Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Is Your Life Like a One-Ingredient Cake? by Zoe M. McCarthy

Zoe M. McCarthy
Do you feel like flour or baking powder—sifted?
Do you taste like vanilla or cocoa–bitter?
Do you act like pure sugar—sickly sweet?
Do you come across like oil—too slick?
Do you bear up like salt—preserved?
Do you feel like udder milk—squeezed?
Do you feel like an egg—born yesterday?

When my sister gives her testimony, she brings a story basket with all the above ingredients. She quotes Romans 8:28. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Then based on Randy Alcorn’s article “There Is No Pointless Suffering,” she says:

“Almost everything that goes into a cake tastes terrible. But a delicious metamorphosis takes place when these ingredients are skillfully measured and mixed then baked at the perfect temperature. The final product is good!

“Our trials and apparent tragedies taste bitter to us. However, no translation of Romans 8:28 says ‘each thing by itself is good,’ but ‘all things work together for good,’ and not on their own, but under God’s sovereign hand. Every experience God gives us is the perfect preparation for the future only He can see.”

Then my sister relates how God orchestrated her life from abuse to the other side where God gave her a new name. From victim to survivor.

Ultimately, the big question for my sister was Jesus’ question to the invalid of 38 years that He approached beside the pool at Bethesda, “Do you want to get well?” (NIV) Or, “Wilt thou be made whole?” (KJV)

Was my sister’s journey under God’s orchestration easy? No.

At three and a half, she was abused. She felt abandoned, she screamed inside, and she “exploded.” Then she felt God say, “You’ll always have a Father in heaven.”

Undergoing the abuse by a different perpetrator much of her young life, she stuffed the memories. In her twenties, she slogged through a period of depression.

Later, she began to realize the life she had lived was not the life she had believed it to be. “Denial. Self-brainwashing.”

She was in therapy for ten years. The betrayal of her perpetrator was the hardest to deal with. “One minute I’d want to explode and shatter every piece of glass to communicate what I felt, and the next I’d want to implode until there was not one cell left of me.”

God never let go of her, even when she didn’t like Him, obeyed Him only because He was more powerful than she was, and struggled to study the Bible when she didn’t want to because it brought horrifying flashbacks. God stayed with her. He spoke to her in dreams and once appeared in a powerful show of light when she was awake.

Besides the abuse, my sister had three miscarriages, and her youngest daughter is a special-needs child. In spite of her trials, she has enjoyed much success in her life, before and after therapy. She has also served in a long-term children’s ministry and ministered to other women.

My sister ends her testimony, relating her ability to forgive and making these statements:

“God didn’t just make the best of a bad situation. Rather, he intended all along to use evil for ultimate good.”

“God has a plan, the ability to carry it out, and the loving kindness to do it not only for His glory but our good.”

If you are feeling like a one-ingredient cake, listen to Jesus’ question to you. “Do you want to get well?” If yes, let Him make you whole.

Is Your Life Like a One-Ingredient Cake? Click to Tweet.

About the Author
Zoe M. McCarthy believes the little-known fact that opposites distract. Thus, she spins Christian contemporary romances entangling extreme opposites. Her tagline is: Distraction to Attraction, Magnetic Romances Between Opposites. Her first novel is Calculated Risk. She has two more contemporary romances and a nonfiction book to help writers ready their manuscripts coming out soon. She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She enjoys leading workshops on the craft of writing; speaking about her faith; planning fun events for her 5 grandchildren; and exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains, where she lives with her husband, John.
Learn more about Zoe M. McCarthy at her website: http://zoemmccarthy.com

Calculated Risk

What happens when an analytical numbers man meets a mercurial marketing Rep? Romance is a calculated risk…

Jilted by the latest of her father’s choices of “real men,” Cisney Baldwin rashly accepts an invitation to spend Thanksgiving weekend with a sympathetic colleague and his family. Nick LeCrone is a man too much her opposite to interest her and too mild-mannered to make her overbearing father’s “list.” Now, Cisney fears Nick wants to take advantage of her vulnerable state over the holiday. Boy, is she wrong.

Nick wants little to do with Cisney. She drives him crazy with all her sticky notes and quirks. He extended an invitation because he felt sorry for her. Now he’s stuck, and to make matters worse, his family thinks she’s his perfect match. He’ll do what he can to keep his distance, but there’s just one problem—he’s starting to believe Cisney’s magnetism is stronger than he can resist.

Purchase links for Calculated Risk: http://zoemmccarthy.com/books

Monday, February 20, 2017

With Many Such Parables... By Marianne Evans

Marianne Evans
With many such parables, He spoke the word to them as they were able
to understand it. ~ Mark 4:33

Know what I love? I love the truth of Jesus being a storyteller. Isn’t it an awesome image? As authors of Christ-centered books, we assume the same daunting but blessed task of the earliest disciples. We are the word-weavers, the scribes, the storytellers of our modern world. We are the keepers, and crafters, of our era’s parables.

Wow. Think about that—not in a prideful, self-righteous way, but in the context of a Christ-centered legacy. I read a devotional recently that shined a spotlight on that fact and left me thinking long and hard about applying it to my writing craft and ministry. Jesus’s favorite teaching technique was the use of short, fictional stories that illustrate a spiritual lesson or truth. He shared his mission, his ministry, through stories. Sound like a familiar occupation?

Taking a page from the lesson plan of the Great Teacher, I find myself looking at each book I create as a message. Not a sermon, nothing preachy or lofty, but something real and relatable that just might touch people’s lives and hearts. Affirm faith, as I like to say. That’s what Jesus did when he shared the Parable of the Talents, The Widow’s Mite, The Prodigal. As authors, we entertain. As authors, we illuminate by using our words, the story ideas given to us by Divine inspiration. As authors, we carry on that legacy.

May I repeat? Wow. 

Now, let’s take that a step further. What is the basic ‘teaching’ of your work? What is the theme of your writing and/or ministry as an author? What is God prompting you to share? What ways is He challenging you to move from familiar pathways and explore other avenues, whether writing or life related?

Give it some thought, and prayer, and trust the Spirit nudges and replies you receive in the silence of that meditation. God bless, friends, and write-on!! 
Marianne Evans is an award-winning author of Christian romance and fiction. Her hope is to spread the faith-affirming message of God’s love through the stories He prompts her to create. Devotion, earned the Bookseller’s Best Award as well as the Heart of Excellence Award. Hearts Communion earned a win for Best Romance from the Christian Small Publisher's Association. She is also a two-time recipient of the Selah Award, Then & Now for Best Contemporary Romance and Finding Home for Best Novella. Marianne is a lifelong resident of Michigan and an active member of Romance Writers of America, most notably the Greater Detroit Chapter where she served two terms as President.

Country music bad boy Chase Bradington is on the comeback trail. Fresh from rehab for alcohol addiction, and transformed by the power of Christ, Chase is battling to rediscover the music he loves and a career he nearly ruined. Then he meets up and comer, Pyper Brock, and instantly sparks ignite.

Pyper knows of Chase’s reputation, so despite a rampant attraction to the handsome and talented icon, she soundly dismisses his romantic overtures. Decades ago, her father, in a drunken rage, tossed her and her mother onto the streets. No way will Pyper make the mistake of falling for a man whose done battle with the bottle.
What happens when Chase’s quest to win Pyper’s love breaks down chains of resentment and eases the long buried wounds of her childhood? And what happens when Pyper’s father shows up in Nashville, clean, sober and seeking a chance to apologize?

Can Pyper follow a pathway to peace when it comes to her father? Can she fully trust Chase? Above all, can a sin damaged past be released in favor of forgiveness?

Available in print and e-book formats:

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Power of Words by Texie Susan Gregory

Texie Susan Gregory

As writers, we’re aware that words can encourage and inspire, but there’s also a flip side to that power. Author Texie Susan Gregory shares what almost stopped her journey to publication. ~ Dawn

The Power of Words

Every night when I was a little girl, Mother sat on my bed and with her expressive voice and face brought life to a Bible story.  I knew the stories so well that sometimes the people seemed like distant relatives—grandfather Abraham, Uncle Paul, cousin Esther.

After discovering Elizabeth Speare’s book, The Bronze Bow, I realized people other than those I ‘knew’ had lived and loved and laughed during Bible times.


Searching for other Biblical novels, I was dismayed to discover there were very few in the school library. Thus began both the dream to see my book on a bookshelf and the quest to write the stories of the unknown people of Biblical times. 

As a ten year old, my first attempt—an ambitious undertaking about Mary Magdalene - was typed on onion paper. (Remember that thin, easily erasable paper?)

Fast forward to college when I dared show a short story to an esteemed professor. His words still echo through my mind. “If you enjoy it, keep writing but nothing will ever come of it.”

Devastated, I quit writing.

A harsh response? Yes, but so much more—a lesson in the power of words.

Years later as a young mother, an understanding of the significance and incredible influence of mothering bubbled up and over. Words spilled onto pages, first as letters to my children, then as vignettes that I performed as monologues at conferences and churches.

The bulb of a dream which had ‘hibernated’ for years, strengthened by life and nourished by the prayers of a mother who continued to believe I was a writer, pushed its little head out of Fear and into Hope. I joined a writer’s group in our church and attended the Mt. Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference where writers are encouraged to approach editors and agents.

Abject terror might begin to describe my fear as I approached first one and then another editor/agent.  Without exception they were kind, attentive, and encouraging.

When an agent advised developing one of the vignettes into a novel, I was dumbfounded. Was it possible? How do you do that?

Choosing Jochebed, the mother of Moses as ‘dough’, I pulled out my writer’s rolling pin, dusted the surface with prayer and began to shape the story into being.

The theme? A lesson I learned years ago—the power of our words ripple through years and lives. The incredible influence we wield as writers/parents/teachers carries enormous responsibility. 

Jochebed’s Hope is the story of a mother’s influence, of frayed hope and the search for faith. It is a story of relationships between a mother and daughter, three childhood friends, and the love story of the most powerful man on earth.

Texie Susan Gregory holds a master’s degree in Counseling from Appalachian State University and a Master of Religious Education from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. She has taught in both public and private schools, worked as a hospital chaplain and been a ministry wife for thirty-one years. She and her husband moved to Maryland a year ago. They have two children, Tyler (28) and Elizabeth (26).

You can learn more and connect with Texie at the following online sites:

Author website: www.texiesusangregory.com  


Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Destructive Power of Procrastination by Terri Weldon

I originally wrote this post for Seekerville where I was a guest blogger, but procrastination is such a huge problem for so many I thought I'd share it here as well.

It’s time for a true confession – I’m a habitual procrastinator. I’ve battled the problem for years. 

Webster’s Dictionary defines procrastinate as “to put off intentionally and habitually.” Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. I could end the post here. Then ask all the procrastinators to think how putting things off affects your life. But if you’re anything like me you’d probably pull a Scarlett and say you’ll think about it another day. That would get us nowhere. 

Procrastination has had a detrimental effect on my writing life. I long to do things in a timely manner, yet it never seems to happen. So what are the negative or destructive powers of procrastination?

1. Missed Contest Opportunities. I’ve seen announcements for some great contests. Final round judges would be agents and editors I’d love to read my manuscript. Then I’d look at the deadline for entering. A month away, plenty of time to get my submission ready. So I’d close the email (big mistake) and forget all about it. It’s hard to land the perfect agent or editor when they never have an opportunity to read your work. My new plan of action when I see a contest I want to enter is going to be different. I’ll stop right then, prepare my entry, and send it off. Wow! I can’t even imagine what that will feel like. 

2. Slow Rolling Revisions. I did a little research on procrastination. It’s more than a time management issue. People tend to delay when they feel fear, dread, or are anxious about something that is important to them. Can anyone say revisions? If an editor asks you to revise a manuscript, deep inside you hope they’ll buy your book. There’s also fear of rejection. Fear could be the systemic issue stopping you from jumping on those revisions. After all, I think the editor expects to receive the revisions in a timely manner. My personal fear is the editor will turn me down for being tardy with my revisions. Whereas they’d ask a writer with a faster turnaround time to make additional revisions. Any opinions? I’d love your thoughts or experience with this? 

3. Lost Submission Opportunities. Pelican Book Group has an open call for Christmas stories every year. The submission are due by the end of May. Knowing the date should leave plenty of time throughout the year to write a Christmas novella. Yet as a habitual procrastinator I’m never ready. When you see a publishing opportunity such as a contest Love Inspired is running, do you have a polished manuscript ready to submit? Having a ready to submit manuscript is a must in this business. Anything less can cost you a chance to be published by your dream publisher. 

So far it seems like I’ve painted a pretty dismal picture. I apologize for that. Like so many weaknesses, procrastination is a lifelong battle. It can be overcome. Forgive yourself for being a procrastinator. Throw out the past and start with a clean slate. Then ignore your feelings and get started writing. Focus on the action you need to take. Progress will make you feel better. 

Last year I made a commitment to indie publish a Christmas novella. And I did! I didn’t have a clue how to indie publish anything. Fortunately, I have two friends who’ve had success indie publishing. I also had the unfailing support of my sister. So I focused on revising an existing novella. Once my revisions were complete, I had the manuscript edited and proofread. Then I asked another friend for recommendations on who to hire to create my cover. Thankfully my very talented friend volunteered. Didn’t she do an awesome job? I just hope my story is half as good as her cover! And on December 1, 2016 my novella, The Christmas Bride Wore Boots, went live. 

Did I do everything perfect? No, but I learned a ton. Most importantly, I met my self-imposed deadline. Let me tell you, that felt great. It renewed my confidence in my ability to write another book. I even decided to make this a three book novella series – The Berryhill Brides. Now I’m eager to write those novellas. 

Just remember the destructive power of procrastination can be overcome. You have it within you to break the cycle. For me, the key is in recognizing what drives my procrastination. Don’t let feelings of inadequacy stop you. I’m sure I’ll fail from time to time. That’s okay. I’ll choose to forgive myself, because then I’ll actually move forward instead of focusing on my mistake. Mark Twain has been quoted as saying, “If your job is to eat a frog, eat it first thing in the morning, and if your job is to eat two frogs, eat the big one first.”

Are you a procrastinator? If so, what helps you overcome the problem? If you aren’t a procrastinator, I hope you’ll share a few tips for meeting deadlines.

The Christmas Bride Wore Boots - Berryhill Brides Book One
Pastor Jacob Thompson is in need of a director for the living nativity program and veterinarian Molly Kincaid offers to take on the job. The task involves far more than Molly bargained for, nonetheless she’d do anything to help out the man she secretly loves – even sew costumes or cast eight-year-old Wesley Simpson as an angel.
Jacob’s daughter Emma longs to have a mommy of her own, but the widowed pastor has vowed to never remarry, and isn’t ready to open his heart to love again. Molly dreams of filling the void in both their lives, but fears she lacks the necessary qualities to be a pastor’s wife.
As Molly and Jacob work together on the living nativity, their feelings for one another grow. Will Molly realize she is just what Jacob and Emma need in their lives? Can Jacob be released from his grief stricken promise? Could this unlikely duo prove to be a match made in heaven?
Terri Weldon is a lead analyst by day and an author by night. She enjoys gardening, reading, and shopping for shoes. One of her favorite pastimes is volunteering as the librarian at her church. It allows her to shop for books and spend someone else’s money! Plus, she has the great joy of introducing people to Christian fiction. She lives with her family in Oklahoma. Terri has two adorable Westies – Crosby and Nolly Grace. Terri is a member of ACFW and OCFW, a local chapter of ACFW. Her dream of becoming a published novelist came true in November 2013 when Mistletoe Magic, released from White Rose Publishing.
Readers can connect with Terri: Website: www.TerriWeldon.com or

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Pantser Finds Peace in Organization by Jodie Bailey

Even if you're one who approaches life and writing by the seat of your pants, you can set goals. Author Jodie Bailey shares her experience. -- Sandy

Jodie: Several years ago, there was a commercial for insurance that said, “Life comes at you fast.”  As I sit here at a borrowed desk in a back corner of my daughter’s school, trying to cram in some writing time, I can say that’s been my life lately.  Since January 1, it feels like everything has come from left and right to interfere with writing.  It would be crazy easy to let work slip into the background, then to look up in June and realize I’ve got nothing to show for six months.

The funny thing is, this is the first year I’ve actually worked at creating goals.

Yes, the dreaded G word.

Believe me. I know.  I’m not usually this organized.  I’m a “seat of the pants” chick in writing and in life. Goals? That’s too structured. Not for me.

Last year, I fell into a rhythm of doing what HAD to be done and nothing more.  My career sat still.  All of those ideas I had--revamp my website, write a new series, amp up marketing—had disappeared.  Sure, I’d met all of my deadlines for two years.  I had books coming out, but that was it. Growth? Nope.

So I called one of my best writing friends and said, “Let’s do this.” 

In December, we sat down and hashed out yearly goals.  I broke mine down monthly.  Every Monday, we talk to hold each other accountable.  I found a great planner at Spiffyway on Etsy. I have a “must do” list every week in order to stay on track, broken down by day.  Doctor’s appointment on Friday? Don’t put more than one or two quick things then.  Kiddo out of school on Tuesday? Keep it free or keep it light.

Far from feeling regimented, it’s great! Especially on days like today, when I lost two hours to random stuff nobody saw coming.  Instead of being frustrated, I looked at my list and found focus instead of fluster. 

Like this blog post.  I’m not home like I’d planned to work on my novel, and the interruptions here are many. I swapped this blog post for tomorrow with my word count goal for today and I’m still accomplishing work. (It’s probably a little sad how insanely happy this makes me.)

Even better? The stress is dropping. I no longer look at the mountain of stuff I have to do and jump into the middle on Monday, my brain screaming, “This must get done now!” One day at a time. And days off? They’re real. “There’s nothing on the list today, so go have some fun without thinking about work.” It’s been two years since that happened.

Think it’s too much? Try it for a month and see what happens. Prayerfully ask God what He wants then go for the list.  Trust me. This reformed “seat of the pants” girl is loving the ironic freedom that comes from structure.

How do you go about organizing your writing goals?


Jodie Bailey writes novels about freedom and the heroes who fight for it. Her romantic suspense, Crossfire, won a 2015 RT Reviewers Choice Award and her contemporary romance, Quilted by Christmas won a 2014 Selah. She is convinced a camping trip to the beach with her family, a good cup of coffee, and a great book can cure all ills. Jodie lives in North Carolina with her husband, her daughter, and two dogs. Visit her at www.jodiebailey.com,

Dead Run

Kristin James's morning run turns deadly when she's attacked by a stranger who's after something her deceased soldier brother stole overseas. Her neighbor Sergeant First Class Lucas Murphy steps in to help her and won't let her brush the attack under the rug. He'll do everything he can to keep Kristin alive, but he can't tell her that he's under orders to investigate her link to her brother's misdeeds. Kristin has no idea what the bad guy is after and doesn't want to believe that her brother wasn't on the straight and narrow. But as evidence against him piles up, can they catch the criminals without becoming the next casualties?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Potpourri of Help

Laura V. Hilton

by Laura V. Hilton @Laura_V_Hilton

Today is Valentines Day, the day of love and friendship. Cards will be exchanged, flowers delivered, chocolate devoured and words of love spoken. 

But sometimes, there are no words to say. Especially when life blindsides you with one hit right after another.

So take a moment to consider the help God is offering if you need it, especially while others are celebrating around you:

Bring the difficulties to God. – Exodus 18:19

When all things seem against us, 

To drive us to despair,
We know one gate is open,
One ear will hear our prayer.

– Oswald Allen*

There is a praying in detail to be done.
– J. Oswald Sanders

Never forget the nearness of your Lord. Don’t worry over anything whatever, tell God every detail. – Philippians 4:5-6

Our God is a God who not merely restores, but takes up our mistakes and follies into His plan for us and brings good out of them. This is part of the wonder of His gracious sovereignty. – J. I. Packer

Groanings which cannot be uttered are often prayers that cannot be refused. – Charles H. Spurgeon

What quotes or verses comfort you when life is at its hardest?

About the Author
Award winning author, Laura Hilton, her husband, Steve, and three of their children make their home in Arkansas. She is a pastor’s wife, a stay-at-home mom, and home-schools. Laura is also a breast cancer survivor. Laura also has two adult children.

Her publishing credits include three books in the Amish of Seymour series from Whitaker House: Patchwork Dreams, A Harvest of Hearts (winner of the 2012 Clash of the Titles Award in two categories), and Promised to Another. The Amish of Webster County series, Healing Love (finalist for the 2013 Christian Retail Awards). Surrendered Love and Awakened Love followed by her first Christmas novel, A White Christmas in Webster County, as well as a three book Amish series with Whitaker House, The Amish of Jamesport series, The Snow Globe, The Postcard, and The Bird House in September 2015.

See below for information on Laura's latest, The Amish Firefighter. Other credits include Swept Away from Abingdon Press. Laura is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and a professional book reviewer.

Connect with Laura
visit her blogs: http://lighthouse-academy.blogspot.com/ & http://lauravhilton.blogspot.com/
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Laura_V_Hilton or@Laura_V_Hilton
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Laura-V-Hilton/161478847242512
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/vernetlh/

Amish Firefighter
by Laura V. Hilton

A Beautiful Young Woman Banished from Home
Abigail Stutzman thought it was bad enough being dropped at the nearest bus station and sent to live several states away with some relatives she'd never heard about, much less met. But now, just a week after her arrival in Jamesport, Missouri, she finds herself at the scene of a barn fire. An intentional barn fire. And all fingers are pointed at her. She's desperate to prove her innocence and protect her reputation, but nobody's making that easy to do. And God certainly doesn't seem willing to help.

A Brave Firefighter with an Agenda of His Own

Sam Miller is in the process of turning over a new leaf. Determined to atone for the follies of his past, he is a volunteer firefighter, an EMT, and a doctor-in-training. When local barn fires escalate, everyone suspects arson. And since the Miller family are among the victims, no one is more determined to see the perpetrators brought to justice than Sam.

A Kindled Flame Neither One Could Have Anticipated
When their paths first cross, at the site of a barn burning, the emotional intensity rivals the warmth of the flames. Soon, they must decide whether this fire is one they should feed or extinguish. And they'll discover that the truth can prove more dangerous than a blazing inferno.

*Hymn #279, from The Handbook to The Lutheran Hymnal, Oswald Allen, 1861

Monday, February 13, 2017

Maturing Writers

By Peter Leavell +Peter Leavell @peterleavell

A few years ago, after bedtime, my daughter would come into our room. Sometimes she was scared. Or she needed a drink. As she grew, she wanted to talk about God. Other nights, life was getting her down.

At the time, I was tired. The half-awake chats were a bit frustrating. But now, I miss those days.

She’s matured to age 13. As I kiss her goodnight, I know she’ll probably work out her problems herself and I’ll receive a decent night’s sleep. No more visits, unless the problem is extreme.

Of course, I’ll be there for her.

In one way, I’ve worked myself out of a job. Which lends itself to a manifest of churning emotions.

Beginning writers need help. They come out of their writing caves with little idea what the world holds. They turn to those with more experience, those with who have lived more writing life.

That’s good. That’s how it’s done.

Eventually, the beginner will mature.

I’ve noticed some who don’t go past writing childhood. Some are fearful of the next stage of maturity and remain where they are. Others receive terrible advice and when followed, their growth is hampered. And some enjoy the status of beginner.

That’s okay. Our advice, as best as we can give, is only as good as the work we’ve done—how mature we are. And we keep changing. Because we keep studying. We keep learning. We continue looking for more advanced writers to get advice.

We’re working ourselves out of writing parenthood. But there’s so many more children to care for!

All this is terribly obvious. But there's two points.

Keep maturing. Keep studying. Keep looking for help and keep helping. 

Writers are a family. Every day, we're looking out for one another. Pssst, you used the wrong word here. Hey, you do a great job with titles. Can I get some help with something? Critics don't get our work, so it's okay. We care for one another!

Thanks for being part of this amazing family!

Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild's Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing's Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. Learn more about Peter's books, research, and family adventures at www.peterleavell.com.