Saturday, May 31, 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.

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?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Jessica Snell {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Jessica...

Jessica Snell is a mom of four who makes her home in sunny Southern California. She loves celebrating the traditional Christian feasts and fasts, and helping others do the same!

She’s the editor of "Let Us Keep the Feast", and blogs at Homemaking Through the Church Year.

How to connect with Jessica...

Purchase: Let Us Keep The Feast: living the Church Year at home (Holy Week and Easter)

Author Interview | Jessica Snell
You and Writing

Tell us a little bit about yourself: How did you start writing? What has kept you writing?
...I was writing before I could write – I used to draw books of pictures, and my mom would write down the words I told her went with them. And as a teenager, I was always writing stories; I’d do it in class and my teachers just thought I was taking really copious notes!

...But I started seriously writing for publication after I had my first two children. I had the privilege of meeting Robin Jones Gunn – one of my writing heroines – at a book signing when she had time to chat. I asked her about how she wrote while she had young kids at home, and was really inspired. I took her advice to heart, and set to work, well, working.

Do you have a favorite book or work that you’ve written? If so, why?
...My favorite will probably never see the light of day – it’s a novella I wrote for my husband’s birthday. It’s my favorite because it’s full of all the things he and I both love in stories: over-the-top adventure, duels, romance, super-powers . . . you know, all the fun stuff. :) I’m not sure it will ever find a larger audience just because it’s so incredibly goofy – like us. But it was so fun to write.

If published, what was the hardest thing about publishing? The easiest?
...The hardest thing is all the little details. The only book I’ve published so far is a non-fiction book with multiple authors – I was the editor – and in a volume like that, there are a ton of little things you have to do to make sure that all of the different voices blend into a harmonious whole. It’s a ton of work, but it was so satisfying to see it all come together!

...The easiest thing was writing about a topic I really cared about: celebrating the church year at home. The actual prose I contributed to the project came easily simply because it was a subject I loved.

Your Writing

Tell us a little bit about your book? Why are you/did you write it?
...Right now I’m working on an inspirational romantic suspense. Romance is my real love in fiction, and suspense just adds another layer of excitement and emotion!

Do you have a favorite character in this work? If so, why?
...I love my heroine. She’s very sensible and loves order, and so it’s a ton of fun to put her in a situation where everything is out of control and she has to learn to deal with all the emergencies that keep cropping up.

What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
...The idea of home is really important to both my hero and my heroine, for different reasons. I hope my readers identify with that longing for home, and feel satisfied when the main characters find it in God and in each other.


Where do you find inspiration for your story/characters? Are they based on real life or pure imagination or both?
...The “what-if” that sparks the story is often real life – a crime, a news story, a location. But then the characters – my favorite part – are pure imagination. (Though real life informs our imagination, right? So I’m not sure how much I can really separate the two . . .)

When you write, what is your overall intention with your stories?
...I want people to enjoy themselves, first off. I think it was Susan Howatch that said that if you can’t make the reader turn the page, anything else you’re trying to do is a loss.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors for writing and/or publishing?

...Write. Write a lot. And then, when querying, don’t give up. Research before you query, for sure. There are a ton of resources out there that will help you know how to edit and query properly. Don’t query without learning how first. But once you know how, just keep trying. If you fail, write a new book, edit it, and try again. You can’t control whether someone says yes, but you can control how well and how often you ask.


What is a favorite memory you have of your mother?
...My mom and I have spent so many hours just talking and listening to each other. But the memory that comes to mind right now is one of the (many) times when we’ve looked at each other across the table and just burst out laughing, because we have the same sense of humor and can tell when the other one finds something funny. Whenever we’re at the same event, if it’s serious and formal, we have to make sure not to sit across from each other, otherwise we’re sure to catch each other’s eye and end up laughing at entirely the wrong time!

If you had to choose one type of food, what kind would it be? 
...Probably Thai or Indian. I’m a sucker for spices! 

April showers bring May flowers – or so they say. Do you have a favorite flower? If so, why is it your favorite?
...I love white roses. They look like floating clouds.

Thank you so much for stopping by the blog today Jessica! I'm looking forward to hearing more about your book - it's right up my alley ;) And I LOVE that you wrote a book for you husband - such a great gift! And you and your mom sound like you have a fantastic relationship :D Love it! Thanks again Jessica! 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Patti Shene {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Patti...

Patti Shene has enjoyed writing since childhood. She is published in two anthologies, Love is a Verb Devotional and Angels, Miracles, and Heavenly Encounters, as well as in local publications.

She served as Executive Editor for Starsongs, a publication of Written World Communications (WWC), written for kids by kids from 2010 - 2013. She also held the position of Division Manager for YA and Children’s Imprints with WWC for several months.

She has three novels in progress. Patti enjoys encouraging other writers by judging contests and featuring writers as guests on her three blogs, located at

Patti is a retired RN, formerly from Long Island, who resides in a small Colorado town with her husband of thirty-six years. They have two wonderful adult children and one amazing 12- yr old granddaughter.

How to connect with Patti...


Goodreads: Patti Shene
Linkedin: Patti Shene

Writer RE:Interview | Getting to know you…again with Patti Shene

--> You and Writing

Who is one of your favorite authors and why?
...Rebecca Carey Lyles has become one of my favorite new authors. I’ve read a couple of her nonfiction books and the first two books in her three book Kate Neilson series. She writes about the ranching life, which I love, but adds a twist to her plots that addresses difficult issues.

What is one book or resource you would recommend to other writers? Why?
...I really enjoyed Amy Deardon’s The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story. This book takes a writer step by step from the inception of an idea to the final polish prior to publication. She gives an overview of the process involved in manuscript submission and explains different publishing options. Each chapter contains exercises that build upon each other to create a superb finished product.

How do you balance your time between writing and other actives? Any helpful tips, tricks, or suggestions?
...Confession time here. I’m a terrible procrastinator, so when I have a deadline, whether it be our church newsletter or a contest entry, I’m usually working on it at the last possible moment. My goal is to start committing at least an hour a day to my writing, but unfortunately, it hasn’t happened yet.

Your Writing

Tell us a little bit about the story you're working on.
...It’s a historical (19th century) about an ex-con recently released from prison and a young woman who has escaped from her errant father. Their relationship grows in a small town on the Colorado plains while both struggle to make a new life under the shadow of dark pasts. His weak trust in God is strengthened while her strong faith is tested as they face various trials.

What was one trial you faced when writing it? One success?
...Research drives me nuts. I always worry that I don’t have the facts straight, or I’ll hear a tidbit that I could use, then forget where I heard or read it.

...I’ve had a couple of editors who are very interested in the story – if I would just get it completed!

Who is your favorite character and why?
...My favorite character is my cowboy ex-con, Frank Pride. He struggles so hard to take the right path now that he is out of prison, but is forced into situations that make the right decision very difficult.

What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
...God forgives and can work miracles in a person’s life, even after they have committed the most heinous of sins.


Favorite writing snack:
...I like a bowl of fruit while writing. All of the other snacks I enjoy (cookies, chips, etc) leave crumbs all over my laptop keyboard, so I save them for when I’m reading!

Book you’re reading right now:
...I’m reading PDQ, a crime mystery by Ronald Glanz that I obtained through Fred St Laurent’s Book Club Network (

If you could go anywhere in the world for one month (for free) where would it be and why?
...I’d love the opportunity to visit our son and daughter-in-law in the UK! I never thought I would care to travel outside of the US, but having someone so close who could show us the sights would probably be very exciting and fun.
Thank you so much for taking time to come back and re-visit the blog Patti! I love that you freely admit to being a terrible procrastinator! That, unfortunately, is me too!!! Though sometimes I've done some of my best work on the fly ;) I'm excited for the story you've shared about - I hope you get the chance to finish it and I also hope you get to visit the UK! It's definitely on my top-list of places to visit. Thanks again for being my guest!

Monday, May 19, 2014

A March Bride by Rachel Hauck | RE:View

Swoon. Sigh. Smile.

Three words that perfectly describe A March Bride by Rachel Hacuk.

Part of the A Year of Weddings Novella Collection, Hauck reintroduces characters Susanna Truitt and King Nathaniel II of Brighton Kingdom from her novel Once Upon A Prince. Following the whirlwind that was Susanna and Nathaniel's beautiful love story, their wedding preparations are in full swing! Slated for a large, public wedding in Brighton Kingdom and asked to give up yet one more thing, Susanna starts to question if she's made the right decision to enter into royalty. Who will she be once she's the Queen of Brighton? Will Nathaniel's very public, and very important life completely overshadow her?

King Nathaniel has been distant, dealing with governmental demands and one last request he must make of Susanna, knowing that she has already given up so much. Despite this, his love for her has never wavered, but has Susanna's?

Though only novella length, this sweet story will overwhelm you with intense emotions holding you captive to the story until the end! I'm a huge fan of Hauck's writing and this novella is no exception. I laughed, talked out loud to the characters, and even cried at the end (the good tears of course).

I completely recommend this to fans of romance and real-life fairy tales! You may be frustrated at first, wondering where the Happy Ending is, but don't worry, it will be well worth the wait.

Purchase: A March Bride (A Year of Weddings Novella)

Book Description
(Taken from Hauck's website)
In A March Bride by award-winning author Rachel Hauck, Susanna Truitt (Once Upon A Prince) is three weeks from marrying her prince, King Nathaniel II of Brighton Kingdom.

But when a final request comes from the government for her to renounce her American citizenship, couple with the lack of attendance to her wedding by family and friends, doubt seeds her heart. Is this God’s plan for her?

Losing Susanna is Nathaniel’s greatest fear. Marrying a king means her life will never be her own — right down to her very identity.

When she travels home to Georgia before the wedding, Nathaniel is unsure she’ll return. Gathering his courage, he devices a plan to win his bride all over again and prove her heart is the “kingdom” which he treasures above all.

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, May 17, 2014

A Conversation With Phil

I don't know Phil.

Well, I mean to say I don't really know him. We met a few weeks back at Starbucks while I was putting together my support letters with the help of my trusty slave helper, Dani.

We sat there, drinking our lovely, liquid caffeine and tea respectively, scribbling an address across what felt like endless amounts of envelopes. We then folded, assembled, and stuffed more envelopes with these papers. It was fun work, and you could tell it caught peoples interest. A few different people asked about what was going on, assuming Dani (a high school student) was raising money for camp or something similar.

It was great because it gave me an opportunity to share what I was doing and how God has been working in my life. An open, honest explanation of how God works in peoples lives and I was given the invitation to just spill it on out.

We were nearing the end of the first stack when a gentleman, Phil, asked the obvious question. "What are those for?"

I responded in my usual manner, "I'm moving to Washington, D.C. to start a church and am raising support to go as a missionary." I could tell he was intriged, but he also had to go so we did the polite nod back and forth and he was gone.

Not five minutes later he was back.

What, I thought?

He shrugged, opened up his Starbucks sandwich and, with a grin, asked to hear more about what I was doing. As I shared, his grin turned into a full-blown smile. I wrapped up the more in-depth explanation of what I was doing and he sheepishly admitted that what he really wanted to do was brag about his daughter to us (in addition to listening to my story of course). She had just received two job offers within a short span, one with a church and one with a church-affiliated organization. He was so excited for her!

It was funny because, as we chatted - me interested in knowing more about his daughters jobs and he just happy to gush - the most incredible thing happened. Our discussion turned from the opportunities themselves to the God that had granted them. Phil was encouraging, reminding me that just as I was being directed, his daughter was also following the path laid out before her by a God who knows it all.

As the conversation naturally progressed toward an end, I was shocked and touched to see tears of joy in his eyes. He leaned toward Dani and I and told us that God was doing good things. Big things. Amazing things.

I walked away from Starbucks that day with more than all of my support letters folded and ready to go. I walked away with a sense of confirmation. One I've gotten in other areas as I made my way toward a decision to move to D.C. but this one was different. It reminds me that my story--and your story--is important. It was the gateway that opened up this amazing conversation with Phil, but it was also a testimony to the goodness of the big God that I serve.

I look forward to more stories like this. To the meetings the Lord will 'divinely appoint' for me and how I'll get to share them with you!

What about you? Do you have a story of a time you knew the Lord put you at "just the right time and place" for something?

I'd love if you shared comments below! I also wrote about sharing your story for this months post on Putting On The New: What's Your Story? I'd love to hear from you over there :)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Words of Conviction by Linda J. White | RE:View

Excited to share my review of Linda J. White's Words of Conviction. You may remember Linda from her guest {Writer Wednesday} post a few weeks ago which you can find [here]. As a D.C. native, I look forward to connecting with her when I reach Washington!!!


Fast paced. Action packed. Guaranteed to keep you glued to your seat!  

Words of Conviction by Linda J. White is a fantastic FBI thriller set in the heart of Washington, D.C. following the kidnapping of five-year-old Zoe Grable, daughter to powerful Senator Bruce Grable.

Special Agent Mackenzie "Kenzie" Graham is still green in regards to her involvement in the field as an FBI agent. Smart, beautiful, and a talented forensic psycholinguists, she may be the only hope to get Zoe safely back in the arms of her father.

Special Agent John Crowfeather "Crow", a Navajo and former marine, is assigned to the team under Special Agent Scott Hansbrough who's calling the shots. Crow's cunning and protective instincts help to keep Kenzie safe, but could it be more than that?

I really enjoyed this fast-paced story set in D.C. The descriptions were perfect for gaining a feel for the location and White kept me guessing as to how it would be resolved all the way to the end! I would say that the relationship between Kenzie and Crow was a little stiff and sometimes felt forced. Crow is a difficult character to read, which is part of who he is, but the interpersonal aspect of the two doesn't hint much at the romance that could blossom in the future. Granted, with a fast-paced story and the hectic nature of an FBI investigation, I can see why there wasn't much time spent on developing a deeper connection between the two.

I would highly recommend this book to fans of fast-paced, FBI thrillers. If you love NCIS or Criminal Minds, you will love this book! Romantic Suspense fans will also enjoy this, though know the romance is back-burner. It doesn't take away from a great story though!

Purchase Words of Conviction

Book Description
(Taken from Linda's website)

FIRST, Special Agent Mackenzie Graham arrests Senator Bruce Grable. Then she becomes his very best hope for getting his kidnapped daughter Zoe back alive. Kenzie is a forensic psycholinguist. She studies words. Can the language the kidnapper uses provide clues to his identity? Teaming up with Special Agent John Crowfeather, a Navajo, Kenzie is about to find out.
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, May 14, 2014

Elizabeth Maddrey {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Elizabeth...

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

Elizabeth lives in the suburbs of Washington D.C. with her husband and their two incredibly active little boys. She invites you to interact with her at her website or on Facebook:
How to connect with Elizabeth...

Twitter: @elizabethmaddre
Purchase: Faith Departed

Author Interview | Elizabeth Maddrey

You and Writing

Tell us a little bit about yourself: How did you start writing? What has kept you writing?
...I started writing because my mom told me to “Go write a story or something” when I was little and bugging her. Of course, this kind of backfired for her, because then I wanted to read her my story and, as kids do, the retelling of the story was much, much longer than the few paragraphs I actually wrote down. But something in that sparked the fire in me to write, and it’s never really gone away. I tried, for awhile, to quash it. But inevitably the stories keep coming – so I write them down. It was only after I started sharing them with a few friends here and there that I decided maybe it was worth trying to share them with a broader audience. And knowing that those stories connect with even one person makes it worthwhile.

Do you have a favorite book or work that you’ve written? If so, why?
...You know, I feel like my most recent book ends up being my favorite. Then I write something new and it takes over. It almost makes me feel a little bad for the other books. But I do have a slightly softer spot in my heart for my novella, Joint Venture, than my full-length novels. That’s primarily because I love Matt and Laura as characters, so their story is special to me. 

What was the hardest thing about publishing? The easiest?
...The hardest thing for me was realizing that what I write isn’t particularly main stream. Just because they’re stories I would want to read, doesn’t mean they have a mass-market appeal. So finding a publisher who’s willing to go out into that fringe with me and explore characters who are living in the world but struggling not to be of it…that was tough.

...I’m not sure I can think of anything that I’d classify as “easy.” But every aspect of it has been rewarding!

Your Writing

Tell us a little bit about your book or what you’re working on currently? Why are you/did you write it?...Faith Departed is the story of twin sisters embarking on a journey to start a family with their respective husbands. But, like so many people, they run straight into the wall of infertility and it sends their worlds into a tailspin.

...This series (Faith Departed is book 1) is a bit of a departure from my usual contemporary romance, but it was a story that was heavy on my heart. My husband and I struggled with infertility for thirteen years. And while it wasn’t thirteen years of darkness, they are definitely some of the hardest years of my life. The Church as a corporate body doesn’t seem to treat the infertile with compassion (as a rule. I’m sure there are many exceptions – but I never ran into them.) Some of it may be our fault – after all, not many women want to walk around advertising “Hey, I’m infertile!” Instead, we tend to shrink to the back of the room and avoid the conversations about kids. So it’s possible that you know people dealing with infertility without realizing that they’re enduring that struggle. But even when we do mention it, we’re very often met with a bumper sticker response – “Let go and let God”, “It’s all in God’s plan” and so forth. I’ll tell you, infertility taught me a lot of compassion for the single folks at the church – because I think they deal with the same kinds of things, just about getting married instead of having children. For me, the years of infertility were the years of my deepest spiritual struggles. And talking to other women who’ve gone through it, I found that I wasn’t alone. So I wrote Faith Departed with the hope that the women (and men, I’ve got a few male readers) who read it will realize that they aren’t alone either.

Do you have a favorite character in this work? If so, why?
...Probably June. Of the sisters, she’s the one who most echoes my own heart’s cries. She isn’t afraid to just let God have it, understanding that He can take it, and that it’s only by being honest with ourselves and with God that we have any hope of getting through our trials.

What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
...That infertility hurts in a myriad of ways. It’s not just the inability to have kids, but it’s the feelings of failure, the insensitive comments well-meaning people send our way, and the subtle undercurrent that somehow we’ve convinced God that we’re not acceptable enough to be deemed parents (even when we know better, that little lie creeps in.) If you’ve experienced infertility, I hope it helps you feel less alone. If you haven’t, I hope it opens your eyes to the silent suffering around you and helps you minister in little ways to those who are hurting.


Where do you find inspiration for your story/characters? Are they based on real life or pure imagination or both?
...Both. Not all of my books come from personal experiences, though they definitely work their way in. But I find story ideas everywhere I look. One of my favorite things to do is watch the people around me and make up a back story – why does the woman at the grocery store keep checking her phone? Is she waiting for a test result? Or a text letting her know someone’s all right? Is she late for an important meeting or wasting time at the store because someone she doesn’t want to talk to has said they’ll be swinging by later in the day and she doesn’t want to be home? There’s story fodder everywhere!

When you write, what is your overall intention with your stories?
...I want to let Christians know that it’s okay to be real people. I think sometimes we look at fictional characters, particularly the Christian ones, and they’re either the epic bad guy (intolerant, cruel, fist-shakers – you know what I mean, right?) or they’re the too-perfect, super-spiritual who never sins because Jesus has given them complete victory (all their sin is in the back story, not the here and now). And while we certainly all yearn for the latter to be the case, in the real world, I think most of us fall in the middle and we cling to the grace and forgiveness available to us in Christ. And that’s okay. We’re walking that line, trying to find the balance of living in, but not becoming of, the world.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors for writing and/or publishing?
...Write the story you have, don’t try to shoehorn yourself into being someone—or writing something—you’re not. And if you’re a little out there, a little off the mainstream, don’t be scared of the smaller presses, or even self-publishing. But no matter what, go into publishing knowing that being an author is hard work – and that work doesn’t stop once the manuscript is complete. 


What is a favorite memory you have of your mother?
...I can’t put my finger on one specific memory right now, but she’s always there when I need her. And inevitably she knows just what to say. I may not always appreciate hearing it, but it’s inevitably what I need to hear at the time.

If you had to choose one type of food, what kind would it be? (Example: Italian, German, Chinese etc.)
...Can I just say “Yes?” Though I do love some good German food. Mmm…schnitzel.

April showers bring May flowers – or so they say. Do you have a favorite flower? If so, why is it your favorite? ...Lilacs. They’re purple (I love purple) and they smell so heavenly. Also we had a lilac bush outside our house growing up and, for whatever reason, stray cats would often curl up under it. So it let me feel like I had a pet cat (up until I finally coerced my parents into letting me adopt one of the strays.)

Thank you so much for sharing with us today Elizabeth! I love how you say that you write to let Christians know it's okay to be real. Amen, Sister! I think we often get caught up in trying to look perfect when trials hit and we forget how David cried out to God and how the Lord promises to comfort us in those times of trouble, though He may not take away the trial itself. I'm looking forward to being in the DC area with you and hope to hear more about new books from you soon!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Fatal Exchange by Lisa Harris | RE:View

Fatal Exchange, the second book in Lisa Harris's Southern Crimes series will keep you guessing until the end.

Mason Taylor has a heart of gold to match his cunning and good looks. He's volunteered his free time, when he's not working as an undercover cop, to work with teen boys who are missing a father-presence in their lives. That's how he met Rafael.

Emily Hunt, with her vintage style and quick avoidance of men in uniform, is a teacher with a mission to dedicate everything she has to her students. Just how far she'll go to protect them is tested when Rafael, one of her favorite students, takes her class hostage.

The excitement just begins there and will keep you wondering how things will work out until the very end. Add a bit of romance, a heaping dose of danger, and you have the recipe for a captivating read.

I enjoyed this novel by Lisa Harris, though I haven't yet read the first in this series, Dangerous Passage, so I can't speak to it as a followup. I enjoyed the guessing game Harris puts her readers through, and found it almost to be more of a mystery than a full, action-packed novel.

There were a few times while I was reading that I felt she belabored the point about something, like several pages of dialogue that went in circles about the same issue. Also, though the novel itself was well rounded, there were times when things seemed to end much too quickly for all of the pent up emotion that went into building the scenarios up. These points, however, didn't stop me from enjoying the read.

I'd recommend this to anyone who likes romantic suspense but is okay with less action and more storyline. The romance is sweet and you'll have no troubles jumping right in to book 2 if you've missed book 1.

Purchase Fatal Exchange: A Novel

Book Description
(Taken from Lisa's website)

Emily Hunt might come from a family of cops, but she never goes looking for an adrenaline rush. She lives the quiet--well, relatively quiet--life of a teacher and thrives on making a difference in the lives of her students. But she'll have to draw on a well of strength and savvy she didn't know she had as student Rafael Cerda takes her class hostage for ransom money to save his brother's life.

Undercover cop Mason Taylor has been working with Rafael to find his brother and bring the cartel thugs who hold him to justice. Can he talk Rafael down from his impulsive actions? And is there something more sinister at work here than he realizes?

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, May 7, 2014

Melissa Tagg {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Melissa...

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

How to connect with Melissa...

Purchase her book: Here to Stay

Author Interview | Melissa Tagg

You and Writing

Tell us a little bit about yourself: How did you start writing? What has kept you writing?
...I’m your typical “always wanted to be a writer” girl. I loved books as a kid, still do, and at some point had this realization as a child that, whoa, people could write stories for a job. I decided that needed to be my job one day. It was nice because it made things like answering the question “What do you want to do when you grow up?" and picking a college major really easy.

...As for what’s kept me writing…I just love stories. I love making people laugh or swoon or think or feel things they might not otherwise.

Do you have a favorite book or work that you’ve written? If so, why?
...That’s a hard one! In many ways, Made to Last will always have a special, special place in my heart simply because it was the first one published. Here to Stay, though, challenged me in a huge way. I feel like I dug deeper as I wrote that one—there were definitely personal nuggets in Made to Last, but even more in Here to Stay. So at this moment in time, Here to Stay is my fave.

...Of course, if I ever get book three finished, it’ll probably be favorite. Then same with book four…

What was the hardest thing about publishing? The easiest?
...I think probably the hardest thing was the wait before that first contract…wondering if I was really on the right path…if this was really something God wanted for me. I hated the thought that I could be pouring so much time and energy, even money, into this writing dream if it wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing. But I kept telling myself, as long as God kept opening doors, I’d walk through them. And honestly, even though it wasn’t always fun, I’m thankful for the way the wait tested my patience, trust and willingness to take risks.

...The easiest? If we’re talking writing itself, then dialogue and voice has always come the easiest for me. If we’re talking the writing journey, then probably the easiest—and most surprising, too—has been connecting with others in the writing world. I am soooo beyond thankful for the amazing relationships God has brought into my life as a result of the publishing journey.
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 to Stay is a follow-up to my first book, Made to Last, though it could be read as a standalone. It features a guy named Blake who first appeared in MTL…and many people told me he was their favorite character in that book. The story starts out with Blake finally getting up the nerve to face his past and return to his hometown. He’s sick of playing nomad and wants to find some semblance of stability and normalcy. By contrast, the other main character, Autumn, feels like she’s been trapped at home forever. All she wants is to have her own adventure.

...When Blake returns home, he’s offered a full-time job on the condition that he coordinate and successfully pull off their little tourist town’s biggest annual event. To do so, he needs Autumn’s help. She’s already deep in the throes of trying to fix up her family inn to impress an investor. If she can do so, she might finally be free to pursue her own dream job in Paris. So despite their Hatfield & McCoy-esque family history, they pair up to help each other.

Do you have a favorite character in this work? If so, why?

...Easy question: Blake Hunziker. I just love the guy. He’s a little on the crazy side—as anyone who read my first book probably already knows. But in Here to Stay I got to explore his deeper layers…his sensitive side. He has this desperate desire to make up for his past and be this stable, normal guy…and he’s got a heart of gold, for sure.

Where do you find inspiration for your story/characters? Are they based on real life or pure imagination or both?
...Definitely both. :)

...Both Autumn and Blake have elements of me in their personalities, dreams and desires. But some of it is pure imagination, too. For instance, I’ve never owned a family business. I’ve never sand-boarded in the dunes. And to me, the fun part of storytelling is where real life meets imagination…so much fun stuff happens in that place!


When you write, what is your overall intention with your stories?
...My goal is to make people swoon at the romance…and laugh at the humor. :)

...But I also really believe both humor and romance can pave the way to the truth. Laughter pulls us into a place of openness; romance tugs on our vulnerabilities. So for me, romantic comedy creates a great and natural space for exploring universal themes and spiritual truth.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors for writing and/or publishing?
...Definitely one of the best things I ever did for my writing was join My Book Therapy, a craft and coaching community for writers founded by award-winning author Susan May Warren. Community is just so important! And too, embrace the joy of rewrites. Whoever said “writing is rewriting” hit the nail on the head.

...But beyond those things, my best advice is to trust God for open doors. Which sounds simplistic, I know, but truly…he can surprise us with the most amazing open doors in the most amazing ways. So stay flexible, stay expectant…and trust.

What is a favorite memory you have of your mother?
...Oh wow, I could list about a bazillion things here. I have an amazing mom! So picking one favorite memory is hard. Here’s one totally random one. When my mom was a teenager, she was heartbroken when my dad (her boyfriend at the time) had to move with his family to another state. She wrote a song called Two Leaves. Every once in awhile when she’s in the right mood, we can get her to sing it to us. It’s this adorable, sad-sounding song…well, one time, I have no idea why, she was holding a guitar and we were trying to get her to sing the song…and instead of singing it like she usually does, she broke into a hard rock version of it. It. Was. Hilarious.

...Just one of many awesome memories.

If you had to choose one type of food, what kind would it be?
...AHH trying to pick between Thai, Chinese, Indian and Italian is ridiculously hard. But because I tend to treat pizza as a staple food, I should probably go with Italian.

April showers bring May flowers – or so they say. Do you have a favorite flower? If so, why is it your favorite? ...I’m weird in that I love orchids and wildflowers. Talk about two opposite ends of the flower spectrum! But my favorite? Probably dahlias. 


Thank you so much for taking time to stop by and share with us today, Melissa! I enjoyed guest posting on your blog awhile back and, from our email convo's I just knew I had to get you and your amazing humor over to Thinking Thoughts to share about your fantastic books! 

I am really excited about Here to Stay and have Made to Last in my reading cute on Goodreads. Your advice for waiting on the Lord to open doors really hits home for me and I'm sure some of my readers as well who are just waiting on the Lord to lead the next step. It doesn't even have to be about writing - just life in general! You mom also sounds pretty amazing and I'll definitely agree with the Italian food ;) Thanks again for joining us and to my readers - make sure you go and check out Melissa's latest book, Here to Stay (and of course Made to Last) if you haven't read it already!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

ACFW Genesis Contest Semi-Finalist

I am in SHOCK! Well, excited shock that is :D

I am a Semi-Finalist in the ACFW Genesis Contest!!!

The Genesis Contest is an awesome, national contest hosted by the American Christian Fiction Writers association I've been a part of for almost 2 years now. The contest is for unpublished authors to enter and involves sending in a synopsis and the first 15 pages of your manuscript.

It's funny to me because I almost didn't enter this year due to the craziness of my life right now (read: moving to DC, freelance writing, photography....etc.). But, the day before the deadline--isn't that always how it goes?--I sent in my revised first 15 pages. Then waited.

And waited...

I actually have the honor of coordinating the Mystery/Thriller/Suspense category and have loved seeing the contest from the "inside". So, yesterday came (me knowing the other coordinators were going to be making the calls) and I waited some more--anxiously and daring to hope I'd get a call.


A phone number I didn't recognize! I stepped away from conversation to answer the phone and, low and behold, I found out I was a Semi-Finalist! Lots of internal cheering and a healthy dose of unbelief followed, but more than anything else I've been beaming since this morning!

No matter what happens next, I am just excited to have made it this far and am definitely inspired to finish revising the book to resubmit it!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Raptor 6 by Ronie Kendig | RE:View

If I were allowed to give a book 6 starts, I would be giving it to Raptor 6 by Ronie Kendig.

This book was simply amazing!

The fast pace plot and high action sequences will keep you glued to your seat wondering just how long Kendig can keep it up. In Raptor 6, the first in the Quiet Professionals Series, she pushes her characters to the breaking point from a personal and professional standpoint.

Dean Watters, better known now as Raptor 6, is the strong silent type with a will made of pure steel. His sense of duty is suddenly tested when beautiful Zahrah Zarrick enters the scene. She's got a steel will to match his, though hers is fortified by the Lord and her sense of mission to teach the children of her mothers homeland in Afghanistan.

Enter a threat on Zahrah's life, the potential loss of secured information, and a talented Special Forces team and you've got more action than you'll know what to do with.

Honestly and truly this book was fantastic! Some have said it's her best yet and I'd have to agree. I would recommend this to fans of military action and suspense. Kendig writes like a seasoned veteran and draws you into the action. You'll find yourself laughing at this new Raptor team and their antics, crying with the emotion of it all, and flinching as the bullets fly past you in the night.

Book Description: 
*Description taken from Ronie Kendig's Site
His mission; his team. Those elements are the laser-like focus of Green Beret Captain Dean Watters. When a threat is launched that compromises the US military, Dean is forced to engage in a way that might come at the highest cost.
Purchase: Raptor 6 (The Quiet Professionals)  

Most of you know that I'm a huge Kendig fan! Check out my other reviews of her books Talon: Combat Tracking Team and Beowulf: Explosives Detection Dog.

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.

Setting The Bar High

I'm not one to take risks. 

Calculated ones maybe...but flat-out, don't-look-before-you-leap ones--no way, no how. So, moving to DC is very out of character for me. Granted, I'm not leaping off of any tall buildings to move, but I am taking a step of faith without knowing where my foot will land.

You see, I'm a very planned person. I'm talking calendars filled out with multicolor, highlighted sections, lists made, and every angle possible covered in thought and preparation. Even considering moving across the country without knowing where I'll live has been a, unsettling?

But, I think that's the way God wants it.

When the future isn't planned out in my mind, I'm more apt to live life where I'm at here and now. When I can't see tomorrow, the next day, or even a month away, I am forced to remain in the present which I think is ultimately much better for me.

Redeemer City Church Vision Night
Probably one of the hardest areas of this move is the financial aspect. Yeah, in addition to worrying about the details of this whole situation I'm also anxious about how it will all happen. To me (and I admit this with shame) being 'self-sufficient' in funds is a form of security for me. When I decided to move to DC with the Redeemer City Church plant, all of the sudden all of that false security fled and I was left bare and exposed.

The question remained:Who are you really trusting?

I've had to answer this honestly and found that, a lot of the time, I'm trusting in me. In my current job's paycheck even. That's not the way it's supposed to be. How can I place blind trust in a silly, created thing that is addicting, deceiving, and all to easily spent?

Why all this talk about money, you may wonder? Well, as much as the Lord is teaching me a lesson about trusting in Him, He is also humbling me and creating a job position that is in large part funded by support from friends and family. You see, everything within me recoils at that thought. What? I ask. You want me to ask for help? Noooo!

But, as part of learning this lesson, I have decided to own up to what's going on in my heart. It's not easy and it's not something I like doing, but I recognize it as a huge step for me. So, here it is in plain terms:

What: I'm moving across the country, leaving July 15th and trail-blazing with some of my close friends through the vast United States in search of adventure and safe travels.

How: If you'd like to donate to the "move Jenn and Em" fund (so I've termed it) you can go to this helpful link set up by my lovely roomie. All funds raised here will go toward the shipping costs for our things, gas for the road, and any other expenses accrued from moving across the country.

My Job

What: I have the incredible opportunity to step into the role of Creative Arts and Communications Director for Redeemer City Church. What!? I know, such a cool title ;) But, since I am moving to D.C. as a missionary, this means most of my paycheck comes from support from my friends and family. Yeah, it's crazy, but again - I'm trusting that the Lord knows what He's doing and will provide for me as well as the church.

How: We have a pretty sweet website already set up for the church and you can donate directly to me through there (click here) and choose EH Support. All funds will go toward supporting me to work with the church. We recommend a monthly supporting option because then it also helps to remind you to pray for the church (and me).

Thank you (if you've made it this far in reading my post haha) for being willing to even spend some time with me today on the blog. I am continually amazed at the Father's gracious and loving heart that is so good to remind me that relying on Him is the best thing I can do.

If you'd like more info from me about this, feel free to email me. You can also sign up for my DC Newsletter from the tab above (DC Bound).