Sunday, December 21, 2014

Author interview: Sally Bradley

Gutsy and fast-paced, Kept sweeps the reader in and doesn’t let go until the final, riveting page. With keen insight into human nature and the tangled relationships of our times, author and pastor’s wife Sally Bradley explores romance against the backdrop of God’s infinite, redeeming grace.~Laura Frantz, author of Love’s Reckoning

Vibrant characters, compelling questions, modern-day issues… Kept is a contemporary Christian classic along the lines of Redeeming Love. Impossible to put down, this story pulls us into the heart of Chicago and shows us how God’s hand can work, even when we repeatedly make the wrong choices. Sally Bradley’s voice is gripping and clear, and her debut is a shining beacon of how very relevant Christian fiction can be.~Heather Day Gilbert, author of God’s Daughter (Amazon Norse bestseller) and Miranda Warning

At the intersection of immorality and redemption, Sally Bradley’s Kept will redefine contemporary Christian romance. Rife with engaging characters, powerful storytelling, and authentic emotion, this romance will challenge how we view the fallen and reaffirm the swoon-worthiest men are those whose deepest passion is for Christ.~Nancy Kimball, award-winning author of Chasing the Lion


All of the above and more is what people are saying about Sally Bradley's debut book, Kept.

Today, I am happy to host this new author and experienced freelance editor on my blog! But first a little back story: I know firsthand the value and expertise of Sally Bradley as a freelance fiction editor because she edited my first book! Hope in My Heart: A Collection of Heartwarming Stories would not have been the same stellar story if it was not for Sally's substantive/content edit which made me take a second look at my work and fine tune it to make it shine. So I am especially grateful for Sally's talent and keen eye for improving stories while not losing the author's creative voice and I am not at all surprised that Sally's first book Kept is already on the fast track to becoming a best seller.

I hope you will enjoy what Sally has to say today in her author interview and if you haven't already, I encourage you to buy her book. It could be your Christmas present to you and from you! :)

Without further ado, here's Sally's author interview (questions from Alexis in bold, answers by Sally not in bold)...

~*~
Alexis: Your book Kept is a keeper, a beautifully woven story of redemption, God’s grace and His perfect love. Why did you write this novel?


Sally: Thanks for the kind words, Alexis! I’d been meeting more and more women who’d come out of partying, promiscuous pasts and become Christians. Some of them still struggled with guilt over what they’d done. All of them dealt with keeping the details a secret because if people at church found out... what would happen? How would their friends look at them? How would people perceive them? Treat them?

I wanted to show that regardless of their pasts, God loves them the same as the “good” Christians, the ones who don’t have those pasts or have just done a fabulous job of hiding it. And I wanted to open up this line of thinking to those who haven’t come from that background, to get them thinking about how they’d react to someone who’s lived that way but is now following God, someone who’s just as forgiven and loved as they are.

Kept is quite a thick novel with 422 pages! Did you ever grow weary during your story writing process? What “kept” you inspired and motivated to finish this novel?

I really didn’t. I loved the story from day one and wanted to spend every second I could with Miska and Dillan. Believe it or not, the original draft was much longer, and I ended up cutting sixty-thousand words. I don’t know how many pages that is, but that’s basically a short novel itself.

The main character in Kept is a woman named Miska who works as a freelance editor. Since you work as a freelance editor in real life, was it easier writing Miska's story and making her work believable because you have experience in that industry?

Her work history is different than mine. I’d say she actually has more experience editing than I do. But I needed a job where she could work from her home. And having her love words and wanting to write herself made a couple of the other subplots fit perfectly. So it was an idea that occurred very early with the character and allowed everything else in the story to click seamlessly into place.

As far as making it believable, it did help having a behind-the-scenes take on the publishing world. At one point Miska says something about going back to work in-house for a publisher and how it doesn’t appeal to her like it used to because now she knows what it’s really like. All the meetings and such... I remember being stunned at how many meetings there were. There are constantly meetings—weekly, monthly meetings on the calendar as well as impromptu ones that pop up. I wondered how certain departments got anything done!

You’ve said in previous interviews that you modeled Miska after a "more natural" Kim Kardashian West. Why was the famous socialite your inspiration for this character?

