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Books, Ornaments, and a Fireplace by Tracy Ruckman

I’ve always been a book lover – from even before I could walk, I think. My family gave me books every year for gifts at Christmas, birthday, Easter, and I devoured them all.

I passed that tradition onto my kids, and now they relay memories of Christmases of “nothing but books.” I wasn’t quite that drastic, except maybe one year.

That year had been quite turbulent. We’d moved back to Georgia in the summer, and then my grandmother and my dad died during the month of December, so we were on the road a lot, trying to spend time with them in Alabama as much as possible as their cancers progressed. At my job, someone passed around some ABC gift catalogs. Their prices fit my budget, and their merchandise fit my mood and personality. They had several sets of books for both ages of my boys and they had a fun, fake, cardboard fireplace that we could assemble for our new home that didn’t have one. One order and Christmas shopping was done.

But we had a problem with the tree. All our Christmas stuff had been left behind when we moved. My sister gifted us with some beautiful homemade ornaments – toy soldiers and elves – that we still put on the tree every year. (She made us a matching wreath, too!) When my mom learned about the tradition I’d started when my boys were little, she took us shopping to help recover some of the ornaments we’d left behind.

Every year, I bought an ornament for each boy and one for our home, based on something that was relevant to each during that previous year. I’d done this tradition for four or five years, so we tried to remember each one. Mom took us to this cool Christmas store that sold thousands of different kinds of ornaments, and we were able to find several that were quite similar to those left behind, so the tradition lives on today. Basketballs, musical instruments, a camera with film, Noah’s ark – all reminiscent of their growing years. When Zach got a home of his own, I packed up his ornaments and gifted him with those, so he could carry the tradition into his own family. Jonathan asked us to keep his for awhile longer so they’re here when he spends time with us during the holidays.

Tim and I have continued the tradition, too, adding an ornament or two each year. We have city ornaments from places we’ve lived or visited, and ornaments from various milestones. Every year we laugh when we pull out the handcuffs to put on the tree. That year, I’d attended a citizen’s police academy and Tim had served a short time as a bounty hunter, so when I found some handcuffs in a toy department, I knew they were our perfect ornament for that year!

The importance of traditions is lost to us until we grow older. Traditions aren’t created and kept we want to be boring (as some of us tend to think.) Traditions are created to help us remember those extra sweet moments that tend to get crowded out by other memories.

Tracy Ruckman owns TMP Books, where she serves as book publisher, writing coach, marketing guru. She is also a talented photo artist. She loves connecting with everyone – because everyone has a story to tell. Her latest books, The Young Storyteller’s Prompt and Draw Series, encourage children to develop their storytelling skills through their own words and illustrations.

Follow Tracy on her personal blog at www.TracyRuckman.com for all the latest updates. You’ll also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. She invites you to explore her books on Amazon and discover her artwork on Zazzle and Etsy.

Pamela S. Thibodeaux shared her favorite Christmas memory last week. You can read about it here.

Christmas Kindness by Pamela S. Thibodeaux

The ghost of Christmases past haunted our house again in 1993. To say we were poor, would be an untruth, but to say money was tight is an understatement. As in years before, funds seemed to vanish, leaving very little, if anything, for gifts. This year was one of the worst since my husband’s boss decided to go on an extended vacation-Thanksgiving through New Years-without paying his employees.

While chatting with the nurses at work one evening the inevitable question of whether or not we were through shopping came up. I responded that I was waiting on my next check (which we were receiving on Dec. 23rd), to do mine. That brought a firestorm of other questions which I answered by explaining our predicament.

As things were brought out in the open about my husband’s check, or rather, lack of one, I was encouraged to scrounge the barrels of toys that had been collected for needy children who came to the hospital and see if there was anything I could use for mine. Not knowing that this was allowed, I hesitated. After all, we’d been through this before and the kids were old enough to understand our finances. Continued support as well as the knowledge that other hospital employees often did this as Christmas drew closer and the barrels became empty save for the less desirable gifts that children didn’t seem to want anyway, encouraged me to check it out. I found small gift items that could be purchased at any Dollar store, still, it was better than nothing and I was able to pick out a couple of things for each of my children.

But the greatest gift came from an unexpected source.

A couple of hours later, one of my favorite nurses to work with asked me to meet her in the lounge. “When I was newly single I needed tires and a friend gave me the money to get them. He wouldn’t let me pay him back, only asked that I would pay it forward when I could. I hope you’re not insulted, and I’ll ask the same of you,” she said. By the time she placed a check in my hand we were both in tears.

