Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Survivor

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Survivor
Avon Inspire; Original edition (August 30, 2011)


Shelley Shepard Gray


Shelley Shepard Gray is the beloved author of the Sisters of the Heart series, including Hidden, Wanted, and Forgiven. Before writing, she was a teacher in both Texas and Colorado. She now writes full time and lives in southern Ohio with her husband and two children. When not writing, Shelley volunteers at church, reads, and enjoys walking her miniature dachshund on her town's scenic bike trail.
Check out Shelley's Facebook Fan page


One of today’s most beloved authors of inspirational Christian fiction, Shelley Shepard Gray completes her acclaimed Families of Honor series with The Survivor—a poignant and beautiful story of love and faith in a small Amish community. Delving once more into the lives of these devout and fascinating folk, as she did in her popular Sisters of the Heart and Seasons of Sugarcreek novels, Gray tells the story of a young Amish woman who has survived the ravages of cancer, but now longs for the love of the one man who can heal her lonely heart. Like Beverly Lewis, Wanda Brunstetter, and Cindy Woodsmall, Shelley Shepard Gray introduces readers to characters they will never forget as she masterfully depicts a world of simple living, abiding faith, and honest emotions.

If you would like to read the first chapter excerpt of The Survivor, go HERE.


I have really enjoyed this series and hate to see it end. I'm glad this last book focused on Maggie has she deals with the aftereffects of her journey with cancer. Shelley Shepard Gray has written another enjoyable book. I will say that I was disappointed in one statement at the very end of the book from a theological standpoint. Many won't blink an eye or even notice it, so I won't split hairs on this review and debate it here, but it is something I've noticed crop up several times recently and I've been thinking of writing a post about it. But I do not want it to detract from a wonderful book and series. I look forward to more books from Shelley Shepard Gray.


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Wednesday Hodgepodge

Wednesday means it's time to check in with Joyce and see what questions she has lined up for us today. I'm always amazed with the variety that she comes up with week after week! Thank you, Joyce!

1. Do you think the world became a more dangerous place on September 11, 2001 or did we just become more aware of the danger? How has your own life changed as a result of that day?

Well, it was obviously just as dangerous on September 10th, and we just didn't know it! I think Americans just became more personally aware of the danger because it happened to us. Horrible, dangerous things have happened all over the world for many decades but on September 11th, it got personal.

2. Did you think your parents were too strict when you were growing up? How about in hindsight?

Overall, their values were correct. I wish some of the implementation of those values had been less strict. However, they did the best they knew to do at the time influenced by their understanding of Scripture. And I'm glad the pendulum swung more toward strictness than permissiveness.

3. Share one random but candid fact about yourself.

I have never dyed my hair.

4. Would your nearest and dearest describe you as simple or far too complicated?

I think they would say I'm simple. (Not simple-minded, mind you!)

5. What is your favorite stadium or carnival food?

State Fair corn dogs.

6. Tornado, hurricane, many of these natural disasters have you experienced? Which event do you think would be the scariest?

When I was six weeks old, Hurricane Carla hit Houston. That was a huge hurricane - filled up the entire Gulf of Mexico. We lost shingles off of our house. Of course, I don't remember a thing about it! I experienced the aftermath of Hurricane Ike in 2008 - my mom died the day it hit and we couldn't take her body to Houston for a burial for ten days because of all the damage to the funeral home and cemetery.

I think a tornado would be very frightening, but an earthquake sounds to me like it would be the most unsettling (pun intended!). The ground is supposed to be solid and immovable, so having it shake beneath my feet would be completely unnerving and terrifying.

7. Labor Day weekend is approaching so a work related question seems appropriate. Growing up, did your parents assign you regular chores? Were you paid for doing those chores? If you're a parent do you assign chores to your own children? Why or why not?

That last question was inspired by a post Mindee wrote on Monday. Everyone go say hi to Mindee-she blogs at Our Front Door and she's funny.

We didn't have a specific chore list. Our chores were whatever we were told to do. Generally, we were expected to help set the table, clear the table, and put up the food at meal times. Make our beds. In the summers we did our share of dusting and vacuuming. But it wasn't a scheduled thing. My mom wasn't that organized. And we certainly didn't get paid!

The only thing we did get paid for was mowing the grass when we got older. I think one of my sisters got paid for painting the garage one summer. And sometimes I would get a quarter for raking the leaves in the fall.

My kids have a few assigned chores. I should have assigned more but there are a variety of reasons why that did not happen which I won't go into here.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Good-bye, August. You contain birthdays and anniversaries and I've always loved you, but I am so done with you this year. You've brought us sweltering record-breaking heat, a concussion for my daughter, and taken my boy off to college. And my own odometer turned over to the next decade. That is plenty for one month, thankyouverymuch! So just take Sunday's all-time high temperature, 112, with you. No need to share with September; I'm sure it can get along without you very well.


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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Atlanta Giveaway #8 - Allison Pittman's Sister Wife Series

UPDATE Wednesday, 9/7/11 at 8:00 am: WINNERS!

Sorry for the delay in announcing a winner; with all the news of the fires and trying to ascertain who in our church family might need assistance, it kinda slipped my mind.

Winner of Book 1, For Time and Eternity:

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:
Timestamp: 2011-09-07 13:02:15 UTC

Congrats to windycindy! Email me your address and I'll send the book your way!

Winner of Book 2, Forsaking All Others:

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:
Timestamp: 2011-09-07 13:12:02 UTC

Congrats to Esther Byler, who visited from Allison Pittman's Facebook page! Esther, I'm sending you a FB message and I need to hear from you no later than noon Friday to claim your book!

For those of you who didn't win, I highly recommend you grab a copy of this series. It is well worth the money!

* * * * *


You are probably getting tired of reading "I was thrilled to meet and interview. . ." but there are only so many ways to say that! Allison Pittman is an author whose books I have loved from her very first one back in 2006. We connected via email over her books but had never met in spite of the fact that she is also a Texas gal. I loved sitting down and talking to her on Tuesday morning of ICRS -- in fact, I was so caught up in talking about her books that I completely forgot to take a picture, which really aggravated me when I got home and realized that! Oh well - I'll just have to see her again sometime! Here is my chat with Allison Pittman.

I just finished reading the advanced copy of Forsaking All Others, and it is an incredible, incredible book. Tell me this is not the end of the series. I have to know how these girls turn out! I just feel like these people are so real!

Well, the sales of the first book (For Time and Eternity) have not been great. But I don’t know anyone who hasn’t loved it. I have synopses of stories for Rachel’s story and Evangeline’s story. I’m most heartbroken if I don’t get to write Rachel’s story because I love her. And she really delves more into the polygamist aspect of it even than Camilla did. Another book I wanted to do in the series is further on down the line with Nathan’s two sons. But it’s hard, when the numbers aren’t there, to justify going on.

