Who’s Your Sam?

A few weeks back, I did a talk at our local ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) chapter and challenged my fellow writers with this final question: Who is your Sam?

Let me give you some background.

Life is tough. Duh. You already knew that, didn’t you?

Being a Christian can be a challenging road to walk. Oh, you knew that too? Sorry. Just wanting to establish the facts first.

We need to be immersed in God’s truth, studying His Word and listening to the Holy Spirit as He leads and guides us. This communication however, can be disconnected because of sin. The remedy is simple. We repent, accept Christ’s forgiveness purchased for us at the cross and walk forward His power to accomplish the tasks He has given.

You with me so far?

Life is hard. We need God.

But that’s not all. We need others around us. Let me show you an example:

Now, if you are not familiar with J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, let me give you an overview. Frodo has a ring of power that needs to be destroyed in Mordor. He leaves home, the shire, with three other Hobbits. One is Sam. They end up in Rivendale and become a fellowship of nine all bent on completing this task of destroying the ring. Four hobbits, a wizard, two men, an elf and a dwarf. By the end of that first movie, the wizard is presumed killed and another man is dead and the fellowship is broken up. In spite of that, as the trilogy moves on, Sam is Frodo’s constant companion, protector and in many ways, his salvation. While there are many heroes in the story, it is Sam, a secondary character, who truly gives his all to his friend.

In the hard journey of life and the calling that God can place on our lives, we all need a few Sam’s around us. Some might be a little more distant and still helping us fight on toward our goal, with words of encouragement, a listening ear and prayer. And others will walk more closely, willing to tackle us when we are going to venture into sin and challenge us when we are lost in lies.

We also need to endeavor to be this for other people as well.

So . . . in the story God is writing in your life . . . who is your Sam? You really should have more than one. Frodo had eight who supported him on the journey and one died to protect him. The rest risked death time and again to see the goal accomplished and save Middle Earth.

On the flip side. Who are you a Sam for? Whose life are you speaking truth into, praying for, encouraging. For instance, how about our pastors? They are on the forefront of spiritual battle and need a fellowship of warriors behind them as much as we do if not more.

Let us not forget that God is writing a great story in your life and it is the gospel many people may read before they ever pick up the Bible. And we have some input into the journey by our choices, good or bad. Our mistakes, our failures as well as our successes and how we respond say a lot to others about our relationship wtih God. And much of that can depend on the strength and support of the Sam’s around us.

Tell me about a Sam in your life. 

Interview with Renata Blake

Renata from Pesto and Potholes

Renata from Pesto and Potholes

Meet Renata Blake. Her story is featured in the novel Pesto and Potholes releasing March 27, 2015.

Renata, how do you feel about your story being told?

Initially I wasn’t too happy about it. I’ve had plenty of bad press in the past and the last thing I need is my family getting wind of this book. They already hate me enough . . . and they don’t come out looking too good in the retelling. But it is real. This is my life. All the ugliness and the beauty.

What do you hope will be the outcome of your story being shared in this way?

That those who are hurting would find hope. As the book cover says, “The road to healing is filled with potholes.” Also that if someone isn’t involved in a good church, that they would seek one out. The relationships I made at Orchard Hill Church were a significant part of my healing process.

PestpandPotholes_ecover (1)Tell us about Antonio.

*giggles* Tony is sweet and handsome, but more than that, he always respected me. That was so new for me to experience. I heard about that book and movie that came out, Fifty Shades of Grey. That’s not love. Trust me, no woman wants a man who is going to control and abuse her. But Tony, he’s one of the good guys and he loves Jesus which I think made a huge difference.

Do you like Italian food?

I’ve always loved Italian food . . . but I have a far deeper appreciation for it now. *she winks*.

Do you still battle ninjas?

(sly grin). I haven’t had the occasion to lately, but suspect I’m still capable.

What’s up next for you?

I’m excited that my roommate Stephanie gets a chance to tell her amazing story next. I don’t know if I could have made it this far without her love and support and I’m glad I got to return the favor when life became difficult for her. I don’t want to give any spoilers away.

One last question. What’s your favorite song right now?

