Embracing Risk Despite Self-Doubt

smiley-150548_1280Everyone, no matter how talented, competent, or blessed, suffers from self-doubt at some point or another. But that doesn’t mean we must be trapped in our insecurities, and we should never allow our feelings of inadequacy overshadow our faith, because really, this journey we’re on is not about us and what we can or cannot do. It’s about what God longs to do in and through us.

So take a breath, release your grip, and embrace risk. Today my guest Bonnie Leon talks about what happened when she stepped out of her comfort zone and the incredible journey her risk-taking launched her on.

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Take a Risk
by Bonnie Leon

If writers want to write they have to take a chance. The world is full of possibilities … but risk is required to obtain them.

I never imagined writing as a career until I stepped out of my comfort zone and attended a writer-1421099_640writing conference. I showed up feeling like anything but a writer. In fact, my primary reason for being there was to determine if I had it in me. Not just the skill but also the heart. During my growing up years I’d never dreamed of being a writer. And if it was part of me, wouldn’t the passion to write have shown up before the age of forty? That still puzzles me.

Feeling lost and somewhat like a wide-eyed child, I joined a line of conferees who were checking in. What was I thinking? I wasn’t a writer. Not like all the others … or so I thought.

With the help of kindly attendees and staff I was slotted in an Advanced Fiction class. I definitely didn’t belong there. I was a writing newbie.  Quaking, I took my place in the classroom, very much needing a reminder that God was at work in my life. Sandy Dengler was the teacher. She was amazing and fun, and a great teacher.

The more hours I spent in the class the more certain I was that I didn’t belong there. The other students could actually write. I was just goofing around with words.

If the insecure part of me had taken charge that first day I likely wouldn’t have returned to class. But there was another piece of me that wanted to take a chance. I quieted the voice in my head that said I didn’t belong, and then I began to learn. Like a dry sponge, I soaked in the knowledge cocktail being offered.

It was an incredible experience. I spent time with lots of writers, published and unpublished. I took a risk and handed some of my work to the pros for critique. They offered great suggestions and encouragement. I was SO out of my league, but I didn’t care. This was a new beginning, and I knew it.workplace-1245776_640

By the end of the conference I was ready to begin my first book. I connected with local writers and we started a critique group. None of us had a lot of experience in the writing world, but we fumbled along and managed to help one another.

The following summer I set off for the conference with my first ever book in safe keeping. I was about to reveal my work to editors and I was scared. What if they thought my writing stank?

On the third day of the conference I had an appointment with the acquisitions editor from Thomas Nelson Publishing. She was dog-tired. Certainly this wasn’t a good time to present my book. I nearly chickened out, but instead, with my heart pounding and my stomach tumbling, I waited my turn. It must have been a 100 degrees in that room and the editor didn’t look happy. At that point, I was sure she could chew rocks.

When my name was called I wasn’t sure what to do. Should I act like I was someone else … waiting for someone else?

On quaking legs I walked to her table. When I introduced myself I was surprised to see a warm smile. Hope lit up my insides.

books-1149959_640While she read my first chapter, my mind told me how foolish I was. She’d likely say I needed to return home and learn to write. She set the manuscript on the table in front of her. I drew in a ragged breath.

“This is wonderful,” she said. “Is it finished?”

Had I heard right?

I told her it was completed and she asked if I could write a preface and send it to her with the first three chapters. I figured I could learn what a preface was when I got home.

That was the beginning. Thomas Nelson contracted me for that book, The Journey of Eleven Moons, and two others in the series.

If I’d been too afraid to take a risk it never would have happened. Has it all been successes since? No. But I’ve experienced many mountain-top moments and I’ve written and published twenty-one novels. I’ve learned to love the craft of writing and the beauty of story.

Dare to believe you can write and be published. Take a Risk.

***

url-2The Land of White Nights:

The lure of the nineteenth-century gold rush calls to Erik, a civil-war veteran. He and Anna, his Aleutian bride, set sail for a new life together in Sitka.

Anna stands strong against the adversities of the new land with its unfamiliar culture and fearsome challenges. She fights her fears and the prejudice of others, while growing her newfound faith in the white man’s God.