[Note from Linda: We discussed some aspects of the story that I would love to share but won’t because it would be a severe spoiler. But oh, we had a great time talking about the characters in these wonderful books! We also discussed the cover, over which Allison really has no control, but which I thought was not particularly attractive. I would not have been drawn to the book if I had not been familiar with Allison Pittman’s writing. Allison said they are re-releasing For Time and Eternity with a revised cover.}

Tell me about the Mormon aspect of this book. It seems like there is a huge increase in the number of Mormons today and in their being viewed as more mainstream.

I think it’s very purposeful on their part to align themselves with Christianity as much as they can. I read a State of the Church Address from 1963/1964 where they were still calling the Gospel “mythology”. When it became politically savvy to be an evangelical and the evangelical movement really came into play they began to say “Yes, we are Christians, too.” Mormons did not call themselves Christians [in the past] because Christians were their enemies; they were the Gentiles. Christians were, quite frankly, the ones who were chasing them out of towns and shooting them and, actually, being pretty horrible. Now that’s wHow did you find out so many details about the garments and wedding ceremonies? I know current Mormons would never tell you about those!

I did a lot of reading on chat rooms of ex-Mormons. They call themselves MNMs – Mormons No More. These are people who have left the church. They talk about the garments and growing up with them. It’s also interesting historical research. The garments changed over the years.

They truly believe the garments are their salvation. If you die without your garments [you’re doomed] —that’s your identification into heaven. When you do have to change them, you hope you don’t get struck by lightning in the middle of changing! You have to treat them very carefully. You’re supposed to always hand wash them. You’re not supposed to throw them in the machine because something could happen. When one wears out you cut the sacred markings off, you throw the garments away and burn the sacred patch. I just think, “How sad to have your faith in that, in this rag you’re wearing.” To think that it has eternal significance is mind-blowing to me.

Have you gotten any mail from Mormons who haven’t liked the book?

I got one email from a woman who is “a happily married Mormon and her husband isn’t a polygamist.” Well, I would assume not because polygamy is illegal! Even the mainstream Mormon Church denounces that.

When I set out to write the book, I didn’t want it to be about polygamy. I wanted it to be about marriage. At the core of it is the marriage between her and Nathan, and when you marry outside of the faith, how heartbreaking that can be! He happens to be bringing in other wives. I have a woman in my Sunday School class who is married to a Jehovah’s Witness. That’s just sad that they can’t share that spiritual bond.

I’ve only gotten one just real negative response [from a Mormon] and she says that she believes her salvation is in Jesus Christ. I emailed her back and said “Then I don’t think you really understand your theology. And good for you! I’m glad you understand the saving grace of Jesus Christ.”

In fact, I got a really good review on a Mormon book blog. He felt sorry for me being locked in my theological box and not being open to new revelations but he liked the characters and he liked the book.

It's interesting that he could like the it when it opposes what he believes.

It was really important to me not to have Nathan be monstrous and unlikeable. I wanted the Mormon characters to be likeable. You have to care about him to understand Camilla’s heartache at having to leave him and still loving him. Sometimes making choices are really hard. It would be way too easy if he were horrible and abusive. I wanted it to be hard for her to leave because he’s handsome and he’s charming and he’s sexy and she loves him. Sometimes we have to leave things we really, really want to have, to have the life that Christ would have us lead.

I think out of all my male heroes I loved Nathan Fox the most. Even though he’s forbidden and awful, I just adored him!

Tell me about Rachel, Nathan’s sister.

Rachel’s just in it for the money! (She laughs.) Rachel’s a great character because she’s a Mormon of convenience.

But she really staunchly defends it.

She does, but she has these moments where she says “You can believe or not believe, but I know that being married to this guy I get to have this house, I get to have these things, I get to have a life I’d never be able to have if I weren’t a part of this church and a part of this movement.”

I think that she’s more staunchly defending Nathan because she loves him and sees him as her protector and doesn’t want him to be hurt or disgraced. It’s not all about the church but about “don’t do this to my brother.”

What’s on your plate right now?

I’m working on a new series with Tyndale set in the 1920’s, which I love. I love that era! My recent book with Multnomah, , with the flapper, was set in the ‘20s. I loved that book. I have to say, of all of my books, I think Lilies in Moonlight is the book that I would read if I hadn’t written it. I really enjoyed writing that story, especially after Camilla being lost in the snow! There was an evangelist in the mid-twenties, Aimee Semple McPherson, who is credited with starting the Pentecostal movement Movement. I have stories of three different women in three different books who somewhat intersect with her ministry in different ways. It’s been fun to do. I’m about one third of the way through with the first book.

I would love to do more Sister Wives, but you have to go where the market is. Maybe if the second book really takes off – they know at Tyndale I’m ready to go! In the meantime, I’m working on this and it’s a fun era. It’s hard because you don’t think of the 1920’s and think “Christian.” In your traditional historical, everyone went to church because that’s just what everybody did. That was the whole social outlet. What I love about the twenties is you come into an era where being amoral is socially normal. There was a time if you drank, if you danced, if you ran around, if you dated, and if you were being loud or obnoxious or sexual, then that was considered sin. The whole society would shun you. Then in the 1920’s we have a world in general saying, “It’s okay to be this way. This is what you should be doing.” So I think you can get characters that have a more authentic faith because they are really having to make a choice between the world and living for Christ, whereas in straight historical if you were worldly you were awful. It was that clear.

What do you like to do just for fun?

We really love to travel. We’re Disney people. We’ve always got a trip that’s being planned to do that. I’m a huge movie watcher and a huge TV watcher. I know people probably think that’s terrible, but I’m a huge TV junkie. I have my TV on while I write. I put it on something like Dateline Investigative Discovery Channel. I just have that sort of humming in the background. I never write more than 2-3 sentences at a time. I don’t do sprint writing. If I don’t have something on TV, I get up and go do something. If I have the TV on I might just sit and look up for 5 minutes or so, and then go back and write a few more sentences, and then watch, and then go back. I hear other writers, or [see] on Facebook, “I wrote 4000 words today” and I just can’t imagine that. I am not a fast writer. Maybe I’d be faster without the TV on – I don’t know. But I just get restless.

And I have three boys, including twins who are about to be 17. They just got their driver’s license and that was better than potty training! They are both so busy that I was grateful when I didn’t have to haul them around. My youngest son is 13, and he’s quieter and likes to be home more.

Anything else you want to say to readers besides “Buy these books so I can write the rest of the series!”

You know, I was talking to a woman from South Africa, and it’s so weird to think of people all over the world—or even people in Indiana—buying my book, something I wrote. I see myself in my living room just tippity-tapping away, and to think that at some point, someone is going to see it in a store and pick it up and buy it. It’s such a humbling thing. I love my readers so much. I felt so much pressure with the second [Sister Wives] book. It was almost crippling writing the follow-up to For Time and Eternity because I felt like I had a huge debt I owed them to finish up the story well. I’m so thankful that anyone buys and reads, and I have a huge fear of disappointing. I can’t write to the audience, but I’m aware of my readers and I want them to feel, first and foremost, that they got a good story.


