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.)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Made to Last

When her homebuilding show is on the brink of being shut down, Miranda “Randi” Woodruff rents a husband to jazz up viewer ratings. What she didn’t count on was a handsome reporter snooping around, trying to dig up her secrets. Little does she know, reporter Matthew Knox has some buried secrets of his own. Will Miranda evade Matthew’s journalistic curiosity long enough to save her television show? Or will she cave under the pressure? Will Matthew’s secrets push him past the point of no return, where his conscience is concerned? Or will he gladly toss aside his personal ethics to get the scoop on Randi Woodruff and catapult himself to new career heights?

Made to Last is the debut book of author Melissa Tagg. I must say I was surprised by this lighthearted romance. It dug into deep topics, challenging me as a reader and a writer. As a reader, the theme of identity made me stop and consider who I am. Am I defined by my career choices, marital status, and cleanliness of my home? Or is my identity found elsewhere? The answer I found is this: I am a daughter of God. All other identities (writer, tutor, daughter, sister, friend, etc.) fall into place, secondary to my place as a child of God.

The surprises Miranda and Matthew faced as the chapters went along kept me off balance and turning pages. It challenged the writer in me to consider every possible plot twist for my work-in-progress (WIP). I especially enjoy novels that catch me off guard, as Made to Last did. They usually nudge me deeper in my own writing process. There’s nothing quite like reading a fellow author’s work to push my own writing skills to a new level.

One of my favorite lines from the book is at the tail end of a discussion between Miranda and her TV show’s producer, Lincoln Nash.

Miranda: "I don't have a husband."
Lincoln: "So we get you one."

This simple exchange promised quirky, awkward moments for Randi Woodruff, and Melissa Tagg delivered! I loved the storyline and how the three different men in Miranda’s life played so well off of each other. One scene built upon another until I was holding the book mere inches from my face in eager anticipation of what would occur next. This book is an easy read that is sure to keep you entertained and yearning for more.

Look out, world! Melissa Tagg has arrived!

Melissa, thank you for including me in your Tagg Team of influencers. I appreciate the complimentary copy of Made to Last in exchange for my honest review and social media support.

Readers, don't forget to visit Melissa Tagg on Facebook and/or her website! She recently jazzed up her website, so I know you'll want to check that out.

Have you ever been in an awkward situation? Did you find the humor in it, or did you want to just sit down and cry? What did you learn from your experience?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Author Interview with Kim Vogel Sawyer

Today, I'm talking with author and Facebook friend, Kim Vogel Sawyer, whose latest book What Once Was Lost releases to bookstores tomorrow.

Available September 17th
Andrea: In your most recent book, What Once Was Lost, Tommy Kilgore was such an enjoyable character to get to know. Did someone in particular inspire his character?

Kim: No, Tommy is purely from my imagination, but I certainly grew attached to him.

Andrea: What piece of research surprised you most? Were you disappointed in any of your research?

Kim: The terminology which was perfectly acceptable surprised me--referring to poor farms as "asylums" and the residents as "inmates." I encountered these terms on historical sites and the images in my head, painted by today's use of those words, were quite different from the reality of that time. I find it intriguing how language evolves.

Andrea: Your descriptions in Tommy's point of view (POV) made it easy to feel what blindness would be like. Did you use a blindfold to better imagine the scenes? Or was there another technique you used? Or was it pure imagination?

Kim: I closed my eyes when writing in Tommy's POV. It sounds simplistic, but it's amazing how your other senses "step up to the plate" when you limit the use of one. Try plugging your ears sometime in a public place and see how keen your observation becomes. :O)

Andrea: Do you plot your books or write as you go? Are you ever surprised by the twists or outcomes in your stories?

Kim: I am a seat of the pants writer, so I am constantly surprised by what transpires. Every day is an adventure! I love it.

Andrea: When did you realize you wanted to write historical Christian fiction novels?

Kim: I always wanted to be a writer, and I always wanted to write historicals, but I think I became focused on Christian writing when I read my first Janette Oke story. I loved how God was a main character, and I wanted to write stories of the hope only He can give.

