Sunday, September 21, 2014

Author interview: Jennifer Slattery

Jennifer Slattery is a novelist who specializes in missional romance stories. New Hope Publishers recently released her debut novel Beyond I Do. Jennifer is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and is deeply immersed in the writer life. She has written many articles for Christian print media including Journey Magazine, Granola Bar Devotions, Bloom and Christian Fiction Online Magazine.

I was delighted to find out that in midst of her busy schedule, Jennifer had time to answer interview questions from me about her debut novel and life as a writer.

Read on for the interview (questions by Alexis in bold font, answers from Jennifer Slattery not in bold)...

Alexis: Why do you write women's fiction/contemporary romance? 

Jennifer: You know, I’ve never thought about it. I suppose it just comes naturally, though those genres are also what I enjoy reading. They say read what you write. That means write what you read, too, right? 

Describe the defining moment when you knew you needed to write a novel. 

I started writing novel-length fiction more for fun without really thinking of where God might take it. As time wore on, it became clear; writing was more than a hobby. It was a calling, and God wanted me to focus on it with seriousness, perseverance, and determination. So, I surrendered, and I haven’t looked back since. (Well, minus the occasional temper-tantrums I threw when I experienced rejection or set-backs).

You write “missional romance” novels. What does that term mean and what drew you into writing novels based on that concept? 

A missional romance is a story that has a strong romantic and outreach thread. So, for example, in my debut novel, my heroine feels called to serve in a local homeless shelter, though her fiancé, it appears, does not. This stems from my personal passion—outreach. I feel all believers have a ministry and a mission—a role in their local church and in expanding the kingdom. I also believe our roles are very unique to us. That God planned them long before we took our first breath. I love to encourage readers to discover and embrace their unique callings, and I hope my fiction stirs their desire to do just that.

Why did you choose to release your book through New Hope Publishers? Is it an imprint or traditional publisher? 

New Hope Publishers is a traditional publisher who is known for being gospel centered and mission driven. Connected with the Women’s Mission Union, they’re very involved in numerous evangelical and social justice issues around the globe, including abolition, helping to end generational poverty, and encouraging believers to live “on mission” in their homes, neighborhoods, and social spheres. The more I learned of their passion and focus, the more I realized they were a perfect fit for me and my stories.

What is your favorite part of the book publishing process and what is the most challenging aspect for you? 

Free writing! First drafts are by far my favorite, when I can lose myself in a fictional world without worrying too much about word count, dangling participles, or passive writing. My least favorite part is the final read-through stage because those normally come with a time crunch.

Why did you name your debut novel Beyond I Do?

My heroine in this novel is engaged to a man that appears to have the qualities necessary for a stable marriage. He’s successful, responsible, and intelligent. And yet, as her wedding draws near, an encounter with a woman, her child, and their abuser sparks a passion—one it seems her fiancé doesn’t share. She begins to prayerfully consider her marriage in light of her calling, one she’s just beginning to discover. In other words, she finds herself contemplating what life will look like after she says “I do”.

Give my readers a glimpse of the work that you put in behind-the-scenes to write and publish your book. Did you have a steady daily writing schedule? How much time did you spend writing this book? How did you feel when you finished the final chapter? 

I’m very blessed in that I can devote as much time as need, minus family commitments, to my writing, not having to work outside the home. My writing schedule changes day-to-day, though I try to devote my most creative hours to free-writing. That’s usually some time between 10:00 a.m and 3:00 p.m. This book took me about six months to write then maybe another six months to sift through my critique partners and make revisions. When I hit the end, both in my first draft and after final read-throughs, I celebrated with time off and a big ol’ tub of frozen yogurt.

What are your hopes for your debut novel? Do you want it to become a bestseller? 

Well, I wouldn’t be disappointed. (*grin*) I’ve prayed about this a lot, and too be honest, I really just want it to please God and to reveal His gentle, pursuing heart to a broken world.

Do you plan on writing more books? Why or why not? If you are working on a new book now, would you please give us a hint about the storyline? 

I’m actually working on big picture edits on my second novel at this moment, a book I believe will be released in January. It’s about a fifty-one year old realtor who’s displaced by a storm. Jacqueline Dunn has a strained relationship with her adult daughter. Using the storm as an opportunity to begin and again and reconnect with her daughter, she heads north to the small town of Willow Valley, where her daughter lives. While there, she encounters three children, also displaced by the storm, who are abandoned by their mother. And she meets a handsome widower who works for the local railroad. The two form a quick friendship. Maybe more. (*wink*)

Where do you get your inspiration for your creative fictional stories? Does your faith in God play a role? Please explain. 

Absolutely! I pray a lot before I write. Before and during every phase of the writing process, actually. And I can often see a direct correlation between my creativity and my spiritual health. If I skimp on spending time with God, it isn’t long before my creative juices dry up. But when I put Him first, taking regular time to connect with Him, it seems the ideas explode!

Are any of your characters in your debut novel anything like you? If yes, please explain why. 

I relate most to Ainsley Meadows, the heroine. She senses God calling her to two things: a singing career and serving in a local homeless ministry. But she’s hesitant because the call seems so illogical! Doesn’t everyone want to be a singer… or dancer… or writer? When they’re children, anyway. But then they grow up and pursue more “logical” careers. At least, I suspect those are the thoughts we all must face, when chasing a dream. Those were some of the things I wrestled with, when I first sensed God calling me to write.

What is the take home message of your debut novel? What do you want your readers to remember the most?

There’s two intertwined messages I hope my readers will glean from the story. One is based on my interpretation of Genesis 2:19 and the truth presented in Ephesians 2:10. In Genesis 2:19, God says, “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.’" (NLT). I believe we are much more effective in life and ministry when we have a partner, a helpmate who gets us and brings out the best in us, not so we can achieve the “American dream” but rather so we, together, can fulfill that which God created us to do.

