Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Connie Almony {Writer Wednesday} & Giveaway

I am excited to have Connie on the blog with us today! She has graciously offered up a copy of her novella - with a choice of ebook or paperback (in the continental US) - for a GIVEAWAY! To enter for your chance to win, please respond with a comment for Connie or one thing you're looking forward to doing this summer!

The giveaway will be open to entries from today until Monday June 30. I will announce the winner on Tuesday July 1st!

A little bit about Connie...

Connie Almony is trained as a mental health therapist and likes to mix a little fun with the serious stuff of life. She was a 2012 semi-finalist in the Genesis Contest for Women’s Fiction and was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Winter 2012 WOW Flash Fiction Contest. Her newest release, At the Edge of a Dark Forest, is a modern-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast about a war-vet, amputee struggling with PTSD.

You can find Connie on the web, writing book reviews for Jesus Freak Hideout, and hosting the following blogs: InfiniteCharacters.com and LivingtheBodyofChrist.Blogspot.com.

How to connect with Connie....

Twitter
Facebook

Pinterest

Goodreads



Author Interview | Connie Almony


You and Writing

Tell us a little bit about yourself: How did you start writing? What has kept you writing?
...I’ve always loved a good story, movies or books. I’ve written off and on since I was a kid, but never thought I could make it a career, so I didn’t pursue it until the last several years. However, all my life I’d find myself watching a movie wondering how an author would describe a scene in a book when she didn’t have the luxury of visuals. So, for fun, I’d write in my head throughout the viewing. It became sort of second nature.

...When my daughter was little, I’d watch Disney videos with her and ask her things like, “If you wrote that story, what kind of character would you make so-and-so?” OR “How do you wish that movie ended?” I think this developed a sense of storytelling in her which led her to write them from the moment she could sound out words. Then, one day I helped her brainstorm for a school project to write a Cinderella tale set in modern-day Greece. We came up with so many fun and exciting ideas, but she alone got to pick which ones went in and which got tossed. Though she wrote a wonderful story, I grieved the ideas that didn’t make the cut. It was at that moment I decided I couldn’t let her have all the fun and I needed to do this writing thing myself. I have never looked back.

...What keeps me writing? The sheer pleasure and oneness I feel in doing it. I KNOW this is what I’m supposed to do. Don’t get me wrong, it’s HARD work and I am sometimes wrung out at the end of the day, writing, critiquing, editing and polishing. But it’s like the feeling after a hard run—exhausted, but pumped!

What was the hardest thing about publishing? The easiest?
...I’d have to say hardest thing is marketing. For one, I’m not comfortable going around saying “Look at me,” or even “Look at my book.” However, I believe in my stories, my characters, and how they could potentially touch someone’s life. I know Jesus warns us not to hide our light under a bushel, so I force myself to do it. I’ve written about Jesus marketing Himself on InfiniteCharacters.com if you want to see how I reconcile it in my mind.

...I don’t know that I’d call any of it “easy,” but there are lots of things that are “fun.” One, would be developing a story and characters. The other is engaging with readers who have read it to see how it impacted them. It’s always wonderful to know your hard work has meaning!

Your Writing

Tell us a little bit about your book or what you’re working on currently? Why are you/did you write it?


...Here’s the blurb:
Cole Harrison, an Iraq war veteran, wears his disfigurement like a barrier to those who might love him, shielding them from the ugliness inside. He agrees to try and potentially invest in, a prototype prosthetic with the goal of saving a hopeless man’s dreams.

Carly Rose contracts to live with Cole and train him to use his new limbs, only to discover the darkness that wars against the man he could become.

At the Edge of a Dark Forest is a modern-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Only it is not her love that will make him whole.
...This book began from an idea to do a series with my critique partners, based on Fairytales without the magic. I’ve always been intrigued with the story of Beauty and the Beast because of the element of loving someone for their insides and not their looks. However, as a counselor who’s worked with young women who’ve chosen projects, as boyfriends, rather than soul mates, I’m always concerned about encouraging the idea that it is a woman’s job to change a man with her love. So, in At the Edge of a Dark Forest, it’s not Carly’s love that makes him whole.

...We call this series “Fairwilde Reflections.” A new fairytale will be released each month by one of my critique partners. Check the schedule here.


...I had to figure out how this man would be a beast, and how could he be transformed without magic. After having done a Military Ministries Series on my blog LivingtheBodyofChrist.blogspot.com a couple of years ago, I’ve been particularly moved by the many ways our veterans have sacrificed so we could be free. That’s how the idea of a war-vet, amputee with PTSD came to mind.

Do you have a favorite character in this work? If so, why?
...Oh, that’s a hard question. I love all my people :o). If I had to choose, I might say Joe Sakamoto. He’s the horse trainer on Cole’s estate, and what we writers call the “Yoda” character—the mentor of sorts. Still, his son, Sam, is calling for me to write a story about him soon. I feel a sequel coming on.

What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
...As I mentioned above, it is not Carly’s love that changes the man. God uses us to reach His people, but sometimes we need to listen for when He calls us to step back and let Him do the work alone. Yes, Carly challenges him, as does Joe, Sam and even young Manny, but there is a time when all of these people need to stop talking so God’s voice can be heard. We need to trust that God knows what He’s doing.

Writing

Where do you find inspiration for your story/characters? Are they based on real life or pure imagination or both?
...My ideas come from any input I might get from the world. My first manuscript was inspired by my time as the resident director of a hard-partying, all-male, college dorm. I had to live in the building (at twenty-four years old) with hundreds of hormonal guys. My second was based on some commonalities I found with certain issues I dealt with as a counselor of young women. The one I’m working on now was originally inspired by a Mel Gibson movie called Ransom. I think that released around the time I started reading Christian Fiction, and I’d wondered how you could take some themes in the movie and Christianize them. Then, of course, I added a romance, and a few quirky characters (inspired by family members) and now it’s a very different story.

When you write, what is your overall intention with your stories?
...My first intention was just to have fun with a story and give the reader the same opportunity. However, God often takes me on a journey as I go and I’m not always sure where it will end up. Given I did not grow up in a very Bible-believing, Christian-centric community, I often write about characters who have no clue who this Jesus guy really is. I love to watch each of them come to a new understanding of God through the walk He gave them and the people He placed around them. So, though my original intention is to entertain, if they become encouraged and inspired along the way, all the better. I also hope the reader will laugh. We all need a good laugh every now and then.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors for writing and/or publishing?
...If this is something you feel called to do, then do it! Write the words. Don’t worry about how bad you think it is. Get the words on the page. We live in the time of word processing for-goodness-sake! Your first draft is not your last. You can fix it!

...Sorry about all the exclamation points, but I get a little passionate about writing :o)!!!


You

What is one thing you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing?
...I’m a huge Christian music fan! In fact, I can’t write without a music muse. For At the Edge of a Dark Forest my muse was NEEDTOBREATHE. For my first manuscript it was Third Day. I also have a Tenth Avenue North manuscript and am working on a David Crowder Band manuscript right now. It’s funny how each of these sets the tone for the characters and the setting in a way nothing else does. Once I turn the music on, my mind wanders into the story and I can’t think of anything else.

...Oops! I just realized you asked what I did when I’m NOT writing. Probably thinking about my story.


Thinking of Fathers Day, is there a story you’d like to share with the readers about your father? 

...When my sisters and I were little, the whole family would drive to Plattsburg, New York to visit relatives—a ten-plus hour sojourn from our home. In the compact-car era, we would have to take two vehicles (Dodge Omnis, both)—mom driving one and dad the other. One time my mother was trying to pump gas into her car (a new phenomenon at the time) and some guy was chastising her because she was having difficulty learning how. My father came from his car to intervene. The guy told him to mind his own business while he dealt with “the lady.” My dad got a little heated and said, “That’s no lady. That’s my wife!” then proceeded to dress him down for being disrespectful to her. I was so proud of him for sticking up for my mom and educating the young man on what it means to show respect.

______________________
Connie, I just loved how you described your passion for writing - just knowing that it's something you have to do! Also, I thought it was really interesting that you mentioned encouraging the idea that women think it's their love that will change their significant other. What a great reminder that it's the Lord's love that must accomplish that! And wow...living in a guys dorm at 24 - sounds like a messy and smelly nightmare *hehe* ;) And, in true writer fashion, your answer about relaxing when not writing is similar to mine. You may not be writing, but you're thinking about it! Love it!

Well, thank you so much for taking the time to be a guest and for my readers, don't forget to comment below to Connie and/or about one thing you're looking forward to doing this summer!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Hacker by Ted Dekker | RE:View

Nyah Parks is seventeen, brilliant, and a hacker to beat all others. After surviving a traumatic accident that left her mother brain damaged and the rest of her family dead, she's forced to fend for herself. In a drastic attempt to earn funds for a surgery for her mother, Nyah pulls the job of a lifetime landing her in more trouble than she could have imagined.

At her whits end and running from danger, she turns to the only thing she knows: hacking. But this next hack job isn't like anything she's attempted before. With her mother's life and so much more riding on this job's success, Nyah puts everything she has on the line.

Can she save her mother in time? Does she have what it takes to step beyond computer hacking and transfer that skill to the human mind?

Hacker grabbed my attention and threw me for a loop. You could call it 'the ride of a lifetime' - and I loved it! 

I've been a long-time Dekker fan and this book is by far one of my favorites of his recent works! As some have noted, it's similar to his earlier novels, which I enjoyed the the best. I haven't read the previous books in The Outlaw Chronicles (yet) but I had no trouble stepping into this third novel.

The themes that Dekker brings out through his main character Nyah are beautiful and yet complex. She is layered yet extremely approachable as a character with her dry humor and ready intellect. Following her journey through the many twists and turns of the temporal and the unseen, you are connected to Nyah. Her journey becomes yours. Her loves and her struggles push you to discover what happens--to turn the next page, and the next...

An overarching theme in the novel is "deditio", Latin for surrender, and it is true, this book will teach you the beauty of learning to let go.

I definitely recommend it to fans of Dekker (especially his earlier works), to those who enjoy suspenseful thrillers, and to those who crave books that realistically push the limits of what is possible in this world. I'd also recommend Hacker to teen readers (16+). It could be a powerful force to engage in discussion around the themes revealed in the book.

Purchase Hacker: The Outlaw Chronicles or the rest of the Outlaw Chronicles from Ted Dekker on Amazon

Book Description
(from Dekkers website)

My name is Nyah and I’m a hacker. I know things most people would never believe. Things that shouldn’t exist, but do.

Seventeen year old Nyah Parks is a genius hacker whose world is unraveling. Deeply scarred from a horrific accident that killed her father and brother, and left her mother with irreparable brain damage, Nyah is barely holding the last shreds of her life together.Now, her mother’s health is deteriorating quickly and Nyah faces the grim prospect of losing her, too. One last ditch hope exists–an experimental brain surgery that could buy her mother more time. But Nyah must scrape together enough money to pay for it before it’s too late.

Desperate and with no other choice, Nyah turns her programming skills to cracking the firewalls of the world’s largest corporations. She exposes their weaknesses, and then offers her services to secure their systems from hackers.

But when the most dangerous job of her life backfires and forces her to go on the run, she encounters an impossible reality that shouldn’t exist, but does.

A hack unlike any other. A hack that will take her beyond the firewall of the human brain itself. A hack, which may be the only way to save her mother now.

What if there was a way to tap into the unseen reality that surrounds us all? Would you hack in? How far would you go to find the answers to your deepest questions? The answer lies deep beyond the firewall.

Tap in, strap in, and experience the mind-twisting ride with Nyah. What you find waiting on the other side of the firewall might forever change the way you see yourself and the world you live in.
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I received a free copy of this 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.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

ACFW Conference One Sheet Info

Maybe you're new to the game and you haven't thought about this, or maybe you've been to several conferences but haven't thought much about your one sheet before. Well, with the ACFW Conference dates announced (and many other conferences coming up) it's time to decide if you need a One Sheet.

What Is A One Sheet?

First, we have to answer the question of what a One Sheet is in a nutshell:
One Sheet: A quick, graphically enhanced look at your novel. Includes a blurb, sell-information, and short bio.
Simply put, it's an overview of your novel that is intended to help you "sell" your novel to an editor or agent. They are typically enhanced by graphics that help the reader gain a feeling for the novel itself. It's secondary to your pitch, but can be very effective.

Do I need a One Sheet?

The real question here is what do you plan on doing at the conference you're attending? Are you just attending to glean information and learn anything you can? Are you intending to meet with agents and editors to try and sell your book or book idea? Are you 100% new to writing and don't have a clue?

A One Sheet is a great thing to have if you're planning on trying to sell or pitch an idea to an agent or editor. They aren't required but highly recommended when it comes to conferences. Having something to show/give whomever you're talking too is a big step up from a simple face-to-face meeting. However, a One Sheet is not required. You may be at a place where you don't have a book or idea to pitch. Or, maybe you're not sure you're ready for the next step of publishing. If so, a One Sheet isn't necessary though you should consider compiling the information (below) for when you are ready.

What's on a One Sheet? 

One sheets typically contain these things:
  • Novel Title (really a working title)
  • Completed Word Count (this may not always apply)
  • Can include a short tag line
  • Graphics or an image that helps to visualize your book
  • A back cover copy/synopsis blurb 
  • Contact information (email, phone, website, address)
  • A short bio with your accomplishments/publications etc.
  • Your headshot 

 

So now what? 

 If you have design savvy or a good working knowledge of word/pages and feel confident in creating your own One Sheet - go for it! This is a chance for you to pull from other creative ares to design your own one sheet.

If you're not confident in your own design abilities, you can also hire out your One Sheet to a graphic designer. Make sure you compile all of the information listed above and have an idea of an image/theme that would work for your book* before contacting your designer. Also, find out if you'll have the ability to ask for revisions** to ensure the designer truly captures your story through visualization.

Brilliant Cut Editing and Writer Coaching has a great list going and I also offer a One Sheet design special that you can find details about here.***

No matter what you choose to do - make sure your one sheet is professional and eye catching!  

Check out these great posts for additional help and ideas: Rachelle Gardner, Rebecca DeMarino, ACFW Arkansas, The Writer's Alley
 

*Don't expect unlimited revisions because this costs you and the designer time.
** Make sure you aren't too set in your ideas. Your designer will (hopefully) have a good eye and can go off of what you describe to them, but they also need a bit of creative license.
***I created all one sheets shown on this posts.

The Judgement Stone by Robert Liparulo | RE:View

What would happen if you could see the spiritual realm? Angels, demons, all of it? Would it change how you viewed God? Would your faith grow? Or your fear increase? Jagger Baird, a former Army Ranger, faces just such a miracle in Robert Liparulo's fast paced, action-packed thriller, The Judgement Stone.

Met with the challenge to recover the Judgement Stone, a fragment left over from the Ten Commandments, he sets out on an impossible mission: stop The Clan, a murder-hungry group of immortals, before they use the stone to their own advantage, seeking to destroy the most devout followers of Christ.

One part Indianan Jones, one part The Screwtape Letters, and one part Frank Peretti, the in-your-face action of The Judgement Stone will have you turning pages late into the night.

For those of you (like me) who haven't read book one, The 13th Tribe, I would highly recommend reading it first. I came into this book like I do most - without reading the back cover copy. I'll admit to being wide-eyed and slightly disbelieving for the first few chapters as parts from book one were reintroduced in a typical 'catch up' fashion. Some things come out sounding slightly ridiculous and highly improbable when recounted in an off-hand way. Of course, I chalked that up to coming in late to the game with book two and pushed passed.

Once I'd gotten a hang of Liparulo's style and grasped what I could from the back story, I was immediately hooked! Great detail, action sequences, and an extremely clever plot that kept me guessing. His descriptions of the spiritual realm were by far my favorite though. The vivid pictures of angles and prayer I take away from this book will forever be imprinted into my mind.

This is a must read novel for fans of action, adventure, and spiritual warfare - but again, read book one first!

Book Description
(from Amazon)
Former Army Ranger Jagger Baird thought he had his hands full with the Tribe—the band of immortal vigilantes fighting to regain God’s grace by killing those opposed to Him. But that was before he encountered the ruthless group of immortals called the Clan. The Clan is after a prize that would give them unimaginable power—a piece of the Ten Commandments known as the Judgment Stone.

Those who touch the Stone can see into the spiritual world: angelic warriors, treacherous demons, and the blue threads of light that signal the presence of believers in communion with God.

By following the blue beam radiating from those closest to God, the Clan plans to locate His most passionate followers and destroy them.

Jagger quickly realizes his high-tech gadgetry and training are no match for these merciless immortals. But how can he defeat an enemy who hunts believers through their prayers . . . and won’t stop until they’ve annihilated all those close to Him?

In this high-action thriller, best-selling author Robert Liparulo examines the raging battle between good and evil on earth . . . and beyond.
Purchase The Judgment Stone (An Immortal Files Novel #2) and The 13th Tribe (An Immortal Files Novel #1)  
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I received a free copy of this 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.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Learning about Life (and Writing) from Dogs

Piper
You may be wondering what I could possibly have learned about life or writing from dogs, but believe it or not, I have learned a few things recently!

I had the opportunity to dog-sit for a dear friend recently. Her two dogs, Piper and Mikey, are some of the sweetest dogs! I had a blast with them though I did have a bit of a rough ride with poor Mikey who was under the weather for part of my stay.

It was during this time that I learned two things from dear Mikey and one very important thing from Piper.

1) Take it Slow
Mikey is definitely no spring-chicken. You can tell he's a little stiff in the hips in the mornings (and most times) but one thing I've seen in him is his commitment to taking it slow. He doesn't rush around, back and forth. He plans where he's headed and gets there when he gets there.

It reminds me that, though I really want to be a published author, maybe it's better for me to take it slow. Just like it reminds me that some things in life are better when you've waited for them.

Takeaway: Just because something isn't happening now doesn't mean it won't happen. Take it slow and keep persisting.

Mikey
2) Patience
Being a little slower, I noticed Mikey's commitment to being patient. He would wait for his food, wait for me to open the door, and even wait for me to carry him upstairs (this was before he got some medication to help with the joint pain). He was just stand there waiting, knowing I would take good care of him.

The same thing is true with us and the Lord in all things. We need to be patient like Mikey. Waiting on the Lord to give us what we need, to open the right doors for us, and even to carry us places we can't go on our own strength. It's a lesson that isn't easy to learn because it can involve us going through a difficult situation or trying time, but the end result is always better than we could have imagined.

Takeaway: Trusting God means waiting on His perfect timing.

3) Excitement 
Piper's Excited Face

Piper is one of the cuties dogs I know. She is all tail wagging and face licking. The thing I learned from her is to be excited! There are so many things in life, whether that's just waking up for another day or getting a 4 book contract (one of those would be nice some day God *hint* hehe). Either way, I was reminded it's okay to show your excitement! 

First thing in the morning Piper would jump up on the bed and attempt (usually successfully) to lick my face as her way of saying good morning. She always has energy and it's so fun to see how excited she gets over a simple thing like taking a walk.

Takeaway: Remember each day is a gift from God and be excited to see what He has in store for it.

Do you have pets? Have you ever observed them? Which of these do you think you need to learn?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

H. L. Wegley {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about H. L....

H. L. Wegley served in the USAF as an Intelligence Analyst and a Weather Officer. In civilian life he performed research in atmospheric physics. After earning an MS in Computer Science, he worked 20+ years in systems development at Boeing before retiring near Seattle, where he and his wife of 47 years enjoy small-group ministry, grandchildren, hiking on the Olympic Peninsula, snorkeling Maui whenever possible, and where he writes inspirational thrillers and romantic suspense novels.

How to connect with H.L....

Author web (being rebuilt) – (this is the interim web site): http://hlwegley.com
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/HLWegley
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/H.-L.-Wegley/e/B00B1XMR56
Twitter: https://twitter.com/hlwegley
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4460203.H_L_Wegley
Blog – The Weather Scribe – a climate of suspense and a forecast of stormy weather: http://weatherscribe.blogspot.com/

Character Interview: Katie Lloyd

I'm excited to be doing something a little different today. Since H.L. has been a guest for {Writer Wednesday} before, I thought it would be great to get to know one of his characters a little better. Today, we're interviewing 15-year-old Katie Lloyd. Join us in discovering a little bit more about Katie!

Q: I understand you recently had a harrowing adventure. Would you like to tell us about it?

A: I’d rather not. I’ll just say this—I was one of three girls chosen by human traffickers to—well you can guess what they planned to do with us. It’s only because of God and two wonderful people, Jennifer and Lee, that I’m here today, and that I’m not … that I’m … you know …

Q: We understand, Katie. Let’s talk about something else. You are a beautiful young lady and you look so much older than 15. You’re a foster—

A: I know what you’re going to ask. If I’m so wonderful, why didn’t someone adopt me? Or something like that. After my mom died, when I was 3, I ended up an orphan and went into foster care. Not all foster parents like children. They just want the money … or worse. When I got older, there were several attempts at abuse, because of … because of what you mentioned about me. And I’ve been harassed by guys since I turned 12 or 13. But that stopped last year.

Q: That sounds terrible. But you said it stopped?

A: Well, at school it stopped. This boy tried to kiss me on the school grounds. I decked him. Knocked him out cold. He was too embarrassed to report it, but I had to tell the school nurse, because it scared me when he didn’t get up for a few minutes.

Q: A girl knocking out a junior-high-age boy—that must have hurt his pride. We’ve been told that you are quite athletic. What have you done besides—

A: Besides knocking out guys? I don’t mean to laugh about it. But, since he wasn’t hurt, now it does seem almost funny. About sports, I play fast-pitch softball.

Q: Do you pitch?

A: I could, but the coach thinks throwing runners out at 1st base is important too. My coach put me at shortstop, because I can throw harder than most of the guys on the baseball team. He put a baseball in my hand once and pointed the varsity’s radar gun at me. Said my hardest throws were over 80.

Q: That’s right up there with Jamie Moyer’s fastball. I used to watch him at Safeco when he pitched for the Seattle Mariners. Do you have any sports dreams?

A: I’d love to play on the UW Huskies fast-pitch team and make it to the National Championships.

Q: It sounds like you have college plans. We’ve heard that you are a genius, with an IQ high in the genius bracket.

A: That’s what my school counselor says. I’m only a sophomore, but she’s already trying to get me to apply to some Ivy League school. An athletic scholarship looks like it might pay for more of my college, and I’d like to go to UW. They won a national championship in softball a few years ago.

Q: What do you plan to study in college?

A: Softball. :) Seriously, I want to work for the FBI, maybe right here in Seattle, in the Seattle Division Cyber Task Force. Catch the bad guys plotting terror attacks, cyber-attacks, cyber-crime, and cyber-espionage. So it’s probably going to be Computer Science for me.

Q: Wow! That sounds exciting.

A: Some of it is really boring, until you locate the bad guys and find out they’re actually local. Then it can get dangerous. 

Q: It almost sounds like you’ve had some experience. But at 15, you haven’t actually—

A: Not me. But Jennifer has. She has temporary custody of me. She told me a little about her work with NSA. FBI Agent Peterson told me a lot more. You’ve probably seen his name in the news a lot lately, especially after the human-trafficking incident. He says he’ll help me get a job with the Bureau after I graduate from college, if that’s what I still want to do.

Q: Let’s see, you’re about 5-foot-9, a genius, an athlete, and very beautiful, is there anything Katie Lloyd can’t do?

A: I can’t seem to stay out of trouble. It’s not like I do bad things, or go looking for it, but trouble seems to find me anyway. Like when the trafficking gang abducted me.

But the worst thing is that I haven’t been able to find a permanent home with people who love me. But maybe that’s about to change. That’s what I’m praying for anyway, because Jennifer and Lee—I shouldn’t say too much yet. Nothing’s official.

Just a minute … sorry, but I’ve got to go now. Granddad—he’s Jennifer’s grandfather—just answered a call and he sounds upset. I hope nothing has happened to Jennifer and Lee. I’m staying with Granddad while Jennifer and Lee are on their honeymoon in Maui. 


Moon Over Maalaea Bay 
[Book 3 in the Pure Genius Series]

    In an instant the Maui honeymoon of Lee's dreams morphs to a nightmare when Jennifer disappears on their wedding night. Were the abductors the trafficking ring Jennifer crippled or does an even a more sinister organization want her for other purposes.
    With the clock ticking toward Jennifer's impending sale, Lee, accompanied by their fifteen-year-old foster daughter, Katie, and Jennifer's grandfather, begins his own search of the island. As the search by Lee and the authorities intensifies, he fears beautiful Katie might end up in the crosshairs of the traffickers.
    Can Lee save both his bride and his future daughter? What if he has to make a choice? If Jennifer is sold, could she kill herself to avoid a life filled with degradation and horror? If she did, would God forgive her?

Purchase Moon Over Maalaea Bay
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 Thanks so much for sharing with us Katie (and H.L. of course). Moon Over Maalaea Bay sounds like a thrilling read and I can't wait to hear more from Katie! If you've missed H. L.'s other books you should catch up with Hide and Seek (find my RE:View here) and On The Pineapple Express.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Last Day Reflections

Staff at Cornerstone Church
Last days are hard.

They involve last minute loose ends, packing up your personal belongings, and saying goodbye. I don't like the saying goodbye part (or the rest of it for that matter!).

Last Thursday was my last day as Office Manager at Cornerstone Church in Santa Clarita. All the staff (pictured above minus Caitlin) had lunch and enjoyed final laughs and inside jokes all while avoiding the fact that I was leaving. Maybe I was the only one avoiding the thought...?

Once all of the laughter was done and the goodbyes were said, we all headed off in separate directions to meetings and various work activities. It was then, when the silence of my car surrounded me, that it really hit.

I'm really leaving...
 
For the last three years I've poured myself into my job at Cornerstone and have loved it! Not to say there weren't challenges - anything that's truly worth it always comes with challenges - but, it's so strange to be on the opposite side of it now. I joke and say I'm "unemployed" (as I am for about a month or so) but the truth is that I will really miss working with the staff (including the ladies hired to take my place) and for my church body.

This departing has reminded me of a saying by Jim Elliot:

Printable Decor

It may sound simple, but it's true. I've been "all there" at my job (or tried to be) and there are no regrets for late nights or difficult projects. It was all part of the job, but more deeply than that, it was part of my service to the Lord. The same goes for anyone in any job at any level of skill. No matter if you are fry cook, dentist, politician, or church worker, your service is to God first and foremost. It really changes your outlook (or at least it did for me).

I'm at home now, spending a few weeks relaxing--ok, I'll be honest and say I've been working like crazy on blog stuff, photos, and freelancing hehe--but really trying to take it 'easy' (or easier?) in order to be able to continue to put in 110% for the next job that God calls me to.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
- 1 Corinthians 10:31
What do you think? What is one way that you find helps you to give 110% in all that you do? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Somebody Like You by Beth K. Vogt | RE:View

Facing the loss of her Army Medic husband, Sam, is one thing, but the thought of being a single mom coupled with the abrupt appearance of her husbands estranged, identical twin brother Stephen is a whole different ball game. One that gun-toting tomboy Haley Ames faces like she does everything else in life - head on and without any help, thank you very much!

But what happens when Stephen becomes more than just an image of her dead husband? What happens when Haley realizes she may not be "fine" like she keeps telling everyone?

I enjoyed this book so much! It's my first introduction to Beth K. Vogt's writing and has me hooked on her sweet yet honest style and genuine characters. I really appreciated the themes she presented as they relate to many women, not just fictional characters.

Haley is at once frustrating and likeable in her stubborn nature, forcing you to plead with her to open up (yes, I talk to characters in books). Stephen is solid and true, his character obvious but his faults present as well.

I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys a sweet romance that tackles real-life problems in an honest yet compelling way. Beth will hold you captive to the very end as you root for God's plan to be revealed!

**The themes of military loss are present but dealt with in an extremely caring and understanding way.  I would, however, offer a gentle warning to anyone who struggles with reading in that theme.

Find out more about Beth K. Vogt on Amazon!
Purchase Somebody Like You: A Novel

Book Description
(taken from Beth's website)
In this beautifully rendered, affecting novel, a young widow’s world is shattered when she meets her late husband’s identical twin—and finds herself caught between honoring her husband’s memory and falling in love with his reflection.
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I received a free copy of this 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, June 11, 2014

Ralene Burke {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Ralene...

Born this side of a miracle, Ralene Burke grew up with a love for the supernatural side of God. Her passion spills over into her writing as she spins fast-paced tales of angels and demons, fantasy worlds, and the broader calling of every human being. A place where the light pierces the darkness…

The Lord gave her a heart for the written word and also for helping others, and thus was born her desire to become an editor as well.

Whether she’s wielding a writer's pen, an editor's sword, or a social media wand, she always has her head in some dreamer's world!

How to connect with Ralene...

Website: http://www.raleneburke.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ralene-Burke-Editor-and-Writer/238181542870321 Twitter: https://twitter.com/RaleneB

Writer Interview | Ralene Burke


You and Writing

Tell us a little bit about yourself: How did you start writing? What has kept you writing?
...I started writing as soon as I could hold a pencil . . . Okay, okay, I won’t go back that far. My first novel idea came while working at a bank. A friend was telling me the story of how she met her estranged grandmother, who ended up being her bus driver. The story wouldn’t leave me alone, and thus I began to form my own plot about a girl and the father she believed was dead. Of course, that book is still at the back of my closet.

...Writing is my passion. I couldn’t not write. I’ve tried before and ended up in such a depression that only time with God and writing, writing, writing could cure. God gave me this gift, and it is my responsibility to use it for His glory. Thus, I spin wild tales of the gifts He gives others!

Do you have a favorite book or work that you’ve written? If so, why?
...Aletheia, the fantasy I’m polishing up to send out, is probably my favorite. The themes and characters resonate with me the most. I have such a heart for showing the world how God uses the most unlikely people for extraordinary things. And it was just fun to write! 

Your Writing

Tell us a little bit about your book or what you’re working on currently? Why are you/did you write it?
...Alethia is a fantasy telling of the Armor of God. Karina, a healer-turned-queen is given a quest to retrieve the Armor of Elohim in order to defeat a warlock and an ancient evil set on sending her world into eternal darkness. Of course, she meets several people along the way that are meant to help her achieve this goal—in fact, they each are predestined for a specific piece of the armor.

Do you have a favorite character in this work? If so, why?
...The main character, Karina, is my favorite. She’s humble but strong. While she struggles with accepting that Elohim would choose her in spite of her past, she isn’t afraid to step into her leadership role when the situation calls for it.

What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
...No matter who you are, not matter what you’ve done, God has always loved you. He chose you for a purpose.

Writing

Where do you find inspiration for your story/characters? Are they based on real life or pure imagination or both?
...A mix of both, I’m sure. I don’t think I’ve ever consciously based a character on real life, but a couple of my story lines have been inspired by real events. The second novel I wrote, The Impossible Choice, is based on the story I heard of the father who took his son and his son’s friend fishing on a boat. A storm came up and the boys were tossed overboard. The father had only enough time to save one—an impossible choice. He knew his son had accepted Jesus as his savior, but he was not sure if the friend had. He opted to save the friend.

Someone in The Impossible Choice has to make a similar decision . . .

When you write, what is your overall intention with your stories?
...My overall intention when writing is to encourage and inspire people. With so much in our lives trying to pull us down, to make us feel inadequate and alone, I want people to see that we don’t have to believe the lies. We were meant for more, for better.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors for writing and/or publishing?
...Take the time to learn the craft. Be teachable. And write. Don’t necessarily think that you’re first novel is going to be “the one.”

...Also, since I’m a social media consultant, start using social media now. You want to build a following BEFORE you’re published—this will be key for your marketing strategy.

You

What is one thing you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing?
...Hanging with my family. I try to make a point of spending time with my husband and kids when I’m not absorbed in work.

Thinking of Fathers Day, is there a story you’d like to share with the readers about your father?
...Oh, there are so many! One thing I remember when I think of my father is not really a specific memory, but a series of them. My dad was in the Army. He worked with tanks, teaching and training other soldiers, and was gone a lot. However, when he was home—he was home. If he was around, he never missed a single softball game, school production, or 4-H project. He got involved. I know so many fathers who wanted to “relax” when they were home, and he so easily could have. But he didn’t.

What is one thing you are looking forward to for the Summer?
...I’m most looking forward to our trip to see my parents! That’s vacation this summer—10 days in Virginia with family. My sister and her family, who currently live in Japan, will be home, and there’s going to be a big family picnic with family from all over the country. Yay!


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Thank you so much for being a guest for {Writer Wednesday} Ralene, and for taking us into your world :) Your novel sounds great and I hope to see it in print soon!!! I love your advice for building your audience now, and your story about your father is so inspiring. I think it's good advice for us all - no matter where we are, we need to be "all there" because that's where God has placed us.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Finding Spiritual Whitespace by Bonnie Gray | RE:View

Finding Spiritual Whitespace

This post is part of the  “Finding Spiritual Whitespace Blog Tour” which I am a part of, along with a group of soulful, journeying kindreds. To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE!  

Rest and refreshment. 

Finding Spiritual Whitespace holds truths that root deeper than typical books about seeking rest. Bonnie approaches the idea of "whitespace", a term used used to describe absence in creative expressions like art, photography, or graphic design, and applies it to our lives as women. She uses her own story, shared in unique glimpses and heartfelt revelations, to draw a connection between women of all backgrounds and lifestyles.

Her premise is simple: We all need whitespace. She draws out this conclusion through a series of though provoking chapters that delve into issues that trap and bind us as women. The prompts at the end of each chapter are also a gold-mind of soul-searching goodness! Bonnie approaches introspection with an original flair that will leave you with realizations, both at times painful and freeing.

I wasn't sure what to expect with Finding Spiritual Whitespace. Living a busy and sometimes overly-full life, I loved the tag line, "Awakening your soul to rest" and was not disappointed. I appreciated Bonnie's approach and raw honesty. I found myself feeling relieved knowing that I wasn't the "only one" who felt a certain way by her straightforward admissions.

I also loved the challenges and intriguing questions she left at the end of each chapter. They weren't the typical, "how did this make you feel" queries but instead aimed deeper--soul deeper. They touched a gentle part in my heart that opened me up to embrace a different kind of rest. A rest free from guilt, free from restrictions, and free to be genuine in my brokenness if necessary.

If you are a woman, you are in need of this book. Though Bonnie's experiences are unique, she creates a bridge to close the gap between women of all ages and circumstances. I highly recommend this and would suggest reading it with a partner or a small group. Accountability in scheduling in whitespace would be extremely helpful.

In our busy world today we all need rest and we could all use a little (or a lot) more whitespace.

Book Description
(from Bonnie's website)
Finding Spiritual Whitespace is memoir-driven guidebook for anyone longing to create space in life to draw closer to God, to rest and discover who they can become when rest becomes their heart’s everyday home.

This book chronicles Bonnie’s heartbreaking journey through painful memories, how a childhood dream unexpectedly launched her into a debilitating journey through panic attacks, insomnia and anxiety — and how creating space to feed her soul led her to create a better story for her life, one filled with beauty and meaning.

The book explores how our lives are like God’s artwork, exploring ways to create space for beauty, rest and soul care. Just as beautiful art needs whitespace, we need whitespace. We need rest. Whitespace is not blank space. It breathes beauty.
Take the journey to find rest. Uncover your stories. Make room for you. For God. For Rest.

Bonnie Gray is the writer behind Faith Barista.com who wrote a book about her inspiring, heart-breaking journey to find rest, which garnered Publisher’s Weekly starred review. I’m taking the journey to find rest through this guidebook and invite you to read it too.  You can get a copy HERE.
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I received a free copy of this 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, June 4, 2014

Angie Brashear {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Angie...

When Angie Brashear isn’t working or taking care of her family, she writes. Usually at night after her kids fall asleep. She’s a fan of speculative fiction and an avid runner, both of which perplex her nonfiction-reading, football-loving husband. Saved in her early twenties, Angie is grateful for the Lord’s presence in all aspects of her life. She is originally from Rockland, Maine and currently resides in Cameron, Texas with her husband and three children.

How to connect with Angie...

Website: http://angiebrashear.com
Facebook:
http://facebook.com/AngieBrashearAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AngieBrashear
Purchase: Of the Persecuted

Author Interview | Angie Brashear

You and Writing

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
...My “normal” activities surround raising three amazing kids, as well as a career in public education with a focus on students with disabilities. I love to read and I love to run, especially now that my kids are old enough to do both with me. And now I love to write books into the wee hours of the night, after my kids fall asleep. LOL!

How did you start writing? What has kept you writing?
...When I was in the fifth grade, my teacher read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis aloud to my class. In doing so, she opened my eyes to adventure and possibilities, all the while helping me escape a world of darkness for a short time. At its conclusion, I wondered, Is God real? He couldn’t be, right? For if He existed, innocent young girls wouldn’t suffer the wrath of drunken addicts, or the torment of abandonment. I continued to speculate. Each time God placed believers in my path—a high school teacher, a college friend, and a college coach—my fascination with the possibility grew stronger until the truth stunned me like a slap to the face. God indeed lives in the form of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He rescues. He saves. And He waited for me. Then He embraced me. It all started with a little seed, planted in the empty heart of the girl I once was. A love for reading expanded to a love for writing. A desire to know God became a desire to serve Him, to reach nonbelievers. So I write, in hopes of reaching at least one lost girl.


Your Writing

Tell us a little bit about your book or what you’re working on currently? Why are you/did you write it?
...Of the Persecuted is a fantasy with a strong thread of romance geared toward young adult females. The story surrounds an insecure girl who believes she is no more than a burden to the people she loves. But in the midst of physical and spiritual war, and through the loss of loved ones, as well as the turmoil of unrequited love, she discovers her true worth lies in her faith.

...Ultimately, my goal is to reach young adult females much like the lost, lonely girl I once was. As a nonbeliever for the majority of my life, I enjoyed reading speculative fiction and it was the The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis which ultimately opened my eyes to Christ. My prayer is that my stories will do the same for others. I also hope believers will enjoy the Christian undertones of my work.

Do you have a favorite character in this work? If so, why?
...Yes, Zander Costigan. He quickly emerged as my favorite because he battles darkness in a way that tugs at my soul.

What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
...That our true worth lies in faith, in salvation through Jesus Christ.

Back Cover Blurb:
Laila Pennedy awaits death by hanging. For the Rendow Clan rules the Woodlands Region, aiming to slaughter the Faithful. And she deserves to die. But Lars Landre, the man destined to lead the Faithful out of persecution, has other plans hidden behind his rare and mysterious blue eyes. Rescue.

Following the daring escape, Laila seeks the path of a warrior and vows revenge against the Rendow Clan. She embarks on a dangerous journey with Lars, one in which they endeavor to reach the promised safety of a magical village, to train for battle, and to ultimately assure freedom for those with faith in the Maker.
Clashes of weapons and souls. Brutal loss of lives. Unrequited love. How in all the Woodlands will Laila survive?

Writing

Where do you find inspiration for your story/characters? Are they based on real life or pure imagination or both?
...Both. For example, Laila Pennedy’s insecurities are inspired by my own, though her circumstances are quite different.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors for writing and/or publishing?
...Seek guidance from the Lord, for His path may be very different than your desires.

You

What is one thing you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing?
...I’m a long distance runner, though I’m not sure most people wouldn’t consider my lifelong passion a relaxing activity. But running relaxes me, clears my mind. As such, it’s a great time for me to seek counsel from God. My cross country teammates and I lived by Philippians 4:13 in college. We usually began and ended each day with intense and exhausting distance training. Because we aimed to glorify God with our efforts and attitudes, we focused on allowing Him to work through us. I pray my endeavors as a writer do nothing less. In Him, we can do all things to His glory.

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Thank you so much for joining us at Thinking Thoughts Angie! What a beautiful testimony of God's goodness and perseverance you shared! I also love how you are focused on reaching teen girls - being a volunteer with high school students for the past 10 years I have a heart for that age group as well. Plus, I completely connect with you on the running aspect! It is relaxing no matter what some may think. I find when I'm running I'm able to put my mind to plotting or story crafting and I hardly notice the miles fly by :)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Holding On To All That I've Got | A lesson from UP

Hello Thinking Thoughts friends! How are you doing?

Yes, yes...I see you (not literally, of course) shaking your heads thinking, "Where has she been these past few weeks?" I grimace to utter the words, "I've been busy" because I feel they are not enough. They are accurate, but at times they just seem...empty.

BUT...I'm going to say it anyway. I have been busy busy busy and it's trickled down into every area of my life including you, my dear readers. I'm sorry I've been MIA for a while now but as I plan my last month and a half (yes, that's IT!) here in Southern California (before I move to Washington, D.C.) I am overwhelmed with loose ends just begging to be tied down. I kind of feel like like I'm trying to hold on to hundreds of balloons like in UP but they keep slipping out of my grasp.

http://www.wallpaperhdphoto.com/wallpaper/archives/4824/flying-house-up-wallpaper-movie

My balloons happen to be books I need to review, job training manuals I need to complete, packing that I only have 2 weeks for, photos for clients, blogs (check out my latest, very raw/honest post about self-image here), posts, freelance writing, hanging out with friends before we leave and...well the list could go on.

Despite all of this, the confirmation that this move is exactly what the Lord has planned is overwhelming.
In the bittersweet middle ground of leaving-excitement and goodbye-pain, I seek soul-balanced peace that comes from being rooted in the Lord.
I can't understand it. I can't always capture it. But I can't deny it. God leads His children with a compassionate hand that we should never run from. It's difficult to reconcile my desire to jump head-long into new experiences while simultaneously resisting due to the ties my sweet friendships have on me here. All I know is that sometimes when things are hard, it doesn't always mean that they are bad.

Are you wrestling with anything right now that seems difficult but yet you feel the Lord is leading you despite that? What are the balloons you are trying to hold on to?