Friday, October 19, 2018

Finding a Voice: When God Changes the Plan by Tara Johnson

Tara Johnson


Drawn to the cover for Engraved on the Heart, I visited author Tara Johnson’s website where I discovered her passion for music—and her gorgeous voice. (She includes a variety of recordings.) I also chuckled at the parodies created for various songs. Since connecting, I’ve been inspired by her personal story and blown away by God’s amazing grace. ~ Dawn


Finding a Voice:
When God Changes the Plan

Allen Saunders once said, “Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.”

When I hear authors talk about how they always knew from the moment they could say the word, “da-da” they wanted to be a writer, a wave of vulnerability washes through me. My journey to publication has been a strange, confusing, exhilarating journey into unplanned waters.

I grew up wanting to be a singer. I spent countless hours imitating Julie Andrews, Mariah Carey and Sandi Patty. I could mimic their intonation, stylizations and vibratos to near perfection. In 2004, I signed with a Christian record label. I felt sure God had told me He would use my voice to help others find freedom in Him.

Walking with God is often a broken, winding road.

Several years ago, I was diagnosed with gastroparesis, a disorder that keeps the stomach from pumping. It’s a vagus nerve problem which involves pain, nausea, esophagus spasms, reflux and a host of other issues. This nerve dysfunction has now progressed into my larynx. In short, I am losing my ability to sing.

The God-ordained plans that seemed so certain quickly shifted, and I have been reminded of this important truth…the more you build your identity on something other than Christ, the greater the pain when that identity crumbles.

On the days when grief felt like shards of glass embedded deep into my heart, God impressed within me the need to write. Stories of wounded hearts and quirky characters emerged with astounding speed. When I attended my first American Christian Fiction Writers conference, I heard the instructor talk about the importance of the writer’s voice. That’s when it hit me: I can have a voice and still not have a voice.

In the past several years, God has blessed in amazing ways, from signing with my remarkably talented literary agent Janet Grant of Books & Such Literary Agency, to my first three-book contract with Tyndale House Publishers. My story looks different from the one I had planned but God’s story has been far more exciting and filled with greater impact than anything I could have imagined.

Sometimes we cling with white knuckles to our own plans so tightly, we fail to realize God is trying to give us something far better. But in order to receive it, we must relinquish our hold on the old before we can receive the new.

Even when that means losing your voice so He can give you a voice.




Engraved on the Heart

Reluctant debutante Keziah Montgomery lives beneath the weighty expectations of her staunch Confederate family, forced to keep her epilepsy secret for fear of a scandal. As the tensions of the Civil War arrive on their doorstep in Savannah, Keziah sees little cause for balls and courting. Despite her discomfort, she cannot imagine an escape from her familial confines-until her old schoolmate Micah shows her a life-changing truth that sets her feet on a new path . . . as a conductor in the Underground Railroad.

Dr. Micah Greyson never hesitates to answer the call of duty, no matter how dangerous, until the enchanting Keziah walks back into his life and turns his well-ordered plans upside down. Torn between the life he has always known in Savannah and the fight for abolition, Micah struggles to discern God's plan amid such turbulent times.

Battling an angry fiancé, a war-tattered brother, bounty hunters, and their own personal demons, Keziah and Micah must decide if true love is worth the price . . . and if they are strong enough to survive the unyielding pain of war.




Tara Johnson is an author, speaker, and a passionate lover of stories. She enjoys traveling to churches, ladies retreats and prisons to share how God led her into freedom after spending years living shackled as a people-pleasing preacher's kid. Tara has articles published in Plain Truth Magazine and Live It Loud Magazine and has been a featured guest on Voice of Truth radio and Enduring Word radio. Tara is a member of ACFW and is represented by Janet Grant of Books & Such Literary Agency. She, her husband and children live in Arkansas.

Twitter: @TaraMinistry






Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Gift of a Creative Imagination by Richard Spillman


 
The most dangerous question in the history of mankind is “I wonder what it would be like if . . .” On the other hand, the most uplifting, promising question in the history of mankind is “I wonder what it would be like if . . .” When we ask that question, when we begin to imagine possibilities, things change. But our imagination is a key that fits two doors. One leads to beauty, the other leads to darkness. 

This key was given to mankind at the beginning of time when God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness ... (Genesis 1:26).” Only man was created in His image but what does that mean? It certainly does not mean that we look like God. God is a spirit; He does not have a physical body. Clearly “created in the image of God” has nothing to do with our physical appearance. 