To this day I’m warmed by the memory and you can bet your last dollar I honor her gift by blessing others as often as I can.

More About the 2017 IDA Finalist Keri’s Christmas Wish:

For as long as she can remember, Keri Jackson has despised the hype and commercialism around Christmas so much she seldom enjoys the holiday. Will she get her wish and be free of the angst to truly enjoy Christmas this year?

A devout Christian at heart, Jeremy Hinton, a Psychotherapist, Life Coach, Spiritual Mentor and Energy Medicine Practitioner has studied all of the world’s religions and homeopathic healing modalities. But when a rare bacterial infection threatens the life of the woman he loves, will all of his faith and training be for naught?

About the Author:

Award-winning author, Pamela S. Thibodeaux is the Co-Founder and a lifetime member of Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Multi-published in romantic fiction as well as creative non-fiction, her writing has been tagged as, “Inspirational with an Edge!” ™ and reviewed as “steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.”  Sign up to receive Pam’s newsletter and get a FREE short story!

You can connect online with Pamela at the following locations:

Links:

Website address: http://www.pamelathibodeaux.com

Blog: http://pamswildroseblog.blogspot.com

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/psthibnewsletter

Face Book: http://facebook.com/pamelasthibodeaux

https://www.facebook.com/pamelasthibodeauxauthor

Twitter: http://twitter.com/psthib @psthib

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/pamelasthibodea/

Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/1jUVcdU

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/pamela-s-thibodeaux

 

Three Gals and Their Thanksgiving Memories

Tomorrow is the day when we stop and we thank our wonderful, omniscient, sovereign Father for all the blessings He has bestowed upon us. One of my many blessings is the memories that He has provided to me on numerous occasions, and I asked two of my friends to come along and share their Thanksgiving remembrances with you as well. Thus, the title: Three Gals and Their Thanksgiving Memories.

A True Turkey Tale by Peggy Cunningham

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever” Psalm 107:1 (NIV).

This turkey tale holds a special spot in my heart. It’s my stellar turkey tale because it’s about the first turkey I ever tried to cook––two months after my wedding day. As the years pass, I realize that it is a blessing to be able to remember. But for many years this memory was anything but a blessing for me. I repressed this memory until the day my children heard it the first time and found it extremely funny. Eventually, I found the humor in it also but not that day.

After many years of married life, I now have experience cooking turkeys, but as a new bride, I didn’t. I looked forward to cooking my first Thanksgiving dinner that year. Far away from our hometown, we celebrated alone but not as we’d planned. My husband was in the Air Force, and we lived in Las Vegas, Nevada. Now you may think that was glamorous––not so. We lived on an airman’s salary and buying a turkey broke the budget for the special day.

We got up early and together we made the stuffing then packed it in the bird and shoved it in the oven. After a few hours, we checked the bird. We thought it strange that there was no wonderful aroma coming from the oven, and looking at it––well, it was still raw. Two hours more should do it––we reasoned. We closed the oven door and waited.

The table looked lovely with my wedding gifts of silver, crystal, and candlesticks placed on the perfectly pressed tablecloth. The potatoes were cooking, and the red cranberry sauce contrasted the green linen tablecloth––my decorating skills were developing. If only that turkey would cooperate. It didn’t. After nine hours in the oven, it was tough and still not cooked. We were so disappointed that we took that bird for a long drive in the Nevada desert and threw it out of the convertible we were driving and then headed to McDonald’s. Did we ever know what happened? Never!

Remembering must be important to God. There are many verses in the Bible that remind us to remember. “I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done” (Psalm 145:5). Memories!

I have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving Day. I’m especially thankful I can remember the good and funny memories. I hope you make some good turkey tales on this Thanksgiving Day––funny ones too. Happy Thanksgiving!

One Rainy Thanksgiving by Tracy Ruckman

Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
Sing praises to our God on the lyre,
Who covers the heavens with clouds,
Who provides rain for the earth,
Who makes grass to grow on the mountains.
Psalm 147:7-8 (NASB)

One special Thanksgiving that I always remember so fondly was when my boys were growing up – they were pre- and early teens. We took a short trip to Pigeon Forge over the Thanksgiving weekend. We’d never been there, so I had no clue about the layout of the town. I was on a single-mom budget, but I found a cheap motel near a creek and we packed snacks for traveling and bedtime munchies. I was determined we’d park and walk as much as we could to save on gas.

