Welcome to my little bit of cyber-space. It is my prayer that all who enter here may be richly blessed by the God of all grace. All praise to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Monday, April 30, 2012

We have a winner #1

The winner of Bonnie Calhoun's Cooking the Books is Susan J. Reinhardt! Congrats to Susan! Check back tomorrow for the winner of my monthly drawing for Shoebox Surprise by Jennifer Johnson, another great book!

Valerie Comer

Spotlight on Valerie Comer author of Topaz Treasure in Rainbow's End

This week I am happy to interview Valerie Comer, author of  in Rainbow's End which is published by Barbour Publishing, the company I am also pubbed with. Join me as we both learn more about Valerie, and then I hope you will look for her book which releases next week. I already have it on my wish list!

Welcome, Valerie. Tell us about your favorite book as a child and the books you write as an adult. Can you see a connection between them?
I grew up in northern Manitoba, Canada, with no libraries nearby, not even in my school. So I didn't have access to a wide range of books. Some of my childhood favorites were Heidi, The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, and The Secret Garden. Looking at those title together does give a fair idea of where I am today. From Heidi, I learned about the joys of simple things: mountain meadows, melted cheese, grandparental love, and a place to belong. From The Five Little Peppers I learned about rejoicing in all things, and how having a family surrounding a person makes everything worthwhile. From The Secret Garden I learned more about belonging and the delights of coaxing plants to grow.

My lifestyle and writing these days draw from those books. I love living in the mountains. I see majestic scenery out my window every day and we can go hiking in it any time we like. Family is super-important to me. Our daughter and her family (two little ones) live just 90 miles away (over two mountain passes, but still...) Our son and his wife, expecting their first child, live on our farm. This is a treasure I don't take for granted! Gardening, farming, and good locally grown food are important to all of us. And something all my characters seem to struggle with to some degree or another is a sense of identity--finding where they belong both in this life and in their spiritual walk.

What is your favorite Scripture? Do you also have a favorite Scripture that encourages you in your writing?
My favorite Scripture is 2 Peter 1:3-11, which begins like this (NIV): "His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." But do meditate on the whole passage! So much practical truth in there.

A Scripture I apply to my writing is Psalm 143:8 (NIV): "Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life." This draws to my attention that my story words should remind readers (and me) of God's unfailing love. That's what is the most important.

If you could go to any place in the world to research/write a book, what setting would you choose?
I'm a Canadian, and it's my dream to be able to sell fiction set in my country. I've seen a fair bit of the western half of Canada, so for the purposes of this question, I'd have to say the Atlantic provinces of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia in particular. I know I could find some awesome stories there.

Now, if you were offering to pay my way just anywhere in the world for relaxation and cultural experiences that 'might' lead to a story, I'd say England. Though I don't write historical, I'd love to 'feel' history around me. In British Columbia, where I live, most of the region has been settled by Europeans in the past century or so. I don't think we have a clue what it feels like to be steeped in history. Everything is so new here, comparatively speaking.

I often wonder if I would write if I had to do it the old-fashioned way without computers and spell-checks and email. Is there anything about technology that you don't like? Or anything about it that you feel enhances your writing?
I wrote my first novel at work in longhand and typed it into the computer at home in the evenings, but honestly? My handwriting is terrible and if I don't transcribe my notes quite soon, I can't read them any more. So computers are a BLESSING!

Like many authors, I have a love/hate relationship with technology. It can't read my mind (go figure) so I often spend time bashing my head against the wall when trying to figure something out. But when it's intuitive, I melt into its embrace. For this reason I truly love the program Scrivener for writing. It's a way of organizing my brain that just works for me.

Thanks for sharing Scrivener with us. I have heard good things about it. As a writer how have you had to grow and stretch out of your comfort zone?
Writing is such a blend of "it's not all about me" and "it's all about me." Finding the balance is difficult. I sometimes worry about what parts of my characters readers will think are modeled after me. For instance, in my debut novella "Topaz Treasure," my heroine, Lyssa, is shy about sharing her faith while having no problem confronting people about their dietary choices. There's a lot of me in that. Like Lyssa, I had a father who had no trouble talking to anyone and everyone about their need of salvation. Like Lyssa, I was sometimes embarrassed as a child, and could see how it caused some people not to like my dad. (Doesn't everyone want to be liked?) For the record, there's a huge difference between Lyssa's father and mine. Mine was really a lot more tactful! He's been gone fourteen years now, and I miss him.

What advice would you give to a beginning writer that you wish someone had given you?
Be patient. Don't get too attached to the first novel you write. Or the second. Or possibly the third. Keep learning and writing and learning and writing and growing. I'd written eight novels before selling this novella. I've yet to sell a full-length novel, though my agent is hard at work!