For Time and Eternity
Allison Pittman
ISBN: 978-1414335964
August, 2010/384 pages/$13.99

All Camilla Deardon knows of the Mormons camping nearby is the songs she hears floating on the breeze. Then she meets one of them—a young man named Nathan Fox. Never did she imagine he would be so handsome, so charming, especially after Mama and Papa’s warnings to stay away. Though she knows she should obey her parents, Camilla can’t refuse her heart. But even Nathan’s promises cannot prepare her for what she will face in Utah.

You can read my review here.

Forsaking All Others
Allison Pittman
ISBN-13: 978-1414335971
October, 2011/400 pages/$13.99

Camilla Fox is alive. The last thing she remembers is being lost in the snow after leaving her home to escape the Mormon faith she no longer calls her own. She’s been taken in by the 5th Infantry Regiment of the US Army and given over to the personal care of Captain Charles Brandon. As she regains her strength, memories of her two children she had to leave behind come flooding back, threatening to break her heart. Camilla is determined to reunite with her daughters. But when news of her father’s grave illness reaches her, she knows she must return to the family farm to reconcile with her father. As spring arrives, Camilla returns to Salt Lake City a changed woman, but nothing could prepare her for the changes to the city, to the Mormon church, and to the family she left behind.

Wow. I inhaled this book. It's hard for a sequel to match the quality and intensity of feeling of a first book in a series, but Allison Pittman has accomplished this in spades. Camilla once again captured my heart and I ached and agonized with her pain and heartache, her love for her daughters, her longing for her father's forgiveness, her desire for her husband's faithful love, and her steadfast commitment to God. For anyone who wants an insight into the history of the Mormon church and its theology, this is a fascinating book. Beyond that, it should be required reading for any Christian considering marrying someone outside of the faith. This is story-telling at its best; I had to keep reminding myself that these were fictional characters! I hated to see this book end, and I long to know what happens next in the lives of Camilla and her children. I can't recommend this book and this series highly enough.


UPDATE!: Since several commenters have already read For Time and Eternity, Tyndale has graciously agreed to let me add a giveaway of the brand-new, soon-to-be-released, second book, Forsaking All Others! So this is now a double giveaway! TWO winners will be chosen - one for each book!

I received an autographed copy of the first book, For Time and Eternity, in Atlanta to give to one of you. To enter, leave a comment on this post by 8:00 pm CDT Sunday (9/4/11). Post about this interview & giveaway on your blog or FB and leave a second comment for an additional entry. Limit two entries per person. A winner will be drawn by random. US residents only, please. Be sure to include an email address if you don't have a blog.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of Forsaking All Others free from Tyndale in preparation for my interview with the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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Monday, August 29, 2011

Atlanta Giveaway #7 - Summer Dream

UPDATE Wednesday, 9/7/11 at 1:30 pm WINNERS!

Sorry for the delay in announcing a winner; with all the news of the fires and trying to ascertain who in our church family might need assistance, it kinda slipped my mind.

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:
Timestamp: 2011-09-07 18:25:27 UTC

Congrats to Michelle, Merry, and skoots1mom! Email me your addresses, ladies, and I'll mail the books to you!

* * * * *

September may be knocking at the door, but we hit 112 yesterday and there's still some time left for a Summer Dream - or three! Just as my week in Atlanta ended, I posted a review as part of the blog tour for Summer Dream by Martha Rogers. You may remember that I just "happened" to walk up to the publisher's booth when Martha Rogers was standing there and we discovered that we have a mutual friend.

Martha gave me THREE autographed copies of this book to give away on my blog, so leave a comment on this post by 8:00 pm CDT Sunday, 9/4/11, and I will draw 3 winners. US residents only, please. Be sure to include an email address if you don't have a blog.


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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Atlanta Giveaway #6 - Over the Edge

UPDATE Wednesday, 9/7/11 at 8:00 am: WINNER!

Sorry for the delay in announcing a winner; with all the news of the fires and trying to ascertain who in our church family might need assistance, it kinda slipped my mind.

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:
Timestamp: 2011-09-07 12:56:35 UTC

Congrats to StillMagnolia! Email me your address and I'll send the book your way!

* * * * *

The first day I was in Atlanta, I passed a woman as I walked across the second floor lobby of the hotel. We smiled at each other in passing, and as she headed into the coffee/snack shop and I went down the escalator, I realized the woman was author Brandilyn Collins. I immediately felt a dilemma. I absolutely did not want to be a "groupie" and cause her to feel like she couldn't even get a coffee in peace. But my girl had absolutely LOVED the series Brandilyn wrote with her daughter and I wanted to tell her that. I figured I might not see her again the entire week. So I went back up the escalator and somewhat apologetically introduced myself.

Oh. My. Goodness.

She was absolutely delightful. First of all, she recognized my Mocha with Linda name from my stalking frequent visits and comments on another author's blog, so that endeared her to me right away! Beyond that, however, she was very kind and happy to meet a reader and hear that my girl and I enjoy her books.

Here is a picture of the two of us the following night at the Christy Awards. We ended up sitting at the same table and let me tell you: she is a blast to be around! She writes some creepy suspense books, but there is nothing macabre or sinister about this woman. She has a great sense of humor and a mischievous wit that still makes me laugh. And I could tell she has a heart for God and for others as she prayed the closing prayer for the award ceremony. I'm so glad I got to meet her.

She gave me an autographed copy of her latest book, Over the Edge. In fact, she gave me two copies, so read all about the book and my thoughts below, and then leave a comment for a chance to win that second copy!

Over the Edge
Brandilyn Collins
(B&H Publishing)
ISBN: 978-1433671623
May, 2011/352 pages/$14.99

A suspense novel based on Lyme disease and the "Lyme Wars"

Torn from the front lines of medical debate and the author's own experience with Lyme Disease, Over the Edge is riveting fiction, full of twists and turns—and powerful truths about today's medical field.

Janessa McNeil’s husband, Dr. Brock McNeil, a researcher and professor at Stanford University's Department of Medicine, specializes in tick-borne diseases—especially Lyme. For years he has insisted that Chronic Lyme Disease doesn't exist. Even as patients across the country are getting sicker, the committee Brock chairs is about to announce its latest findings—which will further seal the door shut for Lyme treatment.

One embittered man sets out to prove Dr. McNeil wrong by giving him a close-up view of the very disease he denies. The man infects Janessa with Lyme, then states his demand: convince her husband to publicly reverse his stand on Lyme—or their young daughter will be next.

But Janessa's marriage is already rocky. She's so sick she can hardly move or think. And her husband denies she has Lyme at all.

Welcome to the Lyme Wars, Janessa

Brandilyn Collins is a best-selling novelist known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense®. These harrowing crime thrillers have earned her the tagline "Don't forget to b r e a t h e . . ."® Brandilyn's first book, A Question of Innocence, was a true crime published by Avon in 1995. Its promotion landed her on local and national TV and radio, including the Phil Donahue and Leeza talk shows. Brandilyn's awards for her novels include the ACFW Book of the Year (three times), Inspirational Readers' Choice, and Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice.

Brandilyn is also known for her distinctive book on fiction-writing techniques, Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors (John Wiley & Sons). The Writer magazine named Getting into Character one of the best books on writing published in 2002.

When she's not writing, Brandilyn can be found teaching the craft of fiction at writers' conferences. She and her family divide their time between homes in the California Bay Area and northern Idaho.

To be completely honest, as much as I love novels with a medical twist, I was a bit hesitant to read this book before I met Brandilyn. I'm always a bit wary of issue-driven fiction, or what I have sometimes called "soapbox" books. My respect for Brandilyn Collins as a top-notch author as well as her delightful personality convinced me to read it, and just like her previous books, I was glued to the pages. This is a riveting, suspenseful story in its own right, but I found it even more compelling knowing that Brandilyn's own experience with Lyme disease provided a level of authenticity that mere research could never achieve. This is an eye-opener of a book about a controversial topic which Brandilyn handled exceedingly well, both within the novel itself and in her explanatory note at the end of the book. I highly recommend this book!


Brandilyn Collins graciously gave me a second copy of this book and autographed it for one of you! To enter, just leave a comment on this post by 8:00 pm CDT Sunday, September 4. US residents only, please. Be sure to include an email address if you don't have a blog.


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Saturday, August 27, 2011

TSMSS - Faithful God

Here is another beautiful song by Laura Story from her CD Blessings. If you haven't had a chance to read my interview with her from my time in Atlanta and enter to win her CD, be sure to click here before 8:00 pm CDT Sunday!

Faithful God, every promise kept
Every need You've met, Faithful God
All I am and all I'll ever be
Is all because You love faithfully
Faithful God

Visit Amy's for more songs!


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Friday, August 26, 2011

The Betrayal - Fast-Paced Suspense!

The Betrayal
Jerry Jenkins
ISBN: 978-1-4143-0908-8
August, 2011/400 pages/$14.99

Detective Boone Drake has just masterminded the most massive sting in Chicago history, bringing down the heads of not only the biggest street gangs in the city but also the old crime syndicate. The story is the biggest in decades, and the Chicago Police Department must protect the key witness at all costs. Despite top secret plans to transfer the witness ahead of his testimony before the grand jury, an attempt is made on his life. And the person suspected of leaking this information may be one of the CPD’s own.

Jerry B. Jenkins, former vice president for publishing at Moody Bible Institute of Chicago and currently chairman of the board of trustees, is the author of more than 175 books, including the best-selling Left Behind series. Twenty of his books have reached the New York Times Best Sellers List (seven in the number-one spot) and have also appeared on the USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Wall Street Journal best-seller lists. Desecration, book nine in the Left Behind series, was the best-selling book in the world in 2001. His books have sold nearly 70 million copies.

Also the former editor of Moody magazine, his writing has appeared in Time, Reader's Digest, Parade, Guideposts, Christianity Today and dozens of other periodicals. He was featured on the cover of Newsweek magazine in 2004.

His nonfiction books include as-told-to biographies with Hank Aaron, Bill Gaither, Orel Hershiser, Luis Palau, Joe Gibbs, Walter Payton, and Nolan Ryan among many others. The Hershiser and Ryan books reached the New York Times Best Sellers List.

Jenkins assisted Dr. Billy Graham with his autobiography, Just As I Am, also a New York Times best seller. Jerry spent 13 months working with Dr. Graham, which he considers the privilege of a lifetime.

Jerry owns Jenkins Entertainment, a filmmaking company in Los Angeles, which produced the critically acclaimed movie Midnight Clear, based on his book of the same name. See

Jerry Jenkins also owns the Christian Writers Guild, which aims to train tomorrow's professional Christian writers. Under Jerry's leadership, the guild has expanded to include college-credit courses, a critique service, literary registration services, and writing contests, as well as an annual conference. See

As a marriage-and-family author, Jerry has been a frequent guest on Dr. James Dobson's Focus on the Family radio program and is a sought-after speaker and humorist. See

Jerry has been awarded four honorary doctorates. He and his wife, Dianna, have three grown sons and six grandchildren.

Check out Jerry's blog at

I enjoyed the first book in this series, The Brotherhood (reviewed here), and this was also a captivating read. I had a pretty good idea who I thought the "bad guy" was, but that did not diminish the suspense as I read. Plenty of fast-paced action and heart-pounding moments fill this book and there were enough twists that I wasn't quite sure which individuals were trustworthy. This is definitely one that will keep you up into the wee hours of the night!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale House Publishers as part of their Blogger Review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Billy Graham in Quotes

Billy Graham in Quotes
Franklin Graham
with Donna Lee Toney
(Thomas Nelson)
ISBN: 978-0849946493
April, 2011/448 pages/$15.99

A note from Franklin Graham: "My father, Billy Graham, is known for speaking out about the one and only thing that matters in this world: the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. He remembers the call of God seven decades ago to preach the Word of God to all those who would listen about salvation that comes only through Christ. He took this high calling with seriousness and boldness in obedience to God and once said, 'I will travel anywhere in the world to preach if there are no strings on what I am to say.'

"My father has always prayed that his words would reflect God’s standard of truth as the basis to claim, 'I have given them Your word' (John 17:14). In this book, I believe you will see that he has faithfully spoken God’s Word that quenches the thirst of those seeking to draw from the wellsprings of Life. It is highly meaningful to see these statements now collected in one volume."

Drawn from an unparelleled collection of both personal and published works, Billy Graham provides input on more than one hundred topics, such as suffering, joy, money, addictions, peace, and many more.

This is a wonderful book. It's not one to sit and read through in one sitting (although I found myself flipping from topic to topic and reading for quite a while!) but is an excellent resource. Quotes are organized by topic and the topics are presented alphabetically. Each quote is footnoted and a detailed section at the back of the book identifies the work from which each quote is taken. This would be a great addition to any bookshelf.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from BookSneeze/Thomas Nelson as part of their Blogger Review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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Blue Skies Tomorrow

Blue Skies Tomorrow
Sarah Sundin
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3423-7
August, 2011/448 pages/$14.99

In a time of peril, can they find the courage to confront their fears and embrace a love that lasts?

When her husband becomes a casualty of the war in the Pacific, Helen Carlisle throws herself into volunteering for the war effort to conceal her feelings. But keeping up appearances as the grieving widow of a hometown hero is taking its toll. Soon something is going to give.

Lt. Raymond Novak prefers the pulpit to the cockpit. His stateside job training B-17 pilots allows him the luxury of a personal life--and a convenient excuse to ignore his deepest fear. When the beautiful Helen catches his eye and captures his heart, he is determined to win her hand.

But when Ray and Helen are called upon to step out in faith and put their reputations and their lives on the line, can they meet the challenges that face them? And can their young love survive until blue skies return?

Filled with drama, daring, and all the romance of the WWII era, Blue Skies Tomorrow is the captivating final book in the popular Wings of Glory series.

Sarah Sundin is the author of A Distant Melody and A Memory Between Us. Her great-uncle flew with the US Eighth Air Force in England during WWII. Sarah lives in California with her husband and three children.

I really enjoyed this series. Blue Skies Tomorrow is well written with characters I liked and ones that drove me nuts. Without giving away a spoiler, let me just say that it is important when reading this book to remember the cultural setting of the time period when women had few choices and little voice in what happened at home. While I am not a raging feminist, I am thankful for the many strides which have been made that give women like Helen more options. This is a great ending to a wonderful trilogy.

Available August 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell as part of their Blogger Review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wednesday Hot-Podge!

From taking my boy to college to my girl turning 16 and starting her junior year in high school, this has been an emotional week for mom! I'm happy to kick back and relax with a bit of Hodgepodge! Although, as you'll understand when you read #8, I took a few liberties with the title!

1. What is something that bothers you if it's not done perfectly?


I do struggle with perfectionism in a lot of areas. Spelling and grammar are probably the ones that I'm the pickiest on, though. It especially makes me cringe to hear journalists, newscasters, etc. display their lack of polish in this area, and newspaper articles and headlines make me wonder if anyone even knows what a copy editor is or if they have ever seen a dictionary or style manual before.

Did I mention this is a big deal to me?!

2. Do you think a 6th sense exists? Explain.

I can't prove it, but my intuition tells me it does. (Who let the smart aleck on this blog today?!)

Sometimes it's the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it's just a gut feeling. It's hard to identify what contributes to it specifically - wisdom from past experiences? The ability to think even when we aren't consciously doing so?

3. Do you say your goodbyes slowly, quickly, or not at all?

It's all relative. Literally. I come from a family of slow good-bye-ers and married a family of quick leavers, so I'm kinda in the middle now. I don't like dragging it out, but I don't just hop up and go, either.

4. On a scale of 1-10, with ten being hot hot hot, what level of spice do you like in your food? What's your favorite 'spicy' dish?

I guess I'd say a 5 or a 6. I still like to be able to taste the food. My man doesn't think it's hot enough unless it makes him sweat! Asking a Texan a favorite "spicy" dish? That's hard. I love Enchilada Suizas. (Cheese or chicken enchiladas with a sour cream sauce.) And chicken flautas.

5. What is one of your all time favorite commercial jingles?

Oh, you're going to get them all going in my mind. I knew them all when I was a kid.

I guess one of my favorites is this one:

6. Plane, train, boat or auto...your preferred method of travel?

If I'm by myself, I'd much rather fly if it's more than 3-4 hours. Otherwise, the car is fine.

7. What is something you take for granted?

I used to take cold water out of the tap for granted until this summer. And rain. Today we will break an 86-year-old record (we tied it yesterday): this will be the 70th day this year in triple digits. Those aren't consecutive days, but almost. We had only two days in July below 100 - both were 99 - and just one in August, when it "only" reached 97. They expect us to be well over 100 until after September 1. When we turn on our indoor cold water tap, the water just won't get cool. The pipes in the ground and the water tanks are just too hot. There's nothing like brushing your teeth with warm water, but at least there's still water coming out. We DESPERATELY need rain.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

For those of you who only visit on Wednesdays, you do not want to miss a couple of posts and giveaways from earlier this week. If you love the song Indescribable and if you've been blessed by the new song Blessings, don't miss my interview with songwriter and recording artist Laura Story. I promise you will be blessed. And you might win a copy of her CD! Also, I had the incredible privilege of meeting the mom of Soul Surfer Bethany Hamilton in Atlanta and I have a review and giveaway of Cheri's book Raising A Soul Surfer!


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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ransome's Quest

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Ransome’s Quest
Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2011)
Kaye Dacus


Humor, Hope, and Happily Ever Afters! Kaye Dacus is the author of humorous, hope-filled contemporary and historical romances with Barbour Publishing and Harvest House Publishers.

Kaye Dacus (KAY DAY-cuss) is an author and editor who has been writing fiction for more than twenty years. A former Vice President of American Christian Fiction Writers, Kaye enjoys being an active ACFW member and the fellowship and community of hundreds of other writers from across the country and around the world that she finds there. She currently serves as President of Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, which she co-founded in 2003 with three other writers. Each month, she teaches a two-hour workshop on an aspect of the craft of writing at the MTCW monthly meeting. But her greatest joy comes from mentoring new writers through her blog and seeing them experience those “aha” moments when a tricky concept becomes clear.


The pirate El Salvador has haunted the waters of the Caribbean for almost ten years. When he snatched Charlotte Ransome, it was a case of mistaken identity. Now Charlotte's brother, whose reputation in battle is the stuff of legend, is searching for him with a dogged determination. But another rumor has reached El Salvador's ears: Julia Ransome has been kidnapped by the man feared by all other pirates--the pirate known only as Shaw. The violent and blood-thirsty savage from whom El Salvador was trying to protect her.

When word reaches William of Julia's disappearance, his heart is torn--he cannot abandon the search for his sister, yet he must also rescue Julia. Ned Cochrane offers a solution: Ned will continue the search for Charlotte while William goes after Julia. William's quest will lead him to a greater understanding of faith and love as he must accept help from sworn enemy and have faith that Julia's life is in God's hands.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Ransome’s Quest, go HERE.


This is an action-packed, suspense-filled novel and I loved every bit of it. While it isn't completely necessary to read the earlier books in the series to enjoy this final story, I suspect you'll want to because the trilogy is great! Grab a book and settle in for some captivating reading!


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Monday, August 22, 2011

Atlanta Giveaway #5!

UPDATE Sunday, 8/28/11 at 10:05 pm - WINNER!

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:
Timestamp: 2011-08-29 02:59:52 UTC

Congrats to Michele! Email me your address and I'll send the book your way!

* * * * *

I had so hoped to see Soul Surfer Bethany Hamilton when I was in Atlanta, but she was only there for just a brief period of time. I knew that her mom, Cheri Hamilton, had written a book called Raising a Soul Surfer, and (I think it was Tuesday) I finally found the publisher's booth where that book was located.

Would you believe that Cheri Hamilton was there just for that hour autographing books?!

What a joy it was to meet her! I had wanted to meet Bethany because my girl loved her book so much when she read it back in sixth grade before we had any idea there would be a movie about it. And I've mentioned before how much we LOVED the movie!