Listening to the radio on the drive, we learned it was supposed to rain all weekend, so at our next pit stop, we picked up $1 ponchos. I knew once we bought them, the chance of rain should decrease significantly.

Have you ever been to Pigeon Forge? If so, you’re probably already laughing at all my assumptions above.

We quickly learned that Pigeon Forge is not exactly a walking town. I was determined to try though, to preserve the budget. We set out walking to the candy store down the street – through puddle-filled parking lots, across grassy medians, and under a deluge of rain. Those ponchos were definitely of the $1 variety!

Arriving at the candy store, where we watched them pulling taffy, we learned that Gatlinburg was the walking town, but we had to drive there and pay parking to walk for free.

We ended up seeing both towns, driving back and forth several times, trying to pack as much into the weekend as we could. The boys got to play laser tag, and we snuggled in our room at night watching TV and just hanging out together.

My face hurts from grinning at some of the memories. Hot fries for snacks at bedtime. And a communal microwave for popping corn (before most motel rooms had their own). All you can eat pancakes – the restaurant lost money with my boys. Rain, rain, and more rain with those flimsy ponchos – every time I see a poncho today, I think of that Thanksgiving weekend.

On the way home, we drove through Cades Cove. I didn’t take this photo, but it’s one just like the one burned into my memories of that beautiful – but wet – Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Traditions by Fay Lamb

“That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all Thy wondrous works.” Psalm 26:7 (KJV)

When I married Marc Lamb, I learned that both the Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions in that family were strong enough to pull a long-separated couple together for the day. You would never know that my in-laws had any differences. Our sons enjoyed the fruits of their grandmother’s labor and the steadfast presence of their grandfather.

My dear mother-in-law started a week before with the grocery shopping, paid for by my wonderful father-in-law. She combed the stores for the perfect turkey, ordering the best Honey-Baked Ham, buying sweet potatoes and marshmallows, oysters for the dressing that Marc’s dad loved, and I grew to love, and ingredients for the ho-hum dressing that the others ate. She made mashed potatoes and homemade macaroni and cheese, a squash casserole and a broccoli casserole I can never duplicate, and a Waldorf salad like no other. She adorned the table with the best China and her grandmother’s silver. Food filled that table and the counters in the kitchen. Desserts were chocolate cake and pumpkin pie. By the time we prayed over the meal, our mouths were watering. When we finished, we rolled ourselves into the living room to watch some football and to rest up for the next day.

Tradition in the Lamb house meant that Thanksgiving didn’t end until we’d picked out the perfect tree for all of our homes on the Friday after the big meal. By the end of the weekend, Thanksgiving would be behind us and the Lamb family Christmas traditions would begin.

We lost our beloved patriarch in 2004, but the beloved matriarch and queen of the kitchen continued on through changes in family situations, the death of another loved one, and the difficulty in planning to meet the needs of the growing family God has blessed us with. By 2014, my mother-in-law had slowed considerably. We could see that she was unable to complete the many tasks she loved. That’s when my son stepped in and asked his grandmother if he could be the chef for the ham and turkey, if Mom (me) couldn’t cook some of the other dishes, and if she’d liked to continue making the dressing and the cake. We wanted to keep the tradition alive.

By 2016, with the meal moved to my home, with my son still cooking the meat and with me putting together all the dishes except the dressing, we found ourselves without dressing of any kind for Thanksgiving dinner. My mother-in-law was supposed to fix the dressing, but when my husband brought her to our home, she came empty-handed. She said she hadn’t remembered that she was supposed to make it. Her confusion easily upset her, so we laughed it off and cajoled her about it. When we later returned to her home, we discovered she had, in fact, made dressing: five pans. They were in the refrigerator, on the counter, and in the, thankfully, turned off oven. Again, we entered into teasing laughter with her, and for me, that Thanksgiving is filled with fond remembrances because laughter is a key component to memories. And God is the one who bestowed those special times upon us.

As we move forward from here, life is always changing, but the one thing we’re not letting go is the tradition that my mother-in-law so loved.

About the Three Gals:

Peggy Cunningham and her husband are missionaries in Bolivia, South America. They work with the Quechua people and have a children’s ministry. Peggy is also an author. Her children’s books and devotionals are available on Amazon.com, including just released, Hooray for Holidays Book 4: A Veterans Day Special Needs Cat, Thanksgiving Blue Mouse, and Christmas Andes Llama.