This is where Ephesians 2:10 comes in. it says, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago” (NLT). This verse tells me God has a very special role for each one of, a job for us, one planned long before we took our first breath and one we were created perfectly for. I believe our greatest joy and fulfillment is found when we discover and pursue that which God created us to.

I hope my novel will encourage readers to view their marriage (or future marriage) from an eternal perspective, selecting spouses that share their calling and passions, and I hope they will work together as a team, focusing on things of eternal value.

Where can my readers buy your debut novel?

Pretty much anywhere, I believe, though I’ve been directing people to Christianbook.com as they seem to have the best price for the print and e-versions. You can find it here, http://bit.ly/1C0bMwq

Complete this sentence: As a writer, I always ________________ because_______________________.

As a writer, I always seek to maintain a heart of surrender because in the end, what we do in obedience to Christ is all that matters.

Alexis: Thank you for the interview! Is there a question you’d like for my readers to answer? If so, please type it now.

Jennifer: I do! Have you discovered your calling yet? If so, what are you doing today to pursue it? If you haven’t, how do you feel about my thoughts regarding Ephesians 2:10? What might God want to do with your unique gifts, talents, and passions?

~*~
Author bio:

Jennifer Slattery writes soul-stirring fiction for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. Her debut novel, Beyond I Do, is currently available in print and e-book format for under $10! You can find it here, http://amzn.to/1seONwq

Jennifer loves helping aspiring authors grow in their craft, and has editing slots open beginning in November. Find out more here, http://wordsthatkeep.wordpress.com/

Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud

Book details (
Summary of Jennifer's book Beyond I Do, released Sept. 2014): 

Will seeing beyond the present unite them or tear them apart?

Marriage . . . it’s more than a happily ever after. Eternally more.

Ainsley Meadows, raised by a hedonist mother, who cycles through jobs and relationships like wrapping paper on Christmas morning, falls into a predictable and safe relationship with Richard, a self-absorbed socialite psychiatrist. But as her wedding nears, a battered woman and her child spark a long-forgotten dream and ignite a hidden passion. One that threatens to change everything, including her fiancé. To embrace God’s best and find true love, this security-seeking bride must follow God with reckless abandon and realize that marriage goes Beyond I Do.

Read a free, 36-page excerpt here, http://issuu.com/newhopedigital/docs/beyond_i_do_sample?e=6362996/8842858

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Author interview: Elizabeth Maddrey

Today I am delighted to introduce you to Elizabeth Maddrey, an author whose stories not only reflect real-life but can inspire you to change your world for the better.

Elizabeth started writing as a child and loves to read! She resides in the nation's capital (Washington, D.C.) with her husband and two children. I want to thank Liz publicly for taking the time to answer my questions for this author interview featured on my blog today.

Now here's the exciting news: Elizabeth would like to give away two FREE copies of her book to two lucky winners. She has offered to sign the paperback copy of her book Hope Deferred and mail it to winner #1 and she has agreed to allow winner #2 to choose one of her e-books (Wisdom to Know, Courage to Change, Serenity to Accept, Joint Venture, Faith Departed, or Hope Deferred). The e-book will also be free of charge and sent via a Kindle copy. The winners will be selected in a drawing by me. 


Enter the book giveaway (to win your free book) by going to the comment section and answering Liz's question at the end of her interview. You have from today (Sept. 14) until Sept. 28 to leave a comment. Please include your e-mail address so if you're one of the winners, I can contact you in order for you to receive your free book from Elizabeth!

So without further ado, read my interview with Elizabeth below where you'll find questions asked by me (in bold font) and answers written by Elizabeth (not in bold). Enjoy!


~*~
Alexis: You’ve written a lot of books! How many have you published in total?

Elizabeth: All told, right now I have 5 full-length novels released and one novella. My 6th full-length novel is scheduled to release in December of this year.

Alexis: Did you self-publish or go the traditional route? If you went traditional, please share the story of how you got your agent and book deal. If you went indie, please explain how you moved from writing the book to publishing it and give my readers an idea of how much it cost to publish it.


Elizabeth: I kind of split the difference, honestly. I’m traditionally published, but with a small press. The major difference there is that my publisher will work with un-agented authors and so I’ve put the hunt for an agent on hold for the time being. I ended up choosing this route after about a year of agent hunting with rejection after rejection because they had concerns about the sale-ability of my stories.

Alexis: You write “Grace-Driven Fiction” as it says on your blog. Explain what that means for you as a writer and how you thought of that concept.

Elizabeth: This really ties into my desire to write about the struggles that plague the Christian life. I think sometimes we let ourselves fall into the trap of thinking that becoming a Christian means that we’re going to have smooth sailing from there on out – that we’ll be able to pray our way through any struggles and not really suffer. But real life isn’t like that. For me personally, I like to see that in the books I read – Christians who still mess up (sometimes even on purpose!) and need God’s grace day after day. So the idea of Grace-Driven Fiction came from that – my characters, especially my Christian characters, will always be people who still struggle with sin and all the ugliness that follows us around as we try to make our way and live for Christ in a fallen world.

Alexis: Tell my readers about your Remnants book series. What is the focus and message?