The “image and likeness of God” must be based on who we are not on how we appear. It must be related to how God revealed His image in the first chapter of Genesis. So, what do we know about the “likeness” of God from those verses? What are the most prominent characteristics of God displayed just before He created us? 

I believe the answer is clear. The picture of God in these verses is one of creative power, of using His imagination to make all that we see. If life was His first gift to us, His second had to be the gift of creativity, of imagination, of wonder. After all, man is the only living thing that creates beauty for the sake of beauty.

Not only can we be creative, we are driven to be creative. Our imagination is constantly at work as we look in amazement at the world and wonder what we can contribute to it. It may be working with our hands, teaching, drawing or, as it is for me, writing. We all find fulfillment in our creative efforts. No matter what our skill, we gain immense enjoyment from using it. A life of pure leisure with nothing to do might sound attractive; but the truth is we have to be doing something to feel fulfilled. We are lost if we don’t have a purpose. In some way we have to be creative.

That creative gift always begins with our imagination. When we imagine something, we say to ourselves, “I wonder what it would be like if . . .”, and then we proceed to make it real in some way. When we use our imagination God’s way we create something beautiful just as He did.

This is one reason why Paul cautioned the church at Corinth in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “… we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Our imagination is a gift from God.  Yet, in a fallen world we can use that gift to create beauty or to create filth. Unfortunately, mankind does an excellent job at both. If we are to honor God and thank Him for the skills He gave us, we need to take every thought captive and direct all our creative abilities towards what will please Him. For authors that means we need to write stories that glorify Him. And we do that by creating beauty. In short we must use the gift of our imagination to honor the giver.

 This does not require us, as authors, to directly mention God in everything we write. It does require us to give any glory from our writing to Him. It does not require us to write only feel-good stories. It does require us to write what affirms the values Christ taught. It does not require us to write only “religious” material. It does require us to understand that what we write has an impact and we want that impact to be positive.

So, the next time you search for a new project and ask the question “I wonder what it would be like if …” allow the Spirit to capture your thoughts, your imagination, your wonder and direct you down a path that will ultimately glorify God.

How about you? Have you ever asked “I wonder what it would be like if …” and found an answer that clearly was from God, glorified God, and surprised you?

The Awakened 
 
Everyone dies once. But what if a chosen few were raised from the dead?
 
Two thousand years ago Jesus resurrected his friend, Lazarus, who founded a secret organization: SOAR. Since then Jesus has added to the resurrected—The Awakened—to aid Lazarus in SOAR's battle against Satan's slaves, the UnVeilers. The threat is escalating. The UnVeilers have stepped up their attacks on mankind through a charming leader and a devastating series of bombings in Dubai and Tel Aviv.
 
But the invasion doesn't stop with international terrorism. The UnVeilers are searching for a secret that Jesus embedded in Lazarus’ journal that not even Lazarus knows—and it will determine the fate of mankind. After a failed cyber-attack against SOAR's computers, Lazarus and his team of experts must find the secret before the UnVeilers do. What clue is he overlooking that could turn the tide of this ageless conflict?
 
The souls fighting with Lazarus are weary, but the war against evil is far from won. Can Lazarus and his team set aside their longing for heaven and put a stop to these satanic attacks before it's too late?
 
Dr Richard Spillman founded the Kingdom is Near Ministries (KIN). Through KIN he has supported an orphanage in Uganda as well as a church/school for kids from conflict zones in the Philippines. He has small teams on short term missions into slums and jungles around the world. He has also taught in DTS for YWAM in Mali, South Korea, India and the Philippines.
 
Visit his web site: spillmanauthor.com
Join his facebook group: bit.ly/spillmanauthor
 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

My Failure Landed on the Cover of My Book by Liz Johnson


Something strange has been popping up on my book covers lately. I almost missed it when I first saw the final cover for my brand new release, A Sparkle of Silver. But lately I’ve noticed it on the ebooks for some of my earlier titles too. It’s a single line that might not mean much to some people. It means the world to me.

Bestselling Author of The Red Door Inn

It's so simple, but it nearly made me cry when I first realized it was there. Because The Red Door Inn, the first in my Prince Edward Island Dreams series, almost wasn't.

In 2012, I wrote a proposal for a book set on PEI—a book that was decidedly not The Red Door Inn. And, boy, did it rack up rejections. Like amazing ones! A particularly scathing rejection from a major house left me wondering if I was a writing fraud.

It was my editor at Revell (before she was my editor), who suggested I write about the inn from my original proposal. So I did. I whipped the book out in six weeks for an editor at another house, who was about to go on maternity leave. She rejected it.

So did the editor at Revell. 

My contemporary romance didn't fit into the market's needs. The industry didn't think it would sell. So I went back to writing romantic suspense for Love Inspired Suspense. I’d been writing for them for a few years already, and while I thoroughly enjoyed it, I had stories I knew wouldn’t fit in their line. But I tucked my precious book baby onto a shelf and tried really hard not to feel like a failure. 

And then the strangest thing happened. About a year later, my agent called me. That editor at Revell was looking for a contemporary romance. Was I interested in sending The Red Door Inn back for consideration? Yes, but . . . I was scared.

And then God whispered to me, "Don't be afraid."

I still was. But I tried to think about His plan and not about the committees meeting to talk about my little book. The one they'd already deemed unworthy.

Well, Revell decided to publish that book, and somewhere along the way it hit a bestseller list or two, received a Christy award nomination, and generally did things I never expected. Why?

Because God is faithful. Because God redeems the things we think are failures. He put that story in my heart, and He also opened every door for it to become what it has. 

Maybe you're a writer struggling to finish your first or tenth manuscript. Maybe you’ve racked up enough rejections to paper your walls. Maybe you’re exhausted and just looking for some rest. Whatever your struggle, God knows it, and He'll redeem it for your good and His glory.

And sometimes He even stamps what you once thought was your biggest failure on the cover of a book to remind you: He's not finished with you yet.

~~~~~~


Liz Johnson is the author of more than a dozen novels, including A Sparkle of Silver and The Red Door Inn—a Christy Award finalist—as well as a New York Times bestselling novella and a handful of short stories. Marketing manager for a Christian film company, she makes her home in Phoenix, Arizona.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Moving Forward on a Retreat by Zoe M. McCarthy


Zoe M. McCarthy
Back in March, Gabrielle Meyer posted “The Importance of a Writing Retreat” on Seriously Write. It spoke to me because my husband and I had started to look for a cabin getaway. Besides a space for personal and family renewal, my dream was to find a place where I could invite church and writer friends for retreats.

After a seven-month search, we have a cabin on a lake. It’s big enough that after we get it in shape, I can host small retreats.

Now, as we work to freshen up the cabin and clear the woods down to the lake to open a view, I already feel revitalized. As I stroke on paint in the master bath, I forget about deadlines. I enjoy how the green wall color brings out the log walls and redwood pine on the ceiling and wainscoting. While I update the globes on the fan lights throughout the cabin, blog posts that need to be written never enter my mind. And snipping tree branches leaves no room for thinking about edits.

I pat myself on the back for the exercise I accomplish in climbing ladders, stacking cut branches, and walking through Lowes in search of pine planks, paint, and towel bars. The exercise is so good for me compared to sitting in front of a laptop for hours.

And then, I have fellowship with my husband. At home, he’s my marketing manager, CFO, and computer tech, but at the cabin it’s different. We work side by side in the basement workshop. He cuts pine planks, and I stain them. We shop for bedcovers, lamps, and stoneware dishes to “bearify” the cabin décor, laughing, discussing, and dreaming.

Don’t get me wrong. I love our home on a hill surrounded by mountains and overlooking a valley sporting sheep, cows, and corn and Christmas tree fields. And I love creating love stories. But sometimes a writer, or any worker, needs a retreat with husbands, family, and friends. I hope someday to provide that for a few.

Are we doing the right thing?

Yesterday, I drove forty minutes to have blood drawn for my annual checkup next week. I was sad that too many writing obligations might prevent us from making the ninety-minute drive to the cabin this week. As the lab technician prepared to insert the needle, I turned my head to look away. On the wall was this painting. I didn’t feel the needle.

A Cabin in the Mountains
Retreats don’t have to be a cabin. What are places you retreat to?

Click to Tweet: Have you ever wanted to go on a writing retreat? @ZoeMMcCarthy talks about the benefits of a "cabin in the woods" for #writers on #SeriouslyWrite. https://bit.ly/2EpAxO6
About the Author
A full-time writer and speaker, Zoe M. McCarthy, author of The Putting Green Whisperer, The Invisible Woman in a Red Dress, Gift of the Magpie, and Calculated Risk, writes contemporary Christian romances involving tenderness and humor. Believing opposites distract, Zoe creates heroes and heroines who learn to embrace their differences. When she’s not writing, Zoe enjoys her five grandchildren, teaching Bible studies, leading workshops on writing, knitting and crocheting shawls for a prayer shawl ministry, and canoeing. She lives with her husband in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Zoe blogs regularly at www.zoemmccarthy.com.


The Putting Green Whisperer
The Putting Green Whisperer
by Zoe M. McCarthy
Suddenly unemployed, Allie Masterson returns home to Cary, North Carolina where she caddies for the father on the PGA Seniors Tour. There, she encounters a man who possesses an alluring gift of reading the contours of the green. Fascinated with his uncanny ability, Allie is excited to meet the Green Whisperer—until she discovers that the easygoing caddy is actually Shoo Leonard, the boy who teased her relentlessly when they were kids. Despite Allie's reservations, when Shoo is faced with having to overcome a hand injury, she agrees to use her sports science degree to become his trainer...and then she falls for him.



Shoo Leonard is grateful to Allie for her singular determination to get him ready for the PGA tour, but he isn't ready for anything more. Still raw from a broken engagement and focused on his career, he's content to be her fist-bumping buddy...but then he falls for her.



What seems like a happily-ever-after on the horizon takes a turn when Allie decides she's become a distraction to Shoo's career. Is it time for her to step away or can The Putting Green Whisperer find the right words to make her stay?

Monday, October 15, 2018

Need a Kick in the Motivation? By Marianne Evans



I don't know about you, friends, but in my little slice of the world, life is moving at Mach 3 and I'm just hanging on for the ride. Between work life, writing life, family life, I get to feeling drained at times. Are any of you battling the time monster?

Those are the moments when I count on my faith, my family, my friends, to lift me up. So, with that in mind, I hope you'll allow me the privilege of, hopefully, giving you a shot in the inspiration. 

I pray you enjoy the following, and discover a few moments of joy and uplifting hope!

To start...….



Are you moving a mountain in your life right now? Is the season before you draining and full of an uphill exertion? Maybe there's purpose? An end result that isn't quite visible yet? …



I'm a 50-something, and, at work and in my writing life I sometimes wonder: Am I still "valuable?" Are my goals and objectives, my words and efforts, still important to building God's kingdom? When I feel doubt, I force myself to acknowledge the following:

It's often said worrying about tomorrow steals the joy you can find today. 
That in mind, I thought these words were so on-point (and I certainly need to take them to heart!! How about you?)



OH....YEAH. The power of perseverance. There have been (and, at times, ARE) times I come so close to quitting on the things I love. Is the same true for you? Do you feel knocked down?
KEEP. GETTING. UP.



Another powerful message of affirmation and being an overcomer.
C'mon now...you can DO it!!!!


And, when things don't go to plan....?



Tweak that crown on your head, stare into the mirror and remember...you belong to GOD!!


In conclusion, here's the most important piece of encouragement
I can offer you today...


With hugs, love, and many blessings to you, friends - until next month!

