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Author, Author — Andrew Huff, Author of A Cross to Kill

3 Dec

I am pleased to have Andrew Huff on the blog today talking about his writing journey and new book, A Cross to Kill. Check out the info and the great giveaway!

 

John Cross is a small-town pastor, bent on leading his flock to follow God’s calling. He’s not the sort of man one would expect to have a checkered past.

But the truth is that the man behind the pulpit preaching to his sheep was once a wolf–an assassin for the CIA. When John decided to follow Christ, he put that work behind him, determined to pay penance for all the lives he took. He vowed never to kill again.

Now someone wants the peaceful pastor to pay for his sins with his own life. And when a terrorist out for revenge walks into the church, John’s secrets are laid bare. Confronted with his past, he must face his demons and discover whether a man can truly change. Can he keep his vow–even when the people he loves are in mortal danger? Will his congregation and the brave woman he’s learning to care for be caught in the cross fire? In the end, his death may be the only sacrifice he has left to offer . . .

Andrew Huff’s thrilling debut is not only a riveting story of suspense, it’s also a deep exploration of the moral quandaries that face those who choose to follow the Prince of Peace in a violent world.

Click here to read an excerpt.

Q&A With Andrew Huff

A Cross to Kill is your first book release. Tell us about your journey to become an author.

Storytelling is something that’s been a part of my life since an early age, though I wasn’t convinced I could actually be an author until much later in life. I would write stories every day using toys, sometimes turning those stories into drawings, and on occasion, writing ideas down. I spent my high school years telling stories through video, even helping develop narrative projects with my home church. Yet I still wasn’t motivated to sit down and attempt to write something longer than a five-minute screenplay. That changed right around the time I finished college.

I was an avid reader growing up, and after finishing my undergraduate degree, I started consuming full length mystery/suspense novels. The problem I ran into was that many of the authors I enjoyed did not hold to the same worldview or values that I did. And whenever I found a thriller that did, I was often left wanting. So, I decided if I couldn’t find the type of book I wanted to read, then I should try to write it. It took many years of learning the craft and discovering the right story before I was able to sit down and not only start, but successfully finish, a full length, action-packed, suspense story that I was ready to share with readers. 

Introduce us to your new series, and specifically A Cross to Kill. What inspired the story?

I love letting real-life events inspire fiction, and my new series is no exception. When I first started developing the storyline, there were a handful of high-profile executions of journalists at the hands of terrorists overseas. What made these executions unique to this era was the fact that videos of the killings were spread across the internet. As these tragic events were taking place, I found myself wishing someone had intervened. Thus, the rescue attempt at the beginning of A Cross to Kill was born.

The other aspect of real-life that inspired the story was my own experience in ministry and the reality of how unique that calling is in the life of a person. I not only spent time in local church ministry myself, but my father was also a small country church pastor during my early elementary years. I loved the idea of capturing the fish-out-of- water experience of someone who did a very different job finding themselves learning what it means to spiritually care for a group of people. I also have to admit, I’m greatly inspired by the thrills of such action franchises as Mission: Impossible, Jason Bourne, and James Bond. I want my series to take the Bible and the Church seriously while offering the same kind of jaw-dropping action those novels and films excel at.

The main character, John Cross, is a small-town pastor with a top secret past the members of his church would find hard to believe. What are some of things John left behind in his former life?

John didn’t just leave behind a past filled with poor choices and immoral behavior. Almost immediately, we get a sense that he performed actions in his role with the CIA and on behalf of his country that he is unable to forgive himself for. At a key moment in the story, we discover that John’s marksmanship was put to use by his superiors in unpleasant ways. You’ll have to read the book for all the details, but what I can say is John can’t help but evaluate his actions through a rigid view of Scripture, and as a result he’s struggling to believe God could truly forgive him. 

What I find interesting is the theological question surrounding his previous life that he’s finding himself at odds with. Is the taking of a human life ever justifiable? There’s much to unpack with that question, but when we first meet John, he’s not yet taken the deep plunge into his theological training, and therefore, has very black and white opinions on complicated issues. This creates a conflict within him as he struggles to cope with the memories of his time with CIA and strive to live under the forgiveness of God in Christ.

What events led up to John finding and following Christ?

John’s conversion has already happened when A Cross to Kill begins, but later in the book we get to hear his version of it. It’s a rather unconventional story, but that’s what I like about it. The fact that his conversion happens while he’s on assignment is such a great picture of the two competing forces in his life, that of his ingrained training and his newfound commitment to Christianity. 

The short version is that after performing operations of a lethal nature with the CIA for so long, John lost his sense of humanity. While tracking a target in Spain, he ends up in a cathedral during a Catholic service. Unable to understand the liturgy, he still found himself drawn to the religious symbols. Compelled to know more about the man hanging from the cross, he forgot about his target, found an English Bible at a local shop, and devoted himself to knowing more. While everyone’s story is different, John’s story is one of God reaching down with an irresistible draw to set aside an undeserving man for His great purpose. 