Andrea: How has the added responsibility of running The King's Inn Bed & Breakfast affected your writing schedule?

Kim: I like to start my day focused on writing. Now I have to wait until we've served breakfast and visited with guests before I can focus. Since I am most productive in the morning, it was a real adjustment for me to put something else ahead of writing, but it's balancing out. Fortunately the Hubs is good about doing all the clean up, so once the guests are served I can scoot up to my office and get busy.

Andrea: The theme of helping others is dear to my heart, which is one reason I especially love What Once Was Lost. How do you decide which themes to focus on in your novels? Are there any certain factors you consider while planning your stories?

Kim: The only thing I plan is my characters' emotional/physical/spiritual arcs. I know what each of them hope to achieve and why it is important to them. Beyond that, everything else that transpires is a natural out-growth of the characters' journeys. I am often amazed at the themes that develop.

Andrea: Who was the most challenging character to write, and why?

Kim: Tommy ... because I couldn't use his sight and I am a very visual person.

Andrea: What's up next on your busy schedule? May we have a hint at what your next book is about?

Kim: Up next is a story set in a Kansas chocolate factory and features a female investigator who is going to turn the life of the Dinsmore Chocolate Factory owner's son upside-down!

Andrea: Lastly, but most importantly, how's that new grandbaby of yours doing (and her parents)? Is she close enough to spoil regularly, like your little Wugmump? (Of course, all your grandkiddos are precious! I always enjoy the photos you share on your website and blog.)

Kim: Our newest one is growing like a weed and learning to smile, which is always so precious. I wish she was closer--three hours can seem like thirty when you want a quick visit--but thankfully Skype allows us to see and talk to both Wugmumps whenver we need a fix.

Andrea: Kim, thank you for visiting with us here at Writing to Inspire. You write such endearing stories.

Kim: Thanks, Andrea!

Since the release of her first novel in 2006, Kim Vogel Sawyer has become one of the most beloved writers in the Christian market. Drawn to her gentle stories of hope and the life lessons contained between the pages, readers eagerly anticipate the newest release. When Kim isn't writing, you can find her serving guests with her retired-military hubby at The King's Inn Bed and Breakfast Inn or spoiling her grandchildren. You can learn more about Kim and her writing and speaking ministries at

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Hope Within -- by guest Joanne Bischof

Today, I'm thrilled to host author Joanne Bischof here on Writing to Inspire. Her Cadence of Grace series gripped my heart immediately with its sweet poignancy, hope and heartbreaking moments. Joanne has been a joy to get to know, and I hope you get a glimpse of her sweet personality here today.

Lonnie’s character was one of the first pieces of the Cadence of Grace series to fall into place, she’s also a character that so many readers have written to me to share how much they connected with her as a woman and, in many ways, as a friend. Early on, one of her main defining characteristics is her longing to be loved. With an abusive father and a shy spirit, she’s always led a quiet life. In the first moment she steps onto the pages of Be Still My Soul, she also steps onto the stage at the town dance in Rocky Knob, Virginia. Not liking to sing in front of people, it’s the last place she wants to be.

As she faces this great fear, she meets Gideon O’Riley, the handsome mandolin player with a reputation with the ladies. She’s always noticed him from afar, but never had he really noticed her. It’s a great surprise to Lonnie when he walks her home that starry night, and stealing a kiss, he seals their fate of a shotgun wedding. Lonnie’s quiet ways are so different than Gideon’s confident and roguish personality, but the sweetness of her heart is just what Gideon needs as he fights a battle of the spirit, and though it takes him a while to realize what he has in her, he’ll soon discover the blessing she is on his life.

The patience of Lonnie’s heart is truly rewarded by the time readers see her again in Though My Heartis Torn. Her husband, Gideon, is immensely grateful for the precious gift he has in his wife. Though when Gideon’s past as a scoundrel comes back to haunt him, their greatest trial lies ahead in the form of a woman claiming that she is his rightful wife, not Lonnie. Even as Lonnie’s world seems to crumble, she clings to that quiet faith, hoping and trusting that the Lord will hold her through this, all the while, hoping and praying that out of this trial, Gideon will grow closer to the Lord he’s kept at arm’s length his entire life. One of the themes I really wanted to capture with this series is the strength God can equip us with, regardless of the path we are on. Lonnie’s character is meant to symbolize how God can make us strong even when we feel we are weak.

By the time Lonnie steps onto the page in My Hope is Found. She’s armed with many life experiences. She’s shed a few tears and she’s loved greatly. Her heart is filled with the yearning for a man she’s certain is lost to her, yet it’s still for the taking. So when Gideon steps back into her life, she’s not only a bit older, but a bit wiser.

One of my greatest hopes is for these characters to feel human—with real struggles. A moment that comes to mind is in My Hope is Found. Faced with the trial of being so near to the man she loves, yet who is no longer her husband, Lonnie is faced with an immense struggle. While just like with the girl she was in Be Still My Soul, her longing to be loved hasn’t changed, but she has a greater understanding of wisdom and faith in the Lord…that He works all things for His glory.

My Hope is Found releases on
October 15, 2013.

Gideon O’Riley has been given another chance at a life with Lonnie. But will the fight for her heart risk it all over again?

Christy Award-finalist and author of Be Still My Soul and Though My Heart is TornJoanne Bischof has a deep passion for Appalachian culture and writing stories that shine light on God’s grace and goodness. She lives in the mountains of Southern California with her husband and their three children. When she’s not weaving Appalachian romance, she’s blogging about faith, folk music, and the adventures of country living that bring her stories to life.

How do YOU cope when you feel weak and inadequate? Do you have a favorite Bible verse you turn to in moments of disappointment? Do you have a support group or friend who helps you rediscover hope when you feel there is none?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Summing Up Summer

My friend Amanda, sister Kristy,
and parents (not pictured)
helped me celebrate my birthday.
August is my one full month off from my job as a tutor of children grades five through eight. It’s the month I celebrate the day I was born (by eating at Cheddar's, of course), and it’s also the month in which my family typically tries to go on vacation.

This year was no different. My parents, sister and I packed up our Tahoe and headed down the road. Up the road, technically, since our destination was north of our home state of Texas.

Where were we headed? Indiana and Michigan.

My challenge? Not getting distracted by the landscape whizzing by my window.

Yes, that’s right. I brought my laptop. I gladly sacrificed some of my landscape-watching, book-reading, z-z-z-z-catching time in order to get a good jump on the edits necessary to make my manuscript shine. That task proved quite daunting, but I steadily made progress on my work in progress (WIP). No, I didn’t get it completed. Even though I didn’t meet my goal 100%, I couldn’t be too disappointed in myself. I could have taken the entire month off, claiming it as family time, which would have been true on all accounts. But I chose to use the many hours in the car to my advantage.

Did I have fun on this trip, or was it just a working vacation for me? Oh, I had fun. Lots of fun.

The reason my family chose to visit Indiana was to spend some time with my dad’s aunts, uncles and cousins. My two great-aunts we met last summer, and of course we wanted to make more memories with them. This year, though, we also planned on meeting my second-cousin and another uncle and his wife. Since the cousin’s brother was in town, we got the bonus treat of meeting his family, including his granddaughter. When puzzling it out, I realized that she was my fourth-cousin. That meant we had four generations—from my great-aunt to my fourth-cousin—at Golden Corral that day! How neat is that? It was so wonderful to share a meal and fellowship with these relatives I’ve only known for one year. Hopefully we’ll get another chance to gather again soon.

JoAnn Durgin
Since we were going to Indiana, I asked my parents if we could stop by and meet author JoAnn Durgin on the way. JoAnn was one of four authors who critiqued my manuscript proposal in order to help me improve it. I really appreciated the tips she gave me and wanted to thank her in person and get to know her even better than I already had on Facebook. Also, I was planning on taking the first book in her Lewis Legacy series, Awakening, along on the trip to read (when I wasn’t working on my MS). My parents agreed to take a route that would take us through her part of Indiana, so we met JoAnn at Cheddar’s, my favorite restaurant. Tasty food, great company and conversation about books . . . It couldn’t have been a better evening.

Vigo County Historical Society Museum
From there, we took a side trip to Vigo County. This portion of the trip was sweet because I actually got to go “on location” for the manuscript I took along to work on. I had the opportunity to visit the small town I had chosen as the hometown for my characters. Also, I got to stop by the Vigo County Historical Society Museum to see what information they had on the town I had chosen. Though the file on the tiny town wasn't very large, the information was wonderful. It confirmed to me that the town was a tight-knit community that cared about each other . . . just like in my story!

West Michigan Glass Art Center
Once we reached Michigan, we stayed in Kalamazoo, just so we could say we’ve been there. The next morning, we went downtown to this neat place called West Michigan Glass Art Center. When we told the man that greeted us we were from Texas, he offered to give us a tour of the place. The art of working with glass is quite impressive and takes so much patience and time to learn. From creating stained glass to bead making to flameworking to glassblowing, they do it all—and a little bit of everything in between. The thing that surprised me the most was the fact that they leave the huge furnace on 24/7 to keep it at the correct temperature for their art form. The only time it’s shut down is when it needs to be replaced every five or so years.

Besides visiting Kalamazoo, another of my family’s goals while in Michigan was to put our feet in Lake Michigan. (We had done the same in Lake Erie in the summer of 2012.) We accomplished this goal while making some new ones. There are numerous lighthouses along the lake, and we decided to see some of them. We enjoy taking pictures of them as they are typically very beautiful. We weren’t disappointed. The lighthouses we went to were gorgeous with breathtaking views of Lake Michigan from the grounds.

West Point Lighthouse

Two Harbors Light Station... now a B&B too!

At that point, we were barely a week into our two-week trip. We didn’t really have any further plans of things to see or do. My dad surprised us by suggesting we travel down the coast of Lake Michigan, into Wisconsin and up into Minnesota, stopping by Lake Superior before heading home through Iowa. That would give us three more states on our quest to see all 48 continental United States over the years, leaving fewer than 10 states to accomplish that goal.

In Wisconsin and Minnesota, we saw a few more lighthouses, including Split Rock which was such an amazing sight from the lookout point up the road. While we were putting our feet in Lake Superior, a ginormous freighter left the port. I didn’t realize just how humongous those things really were until I saw this one up close. Talk about daunting!

Split Rock Lighthouse

Wisconsin Point Lighthouse

My sister Kristy and friend Jessica
Yes, that's a bear in the background.
We were at the Tulsa Zoo.
The last day of our trek, we stopped in Oklahoma to visit a dear friend whom we met at the beginning of summer. Her car had broken down on the way home from college, so my family had taken her home to Houston—six hours away from our hometown. We stayed in touch over the next couple of months, and my family decided that hanging out with her for a day would be a great way to end our vacation.

All along the trip, we met great people who each had a story to tell. Oh, the books I could write with such inspiration! At most, if not all, of the hotels we stayed at, the staff were friendly and ready to help their clients. At restaurants, the waitresses were often overworked but still managed to wear broad smiles across their faces. Some of the people I met were having bad days, so I smiled and greeted them warmly, hoping to add a little sparkle in the midst of their stressful moments. To many of these people, I gave a bookmark of one of my favorite authors, along with my own blog information. If you are one of them, thank you for your kindness and friendly smile. Thank you for visiting my website. I am thrilled you’re here! Please leave me a comment or friend me on Facebook or Twitter.

This summer’s vacation was amazing. I’m so grateful for every experience and each person who crossed my family’s path. Many more people and things and experiences than I could possibly mention made the trip one never to forget. My family and I had a memorable, enjoyable time. And I even made progress on my WIP!

What helped make your summer special? Was it the people around you? A family vacation? What will you remember most about Summer 2013?