Oh, wow. I love so many but the one that resonates most with my soul is Broken Hallelujah by the Afters.  If I were a songwriter, I could have written that song. Hallelujah means to “God be praised,” and I’m grateful that even when I was weak and broken He could still hear and accept my shattered heart. I look back now in such gratitude for all He’s done. May all the praise and glory be to Him.

Thank you, Renata, or taking the time out of your crazy schedule.

Thank you for sharing about Susan’s book. I’m so grateful she had the courage to tell my story. Maybe others will find healing and hope in Jesus because of it. Pesto facebook header 2 PicMonkey Collage

 

 

 

Accept this Dandelion (Book Review)

AcceptThisDandelionBrooke Williams has taken a national icon, The Bachelor and served it up with a twist in her delightful romantic comedy, Accept this Dandelion.

Both Renee Lockhart and Ben McConnell go into this localized version of the dating game with hidden motives. Renee wants to boost her popularity as a radio show host, potentially winning the morning co-anchor spot at her station. And she was entered by her co-workers so it’s more a matter of making the best of an uncomfortable situation. Especially when she discovers the identity of the bachelor.

Ben McConnell is wealthy and a popular man on the social circuit with a new girl on his arm at every event. But he secretly longs for a woman who will love him for who he really is, not for what his money can buy. He hopes that among the hopeful women vying or his hand, he can find one who is real and honest.

When mishap after mishap occurs, Renee is amazed that as the least likely candidate for Ben’s hand (and weed) she continues to stay in the competition. But her motives change as time goes on and she gets to know the real Ben.

This is a story that will have you smiling from page to page, and maybe groaning in sympathy for the challenges that Renee seems to find herself in on the way to falling in love. You might even bust out laughing a time or two. Williams has written a fresh and thoroughly enjoyable romp of a romance.

Legitimate Lies (Book Review)

legit lies ebookLegitimate Lies is the sequel to Hush in the Storm by suspense author and abolitionist activist Julie B. Cosgrove. She has a unique story to tell that pulls you into the web of deceit and treachery of the human slave trade that takes place around the world. While Hush is centered in the United States, this book takes the reader to Great Britain because this is an international problem.

Suspense is paramount as Jen’s cover in Witness Protection is blown by the Tom, the man she loves. She is whisked away to Great Britain to undertake a new identity. When her smooth talking criminal husband hunts her and kidnapps her, she fights to hold on to truth in the web of lies keeping her prisoner. Can she escape? And where is Tom? Will he find her? Is there any hope they could be free from the lies, free from her marriage to a criminal mastermind and free from the sins of her past? Only God can lead the way to that as well as providing perhaps healing and hope for others caught in her husband’s web of slavery.

This book is hard to put down. Fast paced and filled with action and drama as well as heart-rending romance, it is sure to satisfy any reader while drawing attention to the very real evils that are currently at play in our world.

Sisterhood of World Bloggers

I would like to thank Sharon McGregor, for inviting me to join Sisterhood of The World Bloggers. It looks like a fun gig.
sisterhood
First, before I get started, here are the rules…

The Rules:
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
2. Put the award logo on your blog.
3. Answer the 10 questions they’ve sent you.
4. Make up 10 new questions for your nominees to answer.

If you could go back in your life and change one decision you made, what would it be?

There’s a temptation to  want to do this but the fact is there are many blessings that came out of what at times feel like poor choices. I try to comfort myself that I made the best choices I could at the time with the knowledge I had then. I would not be the person I am today if it weren’t for those decisions and the consequences of them. Even bad decisions can lead to positive growth and God can use any of our past for His glory when we surrender it to Him. 
What is the most intriguing book you have ever read?

Well, the Bible would top that list for sure. I read a lot so trying to define the creme of the crop would be hard. When I was thirteen I read and reread S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. Still compelling storytelling. i memorized Robert Frost’s poem Nothing Gold Can Stay because of that book.

For nonfiction: If I were to look at books I would want my kids to own: Intimacy with the Almighty by Charles Swindoll, Liberated through Submission by P.B. Wilson and anything by A.W. Tozer. For 2015, the non-fiction book of the year for me was The Extravagant Fool by Kevin Adams.

For fiction: I love The O’Malley Series by Dee Henderson, My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade and Healing Grace by Lisa Lickel flow off the top of my head as cherished novels I have read again and again. And anything by Georgette Heyer. I could make a much longer list but that’s a good start.