Actually it was more the opposite. I got the idea for the story back in the beginning of 2007, and I had no idea who the Kardashians were then. But I knew immediately what Miska looked like. She would be gorgeous, of course, but she wouldn’t have that innocent, girl-next-door look. She’d have a more exotic, pin-up look. And when I saw a picture of Kim K. almost two years later (yes, I was late to knowing who they were!), it was almost like looking at a picture of Miska. Almost because Miska has naturally curly hair. So I always phrase it by saying that Kim looks a lot like Miska, not the other way around. And nothing about Kim herself had anything to do with Miska’s character. They look alike; that’s all. Their personal lives are completely different.

Miska has a blog about being a “kept” woman. What does that mean?

Basically she’s the mistress of a professional baseball player, a “kept” woman because Mark, the baseball player, always gives her gifts that help her stay in her dream home. He’s told her he’s leaving his wife for her, but she finds out in that first chapter that he might have been stringing her along all this time.

Since Miska’s a writer who edits, she often doesn’t have the energy or brain cells to write something of her own; all her writing energy goes to her clients. And she’s struggling to stay in her dream home so she’s working tons of editing hours. But the need to write is strong. So she decides to start writing about the one thing she knows that’s unique to her—and that’s being a kept woman. She doesn’t want to put her name on it—and Mark wouldn’t want her to either—so she blogs anonymously whenever she can, when ideas strike, that sort of thing. It’s just a way to satisfy her craving for story and words.

You went indie with your first book (Kept). Describe what “indie” means. What are the unique challenges and benefits of being an indie author?

Indie just means that I published it myself. Some might use the term self-published, but that has a negative connotation from before the e-book era. I just hired out everything a publisher would do that I couldn’t. So I hired a cover designer, an editor, and a formatter. The rest—the numbers side of things, the marketing, etc.—that’s all on me. So I take all the risk, but I get all the reward too. And so far I’m really pleased with the experience. I plan to keep going this route.

Do you want to be traditionally published with an agent, book deal and the works? Why or why not?

I haven’t ruled out traditional publishing, but my take on it has changed. The traditional route has a lot of value, but the author gives up a ton for that. Really indie publishing has a lot to say for itself, a lot that’s making more and more traditionally published authors take a second look.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors who want to write a book that’s receiving such remarkable reviews and winning awards like yours?

Take risks. Writing a salable book that agents and publishers say they’re looking for is just fitting in with the crowd. If you want to stand out, you have to write the book you’re passionate about and let it take you where it wants to go.

This might mean that the traditional route won’t touch it. That’s what happened to me. I was a complete unknown with a small platform and too much risk. But if you can publish that book yourself and build a readership (which, let’s be honest, is impossible to do without a book to sell!), you can interest publishers that way.

I think you just write what’s on your heart, what God’s led you to write, and be honest about it. You might say, Go big or go home. I knew Kept was a risky story to try to sell; I just didn’t realize how risky. But in the end, it’s all worked out. So the risk was well worth it.

And it should go without saying, but... Grow as a writer. Read a ton; write a ton. Always be learning. And don’t publish too soon. Don’t be satisfied until your stuff reads like good novels in bookstores.

What are you hoping your readers will remember most about Kept?

That when we come to God on His terms, He’ll put our sins behind us, that we can then have a true, loving, deep relationship with Him.

Do you plan on writing more books? Are you working on your next one now? If so, please share details.

I’m thinking through a sequel to Kept. It’s not ready to write now but maybe in a year or two. Right now I’m working on a book called Shelf Life. The tagline is, “What’s the shelf life of a trophy wife?” It’s about a woman who’s become a Christian after a traumatic event. Being a Christian has healed so much of her life—except her marriage. Her husband, an out-of-work baseball closer, doesn’t believe in God, so her new faith is tearing their marriage apart. I wanted to explore how women handle a relationship when they each have such different worldviews.

What is the name of your favorite author and which one of their books resonates with you the most? Why?

I love Francine Rivers. She became a Christian in the late eighties/early nineties, and it’s her books from that point on that I enjoy. She deals with real issues and goes deep, all the while maintaining an honest yet Biblical worldview. My favorites of hers are A Voice in the Wind, The Scarlet Thread, and The Last Sin Eater. I think The Scarlet Thread would be my favorite.

Alexis: Complete this sentence: My favorite feature about being a published author is _____________because____________.


Sally: My favorite feature about being a published author is making up stories for a living because my mind is just wired that way!