Elizabeth: The Remnants series (Faith Departed, Hope Deferred, and my December release Love Defined) is the story of twin sisters June and July (pronounced Julie) and their respective husbands as they try to start a family and instead of the easy process that we tend to expect, run face-first into infertility. The thirteen years my husband and I tried to start a family opened my eyes to how awful it is to be a Christian who’s infertile. More often than not, you get a pat on the back and a reminder that you need to surrender to God’s will. And while, sure, that’s a true sentiment, it’s not helpful when you’re at the bottom of the dark, angry pit infertility helps you dig. It’s my prayer that reading about June and July will help people who haven’t been through infertility understand just how deeply it can shake your faith and all your relationships, and for those who have experienced infertility, I hope it helps them understand that they’re not alone and it’s okay to struggle and wrestle with God when you’re hurting.

Alexis: Tell my readers about your Grant Us Grace novels. When and why did you start writing that line and how much time did you spend on it?

Elizabeth: The Grant Us Grace novels are all contemporary romances. Wisdom to Know is the story of Lydia and Kevin. Lydia is a pastor’s daughter who makes some bad choices (including an abortion) and has to fight her way back through the consequences of those choices to renewed faith in God. Kevin has been in love with Lydia since high school – but when he discovers her choices, he struggles to reconcile what he feels is God’s call for them to marry and his perceived betrayal.

Courage to Change is the story of Allison (a secondary character in Wisdom to Know) and Phil – two attorneys who are helping an unwed pregnant teen. Phil is still grappling with having been divorced by his wife after he found Jesus and Allison struggles with loving someone who isn’t the ideal she’d expected God to bring her.

Serenity to Accept is the story of Karin (a secondary character in Courage to Change) and Jason. Jason, an ER doctor, is struggling with guilt over his inability to save his father’s life while Karin wants nothing to do with God after the sexual abuse she suffered as a young girl. Though Jason knows better than to become romantically involved with a non-believer, he’s drawn to Karin.

My novella, Joint Venture, is sort of a prequel to the main series. It’s the story of Matt and Laura, who are a married couple already in Wisdom to Know. But I fell in love with them when I was writing about Lydia and Kevin and knew they needed a chance in the spotlight.

I wrote Wisdom to Know as a NaNoWriMo project in 2009. I worked on it for two years before finally getting it to a point where I hoped it was publishable. After contracting for it, I wrote Courage to Change, and Serenity to Accept in about six weeks each (for the first draft – then lots of editing.) I wanted the series to touch on issues that are often swept under the rug, like the fact that Christians do still choose to abort babies and that there is healing from abortion available through Christ, teen pregnancy and its prevalence even in the church, divorce, and dating non-believers – but I still wanted a good, clean romance to tie it all together.

Alexis: You say your books are about Christians who “aren’t perfect” and need God’s grace which I’d say pretty much sums up real-life for us all. Why did you decide these were concepts you needed to create in fictional stories?

Elizabeth: It mostly came out of the kind of book I like to read. I read a lot, and the books I love most are ones where I can identify with the characters and feel like, yep, that could be me. But I also like books that challenge me and leave me thinking. This isn’t to say I can’t enjoy a “simple and fun read” – but it’s not what I crave. Consequently, though, I read a lot of secular fiction because I just don’t see a ton of Christian fiction that speaks to the hurting in our pews. I wanted readers to know that they weren’t alone, and they weren’t failing because they didn’t have the perfect lives we see so often in fiction where a quick prayer suddenly makes everything clear and better. Living for Christ is hard and it’s messy and we don’t do it perfectly the first time, and I think the characters in our books should reflect that reality.

Alexis: Do you have a Bible verse that you would say is the theme of your life or most dear to your heart? If yes, please share and explain why.

Elizabeth: I’ve always loved Romans 8:38-39 “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

It’s such a wonderful promise – God loves us, no matter what. Even when it doesn’t feel like He’s walking with you, He is. Even when you’re making bad choices and reaping the whirlwind they cause, He’s with you and He loves you.

Alexis: How does your faith in God as a Christian play into your characters and storylines?

Elizabeth: It oozes into almost every word. I want my characters and storylines to always represent what it means to live as a Christian in today’s world. It’s not always pretty or easy, but it’s always full of God’s love and grace. Without that in my own life, I would be nothing – so there’s no way to leave that out of my books.

Alexis: Do you write for a living or do you have another job with a salary and benefits? If yes, where do you work and how do you find time to write stories? What advice do you have for people who want to write full-time and make a living by their pen?

Elizabeth: Neither. I’m at home with my two amazing kids full-time. So in addition to homeschooling and writing, I spend my days driving Hot Wheels, setting up tea parties with Army men (it’s my compromise – both boys love their Army men, but I get tired of everything being a battle, so when I play, they have tea parties before they go shoot things), trying to dig out from under the incessant pile of laundry upstairs, and wondering why I bother mopping the kitchen floor. That said, regardless of how your days get occupied – my advice is really the same: If you want to write, write. You have to make time for the words to hit the screen. Maybe you give up your lunch break or your favorite TV show – if it’s important to you, you’ll find a way to make it happen.

Alexis: Give my readers a glimpse into your personal life. Where do you and your family reside? What’s your favorite part of being at home with your husband and children? Do you want your children to grow up to be a writer like you? Why or why not?

Elizabeth: We live in the Washington D.C. suburbs in one of the many sprawling bedroom communities that cluster around the Nation’s Capital, feeding a mass of cars into and out of the city each day. My favorite part of being home with the family is hanging out together either reading or playing Xbox or a board game together….Mostly I want my kids to grow up and do what God calls them to do. If it’s writing, then they should write. If it’s fixing cars, they should fix cars. If it’s program computers, then program computers. Whatever they end up doing, I hope that we will have raised them to work hard at it, give their all, and do it all to the glory of God. I can’t ask for more than that.

Alexis: Complete this sentence: As a writer, I always _______________ because _____________________.

Elizabeth: As a writer, I always cringe when I send off a book to my editor because I’m never convinced it’s as good as it should be.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview Liz! If there’s a question you’d like my readers to answer for you, please type it here.

