Monday, December 30, 2013

Holiday Wrap-Up

As the holidays come to a close for yet another year, I’ve been thinking about the memories I’ve made with my family and friends this year. Good times and bad, both documented and tucked away in my mind to draw upon later down the road of life. The best part about this year for me was having God by my side. He was very evident in my life this year, as He is every year. Through the valleys, He held me as I wept. Up the mountains, He lent me the strength to climb when I felt I couldn’t go another step. At the peaks, He shared my victories, my joys. Every moment He was there. That fact always amazes me. Why should He love someone who is so flawed? Because He created me, He loves me. And because He loves me, I love Him. Loving God is the best place I could ever be.

When did God make Himself known to you this year? Was it during the good, easy times? Or did you see Him best when things seemed dark and lonely? What was your favorite memory (or at least one of your favorites) of 2013? I look forward to hearing your stories in the comment section below.

May the Lord bless you abundantly in the new year!

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Governess of Highland Hall... and Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everyone! May you all be blessed abundantly this week, as you celebrate the birth and life and sacrifice of our Savior, and on into the new year as well.

Here's a book to add to your holiday reading list. Maybe you can have it read by the time the bells chime in 2014.

When Julia Foster returns with her mother and ailing father from a missionary’s life in India, she must find employment to support her parents during their time of need. Thus, she becomes the Governess of Highland Hall. Although her younger two charges, Sir William Ramsey’s children, are eager to please her, the baronet’s cousins resist the necessity of having a governess as they approach the time for the social season in London. When Julia realizes her position in the baronet's household leaves her somewhere between the family and the downstairs help, will she be able to find a place to belong?

Many things about the Governess of Highland Hall appealed to me, making it difficult to know where to begin. The heart of the author shines through each subplot and character, strumming the chords of the reader’s heartstrings. The storyline appealed to me because it’s sometimes difficult to know exactly my place in life. Am I to make a huge impact on the world around me, or just try to survive the trials that come my way? Better yet, is it possible that both situations help improve the other? Every day I listen for God’s call on my life, so that I may be able to discern where He wants me to be and who He wants me to connect with while I’m there. In that way, I felt like Governess’ Julia Foster. She listened for God’s guidance about whether or not she should take on the role of governess at Highland Hall or if she should return to her mission work in India. If we follow God’s call, we can’t go wrong.

Another way we can’t really go wrong is when we offer our brotherly and sisterly love to the people around us. As Julia says in chapter five, “Love is more than a fleeting emotion. It’s a choice you make based on many things.” One of the many things—and the most important—I base my choice to love upon is the fact that Jesus Christ first loved me, sacrificing Himself in one of the most painful of deaths—being hung on a cross—so that God could raise Him from the dead, bringing eternal life to those who choose to love and follow Him in return. With a Savior willing to give up His life to save me from death, how can I choose anything other than love?

Carrie Turansky is a new-to-me author, and I’ve got to admit that she’s swiftly become a favorite. Having only read this one novel of hers, I can only say I highly recommend the Governess of Highland Hall and am looking forward with a smile to the next Turansky book I can get my hands on. I’ll be keeping my eyes out for her name when I next go book shopping. She told this tale with a sweetness that fit the time period and made me feel as if I were there in Highland Hall along with the characters. Her writing style reminds me of Jane Austen and Julie Klassen, so if you’re a fan of those ladies, you’re certain to love Carrie Turansky.

You can check out a neat video promotion for the Governess of Highland Hall here.

“Love is more than a fleeting emotion. It’s a choice you make based on many things.”

What does that quote from the Governess of Highland Hall mean to you? How can you live out your love in a way the people around you can easily see Jesus Christ shining from within?

Thank you to WaterBrook Multnomah for my copy of the Governess of Highland Hall to review.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Letters from the Enemy

Though Letters from the Enemy was released in 2004, it’s new to me. My sister shared it with me, and, since I was iced inside by a rare-in-Texas sleet storm, I decided to squeeze this Heartsong Presents book in before reading one I received for the Blogging for Books program I participate in. I’m so glad I bumped this little book up on my reading list. It held a western sweetness I hadn’t read in a while.
Letters from the Enemy takes place in 1918. While the war rages in Europe, Lilly Clark eagerly waits for the mail train each week, hoping to receive a letter from her fiancé, Reggie Larsen, even as she sends him yet another missive. When her world is knocked upside down by a tall foreigner, Heinrick Zook, will Lilly stick to her resolve to send messages of hope to her beloved? Or will the lone enemy in town, who happens to keep crossing her path, challenge her to rethink everything she has come to believe, disrupting her carefully laid plans?