~*~
Author bio:
Sally Bradley writes big-city fiction with real issues and real hope. A Chicagoan since age five, she now lives in the Kansas City area with her family, but they still get back to Chicago once in a while for important things—like good pizza and a White Sox game. Fiction has been her passion since childhood, and she’s thrilled now to be writing books that not only entertain, but point back to Christ. A freelance fiction editor, you can find Sally at sallybradley.com and on Facebook at Sally Bradley, Writer. Kept is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

An honest review of Stasi Eldredge’s book, Becoming Myself: Embracing God’s Dream of You

Every once in a while, you'll read a book that resonates with you. It's a book so good that you simply have to share it! Family Christian Bookstore's blogger program sent a copy of Stasi Eldredge's book Becoming Myself: Embracing God's Dream of You, to me for an honest review. After reading it, I found that it is one of "those" books that is SO good that you have to share it! 

So without further ado, here's my review...

“It’s good to dream. We can’t out-give God. We can’t out-love him, and we can’t out-dream him. Give yourself permission to dream big! Dream deep. Dream wide. Because the thing about dreams is, dreams come true.”~Stasi Eldredge, “From Accepting to Embracing” (Ch. 6, page 101).

It is good to know that there is a God and He encourages us to dream. Such is the theme of Stasi Eldredge’s book, Becoming Myself: Embracing God’s Dream of You. In the 250 pages of Eldredge’s book, she bares her soul through the intimate storytelling of childhood memories and adult experience. The author shares stories from her life. Stories of searching for beauty, enduring drama, experiencing trauma and healing from pain. Eldredge does not hold back on giving in-depth illustrations about the lessons she’s learned along her life journey.

The first pages of the books are filled with a personal story that involves Eldredge’s mother-in-law, body image and a free massage at the spa. The author explains her anxiety about allowing someone to see what she thinks is her imperfect body, even if it’s just for the purposes of a relaxing massage. The scenario becomes embarrassing for Eldredge because of various obstacles she faces when she arrives at the spa such as barely being able to cover herself with the bathrobe provided by the spa, the same complimentary robe that fit the other women perfectly.

As a woman and writer, I think Eldredge does a good job of setting the stage for the rest of her book—an honest portrayal of how we as women see ourselves and a wonderful lesson of why it is important to ask God to help us to realize our true value and worth because we are all beautiful in God’s eyes. My favorite part in the book was the chapter “From Accepting to Embracing” in which the author spoke in-depth about the value of dreams and trusting God with the outcome in life. Eldredge’s story resonated with me as a female who’s struggled with self-image and realizing my true worth in God’s eyes. I found hope and encouragement in the pages of this book.

The only aspect of this book that I think could use improvement is the structure and flow of the storytelling because at times it seemed like too much information at once and there is a need for better transitions from story to story within each chapter. I think there are a few sections in Eldredge’s book that would be even more powerful if the words were arranged in a more precise and concise manner. However, it does not take anything away from Eldredge’s skill as a writer and her honest portrayal of her life journey as a woman seeking perfection in a world that is not perfect.

Ultimately, I believe the author accomplished her objectives in telling this story and inspiring women who get lost in these pages of Eldredge’s book to discover God’s dream for them and realize that they are enough, they are more than enough in God’s eyes. The author did a beautiful job of encouraging my heart and helping me to remember that my value is within what God thinks of me and knows to be true, not the lies the negative forces in this world will tell me to believe.

Therefore, I recommend this book to every woman, especially young women, as a source of real-life encouragement for your life journey. I believe this book deserves a rating of four-stars.
~*~
Visit Stasi's official website for more info on "becoming myself"

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Author interview: Misty M. Beller

Today, I am delighted to introduce you to a writer who describes herself as a "Southern Country Belle," loves the slower pace, appreciates the beauty of living in the South so much that many of her fictional stories happen on ranches and involve horses. Misty M. Beller is this sweet writer's name and she has agreed to be hosted here on my blog today. 

Here's my author interview with Misty (Questions from Alexis in bold, answers from Misty not in bold)...

~*~
Alexis: Why do you write historical romance novels for the Christian book industry?

Misty: I tend to be a bit of a sentimentalist, so Historical Romance is perfect for me! My favorite period is between 1860 - 1880, when the cowboy days were really ramping up. I love the simpler life, where there's no rat race. Just hard work, plenty of alone time (can you tell I'm an introvert?), and a strong family unit. God is the central element in my life, so I want my books to naturally reflect him.