When forced to move farther north and begin again, Anna refuses to give up, allowing nothing to stand in the way of her family’s happiness. They discover joy as well as heartache in the Alaskan wilderness. But will Erik’s love of gold put all they’ve worked so hard for in jeopardy?

***

DSC_0110Bonnie Leon is the author of twenty-one novels, including the recently released To Dance With Dolphins, the popular Alaskan Skies and bestselling The Journey of Eleven Moons.

Bonnie’s books are being read internationally and she hears from readers in Australia, Europe, and even Africa.

She enjoys speaking for women’s groups and teaching at writing seminars and conventions and especially delights in mentoring young authors. These days, her time is filled with writing, being a grandmother and relishing precious time with her aged mother.

Bonnie and her husband, Greg, live in Southern Oregon. They have three grown children and seven grandchildren.

You can find Bonnie at https://www.bonnieleon.com, on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

 

The Journey of a Calling

Prayer is such an integral part of our relationship with the Lord. It is not only good for those we pray for, it’s good for us and keeps us in fellowship with Him. Read on as Wade shares how his journey of prayer led to his journey of writing.

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Called to Write
by Wade Webster

How does God get a book written that nobody thought of writing?

write-593333_640He gives it to a new writer who doesn’t have a clue he’s writing a book to begin with.

That’s the genesis of the book 100 Prayers Of a Writer. It began when one door closed and another one opened.

Talking to God has come easily to me from childhood because I was saved so young I don’t remember not being born-again. I took advantage of being raised on a farm on the edge of nowhere by taking long walks talking to Jesus about various things in my life.

Fast-forward to eight years ago when God surprised me with a call to write. I thought it was only going to be fiction at first. God had other plans that He didn’t tell me about.

Knowing that public speaking would be a part of the writing equation I took advantage of an opportunity to pray before the adult fellowship at my church on a rotating basis. Many people said my conversational style blessed them. The leadership of the class apparently felt otherwise. They asked me to step down, which I did.

Shortly after that an online writing group I was in had a member who began weekly prayers for us. When her life became too hectic she offered the position to anyone in the group who felt so led. I walked through that door with the stipulation that if my prayers became weakly someone would tell me to stop.

I soon discovered people in the group who I didn’t even know were in the group when they sent me emails telling me how a certain prayer touched them.

After a year I realized I was accumulating enough prayers to make a book. The main organization in charge of our group decided to switch to a Facebook group instead of an prayer-1308663_640email loop halfway through the second year. I asked them to keep us going a bit longer. They did.

I completed the last few prayers after they closed the group to come up with the number of prayers I wanted for the book.

Each chapter of the book follows a list found in the Bible. The Fruit of the Spirit is prayed through one ingredient at a time. The Hall of Faith chapter was eye-opening to complete, as was the 23rd Psalm. Solomon’s Times and Seasons from Ecclesiastes 3 made a good section, too.

The writing group I was in focused on children’s books, so making the prayers approach from the perspective of a child coming before their heavenly Father was quite commonsense. It also made for quite the visual experience to read. It’s the way Jesus told His followers to come to God in Matthew 18:1-4.

Anyone unsure of how to come before God in prayer will gain a fresh perspective from these prayers. They’re written in a way that the reader is talking directly to God. If read out loud you actually are.

This simple act of obedience that disciplined me to come before God weekly for a group of Christian writers became a book by surprise. It surprised me anyway. God knew what He was doing all along.

***

100 PRAYERS OF A WRITER COVERWhat is prayer? Prayer is a conversation with God.

What does God expect in your prayer? God wants you to pour out your heart to Him.

These prayers are not meant to be memorized, but experienced. This collection of prayers began as a weekly offering to the American Christian Fiction Writers’ children’s fiction email loop. 100 PRAYERS OF A WRITER combines Wade Webster’s two greatest passions: talking to his Heavenly Father and writing. If your prayer life needs a boost, these prayers will give you the spiritual lift you’re looking for. Experience a depth and honesty that only comes from a lifetime walk with God through Jesus Christ. Although these prayers were originally written to writers, everybody will grow in their understanding of their relationship with the Creator of the universe. People curious about how Christians approach God will have their eyes opened to what makes us tick. Enter the throne room of God as Jesus tells us to–as little children. Leave the same throne room with renewed hope and encouragement. Christianity wasn’t meant to be a rote religion, but a living relationship. Your Father longs for your attention.