Elizabeth asks the readers of God is Love blog, "Who’s your favorite hero from a classic novel?"

~*~
Author bio: 
Elizabeth Maddrey began writing stories as soon as she could form the letters properly and has never looked back. Though her practical nature and love of math and organization steered her into computer science for college and graduate school, she has always had one or more stories in progress to occupy her free time. When she isn’t writing, Elizabeth is a voracious consumer of books and has mastered the art of reading while undertaking just about any other activity. She loves to write about Christians who struggle through their lives, dealing with sin and receiving God’s grace.

Elizabeth lives in the suburbs of Washington D.C. with her husband and their two incredibly active little boys. She invites you to interact with her at her website www.ElizabethMaddrey.com or on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ElizabethMaddrey

Connect with Elizabeth via Social Media:

Twitter: @elizabethmaddre

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+ElizabethMaddrey/posts

Monday, September 1, 2014

Guest post by Diane Samson on LOVE

Today's guest blogger is Diane Samson. She is a family-oriented woman with a passion for coffee and connection. Diane is skilled at connecting with people as she honestly, openly and very creatively shares her heart with the world through her website and blog. I believe in the power of a good story so today, I invited Diane to share one of her personal stories in devotional form. I hope you will enjoy reading it and will be encouraged by the message! 

~*~

Can I Love When I’ve Been Hurt?
A guest post by Diane Samson


Only in love.
In my post, Work Less in Relationships, I wrote about my tendency to seek fulfillment in relationships, instead of God. When I make those choices, God is wooing me and calling me unto Himself, not once letting me go. But the fear keeps me in the cycle of condemnation. My failure in relationships or my perception, leads me to feel like a failure and I’m not good enough.

As I mentioned I am reading a book The Cure For The Perfect Life: 12 Steps to Stop Trying Harder and Start Living Braver. In chapter 6, “Love,” Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory write…

“Love is at the heart of Braver Living.”

It’s only in love we can find redemption.

It’s only in love that we can find freedom.

It’s only in love that we can be free from fear. 
“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” (1 John 4:18 NLT)

When I am exhibiting signs of fear, I am not experiencing God’s love to the fullest. I am letting fear get in the way of God’s love for me.

When I experience fear in my relationships and in my inadequacies, my shortcomings keep getting in the way. I am holding back and not letting God give me all that He has to offer.

To turn on the light bulb, I need to move the switch. The power is enabled and I have full access to it. All I need to do is walk over to it, move my fingers and flip it on. But I can’t. My focus is on all the negative things that might happen if I walk over to the other side of the room. I’m not sure what I will encounter on the floor. On the walls. In the unknown.

But the light needs to go on. Otherwise I can’t see. I can’t take advantage of the light in the room provided for my well-being.

God’s love is for everyone.
God’s love is available for any of us. We often don’t take His love. Or we take bits and pieces of it. Instead of taking the light for ourselves, we take a part of it or the shadow of someone else’s light. We can take God’s love for ourselves. He has offered His love to us when He sent His son to die for us and has been offering it to us ever since.

I offer love to my child and package it on a silver platter. But she won’t take it. She is letting her fear of trusting me, past hurts and past baggage to get in the way. If she would put it behind her, she could receive my love, freely and fully.

God wants to give us His full, complete love. And His love is perfect! Without fail.

In my relationships, and any of us in the cycle of trying harder, and trying to be better, we can chose to fully experience God’s love.

We can love ourselves and love each other because of God’s Word. We are worth His love because He said so! You are worth His love because He says it in the Bible.

“For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will—to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us.” (Ephesians 1:4-8 NIV)

“In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” (Ephesians 4:12 NIV))

Confidence in Christ…in His perfect love.
We can proclaim confidence in Christ because He told us we could. We can approach relationships in confidence and freedom. There is no need for us to sneak away in shame. Shame is what the devil gives us and wants us to cling to. We have the privilege and right to claim God’s love for us. For. Me.

Beloved, dear one, move forward boldly and with confidence. Give up your fears and the control they have over you. Choose freedom, not bondage. Live today. In freedom. In His love. In His perfect love.

When I have been hurt, I feel bad. I feel the pain. I admit my feelings to God. I admit my anger. I admit it’s hard for me to trust. I admit I want to stay exactly where I am. Pray to God. Yell to Him. Cry it out to Him. Give it all to Him.

I have. Many times. The hurt isn’t exactly gone. The injustice has been committed. I’m still hurt. But I’m free now to move on. I don’t have to carry the hurt, especially alone.

And then I’m free to love again. Freely. Without strings. God gives me the peace to move on. I can then risk again, step out, and love. If I’m still holding onto all those past hurts, I am unable to love, as Jesus would want me to.

“Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:39 NIV)

Take His love and give it away.

Live a life of freedom today. Step out and choose to love today. Choose one act of living bravely today. Who can use your special touch of love today? Who can benefit from your love because Christ first loved you? Take it and give it away. Today. And then see what happens. Those past hurts don’t look so bad after all.

Yes, you can love if you’ve been hurt.

Make a comment to my posts for the next few weeks and I will add your name to a drawing to win The Cure for The Perfect Life. If you sign up for my newsletter and blog posts, I will add your name twice for every comment. In my September newsletter I will announce the end date. Make sure you sign up by August 31.