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

All my life, I've been a true book lover. Give me a good novel, and you probably won't see me again until it's finished. I've also always enjoyed writing, and tend to express myself best through my written correspondence. In high school, I had a poem published in a commercial poetry compilation book. But I never seriously thought about writing a novel, until about four years ago when I put together my bucket list. "Write a novel that's published" made it near the top!

I decided, it's now or never, and made the commitment to do it. So, I had a general idea that I wanted it to be a Christian western romance. But where to start? I finally decided I needed to find a good book to help me plan. I stumbled upon (a.k.a. God led me to) the best possible book to help me get started with a great plan: Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell. For all you writers out there, I can't recommend it highly enough!

From there, I've soaked in every bit of writing instruction I can from some amazing groups and individuals. And I've spent countless hours sitting with my laptop pouring out words onto the screen. The Lady and the Mountain Man is my first release, but the second novel I wrote. My first novel is under contract with Prism Book Group to release in 2015. Writing is in my blood. It's my passion. A true gift from my Heavenly Father, and I pray daily that he uses the words for His purpose.

Describe your writing space. 

I've written in a few coffee shops, on the beach, and around a campfire in the mountains, but most of my writing spots aren't nearly as romantic. I write on a laptop, so I'm usually sitting Indian-style with my laptop on either my bed or the living room couch. One of the most important things for me is NO DISTRACTIONS. It's almost impossible for me to write with my husband or daughters around. Just too hard to get lost in the words.

Do you write full-time or do you have a day job? Please explain how you make ends meet.

Alas, I'm not one of the lucky full-timers yet… (dramatic sigh) Kidding aside, I do enjoy my day job, but between that and my family, writing time is precious!

What would you say is the most challenging aspect of being an author?

Keeping up with it all. Between word counts and deadlines and critique partners and marketing efforts, there are so many balls to juggle!

What is the most rewarding part of being an author?


Honestly, hearing from readers. Whether it's a review on Amazon, or a note through my website, it makes my week to hear from a reader they've enjoyed my story.


How many books have you written? Are they all for the Christian market? Why or why not?

I'm just finishing up my fourth book right now, the sequel to The Rancher Takes a Cook that will release from Prism Book Group in June 2015. I love reading and writing Christian romantic fiction, because it provides a place where we don’t have to always be concerned about inappropriate language or too-graphic love scenes. It’s a “safe zone” where our imaginations and emotions can run wild and free, living out exciting times and experiencing God-orchestrated happily-ever-afters – without having to clean-up at the end of the day.

As a writer, who or what has been your most valuable resource? Please explain.


Wow, I've learned from so many amazing people, books, etc. If I had to name a single resource, it would have to be the organization American Christian Fiction Writers. The wealthy of learning opportunities, connections, and support is amazing!

As a woman of faith, how does your relationship with God affect your writing?

Oh, yes. Through the years, it's been abundantly clear to me that the words I type onto the blank page are God's words. I try to pray before I begin each writing session, and I earnestly seek God's direction for each story.

Why do you love books?

Wow, that question looks so simple but runs so deep! I love stories. I love immersing myself in another world, seeing life through the eyes of another person. It can be a powerful experience.

Who is your favorite author and which one of their books do you love the most? Explain why.

Hmmm… So many great authors, it's hard to choose! One of my favorites is Karen Witemeyer, especially her book Short-Straw Bride. It's such a fun historical romance, and Karen's use of word pictures is exceptional.

You grew up in South Carolina. Would you describe yourself as a Southern Belle? Why or why not?

Yes, I guess I have a bit of the old-fashioned type of Southern Belle in me. I may be more of a Southern Country Belle. I love the beautiful charm of the South, the slower pace, and the kindness in the people. Not to mention sweet iced tea.

Explain your love for the simpler farm life. How does your love for farm life translate to your characters, or does it?

My stories also take place around horses and ranching, which comes from my love for those animals. I was completely horse crazy growing up, and actually trained and showed horses professionally for a couple years after high school.

Would you say your family has always been supportive about your writing career dreams? Explain.

Yes, my husband is usually very patient with my many hours spent writing. My parents and grandparents are my biggest supporters, always asking for updates and cheering me on.

What is your favorite feature of this holiday season?


Our traditions. We live close to both sides of our family, so we are able to enjoy so many rich traditions with both my family and my husband's. It's such a special time of doing things together that bring back wonderful memories.

What do you want for Christmas?

Slippers.

Every writer has a muse. Who or what is yours?

