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"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house." Matthew 5:14-15

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it." Matthew 13:45-46

Friday, January 29, 2016

Joshua’s Mission – Finding romance and grace in the midst of disaster (Guest Blogger Vannetta Chapman)

 Thank you for allowing me to visit your blog today. I’m very excited about the release of Joshua’s Mission (2-1-16), which is book 2 in my Plain & Simple Miracles series. This book is a Christian romance story, but some of you may wonder … how do you find romance in the midst of a disaster? And how is this sort of story about the grace of God? Great questions!

First a short description of the story. Joshua Kline travels from his farm in Oklahoma to offer aid to an Englisch town on the gulf coast of Texas after a category 4 hurricane has ravaged the area. What will Joshua find when he arrives in Texas? A budding romance? A call from God? A possible healing of his relationship with his brother? Joshua’s Mission is a story of love, forgiveness, and the grace of God that carries us through even the worst situations.

1. Romance? I love writing romance. I adore happily-ever-after, and I can find those stories in just about any situation. Middle of a hurricane? No problem. While your brother is intent on finding trouble with the law? Yeah. I can do that. During a recovery mission? Absolutely! I think love is, literally, all around us. And sometimes, it’s when we have trouble in our lives that we’re most open to a new relationship.
 2. Grace? Disasters are a terrible thing. If you’ve ever experienced a first hand natural disaster, or been on site soon after one, you know what I mean. It’s heartbreaking to see people’s lives ripped apart. So how can we possibly have a story about grace in such a terrible situation?

The answer is in the way that we comfort one another. Christ told us to be His hands and feet, and during disasters we find people doing that very thing. We put down our cell phones, unplug from the internet, turn off the television, and we become involved with each other’s lives.

I had the awesome chance to experience this recently after we had massive flooding in central Texas. On May 25, 2015, the towns of Wimberley and San Marcos were hit by catastrophic flooding from the Blanco River. The river crested at an estimated 41.5 feet, nearly 30 feet above flood stage. Lives were lost. Homes were destroyed. But the people in the area pulled together. Volunteers showed up in droves. Donations came in. Rebuilding began. The experience I had helping one family certainly changed my outlook. As one of the men told my husband, “We had no idea where to begin, and then you all showed up. You gave us hope.” Wow. Grace in the midst of disaster.
 3. Fiction. Joshua’s Mission is a fictional account of a hurricane that hits the Texas gulf, but I was able to use first hand testimonies of hurricane victims in other areas, my own experience working on an emergency response team, and interviews with people in the area to weave together a story. There’s a little romance and a whole lot of grace.  I hope that you’ll give it a try.

Now I’d love to hear from you. Have you ever experienced a natural disaster or helped in a recovery effort? If not, maybe you know someone who has. Tell us your story.

Vannetta Chapman

Vannetta Chapman writes inspirational fiction full of grace. She discovered her love for the Amish while researching her grandfather’s birthplace of Albion, Pennsylvania. Her novel, Falling to Pieces, was a 2012 ACFW Carol Award winner for best mystery. Chapman was a teacher for 15 years and currently writes full time. She lives in the Texas hill country with her husband.

Be sure to leave a comment today because Vannetta has graciously offered to give away a copy of Joshua's Mission. Don't forget you still have a chance for January's monthly giveaway too, but you have to leave a comment. :)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Terri Wangard

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing a friend of mine. We met at my first ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference in Indianapolis, IN in 2009. We've stayed in contact throughout the years.

Welcome, Terri Wangard. What is the farthest place from home that you've traveled?

Australia. For twenty years I globetrotted. Mostly cruises and a few tours. One cruise was New Zealand and Australia. That plane flight is one long time to sit. Fortunately, I was able to use my miles and upgrade to business class. The day we visited the New Zealand fjords was rainy, so instead of seeing the beautiful vistas, we saw lots of waterfalls. And the sea was so rough while crossing the Tasmanian Sea, we had to skip our stop at Hobart, Tasmania.

Wow! That looks like fun. I've always wanted to see Australia and New Zealand. How did you develop a 'love of story'?

Before bed, my mom would read to us. That instilled the love of books in me. One of my favorite things to do while growing up was visit the North Branch of the Green Bay library. I think it may have been a Carnegie library. That building is long gone, but I can still see it. In the door, around the bookshelf to the left, and there was the children’s section. I loved the Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka books. I never outgrew my love of libraries. In fact, I have a Master’s of Library Science degree, although I no longer work in a library.

I think most writers have a love of libraries. :) Where did you get the inspiration for your latest book?

For my debut novel, I used a batch of letters written in 1946-8 from distant cousins in Germany who were receiving care packages from my grandparents. The letters don’t share much about their experiences during the war or what they thought of the Nazis. So I created a story for them, using what I did know, such as the city they lived in, the factory they owned, two girls and a boy in the family (although I changed their ages), and the uncle who was a POW in Russia.

I hadn't realized you based it on part of your family heritage. That's really neat. What is the genre you write in?

Historical. On the cover of Friends and Enemies, a subtitle reads A World War II Romance. I’m not too comfortable with that. I wrote the original version of F&E as a historical romance, but got clobbered in contests. “That’s not a romance. They have to be together most of the time.” When I did the rewrite, I deliberately held it to just a touch of romance. After all, the main characters had recently lost their spouses. Book Three in the series could go either way.

That sounds exciting. What do you plan to work on next?

All three books in my Promise For Tomorrow series release this year, in January, May, and September. I’ll be a one-year wonder! Meanwhile, I’m writing another WWII story about a seaman, his Rosie-the-Riveter wife, her WAC sister, and a grasshopper pilot. After that I intend to switch to an earlier era.

You'll have a busy year! Where do you get ideas?

All three books in my series featured the B-17 Flying Fortress. I opted for B-17s because I needed an American in Germany before the army invaded in late ‘44. The only Americans before then were shot-down airmen.

When I wrote the next books in the series, I kept the B-17 for continuity. All the male heroes are navigators. For the women, I wanted something that hasn’t been done. For No Neutral Ground, she’s an American in neutral Sweden and in Soar Like Eagles, I have a Red Cross doughnut girl in England and France.

Sounds like a great series, Terri. :) What is your favorite Bible verse and why?

I don’t have one favorite. One of my favorites is the verse used in Friends and Enemies. Psalm 31: 14-15 “I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands.” God is in control. Knowing that makes all the difference in the world.

Amen. Is there something about you most people wouldn’t know?

I used to be a competitive swimmer. During my junior high years, I was on a YMCA swim team. I did well in the state, and missed the nationals one year by one second. Nationals were held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and a side trip to Disney World was planned. I wanted to go! And I did, but not as a competitor. My dad drove the bus to Florida, so while my sister and the rest of the competitors had to practice, the rest of my family and I spent time on the beach.

 So you were able to have fun with your family. :) Thanks for stopping by today, Terri.

Next week Amanda Cabbot will be here sharing about her writing life. Don't forget to leave a comment for your final opportunity to win this month's giveaway.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Welcome Connie Almony

I feel like I'm in a time warp lately and the weeks are flying by while I'm staying still. How does that happen? :) It's a new week to get to know an author better. Today we're chatting with Connie Almony.

Welcome Connie. Here's our standby question.... how did you develop a love of story? :)

I’d have to say my love of story actually came from old movies—musicals mostly. I always love the sensory immersion of musicals. I didn’t read a lot of fiction until I hit my twenties and felt like I’d discovered a whole new world. This one was richer than the one on the screen because it invited my mind to expand on the descriptions given, making the story, characters, and scenery even more to my liking. Better yet, I could take this story with me everywhere, and it lasted longer than movies.

Ooh. I love that description. :) How does your faith and spirituality work in with your writing?

It has everything to do with it. When I first began to write, I really only wanted to tell regular stories within a biblical framework, not meaning to make it overly spiritual. However, God is such a central figure in my life, I couldn’t write without making Him an integral figure in the book. How do you write a story where people overcome great challenges and not mention Him? To me, it’s like writing about Superman and not say he flies. If you don’t describe his superpowers, it’s like ignoring the elephant in the living room. After I thought about it a bit, I realized, every story is about God, so it’s unfulfilled if He’s left out. For that reason, God will always be a significant factor in all my books.

I know exactly what you mean. God is an integral part of my stories too. What is your favorite Bible verse and why?

Whenever I get asked this question, I feel like I need to give two. I was not brought up to study the Bible or memorize verses. I was in my late twenties when I began. The first I’d memorized was Psalm 77:3, “I remembered you, O God, and I groaned.” I’ve always loved this because it speaks of my life at that point when I’d realized how much I’d drifted away from Him, and yet He was still there, waiting for me. The groan I felt at the time served two purposes. One, it was a groan of disappointment in myself for having gotten lost. Two, it was a groan of relief in being back in His presence once again.

My other favorite verse is Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” This is a guiding verse. Whenever you don’t know what to do, at least you always know step one—seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness—and then the rest will come to you. There is peace in that!

Amen. Where did you get the inspiration for your latest book?

The inspiration for my latest novel, Flee from Evil, actually came from a Mel Gibson movie almost twenty years ago—Ransom. It was about a man whose son is kidnapped and he has to find a way to get him back. I’d just begun to read Christian fiction, so every time I watched a movie I wondered how it could have been done from a Christian worldview. I also tend to love romances, so I began to weave a little romance into my wonderings. A little while later, the idea of A pastor with a past who uses his underworld connections to save the child of the woman he wronged many years ago was born. It took many twists and turns, characters added and subtracted, settings adjusted, details polished, over the decade-plus years, until it became what it is today—Nothing like the Mel Gibson movie that inspired it.

That's an interesting way to come up with a book idea. :) Do you have a favorite scene in your newest release?

The pizza analogy scene. At least that’s what I call it. It was inspired by a discussion I’d had with my daughter one night when we’d ordered a pizza. Because my son and I are gluten free, we couldn’t have any, so we got McDonald’s French fries on the way home from church. Since my daughter was going to get pizza, she didn’t get fries. She was jealous, of course, until she got home, but the smell of fries made her feel very deprived. Believe it or not, this led to a discussion on why it is important to dress modestly so as not to be waving tempting food in front of someone who isn’t going to get any. It’s just not nice. She totally got that!

In the book, the young teen is coming to grips with her burgeoning figure. Discovering that it gives her a certain power with the “hot guy,” she decides to see what that “power” can do. The pastor (with a past) sets her straight by talking about pizza.

LOL, that's quite a tangent. What do you plan to work on next?

I am currently working on a novella for a Christian Romantic Suspense multi-author anthology, called Smoke and Mirrors. The working title of my novella is The Long View. It’s about a man who’d been fired by the FBI, getting involved with a home-grown terrorist cell at the request of his neighbor. It’s been kind of creepy over the last month or so, seeing some of what I’m writing about play out in the news. Even the names I’d chosen for characters. I can’t help but wonder if God was telling me this was the right story for just the right time.

Sounds interesting. Thanks for stopping by today. Before you leave, where can readers connect with you?

I’m on most major social media sites

And readers can sign up for my newsletter on my website

Don't forget to leave a comment for your chance to win this month's giveaway.

Next week, debut author Terri Wangard will be stopping by for a visit.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Fun Friday

Lately I've been seeing a LOT of adult coloring books. While I haven't actually gotten into the latest fad, I do have a couple coloring books that have been given to me. I think it's only a matter of time before I at least try out the newest craze. :)

I came across two sites lately that have some fun adult coloring pages or books and thought I'd share them.

This first one has free pages you can print out.

Here's one of the things offered: 

This other one I'm actually tempted to buy because it's geared for writers. :)

Here's the link to where it can be purchased.

So how about you. Have you started using adult coloring books? What are your thoughts on the subject? Be sure to chime in for your chance to win this month's giveaway.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Love of Story Welcomes Sandra Ardoin

It's hard to believe another week has passed by already and we're gearing up for a new interview. Today I'd like to welcome, Sandra Ardoin.

      Let's start out with something fun. If you have a day all to yourself how would you choose to spend it?

I’m anywhere but at home. When it’s just me by myself, I’m flitting from store-to-store. I like to window shop. The ideal day is spent wandering antique malls, specialty/craft shops, garden centers, and consignment stores. There’s a break for lunch at Taco Bell while I read whatever book I’m into at the moment. Then, more wandering until the stores close—almost! 

I can relate. Most times I leave the house I have a book with me. :) How did you develop a love of story?

It began with television and movies. Westerns were the thing on television in the 1960s. I’ve always loved horses, so it didn’t take much for those programs to hold my attention. In third grade, I began reading the Little House books. Then my reading progressed to mysteries, suspense, and romance. Put it all together and you know what I like to read and write.

I've found that many authors got their start by reading the Little House books. What spiritual truths do you desire to convey to your readers?

It’s interesting, but I’ve found that a recurring theme in my stories involves forgiveness between people. There always seems to be some major character in each story who must forgive someone else (or themselves). I guess it’s a universal theme, although I’m not sure what that says about me. :) In writing stories, I think the author often learns as much as the reader. 

I know what you mean about the author learning as much as the reader. How long have you been writing?

I began writing greeting cards and posters in 1986. After my daughter was born and I became a stay-at-home-mom in the early ’90s, I started writing fiction for children and adults, published in denominational publications. It wasn’t until 2008/2009 that I wrote my first novel. It has been a complete learning experience. In 2014, I received my first traditional publishing contract for my novella The Yuletide Angel. Soon after, I signed a contract for the novel A Reluctant Melody.

How exciting. Tell us about your new novel. 

A Reluctant Melody is the story of a secondary character from my Christmas novella The Yuletide Angel.

Kit's alcoholism ruined more lives than his own. Now sober, he wants to make amends by opening a mission for drunkards. But the most suitable location belongs to Joanna Cranston Stewart, a love from his sordid past.

Friends of her late husband blame Joanna for his death. Although eager to flee from the rumors, she will let the walls of her rundown property crumble around her before she allows Kit back into her life.

When a blackmailer threatens to reveal Joanna’s long-held secret, will she risk losing everything she owns to Kit … including her heart?

It’s a story that involves numerous themes. At the heart, though, it’s a story of God’s mercy and grace. It reminds us we cannot be too “bad” to receive God’s forgiveness when we seek it through Christ. 

It sounds like an interesting theme. Are you involved in a critique group?

Absolutely! I couldn’t do without my crit partners. Phyllis Keels is a local friend and writer, my go-to when I need to brainstorm. I got together with Heidi Chiavaroli and Nicole Miller through the ACFW Scribes group in 2009. We were all beginning novelists, so it’s been fun to see our progress over the years. All three are supportive and put up with my less-than-stellar grammatical issues. 

It's fun having critique partners who become your friends too. :) What foods do you eat when writing to keep you going? 

I’m a big morning coffee drinker. My breaks consist of running back and forth to the microwave to reheat my coffee. Otherwise, I try not to snack while writing. When I do though, I prefer chocolate or something sweet—which is why I try not to snack. :)

LOL. I'm very similar although I keep reheating my tea. :) What's your favorite animal and have you ever used one in your stories?

I’ve always been a horse person. Since I write 19th century historical romances, they’re definitely part of my stories. Strangely, I’ve written a horse-centered short story once, but have never used a horse as the central part of a novel. However, I do have one in an (as of yet) unpublished manuscript. Her name is Ruthie.

Sounds like fun. Thanks for stopping by today, Sandra. Don't forget to leave a comment for your chance to win With This Ring?

Next week, tune in for an interview with Connie Almony.