~~~~~

Sometimes, the hardest path to walk is the one that leads you home.

After college, Phillip Fisher shook the dust of Antioch, Indiana from his dress shoes and took off for Indianapolis. For the eldest of the three Fisher men, a business career promised stability and a fruitful future...until unemployment and exhausted resources force him back home.

He returns to Antioch to find his father's declining health, a family farm in disrepair, and heavy doses of resentment from his brother Aaron.


A repentant Phillip pays regular visits to Sundae Afternoon, the sweets and sundry shop run by Mila Thomas. Sundae Afternoon and the Thomas Grocery Market are staples of Antioch, just like the Fisher farm. A less than steady peace exists between the families, but Phillip always intrigued Mila. She admires his attempts to break free; at the same time, his return speaks of a noble, caring man.

But what happens once the farm is restored? What happens when Phillip is called back to Indianapolis? Mila’s roots are firmly grounded, and Phillip might leave all over again. Is returning home and the discovery of an extraordinary love, enough to bring them together forever?

~~~~~

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. Readers laude her work as “Riveting,” “Realistic and true to heart,” “Compelling.”

Her Christian fiction debut, Devotion, earned the Bookseller’s Best Award as well as the Heart of Excellence Award. Her follow-up novel, Forgiveness, earned Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year honors as did her book Hearts Communion. She is also a two-time recipient of the Selah Award for her books Then & Now and Finding Home. 

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. You can connect with Marianne at www.marianneevans.com.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Getting Back to the Heart by Abbey Downey

Abbey Downey
Writing is hard work—sometimes to the point that we may become weary from all that is required. Need a little encouragement to not give up? Author Abbey Downey (aka Mollie Campbell) reminds us where we need to turn. ~ Dawn


Getting Back to the Heart

What first inspired you to write?

I’ve always processed life through words. I spent hours as a child writing in diaries, but I don’t remember what inspired the fiction stories I later found scrawled in notebooks.

However, I do remember several moments when I was inspired to try my hand at fiction as an adult. That was often my go-to fantasy when a plot twist would hit my life and force a change in my career path. What if I could write books, instead?

The moment I decided to take it seriously came after one such turn in my path. My part-time job babysitting in our home was coming to an end. My kids were babies, and while I loved being at home with them, it had been nice to have something else to focus my mind on at the same time. What if I could write books?

I’ll never forget when the inspiration for my first story hit me. It was a rare evening when I was out on an errand alone, driving home and thinking about what I would write if I could. And the whole idea clicked into place. Characters, setting, the start of a plot. But I didn’t know anything about writing fiction.

It didn’t matter. For the first time, I knew God had given me a story that needed to be shared. He’d given me a story of hope. And for me, that’s what writing always comes back to, sharing the hope we find in God.

After several years of writing, two books published, and more than that rejected, it’s easy to wallow in how hard the writing life can be. Building social media platforms, creating blog posts and newsletters, constantly trying to come up with the next great idea. A writer can get mired down in all the extra stuff.

But every time I drive past the corner where my first inspiration hit, I remind myself of the heart of my writing. God has given us a passion to write and His message is what drives our stories. They’re important because each one points others to God’s forgiveness and love.

If you’re frustrated by the slow world of publishing or the more tedious aspects of being an author, try getting back to the heart of your writing. Find what God is speaking through you. That could be what’s needed to rekindle the spark of excitement.

If you want to share in the comments, I’d love to hear about the inspiration for your writing!





Orphan Train Sweetheart

Finding a Frontier Family

Spring Hill is the orphan train’s last stop—a final chance for Simon McKay to find homes for his young charges. When his fellow placing agent quits, Simon enlists help from the frontier town’s pretty schoolteacher. Cecilia Holbrook is as intriguing as she is independent, yet Simon’s devotion to his mission will soon call him back to New York.

Long overshadowed by her flirtatious sister, Cecilia is done with waiting for a man to choose her. She’s already fighting the school board to keep her position. Now she’s struggling not to lose her heart to Simon. Could their shared concern for the children show them how to follow a new dream, together?




Abbey Downey never expected her love for writing to turn into a career, but she’s thankful for the chance to write inspirational romance, with two books published under the name Mollie Campbell. A life-long Midwestern girl, Abbey lives in Central Indiana, where her family has roots back to the 1840s. She couldn’t be happier spending her days putting words on paper and hanging out with her husband, two kids, and a rather enthusiastic beagle.

Connect with Abbey and learn more about her books here:

Twitter: @AbbeyDowneyAuth
Facebook: @AbbeyDowneyAuthor





Thursday, October 11, 2018

What Motivates You by Terri Weldon

Hey, guys, I first ran this post in 2016, but since I'm needing motivation to write more I decided it needed a second chance. Actually, I need to hear from you guys so I can get myself in gear!

When I sat down to write this post (in 2016) I was watching Dr. Who. And it occurred to me that at times my inspiration comes from movies, other books, television programs, sermons, a sentence in a conversation (mine or someone else’s), and most definitely scripture.

Do all these sparks of inspiration turn into a book? Not even close, but they do spark my creative juices. I’ll never write a character like Dr. Who, but while watching the program I might wonder why people are so drawn to him, so devoted, and willing to follow him anywhere. That query sends my mind in two directions:

1. Can I write a strong hero, perhaps military, whose troops would be willing to follow him anywhere?

2. It would be totally wicked to write a villain with that kind of pull over people.

I’ve stopped counting the number of times I’ve watched The Fugitive. Trying my best to figure out how the writer wrote a screenplay that draws you from the beginning and refuses to let go. Wouldn’t we all love to have that gift?

When I’m reading my daily Bible I might run across a verse that inspires me or even just a few words. When I do I jot them down in the notes section of my phone. One day I simply listed the book, chapter, and verse and said good scripture for a suspense novel. A word of caution, put in a few more details. There have been times I’ve looked at that verse and wondered why I thought that.

Since I’ve shared a little bit about how I find inspiration I’m hoping you will do the same. What inspires you? What sparks the creative genius in your brain? Trust me, I REALLY need to know.

Terri Weldon is the award winning author of The Christmas Bride Wore Boots. It won the best novella category in the 2016 Lyra Awards. She enjoys traveling, gardening, reading, spending time with her family, 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 the Heartland of the United States. Terri has two adorable Westies – Crosby and Nolly Grace. Terri is a member of ACFW and RWA. She is a member of the Seriously Write Team (www.seriouslywrite.blogspot.com). Readers can connect with Terri at www.terriweldon.com
The Matchmakers
The Christmas Bride Wore Boots
Mistletoe Magic