What are some of the faith struggles that John faces along the way that readers can identify with? 

 I know there are faith struggles John faces that readers can identify with because they are ones I struggle with even to this day! For one, John can’t seem to shake loose from past habits and hang-ups. Sometimes those habits can be used for good, but more often than not, John finds himself fighting to walk in faith and love and not let his flesh take control when things go awry. Much of the Christian life is about this same battle. I am at constant odds with the desires of my flesh, and at times, I have sympathized with the ancient monks who punished themselves to try and defeat their own impulses (a practice called flagellation, and one which John has adapted in his own way). 

Another faith struggle that I know many readers can identify with is the difficulty of accepting God’s forgiveness for not only the sins we’ve committed in the past, but the sins we will commit in the future. John struggles to believe God could forgive him for what he did while in the employ of the CIA, and that affects his ability to pass forgiveness on to others. This is something I, myself, have also found difficult. It’s not hard to believe God might forgive a single mistake here and there, but after failing again and again and again, it’s easy to expect a limit to God’s forgiveness. That’s when we can become trapped in the erroneous belief that faith is not enough, and we must work to retain God’s favor.

Writers usually write what they know. Is there any of you in John Cross?

If there was, I wouldn’t be allowed to tell you. Just kidding! The more exciting aspects of John’s story are nothing like mine, and I only wish I had half of his intuition and skill. It is true, however, that writers usually write what they know, and I’m no exception. The part of me in John Cross is less the man and more the day-to-day experience in local church ministry. 

When I wrote A Cross to Kill, I was on staff with a Southern Baptist church in Central Virginia, though a much larger church than Rural Grove. So much of what John experiences with the church and its members is based on real experiences that I drew from during my time on a church staff as well as from growing up as a preacher’s kid in rural Tennessee churches. The congregants we get to know are not based on individuals as much as an amalgamation of wonderful people I had the opportunity to get to know through the years. 

The book description states that A Cross to Kill is not only a riveting story of suspense, it’s also a deep exploration of the moral quandaries that face those who choose to follow the Prince of Peace in a violent world. Can we talk more about the moral quandaries?

A big moral quandary John faces, and I believe many of us wrestle with, is whether there is any legitimate justification for the taking of the life of another person. Is it ever right to kill another person? The Scripture could not be clearer that we are not to murder, and Jesus goes further by condemning any hateful thought toward a fellow human. There is much more Scripture to consider on the issue, but the answer to the question is not cut and dry.

The debate always seems to yield the same “yes,” “no,” and “sometimes,” answers. I didn’t want to try and provide a rigid response one way or the other in the novel, but I did wanted the characters to wrestle with the question and answers. Naturally, they probably wouldn’t ultimately agree. But for John in particular, what the characters decide, would drive the decisions they make when faced with danger. This is what we have to understand about the issue ourselves: If we believe Scripture gives a clear answer, whatever answer that might be, we must be prepared to let that answer influence how we respond to particular situations and issues regardless of how unconventional and perhaps even countercultural that may be.

Is it possible to truly put our pasts behind us? How should we respond when our previous mistakes and decisions don’t stay in the past? 

I don’t believe it’s possible to truly put our pasts behind us, and I don’t think that’s ever been God’s intention. We see many times in the Scriptures how God seeks to remind His people not only of the good they’ve experienced, but also the bad. The past is not meant to be forgotten, but to shape our response today. And that can be both the pleasant memories as well as the painful regrets we carry from before.

When we remember God’s goodness in our past, it is cause for celebration and worship. In much the same way, when our previous mistakes and decisions come back into our present, it is a moment for us to acknowledge how God continues to be good in the midst of a broken world. We see His goodness in the fact that those mistakes are still covered by the blood of Jesus Christ and there’s nothing we did then or could even do now to change that. When our past mistakes return and remind others of pain we may have caused, it’s important to not only acknowledge God’s grace and mercy but also seek reconciliation and restoration to the best of our ability. Ultimately, when we humble ourselves before the Lord, He is faithful to do a work in us and in others so that even in our shortcomings, He can be glorified.

Without giving away too much, what can readers expect as the Shepherd Suspense series continues?

I’m so excited to continue the story with these characters, and I can’t wait for readers to pick up the next books in the series. One thing that is true about the Christian life is that it is a life-long pursuit of Christlikeness includes many ups and downs. We won’t find our sanctification complete this side of heaven, and so neither will my characters! 

For John, he may have crossed a hurdle with accepting God’s forgiveness for his past, but that doesn’t mean he’s dealt with every decision he’s made leading up to becoming the pastor of Rural Grove Baptist Church. And John’s not the only one with a complicated past. The thing I’m most excited about sharing is the action-packed twists and turns that promise to keep the characters on their heels and the readers up past their bedtimes.