You can usually find me at my site, where I blog and share my journey at:
wings for your dreams

Visit my website: dianesamson.com

Connect on: Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Google+

~*~
Author Bio: 
Diane is the mom of two adult children and two teenage boys, one in high school and a newly college student. She is often called Nana to three grandchildren. She also manages her busy household with a world traveler pilot husband. While you can find her blogging in North Idaho, she enjoys her work at Open Arms Pregnancy Center, leading women in the Word of God and playing Mah Jongg. Diane is getting ready to publish articles and is starting a new writing endeavor. Join her for a cup of coffee and you have a friend for life!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Author interview: Davalynn Spencer

Last week, I interviewed Melissa Tagg about her life as a former newspaper reporter turned novelist. This week, I’d like to introduce you to another former journalist who is now a successful author and speaker. Davalynn Spencer is her name and she has a wealth of wisdom and creative words to share with you in this interview feature on my blog today. So read on and enjoy!

Alexis: You are a former journalist! Tell me about your journey from the newsroom to becoming a novelist.

Davalynn: I started writing by telling the stories of people’s lives. When my husband was rodeoing full time, our children and I traveled with him across the United States, and I wrote feature stories and interviews for the Prorodeo Sports News, the trade paper for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. I also wrote for Western Horseman, American Cowboy, The Upper Room, Christian Standard, Power for Living, and The Line Rider which I edited for the Fellowship of Christian Cowboys, Inc. while my husband worked as the president and general manager of the nonprofit organization. All this led to my employment as a crime-beat reporter for the local newspaper. Funny how those things work out. Yet through all the years of writing, my goal was to be a novelist. I decided one day that it was time to pursue that dream so I did. Attended writers’ conferences, met with agents, followed agent/editor/author blogs, signed with Linda S. Glaz of Hartline Literary, honed my craft, and wrote novellas and novels.

Now that you’re a novelist, what genre do you write? Do you specialize in novels or novellas?

I write inspirational romance, both historical and contemporary, because I’m interested in relationships and happy endings. Everything isn’t pretty or perfect in my stories, but when a romance reader picks up a book, he or she knows that the situation will eventually work out. It’s the process of getting there—through the gunk—that makes the journey exciting and the ending worthwhile. I write both novellas and novels.

Is all of your work as a novelist fictional? Why or why not?

All novels are fictional, but they are woven together with threads of truth. There is a bit of myself in all of my stories, especially the contemporary books. Though it sounds ridiculously obvious to say, the human condition is universal. People everywhere experience the same emotions of anger, jealously, sorrow, pity, joy, love. Circumstances are different, but the emotions are the same and they are very real.

Where do you get the inspiration for your creative stories?

Sometimes a situation in my own life will spark a story. Or a location; setting is important to me. I wrote a novella based on a woman I saw sitting in her car in a parking lot talking on her cell phone. The story has nothing to do with a woman on a cell phone, but it was the germ to which my imagination attached. News stories also prompt ideas. And actual events in close friends’ lives that I have to “adjust” because readers would not consider the tales plausible otherwise. Truth really is stranger than fiction.

What would you say were the unique challenges of switching your writing style from print journalism articles to creative fiction stories?

One challenge is finding your writer’s voice. Journalistic writing has a distinct tone. But even as a journalist, I’ve always leaned toward feature writing which is warmer, less cut-and-dry. I prefer the “story” feel, and that may be what has helped me transition from reporter to author.

Melissa Tagg and Stacy Hawkins Adams who are now successful Christian fiction authors, used to be journalists too! What would you say to journalists who dream of making the jump from being in the newsroom to becoming a novelist like you?

I found encouragement from Mark Twain who was first a journalist and then a novelist, and so I would point those journalists to him and others like Tagg and Hawkins and many more—surprisingly many. But I would also share the words I read every day on a poster above my desk: “No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and fight for your dreams.” Learn the craft, don’t give up, and get used to using the serial comma. (They’ll know what I mean.)

How has your relationship with God helped your writing career?

One day I read the story in II Kings 4 about the widow and her jar of oil. She basically had nothing but the capacity to obey. When she chose to do so, miracles poured out. As I read, I related to her situation because I wanted desperately to write, yet at the same time, I was afraid I’d run out of things to say. The Lord impressed upon my heart that, like the widow, if I continued to pour it out, He would pour it in. Obedience is an act of faith. I have to trust Him to provide.

I have nothing of any value or worth apart from God. Jesus has walked with me through every valley, fire, and torrent and over every mountain, hillock, and verdant meadow. The one thing in my life that has been constant and true is His presence and faithfulness.

How has your award-winning work as a journalist played into your fictional stories?

Those many awards were confirmation that I was headed in the right direction at the time. A couple from which I took a great deal of encouragement were first-place awards from the Colorado Associated Press: the story of a police negotiator who caught a woman mid-air as she jumped from a ledge near the Royal Gorge, and the story of how the Columbine School tragedy affected our local high school students. Recently placing second in the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Awards with my contemporary romance, The Rancher’s Second Chance (Heartsong) has had the same effect: encouragement that I’m headed in the right direction.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?

On my website, readers will see the phrase “faith and fresh hope.” My goal is to write a story that brings faith and fresh hope into a reader’s life. Nothing beats hearing from someone who was comforted/encouraged/inspired by one of my stories, or who related to one of my characters so much that they want to read more about that individual and his or her life.

Did you always know you’d grow up to be a professional writer? Share the story of how and when you knew “This is it!”

I have written stories all my life, whether in my journal that no one else ever read, or for a newspaper, or as novels. There have been many moments of feeling that I’ve made it home at last. However, the journey never ends. There is always more to learn, more to experience, and more to write.

What is your favorite topic to write about as a novelist? Why?

I’m partial to cowboys and the western way of life, whether present day or historical. If I could, I would go back and live in the 1800s. It was hard, sometimes even brutal. But life was simpler, not as noisy. I like that.

Are you traditionally published? Do you have an agent? If yes, please share the name of who represents your work and share the story of how that happened.