If you could pick one word to describe yourself what would it be? 

Encourager.

If you could time travel, what period  of history would you choose and why?

Probably the Regency period (1811-1820) I love reading books from that time and would find it fascinating to experience it. Only for a brief period though. Jane Austen had to write everything by hand!

Did you have a role model growing up and if so, what effect did he/she have on your life?

I didn’t have one role model. But I did have a few people who encouraged me in a huge way:

  •  My English and Speech teacher, Orin Mueller was so encouraging of my writing and speaking and finding creative ways to share my faith. That was huge.
  • Pastor Mark Steele was my “boss” for many years at Stonebridge Community Church in Menonomee Falls, Wisconsin. He taught me firsthand about the importance of accountability. I learned that one of the most caring questions someone can ask me is “How is your relationship with God?” Is it any wonder that my contemporary romance series is set in the northwest suburbs of Milwaukee, and revolve around a fictional church called Orchard Hill?

If you could plan a dream vacation, one that may seem out of reach, where would you go?

I would return to Great Britian and spend more time visitng and touring. I was there once on a mission trip and didn’t want to come home. I think now that I’m older I would appreciatet the history and sightseeing even more than I did the first time.

If you could choose any profession to follow, what would it be?

I never planned to be an author growing up even though my favorite thing is to read. Being an editor was even further off my radar. But I think that right now I’m where God wants me to be doing both, as well as speaking at conferences. I enjoy my work.

Pick a card, any card-greeting card that is. What is your favourite holiday?

Probably have to say Christmas . . . that’s when I’m most likely to make my own greeting cards. I used to do over 100 of them but with my life busier now, I’ve had to scale that back and don’t make or send out as many as I used to.

2013-02-12_18-35-21_990What is your favourite pet? Dog or cat? Gerbil or snake? Horse or hamster? Or none at all?

I had a dog when I was a child but we had to give it away because I had terrible asthma/allergy issues. Bingo (Babette Suzette) was a silver poodle. I always mourned the fact that I could never have a pet but we did adopt a silly Quaker parrot about 20 years ago. My husband spoiled him terribly and he’s a snotty brat now. Over time, although I still have asthma and allergies, I learned that some animals didn’t make me sick. Two years ago we adoped our Maltese mix from a rescue. Spatzle is now six and sassy and my shadow and while I’m not especially fond of standing outside with him when it is 10 below zero, so he can relieve himself, I do adore him and am so glad he’s part of my life.

What one thing would you like to see happen in 2015?

My novel, Pesto and Potholes releases March 25, 2015, and I’m thrilled and terrified. I’ve written many books and this is my debut novel, and I think of all I’ve written, this one has more of “me” in it than any other. I hope readers will fall in love with Renata and Tony and find inspiration for their own walk with God in the “potholes” of their own lives. While it would be nice to sell lots of books, I think the greater reward is knowing that something you wrote impacted someone in a positive way. Having someone draw closer to God, is the greater, if intangible, reward.

My ten questions: 

1.  It’s a new year. Do you make resolutions or do you do the ‘one word’ concept? Care to share what either of them are?

2. If you could revisit any time in history, here would you go? What is happening?

3. Favorite beverage?

4. What’s your favorite social media? Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or something else. Why?

5. What is your favorite day/time of the week and why?

6. If you listen to music as you write, what is it?

7. It’s time to celebrate your birthday, what do you plan?

8. What is your most important role in life?

9. Are you a Princess or a Tomboy?

10. What kind of legacy do you hope to leave behind with your writing?

Love Takes Flight (Book Review)

LoveTakesFlight copyLove Takes Flight is the latest novel by Lee Carver. Her first offering was a historical World War II novel called A Secret Life. This story, while contemporary romance is no less filled with adventure!

Camille Ringold is an American nurse whose dream of marrying a doctor and living a fine life in the suburbs is destroyed. To escape the shame and give herself time to heal she volunteers to serve for two weeks in the Amazon. She is forced to face the harsh reality of life in the jungle and the desperation of the lost souls she learns to love.

On a mission of mercy the Wings of Hope plane is hijacked and she and missionary pilot Luke Strong barely make it away alive but have to survive in the jungle. Luke has been a challenge for her, a woman used to finer things and afraid of flying. But his faith compels her to dig deeper within to seek God’s leading. Her heart plays tug of war with the growing attraction to the handsome pilot and her struggle to give up on the more comfortable life she temporarily has left behind.