But as a mom, I was thrilled to meet Bethany's mom. How I would have loved to sit down and have a cup of coffee with Cheri Hamilton and talk to her, mom to mom, about raising Bethany and the journey they have been on since the accident. How does a mom walk her daughter through such a horrific accident while grieving and coping with it herself?

Well, we didn't get to have that cup of coffee, but I have the next best thing. Raising a Soul Surfer is a peek into Cheri Hamilton's heart and life, beginning with her childhood and her tumultuous days as a surfer girl on the California beaches. Although she did not become a Christian until she was an adult, she can see God's hand wooing her and guiding her path throughout her life, as well as that of Tom, her husband and Bethany's dad. This is a fascinating book of a mom, a dad, and a family who love the ocean but who love its Creator even more. You will be encouraged by the faith of the Hamiltons, by the faith of those who were involved in the making of the movie, and by the way God is using Bethany's story to touch many.

I knew I wouldn't be able to part with my book, and Cheri and the publisher were kind enough to give me a second book, autographed by Cheri, for one of you! To enter, leave a comment on this post. Enter a second time by leaving another comment telling me you have mentioned this giveaway and linked to it on your blog or Facebook page. Limit two entries per person. US Residents only. Entries must be received by 8:00 pm CDT Sunday, August 28, 2011. A winner will be randomly chosen.

Raising a Soul Surfer
Cheri Hamilton
(Regal Books)
July 4, 2011/272 pages/$22.99
ISBN: 978-0830759699


Cheri Hamilton, Bethany’s mom, tells the inspiring story of the Hamilton Family.
Bethany Hamilton’s incredible story of surviving and thriving in the wake of a shark attack, told in her best-selling autobiography Soul Surfer, has sold more than 1.5 million copies. Yet her family’s adventures started long before Bethany lost her arm and became a pro surfer. Now Cheri Hamilton, Bethany’s mom, tells the inspiring story of the Hamilton Family.

Raising a Soul Surfer invites readers to journey with the Hamiltons to the lush islands of Hawaii, to experience a worldwide news event, Bethany’s shark attack, from her parents’ point of view. Witness the many small steps of faith and how God stepped in and gave them a higher purpose.


Cheri Hamilton says, "I wrote Raising a Soul Surfer to help families who are going through struggles. I want others to know how God set up our family as a team to deal with life’s uncertainties,” says Cheri. “God doesn’t allow us to go through pain to hurt us, but to heal and transform and draw us to Him. My hope is that our story will encourage you to pursue God regardless of the cost.”

Rick Bundschuh is a writer, cartoonist and one of the teaching Pastors at Kauai Christian Fellowship in Poipu, Kauai. Born and raised in the sleepy beach town of Pacific Beach, Rick eventually abandoned California for the warm waves of Hawaii.

Along the way in his journey he managed to become a veteran youth worker and much published author and cartoonist before helping to found Kauai Christian Fellowship in 1991.

Rick lives in Poipu Beach with his wife Lauren, their kids, a weenie dog and a quiver of surfboards.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Regal Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Atlanta Interview & Giveaway #4 - Laura Story

UPDATE 8/28/2011 at 9:55 pm - WINNER!

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:
Timestamp: 2011-08-29 02:50:12 UTC

Congrats to Sara! Email me your address and the CD will be on its way to you!

* * * * *

In addition to my love for words written in books, words set to music often speak to my heart and minister to me at an even deeper level. Such was the case when I heard the song Blessings by Laura Story. When I found out she was going to be available for interviews at ICRS in Atlanta, I immediately requested a time to meet with her.

It was one of the highlights of the week.

This young woman is the real deal, folks. Laura is not one who has a theoretical faith which has not been challenged by life's storms. She and her husband are walking a difficult road, and God is using it not only to refine them like pure gold but also to speak hope, encouragement, and truth to others whose lives have also been upended by heartache.

As I listened to the interview to transcribe it for this post, I was blessed once again by the beautiful Spirit that radiates from the hearts of this young couple.

For all of the seriousness, Laura is not a solemn or dour person. She is quick to laugh and we detoured a time or two to talk about Chuy's Mexican food and a couple of other central Texas icons and landmarks! I definitely call dibs on picking her up at the airport if she ever comes this way to speak or sing!

Laura's husband, Martin, sat across the table with his laptop while Laura and I talked and she told me their story. I truly felt as if I were sitting with a dear friend as she opened her heart. This may be the most stark and authentic conversation I've had in a while. I'm not even sure I like calling it an interview, for it felt much more than that.

So grab a tissue and enjoy this chat with recording artist Laura Story.

My girl sings and plays the piano and viola; she's taking AP Music Theory this year, and she wants to major in music in college. She wants me to ask, how did you get started in your music career?

She's doing the same thing I did in high school. My mom had me in piano lessons when I was seven. I started playing string bass when I was ten—I think that was more out of a dare than anything else!—and played in orchestra up through college. But I wasn’t much of a singer; I’d never been in a choir. When I was in college, I joined a band and played bass with them for about five years, and then I played bass for a guy named Andrew Peterson. Andrew was the one who got me to sing and encouraged me to write some more, and slowly but surely, I started inching my way up to the front of the stage rather than the back of the stage, which some days I’m still very apprehensive about! God’s just given me some songs and pressed upon my heart the desire to go out and share what I consider story-telling through song.

Now I know the proper Christian perspective is “It’s not about me; it’s about Him.” But you know, nobody has had any idea who Laura Story is for a long time. But everyone knows who Chris Tomlin is. (Laura bursts out laughing.) And everyone knows the song Indescribable. And Laura Story wrote that song.

I did. And I’ll tell you: it was my first year of marriage. And at first I thought, “Well, that’s kinda neat that he gets to travel all around the world and play this song.” We did our first promotional thing with him, and I met him and all the guys in his band. They were so tired, they looked like they were about to fall over, and they said, “Yeah, we’ve done about 300 dates this year.” It was the same year that I had just gotten married, and I had been at home doing college ministry with my husband. And I genuinely thought, “I am so glad that Chris Tomlin is willing to travel around and sing this song all over the world so I don’t have to!” Who knew that eventually the Lord was going to be pushing me out there to do more of the “up front” stuff? So yeah, at that time in my life, I was so thankful.

So the anonymity didn’t bother you.

Nooooo, not at all. I feel like I got to learn a little more about the music industry and a little more about what I would want to be like if I ever were the recording artist. I’d just gotten to see a lot of friends go through the process of getting record deals and booking concerts – people like Chris who I really admired how they did that, and I got to see some other people who made some poor decisions. We’re trying to steward the opportunities well. Some days we do; some days we don’t.

I have read and know a bit of the background of the story of the song Blessings, but can you share that?

It was birthed out of an evaluation of the last five years of our life. I’ve been married to my husband, Martin, for seven years, and he was diagnosed with a brain tumor about two years into our marriage. In some areas we’ve seen recovery and healing from all that, and in other areas we haven’t. It wasn’t cancerous, but it grew so much that it did a good bit of damage in his brain to his vision and his memory. Learning to live with a disability is always a huge learning curve, so that’s on the practical side. On the spiritual side, [it’s been] learning that sometimes God allows His kids to walk through really hard stuff. I totally believe that God is all-powerful. In His word He says that He’s a healer. What does that mean when I pray every day for five years for God to heal my husband, and He doesn’t do it?

The song Blessings is a song full of questions. I would say, “God blesses His children by giving them the things they pray for.” But what if God’s definition of blessings is different than ours? And what if there are things He wants to accomplish in our lives—or not even in our lives, but maybe just in His world? Everything’s always about me in my synopsis of things! I always talk about how it affects me and how comfortable I feel and wanting this pain-free existence! But what if there are things God wants to accomplish in and through me that necessitate Him not answering my prayers the way that I want Him to? And what if I look back on this life, and there are things that, much later in life I can count as blessings, but right now I have to maybe just label them blessings by faith? I don’t know. Sometimes people say, “That’s such a cool song with so much wisdom,” and I tell them it’s just a bunch of questions because that’s where we are. But what we’re finding is, that’s where most people are in their Christian faith. No one understands why God’s plan includes suffering and abuse and divorce and death and so many things that people walk through on a daily basis. But if I believe that it’s possible that He could have a plan that’s greater than what my finite mind can understand, if I believe that’s possible, then I probably just need to continue to trust Him through it.

Did I mention I’m a worship leader? I’d been at this church for almost six years and had been on staff with them for about 5 months when all of this happened. So I have this job as a worship leader, but this thing has happened to us, and the last thing I wanted to do is get up on stage and sing How Great is Our God! Just to be real honest, I didn’t know if I even believed that anymore! I didn’t know what to do with any of this. It was either me quitting my job and going to work at Wendy’s or something, or me looking to the Scriptures to say, “Okay God. Please tell me that You have something to say about how to worship you when life is hard.” And that was the beginning of a process of searching the Scriptures that completely changed my life. It completely changed my life and how I see Scripture.

And this may be controversial, but Scripture does not teach the “health, wealth, and prosperity” gospel. It doesn’t at all. You see King David, who says, “I will bless the Lord at all times.” Not, “I feel like blessing the Lord at all times.” You see Job. You see the Apostle Paul who has this thorn in his flesh and he’s praying that God will take it away. And God doesn’t say, “No, Paul, I’m leaving it because you’ve been such a bad person.” Sometimes we feel that way—that God has given us this hard thing to punish us. The ultimate purpose we see Paul saying that God told him is, because we are weak, that God can be seen as the strong God that He is. So as much as I want to—and do!—complain about the story God has written for us, at the end of the day, both my husband and I would say that the chief aim of our lives is for people to see God through us, for people to see God as He is. And if that means us limping along, rather than experiencing the snap-of-a-finger healing—if that’s how God’s seen as the big God that He is, I want to be part of that! I feel like there’s a blessing that’s bigger than what this world offers, there’s a blessing that I can experience just being part of that story.

Tell me about some of the other songs on this CD.

I’m a worship leader, so some of these songs are corporate worship songs and some are sit-in-your-car and worship songs. My songs are about God’s promises intersecting real life. It’s one thing to sing about how good God is. I feel like the secular music industry is a lot more honest about life being hard. I think sometimes Christians don’t feel like they can admit any disappointment or struggle. So especially on this CD, the songs talk about how God’s promises give us a framework for walking a road that’s hard, for walking through trials. Scriptures tell us that it’s not “if”, it’s “when.” It’s “When you walk through the fire. . .”

Are you on a tour schedule?

We had a heavy touring schedule in the spring and we’re taking some time off this summer to just breathe a little bit, and then we’ll hit it hard again in the fall.

How do you balance that with being a worship leader?

Oh, I don’t balance it very well! I’ve had a commitment with [the church] for almost six years now to be there every other weekend. This is the first time we’ve taken a chunk of time off; we’ll be gone this summer and a bit into the fall. I just noticed that everything I was doing, I was leading. That’s not good for anyone. We’ve had some time this summer to be led in worship and Bible Studies and that’s been nice.

Are things stabilizing with your husband or is still a rocky road medically?

It’s something where we see little improvements every year. We’re learning to find the balance in being thankful for the healing God’s given us – because we really are! We’re so thankful for how He’s worked in Martin’s life and his body and the things He’s taught us. But also, being honest, we don’t want to just do the spiritual band-aid thing of “It’s okay. God works all things together for good.” I feel that the Lord gave us emotions, and when we don’t mourn the things that are hard in our lives, we end up emotionally constipated Christians! What I find is that if I can’t call something bad or hard, there’s only so much I can make the gospel relevant to non-believers. If they look at me and what I’m walking through and I say, “Oh, no, no it’s okay! God’s in control, they say ”that just doesn’t even make sense!" I’m learning to say “It’s really, really hard and we spend a lot of days dealing with a lot of disappointment.” I think that the difference is what we do with that disappointment – do we run from God or do we run to God. We’re learning to run to God and to trust that in our hands it’s a mess, but in His hands it’s really going to be something beautiful where He’s glorified through it, even if we don’t see how He’s doing that.

Is he able to hold a job?

He’s not working and he can’t drive either because of his vision. We’re slowly getting back into talking about some vocational things with him. He was doing some graphic design before his brain tumor, and he’s slowly getting back into that, so that’s neat. But it’s a slow process. When we first went into the hospital they gave us a pamphlet about what to expect from your recovery, and it was a five-day plan – surgery on one day, two days in ICU, two days in a regular room and then home on day 5. [I thought], “Oh! It’s that easy!” Three months later, we’re still in the hospital! And that’s kinda been the story of the recovery process. Everything takes a lot longer, both in physical recovery and in recovery and healing of our own hearts. I’ll talk to people who have lost loved ones – and even though this is not the same at all, it’s still the death of some dreams – and anyone who’s mourning the loss of anything always says, “Wow, it’s just taking so much longer than I thought.”

One thing we’re learning is that, that pain and that ache of life not being exactly what we thought it would be-—I know for me, at least—motivates me and gives me this longing for the next life. It motivates me in evangelism. It motivates me in talking to people about the whole reason for any of this—whether it’s a Christian blog or a Christian CD or anything—is shouting from the rooftops that there’s more to this life than just this life. So if it’s the pain and the ache in my heart that reminds me of that, and if it’s the hard life that we live on this earth that reminds me of that—because that’s the question: everyone looks at us and asks, “What is there to hope in, in the midst of your situation?” Well, because we believe that this life isn’t all that there is. And if one person hears Martin’s story and comes to faith, yeah, that’s worth it.

So you were married a year and a half when this happened. What has this taught you about marriage?

(Laughs!) I’m a terrible wife! Is that what I’ve learned, Martin?!

You stood at the altar and took your wedding vows in your mid-twenties, fully expecting that any of the “for worse” situations surely wouldn’t happen for 50 years or so.

It was definitely hard that the “sickness and in health” stuff came early on.

The world would tell you this is not what you signed up for, so Laura, you just need to get on your way.

Yeah. I think that they are not just vows that we make before God and witnesses. I truly believe that people who think that they can get married in a church but then live the rest of their life out on their own – that’s just the biggest bunch of bull! God is not only the One that we pledge to and the One who created marriage, but He’s the Sustainer of marriage. And the reason that you get up there with a pastor and a bunch of people is because they’re the hands and feet of Jesus who are helping us through marriage when it’s hard. I think a lot of people who have struggles in their marriages don’t think they can talk to people about it. And that’s one thing that we’ve learned: we can’t do marriage on our own.

Martin’s disability is a rub in our marriage. It would be easy for us to get frustrated and point at each other and say, “Why or you this way?” or “Why are you impatient with me?” Sometimes it’s good for us to stop and say “It’s the disability we’re mad about right now. It’s the fact that all those years ago, Adam and Eve ate the apple and sin entered this world and creation has been forever marred because of it. And it allowed death and disease, and that’s what we’re mad about! It’s the stupid devil; it’s our own sin that we’re mad about, rather than pointing a finger at each other all the time. (She laughs.) Not that we do that perfectly or anything. We still quarrel about stuff. But I can honestly say that I’ve never thought, “If I’d known it was going to be like this, I wouldn’t have married Martin.” Because everyone has their thing that they walk through. If for some crazy reason we hadn’t gotten married and I found out he was walking through this on his own, I would have found him and been right by his side. Or I’d have been so jealous of whatever woman got to walk through it with him! So there are blessings even found in how God has used this illness to bind us together. (She looks over at Martin) Wouldn’t you say that?

Martin smiles, nods, and gives her two thumbs up.) Absolutely! Yeah, I would!

That's sweet; that encourages me. Anything else you want to say to my blog readers?

There’s one more thing I want to say. So many people look at life or look at ministry as something they’re going to do after they get their life together, after they get past whatever thing seems to be paralyzing them or complicating their life, whether it’s walking through a divorce or dealing with a wayward child that isn’t living out the way their parents raised him to believe. And I would challenge people: God is the God of every story. He’s the God of every season of our lives. And He wants to glorify Himself, not just in the springs of our lives but also in the falls and the winters of our lives when things seem really hard. He’s a God that’s about bringing Himself glory. A lot of times people see their certain situations in life as being a detour when, really, it’s just the road. It’s the road that God’s calling them to walk down. And not only will He never leave us or forsake us on that road, but He’ll use all of it. He truly does use every ingredient of our life to bring Himself glory. So I just want to encourage people that God has a plan for whatever hard story they’re walking through. The central point would be making sure that we’re running to Him rather than from Him in the midst of our hard thing.

Laura, you endeared yourself to me and blessed me more than you know. Thank you for the opportunity to visit with you and for allowing God to use "the greatest disappointments and the aching of this life" to minister to the world for His glory. And I hope we get to eat at Chuy's together some day soon!

You can learn more about Laura at her website or on her Facebook page. Here she is singing Blessings live in the KLOVE studio.

I have a brand-new copy of this CD to give to one of you! To enter, leave a comment on this post. Earn a second entry by posting about/linking to this interview and giveaway on your blog or FB and leaving a second comment letting me know you did so. Entries must be received by 8:00 pm CDT next Sunday, 8/28/11, and I will randomly draw a winner. US Residents only.


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Saturday, August 20, 2011

TSMSS - For My Boy

For my boy, my firstborn, as we move him to college this weekend.


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Friday, August 19, 2011

A Word from Author Colleen Coble

From Thomas Nelson:

One of the highlights of our days in the Fiction department at Thomas Nelson? Receiving reader letters—either directly addressed to us or passed along from our talented authors. It’s critical to be reminded that at the end of our long days acquiring, editing, designing, selling, marketing, and publicizing books, those stories are reaching readers, striking nerves, changing lives. We want readers’ feedback. How stories have given you hope. Which authors’ series you can’t help from sharing with everyone you meet. We want to know what makes you stay up late in the night to finish a story, and conversely what turns you away.

We’re conducting a series of surveys—seeking answers from readers who love Christian fiction. Up for grabs is a free ebook for every respondent who completes the survery, as well as a $10,000 prize for one entrant. The responses we gather will help shape the future of the books we publish for years to come. As well as the data we’re collecting here, we’ll also seek more in-depth feedback from a panel we’ll develop over the next year. More details to come. The note below from one of authors gives a specific picture of how reader feedback shapes her work. In short, your opinion matters! We thank you for your time and appreciate your responding.

--Thomas Nelson Fiction

Dear Friends--

Your opinion matters. It really does. I love hearing from readers about what worked for them in a story and about what doesn’t work. Reader feedback changed the balance between romance and suspense in my novels. After the Rock Harbor trilogy, I wanted to write more suspense in my novels because that’s what I personally like. But readers really wanted more relationship and romance in the books so I moved back that direction to about the same mix of 50/50 that the Rock Harbor novels contained. I write for you even more than for myself.

I had no intention of setting a whole series of books at Bluebird, Texas. It was going to be only one book, but readers sent me requests in droves for more books. The fourth book in the Lonestar series, Lonestar Angel, will be out in October. The Rock Harbor novels were going to be complete at three. There are now five and I’m thinking about another one! All due to reader demand.

I’ve often asked for reader input on names and locations too. When I was struggling for a name for my hero in The Lightkeeper’s Ball, I turned to my readers. Harrison really fit my character, and my readers told me. Love that! When I was trying to decide on a location for the new Hope Beach series I’ve started, I asked readers. Their overwhelming response was for a series set in the Outer Banks so guess what I’m writing?!

That’s why we’re coming to you for answers. We want to give you what you really want! Don’t be afraid to let us know what you really think. We value your honesty and the time it will take to share with us. Looking forward to hearing what you have to say!

Your friend,

Colleen Coble


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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Don't Miss This!

While I enjoyed all of the interviews I got to do in Atlanta, one in particular stands out as extra-special. Last night I finished transcribing it and all I can say is WOW. You are in for a treat. I need to get it all set to post, and I want to give you a little advance notice of when it will appear on the blog so you won't miss it. It's a smidge longer than some, but I absolutely couldn't bear to edit any of it out. It will bless you, encourage you, and I suspect you'll need a tissue.

This very special interview will also have a giveaway along with it.

I will post it on Sunday. So instead of that Sunday afternoon nap, curl up with a mocha and come for a visit with a very special guest. And bring a friend!


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