My agent is Linda S. Glaz of Hartline Literary. I connected with her via the agency owner, Joyce Hart, whom I met through a webinar in 2010. Joyce liked my writing and gave my name to Linda. My first novella was published by Pelican Books, my four novels are published by Harlequin’s Love Inspired | Heartsong Presents, and I have two novellas in two Barbour collections, one releasing this November, Christmas Wedding Bell Brides, and one coming out summer 2015.

Are you married? Do you have children? Give my readers a glimpse into your personal life.

When a certain handsome, dark-eyed cowboy walked into church one Sunday morning, I knew my hopes of getting past him unscathed were slim to none. I’m so glad. Today we have three children, four grandchildren and a Queensland heeler named Blue.

You call Colorado home. What do you love about living there?

We live on the Front Range, on the lip of the mountains – there’s a word picture for you. It’s like straddling two worlds: the present and the past. Within a few miles of our home, I can be up in the parks (cow country) walking through an old square-log cabin on a homestead, leaning in close to pictographs left on rock face by early Native Americans, or waiting at a red light in town. And there’s nothing quite like watching a massive storm roll in off the plains and slam up against the mountains only to dump lightning and rain and then clear out leaving brilliant blue sky behind.

How do you spend your free time? What are your hobbies?


I love to read, to move into the story worlds of other authors. I also play the piano and guitar and only recently stepped down from playing on our church’s worship team. Walking is a favorite pastime as well.

You’re also a speaker. What topics do you cover and what’s your main message?

My messages all focus on one key idea: God is faithful. Sounds trite, but it’s true. The fun part comes in sharing the stories of how I know He’s faithful. One of my favorite topics is “Sometimes Life’s a Rodeo.” Everyone can relate, because who hasn’t found themselves face down in the dirt wondering what just ran over them?

What is your favorite Bible verse? Why?

That’s almost like asking me which child is my favorite! I have many favorites, depending upon what’s happening around and within me at the moment, but one I return to as a life verse is Psalm 16:8 – I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken (NIV). Several years ago I published a book of thirty devotions for women titled Always Before Me. The devotional thoughts are stories from my life and have often served as the basis for speaking topics. Who but the Lord can be both ahead of us, leading us, and beside us, comforting us at the same time? He has it all covered.

What do you want your legacy to be?

I want my legacy to be that when I’m pushed up against the wall, Jesus comes out through the cracks in my life.

Thank you for the interview, Davalynn! Do you have a question for my readers you’d like answers to in the comment section? If you do please share! It’s been a joy hosting you on my blog! God bless you!

I’d like to ask readers how important the story’s setting is to them as they read.

~ End of interview ~

Author bio: 

Wife and mother of professional rodeo bullfighters, Davalynn Spencer began her writing journey in the national rodeo market and as a newspaper journalist, winning awards in both arenas. Today she continues to win acclaim with her inspirational western romance placing second in the 2014 Inspirational Reader’s Choice Awards, and finaling for the Selah Award and the Holt Medallion. Davalynn teaches writing at Pueblo Community College, and with her handsome cowboy has three children and four grandchildren. They make their home on Colorado’s Front Range with a Queensland heeler named Blue.

Connect with Davalynn online at www.davalynnspencer.com, www.Facebook.com/AuthorDavalynnSpencer and follow her on Twitter @davalynnspencer and become her fan and/or friend on Goodreads.

Davalynn’s books can be found:

On her website and blog, www.davalynnspencer.com

Amazon's Davalynn Spencer page, http://amzn.to/1nqzskB

Christianbook.com (http://bit.ly/1nbYdRw)


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Author interview: Melissa Tagg

Today I have the blessing of being able to share a guest post with you in the form an interview with one of my favorite new authors! Melissa Tagg is her name and I instantly connected with her life story because she too has worked for a newspaper as a reporter and is now following her creative dreams as a novelist! So as you may guess, I was so happy to learn that Melissa had time to answer my questions about her career, life experience and faith in God.

Read my interview with Melissa here:

Welcome to my blog, Melissa! Thank you for taking time to answer my questions about your career and faith in God. Let's begin the interview...

When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Share the story.

I honestly can’t remember ever not wanting to be a writer. I started reading at a young age and I’m pretty certain the second I realized books were written by people, I decided to become one of those people. I did go through phases of wanting to be a teacher, a lawyer, and most notably, a rock star (I am still convinced I would make an awesome addition to the band Needtobreathe), but I’ve always wanted to write.

Would you say your life thus far has turned out exactly as you planned? Why or why not?

Oh, I wouldn’t say exactly as planned. In fact, I think the older I get, the more I realize life is at its best when it’s really not going as I’ve planned. It seems like every time I say I’ll never do something, I end up doing it and it ends up being awesome. Which convinces me God has a pretty great sense of humor.

Probably one of the most surprising things about my life has been my publishing journey. God opened doors I never would’ve expected—which is a great reminder to me that he’s always working behind the scenes, even when I can’t see it.

Do you consider yourself a Christian? If yes, how does your faith in God play a role in your everyday life, especially your creative career?

Yes, I definitely consider myself a Christian and that can’t help but play a role in my everyday life and my writing. My faith is the lens through which I see life—it’s definitely not always a clear lens. Things get blurry. I get as confused or tripped up as anyone. But I can’t help but filter life and thoughts and plans and stories through that lens.

When it comes to writing, specifically, I don’t tend to start out with a faith message or firm spiritual takeaway in my stories. In other words, I don’t say, “I’m going to write a story about forgiveness” and then proceed to come up with characters and plot. Instead, I usually start out with characters and a hook…and I start them on a journey. I always think I know where that journey is going and it always ends up somewhere different. And the spiritual takeaway emerges from the story, usually in bits and pieces.