 

Andrew Huff spent 10 years in local church ministry before pursuing God’s calling into creative storytelling and media production as the Product Director at Igniter Media, a church media company (ignitermedia.com). He is a two-time finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Contest for unpublished authors (2014 & 2017) and also won the Best Screenplay award at the 2015 48 Hour Film Festival in Richmond, VA.

Andrew holds a Bachelor of Science in Religion degree from Liberty University and a Master of Arts in Christian Education from Dallas Theological Seminary. He resides in North Texas with his beautiful wife Jae and their two boys.

Learn more at andrewhuffbooks.com.

Facebook (@huffwrites)
Twitter (@andrewjohnhuff)

 

Giveaway!

Click HERE for the giveaway post.

 

Guest Post — Olivia Newport, Author of In The Cradle Lies

29 Nov

Today concludes my month long 10 Year Blogiversary Celebration guest posts. Please welcome author Olivia Newport as she shares about her Tree of Life series, combining both contemporary and historical stories through the means of genealogy, and the blessings of life. Thanks, Olivia, for helping me celebrate!

The Light of Joy Along the Way by Olivia Newport

 “May you always find nourishment for your body at the table. 

May sustenance for your spirit rise and fill you with each dawn. 

And may life always feed you with the light of joy along the way.”

“That’s an Irish blessing if ever there was one,” Tucker said.

Tucker is a character from my book In the Cradle Lies, but he said essentially the same thing that my friend Len, from my class at the gym, said.

“Where did you find that?” Len wanted to know. “I’ve never seen that one before.”

Len is a faithful reader of my books, so I could gladly tell him that I’d written the blessing for the family history of an Irish character in the first book in the Tree of Life series (The Inn at Hidden Run), where Len first encountered it. I hope he’ll be just as pleased to see it again in In the Cradle Lies (November 1, 2019 release). 

We come to tables to eat food. It’s a place to set a plate or bowl and minimize dribbling onto our shirts. (Hey, I’m not saying I ever dribble. Okay. Maybe just all the time.) But around the table aren’t we also looking for other forms of sustenance? A few moments of respite? Connections with those close to us? New bonds with new friends? Encouragement that carries us through what comes next in our day?

In the Tree of Life series, Jillian and her Irish father, Nolan, open their hearts to people who need the light of joy along the way. In In the Cradle Lies, that someone is Tucker, who has arrived in the mountain town of Canyon Mines, Colorado, with a charming personality but some reckless habits that just don’t add up — including potentially bringing harm to himself. When Jillian puts her genealogy skills to work, and the story of Tucker’s grandfather and grandfather unfolds, new light sheds perspective on what has Tucker knotted up. 

Nolan’s family Irish blessing is one way to let Tucker know he doesn’t have to figure out life on his own. 

Recently I made some changes in my kitchen. I bought a table from Facebook Marketplace for next to nothing and painted it. The shape fits our space so much better than the old one, greatly improving the traffic flow in the room. I also took down a large wall hanging to make space for a painting a sister-in-law made for me. When a friend who has read both The Inn at Hidden Run and In the Cradle Lies saw the changes, she said, “Now you just need to put your blessing up.”

I hadn’t thought of it, but she may be right! Sustenance for both body and spirit, and hope for life, are what I want for everyone who visits my home — or my stories. 

Olivia Newport chases joy in Colorado at the foot of Pikes Peak where she enjoys life with her husband and nearby adult children. In the Cradle Lies is the second book in the Tree of Life series. The Inn at Hidden Run released in 2019. When I Meet You and What You Said to Me are forthcoming in 2020. Visit www.olivianewport.com and http://www.treeoflifefiction.com

Guest Post and Giveaway! — Kimberley Woodhouse

25 Nov

I am so thrilled to have my friend, Kimberley Woodhouse on the blog today. She and I are both celebrating a ten year milestone — my blog and her 10 years of published novels! I have so enjoyed Kimberely’s books. In The Shadow of Denali provided great research 😉 for my trip this past summer to Alaska! And her books in the Daughters of The Mayflower series are fabulous for history and adventure.

Giveaway!

Kimberley is generously giving away 2 of her novels — The Express Bride and Under The Midnight Sun. I will randomly select 2 winners from the comments on this post. (Please, US addresses only.)

 

Thanks so much, Kimberley, for making my celebration extra special!

Guest Post by Kimberley Woodhouse

First off I have to say a HUGE congrats to Beckie for ten amazing years of blogging!

Beckie’s blog has been a go-to for me for many years. I’ve often found my next read because of her blog. And I can’t even begin to express to her my gratitude for all she does for authors and readers. Her love of the written word shines through, and it is such a privilege to know her in our writing/reading community.