Returning home she is confronted with the persistent pursuit of the rejected lying doctor and she discovers that the dangers of the Amazon are nothing compared to what was waiting for her at home from this man.

Does she have the faith to risk it all for love? Is that even what God is asking of her or is it another escape? And as much as she adores Luke Strong, would he ever consider her as a possible partner in ministry and life?

This is a fast paced book filled with adventure and a realistic look at the hardship faced by those who serve indigenous people groups who desperately need to hear the gospel. I loved the way Camille’s struggles are portrayed. No idealistic dreams of saving the world but the reality of just how much sacrifice is involved is told with brutal clarity. Luke Strong is not a perfect hero either but is steadfast and lives up to his name as he protects and guides Camille . . . only to find him being saved by her dedication.

I loved this story and highly recommend it. Lee Carver is a master story-teller with an eye to detail that will make you feel like you are right there with the characters.

Writer Wednesday with Becky Wade

my stubborn heartBecky Wade quickly became one of my  favorite Contemporary inspirational authors with her debut novel, My Stubborn Heart which has become a cherished book read multiple times. I’ve enjoyed her subsequent novels as well. It is an honor to have her on my blog today!

When did you decided that you would be an author? Was it something you fell into, felt called to… ?
I decided to become an author shortly after graduating from college. I’d always been a reader. But it wasn’t until I frowned down at a book I disliked that I first thought, Maybe I could do this better? I was living overseas with my husband back then and had lots of time on my hands, a computer, and an imagination. As soon as I began work on that first manuscript, I fell in love with the process of writing. I’ve completed ten manuscripts now and that love for it has remained.
B-46

What’s your pet peeve?

When people take up a coveted space at the gas pump and then run inside to buy something inside the station.

What was your most embarrassing moment as a writer?
At the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in 2013, I sat down at the Bethany House dinner and said to the woman seated next to me, “Hi, I’m Becky. What’s your name?” Um, it was the head of marketing at Bethany House. This is someone I communicate with via email ALL THE TIME. Someone I’d met face to face previously. So embarrassing! In my defense, she’d completely changed her hairstyle. And it had been more than two years since we’d seen each other.

What has been your most difficult challenge as an author?
Finding a balance between my writing responsibilities and my family responsibilities. My kids need a lot of my time and my writing needs a lot of my time, too. I typically put the kids first, but then I feel the pressure of the writing piling up. It’s stressful.

undeniably yoursHow do you process rejections and/or negative reviews?
Negative reviews: Honestly, I avoid reading them as much as possible. When I do read one, I simply tell myself that my books aren’t for everyone. If I tried to write to please everyone, I’d end up pleasing no one, least of all myself and God.

Rewrite requests from my editors: I let them simmer in my mind for a few days, sometimes as long as a week. While they’re simmering there, I’m striving to re-imagine the story in new ways, trying to figure out, ‘How could I make those suggestions work?’ I’ve found that, for me, it’s best to take an active fix-it approach rather than to sulk. Fixing it accomplishes more than sulking. :)

That said, there are times when business-related things I have no control over begin to tug me down. During those times, I read the Bible and pray and re-focus myself on what I’m doing with my books and why. I wait, in faith, for my positivity to return. And it always does.

What do you feel is the best success so far in your writing career?
For me, this job is about the quality of the work. God has called me and equipped me to be a writer so I truly want each book to be as good as I can make it. For Him. And I truly want to tell the story that He leads me to tell each time. My best success has been found in the feeling of satisfaction I receive when I come to a place where I finally feel that I’ve accomplished those goals with a story.

MeanttoBeMine_compWhat would be your top three pieces of advice to newer, up and coming authors?
1. Write what you love.
2. Learn the craft.
3. Don’t worry so much about trying to build a platform and blogging and self-imposed deadlines. The joy in being unpublished is that you have freedom and time. Enjoy it! Have fun with your novel and your characters!

As a Christian author, what would you like your legacy to be?
A ministry of books that encourage believers in their faith and encourage non-believers to know Christ.

What is your current work in process?
I’m working on the final Porter family novel, Dru Porter’s story. It’s not yet titled and won’t release until May 2016!

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