Hmmm… I haven't thought about that question before. My inspiration is often spurred by alone time. Sometimes reading another good book.

Complete this sentence: At the end of the day, I am _____________________because _____________________.
At the end of the day, I am thankful because God has me in His will, wherever that might take me.

~*~
Author bio:

Misty Beller writes Christian historical romance, and is the author of The Lady and the Mountain Man. She was raised on a farm in South Carolina, so her Southern roots run deep. Growing up, her family was close, and they continue to keep that priority today. Her husband and two daughters now add another dimension to her life, keeping her both grounded and crazy.

God has placed a desire in Misty’s heart to combine her love for Christian fiction and the simpler ranch life, writing historical novels that display God’s abundant love through the twists and turns in the lives of her characters.

Read more about Misty at her website, and check out her book, The Lady and the Mountain Man.

~*~
Connect with Misty:

Website, http://mistymbeller.com

Blog, http://mistymbeller.wordpress.com

Goodreads, https://www.goodreads.com/MistyMBeller

Twitter, http://www.twitter.com/MistyMBeller

Pinterest, http://www.pinterest.com/MistyMBeller

Google+, https://plus.google.com/+MistyBeller

Friday, December 12, 2014

A holiday devotional about cardinals

Cardinals Color My World
A devotional written by LoRee Peery

Photo credit: LoRee Peery
Isaiah 1:18 (NIV)—“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

Psalm 51:7b (NIV)—“Wash me and I will be whiter than snow.”

Hebrews 9:22b (NIV)—“Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”

My sister and I have an affinity for cardinals. Whenever I hear the recognizable cardinal’s song, I smile as though God is greeting me through that bird. My sister loves cardinals so much she even recorded one singing for her time in Arizona where cardinals are not native.

I like to imagine what the red bird is saying: “I’m here, here, here”; the higher “find me, find me, find me”; or the lower whistle sounds to me like a repeated “cheery, cheery, cheery.” I’m sure the birds are happy because God gives them a joyful song to greet the day (and lift human hearts). My sister claims no two cardinals sound alike. I stop what I’m doing to lift my eyes in order to find the source, usually high on a branch. Once in a while the vocal trills like a wolf whistle. I’ve tried to answer the way my dad did when I was a girl, but I’m not a whistler.

My dad could be crusty with people and gentle with small creatures. While building the bedroom additions onto the back of our tiny farmhouse when I was a girl, he made a pet of a male cardinal. Dad and that bird whistled back and forth until it eventually flew in through the windows and perched on his finger. For three or four years afterward, my sister and I often woke up to a cardinal’s song (we thought it was the same bird), right outside our bedroom on the northwest corner of the house.

Many years later, a singing fake cardinal in a cage often greeted my sister’s only son when he entered the house. After he was tragically killed at age twelve while riding his bicycle, she thought of him every time that fake bird pealed. For years now, her adult daughters, my nieces, are welcomed by cardinals wherever they live. Who knows? Angels may take the form of cardinals, simply for God to let us know He cares as He colors our world.

In my own novel, Sage and Sweetgrass, I looked at cardinals from my character’s viewpoint. “The brilliant scarlet males against the pure snow, perched vivid in the ethereal backdrop, brought to mind the shed blood of Jesus. Once a soul believed, Christ saw a saint as pure, white as snow. Without sin.”

And that purity is what I see when that familiar flash of red, especially bright against the whiteness of snow, further brightens my landscape.

I decorate with cardinals at Christmas. A beloved writer friend, Delia Latham, also loves cardinals. Early this fall, she sent me a cardinal ornament. I set it aside knowing it would soon decorate the Christmas tree I set up in the TV room. The new bird didn’t stay in the box long. In October I unwrapped it and hooked it where I can see it from my easy chair. When the sun hits the ornament during the day it glows an iridescent glassy red. At night it shines silver calls to mind angel wings reflecting on my Delia and me.

Even in the summertime I pull up pictures I’ve taken of cardinals flashing crimson against the snow. The vivid red birds are a constant reminder of Jesus, who gave His blood, the perfect sacrifice for me.

We live in a hurtful world. Tragedy and heartache strike all of us at some point. But God in His goodness always gives us hope. Because I’m a country girl, He shows Himself to me through nature. For others, it’s the smile or laughter of a child or any numerous ways. Wherever we are physically or emotionally, He reveals Himself through ways that only speak to individual hearts.