Tracy Ruckman is a book publisher, writing and marketing coach, and artist. Learn more about her book publishing and coaching at www.TMPbooks.com. Visit her personal website at www.TracyRuckman.com to learn more about her books and her art. Visit her Zazzle store at www.Zazzle.com/TMPixArt to purchase her artwork on a wide variety of merchandise.

Tracy’s latest books are in The Young Storyteller’s Prompt and Draw Series that helps children develop their storytelling skills through words and illustrations. View all twelve books in the series here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/bookseries/B07JZX1JGG

Fay Lamb is the only daughter of a rebel genius father and a hard-working, tow-the-line mom. She is not only a fifth-generation Floridian, she has lived her life in Titusville, where her grandmother was born in 1899.
Since an early age, storytelling has been Fay’s greatest desire. She seeks to create memorable characters that touch her readers’ heart. She says of her writing, “If I can’t laugh or cry at the words written on the pages of my manuscript, the story is not ready for the reader.” Fay writes for Write Integrity Press in various genres, including romance, romantic suspense, and contemporary fiction, and you can find out more about her novels at Author Central.

Who’s Got a Button? by Tracy Ruckman

Who’s got a button?

After Tim and I married, his sister brought us a gift. She’d filled a delicate and pretty wicker basket with sewing supplies from her own sewing kit, which had been put together from Tim’s mom’s sewing kit.

Inside the basket was a triangular shaped plastic tub – full of buttons! As I went through them, I remembered all the button cans from my childhood – old coffee cans full of buttons in every shape, size, and color.

These days, my favorite hobby at night while Tim has on the TV is to create artwork to sell. When Fay mentioned buttons, I pulled out our button tub and started snapping photos, then began creating patterns.

Then I use the patterns on merchandise in my TMPixArt store on Zazzle.

Each week, I share the latest patterns on my blog, so come see what I did with these button patterns and others I created from that same photo.

Tracy Ruckman is developer of The Young Storyteller’s Prompt and Draw Series of children’s books.

 

Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button? National Button Day

When a friend told me recently that today, November 16, was National Button Day, I naturally thought of my novel Stalking Willow and the button jar that I wrote into the story. Why? Because the button jar was real.

My mother had a button jar that was curiously placed inside a box containing numerous family photos. My mother never said so, but because the buttons were placed with the photos, I believe that they had been given to her by her mother, my wonderful farm-raised, Kentucky born grandmother, whose country-sense has served me throughout my life. For most of my childhood, I was an only child, often lonely, and I would sift through those photos, and I would pour out the buttons and sort them and look at their texture and their design. I still remember the scent of musty, old, glorious buttons. It is a memory that soothes. I recently began collecting buttons again, and I share that particular story with Tracy Ruckman here.

In Stalking Willow, my main character, Willow Thomas, was raised by a grandmother so very similar to my Grandma New. In fact, I gave so many winks to my numerous cousins that I heard from several of them saying, “You remember that about her, too?”

Willow’s grandmother had been a simple woman who loved her family. She had raised Willow, but something happened that tore Willow’s life apart on the day Willow graduated from school. Her grandmother died as a result, and Willow fled the small mountain town. She is chased back to that town ten years later. She is not only toting her suitcase filled with clothing and followed by a stalker, she’s also carrying around a truckload of bitterness.

Willow’s journey to healing begins when she discovers a box of photographs and a button jar in her granny’s closet. Sound familiar? The buttons, though, are not the only thing she finds. She discovers something else from her grandmother, and Willow begins to understand that things are not always what they seem and that she needs to learn to forgive and to chop down the roots of bitterness.

I’ve discovered through readers of Stalking Willow that I’m not the only one with memories buttons. I’d love to hear from readers today. What special memories do you have of a particular button or a button jar?

Fay Lamb is the only daughter of a rebel genius father and a hard-working, tow-the-line mom. She is not only a fifth-generation Floridian, she has lived her life in Titusville, where her grandmother was born in 1899.

Since an early age, storytelling has been Fay’s greatest desire. She seeks to create memorable characters that touch her readers’ heart. She says of her writing, “If I can’t laugh or cry at the words written on the pages of my manuscript, the story is not ready for the reader.” Fay writes in various genres, including romance, romantic suspense, and contemporary fiction.