To me, that’s pretty comparable to my everyday life. Yeah, sometimes we have these big spiritual highs or great experiences where some huge truth falls into place. But more often than not, for me, faith is made up of little moments, whispers and nudges from God rather than shouts and pushes.

Where did you grow up?


In a little town called Webster City in Iowa.

What college did you attend and what degree did you receive?

I attended Northwestern College in Iowa, a private, Christian liberal arts college, and received a bachelor’s degree in Writing & Rhetoric.

What was your first job and where was it?
My first post-college job was as a reporter at the Sioux Center News in Northwest Iowa.

How did you get into journalism? What was your life as a reporter like?

Remember above where I said I usually end up doing the things I said I’d never do? I remember sooooo clearly in college saying I never wanted to be a small-town reporter. And of course, right after college, I ended up as a small-town reporter. A college professor recommended me for the job.

And I ended up loving it! I’m convinced small-town reporting is the best job ever for an aspiring novelist because of the variety of experiences you get. I got to do everything from interviewing almost every candidate in the 2008 presidential election to flying a plane to riding in a hot air balloon to interviews in barns surrounded by llamas, cows, horses, etc. I once walked into a shed looking for the cowboy I was supposed to be interviewing and instead ended up face to face with a buffalo.

So my life as a reporter? Sure, it included some less than thrilling moments—like covering school board meetings (I’m so well acquainted with Robert’s Rules of Order, it’s not even funny)—but it included a LOT of cool moments.

Do you miss the newsroom?

I do. I have a great day job now, working as a grant writer and communications coordinator for a wonderful nonprofit—and that’s rewarding work. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say I miss the variety and all the people I got to meet while reporting.

Why and how did you make the transition from journalist to novelist?

Well, I actually first made the transition from journalist to my current day job. And in my new job, I did a lot less writing during the day. I was also in a new town where I knew pretty much no one. I missed writing and I realized this was the perfect time to start pursuing my writing dream for real.

What is your favorite feature of being a novelist?


Finishing a book. LOL! But seriously, I love writing The End. I also weirdly love revisions. I like taking a messy first (or second or third) draft and turning it into something pretty. And I really love hearing from readers!

Where do you get the inspiration for your characters?

Oh, all over the place. I can’t say I’ve ever specifically based a character on a family member or friend, but traits of people I know definitely show up in characters. My main characters tend to reflect pieces of me, for sure. And classic movie characters tend to inspire me as well.

How do you plot your stories? Give my readers insight into your creative process.

I use Susan May Warren’s My Book Therapy (MBT) methods to plot. I usually start with a hook. In Made to Last, the hook was a homebuilding TV show host who has to pretend to be married—everything else grew from that. In Here to Stay, my hook was a prodigal son finally returning home and a heroine who’s desperate to finally leave.

I like to start knowing what my hero and heroine’s goal or noble quest is. Then I start fleshing out the characters. What are their greatest dreams and greatest fears, what dark moment in their past shaped who they are today, what lie do they believe—this is all MBT terminology. And for me, it’s the absolute best way to go about shaping a story.

From there, I decide what the inciting incident is, what my characters’ big goals are and what obstacles are standing in their way.

I used to plot out each scene in great detail. And I still do create a plot spreadsheet—but I’m learning more and more to hold that plot with a loose grip, to let the characters and story do their thing.

How do you think of names for your characters?

Unlike many authors, I’m not too hard core on picking out names. I don’t get baby name books or look up meanings or that kind of thing. Honestly, the names just tend to come out when I’m writing.

What can you tell my readers about your next book project? When will it be released?

Next spring I have a novella releasing called Three Little Words. It’s a bridge between Here to Stay, my last book, and From the Start, my third novel. From the Start releases in April 2015 and kicks off my new series, The Walker Family series. I’m really excited about it!

What is the most challenging aspect of being a creative professional?

The most challenging aspect is definitely juggling my writing with my day job with my family/friends/social life. That’s really hard for me and it’s something that has tripped me up quite a bit this year, actually. I’m still learning how to balance, that’s for sure.

What is the most rewarding aspect of being a creative professional?

I think the most rewarding thing is simply the joy of telling stories—and knowing those stories have the potential to entertain, encourage, maybe even inspire readers. I know how stories impact me as a reader. I hope the stories I tell have that same impact on others. Plus, I feel like I’m doing what God made me to do—and that’s a good feeling.

Did you go through a “starving artist” phase? If so, tell me about it and share how you emerged.

I didn’t really go through that phase simply because I’ve always had a day job in addition to writing. I have had thoughts of quitting my day job and focusing solely on writing, but the time hasn’t been right for that yet.

How do you make ends meet? Do you have other work or are you making a sufficient living as a novelist?

Yep, I have a full-time day job—so any income from my writing is supplementary at this point. Very few novelists are actually able to live on the money they make from writing. Many supplement advances and royalty checks with other freelance writing or, like me, have another job altogether.

I do love the idea of writing full-time, but I also love being able to pay all my bills and have health insurance and all that. LOL! Plus, with writing income as supplementary, it frees me up financially to do things I might not be able to do if I was the proverbial starving artist. I can travel and go to writing conferences, etc.

What advice do you have to aspiring creative professionals?

Definitely, definitely, definitely find a writing community. For me, that has been MBT and ACFW. Also, I suggest finding a craft partner or group—these don’t have to be people who critique your work so much as people who hold you accountable, support your goals and pray with you.

Embrace revisions! Drafting a book can be fun and exciting, but for me, it’s the rewriting process where the real magic happens. Whoever said writing is rewriting had it spot-on.