Do you want to add anything about your book such as how to order it?
"Topaz Treasure" is the first novella in the collection Rainbow's End, out May 2012 from Barbour. Working with Annalisa Daughety, Cara Putman, and Nicole O'Dell has been a huge privilege. The blurb for the whole collection is:

Join a geocaching adventure in the spectacular Lake of the Ozarks wilderness, with Lyssa, the reluctant volunteer whose former nemesis is now her chief sponsor; Madison, a city girl paired with an outdoorsy guy who gets on her very last nerve; Hadley, who doesn’t know enough about guys to realize she’s met a womanizer; and cautious Reagan, who meets an equally cautious guy. Will they find the treasure they’re looking for … or something else entirely?

The "Topaz Treasure" blurb is:
Closet believer Lyssa Quinn steps out of her comfort zone to help coordinate the Rainbow’s End geocaching hunt her church is using as an outreach event. She’s not expecting her former humanities prof–young, handsome, anti-Christian Kirk Kennedy–to be at the Lake of the Ozarks at all, let alone in a position to provide sponsorship to the treasure hunt. How can she trust someone who once shredded her best friend’s faith?

Kirk’s treasure hunt takes him down a path he hadn’t intended as he searches for opportunities to connect with Lyssa and her intriguing sparkle. How can he convince Lyssa there is more than one kind of treasure? And can she remind him of the greatest prize of all?

Links to all four authors, plus a variety of buying links to the retailer of your choice can be found at the Romancing America website/blog: http://romancingamerica.com/collections/rainbows-end

Valerie Comer’s life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local foods movement as well as their church. She only hopes her creations enjoy their happily ever afters as much as she does hers, gardening and geocaching with her husband, adult kids, and adorable grandchildren.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Book Review of The Map Quilt a new book by Lisa Lickel

The Map Quilt is a delightful read by Lisa Lickel. It is a the second book in the Buried Treasure Mysteries series, a sequel to The Gold Standard. You don't have to read that one first since this story and the characters still make sense without reading it, but for your own enjoyment I would suggest you do try to find a copy! Then you will have the enjoyment of reading both mysteries!

The story starts with a prologue of an Underground Railroad escape attempt that takes place in 1860 which sets up the rest of the story. Then we flash forward to the present in the life of Judy and Hart Wingate who are introduced in The Gold Standard. Judy is nearing her delivery date for their first child. A suspicious fire starts off the mysterious happenings, and the book goes from one incident to another, building in intensity until the end.

The mystery of an ancient map in the form of a quilt runs through the whole story, and it's like solving a puzzle to try to figure out which of the characters want the information enough to kill for it. And who will be the next one to be targeted. This story will keep you reading to find out the answers.

Bio: Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin writer who lives with her husband in a hundred and sixty-year-old house built by a Great Lakes ship captain. Surrounded by books and dragons, she writes inspiring fiction. Her published novels include mystery and romance, all with a twist of grace. She has penned dozens of feature newspaper stories, short stories, magazine articles and radio theater. She is the editor in chief of Creative Wisconsin magazine. Lisa also is an avid book reviewer, a freelance editor, an editor at Port Yonder Press, a writing mentor, a hostess at Clash of the Titles.com, and enjoys blogging at theBarnDoor.net and ReflectionsinHindsight.wordpress.com. She loves to encourage new authors. Find her at LisaLickel.com.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Preview Excerpt from A Tumbled Stone by Marcia Lee Laycock

I'm happy to share an excerpt from Marcia Lee Leacock's new book, A Tumbled Stone. Marcia is a fellow member of John 316 marketing group. It's just a short snippet, but I think it will make you want to find out what happens! If so, check out her site at the bottom in her bio.

Sitting on an old fallen cottonwood, she put a hand on her stomach. She should feel something. But there was only numbness now, even when she thought about Cory. What would he do if he knew she was carrying his baby?

She could still hear the rushing water in the creek. The wind had increased and seemed to punish the trees. She pushed herself up and headed back toward the house, each foot crushing the ground in front of the other. She could feel the stubble under her shoes like blunt needles trying to break through.

The back door swung silently as she opened it into the kitchen. Earl had fixed the squeak. He was always fixing things, quickly, before they became a bother.

But he can’t fix this.

Marcia’s inspirational writing has won awards in both Canada and the U.S. Her devotionals are distributed to thousands and her novel, One Smooth Stone, won the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award in 2006. Marcia is also a sought-after speaker for women’s events. Visit her at http://www.vinemarc.com/

Monday, April 23, 2012

Bonnie Calhoun, Cooking the Books

Spotlight on Bonnie Calhoun, author of Cooking the Books and lots of other funny things! Win a copy by leaving a comment on this blogpost by Sunday night, April 29th for drawing on April 30.

