Monday, January 26, 2015

What Would You Do?

by Andrea Renee Cox

Late last week, I came down with a fever and cough, which zapped my energy. That allowed me lots of time to watch TV. And, being the sports nut I am, I tuned in to the Australian Open every evening. One thing that happened during the Nadal-Smyczek match took me by surprise, as it seems to have done to the entire sports world.

Tim Smyczek
Near the end of a four-hour, five-set battle on the tennis court, during which Rafael Nadal suffered with cramps from the high temperatures and thick humidity, a fan screamed something just as Nadal swung his racket on a first serve. The ball went long. And Nadal stood still for several moments, glaring in the direction the scream came from. Then, as he was settling in to take his second serve, Tim Smyczek (pronounced “Smee-check”) caught the chair umpire’s attention and held up two fingers, indicating that Nadal should be given a do-over on the first serve. When the umpire told Nadal this, Nadal gave Smyczek a thumbs-up and a wave, took a little walk back to clear his thoughts, and then went on to win the match with the next two points.

Rafael Nadal
In his on-court interview after the win, Rafael Nadal first congratulated Tim Smyczek, saying, “He’s a really gentleman. What he did in the last game is … Not a lot of people will do something like this in the six-five in the fifth set, so, after four hours, so just congratulate him for that, and I think he played a great match.”

During Tim Smyczek’s after-game press conference interview, he was asked about his show of great sportsmanship. His response? “You know, I thought it was the right thing to do.” Talk about a humble guy. (You can read more of his interview here.)

If there was a “great sportsmanship award” for the Australian Open, no doubt Tim would win it. But his action begs the question—and many have already posed it—what would you have done in that particular circumstance? (Read this article for responses from tennis champions Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka.)

Consider this: If Tim hadn’t motioned for the do-over, he would have faced an easier serve, as second serves are often slower than first serves. That might have been all he needed to take control of the match back in his hands and possibly even win.

And yet, he didn’t even think twice about his decision. He didn’t put his ranking of 112 at the forefront of his mind and think, “Hey, if I beat Nadal at the Aussie Open, I could move closer to the top 100.” He didn’t think about the respect he’d earn if he beat one of the world’s best tennis players of all time.

Because of his selflessness, he not only earned more respect from fellow tennis players, but also from people in all walks of life, all around the globe.

I first saw Tim Smyczek play last year and knew he was an American to keep my eye on in the game of tennis. Now I know there’s a whole lot more to “Smee” than I originally thought. Not only do I know it, but the rest of the world does too.

So, Readers, what would you do? When did you have an opportunity to show great sportsmanship in life? How has someone else shown great sportsmanship to you?

Thanks for stopping by today! I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comment section below. And don’t forget to drop by next Monday for my latest article.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Be My Guest: Becky Wade INTERVIEW

by Andrea Renee Cox

It's an honor to bring you an author interview with the delightful Becky Wade today. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as we had putting it together.

Becky Wade
Andrea Cox: Welcome to Writing to Inspire, Becky! I’m so glad to have you here today.

Becky Wade: Thank you for having me!

Andrea: Tell us a little about how you came to write inspirational Christian contemporary romance novels.

Becky: How about I answer in two parts?

How I became a writer… My husband and I lived overseas on the Caribbean island of Anguilla during the early years of our marriage. Because of work permit restrictions, only he was allowed to work, which left me without much to do. Frankly, being stranded on a sunny island without anything to do sounds like heaven to this working mom of three, nowadays. Back then, however, the situation left me somewhat bored and stir-crazy.

I had a huge love of reading, a computer, and a decent imagination. It occurred to me that perhaps I could try to write a book. I dreamt up a story and characters and sat down to begin a novel without knowing one single thing about the craft of writing. If I hadn’t liked writing, that would have been the end of the story. But, instead, I loved it. Right from the start.

How I became a writer of Christian contemporary romance… I published three not-very-successful historical romances for the general market back in ’99, ’00, and ’01. Then I stopped writing for many years when my kids were small. When I left my job as an author, I was so burned out on it that I thought I might never write again. Then, seven years later, I began to hear God calling me back to it. Alongside His call, new ideas began to come to me, my excitement for writing rushed back, and my joy in the work redoubled. I knew for certain that I was meant to write Christian romances for a Christian publisher this time around. In His time, and due only to His grace, God gave me a second chance at my first career.

Andrea: What a wonderful gift, to be given a second chance at your first career! I noticed on your website, along with what you just shared with us, that you’ve traveled quite extensively, in your childhood and also since your marriage. How have your adventures played a role in your writing (other than giving you free time to write while in Anguilla)?

Becky: I think travel enriches us. And anything that enriches us is good not just for our general well-being but for our creativity. I met people and saw scenery and heard stories and ate foods overseas that I still remember. Some of those things have become fodder for my books. Some have simply become fodder for laughter. My family and I still laugh about things that happened to us on trips decades ago!

As authors, it's tempting to think that our best approach is to shut ourselves into a room alone and hunch over a computer. But actually, getting out there and experiencing things can sometimes be the very prescription for our novels. 

Andrea: That sounds like a great reason to plan a vacation. *wink, wink* You are quite the busy woman, with a family to nurture while also managing your flourishing writing career. How do you balance all the responsibilities God has blessed you with?

Becky: I have three kids (ages 14, 11, 5) and — happily — my youngest started kindergarten this past fall. Woo hoo! The fact that all three are now in school has made my writing/home life easier to balance. 

I always have a weekly goal for my writing and I try to work steadily <ploddingly?> toward that goal, Monday through Friday, during the hours when my kids are in school. Once three o’clock hits, I’m busy driving carpool, hitting the grocery store, taking my kids to and from activities. If needed, I catch up on social media or email or pages I didn’t quite finish at night after my five year old is in bed or on the weekends when my husband is out with the kids.

At this phase of my life, with a family that needs my time and energy, I purposely limit my output to one book per year. In 2015, I’ll also release a fall novella. At this point, one novella and one novel in twelve months is my fastest pace. Sometimes I’m tempted to think that my books might be more successful or that I’d earn a larger income if I wrote more. MORE is a temptation for all of us, isn’t it? The desire for more can so easily wreck our contentment if we let it.

Whenever I start to think along those lines, God reminds me that the goal of my work isn’t to be successful in the world’s eyes or to earn more money. I’m called to write the books He leads me to write for His glory and to take care of the family He’s entrusted to me. That’s it. So I’ve made peace with the fact that I’m a tortoise, not a hare.

Andrea: Oh, that tricky longing for more. Setting it aside, finding contentment … that’s quite a difficult challenge, but God provides the way. I’m glad you’ve been able to find the balance between work and family. What is something that originally surprised you about the process of writing books and having them published? Is there anything that still surprises you about it today?

Becky: Original surprises about the world of publishing (back when I was first writing in the 90’s):
"What? There’s such a thing as a ‘craft’ to writing a novel? I thought I knew everything I needed to know, because I’ve been a lifelong reader."
"Huh? I don’t just send each editor and agent my full novel? They all have individual preferences about what they’d like to see included in a submission? And I have to send it to them formatted a certain way with a query letter attached? Why can’t I just call them?"
"Against all odds someone is actually going to publish my novel!!!!"
"It’s going to take a YEAR between now and when my book will hit shelves? As in, twelve whole months?!"

Recent surprises:
"It’s unexpectedly painful to write a book for God’s glory and have my ministry criticized by fellow Christians."
"Authors have A LOT more marketing items on their To Do lists in this era of blogging, social media, and platform! Eeek!"
"I had no idea that a publisher could be as nurturing and supportive of their authors as you, Bethany House, have been to me."

Andrea: Sounds like surprises keep coming for you! What’s one of the most challenging things about writing? How does this obstacle make you a better writer, and a better person?

Becky: I don’t always have the ideas or the passion or the mind frame needed for writing when I sit down to write. That’s the most challenging part. But I’ve contracted to have a manuscript ready by a deadline and I’m always determined to turn in that manuscript not only on time, but also as finished and polished as possible. So, whether I feel like it or not, I make myself do the work anyway. 

This sort of determination has made me a better writer and person because it’s shown me that God can use people, regardless of how they might be feeling at any given moment. God honors a writer’s faithfulness when that writer simply brings herself to the table and shows up. In my weakness, He has again and again and again proven Himself strong. 

Andrea: I know exactly how you feel. Sometimes it’s all we can do to show up and pray God helps us through. What’s up next for you? Any new books we should know about?

Coming soon!
May 2015
Becky: A Love Like Ours releases in May! Like my previous novels, it’s a contemporary inspirational romance. The hero, Jake Porter, is the brooding, wounded type, so I had lots of fun squeezing every drop of drama out of him that I could.

I’m currently working on Dru Porter’s book. I don’t plot everything out ahead of time. Instead, I start with a general idea of where I’m going and glimpses of turning-point scenes. So, whenever I’m in the process of writing a first draft (like I am now), I'm slowly discovering things about the story and characters as I go. It’s challenging and fun and uncertain — the first and most time-consuming step in a long process. 

Andrea: Isn’t that first-draft phase such fun? It’s my favorite part—discovering the story for the first time. Any extra little tidbits, about you or your writing, you’d like to share with us today?

Becky: I guess this is when I have to confess that I’m a chocoholic (dark with nuts, please). There. You’ve wrestled it out of me. Oh, and I love my afternoon cup of tea in the winter. I also enjoy tennis, procrastination, romantic movies, bubble baths, dinner out, and the BBC version of Pride & Prejudice.

Thank you so much, Andrea, for interviewing me on your blog. I truly appreciate your kindness and support. It’s an honor to visit you here. God bless!

Andrea: And may God bless you as well, Becky. It’s such a sweet pleasure to host you here at Writing to Inspire. Thank you for sharing part of your writing process, adventurous life, and secret indulgences with us. Don’t worry; we won’t tell about your little chocolate addiction. Because if we did, we’d have to tell about ours too. (I’m truly hooked on anything by Lindt.)

Stay tuned for information about Becky's latest book (below).

Becky Wade

Becky Wade makes her home in Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three children. She's the Carol Award and Inspirational Reader's Choice Award winning author of contemporary Christian romances, My Stubborn Heart, Undeniably Yours, and Meant to be Mine.

She may be found at the following places (and I'm sure she'd love to hear from you!):

Now, readers, I must tell you: I am super excited about Becky's upcoming novel, A Love Like Ours (now available for pre-order). I'm also working on a book with a hero that deals with PTSD after returning from war, so it will be wonderful to read her novel for inspiration when I'm feeling like this writing journey is impossible to figure out.

About A Love Like Ours:

A Porter Family Novel #3
Coming in May 2015!

Deeply scarred from a day he wishes he could forget during his military service, Thoroughbred trainer Jake Porter has given up on love. He struggles against symptoms of PTSD, lives a solitary life, and avoids relationships.

When Lyndie James, Jake’s childhood best friend, returns to their hometown of Holley, Texas, Jake cautiously hires her to exercise his Thoroughbreds. Lyndie is tenderhearted, fiercely determined, and afraid of nothing, just like she was as a child. Jake trusts her with his prized racehorse, Silver Leaf, then battles his hopes for his horse against his increasing fear for Lyndie’s safety.

Though Jake and Lyndie have grown into very different adults, the bond that existed during their childhood still ties them together. Against Jake’s will, Lyndie’s sparkling, optimistic personality begins to tear down the walls he’s built around his heart. A glimmer of the hope he’d thought he’d lost returns. Will Jake ever be able to love Lyndie like she deserves, or is his heart too shattered to mend?

Readers, do you have any questions for Becky Wade today? What are some of the ways you've connected with your favorite authors? If you haven't yet reached out to your favorite authors, consider sending them an encouraging word about how their books touched your heart. That is always a great way to bring a little smile to an author's day.

Thanks for stopping by today! I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comment section below. And don’t forget to drop by next Monday for my latest article.

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Solace Through Sorrow

by Andrea Renee Cox

One of my neighbors passed away last week. I’ve known him for over 18 years, and the cancer that ravaged his body didn’t take long to do its work, so I’ve been in a state of shock over the last several days. Since my mind has been (and still is) filled with sorrow and condolences for my neighbor’s family, I haven’t been able to concentrate on much of anything in the writing department. Instead of coming up with something on the rush, I’m going to leave you with some Bible verses that have brought me solace through this difficult time.

Note: All references are from the New International Version.

Jeremiah 29:11
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 26:14
“As for me, I am in your hands; do with me whatever you think is good and right.”

Romans 5:3-5
“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

Romans 4:20-21
“Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.”

Ephesians 5:12
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Mark 9:24
“Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’”

May you hug those you love a little bit closer this week.

Readers, what verses do you hold on to during times of sorrow and duress?

Thanks for stopping by today! I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comment section below. And don’t forget to drop by next Monday for my latest article.

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Monday, January 5, 2015

Where Treetops Glisten

by Andrea Renee Cox

The last book I read in 2014 turned out to be one of my favorites for the year. Where Treetops Glisten is a collaboration novel that features the Turner family. The prologue introduces you to the family from the grandmother’s point of view, which I found to be sweet and a wonderful way to begin the book.

The storyline moves forward nearly a year to begin the first official story, White Christmas by Cara Putman. In it, Christmas of 1942 certainly will be different for Abigail Turner. Her two siblings, Pete and Merry, are off helping with the war effort, which leaves Abigail to wonder how she may help others this holiday season. Jackson Lucas faces dark times for the holiday. On the brink of losing his family’s farm, he’s desperate to find answers and a way to assist his mother and sisters back home, while working hard in Lafayette, Indiana. When Abigail and Jackson meet, the question will be: Will they be able to open up to each other enough to help solve one another's problems?

After that, we step into I’ll Be Home for Christmas by Sarah Sundin. This story sees Pete Turner return home on furlough, and he struggles to find feeling again after the difficult things he’s seen and done in the war. Can healing come to him in the form of a little girl, who searches for her daddy? Or will little Linnie’s mother, Grace Kessler, discourage any further contact with Pete when she realizes he’s her childhood bully? When their separate lives have no other option but to collide, both Grace and Pete must compromise and learn to adjust their perspectives if they’re ever to find the doses of healing they yearn for.

The third full tale in this compilation, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Tricia Goyer, travels overseas with Meredith “Merry” Turner. She works as a nurse on the front lines of the war, but the toughest battle she’ll face is the betrayal that broke her heart. It becomes impossible to shove aside thoughts of her lost love when she thinks she sees him in the midst of the Netherlands where she’s posted. Will her heart ever find solace so far from home?

Lastly, there is an epilogue, which is, again, in the point of view of the grandmother. These bookends (prologue and epilogue in the grandmother's POV) were such a darling touch to frame the features in that I was blown away by the beauty of the entire setup.

Cara Putman
Earlier in 2014, I discovered Cara Putman when I read Shadowed by Grace. As you may remember, I absolutely loved that book. Well, when I found out she’d teamed up with Tricia Goyer, I knew I couldn’t resist such a treat. Cara immediately brought to life the time period that served as a backdrop for World War II in Where Treetops Glisten. Her research must have been quite thorough, for I felt completely immersed into the lives of Abigail and Jackson, and sometimes tripped my way back to reality when real life called for my attention. If Shadowed by Grace made me an instant fan of hers, her novella, White Christmas, ensured I’ll be a lifetime cardholder (a nod to former times when members of clubs held cards stating their membership).

Sarah Sundin
I’ll Be Home for Christmas was my first sampling of Sarah Sundin, and I’ve got to tell you, it took my breath away. The character journeys all wove together perfectly, making me laugh and bringing tears to my eyes. There’s an innocent quality to her work that is difficult to bring across in novels and even harder to describe. This woman had a challenge ahead of her with Pete’s journey, but she pulled it off with grace, talent, and a big dose of faith, which I love seeing in books. She’s definitely on my list of authors to keep my eyes out for.

Tricia Goyer
Tricia Goyer has yet to disappoint me with her historical fiction novels, and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas is no exception. The thing I find most satisfying about her books is how she seamlessly knits God and faith into her characters’ lives. Even when they struggle to find the footing of their faith, her characters seem to emanate whatever scrap of it they’re clinging to. The journey to strengthen their faith often helps me to bolster my own faith, as well, which is something I greatly appreciate in Christian fiction novels. When fiction meets reality … that’s where I feel most at home.

If you haven’t yet read Where Treetops Glisten, now would be the time to spend that gift card money you got for Christmas. This book deserves five stars for certain, and that’s what it’s getting from me. This book easily hit my top five favorites list for last year, and I’m hoping it will hit your top ten for this year too.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

What do you think of collaboration or compilation books (books with more than one story in them, often written by more than one author)? Are you a fan or not? What is it about them that you do or don’t like? If you haven’t given them a try before now, what’s holding you back?

Thanks for stopping by today! I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comment section below. And don’t forget to drop by next Monday for my latest article.

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