All we have to do is open our souls and listen.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, 
Thank You for placing me in the country, in a state where seasons abound. Thank You for the reminder each time I see a cardinal, especially against the snow, that though my sins be scarlet, You have washed me clean. Thank You, Jesus, for shedding your blood for me. Amen.

Note: Portions of this devotion appeared in RED, a free author devotional available at Pelican Book Group. http://tinyurl.com/nbbsk3a

~*~
Author bio:
A Nebraska country girl, LoRee Peery attempts to see God’s presence every day. Often that gift comes from nature, and she is most relaxed in the outdoors. The call of a cardinal draws her to look for the distinctive flash of crimson. A meadowlark’s melody always transports her to the farm where she grew up. A rainbow holds special significance, since one appeared the day of her father’s funeral and means the promise of the Lord’s presence in her life. She clings to I John 5:4 and prays her family sees that faith. 

You can find her at www.loreepeery.com or the Pelican Book Group site http://tinyurl.com/kwz9enk

Connect with LoRee:
Website, www.loreepeery.com 
Follow on Twitter, https://twitter.com/LoreePeery
"Like" or "Friend" LoRee on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/LoReePeery

Buy LoRee's books via Pelican http://tinyurl.com/

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Baby Changes Everything

Just 15 days before Christmas Day! Are you enjoying this holiday season?

What better way to celebrate and appreciate this special time of year than to enlighten your mind through reading Scripture and holiday devotionals? Okay, there are many wonderful ways to celebrate the Christmas season but today, I encourage you to enjoy this way which is reading a devotional written by Lillian Duncan, a Christian writer who loves God, Christmastime and writing suspense-filled romance stories.

Today, Lillian will shine light on how the Light of the World (Jesus Christ) came into this world as a baby and changed everything. If you're a parent, I'm sure you can relate on a very real level because you have experienced firsthand how the birth of your first baby changed your life forever. The birth and life story of Jesus Christ is no different, only He changed more than His mother Mary's life, He changed the world.

~*~
A Baby Changes Everything
A Christmas devotion written by Lillian Duncan


But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." ~ Luke 2:10-12 

A baby changes everything, there's no arguing that point. Ask any parent, new or experienced, young or old, tired or rested. A baby changes everything for their family. And that’s even more true for the baby we celebrate during this Christmas season. Let's take a look at the reason for the season.

JESUS—his birth, his life, and his death changed the world!

Atheists, agnostics and some who just aren't sure often give Jesus his "due." Oh, he was a great teacher, they say, but He wasn't GOD. Let's take a practical look at that for a moment, shall we?

What's the year? Oh—it's 2014 A.D.

A.D. does not mean “after death,” as a lot of people believe, but it stands for a Latin phrase: “anno domini” meaning “in the year of the Lord,” the year Jesus was born.

B.C. stands for “Before Christ”, though now people have changed it in an attempt to downplay the religious aspect.

Wow! Time is measured by Jesus's birth and death. I'm impressed! JESUS—His birth, His life, and His death changed the world!

Let's take a look at Jesus's life for a moment and those who knew him best: his disciples. Without going into the gory details, ten of the original twelve apostles chose death rather than renounce Jesus's divinity. Why? Because they experienced life with the Messiah. Some were with him the day he was baptized and they heard God's voice come down from the heavens saying, "This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased." They experienced the darkness the day he died. They knew beyond a shadow of doubt that Jesus was the Son of God and they were willing to die rather than renounce His divinity. Because of that certainty, they spread the good news of the gospel throughout the world.

JESUS—His birth, His life, and His death changed the world!

But even better, Jesus changed my world. Christianity isn't about rules and religion. It's about a relationship with God through His only begotten son, Jesus. And that has made all the difference in my world!

Indeed, a baby changes everything!

~*~
Author bio:

Lillian Duncan writes stories of faith mingled with murder & mayhem. She writes the type of books she loves to read—suspense with a touch of romance. Whether as an educator, a writer, or a speech pathologist, she believes in the power of words to transform lives, especially God’s Word.

Visit the following sites to learn more about Lillian and her books: Official website, www.lillianduncan.net and devotional blog, www.PowerUpWithGod.com

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Holiday author interview with Valerie Comer of Snowflake Tiara

"Whether you have already seen the first of the season's snow or are still awaiting its arrival, you'll want to curl up with a cup of cocoa as you enjoy these two sweet tales." ~Sarah, 4-star customer review on Amazon.com.