My publishing journey started about twenty-five years ago when I started writing seriously. Granted, it was just for myself at the time — a way to use up all the creative juices I had going. But it was a fun and oft times difficult road from the penning of that first novel. Children, homeschooling, two kids who had some pretty serious health issues, and a lot of craziness made up a journey that is remarkable for me to look back on today. 

So as Beckie is celebrating ten years of blogging, I’m celebrating ten years of being published. That blows my mind. And I find myself wondering how I got here. It’s truly a marvel. A blessing. With lots of thanks to bloggers including Beckie.

Up to this point, I have twenty published books. God is so good. And this tenth year has brought three novel releases, Under the Midnight Sun (January 2019), The Golden Bride (April 2019), and The Express Bride (July 2019), and a novella collection that will release on December 1 – The Sew in Love Collection. To make this year even more celebratory, Out of the Ashes finaled in the Spur Awards this spring, The Patriot Bride won The Reader’s Choice Award this summer, and my novella MissTaken Identity in the MissAdventure Brides Collection won The Carol Award in September. 

A lot of people ask me how I got started… well, to be honest, I got started writing because I loved to read. Have always been an avid reader. Then a college professor told this little music major that I was a storyteller. Then a few years after I had been writing and no one knew because I hadn’t told anyone, a friend found some of my stories when we were packing to move to the mission field. She confronted me and told me that I was “hiding my light under a bushel” and that I “better do something with it…” 

The rest is now history. 

Ten years.

What a joy to share that with Beckie and all of you. 

Here’s to ten more years. 

And ten more after that. And maybe even ten more after that…

I’m game. How about you?

For the JOY of story,

Kimberley 

******

Kim is a devoted wife and mother, and a third generation Liszt student.  She has passed down her love of music and the arts to hundreds of students over the years, recorded three albums, and appeared at over 2,000 venues. Her quick wit, enthusiasm, and positive outlook through difficult circumstances have gained her audiences at conferences, retreats, churches, military functions, and seminars all over the country.

The Woodhouse family’s story has been on the front page of newspapers, in magazines, articles, medical journals, and most famously featured on ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. They were also asked to share their story on The Montel Williams Showand Discovery Health Channel’s Mystery ER along with hundreds of other TV appearances and radio interviews.

Kim has been writing seriously for more than twenty years. Songs, plays, short stories, novels, picture books, articles, newsletters – you name it – she’s written it. It wasn’t until a dear friend challenged her to “do something with it” that she pursued publication. Now, she is a best-selling author of more than fifteen books, with more on the way.

She is passionate about Bible study, reading, music, cooking, and pretty-much-all-things-crafty. Kimberley has been married to her incredible husband for a quarter-of-a-century-and-counting and they have two adult children.

https://kimberleywoodhouse.com 

https://facebook.com/kimberleywoodhouseauthor

Instagram.com/kimberleywoodhouse 

Twitter: kimwoodhouse

Book Spotlight and Author Q&A + A Giveaway! — Considering Others

23 Nov

About The Book

Book: Considering Others

Author: Jungu Olobia

Genre: RELIGION / Christian Living / Personal Growth

Release Date: March 4, 2019

Front cover Considering Others

Good manners and etiquette begin in the home, or wherever a child is taught or mentored. From an early age, children learn how to behave, and as they grow, how to interact in their relationships at school, church, and in their communities. Though etiquette varies between cultures, practicing good manners is a kindness that extends across cultures, because the way we treat one another matters. 

We want to raise and train our children in safe, healthy environments, but the daily encounters of a fallen world make it challenging. Much has been written on good etiquette, but this practical, captivating book points readers to Jesus Christ as the Lord and the Holy Spirit as the Teacher of good manners, clearly illustrating that the Bible is the Life Manual for good behavior that comes from God’s heart. 

From biblical examples to personal examples, reflection verses and practical steps, and prayers and Scriptures to pray over children, Considering Others: Good Manners to Glorify God will help parents, teachers, and mentors shape and develop godly character and good manners in children so they may lead healthy, successful adult lives in their sphere of influence around the world. And there’s plenty of takeaways for adults too! 

 

Click here to get your copy!

 

About The Author

Publication3(1)

Jungu Olobia is a wife and mother, with two degrees in business and informational technology. A Sunday school teacher for over sixteen years, she teaches children ages three to twelve. She enjoys volunteering in her children’s school and in her community. She and her pediatrician husband live with their two sons in Keller, Texas.  

 

More from Jungu

As parents and guardians, we want to raise and train our children in safe, healthy environments, but the daily encounters of a fallen world make it very challenging. Much has been written on good etiquette, but how many books point to Jesus Christ as the Lord and the Holy Spirit as the Teacher of good manners? After almost two decades serving and teaching as a Sunday school teacher, about a decade working in an IT position at a College, and with much encouragement from my beloved pastors and family, I wrote Considering Others: Good Manners to Glorify God.  Thank you so much for joining me today! It has been such a privilege and honor to be with you. We all love and care for our children very much, so thank you for allowing me to talk about my book, Considering Others: Good Manners to Glorify God. Writing my first book has been a walk of faith that has been both painful and joyous as I found out a lot more about my family history and how much I needed to pray!  Thank God, however, for His love and gift of His son, our Lord Jesus.

