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 I spent time with lots of writers, published and unpublished.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.

 

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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 Crux of the Matter

We all need an attitude adjustment  at one time or another. Today’s guest had an opportunity to write a story that changed her attitude. Read on to find out what God did in Paula’s heart.

-But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.-Romans 5-8, ESV

Behind The Crux
by Paula Mowery

The editor-in-chief at Prism Book Group put out a call to the authors through our private Facebook group for submissions to a series based on The Love Chapter. She printed out the passage and basically the different phrases were up for grabs as to be the theme for the amish-people-1036327_640story. I had my eye on one phrase but missed out on that one. I decided that I could come up with a story based on the section: “Love does not dishonor.”

God brought to mind my time living in Maryland near the Amish and their honorable ways. This is when my story started to take form. What if someone with Amish ties were to bring dishonor to the family? What if the supposed dishonor actually revealed long-concealed lies?

My next thought was about an unexpected pregnancy being the ultimate dishonor in the story. I recalled my time as a devotional leader at our local Pregnancy Crisis Center. Conjuring bitter feelings to portray through my characters wasn’t difficult. When God afforded me the opportunity to serve at the pregnancy center, I was definitely conflicted. These girls had become pregnant, many by accident. As a young woman I struggled with infertility and harbored ill feelings toward those who found themselves in unexpected love-699480_640pregnancies. But as I got to know these women and heard their stories, I realized I was wrong. What I needed to show them was God’s unconditional love, available to all.

Thus, the reader will encounter some Amish parts as well as a precious Pregnancy Crisis Center ran by loving Christian women. There are also some medical conditions that reflect research into the Amish community. Of course a romance buds within the pages of the reunion/second chance type.

My ultimate hope is that the reader will encounter an unconditional love available from God within the pages of this short romance.

***

LoveIs_CruxofHonor copyChelsea Wilson’s life is a constant reminder of what living dishonorably looks like. At every turn she continues to prove her mother’s shunning must be deserved.

Dr. Kevin Alley returns to the old home place to establish his medical practice. After running into Chelsea, he knows his love for her is still strong.

Chelsea is ousted from her small rented room when her mother bursts in, proclaiming Chelsea’s pregnancy.

Kevin takes Chelsea in, giving her space to live on the upper level of his house.

When Chelsea’s baby displays life-threatening symptoms, Chelsea must face her mother. Secrets unfold about Chelsea’s parents. Can Chelsea and Kevin uncover the secrets linked to Amish heritage in time to save the baby? Can the two find love together despite their history?

Find The Crux of Honor on Amazon.

***

DSC_0275 (2)Paula Mowery is a published author, acquisitions editor, and speaker. She is also pastor’s wife and mom to a college student. She homeschooled her daughter through all twelve years, and they both lived to tell about it. Before educating her daughter at home, she was an English teacher in public school. Her books have earned a Selah Award and been a finalist in the Carolyn Readers Choice Awards.

Learn more about Paula at her blog as well as find other links to connect with her at www.paulamowery.blogspot.com.

***

Let’s talk about this: Paula experienced a change of heart after working with young pregnant women. Has God ever used a situation you were in to change an idea or attitude you had? How did you use that experience to grow? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Before you go, if you’re local, I would love to see you this afternoon at the WordSowers Christian Writers Conference where I’m teaching a class on characterization. It’s not to late to join us! You can pay at the door.

 

The End of Your Comfort Zone

When was the last time you felt God nudge you out of your comfort zone? How’d you respond? Speaking as a plotter, planner, safety-lover, it can be sooooooo hard to step out into the unknown or challenging, but it’s when we do that God opens our eyes and blesses our hearts abundantly.

This is when we discover and grab hold of the abundant life Jesus promises.

Today’s incredibly beautiful post by Carrie Schmidt inspired and challenged me to a deeper level of surrender and love.

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Moving Out of the Zone
by Carrie Schmidt

They say that life begins at the end of your comfort zone. This has certainly been true for my life.

Pre-comfort-zone-obliteration, I was uncomfortable with discomfort.  I avoided activities that could cause awkwardness. I stayed as far away as possible from hospitals or poverty or homeless-1070399_640people who believed differently than me. Absolutely, under no circumstances, did I share my Jesus with those people of different belief unless forced, and then it rarely ended well.

Pre-comfort-zone-obliteration, I liked my day to proceed according to plan. Anything – or anyone – that dared to intrude on my carefully guarded schedule was looked upon with great frustration, as an inconvenience of the highest sort.

Are you getting a good picture of my “safely-ensconced-in-my-comfort-zone” life?

Yeah.

Awkward. Nervous. Kinda prickly. Selfish for sure. Picky, picky eater. Often paralyzed by fear. A loner. Miserable.

And then 2003 arrived. The beginning of the end of my comfort zone.

My brother – my baby brother – traveled to Iraq on a missions trip in December. If you recall, Iraq in 2003 was not the safest place to be. Their convoy of vehicles had to drive intoJosh Booth Photography: IRAQ &emdash; Iraq under the cloak of night at 100 mph in the best attempt to avoid being targeted by

IEDs and other deadly missiles. If you’ll also recall, December 2003 marked the capture of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Yeah. My brother was within a few miles of his hideout. I was, in a word, terrified, and God and I began the process of breaking some long-held chains of fear during those weeks that Josh was in Iraq.  And then Josh came back with this treasure trove of images (he was the team photographer; you can see his photos at http://www.joshboothphoto.com/iraq), of faces that gazed back at me and captured my heart.

I could not get them out of my system. I didn’t want to get them out of my system.

So when a friend asked me almost a year later if I would be interested in teaching at a local church’s English as a Second Language ministry, I thought about it for maybe a half-second before jumping at the chance.

Y’all.  It’s been 10 years and I haven’t once looked back.

What. A. Ride.

That comfort zone? Completely GONE. My life? Completely BLESSED.

blackboard-209152_640I had no idea when I started teaching ESL that I would experience even a tenth of the memories I now cherish close to my heart.  My involvement isn’t limited to the hours I teach in the classroom – it extends to lunch invitations, doctor appointments, hospital visits, mail interpretation, errands, tutoring, homework help for the kids, etc. And while I’ve lost count of how many students I’ve taught over the last ten years (our program averages about 100 students spread across several different level-specfic classes), their faces and friendships are etched on my heart forever.

Like Olga, my 70-something-year-old Peruvian student, who absolutely delighted me every single second I was in her presence. She and her husband became some of my dearest friends, and I had the honor of attending each of their naturalization ceremonies when they became US citizens.

Olga is with Jesus now, and I still miss her. But I smile at her memory every single time I log on to social media because my “handle” is in her honor.  She always, always always called me “Miss Carrie,” no matter how many times I told her that I didn’t need the term of respect from her.  In her precious accent, it sounded more like “Meez Carrie,” and thus my social media identity was born.

Or like my Ukrainian bestie (also in her seventies) and my Iranian brother (another seventy-year-old) who text me on a regular basis just to say hi. My precious Lucy from Ukraine calls me “my heart” and we frequently get into trouble together with a myriad of shenanigans. My Iranian brother never forgets a birthday or a holiday, and his face lights up with the Joy that now lives inside him.

Or like my dear Muslim girlfriends, who open up their homes and their hearts and their lives to me on a regular basis.  We laugh with each other. We cry for each other. They’ve been to my family’s funerals. I’ve been to theirs. We actually have a lot in common, but our differences have led to some really meaningful discussions about Jesus. Which have, in turn, made me love Jesus – and my Muslim friends – even more.

Or like my sweet Chinese friend who had just had a baby and was trying to figure out how to work her pump. I, having had no children, was not terribly helpful but I could at least attempt the directions.  We laughed a lot that day. Laughter and love transcend language barriers, and Jesus works through both in crazy awesome ways.

Do you remember my life inside my comfort zone? Awkward. Nervous. Kinda prickly. Selfish for sure. Picky, picky eater. Often paralyzed by fear. A loner. Miserable.smile-191626_640

Life after my comfort zone? Thanks to Jesus and my internationals … laughter. So much laughter.  JOY. Grace. LOVE overflowing. Still working on the selfish thing but it’s not my go-to response anymore, at least. Completely different food experiences (that’s for another blog post, lol!). Fear no longer enslaves me. Extroverted introvert. Head over heels in love with Jesus and how He changes lives.

Including mine.

Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? (I Samuel 7:18, NLT)

***

IMG_4522Carrie Schmidt (aka MeezCarrie) is an avid reader, a book reviewer, a story addict, a KissingBooks fan and a book boyfriend collector. She also loves Jesus and THE Story a whole lot. Her passion in blogging/reviewing is to connect readers with a new favorite author or book, especially in the Christian fiction genre. Carrie lives in central Kentucky with her hubby Eric and their quirky dog Zuzu and is the long distance cool aunt to nine nieces and nephews. When she’s not reading or reviewing or “cool-aunting”, Carrie teaches English as a Second/Other Language to international adults. Learn more about Carrie at http://readingismysuperpower.org.

***

Let’s talk about this: Carrie spoke about being moved beyond her comfort zone and what God has taught her through that move. How has He moved you out of your comfort zone? What did you experience when you were out of your comfort zone? How did it change your life? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

As a fun aside, I learned of all the wonderful, life-changing things Carrie is doing during a phone conversation while researching my next novel. I’m still in the preliminary planning stages, but I’m excited to say Alana, my heroine, is a Carrie! She’s a missionary home on medical leave, serving as an ESL teacher, and wondering if God can still use her. I’m. So. Excited. About. This. Story! 🙂

If God used Carrie’s post to nudge you a bit this morning, I encourage you to listen to a powerful sermon my pastor gave last Sunday. Then find your have to. Your life will never be the same, promise. When Hearts Break, Everyone Wins. 

Before you go, if you’re in the Omaha-Metro area, I would love for you to stop by my book  signing today at Divine Truth Christian Bookstore in La Vista!

Divine Truth April 23

And if you’re within driving distance, I do hope you’ll join me at the Wordsowers Conference  next weekend (April 29th and 30th) where I’ll be teaching how one can craft characters that grab hold of readers on a deeply emotional level.

Knowing the Author

Really getting to know someone is vital in any relationship. This includes our relationship with God. When we read His Word, we get to know Him and learn about His character, His love for us, and what He hates. His Word may be made up of many different accounts of different people, but it shows us just Who God is, that He’s real. Leeann Betts shares with us how this knowledge helped shape her online presence and writing. Read on…

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Knowing the Author
by Leeann Betts

I’ve recently been revamping my social media, mainly because now I have to do it myself. But this is a good thing, because I’d created a monster that got out of control.

When I sat down and looked at my social media plan, which really was “if it’s not working, do more,” I realized something very important: I’d completely left God out of my plan. (Thank you, wise husband, for pointing this out to me).

As I prayed about this, a scripture verse came to mind: “The right word spoken at the right time is as beautiful as gold apples in a silver bowl” (Proverbs 25:11, NCV).

bible-839093_640I thought about that for a while, and the Lord spoke to my heart: “When you think of Me as Author, what do you want to know about Me?”

The answer was easy: I wanted to know God had written the Bible for me. That if nobody else read it, it was still worth writing. I wanted to know that I could learn about God through His book. And that when I meet Him in person, He will be exactly how I pictured Him from His book.

I saw where God was going with this: readers want to know that the author of the book they’re reading is real, that the author cares about them as an individual, not just as a cash cow. They want to believe they can get to know me through my books, and that if they meet me at a party and talk to me, they’ll say, “You are exactly how I thought you’d be.”

When we write authentically, our readers know more about who we are because we are in some of our characters through their worldviews, beliefs, and actions.

When we write authentically, we are writing with one single reader in mind. Our books should point the reader to God first, and then hopefully our stories solve a problem, fill a need, or encourage and entertain. And a really great book, like the one God wrote for you, will do all of these things.

So when readers read my books, I hope they learn that I love numbers almost to theread-515531_640 exclusion of everything else; that I trust numbers more than people because numbers never change; that I don’t much like to exercise; and that I strive to be a submissive wife to my husband but I still struggle with that.

And maybe they’ll also see that I wish I were more like Carly: quicker to jump in to help; quick on the comebacks; and not take myself so seriously.

Because really, in some way, even if it’s below the surface, the stories we write should contain some of ourselves.

God’s book did.

***

aaaUnbalanced Final with Custom GreenJoin Carly Turnquist, forensic accountant, who is in the midst of planning her son’s wedding when she sees a bank robbery nobody else admits seeing. When the news hits the national stations, her credibility is called into question. Then her husband’s long-lost brother shows up, but disappears soon after, leaving behind his young son. Carly is set to testify in a huge trial, but if she cannot be believed, she cannot give evidence. Can she salvage her tattered career—and her reputation—before someone tries to silence her forever?

***

IMG_6534 Juggling the books - smallerLeeann Betts writes contemporary suspense, while her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, pens historical suspense. No Accounting for Murder and There Was a Crooked Man, books 1 and 2 in her By the Numbers series, released in the fall of 2015 and Book 3, Unbalanced, released in January. Book 4, Five and Twenty Blackbirds, is due in April, with more planned for later dates. If you like accountants or are an accountant, check out Counting the Days: a 21-day devotional for accountants, bookkeepers, and financial folk. Leeann and Donna have penned a book on writing, Nuggets of Writing Gold, and Donna has published a book of short stories, Second Chances and Second Cups. You can follow Leeann at www.AllBettsAreOff.wordpress.com and Donna at www.HiStoryThruTheAges.wordpress.com . All books are available at Amazon.com in digital and print, and at Smashwords.com in digital.

***

Let’s talk about it: Even if you’re not a writer, Leeann has some very wise words here. When you’re writing or on social media, are you allowing others to meet and know the real you? How does the example God gave us in His Word guide you into being more authentic?Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Before you go, if you’re local, I’d love to invite you to join me at the Oakview Barnes &
Noble
 today from 1-4pm where I’ll be signing books. Pop by to say hi and grab a mocha at the store cafe!

If you live in Lincoln, I’ll be in your area next Saturday at the SouthPointe Barnes & Noble, signing books from 2-3pm. I’d love to see you there!

And if you’re within driving distance, I do hope you’ll join me at the Wordsowers Conference where I’ll be teaching how one can craft characters that grab hold of readers on a deeply emotional level.

An Answer to Prayers Not Spoken

Having an undiagnosed health issue can be scary. But God met Gail in a powerful–and healing–way. Read on…

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An Answer to Prayers Not Spoken
by Gail Pallotta

Puzzled, I peered at a big red spot on my leg then mentioned it to my husband.

“It will go away,” he said.

That was ten years ago. We were in Williamsburg, Virginia, on the trip we’d looked forward to for a year. I had a virus, but went anyway. In spite of the July heat we’d walked through the village. When I stayed awake that night shivering, overcome with weakness and nausea, I attributed it to the hot sun and the virus.

One month later, a flight to Los Angeles, California, proved me wrong. Too tired to stand when we got off the plane, while we waited for the car we’d rented, I sat on top of my woman-918981_1280suitcase. After we secured our vehicle and arrived at the hotel, I forced my feet to walk until I fell on the bed. But soon we left to eat.

At the restaurant I barely forced down a bite. After we finished, rather than go out and look around as we’d planned, we returned to the room so I could lie down. A few hours later, I developed severe indigestion. I prepared a cup of peppermint tea, took a sip, and started shaking uncontrollably. This went on all night.

The next morning we flew home, and I started an agonizing new journey. After having tests for a month, I had no diagnosis and was told nothing could be done. I left the doctor’s office and went home wondering whether or not I’d live. Stunned and exhausted, I couldn’t think, let alone pray, but God answered my unspoken prayers.

The last name of an alternative doctor I’d never met, but had heard of ten years earlier, popped in my head over and over, even when I tried to dismiss it. Finally, I contacted a friend for the doctor’s first name and phone number.

He turned out to be David Lee, D.C, Ph.D, C.Ad. He ran a scan, which showed my organs medical-563427_1280functioning at eight to fourteen percent and treated me immediately to start removing a toxic substance. Within a month or so, another scan revealed the bacteria for Chronic Lyme disease.

With the care of Dr. Lee and Raphael d’Angelo, M.D., a cohort recommended by Dr. Lee, I’ve overcome most of the problems created by this nasty malady. In my new book about the disease, Barely Above Water, the symptoms and therapies are real. The situation where the main character, Suzie, keeps hearing the doctor’s last name is based on my experience. However, the story and characters are fictitious.

***

BarelyAboveWater_ebook copyAn illness comes out of nowhere and strikes Suzie Morris. Her boyfriend dumps her. She has no living family, and her physician can’t diagnose the malady. Suzie relies on her Christian faith as she faces the uncertainty of the disease, and turns to a renowned alternative doctor in Destin, Florida. She takes a job coaching a county-sponsored summer swim team. She’s determined to turn the fun, sometimes comical, rag-tag bunch into winners. Her handsome boss renews her belief in love, but learns of her mysterious affliction and abruptly cuts romantic ties. Later he has regrets, but can he overcome his fear of losing a loved one and regain Suzie’s trust?

Find out more about Barely above Water at http://www.gailpallotta.com.

Pre-order Barely Above Water.

***

Portrait shot Gail PallottaAward-winning author Gail Pallotta is a wife, Mom, swimmer and bargain shopper who loves God, beach sunsets and getting together with friends and family. She’s published four books, including Barely Above Water, poems, short stories and several hundred articles. Some of her articles appear in anthologies while two are in museums. Visit Gail’s web site at http://www.gailpallotta.com and look for Barely above Water at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01DN2UTTS.

Let’s talk about this: Many people suffer from a chronic and/or undiagnosed illness. Have you had that experience? What has helped you to live with it? How has the Lord taught you during your experience? If you haven’t personally experienced an illness like this, do you know someone who has? How do you see them respond? Share your thoughts in the comments below. We can all learn from one another.

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.