***

Wade front-on pictureWade Webster lives in Plano, Texas with his best friend Jesus Christ. He attended Grace Bible College sometime in the last century and derives most of his income from driving trucks.

You can follow the link on his blog to buy an autographed copy of his book at http://wadewebster.com or on Amazon.

 

 

Let’s talk about this: Wade shared how God called him to write but had an unexpected path for him. Have you discovered your calling yet? How has God led you on the journey of your calling? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Learning Through Writing

Jesus tells us in the New Testament that we’re to forgive (Matthew 18:21-22). It can be a hard mission to accomplish, however. Read on to see how forgiveness played a role in Sherri’s story.

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A Real Life Story…All Pumped Up
by Sherri Stone

I get story ideas from all over the place: people-watching everywhere, listening in on conversations, a random spark in my brain. Sometimes I get the basic story idea from real life. In the case of my first novel, Sacred Ashes, the story idea started with some real life stuff, but thank goodness the real stuff wasn’t nearly as wild as the story!

I’m a preacher’s kid, and like many preacher’s families, we had some rough times at the sad-505857_1280hands of church people. Not all the time, but when it happened it was hard and I’m sure left scars. Throughout Dani’s story, she must face a tragedy that never should have happened, and in the process, learn to forgive a huge wrong. She struggles with it, as I did. Some of her thoughts are similar to some that I had while God was working on me.

Forgiveness is such an important issue and one of the hardest things we do as Christians. It’s especially hard when forgiving someone won’t fix what happened. When it can never be made right. Our human nature rises up and actively resists letting someone off the hook when they’ve hurt us, or worse, when they’ve hurt someone we love.

Whether it’s a situation like the story in the book, or another thing altogether, each of us, if we live long enough, will have to make the choice to obey God and forgive someone, even if they never apologize or admit that they’ve hurt us. It’s a process and not something we can ever do in our own strength.

Dani is blessed with friends – and one handsome new friend – who encourage, and even gently challenge and push her to reconsider her attitude toward God and Christians. Unforgiveness is a terrible burden for the one who carries it. Sometimes we don’t let go hands-699486_1280until we are so tired we can’t carry it one more day. We can be stubborn – yes, I can!

I hope this story touches readers who may be struggling with unforgiveness. I think story ideas based on real life (with the names changed, of course) can be the most powerful,
because so many people can relate. It also can be a non-threatening way to approach what is often a painful issue.

If you have worked through your own issues, they may be just the story someone needs to hear. It lets them know they are not alone. It reminds them that God cares. It gives them hope for restoration and redemption. And that is why we write.

***

Kindle CoverThe man who killed Dani LaClere’s entire family has died in prison after ten years. She expects closure, but her grief is alive and well, and so is her anger at God – and Christians. She plans to deal with it like she always has, by not thinking about it. Easier said than done when she witnesses a murder and becomes the target of a stalker. Her fear escalates as evidence begins to suggest a tie to her family’s murder. When a handsome prison chaplain confirms her suspicions Dani is forced to deal with the pain of her past and a killer she will not see coming.

Find Sacred Ashes on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

***

Sherris pictureSherri is a social worker by day and a writer by night. Her debut fiction novel, Sacred Ashes was released last year and is available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. More fiction and some non-fiction inspirational books are in the works and she is looking forward to finding God’s purpose for her next fifty years.

Find Sherri on her website and her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Let’s talk about this: Forgiveness can be a hard thing to give, but it can be harder on us–and our relationship with God–to withhold it. Have you had to forgive someone who didn’t ask to be forgiven? How did it improve your outlook? Did you have any Scripture verses that helped you to forgive? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

The Story Behind the Story

Have you ever kept a secret from your family? Imagine that secret finding its way into a book…

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The Story Behind the Story
By Ane Mulligan

The second book in my Chapel Lake series, Chapel Springs Survival, came from a real life event—and became a mother’s retribution. Insert creepy music and evil laughter.

The day started out normal, boring even. Then I got a phone call from our eldest son.

“Hey, Mom. I emailed you some pictures. Take a look and call me back.” Click.

He hung up. Without even asking how I was.

wedding-photos-885886_1280I hurried to my computer and opened his email. The first photo was of a nice looking, very Latin appearing young woman. Something told me she wasn’t from here. I clicked on the second photo—a photo with her in a wedding dress.

I hit speed dial.

It seems our eldest son, a widower with two children, had gotten himself a 21st Century mail order bride. He met her in a chat room for women in Columbia, South America, to meet and marry American men. They communicated for a year. Then, he flew to Columbia and married her.

Without us knowing anything.

He came back and spent the next year trying to get her into the U.S. legally.

Did I mention it was without us knowing anything?

He didn’t tell us until she got here. Our two grandchildren knew. His brother knew. But we ID-10067291didn’t. Do you remember that old margarine commercial, where the woman said, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature” and zapped someone?

That’s what I said. I told him for not telling me, it was going in a book. And it did.

Now, I have to tell you that any similarity between our son’s story and my book stops there. Our daughter-in-law turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to our Michael. We adore her and our two step-grandsons and the newest Mulligan grandson. Yes, they had a baby about a year after Zully got here.

That, however, wouldn’t have made a good story. There was no conflict. But add Claire Bennett into that mix, and there’s plenty. To find out how it turns out, you’ll have to read Chapel Springs Survival.

***

Chapel Springs Survival, book 2 in the Chapel Springs series

A mail-order bride, a town overrun with tourists, and illegal art.  Chapel Springs Survival Cover

How on earth will Claire and Chapel Springs survive?

Claire Bennett’s Operation Marriage Revival succeeded and life is good. That is until the mayor’s brother blabs a secret: Claire’s nineteen-year-old son has married a Brazilian mail order bride. When Claire tries to welcome her, she’s ridiculed, rebuffed, and rejected. Loving this girl is like hugging a prickly cactus.

Lydia Smith is happily living alone and running her spa—then the widow on the hill becomes a blushing bride. Then her groom’s adult son moves in—on everything.

From the first sighting of a country music star in The Painted Loon, Chapel Springs is inundated with stargazers, causing residents to flee the area. When her best friends put their house on the market, Claire is forced to do something or lose the closest thing to a sister she’s got. With her son’s future at stake and the town’s problems to solve, it’s Claire’s who needs a guardian angel.

Other books:
Chapel Springs Revival
Chapel Springs Cookbook
Way Down Upon a Suwanee Murder: a short story

***

Ane_Mulligan_headshot
Ane Mulligan writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea. She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. Novelist and playwright, Ane is the executive director of Players Guild@Sugar Hill, a community theater and president of the award-winning literary site, Novel Rocket. She resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband and a dog of Biblical proportion. You can find Ane at her website, Novel Rocket, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and her Amazon author page.

Let’s talk about it: Wasn’t Ane’s story fun? How do you think you would have handled a secret like that? Have you kept a secret of that magnitude before? How did others react? Share in the comments below. We can all learn from and encourage–and laugh with–one another!

Behind the Story

Do you ever doubt that God has a plan for you? Do you wonder, if He does, what that plan might be? What happens when He reroutes us? I don’t know about you, but unknowns, detours, and abrupt changes make the plotter-planner in me nervous. And I can really relate with today’s guest–believe it or not, I never intended to be a fiction writer! And Author JC Morrows never intended… Well, you’ll see.

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Behind the Story
by JC Morrows

The book series I’m in the middle of is different from anything else I have written . . . ever. When I started writing, it was for the secular market. However, all of those novels have now either been rewritten for the Christian market or scrapped.
Several years ago, I decided to make a fresh start with my writing . . . not long after I made the decision to re-dedicate myself to God. However, I was still writing fantasy. Fantasy is my first love in literature, my go-to genre, my preferred reading. It just makes sense that I would write what I love to read – and I was . . . until God let me in on HIS plan.
notes-514998_1920I was struggling with the story I was working on. I knew where I wanted it to go, but I wasn’t sure how to get it there. So I said a prayer. I asked God what HE wanted me to write about. And He gave me this story.
Suffice to say, I could not type fast enough to keep up with the inspiration that was quite literally gushing out through my fingertips.
I wrote the entire series in less than two months. I didn’t stop to edit. I didn’t stop to plot. Sometimes I barely stopped to sleep. I just kept going – following God’s leading. It was an AMAZING two months!
Since then, I have worked diligently to stay true to the story God gave me. It’s not always easy. My brain always wants to go somewhere fantastical . . . somewhere alien or otherworldly . . . somewhere I feel comfortable.
I don’t feel comfortable in this story world at all – and I was very concerned with how it would be received. But God has blessed me in that area as well. I had a fantastic launch team – and now an equally wonderful street team. Both online parties I hosted were a tremendous success. The first book in the series hit #1 on Amazon’s Best-Seller list on release day and has sold like I never could have expected.shadow-824128_1280
So, whenever I start to doubt myself, I say a prayer and go ask my team what they think of the newest installment . . . or I go look at the rankings in Amazon. And I am reminded that God has a plan – and just because I don’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
***
A Desperate Escape:
A Secret . . . A Confession . . . A Decision that will change the A Desperate Escape - JC Morrows
lives of an entire country.
The palace is scrambling to recover from a brutal assault . . . the country is in disarray . . . and the royal security team is on edge like never before.
Kayden entered the palace under a lie . . . a lie that has now been exposed.
And now . . . Prince Dvarius has to decide what to do with his reluctant assassin.
***
JCM 2b - 06-2015JC Morrows – Bestselling author of YA Christian speculative fiction, drinker of coffee and avid reader – is a storyteller in the truest sense of the word. JC has been telling stories in one form or another her entire life and once her mother convinced her to write them down, she couldn’t stop.
She finished her first speculative fiction novel purely for the enjoyment of her mother – also known as her biggest fan.
She gives God all of the glory for her talent and ability!
Find JC on her website: http://jcmorrows.com, and at Amazon, Goodreads, her NewsletterInstagram, TwitterPinterestFacebook, and Tumblr.
“And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.” Habakkuk 2:2 KJV
Let’s talk about this: I shared at the beginning of my post how I never intended to write fiction, and I fought God’s call for a long time. But man, had I know the incredible joy I’d receive every time I sat behind my desk, I would’ve surrendered much sooner! God is good. God is loving, attentive and faithful, amen?
 Has God ever called you down a road you were unfamiliar with? How did you feel about that? Do you have any Scripture that God gave you to encourage you? Share in the comments below.

Restored Joy

Photo by David Castillo Dominici taken from freedigitalphotos.net
Photo by David Castillo Dominici taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Do you ever feel like your salvation has become just another thing? Has it become so deeply embedded in you that it no longer is fresh and exciting, as it was when you first came to know Christ? Join Dawn Cahill today as she tells us how God restored the joy in her salvation through writing fiction.

But first, a giveaway! Through the end of the week, Dawn is hosting a giveaway for one lucky new subscriber to her blog. She’ll draw the name on Sunday. So sign up soon for your chance to win!

How God Restored the Joy of My Salvation Through Fiction Writing

by Dawn Cahill

You’ve probably known some “churched” kids who, despite their families’ best efforts, simply have no interest in Christianity. They hang out with scary-looking peers and grow tough veneers. They judge others, not by their character, but by their “cool factor.”

I was one of those kids.

Raised in church. Heard the gospel all my life. Went through all the right motions.

But the gospel never penetrated my heart.

woman-570883_640Then, at age 30, after years of substance abuse and a stint in alcohol treatment, God grabbed me by the collar and didn’t let go.

And it felt wonderful! Like my newly-saved protagonist Livy experienced in Sapphire Secrets:

Livy awoke with a new, overpowering sensation. An awareness of the presence of God filled her to bursting.

Throughout the day, she saw God everywhere. DeeDee helped her bathe with her cast wrapped in plastic and propped on the tub’s side. The comfort of the warm water made her think of God. As she struggled into her clothes, His presence filled her room. As she plodded along in the chilly winter sunshine, the majesty of the trees, the green of the grass, the jagged outline of the mountains all shouted of a Creator. The sky itself spilled over with God. She could almost see Him superimposed over the blue backdrop. Yet nobody marveled over it. The people she passed on the sidewalk appeared oblivious.

Feeling an intense need to commune with Him, she sat outside in the sun with her new Bible, basking in His presence and slurping up Scriptures like a thirsty woman at an oasis.

She avoided DeeDee, knowing her twin couldn’t possibly understand the things going on in her heart. She would assume, since she hadn’t experienced God for herself, He must not be real.

Livy’s favorite Friedrich Nietzsche quote kept running through her head. “Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” A simple paraphrase showed her a profound new truth: Those who were seen worshiping God were thought to be insane by those who could not see Him.

Last year, when I wrote this, the memories of my conversion kept me inspired and motivated, compelling me to put my testimony on paper. I remembered what that newborn “glow” felt like. And how the Bible came alive. Like it did for Livy:

Livy— “I thought the Bible would be dull, but it’s really compelling…I feel like I’m at a feast with a never-ending supply of food.”

Christian friend Scott– “I remember what that’s like. Before I knew Christ, reading the Bible was like reading a textbook. After I found Him, it came alive.”

But today, twenty-plus years after my first taste of true joy…reading the Bible is often like reading a textbook. I no longer notice God everywhere I look. And reliving my conversion experience through my protagonist’s eyes brought home the truth that I’d lost that lovin’ feeling.

book-506481_640Writing this novel was an intense spiritual exercise, as I put myself in the shoes of various characters: Paula, the mature Christian who disciples Livy and always has the right verse for every situation; Scott, fairly new Christian who obeys God’s prompting by praying for Livy’s salvation; and brand-new convert Livy, who gets flak from her anti-religion family for her faith. It made me realize I’ve morphed from Livy, to Scott, and now to Paula.

Sure, the glow has changed, but into something more solid. I find that, like Paula, I know how to biblically answer questions thrown at me. The Bible still vibrates with truth, even though it’s harder now for me to focus on it. And my relationship with God is like a long-term marriage—I don’t want to say I take Him for granted, but there’s a sense of security that I didn’t have as a new believer. And I’ll take that over warm fuzzies any day.

***

Saphhire Secrets

Sapphire Secrets:

Twins Livy and DeeDee McCreary open a dance studio in honor of their late mother, whom they lost when they were six. Problem is, Livy remembers nothing of the day her mother died. The more she questions her family about that awful day, the more she suspects she’s been lied to all her life. While she’s seeking answers to what really happened, she keeps crossing paths with handsome engineer Scott Lorenzo, who compels her to question the New Age philosophy she was raised on. What if there is a personal God out there who cares about her?
Before Livy can discover answers, a brutal accident interrupts her search. Her life flips upside down as she faces a future she is not prepared for. Yet the unanswered questions continue to haunt her. Can she find the strength to keep on with her quest, even if it means losing the two people most dear to her—her twin, and the man she loves? 2015 Finalist, ACFW First Impressions Contest. Find it on Amazon.

***

Author Dawn V. Cahill pens “Stories of Victorious Faith for the 21st Century.” Seeing an unfilled niche in the Christian fiction market, Ms Cahill birthed Hot Topic Fiction at an intensive four-day writers conference. HTF isn’t afraid to explore the question, how does God want us to live out our faith in this not-so-brave new world? Without insulting the reader by offering pat or easy answers–because there aren’t any–HTF tells stories of ordinary Christians following hard after Christ in a world of terror and violence, of upside-down morality, of hostility to Judeo-Christian values.

Email her at dawn(at)dawnvcahill(dot)com, or find her on Facebook. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW).

Let’s talk about this: How do you maintain the joy of your salvation? Do you read more, dive into a new Bible study, or pull away for quiet time with the Lord? Post in the comments below. We can all use some fresh ideas and encouragement.

6But before you go, I wanted to share a fun tidbit of my next novel, Breaking Free, releasing online next month and in bookstores in early April. You can read the first 30 or so pages, free, HERE.