 Here is a question for us: What legacy do we want to leave our children?  Proverbs 13:22 tells us that good people leave an inheritance to their descendants. That scripture speaks to more than a financial or natural inheritance. It also speaks to passing on virtues that build character.

Q&A With Jungu

By The Book — Many authors say that they have always been a writer. When did you come to realize this? 

JunguI came to realize I should write a couple of years ago when after working on an etiquette class for my church’s children’s ministry, my pastors began encouraging me to pursue writing. 

BTB — Was there a special someone, such as a teacher, parent, or other relative, who encouraged you to pursue writing?

JunguYes, looking back I recall some of my college professors encouraged me to pursue writing; however, it was my pastors that really encouraged and challenged me to pursue writing.

BTB — What types of research did you pursue? 

Jungu

Various Bible versions to get a better or deeper understanding of a story, a character or topic.
Online Christian resources such as the biblegateway.com
The Bible Concordance.
Other authors’ books and works such us by Derek Prince, my personal favorite.
Medical studies and journals by the American College of Pediatrics. I also leaned on my husband’s pediatric experience and knowledge.
Family and national history.
Other studies and journals on education, family, by respected study-groups, colleges, etc.

BTB — What does a typical writing day look like? Are you structured or informal in your writing schedule? 

JunguAs a busy wife and mother, I’d say I’m more of an informal writer. I write best when it’s quiet or when the family is fast asleep, which means I write mainly late at night or in the early hours of the morning.

BTB — Readers always want to know what is next for an author. Do you have any works in progress you can share about? 

Jungu– I love children, so my next project may be writing some children’s storybooks! 

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, November 14

Mary Hake, November 15

Vicky Sluiter, November 16 (Author Interview)

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, November 17

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, November 18

Creating Relationship, November 19

Artistic Nobody, November 20 (Author Interview)

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, November 21

Texas Book-aholic, November 22

By The Book, November 23 (Author Interview)

janicesbookreviews, November 24

A Reader’s Brain, November 25

All 4 and About Books, November 26 (Author Interview)

Inklings and notions, November 27

 

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Jungu is giving away a copy of Considering Others to two winners!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

Guest Post — Susie Finkbeiner, Author of All Manner of Things

22 Nov

My first encounter with Susie Finkbeiner was through A Cup of Dust, the first book in her Pearl Spence series. That book set in the midst of the Dust Bowl touched my heart. I continued to think and talk about it long after I closed the covers. I was delighted that two more books in the series were promised, and couldn’t wait to get my hands on them. Then Susie reached out to me through social media. What fun to have an author actually connect with me! That’s when our friendship started. Sure she lives up in the frozen North 😉 and I dwell in the land of gnats and humidity and we haven’t actually met face-to-face, but we are friends nevertheless. Her photo bombs are a hoot, her ukulele playing is great, and her heart for her craft and her God are encouraging. I am so thankful that she shares her stories with a reader like me — and you, and I am thankful that there are many more in that creative brain of hers. By the way, her latest novel, All Manner of Things set in the Vietnam-era, is excellent too!

 

Susie is helping me celebrate my 10 Year Blogiversary (find the giveaway post HERE) with a guest post on finding joy in the work God gives you. I hope it blesses you as much as it did me.

 

The Work of Your Hands by Susie Finkbeiner

It doesn’t get old, cutting the strip of tape on the box and pulling up the flaps, scrunching up the layer of packing paper off the top to reveal stacks of your book.

Your book.

The one you cried over, stressed over, almost gave up on but didn’t. Careful as can be, you wrap your fingers around the spine of one and lift it up. The cover is even more beautiful than it looked in the email the publisher sent, the texture is more pleasing. Without thinking, you hold the book against your heart, embracing the story that came from such a depth in you.

There’s nothing like it, holding your story. The work of your hands.

One of my favorite things on Facebook is to see pictures of authors holding their book for the very first time. When I see these photos, I got all misty eyed, thinking of how the author must be feeling. The absolute and dizzying joy, the relief, the excitement.

You know the pictures I’m talking about! Can’t you feel the absolute delight? 

I know I can.

I don’t know what your “thing” is. Maybe it’s running marathons or knitting baby blankets. Perhaps you’re a musician or an accountant or a web designer or a poet. Whatever it is you do, I hope there are moments of joy in the doing.

Sure, there are moments which find you with head on desk and a heart full of doubts. There are times when you feel the exact opposite of joy. You probably feel worn down to the core some days.

But I hope there are other days when you look at the work of your hands and marvel. Not so much at what you have created. More at what a pleasure it is to have that work to do. Because it was work given to you by the One who crafted you in His hand.