I am so happy to introduce any of my readers who don't know Bonnie to a very special lady! I met her at an ACFW conference years ago, and like to reconnect with her at conferences and share some laughs. Plus she is one of the most unselfish and knowledgeable ladies I know at helping people who are techno-challenged as I am with cyber-related things and at helping other writers reach their potential which netted her the ACFW "Mentor of the Year" award last year. So, let's learn more about Bonnie, and be prepared to laugh! And be sure to check out the info about some of the zany characters in her book in the blurb below.

Bonnie, please tell us about your favorite book as a child and your favorite book as an adult. Can you see a connection between those books?

Hmmm…not in the least…when I was a little kid my favorite book was the Alice and Jerry series…See Jip. See Jip run. Run Jip run! ROFLOL…and all the books I like now have people running…for their lives. It always starts as ooh’s an ahhh’s but winds up as running and screaming…run woman run!

I grew up on Dick, Jane and Sally myself and it was "Run, Spot, run!" What is your favorite Scripture? Do you also have a favorite Scripture that encourages you in your writing?
That’s an easy one. It’s been my tagline for many years when I need a scripture to uplift. Phil 4:13…I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me! Amen and hallelujah!

Amen! If you could go to any place in the world to research/write a book, what setting would you choose?
Another one that brings on the hmm…I would go to Israel and study the Mosaad. But the way the state of the world is now I wouldn’t want to travel outside the country because the sentiment against us is too hostile…it would just wind up giving me more fodder for an international intrigue story…with running and screaming…and guns!

Bonnie, you know how little I know about computers, but I often wonder if I would write if I had to do it the old-fashioned way without computers and spell-checks and email. Is there anything about technology that you don't like? Or anything about it that you feel enhances your writing?
I love it all…although if I could just figure out a way to add all of my Facebook words to my writing totals I’d be much further along. Modern technology makes it so much easier. I remember the days of typewriters, whiteout, and printing full manuscripts to send out…and all the postage that went along with it. At today’s postal rates you would need a mortgage to send out a manuscript to several publishers.

Ha! As a writer how have you had to grow and stretch out of your comfort zone?
I’m sorta like Odie…my comfort zone is relevant to where I’m standing at the moment, and it changes numerous times a day. I’m not thin-skinned and always willing to learn, and I love editors, especially tough ones!

What advice would you give to a beginning writer that you wish someone had given you?
I was really blessed to learn from seasoned pros, so there weren’t any surprises for me. But the advice I’d give is to keep writing, and keep submitting. My agent Terry Burns loves to say, “Publishing isn’t a selection process, it’s a survival process.”

I love that and agree wholeheartedly. Do you want to add anything about your book such as how to order it?
You can find my book anywhere books are sold, especially Amazon:


Back Cover Blurb for Cooking the Books:

It's not easy being Sloane Templeton.

After her mother dies from a heart attack, Sloane Templeton goes from Cyber Crimes Unit to bookstore owner before she can blink. She also "inherits" a half-batty store manager named Felicia Tyler, better know as Fefe, bright red, tightly permed hair, wearer of noisy jewelry and ungodly bright spandex. She’s the half-batty manager of mom’s bookstore, and the batty part plays with loaded guns.

Then there’s a strange bunch of little old people from the neighborhood who meet at the store once a week called the Granny Oakleys Book Club who smell like food, but never read books. And Aunt Verline Buford, mom’s younger sister, who fancies herself as the Iron Chef, when in reality you need a cast-iron stomach to partake of her disasters. She had her last husband die of food poisoning, but they swear that she didn’t cause it.

And with a group like this you should never ask, “What else can go wrong?”

Mix in a pair of professors, several gun toting thieves, and a couple books worth a fortune and the outcome could be murder!

Bonnie is owner of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, publisher the Christian Fiction Online Magazine, Northeast Zone Director for ACFW, President of Christian Authors Network, Appointment Coordinator for the Colorado Christian Writers Conference and the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference, and ACFW ‘Mentor of the Year,’ for 2011.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Guestblog by Cynthia Simmons on John 7

Guest Blog by Cynthia Simmons on John 7

I have a cat named Mr. Knightly. He stays in the basement since we have friends who are allergic. Once the cat hears me in the kitchen preparing breakfast, he meows at the door, begging for food. He prefers his dish full, not half empty, and never just enough to cover the bottom. I suspect he finds it unpleasant to stick his head into the dish. He knows I’m a constant source of food and attention, so he demands a lot.

Since my husband likes breakfast before he leaves for work, I complete his breakfast before I tend the cat. Some mornings Mr. Knightly’s constant cry annoys me. After all, he’s not going to starve. There’s always food in his dish.

I’ve often wondered if God gets weary of my constant cries for help. Certainly he’s provided the Holy Spirit to stay with me and Scripture is full of his promises. So how does he feel when I run to him with every whim? Then I found this:

John 7:37 - 38 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'"

It’s easy to miss the message without a little background. The Jewish people completed a celebration called the Feast of the Tabernacles. During that festival, a priest took water from the pool of Salome and poured it into the laver. On the last day of the feast— the day Jesus spoke these words—the clergy omitted that ritual. In that setting, Jesus cried out to anyone who might be thirsty. His invitation is to come and drink. However, in the English you miss the verb tense. Both ‘come’ and ‘drink’ are present imperative in the Greek, which commands continuous and repeated action.

In essence, Jesus informs the hearer that he’s sufficient for every need—anytime. Yes, he offers salvation, but more than that, he possesses the ability to fill whatever we lack. For the believer who finds himself in an impossible situation, Christ can offer guidance. For the broken hearted, he can heal and encourage. For the lonely, he can provide companionship and comfort. Nothing can deplete his infinite riches.

Notice the next phrase. The Greek verb there indicates the believer’s continually trusting Christ. Jesus says ‘out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ The Savior supplies every necessity, so you can overflow into the lives of those around you because of the indwelling spirit of God.

Jesus doesn’t grow weary like I do with my quirky cat. He’s thrilled when we approach him, even if it’s something small. He wouldn’t be angry if we prayed, “Lord, my dish isn’t full. Could we talk?” He wants you bubbling over so you can minister to others. Does your soul ache? Are you hurting? Do you feel inadequate? Run to the open arms of Jesus. He’ll welcome you and provide whatever you need.

Cynthia L Simmons and her husband, Ray, have five children and reside in Atlanta. She has taught for over twenty years as a homeschool mother and Bible teacher. Active in Christian Authors Guild (CAG), she conducts writing workshops and has served as president, vice president, and conference director. In December 2009 the membership granted her Life Time Membership for her numerous contributions to writers.  “Cindy” is fond of history and writes both historical fiction and nonfiction. Her writing appeared in CAG publications, NATHHAN NEWS, Chattanooga Regional Historical Magazine, Georgia Right to Life Newsletter, Chattanooga Times Free Press, Catholic Exchange, and Christian Devotions.us. Her first book, Struggles and Triumphs, came out in 2008. While promoting her book, she had interviews on radio and TV across the nation and was nominated for 2008 Georgia Author of the year. She also conducts monthly podcasts called CAG Spotlight in which she interviews authors and VIPs in the writing industry. At present she is completing a twelve week Bible study using the stories in Struggles and Triumphs.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Monday Spotlight on Nicole O'Dell

I'm happy to find out more about the fantastic author Nicole O'Dell who writes the whole gamut from fiction to non-fiction for many ages. She graciously answered several questions for us below. Enjoy! And then check out her books.
1. Tell us about your favorite book as a child and your favorite book as an adult. Can you see a connection between those books?

I have a lot of favorite books from childhood. But the one that stands out right now because I read it so many times was The Hiding Place. I loved that story. Themes from the true story of the Ten Booms about God’s protection, provision, and power still resonate with me today.

As an adult, again, soooo many. I love Deadline by Randy Alcorn and Redeeming Love and Lineage of Grace by Francine Rivers—again, themes of God’s mercy and sovereignty.

2. What is your favorite Scripture? Do you also have a favorite Scripture that encourages you in your writing?

The one scripture that stands out to me all the time in reference to my own walk with the Lord, my parenting, and my work, is Philippians 1:6: “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

It’s all about choices! We have the power to choose righteousness or sin when it comes to the way we live our lives. I believe in helping teens prepare to make good choices in advance of the pressure, and I work to help parents with that goal.

But, we’re told that the work isn’t complete. We aren’t perfected until we stand before Jesus. So, we will make mistakes. We’ll choose badly from time to time, our teens will mess up. When mistakes are made, the redemptive and restorative power of the blood of Jesus is sufficient to cover all sin even though there are natural consequences to choices.

The work will be finished. It’s a promise.

Those threads are pretty much an outline of each of the books in the Diamond Estates series.

3. If you could go to any place in the world to research/write a book, what setting would you choose?

Today? Today I just want to be alone in a house full of windows off some rocky shore with blue waves beating against the rocks. Maybe Greece…?

Tomorrow, I might say a beach.

As a mom of three three-year olds plus two teenagers in the house, I just want to get away. Wherever away is. J

4. I often wonder if I would write if I had to do it the old-fashioned way without computers and spell-checks and email. Is there anything about technology that you don't like? Or anything about it that you feel enhances your writing?

I know! I was just thinking about this today. What if I set out to write a novel on a typewriter. Would it be difficult? Would I finish it? Would it be any good? I know one thing for sure. It would have two spaces after each sentence. Without the find/replace feature, I’d never be able to take them all out when I finished writing.

Also, those trouble words we all have (mine are that, just, and looked). How would we search and destroy them?

I also started dabbling with dictation software when I wrote my last book. I was…um…interesting. I think I’ll like it, but I need to definitely put more time into training that dragon. Literally.

5. As a writer how have you had to grow and stretch out of your comfort zone?

Hmm. Good question. I really can’t think of an answer to this. I’ve never been in a comfort zone as a writer, I don’t think. Publishing has been such a whirlwind to me and each project has been so different than the last, I’m thinking a comfort zone might be a nice change. Between YA and adult fiction, YA and adult Non-fiction, running my radio shows and Choose NOW Ministries, it’s been all about adapting and being flexible.

Book Info:

The Embittered Ruby

Sixteen-year-old Carmen Castillo wonders what it would be like to have a pair of ruby slippers.

“There’s no place like home. . .”

“There’s no place like home. . .”

“There’s no place like home.”

But then reality sets in, and Carmen concludes that ruby slippers are mere fiction. Constant prayers that her parents will patch things up remain unanswered. . .and her hurtful world becomes too much for her to bear. Trapped by resentment and anger, Carmen lashes out the only way she knows how and soon finds herself at a crossroads.

Will Carmen find the path to ultimate peace and contentment that her heart longs for?

Or will her troubled soul remain forever embittered?

Series Description:

DIAMOND ESTATES. Three girls are on a journey to find hope and healing. Each coming to Diamond Estates seeking solace… Each with her own unique set of struggles… And each capturing hearts and challenging the faith of teen girls.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Embittered-Ruby-Diamond-Estates/dp/1616266406/ref=sr_1_17?ie=UTF8&qid=1332941939&sr=8-17

B&N http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/embittered-ruby-nicole-odell/1104274007?ean=9781616266400&itm=1&usri=nicole+o%27dell

Christianbook: http://www.christianbook.com/2-the-embittered-ruby/nicole-odell/9781616266400/pd/266401?product_redirect=1&Ntt=266401&item_code=&Ntk=keywords&event=ESRCP

Nicole O'Dell, founder of Choose NOW Ministries and host of Choose NOW Radio: Parent Talk and Teen Talk, is a youth culture expert who writes and speaks to preteens, teenagers, and parents about how to prepare for life's tough choices. She’s author of YA fiction, including the popular Scenarios for Girls interactive fiction series and the Diamond Estates Series, and non-fiction for teens including Girl Talk, 2/1/12, which she wrote with her two daughters based on their popular advice column. Hot Buttons, O’Dell’s non-fiction series for parents helps pre-empt peer pressure by tackling tough issues. Visit http://www.nicoleodell.com/ for more info.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Fridays with Friends Guestblog by Nicole Odell

Is it possible to reinvent a reputation? Is it ever impossible?

Sixteen-year-old Carmen Castillo desperately wants her parents to restore their marriage so she can return to her once-lavish life. But when her dad lets his new girlfriend turn Carmen’s bedroom into a dressing room, her last bit of faith in her parents, and in God, shatters. Her only hope is to create a family of her own with Nate—no matter that his political family finds her ethnicity distasteful. When that plan fails, Carmen packs up her resentment and anger, and heads to Diamond Estates seeking healing for her embittered soul. Concluding there is no such thing as ruby slippers, Carmen wonders if she’ll ever find happiness and wholeness.

As I’ve been promoting the release of the Diamond Estates series, starting with The Wishing Pearl in October and now The Embittered Ruby, the topic of reinvention has been on my mind. During this exploration, I added a new column to the Choose NOW Ministries website to be written by Stephanie Morrill called On Reinventing Yourself where we’re digging in to find out how that works. I’ve also had readers write to me and ask if and how people can make a ton of mistakes and then reinvent themselves in the eyes of those around them. The underlying fear is that they’d find forgiveness through Jesus Christ, only to bear the scars of a bad reputation forever.

That’s a huge theme in each of the books of the Diamond Estates series . . .because it’s a huge theme in my own life. Maybe in yours, too.

What about when someone does really bad things? Even worse when that person had claimed to be a Christian. Do those choices completely void any witness for Christ? What if regret sets in and she repents of those choices and wants to get back on track? This is especially difficult for a teenager—reputations are very difficult to rebuild in high school!

I made a lot of bad choices when I was a teenager, just like the girls in these books. My choices were driven by a search for something—love, acceptance, fulfillment . . .something. Eventually, as my searching turned up empty, I moved into a Teen Challenge center, much like the Diamond Estates program in my books, and hunkered down, committed to staying put until I met God for real. It didn’t take long until I discovered there’s only one way to fill that cavernous void, and that’s with Jesus.

In The Embittered Ruby, Carmen Castillo struggles through her parents’ divorce and a forced relocation from a mansion in upstate New York to an apartment in Hackensack, New Jersey. Desperate for a real family like the one she’d lost, Carmen decides she’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen for herself since she could no longer trust her parents to provide security and a loving home.

She battles, like many of us, the whispers of the enemy that tell her she has to look out for herself and can’t depend on anyone. Those whispers watered her emptiness until it grew into something she couldn’t manage any longer. As readers, we have the privilege of a bird’s-eye view from which we can see what drives her, but Carmen doesn’t have that level of understanding of her own motivations.

Isn’t it that way for all of us? People who know us well and understand what drives us can see why we might do what we do or say what we say, but we rarely know ourselves that well. If we truly did grasp all of the intricacies going on in our hearts and minds, wouldn’t it be easier to make wise choices?

It’s like identifying a cancer. If you can’t pinpoint what’s happening in your body, it just grows and grows until it takes over and devourers your flesh. If you know what it is and where it is, you can eradicate it.

In light of Carmen’s story and my own, there are three things I pray for myself, my kids, my readers, and you:

I pray that the motivation for sin would be illuminated by God’s spotlight so we can identify it, deal with it, and kick it out. Next I pray for the strength to embrace change and disappointment as part of God’s refining fire. Finally, I pray for the power to rise above pain and poor choices, reinventing the person shaped by lies into an embodiment of truth.

“…He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6, NIV)

Bio: Nicole O'Dell, founder of Choose NOW Ministries and host of Choose NOW Radio: Parent Talk and Teen Talk, is a youth culture expert who writes and speaks to preteens, teenagers, and parents about how to prepare for life's tough choices. She’s author of YA fiction, including the popular Scenarios for Girls interactive fiction series and the Diamond Estates Series, and non-fiction for teens including Girl Talk, 2/1/12, which she wrote with her two daughters based on their popular advice column. Hot Buttons, O’Dell’s non-fiction series for parents helps pre-empt peer pressure by tackling tough issues. Visit http://www.nicoleodell.com/ for more info.
Winner of Rodeo Hero by Shannon Vannatter is...Carolyn Boyles

I have sent your email info to Shannon, Carolyn, so you should be hearing from her soon. Congrats and enjoy!

Monday, April 09, 2012

Spotlight on Theresa Franklin and one of the characters from her new book, Triumph Through Trial

This is a first for me--I've done many author interviews, but today we are interviewing one of the characters from Teresa Franklin's new book, Triumph Through Trial. so join me as we learn more about Cynthia Owen and her family featured in the book.

Q. Hello Cynthia. Why don’t you introduce yourself to my readers?

A. Well, I’m Cynthia Owens, one of the main characters in Triumph Through Trial. I am the matriarch of the family.

Q. How many others are in the family?
A. My husband, Michael and I have three children.

Q. Are they young children?
A. No, they are all young adults.

Q. Does that cause conflict?
A. Does it ever. There is drama in their lives and they bring it home on a daily basis.

Q. What about your marriage? Is there drama there?
A. I thought we had a wonderful marriage, but Michael thought there was drama.

Q. You don’t agree?
A. No, I don’t.

Q. Can you tell us about the story?
A. Like many Christian families, the Owens family lives a different life in private that they show to the rest of the world. Theresa tells how the stress is affecting each family member.

Q. Is there a lot of sin in their lives? Does Theresa share that in the book?
A. Sin is sin and all is displeasing to God. Yes, Theresa does share that in the book. But if you are thinking this is a book about the seedy side of life, you are mistaken. This family is not secret mobsters or prostitutes. This family is just your average American family whose private life is not pleasing to God.

Q. What could they be doing that is so displeasing to God?
A. Anytime we don’t bring honor and glory to God, it is displeasing to Him.

Q. Is the whole family displeasing to God?
A. Actually there is one character that wreaks havoc on the family.

Q. Is there love in this family?
A. Like all families, we love each other in spite of ourselves.

Q. How does the story end?
A. Oh we can’t give away the ending. But Theresa will keep you guessing to the last chapter.

Q. At one point it looks like the family will split up. Does that happen?
A. God has many ways of teaching us what He wants from His children. Sometimes those lessons aren’t pleasant, but if we yield to God’s will, it will bring honor and glory to His name.

Q. I’m not sure that answers my question.
A. I’m sure it doesn’t, but Theresa will answer it in Triumph Through Trial.

Q. Where can we find the book?
A. It is available on http://www.amazon.com/ and www.barnesandnoble.com. You can also get a link from any of Theresa’s blogs or websites.

Q. Can you give us those addresses?
A. Certainly. http://theresa-lifesjourney.blogspot.com or http://theresa-thebookmama.blogspot.com or www.storiesforchrist.com

For those of you who want to know a little more here is a Story Description from Theresa.

The stress of living a dream public persona and a nightmare private reality threatens to destroy a family unit, taking each member in its wake. Through a variety of physical and emotional weapons, one by one they will crumble.

Cynthia is beautiful, educated, secretary of the church, and happily married with wonderful children. She is an accomplished hostess and the picture of Christian love. She has the perfect marriage and life—well, not exactly perfect. Her husband, children, church members, and life in general seem to get in the way of her perfect life. Feeling robbed of the life she so richly deserves, Cynthia lashes out and her family pays the price.

Michael is successful, educated, and deacon of the church with wonderful children. Michael and his children have a close relationship. They count on him for advice, guidance, and unconditional love. Serving God is one of Michael’s greatest joys. He and his children delight in helping others. Michael loves every part of his life except for his marriage, which is stressful and unfulfilling to say the least.

Karen is the eldest child and bears the brunt of emotional destruction welded by her mother. Kevin is the only male offspring and uses humor and sarcasm as shields to protect himself. Kathy, the youngest, is sweet and seldom is a victim in the war, but lately watching the slow erosion of her family is taking a physical toll on her.

Michael longs for the marriage that Cynthia believes they have and dreams of providing a safe haven for their children. After twenty-five years of marriage, Michael is losing hope of his dream becoming reality. Can he match the public persona and the private reality? What will it cost to get that kind of marriage and home-life? Is it worth the cost? Who will pay the cost?

Friday, April 06, 2012

Guestblog by Shannon Vannatter about the Fort Worth Stockyard and giveaway of her latest novel--Rodeo Hero

When I decided to write a book about a bull rider, I needed an indoor, every weekend rodeo to fit my storyline. I found The Fort Worth Stockyards online and learned it had lots of history, but I’d never been there. Last Spring break, we made the trip for research.

My husband and son tackled The Cattlepen Maze first thing. This is a human sized maze modeled after cattlepens with rubber rats strategically placed. It didn’t take them long. My son wanted me to do it. I walked and turned, and walked and turned, getting more and more lost as I went. Smart aleck signs ask, “Are you lost?” or “Haven’t I seen you before?” while family members on the observation deck try to help you out and often get you even more lost.

You have to find punch machines in the shape of each letter of the word maze. It took forever. It seemed like forever anyway. It was hot and there’s no breeze in the maze. I found all the letters and punched my card, but I couldn’t find the exit. I found the entrance 3 times, but not the exit.

Finally, I found my son and said, “If I find the entrance again, I’m taking it.” A few minutes later, we found it again and we took it. If it hadn’t been 88 degrees, it would have been fun.

My characters had fun in it. I imagined a scene with the hero and heroine arguing and her trying to get away from him, but she can’t find her way out of the maze. That scene didn’t fit in book 1 or 2, so I saved it for book 3. But in book 2, the hero and heroine almost kiss in the maze.

We walked the brick streets lined with copper engraved plaques that make up the Trail of Fame honoring those who earned their spurs contributing to the heritage of the old west. I learned that over ten million bricks paved the original 2600 cattlepens. The brick gave the Longhorns steady footing and kept them clean for their final trip to the meet processing plants. Poor doomed critters.

I guess that made us hungry. We searched out The Cattleman’s Steak House since I wanted some of my characters to eat there. My husband said the steak was awesome. My grilled shrimp was yummy. After our meal, we witnessed a cattle drive right down the middle of the street. Texas Longhorns are much bigger in person and their horns are huge, up to a six feet span.

I expected the drive to be like the running of the bulls and was kind of nervous standing on the sidewalk. But they don’t run. The Longhorns meander along their familiar path, never straying, as if they have all the time in the world. That’s the way it was back in the Chisolm Trail days too. Why? Longhorns can’t run long, they might stampede, and if they had ran, the owners would have lost money because they’d have ran meat off.