This is the second Susan MayWarren novel I’ve read, though I’ve collected several more. I’ve got to tell you, both the books of hers I’ve read have connected with me on a spiritual level. The messages and themes in her tales dig deep into my soul and don’t let me up for air until I’ve puzzled them out and seen how I could apply the things I’ve learned to my life in some substantial way. It’s books that do this that stay with me long after I’ve placed them back on one of my bookcases.

The thing that really struck me in Letters from the Enemy was Lilly’s spiritual journey. In a few different ways, it mirrored my own. The most significant is living in fear. Maybe that’s why the following line, spoken to Lilly from Heinrick, stood out to me. “Lilly, perhaps you’re afraid. Do you think that if you knew God and heard His voice, He might tell you something you don’t want to hear?”

From almost drowning twice to hearing of multiple school shootings to watching the terrorist attack on New York City and the United States in 2001, many fears have plagued my mind, stealing my joy and robbing me of peace. Too many times, as humans, we feel we must control every little thing in our lives or else we’ll fall apart. That’s just not true. The less control we have, by turning things over to God and trusting His plan for our lives, the more peace we’ll gain. The fewer fears we’ll retain. That’s what I want, to live fear free. So I’ll lay my fears at the feet of my Savior and ask Him to help me learn to trust Him. To show me how to rely on His plans, His guidance in every aspect of my life. From now on, I plan to make a more conscious effort to lay aside my human desires and ask God what plans He has for me. They’ll be far greater than anything I could have imagined in the first place anyway.

Other than the Bible, what books have spoken to your spiritual life in recent history? How can you apply the spiritual lessons you’ve learned from books to your daily life? Any advice for listening with your spiritual ears verses only using your physical ones?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Favorite Quotes of 2013

Since we’re now in December and nearing the end of the calendar year, I’m looking back today at some of my favorite quotes from books I read during the year. Have you read any of these titles yet? If you’re looking for a great read for the holidays, any of the following would be a fabulous choice. Happy reading!

“The truth is always fitting.”
            Broken Wings by Dianne Price

“Some things in life don’t get better when they’re rushed. Marriage is one of those things.”
            Jennifer by Dee Henderson

“For now, just do the thing right in front of you that makes sense, and let Him take it from there. There’s going to be a way through this.”
            Jennifer by Dee Henderson

“I decided every female doctor needed a Sully.”
            Catch a Falling Star by Beth K. Vogt

“A lot of us make plans, Griffin. And then life changes.”
            Catch a Falling Star by Beth K. Vogt

“But when a single woman bought a house, it was like admitting that she was alone. Like a widow.”
            Gone South by Meg Moseley

“See, that’s the great thing about faith—the more you need, the bigger it grows.”
            Lakeside Family by Lisa Jordan

“And I won’t settle—even if it means staying single for the rest of my life.”
            Lakeside Family by Lisa Jordan

“Alexia decided she much preferred the visible enemy of a good fire to murder, personal attacks, and home invasions.”
            When the Smoke Clears by Lynette Eason

“I always feel better when I’m ministering to someone else, even if the someone else is a cat.”
            What Once Was Lost by Kim Vogel Sawyer

“Dear Lord, why must I always fall short?”
            What Once Was Lost by Kim Vogel Sawyer

“Your driver’s license and social security card only prove your identity, but they don’t show me who you are.”
            Awakening by JoAnn Durgin

“Tell Lincoln husbands—pretend or otherwise—don’t grow on trees.”
            Made to Last by Melissa Tagg

“Because somehow saving the show meant saving herself, her identity.”
            Made to Last by Melissa Tagg

“Better a life among enemies than a noose around her neck.”
            Ring of Secrets by Roseanna M. White

“Women are baffling, George. Baffling. They complain if you treat them as pets but grow bored if you treat them as equals.”
            Ring of Secrets by Roseanna M. White

Letting go can be a harder way to love than holding on.”
            My Hope is Found by Joanne Bischof

“One can only search for so long before you realize there are just some things you cannot outrun.”
            My Hope is Found by Joanne Bischof

“It’s time for you to drop your bucket deep down into the well of possibilities that you’ve been ignoring all these years. Drop it all the way down and see what you pull up.”
            Sisterchicks on the Loose! by Robin Jones Gunn

What book quotes have struck your fancy this year? Any books you recommend I add to my to-be-read list?

Monday, December 2, 2013

What Are You Thankful For?

Late in November, we celebrate Thanksgiving. This holiday reminds us of the difficult times the pilgrims went through the first few years after they came to America. As the pilgrims went through hard times, each of us faces our own hard times at one point in life or another. This season especially, I think of the people and things in my life I have to be thankful for.

This year, I’m thankful for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), among other things. This is the first year I’ve participated in NaNo, and frankly, I wasn’t expecting much. I didn’t know what to expect, really. All I knew was the goal was to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. So, each day I wrote, typing words into my computer. Sometimes they didn’t seem to flow very well. Other times they gushed out like a raging waterfall.