If you haven't already guessed from Sarah's review on Amazon.com, today we're talking about Christmas stories! Actually, two Christmas stories in one book called Snowflake Tiara written by Angela Breidenbach and Valerie Comer.

We're going to focus on Valerie's novella called More than A Tiara. Valerie will share information about the writing process, the Christmastime story setting, the characters and she will also talk about collaborating with Angela to write this book.

Most fun of all is the news of what's in it for you-- a free book! :) Valerie is willing to give away one free e-book of Snowflake Tiara to the lucky winner! Here's how you can qualify to win: After reading Valerie's interview, answer her question at the end. You must include your e-mail address with your answer in the comment section in order to enter the contest because we need to contact you if you're the winner so you can receive your free e-book! :) 

The contest starts today, Dec. 7 and will end Sunday, Dec. 21. I will announce the winner on Monday, Dec. 22 so if you're the winner, you'll have time to read your book before Christmas Day! :)

Now read on to Valerie's holiday author interview (questions from Alexis in bold, answers by Valerie not in bold)...

~*~
Alexis: Why is your latest release (2014) titled Snowflake Tiara, Two Christmas Romances 125 Years Apart? What type of book is it—a novel or novella or another category?


Valerie: The title is Snowflake Tiara, and the remainder is a quick description of the contents. It is a collection of two long novellas.

Who is Angela Breidenbach? Did you two write this book together? Or are there two separate stories, one written by each of you, in Snowflake Tiara?

I should be really good at introducing Angela by now! She visited recently and we did several events together at which she was the main speaker and I was her sidekick. She is pretty awesome, frankly! She's Mrs. Montana 2009, a sought-after speaker, and an author as well as a pageant and life coach.

Can you speak for Angela and tell my readers why she wrote The Debutante Queen which is the first story in Snowflake Tiara?

Angela is passionate about volunteering and believes we can make the world a better place by pitching in. She's a pageant queen herself and knows how much light pageantry can shine on worthy organizations, so the combination is a natural one for her. She set her main character, Calista, on a quest to help the children abandoned at the last stop of the Orphan Train in Helena, Montana, in 1889.

Who is your favorite character in your story? Explain why and include details on their character traits.

I protest. This isn't a fair question! I like all the characters. Well, except for the one who… Never mind. Hmm. I'll go with Bren Haddock. She's a good friend of the heroine, a single mom who's been kicked in the teeth by life, but she's determined to make a better life for her two young kids. I loved her spirit and was thrilled to find I could help in her quest in some small ways.

Are your leading ladies in both stories related? Is there any connection between the first story by Angela and the second story by you? If so, please explain.

There's a lot of connection between the tales. My heroine, Marisa, is the triple-great granddaughter of Angela's heroine, Calista. They have a similar passion for helping children. Angie and I had a great time working back and forth while planning, writing, and editing, to tie the two stories together on numerous levels. The most obvious is that both of them compete in the Miss Snowflake Pageant in their time periods.

Why did you write More Than a Tiara? What is it about and how does it tie in with Angela’s story? Explain the concept.

More Than a Tiara is set 125 years after The Debutante Queen with ties back in numerous ways. I'd have to say I wrote it because God had things to teach me. I was born into a very traditional Mennonite family, and I can assure you beauty pageants were not on my radar growing up. Through knowing Angela and writing this story, God showed me how beautiful I am to Him. I think this little snippet from Jases's point-of-view may explain some of it:


How much time did you spend writing More Than a Tiara? How did you research for creating your holiday story world?

This story is about half the length of my other books, but it took at least as long to write. I struggled with the story line, and it took me a while to figure out what the problem was. I usually interview my characters, create a few notes and ideas for a story, and jump in. More Than a Tiara required a more rigid structure because the second half (about the spot where I usually swing out into no-man's-land as a seat-of-the-pants writer) took place during the beauty pageant with defined events and expectations. Once I realized the issue, I found ways to work through and around it, but I'd been stuck at that point for several weeks.

What was your favorite part of writing More Than a Tiara?

The children, hands down. I mentioned Bren earlier. Her kids are 8 and 6 and were a delight to write, especially once I'd added in the hero's niece (6) and nephew (4). There is nothing like child-like wonder at winter and Christmas!

Which character in More Than a Tiara do you relate to the most? Why?


That's a tough one. Because Marisa has been a super model and is now competing in a pageant, I identified with her less than I usually do with my heroines. Still, I gave her some of my passions to run with, and that helped a lot. She simply had a very different angle of pursuit of our mutual passions than I do as a middle-aged wife of a farmer and beekeeper!