And when you sit in awe, holding the work of your hands, remember this:

When the Creator, the Father God formed you, I have no doubt that He held you and felt the joy of having you as His own.

He delighted in the work of His hands.

Susie Finkbeiner is a story junkie. Always has been and always will be. It seems it’s a congenital condition, one she’s quite fond of.

After decades of reading everything she could get her hands on (except for See the Eel, a book assigned to her while in first grade, a book she declared was unfit for her book-snob eyes), Susie realized that she wanted to write stories of her own. She began with epics about horses and kittens (but never, ever eels).

It takes years to grow a writer and after decades of work, Susie realized (with much gnashing of teeth and tears) that she was a novelist. In order to learn how to write novels, she read eclectically and adventurously (she may never swim with sharks, but the lady will jump into nearly any story). After reading the work of Lisa Samson, Patti Hill, and Bonnie Grove she realized that there was room for a writer like her in Christian fiction.

Her first novels Paint Chips (2013) and My Mother’s Chamomile (2014) have contemporary settings. While she loved those stories and especially the characters, Susie felt the pull toward historical fiction.

When she read Into the Free by Julie Cantrell she knew she wanted to write historical stories with a side of spunk, grit, and vulnerability. Susie is also greatly inspired by the work of Jocelyn Green, Rachel McMillan, and Tracy Groot.

A Cup of Dust: A Novel of the Dust Bowl (2015), Finkbeiner’s bestselling historical set in 1930s Oklahoma, has been compared to the work of John Steinbeck and Harper Lee (which flatters Susie’s socks off). Pearl’s story continues with A Trail of Crumbs: A Novel of the Great Depression (2017) and A Song of Home: A Novel of the Swing Era (2018).

What does she have planned after that? More stories, of course. She’s a junkie. She couldn’t quit if she wanted to.

 

Guest Post — Janet Ferguson, Author of The Art of Rivers

18 Nov

Janet W. Ferguson and I first connected in a FB group. She is a Mississippi girl and I married a Mississippi boy, so we clicked at once. Then I had the great pleasure of meeting her in person at the Christian Fiction Readers Retreat in April. Over lunch, we talked books, life, teased her daughter 😉 , and generally had a wonderful time. I got to see my friend again in Nashville two weeks ago — one of her books, Falling for Grace, was a Christy nominee!

Janet’s fiction can be described as Southern women’s fiction — it captures the essence of its settings, while speaking to a woman’s heart. And Janet is not afraid of incorporating tough issues that we all struggle with. I highly recommend you read this author! Her post describes some of what it took to write her latest offering, The Art of Rivers.

Thanks, Janet, for joining in my 10 Year Blogiversary celebration!

Guest Post — Janet Ferguson

Happy Blog Birthday!

Beckie, thank you so much for how you support authors of Christian fiction! You are appreciated! Writing a novel takes a ton of research and time, and often we writers feel like our novels are only a drop in the vast ocean of readers’ choices. Having a blog spotlight or review our book brings us such joy!

For my novel, The Art of Rivers, I spent two years learning about addiction. I spent hours reading news accounts of heartbreaking overdoses. I attended the state of Mississippi’s Opioid Symposium, where they discussed the dangerous epidemic driving so many into heroin addiction. I privately interviewed mothers of grown children who’d wrestled for years in prayer for those lost souls held captive by drugs or alcohol. I interviewed people, no different from you and me, who’d through a series of tragic events and choices become addicted to prescription drugs or alcohol or illegal drugs. I learned how addiction had torn up their life and the lives of those around them. I learned about twelve-step programs and how these support groups help.

Then I dove in and wrote one of the most difficult books I’d even attempted. It’s hard pouring your heart onto the page and then putting your words out there for all to read — waiting and hoping that someone’s life is touched or hopefully changed for the better. That’s why I write, and I suspect many other authors are the same. Having support from readers and reviewers warms our insecure souls.

Thank you and bless you! Keep doing what you’re doing so well!

Blessings,

Janet 

Janet W. Ferguson grew up in Mississippi and received a degree in Banking and Finance from the University of Mississippi. She has served as a children’s minister and a church youth volunteer. An avid reader, she worked as a librarian at a large public high school. She writes humorous inspirational fiction for people with real lives and real problems. Janet and her husband have two grown children, one really smart dog, and a cat that allows them to share the space.

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Rivers Sullivan bears both visible and invisible scars — those on her shoulder from a bullet wound and those on her heart from the loss of her fiancé during the same brutal attack. Not even her background as an art therapist can help her regain her faith in humanity. Still, she scrapes together the courage to travel to St. Simons Island to see the beach cottage and art gallery she’s inherited from her fiancé. When she stumbles upon recovering addicts running her gallery, she’s forced to reckon with her own healing.

After the tragic drowning of his cousin, James Cooper Knight spends his days trying to make up for his past mistakes. He not only dedicates his life to addiction counseling, but guilt drives him to the water, searching for others who’ve been caught unaware of the quickly rising tides of St. Simons. When he rescues a peculiar blond woman and her sketch pad from a sandbar, then delivers this same woman to his deceased grandmother’s properties, he knows things are about to get even more complicated.

Tragic circumstances draw Cooper and Rivers closer, but they fight their growing feelings. Though Cooper’s been sober for years, Rivers can’t imagine trusting her heart to someone in recovery, and he knows a relationship with her will only rip his family further apart. Distrust and guilt are only the first roadblocks they must overcome if they take a chance on love.

 

 

Book Spotlight and Author Interview (+ A Giveaway!) — Eric Odell-Hein

16 Nov

About The Book

Book: Finding My Son

Author: Eric Odell-Hein

Genre: Christian Memoir, Adoption

Release Date: February 21, 2018

Eric was perfectly happy being one half of a dual income, no kids family. Having the freedom to travel the world with his wife Christine, while indulging his hobbies and furthering his education and career, was a pretty sweet life.

Christine wanted to be a mom.

Though he was scared he didn’t have what it took to be a good dad, Eric wanted to fulfill his wife’s dream. After years of trying to conceive, however, the couple received a devastating diagnosis: infertility.

For Christine, adoption was the obvious answer. Eric wasn’t so sure.

In Finding My Son: A Father’s Adoption Journey, author Eric Odell-Hein offers an unfiltered view into the heart and mind of a man who has experienced the sometimes messy and often awkward process of becoming a father through adoption. Encouraging men to acknowledge the fears they don’t want to admit while advocating a thoughtful, deliberate transparency as the best approach to even the most unnatural, uncomfortable aspects of the adoption process. Eric shares his misgivings and mistakes with an honesty that does not deny his insecurities.

A valuable resource for any man considering growing his family through adoption—or anyone seeking to understand the process — this engaging memoir is a testament to the beautiful gift of adoption and a touching account of a father’s love.

Click here to get your copy!

About The Author

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Eric Odell-Hein (PhD, MDiv, MRS, ThB) is the president of Columbia Evangelical Seminary. The teaching pastor at Summit Evangelical Free Church, he is also the author of Recovering Lost Treasure: Finding Christ in Ancient Myth, Symbol, and Ritual and Systems of Evil: A Study in Comparative Theodicy. Eric lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with his wife Christine and their son Ephraim. All three are passionate travelers.

More from Eric

Adoption was a scary prospect for me. My mother and all her siblings are adopted, and the family dynamic for them was challenging. So when my wife decided we should adopt, I initially responded with a flat-out “no.” But my heart changed, and I am strongly convinced that our son, who joined us via adoption back in 2008 when he was just two days old, is the greatest child in the entire world. If you knew where I was emotionally prior to adoption compared with where I am now, you would marvel at the change. My adoption book is for people like me, particularly men, who struggle with the enormity of the choice to adopt and the constant challenges of the process.

On a lighter and more personal side, when people learn about all the various aspects of my life, they often have to stop and process the seemingly incongruous pieces. Some people know me as a guy who has spent more than two decades in software and entertainment, primarily in various aspects of behind-the-scenes video game technology and management. My entire family plays games, and more often than not, when I get back home in the evening, I find my wife and son online with other members of the extended family playing Minecraft. Sometimes we’ll all get in an online session together, each one of us at our own TV on our own Xbox, and take on bad guys together in one game or another.

Other people know my intellectual side, where I have earned several degrees in areas of theology and religion, including a Ph.D., as well as serving as president of Columbia Evangelical Seminary. I previously published two books on academic topics (evil among world religions, religious symbology) and have more in various stages of development, the next one being a focus on the ancient Near Eastern (ANE) cosmogonic/chaos-order symbolism in baptism. As a teaching pastor, I have a reputation for sermons with an intense ANE contextual emphasis that are part sermon and part seminary course. Check out my most recent four-part series on the Odell-Hein Books Facebook page here.

I was born in Germany to an American family, and while my German-language skills have deteriorated, I love German music. I’m very excited that my favorite group, Juli, has a new album coming out later this year. It’s mild stuff compared to most of the rock or industrial music I listen to, but they’re good. Check out the first single from their upcoming album here. I’ll be one of the small handful of Americans who purchase the album on the day it first releases in the US.

When not working or playing games with the family, I read primarily academic ANE books. When we’re in the car, I love to subject the family to my go-to podcast, the Naked Bible Podcast. No, it’s not what it sounds like. If you want to hear a serious scholar tackle the ANE context for the Bible, start with Dr. Michael Heiser’s Exodus series (it begins with episode 255).

Q&A with Eric Odell-Hein

BTB: Many authors say that they have always been a writer. When did you come to realize this.

Eric: I remember sitting at my dad’s typewriter when I was a child and trying to write a story. If I recall correctly, I was inspired after reading The Lord of The Rings. Writing has been an interest since those early years. However, the desire to write lay dormant for several years. In my early thirties, after I finished my master’s thesis, I realized I still had the desire to write, and now I had some measure of confidence and skills to match the desire. But the desire and skills weren’t for fiction, but for non-fiction, particularly academic or quasi-academic instructive writing. After a couple of academically oriented books, I wrote this one, Finding My Son: A Father’s Adoption Journey, which is my first foray into popular-level non-fiction. 

BTB: What does a typical writing day look like? Are you structured or informal in your writing schedule?

Eric: My writing schedule is very informal. Between having a family, two jobs, and volunteering in ministry, finding time to write is challenging. I try to give myself at least three uninterrupted hours, so when I find those chunks of time I can dedicate to writing, I always head outside and away from distractions. The time of year doesn’t matter. Even if it’s cold outside, I have heat sources that keep me relatively warm. I turn on some music and settle in with my laptop. Right now I’m sitting on the back patio, taking shelter from the rain under a large umbrella, with my favorite band, Juli, playing in the background. It takes me a bit to get into a good writing groove, but once I’m on a roll, I can really go. For a significant period of time, my job had me going to Montreal on a regular basis. Montreal is a great city, but there are also a lot of ways to get in trouble. I found that simply staying in my hotel room and writing was a great thing: my wife always knew where I was and I had quality time to write. 

BTB: How long does it usually take to write your books — from first outlines/ drafts to final edits.ER

Eric: It truly varies by style of book. I always start with an outline. For academic books, the outlines get progressively more detailed and I layer in citations and sources for every sub-point. For this book, I only created a basic two-page outline consisting of the chapter topics along with a handful of possible points I might want to cover. However, I quickly abandoned the outline. As this was a very personal story, sticking to the outline felt too manufactured, and one of my primary goals was to be transparent and authentic. The process turned out to be far more organic and personal. As a result of having some free time to write and finding that natural flow, the first draft ended up taking three days. That’s not normal for me. My first book, Recovering Lost Treasure, was the end result of thirteen years of research and writing, but it required significant academic research.

BTB: Can you tell us a little about what inspired your book.

Eric: I am an adoptive father, and despite my deep misgivings and fears when first considering adoption, it has been the most wonderful thing in my life. When my wife and I first started researching adoption and going to classes, all of the books we were instructed to read were authored by women. They were all excellent, and while they had a general target audience, they spoke from a certain point of view and seemed to resonate particularly well with my wife. I love learning — all information is good — but I sought something more. I wanted something that could speak to me where I was at. During the process and in the years that followed, I found that my particular set of challenges and experiences weren’t unique, and many other prospective adoptive fathers faced many of the same fears I did, and I’m sure many prospective mothers face the same challenges. I decided to use my personal experience, told from the husband/father’s perspective, to provide the type of resource I wish was available when I was going through the adoption process. 

BTB: What do you want your readers to take away with them after finishing Finding My Son. 

Eric: It’s okay to have fears, questions, and doubts when going through something major like deciding to adopt. We don’t strengthen ourselves our or families by suppressing uncertainty. Instead, we need to accept that we have questions, openly acknowledge our insecurities, and work through the challenges with intentional transparency and authenticity. We need to be honest about who we actually are as opposed to a view of what we think we ought to be. It’s dangerous to use false expectations, either self-imposed or externally influenced, as a launching point for making decisions. 

BTB: Please share about your family, hobbies, and future WIP.

Eric: Christine and I have been married since 1992, and Ephraim joined our family via adoption in 2008. A great life became wonderful at that point. As a family, we love to play video games together. Ephraim and I always end our days by watching funny videos together. Individually, I spend a lot of time doing research on the ancient Near Eastern context of Judeo-Christian religion, which turns into books, sermons, college syllabi, conference lectures, and other nerdy things. That desire to write a work of fiction still simmers in the background, and I have completed the first five chapters of a novel based on Hittite-Abrahamic interaction in the ancient Near East. 

Blog Stops

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, November 5

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, November 6

Vicky Sluiter, November 7 (Author Interview)

Just the Write Escape, November 8

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, November 9

Simple Harvest Reads,  November 10 (Author Interview)

Texas Book-aholic, November 11

janicesbookreviews, November 12

Tell Tale Book Reviews, November 13 (Author Interview)

A Reader’s Brain, November 14

Inklings and notions, November 15

By The Book, November 16 (Author Interview)

Book Love (Featuring Gail Hollingsworth), November 17

Through the Fire Blogs, November 18 (Author Interview)

Giveaway

To celebrate his tour, Eric is giving away the grand prize package of a $50 Amazon certificate and a signed copy of each of his three books!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click HERE to enter.