One Word at a Time, Sweet Jesus by Anna Kittrell

The Commandment is my “one word at a time, sweet Jesus” book. I didn’t realize it when the story began to surface in my mind five years ago. I didn’t realize it as I began to outline and sketch out my characters. I didn’t even realize it in the middle, when my world shattered, and vital pieces of life were forever lost. Nor did I realize it at the end, when the last word was written. It wasn’t until much later—lately, in fact, that I came to recognize this book for the miracle it truly is. Not miraculous in and of itself, of course. After all, it’s just a fictional story built by my limited imagination. But the fact it was ever finished is a miracle. And a testament to God’s divine provision.

It was October, 2014. The idea for The Commandment was swimming around in my head when my husband and I decided to take a road trip from Oklahoma to Nevada to visit his parents. I love my in-laws, and love for my husband to be trapped in a car with me for hours, so I was rearing to go. On the road, I spent my time gazing from the passenger window, soaking up the surroundings. I was especially entranced by the lonesome beauty of the desert hills. In my story notes I wrote: blond jagged earth; haze on the peaks; pinks, sandy beige and rose; cactus plants; green bleached to yellow; cracks and valleys, sculptures without faces; her soul, dry and thirsty as the scrub on the hills. The terrain was so magnificent, even my scattered description notes sounded like poetry. By the time we reached our destination, I knew the book would be set in Nevada.

During our wonderful visit, more images began to form. An isolated medical laboratory could easily be nestled behind the Nevada hills. And those dangerously beautiful cactus…I wonder what their nectar is like? Wouldn’t it be amazing if it had a numbing quality to it, in order to create a brain-dulling serum in my story? I googled it and, lo and behold, it does! And what about a hot air balloon festival in the desert? Beautiful, vibrant colors dotting the extra-blue sky as far as the eye can see. What better place to set a main character’s abduction than in a hot air balloon? A riveting scene that just might go on record as the world’s first slow-motion kidnapping. I had heard the Nevada desert described as barren and desolate, but to me those endless hills and valleys were rich and bountiful, fertile with story ideas.

The vacation ended and we came back home to Oklahoma. The next week, my daughter-in-law and nine-month-old grandson moved in with us. I was thrilled to have them and immediately adjusted my writing schedule to accommodate having extra people in the house. I began rising at 5:00 a.m. to write—and they began coming downstairs at 5:00 a.m. to visit with me. And because nothing compares to holding a grandchild, not even authoring a book, writing would just have to wait. For ten months, I had the thrill and privilege of spending time with my little grandson every day. In that span of time, he grew and learned so much. His mother and I grew close, developing a special mother-daughter relationship filled with heart-to-heart talks, grocery shopping, shared meals, and lots of laughter. She started calling me, “Mom.” I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

In August 2015, they moved out. And though I knew I would continue to see them daily—I cried. And then I started writing again. I began writing every morning before work, and writing some more on my lunch hour. I loved my characters and the story, and was happy about how well the book was coming along. I had already told my editor about it, and she seemed excited. I couldn’t wait to submit it. At this rate, it would be finished soon.

And then, on December 30, 2015, the book—and my life—stopped cold. At ten thirty that night, my little grandson and I had gone to pick up my daughter-in-law from work, and were told she never showed up. I drove to her house and banged on the door, but she didn’t answer. From outside her home, I called my husband, who came and discovered her lifeless body inside. Our daughter-in-law, the girl who called me “Mom,” the mother of our only grandchild, had taken her own life.

We loved her as if she were our own daughter and were devastated. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, and with the exception of the obituary, eulogy, and funeral poem, I certainly couldn’t write. Life would never be the same. Days passed, and I had to return to work. My son and I developed a routine of dropping off and picking up my grandson. And, after three months had gone by, I dragged myself back to the keyboard. In another three months, the book was finished.

I share this story as an encouragement to others who are dealing with personal tragedy. Put one foot in front of the other, even if that’s all you can do right now. And pay attention to God’s provisions. The gifts He has provided—those things that you love to do way down in your soul. Gifts of distraction. Gifts of diversion. Activities that allow your mind to reset and recharge. Maybe it’s gardening. Maybe it’s sewing. Maybe it’s painting, playing a musical instrument, or singing. Or something much less artistic than that. Maybe it’s rolling change, cleaning house, or waxing the car. I have a friend who picks up rocks when life gets to be too much.

For me, that gift is writing. In that aspect, The Commandment is a miracle. A testament to how God’s gifts give life purpose and bring healing to the broken.  The loss is still there, and forever will be. But so is God’s love and concern, and personalized provision.

So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them? Ecclesiastes 3:22 (NIV)

One word at a time, sweet Jesus.

More about the Author, Anna Kittrell:

Anna works as a middle school secretary in her beloved hometown of Anadarko, Oklahoma, where she resides with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband, Tim. She has nine books in publication, including her new Christian futuristic thriller, The Commandment.

Anna has written for as long as she can remember. She still has most of her tattered creations—stories she used to sell on the playground for a dime, written on notebook paper. Her love of storytelling has grown throughout the years, and she is thrilled her tales are now worth more than ten cents.

Author Points of Contact:

As an author and in speaking with many authors, we love to have readers contact us on social media. If you want to learn more about Anna Kittrell and her awesome writing, be sure to visit the following: Anna’s website, appropriately entitled Anna Kittrell, her Facebook Author’s pageThe Commandment Facebook pageAmazon Author Central, and Anna invites you to e-mail her. You can also take a look at Anna’s wonderful book trailer for The Commandment.

More about The Commandment:

Ten years ago, Briar’s body rejected a government mandated vaccine known as SAP (Serum to Advance Progressivism), formulated to erase God from the mind. Briar was seven years old. She’s been on house arrest ever since.

Now, just weeks from becoming a legal adult, Briar remains non-responsive to her mandatory SAP injections. Along with her rapidly approaching eighteenth birthday looms a grim reality: by order of the Commandment, adulthood means institutionalization for those resistant to SAP.

In a matter of days, Briar will become a permanent resident of the ARC—a facility shrouded in dark rumors of torture, experimentation, and death. Her only alternative is to accept a last minute ultimatum to become a laboratory test subject for a new God-dissolving serum.
With a decade of solitude behind her and a lifetime of confinement before her—what does she have to lose? Except maybe her soul.

The Commandment is available for pre-release this week, not only from Anna’s publisher, Pelican Book Group, it can also be purchased from other fine book retailers including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Anna’s newest novel will release this Friday, August 24.

If you missed Inner Source’s Monday interview of Anna’s heroine, Briar Lee, you can read it here, and also be sure to check out our Wednesday interview with Anna here

Today is the official release date for The CommandmentBe sure to get your copy!

Meet Anna Kittrell, Author of The Commandment

Today’s guest on Inner Source is a phenomenal author of young adult fiction, Anna Marie Kittrell. I have followed Anna’s career because her books have always struck a chord with me. Her stories transcend generations, and that’s what a good story does, no matter the genre. Her novel, The Commandment, is a unique perspective for all generations and actually had me asking a very important question of myself: what do you do when “God is not an option”?

Anna, I’d love to hear a little about you. Where are you from? What do you do when you’re not writing?

Hi Fay! It’s always a pleasure to be on Inner Source.

I reside in my hometown of Anadarko, Oklahoma, where twenty-nine years ago I married my high school sweetheart, Tim. We’ve since raised both of our children, renovated a home, and are now helping to raise our four-year-old grandson here in Anadarko. This month I began my eighteenth year as secretary of Anadarko Middle School, the greatest, busiest—and most days, craziest—place on earth this side of Disney World.

Fortunately, I’m not a person who believes a writer must pen words every single day to be considered a “real” author. Because I work fulltime and daily care for my grandson, most of my writing is done in snatches of time before work, on my lunch break, or on the occasional weekend. In other words, I write when I can and I don’t when I can’t. The seasonal and holiday breaks from school are extremely beneficial to my writing process. Although few and far between, my favorite writing days are those when I spend hours at a time in front of the keyboard.

As I noted, The Commandment is a very different kind of story, and the message of the story is one that will cause the reader to pause and think about where our nation—where the world—is going in its desire to pretend that God does not exist. Anna, what made you think of this concept?

Several years ago, when the premise for The Commandment began to surface, the story seemed to be some type of reverse-amnesia tale. I kept picturing a girl in a hospital bed, coming out of anesthesia. A doctor asked the girl if she “still remembered,” to which she replied, “yes.” This made her mother cry hysterically. Why, I wondered, did the girl’s mother not want her to remember? And what did the girl’s mother so desperately want her to forget? Only when I began to outline, did the story start to take shape. As it turns out, the book takes place thirty-five years in the future, and is the story of a girl who faces elimination on her eighteenth birthday because her body rejects a mandatory, God-erasing vaccine. As far as what exactly made me think of this particular concept, I can only speculate. Maybe the idea was sparked by the stories my great-grandmother shared with me as a child about the future hardships believers would endure. Perhaps the persecution of believers right here at home no longer seems so far-fetched as it did back then.