Does Snowflake Tiara have a happy ending?

Definitely. It was fun to bring it all the way around to add a bonus closure to The Debutante Queen as well in the final scenes.

What do you hope your readers will take away from reading More Than a Tiara?

So many things! I hope they'll see again the wonder of Christmas. I hope they'll revel in their beauty and value in God's eyes. And I hope they'll consider the value of good, healthy food every day…and how to provide that for folks less fortunate.

Complete this sentence: My favorite Christmastime memory is _______________________because____________________.


My favorite Christmastime memory is spending the day after Christmas at my grandmother's house every year when I was growing up because my cousins and I had so much fun together.

Alexis: Thank you for the interview, Valerie! Please leave a question for my readers to answer which will qualify them to enter the book giveaway contest to win an e-book from you.

Valerie: What organization embodies your passions so much that you'll spend precious time volunteering to help them meet their agendas?

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Author bio:

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

Valerie writes Farm Lit where food meets faith, injecting experience laced with humor into her award-winning Farm Fresh Romance stories.

Connect with Valerie: 
http://valeriecomer.com
http://valeriecomer.com/blog
http://twitter.com/valeriecomer
http://pinterest.com/valeriecomer

Info and buy links for Valerie's books at various online stores:
Raspberries and Vinegar: A Farm Fresh Romance (Farm Lit) by Valerie Comer
Wild Mint Tea: A Farm Fresh Romance (Farm Lit) by Valerie Comer
Sweetened with Honey: A Farm Fresh Romance (Farm Lit) by Valerie Comer
Snowflake Tiara: 2-in-1 Christmas Collection by Angela Breidenbach, Valerie Comer

Buy Snowflake Tiara
Amazon, KindleiBooksNookKobo

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A holiday satire with a special guest

We're four days into the month of December and 21 days away from Christmas Day.

So much planning and preparation goes into these few weeks leading up to this world famous holiday. But sometimes amidst the hustle and bustle of preparing for Christmas dinner and celebrations with family and loved ones, is it possible that we forget what this holiday season is truly about?

Enter "How Not to Do Christmas," a holiday satire written by Raelee May Carpenter. It may shine a light into your life and cause you to think twice about how you celebrate this holiday season. Enjoy!  :)

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How Not To Do Christmas
A holiday satire written by Raelee May Carpenter

1. Spend money you don’t have to buy people things they don’t need. Even better, go into massive amounts of debt on expensive toys as a substitute for putting thought into the gifts you give. Maybe a home-cooked dinner at home with you is what your loved one really needs, but you don’t have time for that, so spend a month’s salary on a new entertainment system for them instead.

2. Spend days and months planning and tweaking every detail and decoration. Having trouble staying motivated toward holiday perfection? Make it your mantra, “This holiday will be ruined if it’s not perfect. This holiday will be ruined if it’s not absolutely perfect.” Record it and loop it in your sleep, so you can’t rest, and you never forget that the tiniest wrinkle in the gift wrap, the smallest speck of dust on the floor, or a single Christmas ornament out of place can completely destroy Christmas for your entire family, if not the whole world.

3. Eat yourself sick. You should avoid all fruits and vegetables for the whole month of December. Pumpkin and apple are okay, but only in pie form. You must consume at least 5000 calories worth of cakes and cookies everyday. You have to eat every bit of food you’re offered at every party and potluck, or you will destroy Christmas for the people who cooked every dish. If you aren’t constantly on the edge of vomiting from November to January, your holiday spirit is forfeit. If you aren’t a glutton for Christmas, you must not love Jesus.

4. Forget that Christmas is really about Jesus. Pretend it’s about toys, tinsel, food, and gift cards, anything but Emmanuel who was born in a barn so you could be free. Spend your time, energy, and focus on everything else. You can get back to Him after the holidays…or maybe after you get your tax return filed.

How To Do Christmas
1. Remember that God loves you. This time has been set aside to honor the greatest gift we ever could receive. Make that more important than anything else, at the Christmas season…and the rest of the year too.

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Author bio:
Raelee May Carpenter is a Christian who writes novels, shorts, essays and poems. She writes about God's Grace. Raelee loves to work as a storyteller and entertainer and her passion is creating stories with deeper meaning, stories that tell people about the gospel Truth.

Connect with Raelee: