Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Amanda G. Stevens {Writer Wednesay}

A little bit about Amanda...

As a child, Amanda G. Stevens disparaged Mary Poppins and Stuart Little because they could never happen. Now, she writes speculative fiction. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in English and has taught literature and composition to home-school students. She lives in Michigan and loves books, film, music, and white cheddar popcorn. Her debut, Seek and Hide, was a 2015 INSPY Award finalist.

Connect with Amanda...
Purchase: Seek and Hide, Found and Lost, Take and Give, Far and Near 

Get to know Amanda...

You and Writing

Tell us a little bit about you and writing...

Fiction is one of my great life-loves. I’ve been writing since first grade. It’s such a part of my identity, I can’t even answer the question “why do you write?” I just do. I couldn’t stop if I wanted. The characters are what keep me at it, the irresistible journey of unearthing their souls one big question or little quirk at a time. My goal is to capture them in such a way that the reader will feel a depth to them that draws him to walk alongside them as their stories unfold, the way he’d walk with a friend through shadow and sunshine.

Your Writing

Let's talk about your books...

Tell us a little bit about your book.
The Haven Seekers series is a four-book adult dystopian series (now complete!) in which the government has taken control of the church and retranslated the Bible. Marcus Brenner, a new Christian, will do anything to protect his church family from imprisonment and starts a one-man resistance, helping others to hide or flee. Over the course of the series, God grabs hold of Marcus’s life in many ways he never expects, turning a loner into a leader.

What made you choose the setting for the book?
I like to call myself an “accidental” speculative fiction writer. I had no plans to write a dystopian series. I began with two characters (Marcus and Lee) who, in author vernacular, “wouldn’t shut up.” My mind kept unearthing new details of who they were: I knew the worst moment of Lee’s life (which happened when she was eighteen); I knew Marcus was an alcoholic (sober now but still wrestling). I knew a hundred things about them but had no plot. Over time I determined the best story to uncover their layers would be some sort of war or conflict in which they were resistance fighters. But now what—Underground Railroad? French Resistance in WW2? Historical fiction, are you kidding? That’s one genre I can’t write; I’d be terrified of committing an anachronism. My only option then was to create my own world.

What’s the theme? How did you come up with it?
Any theme in these books happened organically as the story was written. Typically, I finish a manuscript with no idea what my themes are, and I ask my critique group what they see in it. When someone identified Christian community as a theme of Haven Seekers, I was thrilled with that. The series has a lot to do with relationships among Christians—that we need to cultivate those, that they will never be perfect because we’re fallen people, but we need to deal with each other in our brokenness because we aren’t meant to walk through life alone. Marcus especially has a lot to learn about accepting help from others.

Emilie here: All I can say right now is, Oh Marcus... *happy sigh* just love that guy!

What’s your favorite snack while writing?
Dark chocolate and Gevalia iced coffee (the stuff in the carton). The caramel flavor is my favorite.

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Let's talk about writing...

What does your writing process look like? 
My writing process involves deep abiding hatred for the blank page and deep abiding delight for the editing process. I adore word economy and aspire to improve at it as long as I’m a writer (which will be as long as I’m alive), so one of the fun things about editing for me is seeing how many extraneous words I can cut.

How I create a character—I prevent stereotypes by creating contradictions in their souls. I dig deep into their pasts until I know not only what they do, but why. And I pepper them with unique individualities: what music and food does she enjoy, where does he feel most relaxed, what does she do with her body when she’s nervous, what would he rescue from his house if it was on fire? It’s an intuitive process that Stephen King says is like unearthing dinosaur bones. I would agree. I never really feel like I choose who the character is inside; it’s more like I discover what’s already there. As for plot, I’m neither “plotter” nor “pantser.” I know some of the signposts but never how I’m going to get there, and I’m sometimes surprised even by where the story chooses to end itself.

Emilie here: I think I kind of do the same thing for my characters - it's like I know them but have to get to know them better...

What advice would you give to aspiring authors for writing and/or publishing? How do you grow in your writing craft?
I’ll try to be a little more original than “keep writing” and “read all the time” (though both these are necessary!). Getting a novel published requires creating unique, realistic characters. (tweet this) The reader needs to believe in these people and care about them. I’ve listed a few ways to do that above, but another important one is to listen to people around you. Dialogue voice is one of the most important things about writing individual characters. Train yourself not to hear voices but to see them. What does actual speech look like on the page? After you know that, you can mold it into fictional speech. You’ll also need to be able to edit yourself without pity, and the only resource you need to learn this skill is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King. My advice is to read this book and do what it says. Without pity.

I guess I grow in my craft the same way now that I always have, namely by writing a lot and reading a lot (I know, I know…). A recent example—I read The Sun Also Rises this year for the first time. Hemingway is so subtle, it’s easy to miss not only what he’s doing but how he’s doing it. That book taught me about cultivating reader sympathy, because there were moments I cared but I had no idea why. I had to stop and study. When you discover a book is creating visceral reactions in you, study that author’s craft—not to imitate them, but to learn from them. Practice the skills they use until you can wield the same skills in your own way.

Emilie here: Great advice here Amanda! I've definitely becoming a convo-creeper (just made that up) and I love that "without pity" party because, it's rough but necessary to cut things out!


What is a favorite memory you have of your mother?
My mom was also my home-school teacher for twelve years, so our relationship as I grew up had an added dimension of teacher/student. Today I can honestly call her my friend. I can’t think of a single favorite memory, but my mom is a dedicated teacher, a lover of dogs and flowers and American history, a meticulous housekeeper, and an example of unselfishness and what can happen when a person allows God to work through difficulty to create beauty. I’m proud of her and privileged to have her.

If you had to choose one type of food, what kind would it be?
Only one? That’s impossible. I love Mexican. And Italian. And Panera—that counts as a type of food, right?

Emilie here: Ha! YES! 

What are you currently reading?
The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler (I love Philip Marlowe). I just finished What’s Mine’s Mine by George MacDonald. I had read him before, but this book was something special, and I now consider myself an official George MacDonald fan. The fiction genres I read most are crime/noir, speculative, and literary; but I’ll read any genre if the characters and dialogue are believable.

Emilie here: Thanks so much for being my guest Amanda! Readers, I love this girl!!! We connected my first ACFW conference when I did headshots for her and our friendship has grown since then. I cannot recommend her books (and her amazing writing) enough! Make sure to enter the giveaway and know that the series is supposed to be read in order so if you win and haven't started it, I'd recommend book one (it's fantastic!).


Sandra was on the blog last week talking about From Bags to Riches and she offered a few copes! Our winners are:

Connie Hendryx & Meghan Gorecki

Congrats ladies! I know you'll enjoy this book!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

When Your Dreams Come True by Katie Morford | Guest Post

Most kids want to be a princess or fireman when they grow up. I was that weird kid who wanted to be a missionary and publish a novel.

There are quite a few childish dreams that haven't come true. For example, another career plan was running a racehorse farm in Kentucky (I was going to be the jockey). That one didn't quite pan out, needless to say.

But, there are a surprising number that have come true.

Last year was a "dream come true" type of year for me. I lived in England and traveled the world as a media missionary, writing stories and taking photos to tell about God's work in countries like Myanmar, Haiti, and Namibia. I had co-founded a fiction publishing house with three other amazing women and published my first novel in May 2015. I started dating a kind, Jesus-loving man who wasn't deterred by dating his girl literally across an ocean.

I rode tricycle taxis around Yangon and chatted with Buddhist monks and hugged on orphaned children. I came face-to-face with lions in a game park in Namibia and rode a camel in the Arabian desert and watched baby rhinos come up to the waterhole at night under the African stars.

It was truly incredible. No doubt about it.

But it wasn't all glamorous adventures. Seeing my dreams come true meant walking to work over 45 minutes each day, working 9-5 (or more) and then coming home to write with my co-author over Skype for 4-6 hours most evenings. It meant 24 hours of travel in planes and airports at the wrong time of the month with Bangkok stomach. It meant 60-hour weeks in Third World countries and at conferences with 4,000 teens and staff. It meant missing my friend and college mentee's funeral when she finally succumbed to brain cancer.

One day, I was sitting in my favorite cafe (The Shabby Scholar in Carlisle, England--I recommend it) and I realized that by God's grace I had seen so many of my deepest, most long-standing dreams and aspirations come true.

How many 27-year-olds can say they've seen their dreams come true?

I wish I could say, in that moment, I fell on my knees and thanked God. I wish I could say I jumped up and did a happy dance and celebrated all that I'd been able to accomplish through His work in me. But I didn't. I panicked.

What now? I thought, gulping my tea. What do I do with the rest of my life, now that my dreams have come true?

Seeing my dreams come true didn't feel like I expected. It was a bit of a let-down, to be honest. I kept thinking, "What's wrong with me? All my dreams are coming true! Why am I not happy?"

Eventually, I came to realize that accomplishing old dreams just makes creative space for new dreams. (tweet this) I came to peace with the fact that life isn't like the movies. Success isn't what we think. Dreams coming true and hard times and failures all run right alongside each other and tangle together in this messy thing called life.

I realized that seeing my dreams come true, while a beautiful thing, isn't everything. Nor should it be. We celebrate, we rejoice, we thank God for the gift of seeing us through the struggle on the road to "dream come true" moments.

It can be a scary feeling, when dreams come true. When the driving purpose of your life for the past few years--maybe your whole life--is suddenly gone, you can feel disoriented, like a boat without its mooring line. I certainly did.

But the beauty of the last page is that you get to write another book. Live a new, different story. Go on exciting adventures to places that haven't even entered your dreams yet. 

In December 2015, I moved from England back to my native Kansas. Come June, I'll be stepping down from my full-time position with Operation Mobilization to pursue my new dream--my own creative business combining my passions for custom photography, editing novels, and mentoring young writers.

Exciting? Sure. Terrifying? Most definitely!

If you're still waiting for your dreams to come true, keep pressing on. The view will definitely be worth the climb! And if you're in that strange middle ground of trying to pin down your new dream--breathe deep, pick up that notebook, and write the first page of a new chapter in your story.

Katie: I am a globe-trotting writer, photographer, editor, and media missionary, who’s secretly a homebody and a bookaholic. After three years living in England, I’ve finally moved back to my Kansas roots. I blog about creativity, travel, and walking with Jesus in the messiness of real life and authentic relationships. My co-authored debut novel, "Kenan," is an international thriller in the vein of the Bourne movies and "Sahara", packed with action and snarky one-liners. It was released last May under the pen name Karis Waters.

Instagram: Create.Explore.Illuminate
Twitter: @CPKarisWaters

Check out her novel under the pen name Karis Waters...

by Karis waters & Carrie Lemke

Assassinations rarely follow the plan, even when you’re the demolitions expert for the Ghazi’s top hit squad, the Katiller. Kenan gets caught in
the crossfire when their latest hit goes south. Bleeding out on the cobblestones of Milan, the one person who can help him is the last person he expects.

Just off her shift at a nearby hospital, American surgeon Kris Marshall thought she was done saving lives for the day—until Kenan falls at her
feet half dead. She doesn’t realize saving him will put herself and her friends in the sights of the world’s deadliest terror organization.

Honor demands the Katiller protect Kris and her friends, since she saved one of their own, but the Ghazi call for her elimination. On the run across
the lush Italian countryside and the icy beauty of the Swiss Alps, Kenan discovers that there is always a choice between life and death. A choice
that might cost him everything.

Purchase: Kenan

Enter to win a copy of Kenan:

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Monday, May 2, 2016

700 Posts Strong | Giveaway

Oh my, oh my, dear readers. Can you believe I've hit 700 posts on my blog (though, technically speaking, this will be post 701...). I am shocked and amazed that you've all stayed with me this long--not to mention all of the new friends I've made since starting this blog. *waves*

It began as an idea to share my random "thoughts" in this little corner of the web, hence the extremely vague title Thinking Thoughts, but it grew. Honestly, it's still growing. As I try and balance all of the things that I'm currently working on, this little guy (aka: the blog) sometimes gets neglected but I try my best to bring you news of new authors, great books, reviews, and funny (sometimes deep?) musings from my mind (when I have the time to write them). And you've been with me through it all! *sheds a few tears*

As a way to give back to you all, I thought a giveaway would be in order! I'll be running it from today until May 12 (my Dad's birthday *awe*) and I'll be including a few fun readerly things (like bookmarks from my new Etsy shop - more on this later this week), a Starbucks gift card, Amazon gift card, and maybe an additional surprise if I can think of one. 

Here are some of my favorite posts from the past:

That time I wrote about Jesus in real life

That time I wrote about Instagram for writers

That time I wrote about Rob Bell...

That time I wrote about supporting our troops

That time I wrote about true love in a 50 shades world

That time I wrote about heroes

Thank you all for being so awesome and going with my harebrained ideas, missed post times, likely typos, and general silliness. As I always say, YOU are the reason I write (on this blog as well as my books).

As part of this I want to host a Q&A for any questions you all may have (there may not be any and that's OK haha). Feel free to post and I'll answer below!

- Em
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Jo Huddleston | New Novel News

Promise Me
by Jo Huddleston

Published: March 28, 2016
From: Forget Me Not Romances, a division of Winged Publications
Purchase: Promise Me

In 1960, civil discord in Vietnam fills the news. After his college graduation, Patrick Fitzgerald plans to join his daddy’s South Carolina accounting firm. But Uncle Sam may have another position in mind for Patrick—in the U.S. Army. His family’s affluence would be no match for the persuasion of the military draft.

Adriana Montagna’s papá ekes out a living as a coal miner in the mountains of West Virginia. Can a lasting relationship form with Patrick, or will his wealth become a barrier between them?

Meanwhile, the fiber of America’s unity stands on the precipice, while its youth fight a no-win battle on foreign soil. What good can a young couple hope for at such a time as this?

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Get to know Jo...

Favorite season?
Spring is my favorite season—not yet too hot, but leaving the cold of winter behind. I would love temps in the 70s year-round!

Would you rather go to the future or go to the past?
I’d rather go to the past—to the 1950s. Lifestyles were simpler back then and folks felt more secure. TV offered only 3 networks to view: ABC, CBS, NBC, with no 24/7 news channels reporting disasters from around the globe.

What's one chore you hate doing? 
Dusting. Don’t we all hate to dust—a chore needed on a continual basis? 

Jo Huddleston is an Amazon Top 20 Bestselling author of books, articles, and short stories. Novels in her West Virginia Mountains series and her Caney Creek series are sweet Southern historical romances. Her novels are endorsed by Amanda Cabot, Debra Lynn Collins, Cara Lynn James, Sharlene MacLaren, and Ann Tatlock. The redeeming story of God’s pursuing love is the foundation of her novels, and in them you will find inspiration, hope, and gentle stories that are intriguing and entertaining. Jo is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and the Literary Hall of Fame at Lincoln Memorial University (TN).
Website (Read novel first chapters here):
Sign up for Jo’s mailing list:
Christian authors’ books blog:
Inspirational blog:
Facebook author page:
Facebook personal page:
Amazon author page:

Friday, April 29, 2016

Pocket Prayers by Max Lucado | RE:View

Hope, refreshment, wisdom, so much wrapped up into these six little prayer books! 

Whether you're a grad, a dad or mom, teacher, in the military, or looking to deepen your friendships through prayer, these pocket prayer books by Max Lucado and guest writers are for you.

The first thing I liked about these books is the fact that they are small, compact, and of fantastic quality. They feel good to hold and are perfect for gifts as much as they are for reading. Another thing I really enjoyed was the fact that the prayers are short, simple, and yet so meaningful! Each book has different sections that help focus the prayers.

The only thing I wish they had was a table of contents because the prayers are broken up into sections and it would be nice to reference a section you wanted to pray through. It's not difficult to thumb through and find what you want though, so not really a negative.

I would definitely recommend these books, whether that is for your self to jump-start your morning (or whenever) prayer time or whether it's to give as gifts. It's obvious they were created with thought and specified toward each category of people. I'm reviewing them here as a whole set from Litfuse, but you can purchase them separately from Amazon.

Find inspiration, thoughtfulness, and guidance for your prayers through this wonderful little books!

My rating: 4.5*

I'm also offering to give away four of the books I received seeing as I think they will bless others. They are only gently used for my review purposes (and to make that fun bookish-heart above). Enter below!

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I received free copies of these book for review purposes, but was under no obligation to read the book or post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Sandra D. Bricker {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Sandra...

SANDRA D. BRICKER was an entertainment publicist in Los Angeles for 15+ years where she attended school to learn screenwriting and eventually taught the craft for several semesters. When she put Hollywood in the rearview mirror and headed across the country to take care of her mom until she passed away, she traded her scripts for books, and a best-selling, award-winning author of Live-Out-Loud fiction for the inspirational market was born. Sandie is best known for her Another Emma Rae Creation and Jessie Stanton series for Abingdon Press, and she was also recently named ACFW’s Editor of the Year for her work as managing editor of Bling!, an edgy romance imprint for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. “I believe in the power of the parable,” she says. “And I just love words in almost any form. From the assembling on the page to the polishing and perfecting, there’s almost nothing more powerful.”As an ovarian cancer survivor, Sandie also gears time and effort toward raising awareness and funds for research, diagnostics and a cure.

How to connect with Sandra...

Purchase: From Bags to Riches 

Get to know Sandra...

You and Writing

What has kept you writing?
I’ve asked myself that more than a time or two over the last decade. And the thing I always seem to come back to is this: I believe with all my heart that, for whatever reason, this is the plan God made for my life. I don’t know exactly what I have to offer the world with a few fictional storylines and characters, but I know that every time I think it might be time to hang it up, that Holy Spirit thing happens to re-energize me and get me back on the road. So as odd or cheesy as it might sound to your readers, I’d have to say that Jesus is what (Who) keeps me writing.

Your Writing

From Bags to Riches

Jessie Hart has struggled to put her Adornments boutique on the map, but when a celebrity stylist with her own reality show makes the shop a hot spot, Jessie’s hard work is finally paying off. Just as her dreams are coming true, she gets the word: her beloved grandfather in Louisiana is diagnosed with cancer. Of course she feels the pull to see him, but that means returning to the very place she worked so hard to escape. To add further complication, “husband” Jack turns up again and he can’t help but notice the new-and-improved Jessie. As he fights through his residual legal battles, he makes every effort to win her back and marry her for real this time…before Danny gets the chance. In her quest to find the success, true love, and faith that has always eluded her will God really lead her right back home?

Tell us a little bit about your book...

Do you have a favorite character in this work? If so, why?
Although there are some wonderful friends on the landscape of Jessie’s story, I think her grandfather is my favorite character. He has a no-nonsense wisdom that every girl trying to find her path should have in her life. Grampy says what needs to be said, right when he needs to say it for Jessie’s benefit and God’s glory.

What did you learn while writing it?
I never really intended for Jessie and Danny to head in the direction they went in Book 3, the finale of the series. But as I reviewed the lessons they’d learned in the first two books, the ways they grew together instead of apart, and especially the ways Jessie developed as a character, I suddenly knew that taking her back to her roots would solidify the woman she became over the course of the books. She spent most of her life dreaming of this adventure she found in Southern California … but what if she had to return to the starting line to figure out how to come across the finish line? Through Jessie, I found a lot of clarity about myself and my own road.

Emilie here: Thanks so much for being my guest Sandra! I've enjoyed your writing for a long time and it's an honor to have you on the blog! Make sure you enter the giveaway readers - depending on the number of entries Sandra may give away up to 3 ebooks!

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Christine Lindsay was on the blog last week and we have a winner for a copy of Sofi's Bridge:

Leslie M. 

I'll be emailing you Leslie! Thanks for entering everyone :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Rose & The Dagger by Renée Ahdieh | Book Release

I am so excited that THE ROSE & THE DAGGER by Renée Ahdieh releases today and that I get to share the news, along with an awesome giveaway!

If you haven’t yet heard about this wonderful book by Author Renée Ahdieh, be sure to check out all the details below.

This blitz also includes a giveaway for a paperback of THE WRATH & THE DAWN and a hardcover of THE ROSE & THE DAGGER and an awesome candle from The Melting Library’s Etsy Store, US Only!  So if you’d like a chance to win, enter in the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.

Author: Renée Ahdieh
Release Date: April 26, 2016
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Pages: 432
Formats: Hardcover, eBook, & audiobook
Find it: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | iBooks 

The much anticipated sequel to the breathtaking The Wrath and the Dawn, lauded by Publishers Weekly as "a potent page-turner of intrigue and romance."

I am surrounded on all sides by a desert. A guest, in a prison of sand and sun. My family is here. And I do not know whom I can trust.

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad has been torn from the love of her husband Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once believed him a monster, but his secrets revealed a man tormented by guilt and a powerful curse—one that might keep them apart forever. Reunited with her family, who have taken refuge with enemies of Khalid, and Tariq, her childhood sweetheart, she should be happy. But Tariq now commands forces set on destroying Khalid's empire. Shahrzad is almost a prisoner caught between loyalties to people she loves. But she refuses to be a pawn and devises a plan.

While her father, Jahandar, continues to play with magical forces he doesn't yet understand, Shahrzad tries to uncover powers that may lie dormant within her. With the help of a tattered old carpet and a tempestuous but sage young man, Shahrzad will attempt to break the curse and reunite with her one true love.
Praise for The Rose and the Dagger:

“Above all there is the shattering, triumphant catharsis of love… In a story about stories, love is ‘the power to speak without words.’ Thrillingly full of feeling.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Fiery romance, a spirited heroine, shifting loyalties… With more than a few heartrending twists and turns.”—Booklist 


About Renée:
Renée lives in North Carolina (Go Heels!) with her husband Victor and their dog Mushu. Her YA fantasy novel, THE WRATH AND THE DAWN, will be published on May 12th, 2015. In her spare time, she likes to cook, dance salsa, and wreak havoc on the lives of her characters.

She’s also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, as well as an active member of theScience Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.

Giveaway Details:
1 winner will receive a paperback of THE WRATH & THE DAWN, a hardcover of THE ROSE & THE DAGGER, and a His Calipha candle from The Melting Library’s Etsy Store, US Only.

Ends on May 3rd at Midnight EST!

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