass:

Instagram: @theintrovertedbeliever

Twitter: @kassfogle

Pinterest:  Kassfogleauthor

Facebook: theintrovertedbeliever

Email a prayer or other request: kassfogle@gmail.com

 

 

Author Spotlight: Heidi Chiavaroli

If you’ve been following this space for a while, it’s no secret that Heidi Chiavaroli is one of my very favorite authors EVER, and I’m always super-excited when she launches a new book. Her latest release, The Edge of Mercy, comes out April 9, but if you don’t want to wait that long, good news! She’s giving away a copy to one lucky commenter to this post! Details at the end, as well as a unique personal connection I have to this book!

Enough chitchat. Here’s the blurb.

Two women, three hundred years apart, must face the devastation of all they hold dear...

Suspecting her husband is having an affair, Sarah Rodrigues fights to appear unbroken while attempting to salvage her family. Though distracted by her own troubles, Sarah is summoned to an elderly friend’s deathbed for an unusual request—find a long-lost daughter and relay a centuries-old family story.

Determined not to fail her friend, Sarah pieces together the story of her neighbor’s ancestor, Elizabeth Baker, a young colonist forced into an unwanted betrothal but drawn to a man forbidden by society.

While Sarah’s family teeters on the edge of collapse, her world is further shaken by the interest of a caring doctor and a terrible accident that threatens a life more precious than her own.

Inspired by the unconditional love she uncovers in Elizabeth’s story, Sarah strives to forgive those who’ve wounded her soul. But when light shines on the dark secrets of her neighbor’s past and the full extent of her husband’s sins, will looking to a power greater than herself rekindle lost hope?

I’ve had the privilege of reading this book, y’all, and it is AMAZING. So now let’s give a warm House of Wen welcome back to Heidi Chiavaroli!

Thanks so much for having me back, Amanda!

We last welcomed you to the blog a year ago, when you were launching The Hidden Side. What’s new in your world since then?

This last year has been a whirlwind. We enjoyed some family time last summer. My favorite memory was climbing Mount Washington together, which was super thrilling (and also super exhausting!).

In the writing sphere, I wrote another book (to be released in 2020), did some major edits on an old manuscript (releasing this month), and put out a free short story for my newsletter subscribers.

Actually, looking back at this year, I’m fairly certain the writing took more stamina than climbing Mount Washington! :)

You’re getting ready to launch your third published novel, Edge of Mercy. How is this new book similar to your previous releases? What major differences can you tell us about?

Like my other novels, The Edge of Mercy is a time-slip novel. There is a historical story within the contemporary story. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of telling these! Like my other stories, it explores some difficult, and yet true-to-life realities. Like my other stories, I believe it will also leave my readers feeling hope.

The biggest difference is that the historical portion of The Edge of Mercy is not set during the American Revolution, but is set during another, less familiar colonial-era war (King Philip’s War).

 What inspired you to write Edge of Mercy?

This novel was inspired by two things: my parents’ marriage, and a hike in the woods.

Growing up, I watched my parents go through a lot of marital tribulation. I can still remember pacing my dorm room in college shortly after 9/11, listening to my mother’s voice telling me she was coming home, that she and my dad wanted to work things out.

I’d thought there was no hope for them, honestly. But God had a different plan. This summer, my parents will celebrate thirty-nine years of marriage. Theirs isn’t an easy story, and it isn’t the same as Sarah and Matt’s story (the characters in The Edge of Mercy), but my desire to explore a failing marriage was definitely inspired by watching my parents wade through theirs.

The historical portion of the story was inspired while planning a hike for my youngest son’s Tiger Cub den. We stumbled upon a massive boulder in the woods with a cave on its west side…along with a rather haunting legend to go with it.

I couldn’t get the legend out of my head, and so I imagined the circumstances behind it. From this local legend, my first time-slip story was born. It would be six years until it would see the light of publication.

It’s about a marriage on the brink of failure. A request given beyond the grave. And a centuries-old family story with the power to change everything.

 Which character in Edge of Mercy was easiest for you to connect with? Which character was the most challenging?

Elizabeth, my historical heroine, was the easiest for me to connect with, and I’m still not sure how that can be! I give credit to all the walks in the woods I took as I wrote this story, imagining her in that very place centuries earlier, imagining her struggles, imagining her ending.

Sarah, my contemporary heroine, was probably my most challenging. Though I felt like I connected with her, she needed a bit of editing help. I wrote the book more than five years ago, and when I came back to it this past year, I didn’t really sympathize with her enough. So I got to work fixing that. :)

 What did God teach you during the writing of this book? What spiritual lesson do you hope your readers take away from it?

God taught me a lot about waiting for His timing. I received an agent contract on this book five years ago (then called Abram’s Rock) and I was certain that this was the one! But although some publishers showed interest, they all ended up turning it down. It wasn’t until I had two books published (and wasn’t even considering putting this book out!) that the opportunity to resurrect this story came. I’m so glad that it did!

I hope readers come away from this story with hope that nothing is beyond God’s reach. I hope they see a glimpse of how the Lord pursues us, even when we are unlovable, even when we don’t deserve His love. I hope they see His grace.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned since your debut was released? What is one piece of advice you’d give your Younger Writer Self?

I’m learning that the craziness of the writing business doesn’t stop. There’s always more I could be doing. More research, more writing, more editing, more marketing, more promotion. But I’m also learning that while I can’t imagine not writing, it is not the most important thing. Making time for my family and for God, and resting, is tremendously important for my spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being. I would definitely tell my younger self to chill out a bit and enjoy the journey. :)

 How can we pray for you?

Thank you so much! I would LOVE your prayers on a deadline that I have for July 1st. If you would pray that the Lord would place on my heart what He wants my readers to read I’d be tremendously grateful!

We’ll definitely be praying for that!

Remember that personal connection I mentioned at the top? Well, it turns out that King Philip’s War was actually started by two of my ancestors, John and William Salisbury, who were also two of its first victims. One of them, John, appears briefly in Heidi’s book! I had no idea when I read it that this character was related to me; it was only after I finished that my genealogist mom pointed it out! Heidi and I both thought that was super cool.

And now for that giveaway! Heidi is offering one copy of The Edge of Mercy in the winner’s choice of format (paperback or ebook). To enter, simply leave a comment on this post! We’ll chat about anything you want: favorite time-slip novels, favorite obscure historical factoids, how awesome the New England area is…the sky’s the limit. But we DEFINITELY want to know if you’ve ever found a relative as a character in a work of fiction!

Meet Heidi:

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Heidi Chiavaroli is a writer, runner, and grace-clinger who could spend hours exploring places that whisper of historical secrets. She is an ACFW Carol Award winner and a Christy finalist. Both her debut novel, "Freedom's Ring" and her sophomore novel, "The Hidden Side" are Romantic Times Top Picks. "Freedom's Ring" was also a BOOKLIST Top Ten Romance Debut. She makes her home in Massachusetts with her husband and two sons. Visit her at heidichiavaroli.com.

Author Spotlight: Hayley Elliott

When I started college, nothing scared me more than rooming with someone I didn’t know. But I needn’t have feared; I got along great! Same thing happened in graduate school; my roommate there ended up being one of my favorite roommates ever! So when I went to ACFW last fall and arranged to share a room with someone I’d never met, I figured we’d get along great, and we did! My blog guest today is that very roommate, Hayley Elliott!

Welcome to the blog, Hayley! We’re so happy to have you!

Thank you! It’s great to be here!

First question: what inspired you to start writing?

Not sure I was ever necessarily inspired so much as it was ingrained in me since childhood. I started out writing deep, heartfelt poetry about the meanings of life like—will this boy ever notice me? Or beautiful sonnets about rainbows, butterflies, and even Tigger. (Yes, from Winnie the Pooh. Why? I have no idea.) Or why does my heart yearn for more? Who uses the word “yearn” at the age of ten? This girl. I always got excited about writing projects through my school years and kept a personal journal as well. Those are fun reads, let me tell ya! Full of questions, angst, and more yearnings.

As for writing as a career? Well, that began when we tried conceiving our first child and it took over a year and a half. I found myself wanting more—needing something more—to occupy my mind. I had the desire to write…fiction no less…first time for everything. Through late-night talks, my husband and I developed the storyline for my first book. It’s been a long journey since I began that first manuscript and to be honest, I’m still tweaking it today. It’s like a first love. They’re hard to let go.

 

What does your writing routine look like, if you have one? What obstacles or challenges do you face in making time to write?

Writing routine? Bahahaha. *Laughs manically while chugging coffee, sporting a messy ponytail and sweats* Girl, I’ve got a high-maintenance toddler, and a bun in the oven that’s about to burst any day. The only luxury of a routine I have centers around my family, because while I enjoy writing, I enjoy my family more. That said, my writing hours happen during my child’s nap time, which is a rare occasion these days, and in the evenings after my little one goes to bed, giving me a window of about 3 more hours if I’m super productive. During said hours, I’m also balancing photo shoots and photo editing for my freelance photography business. I also have the opportunity to write when my toddler is at Mother’s Day Out twice a week. However, I mentioned I was pregnant, right? My current dilemma centers around whether I have enough energy to write or if I’d rather sleep. I’m afraid once my newborn comes along, sleep may win out more often than not. Obstacle = toddler. Challenge = acquiring enough sleep. Obstacle/Challenge: 1, Me: 0. So does that answer your question about obstacles and challenges?

LOL, absolutely! And trust me, I’ve been there. Believe me when I say that as the kids get older, you do get more freedom and flexibility. Not necessarily more quiet, but more freedom and flexibility for sure.

 On to the next question! How has God shaped you during your writing journey?

 Writing about characters and stories people connect to is more than learning fancy, frilly language, or following all the writing rules. It’s about understanding people. Understanding their emotions, what motivates them, their experiences, their triumphs and sorrows, how the world affects them, and how God plays a part in each of our lives. I’ve learned enough about craft to blow my mind and still have plenty to learn, but what I’ve found to be the most difficult and intriguing part of writing is creating a character that feels real— especially those that experience things I never have. You have to research so much. But also pray a lot for guidance. Most of my best scenes are those I’ve fallen asleep praying about, only to wake up and spill thoughts on a page—ones I don’t really consider my own. So while I enjoy writing, I wouldn’t be able to do it without God’s help. Writing has always drawn me closer to God, whether writing a personal journal or a fiction novel, and therefore has strengthened my faith and relationship with Him. Maybe it’s odd, but I feel closer to Him when I’m writing, even if the writing is terrible, I’m still gaining something in the process. So while some of the stories I write may never been seen by the majority—I do it for me. I do it for Him.

 What is the funniest thing that’s happened to you on your writing journey?

 Part of being a writer is also learning craft and developing friendships with other fellow writers by attending workshops and conferences. I attended my first two writing conferences last year. At my second conference in Nashville, the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference, I was newly pregnant. And if you’ve ever been pregnant, you’re familiar with the term “pregnancy brain.” Right? Well, I had it full-fledged even at ten weeks pregnant. Somehow, I managed to leave my cell phone in the bathroom stall and hiked up like a thousand stairs and across half the hotel before I realized I had left it. In a hot mess, I ran (okay, I fast-paced-walked) to the bathroom. It was gone. I panicked, to say the least. I was out of town. I had all my flight, travel and Uber information on my phone. And did I mention my phone was on silent and the screen was locked? But then my genius roommate <cough, cough, Amanda Wen> asked if I tried calling my phone. DUH! Bless it all for happening at a Christian conference, someone turned my phone in and the hotel staff was holding it for me.

 Bwahaha! I’d almost forgotten that particular anecdote! And the only reason your genius roommate came up with that solution is because she’s left her own phone too many places to count. :)

What’s the best book you’ve read recently, and why?

Man, oh me oh my. This is a rather cruel question. I’ve read numerous books in the last couple of years, but I’ll focus on the word “recent.” My New Year’s goal was to read my Bible more and focus on books that invest in my personal growth. I could pleasure read for hours and hours, fiction books, of course. But non-fiction? They usually take me three times as long to read. However, this year I read a lovely book called Everybody Always by Bob Goff. He has a wonderful outlook on life, one that I took several notes on how to implement. He reminds us of the one thing Jesus repeatedly told us to do: love everyone. It’s not always easy either. It’s something we tell my daughter often, she may not like someone or the choices they make or how they treat her, but it’s important to love them anyway—even the “bad” people, because everyone needs Jesus and everyone needs to be loved. I don’t think we could be reminded of this sentiment enough.

If you could have coffee/tea/gratuitous amounts of carbs with any author(s), living or dead, who would you choose? What would you talk about?

I shall partake in all of the above—especially if the carbs contain chocolate. I’d love to say someone smart or deep like Robert Frost, Charles Dickens or Jane Austen—but that’s not me. Don’t get me wrong, I can totally get behind Pride and Prejudice wholeheartedly, but if I’m going to sit down with an author, I want them to be relatable and understandable.

This deserves a paragraph break because I debated in my mind for days and days. This is such a hard question to answer. I’ve read so many wonderful authors. But one person kept popping up in my mind. Debbie Macomber. I had the pleasure of hearing her speak at the ACFW Conference and adored her. She was funny, genuine, and creative, along with a dynamic speaker. I was surprised not only by her writing journey and her determination to succeed, but also how involved she is with her community. She seemed very down-to-earth but also has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share in both writing and serving others. I would love to have the opportunity to hang out with her…not just once…but man, to have her as a mentor. Whew. That would be something pretty spectacular.

 What do you do when you’re not writing?

When I have free time, there’s nothing I’d rather do than spend time with my husband and daughter. We could be doing just about anything from lounging on the couch watching a movie, to bike-riding to the closest park, to playing board games. It doesn’t matter. They’re my people and I want to spend all my time with them. When I’m feeling particularly extroverted, I hang out with my book club and bunco pals (yes, I said that—and yes they’re all about my age—younger even). I also enjoy hanging out with other writers to talk about books, writing, and techniques. Aside from being a stay-at-home mom, I’m also a freelance photographer so that tends to take some of my free time on the weekends and weekday evenings as well.

 Last question, Hayley: How can we pray for you?

Being on the journey to become a published author is not easy—despite what people may think. (“Just publish it on Amazon, it’s super easy, everyone’s doing it.” They say.) The journey to become published—whether traditional or indie—is rather long and tedious, especially if you’re wanting to learn to do it well. Sometimes your end goal seems even further away, like you’re never going to reach it. I’ve said it many times, getting published is a marathon, not a sprint.

I’d love to ask for prayers for lots of things, so feel free to take your pick…Prayers for peace in my writing journey. Prayers for understanding my particular path. Prayers for writing a clear message readers will grasp in a unique and fun way. Prayers for writing the way God wants me to. Prayers for perseverance. Send all the prayers to any writer. It’s easy to get discouraged, especially when your heart is fused into your work.”

Meet Hayley:

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Hayley Elliott writes inspirational romantic stories filled with adventure and humor. She is a member of ACFW and RWA, including her local chapters. She enjoys writing faith-building posts about life experiences and discoveries on her personal blog. When she’s not writing, she’s managing her freelance photography business.

Hayley lives in Oklahoma with her husband and daughter, who are all eagerly awaiting the arrival of baby girl number two. Hayley loves reading (obviously), spending time with family, being outdoors (as long as it requires only moderate exercise), traveling to new locations, and eating sweets—especially chocolate. You can connect with Hayley via her blog, Twitter, or Instagram.

Author Spotlight: Jerusha Agen

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The calendar says March, but the snow on the ground says, “LOL SORRY STILL WINTER.” At least, that’s what’s happening where I live! But whether it’s nice and toasty where you live or if you’re still in winter’s grip, there’s always an excuse to curl up with a good book—or free novella, in this case—courtesy of my friend, Jerusha Agen! Scroll on to get to know Jerusha and learn how you can get your copy of “The Protector.” Here’s the blurb:

When trafficking survivor Tamara agrees to share her story at an awareness event, she doesn’t realize that decision might cost her life.

As an unknown killer tries to silence her, a handsome stranger shows up, determined to save her from harm...But who will protect Tamara's heart?

Doesn’t that sound delicious? And anyone who wants to read it can grab your free copy—did I say free?—just by signing up for Jerusha’s newsletter! Details at the end of the post, but for now, please help me give a warm, possibly-still-wintry welcome to Jerusha Agen!

Thanks for having me! It’s an honor to be here!

First question, Jerusha. What inspired you to start writing?

I think I actually started to write as soon as I could physically form letters as a child! Some of my earliest memories are of creating stories in “books” made from cardboard and construction paper. I scrawled the narrative of those tales on the pages in crayon, along with my poorly drawn illustrations.

 So, I think my answer to the question would have to be God inspired me to start writing by wiring me for story! I was also helped along by having a mother who is a passionate reader and was determined to make sure her kids loved reading, too. I grew up being read to many times every day and learned to read myself at an early age. Throughout my childhood, I also listened to a plethora of dramatized and read-aloud stories on tape (yes, I’m old enough for cassette tape). I’m so thankful for my mom’s diligence in giving me early exposure to books and stories in many formats, which birthed in me a lifelong love of reading, writing, and story!

 Ha, that sounds very familiar to me, as my own childhood is filled with books, be they cassette tape or otherwise. Does that mean we’re old? No, wait, just kidding, that’s not the real next question.

Here’s the real next question. What does your writing routine or process look like, if you have one? What obstacles or challenges do you face in making time to write?

Two years ago, I realized that I was wasting a lot of time every day and not being productive enough with my writing. So often, my writing was getting pushed to the back burner and not gotten to because I would run out of time for it. If we keep waiting or trying to make time for writing, we’ll rarely or never write! So I implemented a schedule that increased my productivity by helping me to prioritize writing every day, while also enabling me to manage my time so well that I could get the other, non-writing tasks done, too.

In my work-week schedule, I have daily writing times blocked out. These times vary depending on which day of the week it is. For example, I spend much more of Mondays on writing, whereas Tuesdays have writing time in the morning and the rest of the day is spent on other tasks. I had thought that having a schedule would be restrictive, but instead it enables me to accomplish my goals and drastically reduces the stress that comes from never accomplishing all that I need to.

Similarly, when I first started writing, I thought it was cooler to be a pantster than a plotter, but then I realized an important truth about myself: I hate rewriting. To be honest, I don’t like the outlining/plotting process either. It’s tedious and difficult, and I often feel like I’d much rather, “just write.” The trouble is that if I were to dive straight into writing before plotting, as I used to do, I’d be far more frustrated by having to stop frequently to figure out what needs to happen and (the worst!) I’d have to stop to rewrite, over and over again. For me, it’s definitely worth the time to plot and outline my stories before writing them.

I’ve found that writing from an outline is MUCH faster, less frustrating, and enables me to achieve the thematic layers and depth I aim for in my novels. Not every writer is the same and outlines may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I recommend everyone try both ways before dismissing one as inappropriate for them. You might be surprised by which method is actually best for you!

As for obstacles and challenges, I think we all face many of the same ones—including life itself! Life stuff just seems to always get in the way, doesn’t it? That schedule I mentioned? It only works when I actually stick to it. Lately, I admit, I haven’t been doing well at that, and my productivity has really suffered as a result.

We can also lose our motivation, which will make us sacrifice our writing time even more. I think such times are when we have to go back to the question of why we’re writing what we’re writing in the first place.

Is it a hobby? Something for our own personal enjoyment? Then maybe it doesn’t matter if we discipline ourselves to get it done.

But if it’s for something greater—if we’ve been called to write and we are writing what God has given us to write—then we need to remind ourselves of that purpose and let His mission for us, HIS glory, drive us to prioritize our writing and work as hard as we can to see it to completion.

How has God changed you during your writing journey? What’s one piece of advice you might give to your younger Writer Self?

What great questions! Wow, where do I start? God has changed me so much in so many ways during this writing journey. I’ll just stick with the highlights and mention the biggest changes I think He’s wrought in me. He’s taught me about the importance of aligning my expectations to His and He’s taught me about patience and trust.

When I started out in my writing and publication journey, a very long time ago, I had extremely different expectations than what have come to pass. This wasn’t my plan. But God is enabling me to see more and more that this is HIS plan. And because He promises all things will work for my good, I must trust that His plan for me, no matter how different it is than my original plan, is the best plan possible.

Really, I have no right to be disappointed at any turn, because He planned this journey, and He has a great purpose in mind for every step. Ultimately, the problem is that I want to follow my own, hand-scribbled map (which would surely get me lost and into serious trouble in a hurry). I need to discard my inaccurate map and be willing to follow my Father’s instead, even though I can’t see the way far ahead.

So the advice I’d give to my younger Writer Self would be to prepare for a longer journey than expected, but not to fear it. To change my expectations so that publication or worldly success is not my goal or destination, but rather so that following and serving Jesus every step of the way is all I desire. To always keep in front of me the truth that if I am honestly writing for God’s glory, then I can be just as joyful in times of rejection, waiting, and wondering as I am in times of publication, acceptance, and positive reviews.

What’s the best book you’ve read recently, and why?

Disillusioned by Christy Barritt. Though this was actually my least favorite installment in this three-book romantic suspense series, I still enjoyed this one more than other books I’ve read recently. The reason why is Barritt’s writing. Through this series of the books, Dubiosity, Disillusioned, and Distorted, Barritt has become my current favorite romantic suspense writer. She’s a skilled writer who achieves the perfect balance, in my opinion, of suspense and tasteful romance. Her stories are gripping page-turners. More importantly, her characters have a depth and dynamic development that isn’t always seen in romantic suspense. She also fully integrates Christian themes that are both powerful and realistic, giving these stories relevant meaning that makes them much more than just entertainment.

If you could have coffee/tea/gratuitous amounts of carbs with any author(s), living or dead, who would you choose? What would you talk about?

This is a tough question! (Though if there are gratuitous amounts of carbs involved, I’m SO there!) Aside from the biblical authors who wrote by God’s inspiration, I think I’d choose Harper Lee, author of my favorite book of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird. I would pick her brain about her inspiration for that story, how she learned to write with such brilliance, the influences of her own life that led her to write on the topic she did (and from a child’s perspective), why she didn’t write more books, and more. And I’d probably ask her if she has any ideas on how to be an incredibly successful reclusive writer in the twenty-first century!

Haha, if you ever learn the answer to that, sign me up!

So what do you do when you’re not writing?

I have five furry family members (three big dogs and two little cats), so they take up much of my time when I’m not writing. But I’m also a major movie fan, which means I need to watch some movie or TV show (old classics, not the stuff on TV these days) in my downtime. When I’m not hanging out with animals or watching movies, you might find me cross-country skiing in our beautiful Midwest winter or baking some yummy desserts.

How can we pray for you?

How kind of you to ask! I would welcome prayer that I would continue to learn what I talked about earlier in this interview—to align my expectations with God’s plan, and to have patience and trust for this journey He’s leading me on. Please pray that I stay motivated and never lose sight of my purpose in writing—to glorify God where He has put me, by using the gifts He’s given me.

Thank you so much for hosting me, Amanda! This has been so much fun!

 And thanks so much for being here!

Meet Jerusha

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Jerusha Agen imagines danger around every corner, but knows God is there, too. So naturally, she writes romantic suspense infused with the hope of salvation in Jesus Christ. With a B.A. in English and a background in screenwriting, Jerusha is the author of the Fear Warrior Blog (www.JerushaAgen.com/blog), where she writes about fighting against fear in our everyday lives. You’ll often find Jerusha sharing irresistibly adorable photos of her Furry Fear Warriors (three big dogs and two little cats) on social media. Visit Jerusha at www.JerushaAgen.com and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Get a free e-copy of The Protector, a romantic suspense novella, when you sign up for Jerusha’s newsletter! Subscribe here, and you’ll receive the free novella as a thank you, access to exclusive giveaways, Jerusha’s news, and more!

Author Spotlight: David Rawlings

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It’s cold and snowy here, but it’s the heart of summer down under, where today’s blog guest lives! I’m super-excited to welcome David Rawlings to the blog today, whose debut novel, The Baggage Handler, is already generating a lot of buzz ahead of its March 5 release! Here’s the blurb:

A hothead businessman coming to the city for a showdown meeting to save his job.

A mother of three hoping to survive the days at her sister's house before her niece’s wedding.

And a young artist pursuing his father’s dream so he can keep his own alive.

When David, Gillian, and Michael each take the wrong suitcase from baggage claim, the airline directs them to retrieve their bags at a mysterious facility in a deserted part of the city. There they meet the enigmatic Baggage Handler, who shows them there is more in their baggage than what they have packed, and carrying it with them is slowing them down in ways they can’t imagine. And they must deal with it before they can leave.

In this modern-day parable about the burdens that weigh us down, David Rawlings issues an inspiring invitation to lighten the load.

Doesn’t that sound amazing? And I haven’t told you the best news yet: One of you lucky commenters will win a copy of your very own! Details at the end of the post, as always.

Welcome, David! We’re so glad to have you today!

Thank you!

What was your inspiration for The Baggage Handler? What do you hope readers take away from it?

I’m the type of person who wants to talk about the deeper things in life rather than just small talk, so issues like the concept of dealing with baggage have always been a part of conversations I have. I guess it was just there not too far under the surface.

 The Baggage Handler itself was borne out of rejection. My first manuscript, about reality TV and churches, finaled in a range of fiction awards but I couldn’t get industry interested in it. Someone suggested for my next novel maybe I should focus on “life lesson” stories. I read a couple of stories like that, then at 9pm one night I was reading when The Baggage Handler arrived. It pretty much downloaded into my head. When I next checked the clock it was 1am, and I had the story, the characters, plot, twists, structure - almost everything. That hasn’t happened before or since with books 2 and 3, but I’m glad it did with The Baggage Handler. 

 How has God changed you during your writing journey?

Fiction writing was always something I was going to do … one day. All these ideas for novels came to me, which I politely filed away for that mythical day in the future when all the financial ducks were lined up. That would allow me to comfortably approach the task of writing without the expectation of getting paid. When I had enough money or enough clients behind me so I could safely take the plunge into what is a vocation not flushed with cash, I would take my ideas out of my folder, and write fiction. (I currently have 17 storyboards sitting there waiting to be fleshed out into living breathing stories).

Then God challenged me.  He reminded me that His gift of notes with story ideas and novels on them wasn’t just it. He hadn’t just given me stories to tell, He had also given me the ability to tell it and He would provide the room in which to tell it. He took my writing dream, flipped it upside down and then stood back and said two words to me.

I would have loved to have heard: “Publishing House.” Now that I could live with. I wanted to hear: “Great Story.” Now that would be the highest endorsement of my writing. A part of me wanted those two words to be “Best Seller”.

But no.

The two words I heard were these. “Trust Me.” Two words no control freak wants to hear.  So it is taking me a while, but I am getting there.

As you look back on your journey to publication, how did God open those doors for you? What is one piece of advice you might give to your younger Writer Self?

God has opened more doors on my writing journey than your average limousine driver. I’ve been to the States twice – both times to Nashville – and God provided for me to be there, in the right place at the right time.

In 2016, my first manuscript was a finalist in the ACFW Genesis Awards and I had neither the time nor the money to get there. (You won’t get much change out of $5,000 to get there from South Australia). That money arrived from two completely unexpected sources, down to the last cent. I had corporate bookings that were immovable – except the client was able to move them because someone hadn’t promoted them for some (still) unknown reason. Then, at that ACFW Conference, I connected with James L Rubart, my mentor, who played such a key role in connecting me with Steve Laube, my agent. And although my first manuscript didn’t get anywhere, the seeds of The Baggage Handler were sown.

In 2018, it happened again. I decided to come across to the ACFW Conference because HarperCollins Christian Publishing was five minutes away from the Conference venue, so I would get to meet my editorial team, marketing team and sales team. The money became available, again. The time freed up, again. And that Conference led to so many opportunities in meeting with other authors, finding publicity opportunities and has laid the foundation for a successful start for The Baggage Handler.

Let me say this: without God opening these doors, I probably would still be standing outside. That would be the advice I would give to my younger self. You can’t do this alone, get on board with that concept quicker. So stop leaning on the door. Step back. And when it opens, step through with confidence that Someone else has it under control.

You are one of a very spirited and delightful contingent of Aussie authors in ACFW. What, if any, challenges does having your agent, publisher, etc. based in the US present to you as an author?

Why thank you. Aussies are naturally spirited and delightful - it’s in our DNA.

My major challenge has been the distance. I’m 8000 miles away from my primary marketplace, my publisher and my agent. This means I’ve had to balance timezones and build extra time into my schedule because emails tend to have a bit of a lag as they arrive overnight. It’s like if email has gone old school and requires a postage stamp. It also needs a bit more logistical planning for media interviews as no-one wants to do a radio interview at 2:00 a.m. No-one.

The other challenge I’ve had – which I’ve actually found fun – is learning to write for an American audience. It’s more than typing with an American accent, I’ve had to relearn US grammar and spelling after 25 years as a professional writer here in Australia. (Do you know how I know how I’m bilingual? Read that last paragraph. We don’t use miles in Australia and we don’t write the time like that either. See? Bilingual.)

What does your writing routine look like, if you have one? What obstacles or challenges do you face in making time to write?

I’m really focused with my own business, so I tend to use blocks of time really well. I write on the train, or while waiting for the kids’ music and theatre rehearsals, or between client projects.  The other thing I do that really helps is I dictate a lot. I’ll record whole chapters onto my iPhone, and then transcribe them into my story. Because I edit as I listen back, I don’t write first drafts. It’s almost first-and-a-half drafts. And I set hard deadlines for word counts.

Because of the nature of running my own business, I guess I’ve honed my project juggling skills. Right now I’m marketing The Baggage Handler pre-launch, I’m editing The Camera Never Lies (which is due for release in December) and also writing Book 3 which will come out in 2020.

The challenges are always balancing those activities with the priorities of the real world.

If you could have coffee/tea/gratuitous amounts of carbs with any author(s), living or dead, who would you choose? What would you talk about?

Robert Ludlum is my hero, so he’d be across the table for sure. I met him when I was a teenager, and his response to my shaky question in the Q&A inspires how I write today. I would ask Ludlum about his plotting, and how he manages to paint such vivid backgrounds using only words. And I’d show him my book.

I would also share a cup of tea with William Shakespeare. It would have to be tea, he is English after all. We would talk about his mastery of language, and how he crafted some of the phrases we still use today. I am in awe of the craftsman who wielded words like an epee.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I have my own business as a copywriter, so when I want to earn money for my words, I turn to my clients. I have a teenage family (my wife isn’t, just to be clear), and we’re involved in College life and church life as well where I play bass. I love watching sport (okay, I’m a junkie) so that’s what I will often do to relax. And I also relax in the kitchen by cooking for everyone else. I’m a serial caterer.

I should probably have a rest at some point.

How can we pray for you?

For trust. In all stages of writing – from concept development through to marketing.  These doors keep being opened in front of me, but my request isn’t that they keep opening. It’s that I trust in the outcome whether they open or not.

Thank you so much for sharing with us today, David! And now, for the Baggage Handler giveaway details! To enter, leave a comment on this post. We’ll randomly select a winner, and we’ll contact you with results next Thursday, February 28th!

Meet David:

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David Rawlings is an Australian author, and a sports-mad father-of-three who loves humor and a clever turn-of-phrase. Over a 25-year career he has put words on the page to put food on the table, developing from sports journalism and copywriting to corporate communication. Now in fiction, he entices readers to look deeper into life with stories that combine the everyday with a sense of the speculative, addressing the fundamental questions we all face.

Connect with David at his website, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Author Spotlight: Katie Powner

Happy February, everyone! It’s been icy the last couple days here, so we’re hunkering down and enjoying the excuse not to go anywhere. Hope wherever you are that the weather’s cooperating, at least to some degree!

My guest today is my awesome friend Katie Powner, who writes contemporary fiction and thought-provoking blog posts, rocks the mom life, and has a thing for red shoes. ;)

Welcome, Katie!

Thanks for having me!

What inspired you to start writing?

On one hand, I can’t answer this question, because I can’t remember. I’ve always been a writer from as far back as I have memories. On the other hand, if I focus on my novel writing in particular, I was inspired to start writing by a scene in my head that wouldn’t go away. It was a scene closely linked to my own past and to a story I’d wanted to write for a long time that I thought would have to wait until my kids were grown up. But the scene demanded to be written and turned into a full-length novel. Then four more novels followed.

 What does your writing routine look like, if you have one? What obstacles or challenges do you face in making time to write?

As a foster mom, my writing routine varies depending on which kids are currently in my home. My writing routine also depends on the season…whether my kids are in school or on vacation, whether my husband is coaching basketball, whether it’s the holidays.

 As far as what obstacles or challenges I face in making time to write, see above! In addition to mom-related challenges, I also face the physical challenge of having “bad wrists.” Typing and scrolling with a mouse can exacerbate pain in my wrists and sometimes cause me to need braces. This condition can slow me down and sometimes force me to take extended computer breaks.

 Looking back on your writing journey to this point, what’s one important thing God has taught you? What is one piece of advice you’d give to your younger Writer Self?

God has taught me that He has a plan and I don’t need to know what it is. He has asked me to just take one day at a time, one step at a time, and leave the big picture up to Him. It’s really not any of my business.

 I don’t think I would give my younger Writer Self any advice. The mistakes I’ve made needed to be made to teach me specific things, and I don’t actually have any regrets at this point looking back at my journey. But ask me again in another five years, and we’ll see!

What do you do when you’re not writing?

Mom stuff. House stuff. Ministry stuff (my husband’s in full-time ministry). Lots of walking on the treadmill. Lots of reading books.

If you could have coffee/tea/gratuitous amounts of carbs with any author(s), living or dead, who would you choose? What would you talk about?

I do not drink coffee or tea, but I would take those carbs in the form of cinnamon rolls and eat them with Dale Cramer, my favorite contemporary author. We would talk about drawing from personal experience when writing and finding the balance between fiction and putting your life on the page. And I would ask him for an endorsement. J

What is the best book you’ve read recently, and why?

Oh for crying out loud. This is like asking which of the brownies from the plate was the best. All of Dale Cramer’s books are my favorites, but if I had to choose just from the most recent books I’ve read, I would say Long Way Gone by Charles Martin. The voice was so interesting and unique, and I loved the story so much that when I finished the book, I flipped back to the beginning and started it over.

How can we pray for you?

I’m so thankful for this question. I think my main prayer request is for the strength and patience to take everything—motherhood, writing, being a wife, ministering—one day at a time. It’s easy to look ahead, plan ahead, forge ahead. But I want to be content right where I’m at today.

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Meet Katie:

Katie Powner is an award-winning author and mom to the third power (biological, adoptive, and foster). She loves red shoes, candy, and Jesus—not necessarily in that order. Her awesome agent is Keely Boeving from WordServe Literary, and you can find her blog and other interesting things at www.katiepowner.com. For every new person who signs up for her newsletter, she will donate $2 to the Rehoboth Children’s Home in the Philippines. You can also connect with Katie on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Author Spotlight: Kent Wyatt

Seeing Beyond cover.jpg

My guest today is romantic suspense author Kent Wyatt, who I’ve yet to meet in person, but I can meet—and introduce him to you—thanks to the magic of the Interwebs!

Welcome, Kent! It’s wonderful to have you here.

Thank you, Amanda, for the great privilege of being part of your blog. We love talking about stories with other writers and readers and you have set up such a great place to do that. We are honored. (So your readers will know, when you hear me responding as “we” it is because my wife Rebekah and I write as a team. I write. Rebekah reads, sticks out her tongue in disgust, and sends it back for me to make it better. We repeat this about fifty times until I finally wear her down and she concedes to the latest draft. Therefore, I use the word “we” even though I do the fun stuff and Rebekah gets the hard work).

Wow, thanks so much for the kind words, and that sounds like a great system! You are truly blessed

First question: What was the inspiration for your debut novel, Seeing Beyond?

Seeing Beyond is about the economy of Heaven. By that, I don’t mean the current value of harp gold. I’m talking about the differences in what is of earthly value and what is of spiritual value. We knew that we wanted to write a romance that delved into what was truly valuable in relationships of various kinds while taking a few humorous jabs at the romantic illusions in which we humans can become trapped—some of the unrealistic expectations that can lead to disillusionment in marriage.

In addition, we wanted some of our main characters to have special needs.My wife Rebekah and I have had many people in our lives whose genetic challenges lead them to be more dependent on family and friends. (You can read about one such interaction by going to our website, www.kentwyatt.org, and scrolling down until you get to a link for the true story called “The Santa Claus Man.”) We know that God does not make mistakes and one of the places we can see that most clearly is in how He has used our friends with special needs to teach us things about faith, trust, openness, and dependence on our Heavenly Father. We know a young man with Down syndrome who frequently reminds us to let go of the perfect facades we put up and just have joy in each other and in the Lord.

James chapter two is one of the many places we see in Scripture where to follow the Lord we must all become like “the poor, rich in faith.” What is considered worthy in this world is turned on its head in the social structure of the Kingdom of God. In Seeing Beyond, we have tried to capture those ideas in a fun, exciting story with a unique twist.

 You had a long and no doubt fascinating career as a law enforcement officer, and we thank you for your service! How does your career influence your fiction? Are there any real-life experiences you had, be they funny or dramatic, that we may find ourselves reading about someday?

When you do something for over 30 years it becomes a part of you. Some readers have told me it really comes through in my action scenes. In Seeing Beyond I have recreated an incident that happened when I was a Colorado Springs Police Officer. A female officer, who was a friend of our family, caught a burglar coming out of a building she was checking. She was alone and he was bigger and stronger than she was. She knew she wouldn’t win a regular fight with him, so she began to push him down while staying out of his reach. She was calling for help on the police radio, but because of her location we were having a hard time finding her, so to say it was a tense moment would be an understatement. She prevailed until her backup finally found her by continuing to push him down every time he tried to get up and never letting him get a hold of her. In Seeing Beyond, I have recreated the tension of that incident in a different scenario. Throughout our novels, you will find my experiences in the interviews, the crime scene processing, the fight scenes, the authentic events and in the humor. It all comes out in my writing.

 What does your writing routine look like, if you have one? Do you have a set time of day you write? Daily goals? Are you a plotter, pantser, or somewhere in between?

I am all over the map. Because I work a full time night shift job along with my writing, I grab writing time when I can. I use Evernote to capture ideas continuously. When I get ready to write a novel, I start out with the basic outline of a story in my mind and the spiritual aspect that I want to explore. Then I start writing and see where the characters interacting with the situation take me. I try to get the rough draft done quickly. In my job at the hospital, I work three 12-14 hour days and then have four days off. On those days I sometimes binge write, taking a break only to sleep, eat, and interact with my family. When the story is flowing, I let it flow. Then Rebekah starts her editing process. She will point out the areas that are cliché, boring, or confusing, and I will go back and rework them until she approves or we just give up. We try not to be satisfied with the usual. I frequently ask, “What would people expect to happen here?” and then try to write something different. When I am stuck on a scene, I walk away and we pray that God will pour something in me that is beyond myself. Our writing is first a ministry and we rely heavily on His help to make it amazing for the reader.

How has God changed you during your writing journey? What lessons have you learned that you’d go back and tell your younger Writer Self?

First, I would constantly remind myself to seek God above all else, so I would be better equipped to do what he has called me to do. Write more and start trying to write for publication sooner. (I have more books in me than I have years.) Don’t let your wife telling you that a scene stinks set you into a stream of whining, sniveling justifications and excuses. Just rewrite the scene!

 If you could have coffee/tea/gratuitous amounts of carbs with any author(s), living or dead, who would you choose? What would you want to talk about?

C.S. Lewis. I would ask him all the questions you just asked me. Then I would ask him to just tell me about God. Fortunately, through his books, I can still experience a lot of that conversation. That is the power of what we do.

 What do you do when you’re not writing?

Something I don’t want to be doing. --- except when I’m talking to Rebekah of course. (I may be dumb, but I’m not crazy!)

 How can we pray for you?

Pray I don’t have to do as many of those things I don’t want to do…so I have more time to write. (While you’re at it you might pray that I don’t do as many dumb things that get me in trouble with Rebekah. She’s the best cheap editing help a guy can find…uh oh, I did it again. See what I’m talking about.) Seriously though, pray that God will continue to give us the words that keep people coming to our books for fun and excitement so they can find Him inside the story.

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Meet Kent:

Kent Wyatt is a 30 year plus veteran of law enforcement. For over half those years he has been entertaining readers with his stories about everyday life and police work from a Christian cop’s perspective. A native of northwestern Kansas, Kent served in law enforcement agencies in Kansas, Colorado, and Oregon before retiring to beautiful northwestern Arkansas, where he lives with his wife, Rebekah. His debut novel, Seeing Beyond, is available now on Amazon, and he is currently working on the rest of the Special Heroes series. He loves to connect with readers at his website.

Author Spotlight: Kelsey Anderson

Happy New Year! I hope 2019 is off to a wonderful start for all of you! It’s definitely off to a wonderful start here, because we’re kicking off the new year with my dear writer friend (and fellow football fanatic) Kelsey Anderson!

Welcome, Kelsey!

Thanks for having me on your blog!

What inspired you to start writing?

I’ve been dreaming up stories for as long as I can remember, but I never wrote them down. I wrote off and on in journals, and I would write poems or whatever else was floating around in my head at the time. But the first spark to start writing fiction came from a dream (No joke, I know it may sound cheesy, but it’s true.) That dream came about a year after I got married, and it was during a time that was really hard for me. I was still adjusting to marriage and being in a new place (Moved from South Dakota to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan). There were also some other things going on that added more to the stress. So writing became a sanctuary for me, I could step into another world and completely forget what was going on around me. That first story never got anywhere and probably won’t be brought to light again. But it was a great stepping stone to my next book idea (which, surprise surprise, also came from a dream!) That story became the story of my heart that I hope to someday share with readers.

 

What does your writing process look like? Are you a plotter, a pantser, or somewhere in between? Do you draft straight through or revise as you go? Do you have a set writing routine, or do you write when you can?

I write when my young kiddos and exhausted pregnant body let me. Haha! Anyway, I’m starting to get into a routine, but I know it could always change. Usually when I get a new story idea, I open up a new word doc and spill every single detail that is in my head. Once that’s all done, I start putting the pieces together to figure out the storyline and plot, but the story could still change once I start writing it. So, I’m both a plotter and a pantser. (I had a very detailed outline for my last book and by the time the book was done, most of what I put in the outline never made it into the actual story) I also mostly write at night while my kids are in bed, but I plan for that night of writing during the day. I try to have a notebook nearby where I will jot down ideas or brainstorm for the next chapter/scene I’m on, so once the kids’ bedtime arrives, I know what to work on.

Note from Amanda: That’s awesome that you’re still awake enough to write after the kids go to bed! I was always brain dead.

What has God taught you so far in your writing journey?

To always TRUST Him. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to quit and God pulled me back. When He first put this calling on my heart, I fought it hard. I thought I was a terrible writer (still do). I never went to college and I struggled in high school. I argued that I was the least qualified person to be a writer, but we all know how arguments with God turn out. So here we are. I don’t know where this journey is taking me, but all I know is that I have to trust God in it.

 

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I’m a stay-at-home wife and mom, so my kids, hubby, house and the laundry keep me plenty busy. I like to read whenever I can and I sometimes crochet, too. I’m also an extreme introvert, so I like staying home in my lounge pants and having my alone time. It’s essential. But even though I am an introvert, I co-lead a small group with my husband at our church. Plus, I lead my church’s book club. We read only Christian Fiction and it is always a blast.

 

If you could have coffee/tea/gratuitous amounts of carbs with any author(s), living or dead, who would you choose? What would you talk about?

Jane Austen, no doubt. I want to know what sparked her idea for Pride and Prejudice, plus all her other books. Although knowing myself, I’d probably just fangirl the whole time. But I also want to hang out with all my writer friends more than once every two years, so I also choose them!

 

What is one thing you know now that you wish you could go back and tell your younger Writer Self?

Oh, wow. So much! First, I would hug my younger Writer Self, because that girl was in a dark place and then I’d tell her that things will get better (and that she will eventually move out of Michigan). I would also tell her to enjoy this crazy writing journey, to not listen to the naysayers, and that she’ll meet some amazing people along the way.

 

How can we pray for you?

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Hmm… first off, I could use some prayers for some energy. My kids and pregnancy take a lot out of me these days, so when I do have a chance to write, my tank is empty. But also pray that God’s will be done in my writing career. I honestly have no idea where I’m going, but God has me doing this writing thing for a reason.

We will definitely be praying for you, Kelsey! Thanks again for being here!

Meet Kelsey:

Kelsey D.M. Anderson is a wife, mommy and writer all in one. Originally a South Dakota girl, Kelsey makes her home in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Besides writing, she loves reading, antiques and cheering for the Green Bay Packers. Connect with Kelsey on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.

Musings on December 27

I can’t find the photos from our particular accident, but this will give you the gist.

I can’t find the photos from our particular accident, but this will give you the gist.

December 27 isn’t our anniversary. It’s not the birthday of anyone in our immediate family. Christmas has just passed, and New Year’s Day is still a few days away. Nonetheless, December 27 is a weirdly important day for our family.

On December 27, 2007, while on our way home from visiting my family for Christmas, my husband and I were rear-ended by an RV. The RV’s forward speed was approximately 60mph. Our forward speed was exactly zero. The impact started a chain-reaction crash that involved five other cars and sent the people in the car next to us to the hospital. It totaled our car and gave my cello, secured in the back seat, a soundpost crack, which is one of the worst things that can happen to a stringed instrument.

Sounds pretty bad, and it was. But, as is so often the case with our worst moments, that was when God showed up, both in the immediate aftermath and in the eleven years that have passed since then. Here are just a few:

  • We were not seriously hurt. The paramedics at the scene were dumbfounded when we told them which car we’d crawled out of, a car so mangled and crushed that the firefighters who arrived didn’t even see it at first. But my husband suffered only whiplash, and my injuries were only a slightly sprained right thumb and a scratch on my nose from the airbag.

My husband and me, a day after the accident. We took this pic to prove to my worried mother that we were, indeed fine.

My husband and me, a day after the accident. We took this pic to prove to my worried mother that we were, indeed fine.

  • My cello was not only repaired, but redeemed. This  particular post crack was a re-opening—and enlarging—of a similar crack it suffered earlier that year. The resulting damage, although repaired, seriously devalued my instrument. Although this didn’t affect the sound, it was still a little demoralizing to have an instrument valued at a third of what it had been. However. This crack was repaired by a different shop—my regular luthier was hundreds of miles away in Wichita and not able to take on the job—and repaired in a different way. When I got my cello back, I was floored. Not only was the sound not worse, it was actually better. My cello, although beautiful in tone, was never a particularly loud instrument, and I’d struggled against that in the ten years I’d had it. But after the repair, its volume was significantly increased. As if I needed further convincing of how much God came through for me, the luthier then presented me with an updated appraisal of the cello. The newly-appraised amount was for the original value of the instrument when I purchased it. The exact same dollar amount it had been worth before any of the post cracks occurred.

  •  I’ve saved the most significant impact for last, because it’s still rippling to this day, and no doubt will for years to come. Although we were unhurt, and although my cello was repaired, the weeks following the accident were a difficult time for me. I suffered panic attacks, strange dreams, and a general feeling of being “off” both mentally and emotionally. It was during these trying weeks that I began writing.

    It started slow at first. I dreamed a scene so vivid that I got up and turned it into a short story. That was so much fun I tried a longer story. And a longer one. And eventually a novel. And then another one. And another one. At first it was a way to escape from the icky feelings I was having (I eventually was diagnosed with—and received counseling for—PTSD, and I am most grateful that the panic attacks and other symptoms are a thing of the past). But what I thought was a coping mechanism, just a way to make it through the day, was actually the genesis of a call to write. And now, eleven years and countless steps of courageous, “Are you sure about this, God?!” obedience, here I am. Still writing, and now with a handful of contest wins, a few completed manuscripts, an agent, and a project on submission. What’s more, I’ve made some amazing friends and had some unbelievable experiences during the eleven years I’ve been a writer, experiences I very well might not have had if not for that motorhome that rear-ended us.

A strange footnote: Two weeks before Christmas, 2016, my husband fell off a ladder while hanging lights and seriously cut his ankle. To make a long story short, the wound got infected, and so, two years ago today, on December 27, we rushed him to the ER to learn he had developed both cellulitis and sepsis. The resulting nine-day hospital stay and months of recovery were far from easy, but once again, we saw God show up. Friends rallied around us, people we didn’t even know prayed for us, family stepped up to help time and time again. Although it took a while, my husband is fully healed now, and he’s stopped taking good health for granted and has made a lot of significant positive changes.

It’s only been two years since that December 27, so obviously I haven’t seen all the ripple effects I can from the first December 27. However, I know I will. And I know that whatever other December 27s occur in my life, whether on that actual day or not, God will show up, He’ll see me through, and He’ll do the kind of amazing things that only He can.

Do you have a December 27? I’d love to hear about it.

Author Spotlight: Kerry Johnson

Merry Christmas to all my blog readers! Although I can be a total grinch in November and insist on shoving off all things Christmas until after Thanksgiving at the very earliest, once my calendar flips to December, I am more than ready to celebrate my favorite time of year. I thank all of you for being a part of my world in 2018, and I wish you nothing but joy and blessings for your Christmas season.

Today’s blog guest is Kerry Johnson, a fabulous friend I had the privilege of meeting in person this year at ACFW! If you follow her on social media, you’ve likely met her hilarious (and GORGEOUS) sun conure, Mango, but now it’s time to get to know Kerry a little bit better! Plus, she’s offering a sweet giveaway (details at the end of the post)!


Welcome, Kerry!

Thanks so much for having me!

First question: What inspired you to start writing?

I’ve loved reading from childhood, and around age ten I started a story about a boy in Alaska and his dog-mushing team (can you tell I read a lot of Jack London and animal stories?). I like to remind my boys I wrote that first story by hand on one of my dad’s yellow legal pads, pre-technology. I think I made it to thirty or forty pages, and I’m a lefty so the ink smudged all over the paper. The bulk of my childhood was spent in the Connecticut woods playing make believe with rock horses and tree people, and this fostered my imagination. As a young adult I read a quote by a famous author that noted writers have all these characters talking in their head and we write to quiet them. It was an ‘ah ha’ moment. Like, oh good, I’m not crazy. Well, I am a little bit.

Well, if you are, you’re the best kind of crazy. You’re Writer Crazy. Welcome to the dark side. We have coffee.

What does your writing routine look like, if you have one? What obstacles or challenges do you face in making time to write?

What is this strange word you speak of--routine?

Ha! I can relate.

During a normal week in a normal school year, I work part-time, so I have a couple of days a week to write while our two boys are in school.This year has been quite abnormal in that I’m homeschooling my younger son and I now have a wonderful agent (Praise God) who would like revisions and such in a reasonable time frame. Imagine that! So, it’s been a good year but also hard and busy in that I’m homeschooling for the first time and I’ve also done major revisions on two stories since the summer of 2018. I prefer writing at home, so the hours when my boys are in school are gold for word count. I’m thankful that they’re old enough now they’re fine on their own when I’m writing/revising during summer break.

As far as challenges, my overall time spent writing has increased the past two years, so getting housework and meals and all the other parental tasks accomplished can be a challenge. I’m moderately organized (aka, barely organized), and I’d love to be better about this. (#NewYeargoals #mealplanning)

Again, join the club…

How has God changed you during your writing journey? How have you seen His provision and guidance?

In so many ways. I started writing my first novel in 2008 and finished in 2009. It wasn’t fit to see the light of a reading light, and I wasn’t ready to be published. Praise God that He doesn’t show us the long road ahead, and instead sends moments and people to encourage us forward. That’s a decade of dreaming and hoping and lots of writing (I have four completed manuscripts, two mostly done, and two a few chapters long), so I’ve learned to wait on Him…and wait on Him some more! I recognize that I needed the years to learn the craft, connect with some amazingly encouraging authors and sisters in Christ, and draw closer to the Lord. Now I’m grateful He didn’t allow me to get published early on, because I had so much to learn and experience to get to this point. I’m also grateful for my patient husband. Attending writing conferences and entering contests isn’t cheap, and he’s helped move my dream forward with his belief and support. 

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I walk a lot. Nothing inspires me as much as a long walk in God’s creation. It clears my mind and often it’s prayer time. Reading is another favorite hobby, though as I’ve gotten further along in my writing career, the reading time has diminished. Every Friday we have family movie night. Friday nights are precious—you can’t get me out of my house and away from my guys, even with chocolate. I love time with our extended family too. My parents and my sister and her family, as well as my husband’s family, all live within two hours of us, so we visit often. Target runs with my sister are the best.

What’s the best book you’ve read recently, and why?

Oh my, how do I answer this? Each book leaves different impressions on me. They evoke a unique variety of emotions, so it’s difficult to pinpoint a favorite. Elizabeth Byler Younts’ The Solace of Water was absolutely lovely and incredibly gritty too, and I loved that. But I’m also a romance sap. Laura Frantz’s stories always deliver tender romance, and I value the honesty of the middle grade genre, too. Beyond the Bright Sea was a fascinating middle grade historical that I loved. Cathy Gohlke’s novels hold a special place in my heart as well. Her Titanic-inspired historical, Promise Me This, is one of my all-time favorite stories.

Promise Me This!! I LOVE that book!! Y’all, if you haven’t read that, put it on your TBR pile, stat. It’s wonderful.

What is one thing you know now that you wish you could go back and tell your younger Writer Self?

*chants* Keep writing, keep writing, keep writing! Book One was finished in 2009 and I didn’t start a second book until 2014! Those are wasted years. Don’t do like I did. While it is possible to learn craft by reading about it, you’ll know it best when you put the knowledge into practice by writing more stories.

If you could have coffee/tea/gratuitous amounts of carbs with any author(s), living or dead, who would you choose? What would you talk about?

Hands down, Corrie ten Boom. The Hiding Place shifted something in my soul when I read it several years ago. I’d love to hear her speak about her life and her faith. I’m fascinated by persistent flickers of love and faith in the midst of total darkness, and that’s what she was and how she lived. I’d also enjoy listening to Francine Rivers talk about her stories—they (and her characters) always resonate with me. 

Last question, Kerry. How can we pray for you?

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Amanda. I would greatly appreciate prayers for a humble spirit and a helpful heart—it’s so easy to get wrapped up in my publishing journey and focus on me, me, me. I pray God will use me to help and encourage other pre-published authors too, even after (Lord willing) I’m published. As far as my stories, I pray they connect with the right editor and leave readers with a happy sigh and a big smile.

Thank you for sharing! We’ll definitely be praying!

Meet Kerry:

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Kerry Johnson has had a love affair with stories since she was a little girl. She earned her B.S. in English Education from the University of South Florida, then taught middle school remedial reading and Drama before spending eight years as a stay-at-home mom and wife. She has been published in Creation Illustrated, Granola Bar Devotionals, and was a regular contributor to Tampa Bay’s Overflow Magazine from 2011-2013.

Kerry has been a member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) since 2011. Her contemporary romance, The Name Game, was a three-time finalist in ACFW’s Genesis Contest (2016, 2017, and 2018), and her middle grade manuscript finaled in 2015, then won the Genesis Award in 2017. In 2016 and 2018, two of Kerry’s manuscripts won their categories at the Florida Christian Writers Conference.

Kerry lives in Tampa Bay with her engineer husband, two active boys, and way too many books. She’s represented by Ali Herring with Spencerhill Associates. You can find her online at her website, Facebook, and Twitter, where she shares an overabundance of pictures of her sun conure, Mango and lazy boxer, Boomer.

 

 Kerry is offering a free ebook copy of her devotional, Grace for the Gaps: Rejoicing in Jesus on Life’s Journey, to one lucky commenter on this post! (I’ve started reading it, and it’s fabulous!) To enter, simply leave a comment on your favorite Christmas traditions, your best recent read, or anything at all! Winner will be chosen and announced one week from today!

 

 

 

 

Author Spotlight: Jennifer Pierce

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I’m super excited to welcome romantic suspense author Jennifer Pierce to the blog today! Her newest novel, Expecting Danger, releases next Tuesday, December 4, but one of you lucky readers will get an early Christmas gift, as Jennifer is giving away BOTH of her novels to the winner!

Welcome, Jennifer! Thanks for being with us today!

It’s great to be here!

What was your inspiration for Expecting Danger?

I wish I could tell you. Lol. The opening scene came to me one day. Once I started writing it, I thought I’d have Jacob, a/k/a Jake, be the hero of the story, and it all developed from there.

How has the writing, editing, or promotion process for your second novel differed from your first? What worked well for you the first time around that you’re repeating, and what are you doing differently?

When I finished the first draft of Expecting Danger, I went over it and used what I had learned while editing Hidden Danger with my publishing company. It made the editing process with my editor much easier.As far as promotion, I’ve been making graphics and sharing them on social media to promote my books. That seems to work really well. For the release of Expecting Danger, I’m trying something new and cohosting a Facebook Release party with Laurie Wood. Her debut novel, Northern Deception, releases the same day. (The party sounds amazing, and you’re all cordially invited to attend! There will be guest authors,n games, and giveaways! Click here for more info!)

How did God change you, or what did He teach you, during the writing of Expecting Danger? What lesson do you hope your readers take away from the book?

I hope that the readers learn that it doesn’t matter who you are, what you’ve been through, or what you’re currently going through: God is always with you.

What does your writing routine look like, if you have one? What obstacles or challenges do you face in making time to write?

I don’t have a writing routine. I’m married with two kids and work full time so I write when I can. I’ve found I do my best writing on my lunch break. Maybe not my best work, but I can focus more on my lunch. Otherwise, there’s family and social media to distract me.

As you look back on your journey to publication, how did God open those doors for you? What event or connection that may have seemed insignificant at the time ended up being enormously important?

God opened all kinds of doors for me in this process. I had originally written Hidden Danger to submit to Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense. It was rejected so I put it to the side so I could finish Expecting Danger. My best friend kept trying to get me to submit it to different publishers. I wanted to wait until I had Expecting Danger finished so I could say, “Oh, you like Hidden Danger? I happen to have a second novel.” It didn’t happen that way, though. One day I was on my lunch break and playing on social media when I noticed a friend had shared a post about #PitMad going on on Twitter. I thought, “Why not?” I boiled the 55,000 word novel to 144 characters and got a like within five minutes.The contract came less than a month later. God has truly blessed me.

If you could have coffee/tea/gratuitous amounts of carbs with any author(s), living or dead, who would you choose? What would you talk about?

Oh, that’s hard. I have so many I’d want to hang out with. Can we have an author party? If I had to choose just a few I think I’d want C. C. Warrens, Dana Mentink, Shirlee McCoy and Angela Ruth Strong. We’d start off talking about writing of course, but I’m sure we’d branch off to other fun topics and stories.

What do you do when you’re not writing?.

I’m a paralegal by day and a referee by night. My kids and I like to play Skipbo and Phase 10, when they’re not fighting. I’ve always got a book around me too.

How can we pray for you?

Thank you so much for asking. I could definitely use prayers. I recently had an MRI of my lumbar spine and I’ll be making an appointment with a neurosurgeon soon. It looks like surgery is in my future. I’d appreciate prayers through this journey.

Yikes! We will definitely be praying for that.                

 As usual with my giveaways, leave a comment on this post to enter; the winner will receive a digital copy of both Hidden Danger and Expecting Danger! We will draw and notify the winner one week from today!

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MeetJennifer:

Jennifer Pierce currently lives in Arkansas with her husband and two children. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and River Valley Writers, where she serves as secretary. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or at her website.

Author Spotlight: Janine Rosche

You all are in for a real treat today, because our guest is Janine Rosche, one of the most genuine (and genuinely funny) humans I have ever had the privilege to meet. She’s also super-generous and has an AMAZING giveaway planned for one of you lucky ducks. Details at the end of the post!

Welcome, Janine! It’s great to have you as our guest today!

Thanks for having me!

What inspired you to start writing?

Have you ever felt like you needed to say something and if you didn’t, you were either going to explode or lose your mind? Well, I decided to start writing as a way to get the Holy Spirit to simmer down inside me. I’d had a story playing on repeat in my head for eight years. EIGHT YEARS. Finally, I started jotting it down. With every chapter, I felt lighter. I know it sounds cliché, but six weeks later, I had a complete manuscript, all thanks to the Holy Spirit. Too bad the Holy Spirit needed to work on his self-editing skills. Don’t tell him that though.

What does your writing routine look like, if you have one? What obstacles or challenges do you face in making time to write?

Sadly, most of my “writing time” is spent not writing. I’m either editing, surfing Thesaurus.com (yeah, I admit it), or building my website or social media platform. When I am writing a new manuscript, my routine typically starts with me waking up way before my alarm. And though I beg my characters to go back to sleep, they are morning people with the patience of three-year-olds with a bellyful of cotton candy. So I relent. With a mug of flavored creamer with a splash of coffee, I write obsessively for hours, stopping occasionally to make my kids food or brush my teeth.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

 I teach Human Development and Family Studies classes for the University of Colorado, Denver in my other career. I’m fairly passionate about research into what helps individuals and families thrive despite terrible circumstances. I incorporate these concepts into my stories, making sure to focus on hope, redemption, and strong relationships.

 I also like to eat nachos. I don’t mean to brag but I’m kind of a connoisseur.

What is the funniest thing that’s happened to you in your writing life?

I’m horrible at naming characters. When I finished editing my first novel for the fourth time, I came to a realization. Almost all of characters’ names rhymed. There was Shane Olson and Jonah Tolson. Vann, Ryann, and Tristan. Then, there were the near duplicates Joe, Josie and Jodie, and Rick, Nick, and Nicky. Those made it through FOUR self-edits.

If you could have coffee/tea/gratuitous amounts of carbs with any author(s), living or dead, who would you choose, and what would you talk about?

 I’m the creepiest fangirl. Like, heaven help you if I like your book, because my obsession knows no bounds. But when I meet someone face to face, I become someone you’d think has never had a face-to-face conversation in their life. I already embarrassed myself at a lunch with Denise Hunter when I told her how much I liked the pickup truck makeout scene of my favorite hero of hers (Riley from Just a Kiss). Yep.

So, to spare her further torture, I’ll choose Francine Rivers. Sure, I’d probably just sit there catatonic like Ralphie from A Christmas Story when he sits on Santa’s lap, but maybe the nearness of her would somehow elevate my writing. And maybe, just maybe, she’d be willing to endorse my future book, Redeeming Love 2: Soccer and Suburbia.

How has God changed you during your writing journey?

My first heroine was based off the part of me that tends to be very melancholy and victimized. By the end of the book, I was tired of feeling so sorry for her. So in my next book, I focused my next heroine on the independent, faith-filled, and passionate part of me. The Lord taught me a lot about strength in hardship through her story.That girl has courage and a furious love for God, her family, and her friends. I admire her.

What advice would you give to your Younger Writer Self?

I’d say, “Janine, you’re a terrible writer. Like abominably bad. Like if the phrase “fiction novel” and a gerund had a baby, it would look like your manuscript. But that’s okay, because one day you won’t be, as long as you stay teachable and don’t give up. And Denise Hunter is a human, just like you. She puts her pants on one leg at a time, but then she writes fabulous makeouts in pickup trucks. No big whoop. And finally, stop trying to make Redeeming Love 2 happen; it’s notgonna happen.”

How can we pray for you?          

I’m currently shopping my manuscript to editors. It’s a lovely story about finding both love and your God-given purpose in life after you’ve royally messed it up the first time around. I pray that it will minister to people, even if they only read enough of it to reject it. I hope that some truth or a measure of hope will stick with them as a result.

And my health. As a writer and online lecturer, I spend a good deal of time sitting and it has wreaked havoc on my health. Plus, the nacho-thing. So pray for nachos to start tasting like carrots, or for carrots to start tasting like nachos. Either would probably work.

Carrot nachos. It’s gonna be a thing.

And now for the giveaway! Janine is offering a $15 Amazon gift card AND a copy of Denise Hunter’s “Just A Kiss,” featuring the aforementioned Truck Makeout Scene, to one lucky commenter to this post! Just leave a comment to enter, and we’ll notify the winner next Wednesday!

Meet Janine:

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After living all over the United States, Janine Rosche has settled in Northwestern Ohio with her husband and four children. With a master's degree in Family and Consumer Sciences, she is a certified family life educator and online lecturer at the University of Colorado-Denver. She has taught courses in human development, love and marriage, psychology, and family relations. She infuses this experience into her contemporary romance novels by creating strong characters and relatable conflict, all within rustic settings.

Janine loves to connect with readers and fellow devotees of Denise Hunter and/or nachos. Stalk her online at her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Author Spotlight: Robyn Hook

The online writing community is fabulous and supportive, but there’s just no substitute for knowing someone in person! Today’s guest is one of those precious writer-pals who’s become an in-person friend as well, thanks to being my roomie last year at ACFW. It gives me great joy to welcome today’s guest, Robyn Hook!

Hi, Robyn! Thanks for hanging with us!

Thank you so much! It’s wonderful to be here!

What inspired you to start writing? What are you working on now?

 I started writing after my husband’s cousin was in a bus accident. A beautiful, joyful, young woman on her way to a mission trip with other college students from the same Christian University where I had earned my master’s degree. The bus driver fell asleep and the bus veered off the road and flipped. Many were injured, but she was killed. I questioned how God could allow it and wondered how the bus driver felt, dealing with that level of guilt. Out of those questions, my first character was born— a young woman responsible for the death of her sister in a car accident. The hero of the story is also dealing with guilt over his past choices,and together they find true forgiveness in grace. My second novel was much lighter and now I’m working on several more.

 What does your writing routine look like, if you have one? What obstacles or challenges frequently crop up when making time to write?

 This is the first year all my kids are in school, so I’m excited to be able to treat writing like a job. In the mornings I pound out as much as I can while the house is quiet. I try to protect that time because it’s easy to let other activities get in the way. I may also write during the evenings after the boys are in bed.Also, to repay all the help I’ve received from so many experienced authors, I try to give back by doing critiques for new writers. And of course, I love assisting my critique partners with their work—mostly because I love to read their stories.

 What do you do when you’re not writing?

 I have a never-ending list of mom duties for my boys, ages 5, 7 and 10. Thankfully my husband does his own laundry— probably because I don’t keep up! I’m also working on getting an exercise routine going. And I love to draw.

 What is the best book you’ve read recently, and why?

I’m targeting the Love Inspired line for my Christmas novel, so I’ve been reading their contemporary line. And I love Arlene James. Her romances feel authentic and her spiritual threads are so relatable.

If you could have coffee/tea/gratuitous amounts of carbs with any author(s), living or dead, who would you choose? What would you talk about?

 I’d love to sit down with Francine Rivers. Her Mark of the Lion series is one of my all-time favorites. At the beginning of my writing journey, I read new-writer advice from her that went something like,“your relationship with God is the most important thing. Work on maturing as a Christian.” It was so different than the majority of the instruction I’d read,which focused on learning craft, improving grammar etc… I’d like to talk about that, about her writing journey from a mainstream romance writer to the inspirational market, and spirituality in general.

How has God changed you during your writing journey?

 About two years into my writing journey, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I managed to keep writing through chemo, surgery and radiation treatments, but it was hard. Now I feel blessed to have experienced it. I understand what it means in James 1:2… consider it all joy when you face trials of many kinds.

Wow! What a beautiful testimony!

 Last question, Robyn. How can we pray for you?

 Focus. I have novels started in different genres: mystery, contemporary, historical, even a YA fairy tale. I could use help in identifying which one to pour my energy into. Which would serve the Kingdom well, and hopefully also sell in a book market I’m just starting to comprehend.

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Done and done! Thanks so much for being here today, Robyn!

Meet Robyn

Robyn Hook writes inspirational romance. She earned a Master’s in Clinical Psychology and has worked as a counselor and university administrator before answering the call to be a work-at-home writer-mom.She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and is currently preparing her novel for publication. She and her husband live in Northwest Arkansas with their three young boys and a two rescue dogs. Find her at www.robynhook.com and on Twitter.