Finally, pray and trust God to open doors at the right time. Which sounds simple, but I’m convinced it’s the best thing we can do.

Your creative dreams have come true. Is there any other dream you hope will come true for you?

I’m still holding out for that rock star dream.

But seriously, I have a lot of other dreams—and weirdly, they tend to conflict with each other. Sometimes I dream of getting married and having kids and settling down. Other times all I want is to travel and speak and go off and live somewhere exciting. I have no idea which of these things God has for me. So I think maybe my biggest dream, at this point, is to be cool with whatever He does have for me…to take each day as it comes…and to stay open to anything.

Complete this sentence: At the end of the day, I am ________________ because _______________.

At the end of the day, I am grateful because God’s got this…all of it.

Thanks for the interview, Melissa! Is there a question you’d like my readers to answer? If so, please write it here so my readers can address it in the comment section.


I love hearing about other people’s dreams. So my question for readers is, What dream of yours has come true and what dream are you working toward?


~*
Author bio: Melissa Tagg, author of Made to Last and Here to Stay, is a former reporter and total Iowa girl. In addition to her homeless ministry day job, she is also the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy, a craft and coaching community for writers. When she’s not writing, she can be found hanging out with the coolest family ever, watching old movies, and daydreaming about her next book. She’s passionate about humor, grace, and happy endings. Melissa blogs regularly and loves connecting with readers at www.melissatagg.com.

Notes from Melissa: 

My books are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, other online retailers and at bookstores near you.

My social media links:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorMelissaTagg

Twitter: @Melissa_Tagg

Instagram: melissatagg

Google+: +MelissaTagg

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/MelissaTagg

Thursday, August 7, 2014

My reflections on the movie God's Not Dead

Dearest of hearts,

Today, I watched a movie that renewed my outlook on life. A movie that encouraged me, inspired me and made me smile. It's a movie with several deep subplots connected to the main story which is about college philosophy Professor Radisson's curriculum which starts with the professor keeping his tradition of bullying his students on the first day of class into believing his primary profession which is"God is dead." But this time, Professor Radisson's proclamation against God is challenged by his new student Josh Wheaton who is a Christian and believes God exists. The writers of this movie dig deep and I found it interesting to know that this movie was based on a true story! 

So without much further ado, here are my reflections shared through three major highlights in the movie, God's Not Dead ...

Pivotal scene #1: Marc Shelley, a self-absorbed yet very successful business man visits his mom in the hospital
Marc says to his Mom: I don't even know what I'm doing here. I mean it's not like you even know who I am. You prayed and believed your whole life, never done anything wrong, and here you are you're the nicest person I know; I'm the meanest; you have dementia; my life is perfect. Explain that to me.

Mom: Sometimes the devil allows people to live a life free of trouble because he doesn't want them turning to God. Sin is like a jail cell except it's all nice and comfy and there doesn't seem to be any need to leave and the door is wide open until one day, time runs out. The cell door slams shut and suddenly it's too late.

--
Pivotal scene #2: Reporter Amy Ryan storms past security with her media pass, into backstage area of Newsboys concert for an unscripted interview

Amy: So in a few minutes you guys are going to go out there and you're going to sing about God and Jesus as if they're as real as you and me. How can you do that?

Newsboys (taking turns): Well to us, they are as real. As a matter of fact, even more so. I mean, we exist in the here and now; they've existed forever, think about that. Yeah, you know in the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God and the Word was God.

Amy laughs abruptly and says: So I see! So when you're pressed, you quote a bunch of ancient scribblings and say, "Don't worry, it's all in there."

Newsboys (taking turns): Well they may be ancient but they're not scribblings. I mean, we believe God gave us an instruction manual and it's where we draw our strength and it's where we find our hope. So where do you find your hope?

Amy: I'm dying.

Newsboys drummer: Hey Amy, you're not here to trash us, are you? I think that's what you might have done but I think you're here kind of wondering, kind of hoping that this stuff is for real, aren't you?

Amy: How do you know that?

Newsboys drummer: Well I just felt that's what God was saying and just wanted you to know.

--

SPOILER ALERT! The following dialogue from this scene may or may not give away part of the movie's ending...


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Pivotal Scene #3: Professor Radisson hit by a car while walking to the Newsboys concert at night, in the rain. Reverend Jude and Reverend Dave see the accident happen and leave their car, rushing to help Prof. Radisson

Reverend Jude takes a look at Prof. Radisson and tells Reverend Dave: His ribs are crushed. His lungs are filling with blood.

Reverend Dave asks Reverend Jude: Are you sure?

Reverend Jude: Yeah

Professor Radisson: I can't die. I'm not ready.

Reverend Dave: Do you know Jesus?

Professor Radisson: I'm an atheist.

Reverend Dave: I believe it's God's mercy that brought me here right now.

Professor Radisson: I'm dying! How could you call that mercy?

Reverend Dave: because that car could have killed you instantly and I'm sure right now you probably wish it did but I'm here to tell you that it's a gift. The God you don't believe in has given you another chance, another chance to change your final answer.

~*~

There's really not much more I can say without spoiling the entire movie. So if you have not seen it yet, please go check it out! It's a new release (2014) and it's available on Amazon.com and perhaps your television service provider carries it in the movie rental section. 


It is a truly beautiful, well done movie with a message that's hard-hitting yet incredibly uplifting! I believe this movie reaches out to everyone--atheists, Christians, Muslims and other people of faith--and touches their heart in a way that makes them think about what they believe (or do not believe). God's Not Dead is a movie that I can see impacting generations of today and tomorrow.

So if you're looking for a movie that will hit the spot, watch God's Not Dead and be inspired! :)

God bless you!

Love,

Alexis

P.S._ Here's the theme song/official music video for the movie: