Saturday, February 28, 2015

Writer Off The Leash by Michelle Griep | RE:View

Hilarious. Refreshing. Honest.

I love the combination of humor and truth that Michelle has combined in Writer Off The Leash. You'll be smiling from the minute you pick this book up until the minute you put it down. I personally I found many "tweet-able" truths contained within the pages here (and we all know that's an important thing!).

As you dig deeper into Writer Off The Leash, you see the harsh reality of what it means to be a writer. Michelle doesn't shy away from "telling it like it is" nor does she make excuses. Though she sympathizes with the desire to make those excuses. Writing is hard work and you've got to be up to the challenge.

I would recommend this book in a couple of ways. First, I'd recommend it to people who are considering the idea of being a writer. You may be asking yourself, "Is writing something I really want to get in to?" or "What is it like to submit myself to the 'writing life'." This book would be for you. Secondly, I'd recommend it to those who are writers and need a kick-start (or a kick in the pants). Maybe you've been relaxing (dare I say 'laying down on the job'?) and need to be reminded of what it means to be called to be a writer. This book is for you too!

So, do yourself a favor and take a few days to read through Writer Off The Leash. Use a highlighter to make note of her amazing nuggets of truth, and springboard forward from reading it right into your next manuscript.

Rating: 4*
Purchase: Writer Off The Leash

Book Description
(from Amazon)
Are you a writer at heart? How can you tell? And if you are, how do you go about composing and selling the next Great American Novel? WRITER OFF THE LEASH answers these questions and more--all in an easy to understand, tongue-in-cheek style. This is more than a how-to book. It's a kick in the pants for anyone who wants to write but is stymied by fear, doubt, or simply doesn't know how to take their writing to the next level. Award-winning author MICHELLE GRIEP blows the lid off stodgy old-school rulebooks and makes it clear that writing can--and should--be fun.
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.

Final Favorites | February 2015

I've been pretty busy this month! Lots of blogging and some amazing guests have been featured and I was so excited to do another "Final Favorites" video for you all. There's just something fun about getting the chance to reflect back on the month.

A few posts of note this month: 
 And, while I'm sharing, stop by Putting On The New for my monthly contribution, "A Page From My Journal on Trust". I think you'll like it!

Without further ado...

This month's book Recommendations: 
Book 1, Book 2, Book 3

Friday, February 27, 2015

A Flawed Perspective and A Missed Opportunity: Rob Bell on Oprah

My, oh my. Rob Bell has been busy. Books. Opinions. Oprah. Attempting to undermine the authority of the Bible....

Yeah. That's a thing.

I'll preface this post by saying I don't usually do this. I'm not one to "soap box" it up, but there are some things that I can't let by without a healthy dose of thought, which eventually comes out in words that land on Thinking Thoughts. The inerrancy of the Bible is one of them. Sometimes you have to take a stand, even if that means rocking the boat.

In my post about true love and Fifty Shades of Grey, I said the following:

Without His example of love and self-sacrifice, we wouldn't have a picture of what true love is.
I was talking about Christ here and I stand by that declaration. I fully believe that Jesus, the Son of God, was and is the living example of true and perfect love. That's not a notion I made up, I found it in the Bible. That is, God's word. His authority on the topic of...well, life.

As I was scrolling through my Facebook feed the other day I came across a video of Rob Bell on Oprah. As they discussed his new book, The Zimzum of Love: A New Way of Understanding Marriage(no, I won't be talking about this book), he made some...interesting claims. These claims reached way beyond promotion for this book, though I'll admit I'm not surprised he made them. I remember Mr. Bell in his Nooma videos. At the time I though, Wow, this guy is cool and takes a different approach to life. Awesome.

But he's changed. Or maybe who he was the whole time has surfaced? I'm not sure, but I'm saddened by the fact he has such a large platform and he's using it to spread lies.

Yep. I just said it. Lies.
Flickr by Jim Forest

Take his quote he made about the Bible to Oprah: "...And the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense." (quoted from

Um, "best defense"? Back up. The Bible isn't a defense. It's the reason. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I decided to dig a little deeper and found a treatise by Bell titled, "What is the Bible?" There was a lot there, it was a looong post (followed up by several more) but I was unhappy with what I found. In essence, he made the point that, in his eyes, the Bible is human. That is to say, written by humans and therefore human in its flaws.

He says, "If you let go of the divine nature of the Bible on the front end and immerse yourself in the humanity of it, you find the divine in unexpected ways, ways that can actually transform your heart." (Rob Bells tumbler)

I'm sorry, but when you "let go" of the divine nature of the Bible in any way, shape, or form, there are no longer any standards. You start to believe a version of God that doesn't fully represent Him. You can suddenly pick and choose the attributes of God you like (ie: love and gentleness), instead of seeing the full image of Him. Both just and loving. Both wrathful and forgiving. Both humble and divine.

When the Bible simply becomes a story, it's no longer truth

This is dangerous because it undermines a standard. Christ set the example for us. The Bible relays that standard in writing inspired by God. The minute the Bible is found to be inaccurate is the minute we get to decide. Decide what to accept and what not to . Decide what to think about God and what we'll throw out. You don't like the idea that there is punishment for sins? Well, if the Bible is just human--just a great story--then we don't have to believe in punishment.

Flickr by Adam Dimmick
This is flawed. There is a lot of info written by far wiser people than me on why the Bible is inerrant (you can see writings by John Piper, The Gospel Coalition, John MacArthur, Tim Challies, and even listen to one of my favorite speakers, Matt Chandler on the topic). There are also historical reasons, but there are spiritual ones too.

We can't pick and choose what God says. Any discount of scripture is against scripture.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
It reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite authors and theologians, C.S. Lewis. It speaks to the reality of who we believe Christ is and what He said about himself and I believe it is the same with the Bible.

C.S. Lewis
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

God gave us--breathed out--His word to equip us. More than that:
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Hebrews 4:12-13 (emphasis mine)
Words that are living and active are not out of date. They are not a defense against the reality of life, but rather a guide in dealing with, handling, and living out a Christ-like example in this life. Can something human made "discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart"? No.

Rob Bell had an opportunity. Sitting there, only a few feet away from one of the most influential women in this modern age, he could have shared the beauty of the gospel to everyone watching. The reality of who Christ is. The hope found in the realization that we've all sinned (Ro. 3:23) and deserve death (Ro. 6:23) BUT that God created a way for us to be made right with Him (Ro. 5:8, 10:10, 10:13).

But he missed it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Delores Liesner {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Delores...

Writing, Speaking or as God’s delivery girl, Delores lives life passionately and humorously revealing dynamic hope and confidence found in the heritage of our personal God. She writes from Racine, WI. Is a CLASS graduate, and has published over a thousand stories, devotionals and articles as columnist, freelance writer, and teacher. Delores is represented by Linda Glaz of Hartline Literary Agency. Part of Delores’ dream is that her writing could help support the Fullness of Life Foundation, Scottsdale, AZ – which provides treatment funding for children with life-threatening illness.

How to connect with Delores...

Linked In:
Her first book to be published early in 2015, is a devotional called Be The Miracle

Author Interview | Delores Liesner

You and Writing

Tell us a little bit about yourself: How did you start writing? What has kept you writing?
...I’ve always been a storyteller, and as a teen, often crawled out of my 2nd story bedroom window to sit on the roof under the stars and write stories and poetry. I was able to use my skill during various employments (including a nursery school, for elementary through high school education, church plays and curriculum, and as a forensic coach).

Do you have a favorite book or work that you’ve written? If so, why?
...Be The Miracle is very dear to my heart because I lived all the experiences in the devotional and I truly believe we can live in expectation that God is up to something good because those who have a personal relationship with Jesus bring Him with us into every situation.

What was the hardest thing about publishing? The easiest? 

...The first hardest thing about publishing was waiting, then hearing genuine compliments from several well-known traditional publishers. Really? I am not kidding you, it was hard — because the compliments were followed by that little word: but. The second challenge was having several offers, and not having peace about them. I was praying about it when I got a call from Elk Lake Publishing (same owners I greatly respect at Book Club Network) and I had complete peace that this was the right decision.

Your Writing
What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with? 
...That God still does miracles today and that he wants his followers to put hands and feet to their faith and be the answer to prayer for others.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors for writing and/or publishing?
...Attend writers conferences! My first conferences were CLASS Christian Writers Conference and Write-to-Publish in Wheaton, Illinois. Both were life-changing, spiritual experiences, and I received important training, professional critique, and had appointments with editors and publishers that resulted in writing opportunities.


Where do you find inspiration?
...Life inspires me! I’ve heard of writer’s block, but I’ve never experienced it. Honestly, I think I am the world’s most mature toddler! I am always asking why is that, what just happened, and what if…

How do you find inspiration?
...I journal a lot and try to re-write scripture in my own words, or sometimes in the words I feel God is telling me from my Scripture reading. I try to answer questions like is there something I need to do or stop doing, a teaching I can live out today or new-to-me details about God or the characters in the reading. Notebooks and pens everywhere and jot down bits of conversations, scenes I witness, descriptions of scenery, characters, and ideas for what if… I used to keep them on 3x5 cards in alphabetical file, but I now translate them to documents on my computer and keep them in folders titled Fiction, Greeting Cards, Devotional Ideas, Bible Study, Blog Ideas, Personalities, etc.

Why do you write?
...I am a Writing Junkie. I cannot NOT do it.

...Yes, I’m confessing. I admit it. I see it now for what it is. A habit. No, it’s stronger than that - an addiction.

...I found myself at it again, you see, just this morning. I was casually flipping through Webster’s Dictionary when suddenly my eyes bugged, because I saw myself. There I was - me and my life-blood all wrapped up in that one small word: ad.dict: to apply habitually, as one’s mind to speculation; to give (oneself) up to or over, as a constant practice. 


Thank you so much for visit the blog today, Delores! For you readers who also love to write - I enjoyed Delores so much I've invited her back next Tuesday to share some thoughts on writing with you all! Make sure you stop by to say hello then (and while you're at it, say hello now!). 

Last but NOT least... Last week's winner!

If you missed it, check out LoRee's post from last weeks {WW}. But, without further delay, here's the winner...


Congratulations! Contact me and we'll get you your PDF copy!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

No Greater Love: An Afghan Memoir by Tim Moynihan | RE:View

It's no secret that I enjoy reading military fiction. I have a huge heart for those who serve our country and, in my own writing as well as in what I read, I enjoy a positive view of the military. It's a personal preference thing.

I was given the chance to review No Greater Love: An Afghan Memoir and really enjoyed it! It's a novella, so it is a quick read, but the story is well worth you time.

Following Special Forces soldier and now author Colonel Mike Sanchez, we get a look into the mind and heart of a warrior. As told to a slightly hostile audience at a church, the majority of the tale takes place in the mind of Colonel Sanchez, following the story of two brothers in Afghanistan.

I resonated with the story and it's no-nonsense, direct nature as was fitting to the type of story it was. There aren't a lot of frills (which I didn't expect) but the story is solid and heart-catching. Not only are you drawn into the story the Colonel tells, but you are draw into his own part of the story.

I would recommend this to those who enjoy military themes in writing and who are looking for a quick, inspirational read. I found that reading this made me feel as if I was sitting down to coffee with Colonel Sanchez and he was sharing this very personal story. And yes, I did cry at the end, but it's a story of hope as much as it is of loss.

Rating: 3.8*
Purchase:  No Greater Love: An Afghan Memoir

Book Description
(from Tim's website)
Special Forces soldier turned author, Colonel Mike Sanchez, survived the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan and converted his military experiences into a new career as an "inspirational" motivational speaker. But his heroic demeanor and outward confidence mask a burden he carries on the inside, the agonizing memory of two brothers with whom he served in the war. Caught off-guard at a public speaking event, Sanchez is compelled to expose the ghosts of his past and his searing memories of a bloody battle on a blasted Afghanistan hilltop where love conquered fear forever.
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.

Playing Saint by Zachary Bartels | RE:View

I had high hopes for this book...and it didn't dissapoint! Come on, with a recommendation from Steven James, I had a pretty good idea Playing Saint was going to be good.

Parker Saint is a pastor rising quickly to fame by telling people what they want to hear. He hasn't lost touch with truth, but with the influence of his mentor, he's realizing it doesn't sell. When faced with the loss of his reputation, Parker agrees to work as a consultant with the Grand Rapids PD, and the walking-cliche, Detective Ketchem.

Filled with a fantastic cast of believable characters, a psycho-killer on the loose, and refreshing humor, you can't go wrong with Playing Saint. I found myself comparing it to Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti with the added bonus of humor that didn't take away from the intrigue, but only added interest.

This is a definite must read from me! If you like a good thriller* that weaves in faith realistically and keeps you guessing, look no further. I'm anticipating more from Zachary in the future and will definitely make time to read what he puts out next.

*One note here: There are elements of the demonic represented in this book. I found that it aided the story and in no way created nightmares for me, but I understand some readers could be sensitive to that - thus the slight warning.

Rating: 5*
Purchase: Playing Saint

Book Description
Yesterday, Parker Saint’s only concern was his swiftly rising star power. Today, he’s just trying to stay alive.

Parker Saint is living the dream. A cushy job at a thriving megachurch has him on the verge of becoming a bestselling author and broadcast celebrity—until life takes an abrupt turn that lands him on the wrong side of the law. To avoid a public scandal, he agrees to consult with the police on a series of brutal murders linked by strange religious symbols scrawled on each victim. Parker tries to play the expert, but he is clearly in over his head. Drawn ever deeper into a web of intrigue involving a demanding detective, a trio of secretive Vatican operatives, and a centuries-old conspiracy to conceal a mysterious relic, he realizes for the first time that the battle between good and evil is all too real—and that the killer is coming back . . . this time for him..
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. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Winner of Amanda G. Steven's Found and Lost

//Last Week's Winner//

I had the lovely Amanda G. Stevens on the blog last Monday talking about her newest release, Found and Lost. She was gracious enough to do a giveaway of either one of her books (Seek and Hide being the first book in her Haven Seekers series).

Our winner is...

Deanne Patterson

Congratulations! You get your choice of books Deanne so make sure to contact me (using the form to the right) and I'll get you in touch with Amanda!

Hey, if you didn't win I'd still highly recommend you go and grab a copy:  Found And Lost

And, for a bit of added fun, check out my Pinterest board of "Book Covers I Love"'ll find this one an many more there!

The Grove | New Novel News

I love talking about the writing community! Actually, I just like talking about community in general (like this post, and this one). But, one thing I've found is that readers and writers share a special bond. And it's not books.

Wait, what? Yes, you read that right. It's not about what writers are writing or readers are reading, it's a bond that goes beyond that...

It's story. 

The Grove is a place for those of us with a story. You have one. I have one. God even has one - and it includes all of our stories.

If you haven't heard about The Grove let me give you the straight up facts:

8 Women: 

Beth K. Vogt
Cara Putman
Courtney Walsh
Katherine Reay
Katie Ganshert
Kristy Cambron
Melissa Tagg
Sarah Ladd

The point: 

Welcome to The Grove, where story finds a home.

This is their tagline and I love it! Don't you?

The Grove is comprised of these eight women (all authors - and yes, you need to check them ALL out) who want to share their lives, not just their writing. Their focus is: Grow, Rest, and Prayer. I don't know about you, but I could use a lot more of each of those things!

I'll leave it to you to check out their awesome website and read through their encouraging posts. I mainly want to point this out as a resource. I've had the blessing of getting to know some of these women personally and--seriously--they are amazing! They have genuine hearts for the Lord and want nothing more than to inspire, encourage, and entertain with their writing.

I hope you get a few minutes to spend at The Grove. Say hi, join the community there, and be blessed by these women.

Go check it out:
The Grove website
The Grove Instagram
The Grove Twitter
The Grove Pinterest
Connect on Facebook:

Friday, February 20, 2015

True Love In a 50 Shades World

Oh no. Another 50 Shades of Grey blog post...

Well, not exactly. I haven't read it or seen the movie (and am not planning on it) but I do think it's worth a look (or blog post in this case) in light of my overall blog theme for the month of February: Love. Yes, I've talked about stuff like this before (here and here) but can we really talk about it enough?

I think we've forgotten what the definition of love is.
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails...
-1 Corinthians 13:4-8
I don't know about you, but that's a pretty all-inclusive list.

There are some things I don't see...
  • Pride
  • Selfishness
  • Bondage (in any form)
  • Demanding
  • Insulting
  • Belittling 
I just want to remind us (myself included) that, in Christ, there is a better way. A more fulfilling way. 
Without His example of love and self-sacrifice (including everything listed from 1 Corinthians) we wouldn't have a picture of what true love is. 
You can try and describe it any way you want, but without a perfect example {Christ} you'll always find ways to compromise.

A few days ago I had the opportunity to guest post on my friend Alexis' blog, Capturing the Idea. I'd love for you to stop by and read my "True Love Story" there >>> A Better Love Story.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

LoRee Peery {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about LoRee...

LoRee Peery is a lifelong Nebraskan who thanks her mother for teaching her to read when she was four. She has devoured books ever since. She and her husband have tackled some interesting projects over the course of their married life. For one, they built the home they live in with their own hands. They used to want more acres further away from city life, but one day LoRee realized they had their “greener on the other side of the fence” already. All it took was removing the hedge made of trees and bushes. LoRee feels grounded in her sense of place and considers it humbling to be redeemed by grace. She is blessed to have five children and eleven grandchildren. One-on-one time playing cards or Scrabble provides cherished moments and memories.

How to connect with LoRee...

Twitter: (@LoreePeery)
Purchase: Creighton's Hideaway

Author Interview | LoRee Peery

You and Writing

Tell us a little bit about yourself: How did you start writing? What has kept you writing?
...I’ve always been an avid reader. In the mid-eighties (it doesn’t seem so long ago), I exclaimed over a story, “I could write better than that.” My husband challenged, “Why don’t you?” In the nineties I had a testimony printed in a Christian magazine. But I didn’t think of writing seriously until I was home from work on Martin Luther King Day in 2000. The Nebraska nostalgia I wrote that day sparked the construction and publication of a few nonfiction pieces. But most important, that writing created an urge to keep writing, and though I’ve tried, I haven’t been able to stop. I believe it’s a calling or a prompting of the Spirit. I was convicted to pursue what I was meant to do, which is write fictional Christian romance.

Do you have a favorite book or work that you’ve written? If so, why?
...I believe the rough draft of the story I’m working on is always my favorite because I “live” in the fictional world of my characters as I’m fleshing out their struggles, their spiritual growth, and their ultimate declaration of love.

What was the hardest thing about publishing? The easiest?
...Though I kept taking notes and was on the alert for story ideas, the hardest thing for me at the time was the eighteen months I dedicated to searching for an agent. It was hard because I didn’t have a specific work in progress. Not to mention all those, “sorry, but…s” I received.

...The easiest was meeting an editor personally who asked for the full manuscript of my first published work, Moselle’s Insurance. I was thrilled because she didn’t ask for a synopsis.

Your Writing

Tell us a little bit about what you’re working on currently?
...I’m editing another Christmas novelette, “Christmas Rescue Route,” because I enjoyed writing A Blessed Blue Christmas. I love all the stories my publisher offers through the Christmas Extravaganza.

Do you have a favorite character in this work? If so, why?
...I like the hero and heroine equally. Brock comes to Izzy’s rescue due to a car accident and she initially doesn’t want to accept any further help from him.

What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
...I’ve mentioned a few books so far. Since I’m offering a PDF copy of Creighton’s Hideaway, I’ll quote the verse I chose. This verse gave Shana comfort. I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. ~Psalm 121:1-2 

***Leave a comment for LoRee to enter to win a PDF copy of Creighton’s Hideaway***

(I'll announce the winner next Wednesday Feb. 25 right here!)


Where do you find inspiration for your story/characters? Are they based on real life or pure imagination or both?
...Story and character ideas come from all areas of my life, including family. My senses are sharpened when I’m searching my mind for the lay-out of a new imaginary project. Pictures, concepts, news articles, or various scenarios ignite my curiosity and interest. Those items are in my Ideas notebook. Brainstorming while in the initial stages brings other things to mind. I try to stay open to all that comes my way, especially in nature. While working on the rough draft I may hear bits of conversation or catch something by sight or sound that could apply to one of my characters. Often, a biblical passage will jump out at me to be viewed through the eyes of a character. Many times ideas or “fixes” for something I’m puzzling out, as well as dialogue, come when I’m in the shower. 

When you write, what is your overall intention with your stories?
...I want readers to have fun leaving their daily world as they enter the world of another. I hope readers identify with emotion or a situation and recognize struggles as part of spiritual growth. At some point each of us needs to cease striving and seek to follow the Lord’s path for our lives. The results may be a change of attitude or simply a sigh of understanding to know someone else, even in fiction, has faced a similar struggle.

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

...Write, write, and keep on writing. If it’s truly your heart’s desire and writing makes your soul sing, never give up. Learn as much as can, and keep on learning. Don’t forget to pray. Attend workshops and conferences. The writing itself is a lone journey, but make friends with other writers, find a group to socialize with and critique with. 

Pinterest- Homemade Salted Caramels

Would you prefer chocolates or flowers on Valentine’s Day??
...Chocolates, hands down. Flowers rarely smell like flowers any more, though I appreciate the gesture. I can still imagine the exotic scents of an island setting perfumed by flowers in their natural habitat.

On Valentine’s Day would you rather stay in  or go out?
...When we go out it’s usually for lunch, even while on vacation. A night out on the town has no appeal for either of us, so I describe those scenes through the eyes of my characters. However, an evening around a campfire, underneath the stars, touches my heart.

Describe your ideal date.
...For me personally (I much prefer far-reaching landscapes, hills and rivers, mountains, or the ocean), so fill up the gas tank, pack nutrition bars and plenty of water, and drive me to the country. I love to soak in any vista God has made. I really don’t care for the concrete jungle of cities, but I do enjoy a good movie or play. My husband and I also appreciate historic architecture.

From LoRee... Emilie, thanks so much for inviting me to your cozy spot in the cyber world. I love the month of February and every day of the month feels like Valentine’s Day to me. To romance lovers, I say read on!
You're very welcome LoRee! I'm honored to have you as a guest :) I love that you said your agent didn't ask for a synopsis! Ha! I really dislike writing anything even related to a synopsis... I can relate to you when you say a biblical passage can jump out at you - I've had that happen before as well. And Happy (belated) Valentines Day to you and your honey. Hope you got to see some of those amazing vistas. Thanks again for sharing your heart here.
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//Last week's WINNER//

We had the lovely Nancy Mehl on the blog last week - which was a treat! She talked about her latest release Deadly Echoes and offered up a copy to one lucky winner! 

I'm happy to announce that winner is...

Cindy Lawrence

Congrats, Cindy! We'll be in contact to arrange getting this book to you. 

If you didn't win last week, don't worry - there will be many more opportunities to win books! Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win LoRee's book and check out Amanda G. Steven's Monday post with a chance to win her latest release, Found and Lost!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Amanda G. Stevens | New Novel News

Found and Lost: A Novel
by Amanda G. Stevens

Haven Seekers (Book 2)
Published February 15, 2015
David C. Cook

Purchase: Found and Lost: A Novel (Haven Seekers Book 2)

What it's all about...
-->When Violet DuBay’s friend Khloe confides that her dad is a Christian, it’s the one secret Violet can’t keep. Turning in Khloe’s dad to the Constabulary is her duty. Her decision becomes an opportunity to infiltrate the Christian resistance; but as she gets to know Marcus, Lee, and the others, she’s compelled to question the things her society has taught her about God and His followers.
Clay Hansen persuades his family to join him at an underground church meeting and brings Violet, his teen daughter Khloe’s best friend. That night, the church is raided. He and his wife escape, but in the chaos, he loses Violet and Khloe. How can he find them with the Constabulary monitoring his every move? If the God who once spared Khloe won’t intervene, Clay will have to save her himself.
Get to know Amanda...

-->If your main characters were animals, what would they be? For some reason, I picture Violet in Found and Lost as a rabbit. Something about the soft and cuddly combined with timid and twitchy. She wants to belong and be loved, but she’s not fully at ease with anyone. And a rabbit introduced to a new environment is very cautious, hopping from one new thing to another, taking its time. That’s Violet in this book, relearning so many things she thought she knew and gradually gaining more certainty as she goes. She’ll continue to grow in the third book as well.

Clay is most like a horse. He’s a runner. He spooks reflexively, and once he’s stampeding in any direction, he’s hard to stop. He’s also single-mindedly loyal to “his people,” namely his wife and daughter.

Who is your favorite secondary character in this book?
 My favorite secondaries in this book are of course Marcus and Lee, who were primary in the last book. Six months have passed since Seek and Hide (Book One), and Marcus and Lee are now actively running a resistance movement to help fugitive Christians. This book gives glimpses (through Violet’s point of view) of their trust in each other and the ethical dilemmas they face in their resistance work.

What are you reading right now?
My most read genre is crime/noir, followed by speculative. My most recent reads have been The Third Man (Graham Greene), Black River (S.M. Hulse), and The Ryn (Serena Chase), all of which were lovely in unique ways. I’m about to start Gun Street Girl by Adrian McKinty.

***Leave a comment to win your choice of either Seek and Hide or Found and Lost***
(Winner chooses paper back (U.S.) or eBook option and will be announced next Monday Feb. 23) 

//Last week's winners// 
Excited to announce winners of two newly released novels from last week

< Winner: Merry Z

Winner: Jing Li >

Thank you for entering!!! Make sure and leave a comment for the giveaway this week! 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Valentines Wish

Alas, it's another day of love and gushy feelings. Chocolate and romance. Cheesy love songs and candlelit dinners.

Or something like that.

I'm neither against nor exactly for Valentines Day. Though I think it can be a great day to tell those around you that you love them. I'm the type of person who loves creativity for those typical "Hallmark" holiday's as I believe some call them.

Nothing says I love you more than a homemade card, or chores taken care of, or a stolen moment to say--and mean--the word: I love you.

I really can't speak to married love, but Ann Voskamp does a beautiful job of it in a recent post: How Real People Make Shades of Real Love.

I share that with you because her words always have a way with my heart. No matter the fact that I'm a single woman, her stories of marriage and sacrificial love are beautiful to me.

I hope that today you remember what true love is. I'll leave you with my message on Instagram this morning beause I think it accurately sums up my feelings about Valentines Day:
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Today is kind of about that, though I think there are a lot of people who have the wrong idea of what love is. They hold romantic love high above all things as if it were the highest good. The ultimate. But I'd put forth a different kind of love.
A love that is patient and kind.
A love that extends grace.
A love that sacrifices.
A love that is perfect. 

I may be single this Valentines day, but I have a love that is greater than anything I could find on this earth. Gods love. And for that, I celebrate!❤️

By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 
1 John‬ ‭4‬:‭9-10‬
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Don't forget to enter these GIVEAWAYS...

Cathy Elliott's A Vase of Mistaken Identity

Jessica Keller's The Fireman's Secret

Nancy Mehl's Deadly Echoes

Friday, February 13, 2015

Deadly Echoes by Nancy Mehl | RE:View

Sarah Miller is a teacher in the small town of Sanctuary. Still fighting echoes from her unhappy past, she is determined to move on. Her best intentions are brought to a halt when she's informed of her sisters death from Paul Gleason, the Deputy Sheriff in Sanctuary.

But was Hannah really killed by a burglar? If so, why was her death so similar to their parents murders?

So begins the mysterious path Sarah and Paul must travel to uncover the truth.

This was my first interaction with Nancy's writing and, though I knew there was a previous book in the series, I didn't feel too left out starting on book 2 first. With that said, I wasn't sure what to expect. I hardly ever read the back cover blurbs before jumping in because I want to be surprised by the book itself. I do form opinions based on the cover though and the genre the author writes in.

With that said, I had...different expectations for this book. I assumed there would be much more suspense and intrigue than there was. Without giving anything away, I didn't really feel "gripped" by suspense until the later fourth of the book (if not further). I also found that I wanted more from the characters. I wanted to feel Sarah's emotion pulling at my own heart or feel the tension of attraction between her and Paul.

In all, the writing was solid, though the dialogue was a little stiff a times. The plot was intriguing, though could have used more motion through some parts. The resolution was good and I found myself satisfied with the ending even though I expected it.

I would recommend this to fans of mystery and romantic suspense who are looking for a "low key" option in both regards. It won't keep you up at night, but it will give you enough intrigue to satisfy that mystery-itch. The romance itself is very minimal and more intellectually portrayed. If you're looking for something a little more fast paced or emotional, I would say you won't necessarily find that here.

Rating: 3.5*
Purchase: Deadly Echoes (Finding Sanctuary)

Book Description
(from Nancy's website)
After years of upheaval, Sarah Miller’s life is finally settled with all echoes of the past stilled and silent at last. She spends her time teaching the children of Sanctuary, a town she is happy to call home.

When the sister Sarah hasn’t seen in years reappears, it stirs up hard memories of the past and their parents’ murder. Even so, Sarah’s joy at being reunited with Hannah and meeting the niece she didn’t know she had is too soon interrupted when Deputy Sheriff Paul Gleason informs Sarah her sister has been killed.

As Sarah learns more about Hannah’s death, the circumstances seem eerily similar to her parents’ death. She enlists Paul’s help in digging deeper into these murders the police are dismissing as burglaries gone wrong. Paul’s concern encourages Sarah’s growing feelings for him, but as their investigation peels back the layers of lies almost twenty years old, they get close to uncovering the truth one man will do anything to hide–even if he must do away with the last remaining members of the Miller family.


I feel the need to share this, not to spoil anything for you about the book, but to voice my slight frustration about the characterization of Paul. I take my hero's very seriously ;)

I really liked Paul's chracter in the book, though it was hard to get a complete feeling for him (or their romantic feelings) based on the limited view we get from Sarah. The only "bone I have to pick" is in one portion where he is "expressing" his interest in Sarah without ever saying anything! He invites her to things or asks her if they are "just friends" but he never out-right asks her if she would be interested in going on a date and says he was "about to give up". What? He never even tried! Sarah was coerced by Janet into saying something to him. That didn't sit well with me.

Maybe it's just my idealism in the situation, but I want to see a hero who speaks up. Who risks embarrassment or rejection to say what he's thinking. If it's something he struggles with, okay great - let's see him over come that, but in this case it's limited to first person so that wouldn't work as well.

This, of course, doesn't negatively color the whole story. It was just a portion I felt the need to point out in my desire for the characters to be more. More emotional, more thoughtful, more in the sense of depth. :)
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.

Where is our place?

I went to a conference the other day. It was titled, "What is Love? Romance Fiction in the Digital Age" and was held at the Library of Congress. Sounds a bit heady, doesn't it? It was to an extent, but in truth, it was a lot of fun. I sat amidst a room full of women (and a few men) who love to read. I to read! And that was amazing.

The focus for the conference was (as you probably guessed) romance fiction in the general market, but I left with a lot of thoughts on the subjects of writing, publishing, and where romance fiction fits into peoples lives (in the general and Christian market).

Telling it Straight

If you've spent any time reading Thinking Thoughts you'll know that I'm a Christian. I try my best to live and love like Christ in real life and through my writing. I didn't attend this conference thinking they would talk about Christian/Inspirational romance fiction, but I was interested to see what the community of general market romance fiction looks like.

I loved it! I loved the passion for writing, the understanding of the market, and the sense of community. That's not to say I agreed with everything that was said in the discussion panels. Far from it in some cases. But, more than anything, I was reminded what it is to be a writer and a reader. It's a powerful thing.

The Takeaway 

As writers, we are burdened with glorious purpose (to borrow the phrase from Loki in The Avengers). Yesterday, many testified to the fact that they read romance novels growing up and it was those novels which helped shape them and their emotions. No writer will likely ever understand the weight of that, but it's true.

I think for those of us who write as Christians (no matter the genre) we must realize the effect our novels will have on others. We often say we write to inspire or encourage, but we also must realize books are a type of reality for many. Readers don't only pick up a book for entertainment, but to sympathize and interact with the characters. They may identify with something a character has gone through, or maybe they learn to relate to God in a different way through the characters journey. But at the end of it all, they often find themselves in our fictional realms.


Where's Our Place?

So, at the end of the day, I asked myself where my place was. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers was mentioned as a vital book in the romance fiction genre. I was so excited to know that a book I LOVE was mentioned, but it was the only book mentioned by an overtly Christian fiction author. I understand (to the extent that I can) the predicament Christian authors face. We write to a very specific audience with very specific guidelines.

I have asked myself these questions recently:
  • Where does this leave outreach?
    (I'm not saying that Christian fiction novels can't or won't be read by a non-Christian audience, but that is less likely.) 
  • Can you write in the general market as a Christian author?
    (Yes, I know this is done, but what sacrifices are made, if any?) 
  • How do you write something that can be published in the Christian market that also appeals to the general market?
    (A great example is Redeeming Love. What are some traits found in these books?)
Obviously, I have thoughts on this, but what do YOU think as readers and writers?