I toured the Stockyard Station Gallery and The Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, where everyone from George Strait to Lane Frost is honored. I spoke to Julia Buswold, Executive Assistant there and learned how to get a cowboy inducted into the hall of fame. I thought that might come in handy for book 2. My husband and son shopped and witnessed a staged gunfight, but I missed it.

Then I headed back to the hotel and went to the Cowtown Coliseum for a meeting with Director of Sales, Dee Dee Barker-Wix who’d agreed to help me out with the facts about The Stockyards Rodeo. Cowtown housed the first indoor rodeo in 1918 and introduced bull riding in 1934. I took numerous pictures of the arena and The Texas Rodeo Hall of Fame, then pummeled Dee Dee with questions.

My husband and son met me for our first family rodeo. The patriotism impressed us with Lee Greenwood’s rendition of God Bless the USA as a cowgirl carrying an American flag rode a white horse around and around the arena, faster and faster as the music reached a crescendo. We laughed at the calf scramble where kids from the audience are invited to try and get the ribbon off a calf’s tail. A sheep faces the same fate in the sheep scramble. While the calf gave the kids a run for their money, the sheep went straight to the exit gate and waited for it to open while a kid grabbed his ribbon.

Calf roping, steer roping, team roping, and finally. . . I definitely felt a connection with my heroine in book 1. I cringed through every bull ride and worried when the cowboys fell off. My son asked if he could be a bull rider when he grows up. I cringed.

The Stockyards offers a rip-roaring good time. We didn’t have time to do half the things I wanted to do like the stage coach ride and the train ride. They even have hotels in the Stockyards. The Stockyards Hotel at $319 for a standard room, Hyatt Place at $142.00, Miss Molly’s Hotel at $125.00. We stayed at the Best Western five miles away.

I got lots of fodder for my rodeo series and searched through all my pictures numerous times while writing the books. All of the bull riding pictures I took were too far away, but then I found that great shot of the bull rider. Wow, how did I take that shot? Then I remembered, it’s a poster in the coliseum lobby.

Visiting The Fort Worth Stockyards is like taking a step back in time. The history fit my series perfectly. Just walking the brick-lined streets that day got my creative juices flowing. The hero in book two is a rodeo clown, only now they’re called bull fighters. In book three, the hero is a rodeo announcer and the heroine competes in barrel racing. It was a fun series to write and I’m always a little sad when I finish a series. But The Fort Worth Stockyards just might find its way into another book someday.

Rodeo Hero Blurb: Kendra doesn’t need rescued.

Kendra Maddox isn’t thrilled when Stetson Wright steps in to help fend off her overanxious date at a wedding. A new Christian, she’s struggling with a promiscuous past, and Stetson’s firm belief that true love waits only makes his gallant attempt to defend her honor even more unwanted. Then her friends continually push her and Stetson together. . .but can’t they see she’ll never be good enough for him?

Stetson doesn’t need any distractions. And Kendra Maddox is definitely a distraction. From his job as the new youth director at church to moonlighting as a rodeo clown, Stetson has other things to think about. Finding the perfect wife will have to wait.

When Stetson saves a prominent bull rider, he makes headline news, and Kendra’s ad agency is hired to promote the rodeo hero. Attraction simmers, but will they be able to accept each other for who God sees?

Shannon's bio: Central Arkansas author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife. Her debut novel, White Roses won the 2011 Inspirational Readers Choice Award in the short contemporary category. The 18th Annual Heartsong Awards named Vannatter 3rd Favorite New Author, and White Roses #1 and White Doves #8 in the contemporary category. The Arkansas Democrat Three Rivers Edition voted Vannatter one of 20 to Watch in 2011.

The first book in her Texas rodeo series, Rodeo Dust is available through Heartsong Presents. Rodeo Hero and Rodeo Ashes release in March and August 2012. Her books are available at amazon.com, christianbook.com, and readerservice.com. Learn more about Shannon and her books at http://shannonvannatter.com and check out her real life romance blog at http://shannonvannatter.com/blog/.

Don't forget to leave a comment by next Friday, April 13th, on this post to be eligible to win a copy of Rodeo Hero.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Happy April Fool's Day, and I'm not fooling...Sharon Moore is the winner of Ann Gabhart's Words Spoken True. Please read below for more info on the book that will be given away on May 1.

This month I will be giving away the book Jennifer Johnson told you about this past Friday, March 30th--Shoebox Surprise, so check out that info and leave a comment on this post or any the whole month of April. Jennifer and I crit for each other, so I have read this book and love the way she works the story all together around the Shoebox Ministry.