My word counts added up quicker than I thought they would. Every day of the first week, I beat the previous day’s word count. On the first Saturday, NaNo’s writing marathon, I managed to eke out just over 8,000 words. Imagine my surprise when I tallied that one up! The next week didn’t progress quite that well, but I did still manage to log pretty good word counts, compared to my normal ones.

The third week was slow for me, due to circumstances outside my control. But I still found some time to write each day. By forcing myself to sit in front of my computer every day in November, I reached the goal of 50,000 words by November 25th.

Yes, I’m a NaNoWriMo winner.

I’m grateful for the experience, for it showed me just how much I can accomplish when I get my schedule figured out. When I sit with only my computer as entertainment, and with the Lord as my Guide, the words are sure to pile up and create the bones of a story I can work with.

Thank you to my family who supported my attempt at the National Novel Writing Month. They allowed me the undisturbed time I needed to write. Each day they were eager to hear the word count I’d reached. Their encouragement meant the world to me and helped me reach the count on the difficult days that seemed to drag on and on and on. Without their support, I wouldn’t have reached my goal and felt this awesome sense of accomplishment.

How has your family and/or friends supported your dreams? What people and/or things do you have to be thankful for this Thanksgiving season?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Interview with the Glass Artist

Back in August of this year, my family and I went on a vacation to the northern midwest states of Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. While we were in Michigan, we decided to visit Kalamazoo, basically just to be able to say we’d been there. We found a brochure for this interesting place called West Michigan Glass Art Center and decided to check it out. We met this really nice guy, Jesse Baker, who gave us the grand tour of the Center and told us about the different types of glass art they create there. Today, I’m excited to host Jesse here at Writing to Inspire. He’s agreed to share a little bit about his favorite form of art and what it means to his community.

West Michigan Glass Art Center in downtown Kalamazoo.
Andrea: Welcome to Writing to Inspire, Jesse! I'm so happy you could join us today. Glass art is quite a unique art form. Was there a moment when you knew, "Now THAT'S what I want to do with my life!"? How did you get started in this particular art? Was there a particular person or event that inspired you, sparking your interest in working with glass?
Jesse: My introduction to the torch was a crash course in the form of an advanced lampworking class with Loren Stump. I would have to say it was that week, studying under Loren, watching his frenetic pace and the amazing things that he does with glass, when I knew this was something I wanted to try and do. He showed me that working with glass and the infinite possibilities of creation are limited only by one’s imagination. The things you can do and create with glass are truly endless. 

Andrea: While browsing your website (, I learned that the West Michigan Glass Art Center, located in downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan, is a non-profit organization that teaches, creates and promotes glass art and artists. How did you get involved with the West Michigan Glass Art Center? How may the public get involved?

Triangle Paperweight
Jesse: I first became involved many years ago, taking a hotshop class with my sister. Though it wasn’t then that glass fully sank its teeth into me, I should’ve known then it would. Shortly after that I moved off the mainland for a couple of years, spending that time living and loving life in Maui. Soon after having returned to the mainland I received a job notice in my inbox from the West Michigan Glass Art Center about a studio manager job position open. I applied, got the job, and haven’t looked back since, increasingly embracing glass as my hobby, then art-form, now, arguably, as my addiction. Glass is indeed addictive, if you like it, it’s likely you’re gonna LOVE it! We are a public access organization, focused on teaching the community glass art in all its forms, offering classes for the beginner looking to try making beads for the first time, to the advanced glassblower looking to hone their particular skills in the hotshop.

Andrea: When my family visited the Glass Art Center, you explained to us that there are many different types of glass art, including: glassblowing, kiln casting, cold working, flameworking, stained glass, bead making and kiln fusing. Which type is your favorite to work with? Which is your favorite to teach?

Jesse: Same answer to both of those questions, Hotshop, Hotshop, and Hotshop. I’d work in the Hotshop every day if I could afford to. And though I truly enjoy teaching classes in other studios, the hotshop is where I would prefer to teach as well. 

Andrea Cox and Jesse Baker in the glass art gift shop
Andrea: West Michigan Glass Art Center (WMGAC) has partnered with Bronson Children's Hospital in a program called Journey Beads. Can you tell us a little about this program and how it inspires children who are battling cancer? How has this program affected you and the art you create?

Jesse: The Bronson Journey Beads program is a new collaboration this year between WMGAC and the Bronson Children’s Hospital, providing beads for kids at the hospital who are going through treatment for cancer. Different styled and colored beads are made by local glass artists for various treatments that the kids are enduring. All of us here at the Art Center are taking a lot of pride in the work we’re doing in support of this program, volunteers having donated nearly 800 hours, creating and delivering about 3500 beads to the hospital thus far. The beads act as both a tangible reminder of the steps in the treatment the kids are going through, as well as a tool for telling the story of all that which they are enduring during the process. 

Andrea: How many years have you been creating glass art? How long does it take to become a master at it?

Jesse: I’ve been playing with glass for about 3 ½ years now and am far from considering myself a master of any aspect of it. Although I think the answer to your second question may vary greatly depending upon the individual and the time and resources that individual has to devote to glass. It’s my belief that it takes a lifetime to earn that title, as a master, or maestro in the glass world. 

Andrea: Of the pieces of glass art you create, what are some of your favorites?
Coral Reef Sculpture
Jesse: Aquatics are what I have been drawn to increasingly over the past few years. My favorites would be some of my most recent pieces I’ve produced. A beautiful jellyfish paperweight, a coral reef sculpture and my jellyfish pendants which continue to get better with each made.

Jellyfish Paperweight

Jellyfish Pendants

Andrea: Has a piece of art you were working on ever broken? How do you overcome the disappointment when that happens?

Jesse: Ahh, broken glass, the part you often don’t want to talk about, at least for quite some time after it happens. I have, indeed, had many pieces come crashing to the floor (or table), both hurt equally. When it comes to glass you just have to accept that as a part of the game. I once worked on a very ambitious roll-up project in the hotshop, putting about 30 hours in to the prep, layout and design portion, then a couple of hours of production time in the hotshop with two assistants only to have the piece crack at the very last second, as the piece was being put away in the kiln. Bitter disappointment doesn’t quite sum up the feeling I had at the end of that process. But, much the same as life, what are you gonna do, give up? You pick up the pieces, learn from your mistakes and try to do it better the next time!

Andrea: What events or classes does the Glass Art Center host around Christmas? Anything that children may participate in?
Blue Christmas Ornaments
Jesse: Twice a year, in May and November we offer EGAD, or Explore Glass Art Day, offering students as young as seven the opportunity to come in and take a taster course in any or all of our studios here at the Glass Art Center. Being a non-profit, this is held as a fundraiser for the Art Center and a great opportunity for the community to get their hands on glass at a very affordable price. All of our instructors volunteer their time on those special EGAD days, helping to make the courses more affordable for those who would like to try glass as an art form. We also offer ornament making sessions, sold on Groupon just before the holidays, which is always a hot ticket. Last year we had over 600 people come through our hotshop, teaching them how to make their very own ornament to place on their tree or give away as a very special gift to a loved one. 

Pink Christmas Ornaments
Andrea: How may my readers and I help support you and the West Michigan Glass Art Center, to help keep this art form around for future generations?

Jesse: There are many ways individuals can help support both the West Michigan Glass Art Center and glass art as a whole. I think your article, enlightening others who may not know anything about glass is a great way to help, increasing the glass world’s exposure. As far as supporting our mission here at WMGAC, being a non-profit, any cash donations given to the Art Center are tax deductible. To make a donation to WMGAC, follow the link,

Another way to support us, indirectly, is to support the Bronson Journey Beads program, either by getting involved in the program or by making a donation to the program. Donations towards the Bronson Journey Beads program can be made at the Bronson Health Foundation’s website, found here:

Andrea: What is something you've learned from working with glass that can be applied to other aspects of life?
Glass Tree

Jesse: Sometimes other aspects of life only need just a little more, or, a little less heat applied to get it to the right, working temperature.

Andrea: What advice would you give to someone who is trying to pursue the dreams and goals they're passionate about?

Jesse: When we dream, generally, we dream BIG! Don’t give up! They wouldn’t be dreams if they were easily attainable!

Andrea: Jesse, thank you so much for your generous time and sharing your experiences with the West Michigan Glass Art Center.

Readers, when have you tried something new? Did you enjoy it or find that it wasn’t for you? Have you ever made your own Christmas tree ornaments?

The next time you find yourself in Kalamazoo, Michigan, stop by the West Michigan Glass Art Center. They’ve got a neat shop where you can purchase pieces of glass art created by local artists. You won’t want to miss it!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Fairchild's Lady - a FREE novella

Ten years after his words were used against him by a spy in Ring of Secrets, Isaac Fairchild finds himself using covert tactics in the follow-up novella, Fairchild’s Lady. When he is commissioned to find a friend’s wife and daughter and bring them safely home to England before war breaks out in France, he isn’t expecting Lady Julienne to be so beautiful with such startlingly blue eyes. Will he convince the two women to flee before it’s too late? Or will they wait for the impending proposal from a French duke? Will Fairchild suffer a broken heart for the second time?

This eBook might be short at only eight chapters and a prologue, but it carries a large dose of sweetness. I was glad to see what happened to Fairchild after the events of book one in Roseanna M. White’s Culper Ring series. Even though I wasn’t rooting for him in book one, I did grow quite attached to him. Getting a peek at what took place between Ring of Secrets and Whispers from the Shadows made me feel a little like a spy myself.

The day I was reading this book, I was on a shopping trip. One stop was a Half-Price Books store. Wouldn’t you know I’d see a section on espionage while browsing the military history section for research books for my latest novel. I giggled over the irony of reading a book about spies and happening across a whole shelf full of books about covert operations.

It only took me one day to read this book, and I enjoyed every word of it. It’s a fabulous story that enhances the series. Soon I’ll be reading book two, and I’m sure you’ll be seeing my review on it not long afterwards.

Don't forget to hop over to Roseanna White's website. She's got the links to the free novella here.

Also, Roseanna hosted me recently on her blog. Check out my article here.

Do you like novellas? Do they add to or detract from a series? I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comment section below.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sisterchicks On the Loose!

Have you ever been surprised by the contents of a book?

Recently, I experienced that very thing.
Having previously loved RobinJones Gunn’s Clouds, I was eager to see what else she had written. When the first of her Sisterchicks books came up on my list of available books on Blogging for Books, I couldn’t resist the temptation to try another of her novels.

The surprises began with the cover. Blue sky and snow, with a bright orange strip of foreign buildings . . . just the hint of adventure I needed to sneak Sisterchickson the Loose! up my ever-growing list of books to read. Plus, the cute little chick in the top left corner with the snazzy sunglasses made me giggle with joy. *Note: When I was browsing at the book store over the weekend, I noticed this book had a different cover than the copy I had. Don’t let that stop you from taking on this adventure!

Upon opening the cover, I discovered the story was written in the first person. Quite startling, since the “norm” for fiction is currently third person writing. I’ve read a few first person fictions before, and they usually took me several chapters to get into the rhythm of them, if I ever did. Much to my delight, the story swiftly unfolded as if told by a dear friend. This negated the first person problems I’d had in the past. In fact, as I was reading, I felt as if I were reading the authors private, intimate thoughts on her own journey to Finland. I’m not sure how much of the tale was based on Ms. Gunn’s personal experiences, but she sure painted an enjoyable tale with plenty of adventure, misunderstandings, hilariousness and sweetly tender moments.

Finally, I was surprised to discover a deep character arc that could easily apply to so many women’s lives. (Men’s, too, for that matter.) Many of us struggle with identity issues at some point or another in our lives. This book provides hope and a bit of guidance where our identities are concerned. It’s nice to see such deep thoughts woven seamlessly into a whim of an adventure.

In Sisterchicks on the Loose!, Penny tells her best friend Sharon, “Pack your bags, girl! We’re finally going to run away from home!” They take off for far away Finland in hopes of reuniting with the aunt Penny’s always wanted to meet. Mishaps seem to appear from every direction, but they decide to trust God and let Him lead the way on this long-awaited journey. Both women have lessons to learn along the way, along with surprises to give and receive. The people they meet on the trip only add to the experience, enhancing the already enjoyable excursion across the globe. Will they miss home or wish they could travel indefinitely? After going on such an exciting trip, how can they ever go back to normal living? Make sure to pick up this Sisterchick novel if you have a bit of the wanderlust in you. It’ll get you itching to board a plane—but don’t forget your carry-on!

My food for thought question today comes from a quote in chapter seven of this novel: “It’s time for you to drop your bucket deep down into the well of possibilities that you’ve been ignoring all these years. Drop it all the way down and see what you pull up.”

When you dunk your bucket into the well of possibilities God’s placed before you, what do you pull up? How do you use the talents and gifts God’s blessed you with? How can you impact the world today? Share your ideas with us in the comment section below, but please don’t stop there. Let’s make a difference in the world around us, shall we?

Monday, November 4, 2013

National Novel Writing Month

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This year is the first time I’ve ever participated in NaNoWriMo. I’m not quite sure how it works or what to expect, but I’m giving it my best shot.

From what I read on, the goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. My last novel came in at about 94,000 words, so I’m aiming a bit higher than 50k to call the story complete. But accomplishing the goal of 50,000 words in a single month will be a great jumpstart on my first draft.

My personal goals with NaNoWriMo this year are things that will help me on all my future projects, along with the current one.

1) Write every single day (with Sundays as my only free days). Having a routine is essential to me, especially as I struggle to focus with my undiagnosed ADD. I’ve been aiming for a regular writing routine, and I’m hoping to use NaNoWriMo as motivation to settle into a good schedule.

2) Increase my word count each consecutive day. I’m often impressed by my fellow authors who log 5k to 10k words per day on their works in progress (WIP). My typical 600 to 1,500 words pale in comparison, but I’m always happy when I pass the 1,000 mark. If I can beat my word count on a consistent basis, perhaps one day I’ll log in 5k words . . . or maybe more!

3) Most importantly, continue to seek God’s help. He is my source for words to write. Without Him, my word bank would dry up like a puddle on a hot Texas summer day. “Come to the fountain . . .” is my daily plan. If I seek the Word to feed my soul and commit my writing to the Lord, He will faithfully fill me to overflowing and grant me the words that will create novels pleasing to Him. And I pray He receives all the glory.

Excitement describes my first foray with NaNoWriMo (click the link and become one of my writing buddies). I’m anticipating a productive month of writing. I’m sure I’ll be exhausted come December, but blessedly so. What a great way to kick off the holiday season!

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Are you a veteran or a newcomer like me? What are you hoping to get out of it? Any tips or advice you’d care to share?

For those of you not involved with NaNoWriMo, what activities are keeping you busy in November? Is it something you do throughout the year or exclusively during the winter months? Does your whole family get involved or is it a solo project?

Monday, October 28, 2013

When a Heart Stops

When I began reading When a Heart Stops by Lynette Eason, I expected medical examiner (ME) Serena Hopkins to be under duress in China . . . considering that’s what the epilogue of When the Smoke Clears, book one in the Deadly Reunions series, indicated.

At the very least, I expected her work with the earthquake cleanup in China to be mentioned sometime throughout When a Heart Stops.

Neither of those scenarios happened, but that didn’t distract too much from the whodunit suspense found upon the pages I kept turning long into the night. With each new twist and turn along the journey (none of which I’ll be sharing, so you’ll have to pick up a copy of the book to discover the sneakiness for yourself), my heart beat faster and faster as I attempted to anticipate what would happen next.

I was wrong so often!

But that’s part of the fun of reading a Lynette Eason novel. If they were predictable, they wouldn’t be so addictive.

Book three I recently purchased because I knew I’d want to read it after finishing this one. I was right. I want to read it NOW!

In When a Heart Stops, ME Serena Hopkins and FBI agent Dominic Allen are baffled to discover that the Doll Maker Killer is back—even though he’s sitting in prison. How is this possible? They aren’t quite sure, but you can be certain they’ll use all their knowledge and resources to find out!

This novel is an edge-of-your-seat suspense that will keep you up late, flipping pages while the moon inches higher and higher in the sky—not that you’ll notice. If you haven’t yet read any of Lynette Eason’s books, the Deadly Reunions series is a great one to start with. You’ll be hooked before you know it!

Have you ever read a book that you just couldn’t put down? What drew you into the story so thoroughly? What tips do you have for authors who want to write books that keep you flipping those pages?

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Grace that Leads Us Home

After reading What Once Was Lost, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on its prequel, The Grace That Leads Us Home.

This eShort claims new territory for Kim Vogel Sawyer. She had never before written a book of any size specifically for eReaders. It is my hope that she will continue to explore this venue to provide more inside looks into the characters that don’t get quite as much attention in the full-sized novels she releases.

In a time when an $18.00 debt was insurmountable, Oscar Deaton perishes, leaving his wife to repay a loan she knew nothing about. Atop that, she also has to raise their two young children. Times are tough and jobs are scarcely available. Will widow Alice Deaton find employment in time to pay the month’s rent and the loan looming over her? If she does find a position, will it pay enough to feed and clothe her children in the harsh winter months? Or will she have to resort to begging for her children’s supper?

My heart broke in two when Alice wondered, in chapter one, “How would she and the children survive without Oscar?” I’ve seen hard times before and relied on God to provide for my family, so I well understood the desperate place Alice found herself in. When you’re down and out, you face difficult decisions you never thought you’d have to make in your life. It’s times like those when we find out what we’re really made of. Do we have the courage to carry on when the outcome looks bleak? Do we have the strength to follow the instructions of Ephesians 6:13? “Wherefore take up the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand.” (ASV, emphasis mine)

It is my prayer for each of you to obtain the courage and faith it takes to stand firm when all else fails. May God be with you and your families during times of plenty and seasons of struggle.

The Grace That Leads Us Home is now available for your eReaders. Here is the link to purchase it on Amazon. Haven’t discovered Kim Vogel Sawyer yet? Learn more about this woman’s stories of hope at her website.

Tell us about a time in your life when all your attempts failed but God provided for your needs. What did you learn through that process?

I'm also a guest on Meghan Gorecki's Every Good Word blog today. Will I see you there?

Monday, October 14, 2013

My Hope is Found

“Letting go can be a harder way to love than holding on.”

That’s what was told to Gideon in chapter four of the final book in Joanne Bischof’s Cadence of Grace series. That line set up the struggles Gideon, Lonnie and Toby would all face throughout the pages and chapters of My Hope is Found.

As Gideon makes his way back to Fancy Gap and the family he was forced to leave behind all those months ago, he has no idea what awaits him. Toby has patiently waited for Lonnie to overcome the grief losing Gideon had caused, but his patience is wearing out. Lonnie feels torn between the man she knows she must let go and the man who offers her a bright future. Will these three sort out their differences and come to an understanding? Or will they trust that God has a plan for each of them through the trials ahead? Or will past mistakes catch up to them, stirring up trouble too overwhelming to overcome?

Although I was sad to learn My Hope is Found would be the last novel in Joanne Bischof’s debut trilogy, I must admit I couldn’t wait to find out what happened to Lonnie and Gideon and Toby, after having fallen in love with them in Be Still My Soul and Though My Heart is Torn. My only worry was if this tale of lost love and looming mistakes could possibly come to a satisfying conclusion. If I say whether or not I was satisfied by the end of the story, I might give away what happened. So, I suppose that means you’ll just have to grab a copy and read it to find out for yourself what transpired for Gideon, Lonnie and Toby. I suggest you begin with Be Still My Soul, and read the entire trilogy in order to get the full picture of where these characters started. Their journey is a powerful one, filled with trials that remind us of our humanity and need for saving. It makes us consider where we came from, what it took to get where we are now, and where we’re headed on our life journeys. Keep a notebook handy to jot down the things that come to mind about your own journey as you read about Lonnie’s. God might just meet you in the chapters of these books.

As for the author, JoanneBischof is a new favorite of mine. The subtle sweetness woven through the plot and characters—particularly the supporting characters of Jebediah and Elsie—touches the heart and moistens the eyes. The reminders to look for joy in our pain came easily as the story unfolded. What’s next for this author? I’m not sure yet, but I can hardly wait to see. It’s sure to be great!

When was the last time a book got you thinking about your spiritual life? What was it about the story or characters that had you looking deep inside yourself?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Author Interview with Melissa Tagg

This week, we have quite a treat. One of my Facebook friends, Melissa Tagg, author of Made to Last, has stopped by to chat with us. Her debut book is available now, and it's certain to wiggle into your heart with its small-town charm.

Andrea: Made to Last (MTL) is your debut novel. What surprised you most about your journey to publication?

Melissa: Ooh, interesting question. I think probably the thing that surprised me most was the incredible amount of relationships and friendships I’ve developed in these past few years. I had no idea when I started writing seriously in the fall of 2009 that God would bring such amazing people into my life. Mentors like Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck. An amazing craft partner and other writing friends. It really blows me away.

Andrea: Did any of your characters take the plot into their own hands while you were writing Made to Last? Or did you have everything well in control?

Melissa: Oh my goodness, yes, characters definitely mucked up my original plot plans. Haha! Probably my biggest surprise was when an important character showed up a couple chapters earlier than I’d planned…it was just the most perfect writing moment. I remember squealing at the timing of it. But it forced me to go back and change a lot of what I’d planned.

Andrea: Which character was the most challenging to write? Why?

Melissa: The most challenging character was also the easiest character. :) Miranda Woodruff is my heroine and she’s very different from me in terms of career, talents and skills. But her emotional journey very closely mirrors mine. So writing her was easy in that I felt like it was pretty natural to write her responses to situations, etc. But it was also challenging in that it meant going through those emotional highs and lows right alongside her.

Andrea: What piece of advice would you give to a writer suffering with writer's block?

Melissa: Just write. Truly, I think that’s the best cure for it. Sit down and write. I think a lot of times we wait for inspiration or muse or a magical burst of creativity. But those moments are going to come and go. We can’t depend on them. They’re fickle. If we really want to make progress, the best thing we can do is learn to write through those dry spells, be determined and keep going. We can always go back and revise later…but if we spend too much time waiting around for inspiration, we’ll never get to “the end.”

That said, I do think there are things we can do to refuel our creativity and inspiration. I like to take walks and bubble baths. Exercising is great thinking time for me, even though I don’t generally love the actual exercising part! And I love watching movies with good dialogue…that always sparks my own writing.

Andrea: In MTL, Miranda Woodruff volunteered with Open Arms, a shelter for children with special needs, giving of her time and talents to help those in need. Have you ever been a volunteer? If so, would you share with us something that surprised or inspired you along the journey?

Melissa: Well, I have volunteered before, yes, but probably the thing that even more inspired that storyline is my dayjob. I work at a Christ-centered nonprofit which provides food, clothing, shelter and long-term life-recovery for those who are homeless and hungry. Volunteers are vital to our work, so that’s always in my head. And then, too, my nephew Ollie was born with Down syndrome and multiple heart defects…so he inspired the shelter piece of the story. As I’ve watched my sister and brother-in-law take care of him, I’ve often thought, man, what is life like for children like Ollie who don’t have the same kind of awesome parents he does?

Andrea: Is Open Arms an existing organization, or was it a creation of your own imagination? If the latter, did any specific organization or person in your life inspire it?

Melissa: I made up Open Arms, but I know there are places like that which exist. And I’m glad they do. And I mentioned Ollie above…he definitely inspired that piece of the storyline. I’m convinced he’s the coolest kid in the whole world. :)

Andrea: Miranda has traveled to Brazil to build houses. Have you ever participated in foreign missions? Did it involve house building?

Melissa: Yes, as a teen I went down to Mexico with my church youth group and we built a house. It was definitely a cool experience. And then when I was reporting, I wrote several stories about Habitat for Humanity—I love what they and other organizations do to help families in need.

Andrea: Are you a DIY (do-it-yourself) expert, like Miranda? How did your experience with tools help you write Made to Last?

Melissa: Haha, I am not at ALL a DIY expert. I’m just not crafty…and my main experience with tools has been people taking them away from me. I’m very intimidated by stores like Home Depot. So in writing Miranda’s character, I had to do a fair bit of research. I watched quite a few This Old House how-to videos and spent a lot of time Googling this and that. I will admit, there are some tools mentioned in MTL which I couldn’t pick out of a lineup of tools, I’m sure!

Andrea: What do you hope readers take away from Made to Last? What did you learn as you were writing it?

Melissa: At its core, Made to Last is about discovering who we really are underneath the trappings of successes or failures or relationships or lack thereof. So I really hope readers walk away thinking about who they are through a new lens. For me personally, this story hit me right where I needed it. I am someone who does tend to determine my self-worth or identity by what I do or don’t do…so writing this story was one constant reminder that my real identity is found in Christ.

Andrea: What's up next for you? When can we expect your next novel, and may we have a hint at what it's about?

Melissa: My next book is called Here to Stay and it releases in May 2014. It’s all about Blake, the fake husband, from Made to Last. I just loved the guy more and more as I wrote MTL, so I knew his story had to come next. :)

Andrea: Thanks so much for hanging out with us today, Melissa! I enjoyed your debut book, Made to Last, and am eager to see what you'll come up with next.

Melissa Tagg is a former newspaper reporter and total Iowa girl. Her first novel, Made to Last, releases from Bethany House in September 2013. In addition to her homeless ministry day job, Melissa is also the marketing/events coordinator for My BookTherapy. Melissa blogs regularly and loves connecting with readers at

Ways to contact Melissa Tagg:

Monday, September 30, 2013

Rain or Shine?

Courtesy of prozac1 and
I live in North Texas, where it seems we are constantly in a drought, rain shortage, or being asked to conserve water. (As if some families—like mine—don’t do that already.) We carefully watch the weather forecast, hoping for even the slightest blip of cloud cover on the radar. When the chance of scattered showers finally pops up on the 7-day forecast, we hold our breath . . . and then sigh as we remember it typically skips our part of the county.
Then, one day it happens. The clouds gather overhead and the heavens open. Droplets of water splatter the ground and every brave person who dashes outside to check the mailbox. (Very important when expecting influencer copies of books!) If the downpour lasts longer than 30 minutes (okay, more like 15), the grumblings start.

“I wish it wasn’t raining.”

Courtesy of foto76 and
“I hate being stuck inside!”

“Too bad the sun’s not out. The gray sky is so depressing.”

“Okay, so we needed the rain. But did we need THIS MUCH of it?”

Stop. Right. There.

We complain when it’s dry. We gripe when it’s wet. We want rain. We don’t want rain. (The story’s the same for snow, by the way.)

When do we pause to say, “Thank You, God, for THIS DAY”? When do we appreciate the weather He gives us?

Seasons of writing are similar to weather patterns. When the ideas are flowing and words litter the computer screen, we long for an agent to ask for a complete copy of our manuscripts. When we secure representation, we want a contract with a huge publishing house. When we grasp our first published novel in hand, we wish our next book would be released in seven different languages.

Stop. Right. There.

Don’t jump ahead in your writing journey. You might miss an important something God wants to show you. Or you may overlook an AH-HA! moment when He inspires a brilliant scene you may have otherwise overlooked. Worst of all, you might lose the golden opportunity to cherish our Lord’s presence and activity in your life.
Courtesy of Sujin Jetkasettakorn

Stop. Right. There.

Take a moment (or two!) to praise God for where you’re at on your writing journey.

And dance in the rain. (Or whatever type of weather you might be experiencing.)