In your novel, the “Agathi” as a part of our brain is very important. Would you explain that for us without giving too much of the story away?

In The Commandment, it has been discovered that there is a specific area of the brain that houses Christian-related information. This fictional area of the brain is called the “Agathi.” The name is plural, because there are two matching areas or “God Zones,” one located in each of the temporal lobes. Main character Briar Lee’s brain is resistant to SAP, a serum formulated to numb the Agathi and block all God-related thought and emotion. Because of Briar’s resistance to SAP, her Agathi are alive and well, and in fact glow with color whenever she thinks on the things of God.

Interestingly, while doing story-related research, I learned that there was actually a research tool invented to investigate the brain’s role in religious experiences called the “God Helmet” (originally known as the Koren Helmet, after its inventor, Stanley Koren.) Apparently, some people have had “visions of God” while participating in experiments with the helmet. The helmet applies complex magnetic signals to the head of the wearer, exposing them to a very weak magnetic field near the temporal lobes.

Your character, Briar, despite the life she had been forced to live is very dynamic and hopeful. Is she based upon someone you know?

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Briar is based on me, but I would say her doubts and fears, in many ways, resemble my own. I would like to think that in a time of adversity such as Briar’s, I would be unwaveringly strong and faithful. However, I believe the bouts with fear and confusion Briar experiences would be closer to my own reactions. She wavers when choosing between what is right and what is easy. She is frustrated, and half-wishes the SAP would have done its job and numbed her Agathi, so that she wouldn’t have to face the torment that lies ahead. She is afraid of what will happen if her God Zones light up—and more afraid of what will happen if they don’t. Contrary to being based on a particular person, I think Briar’s dynamic and hopeful nature is derivative of the faith we have as Christians. Sometimes strong, sometimes weak, but always there. Always constant. And as long as we hold to Christ, there’s always hope.

As I said, I follow your career closely. What comes next on Anna Kittrell’s wonderful journey of writing?

I always say my writing style is as eclectic (a nice word for mismatched) as my wardrobe. My collective work is a mixed bag of genres that include Christian futuristic romance, Christian YA, romantic suspense, poetry, short stories, and my new obsession—screenwriting. Over the past two years, I’ve penned four feature length screenplays in assorted genres, and have absolutely fallen in love with the process. In a screenplay, the writing is sparse and succinct, and the word count is much less than a novel. At this point in my life, screenwriting just makes sense. That’s not to say I’m stepping away from novel writing forever—just for a season. A genre-spanning dream of mine is to see The Commandment on the silver screen.

I’ll be following your career as I have for years. And,yes, The Commandment would be a great adaptation for a movie, a story to make the audience truly think about the cost of the loss of our ability to worship God as He intends for us all to do.

More about the Author, Anna Kittrell:

Anna works as a middle school secretary in her beloved hometown of Anadarko, Oklahoma, where she resides with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband, Tim. She has nine books in publication, including her new Christian futuristic thriller, The Commandment.

Anna has written for as long as she can remember. She still has most of her tattered creations—stories she used to sell on the playground for a dime, written on notebook paper. Her love of storytelling has grown throughout the years, and she is thrilled her tales are now worth more than ten cents.

Author Points of Contact:

As an author and in speaking with many authors, we love to have readers contact us on social media. If you want to learn more about Anna Kittrell and her awesome writing, be sure to visit the following: Anna’s website, appropriately entitled Anna Kittrell, her Facebook Author’s page, The Commandment Facebook page, Amazon Author Central, and Anna invites you to e-mail her. You can also take a look at Anna’s wonderful book trailer for The Commandment.

More about The Commandment:

Ten years ago, Briar’s body rejected a government mandated vaccine known as SAP (Serum to Advance Progressivism), formulated to erase God from the mind. Briar was seven years old. She’s been on house arrest ever since.

Now, just weeks from becoming a legal adult, Briar remains non-responsive to her mandatory SAP injections. Along with her rapidly approaching eighteenth birthday looms a grim reality: by order of the Commandment, adulthood means institutionalization for those resistant to SAP.

In a matter of days, Briar will become a permanent resident of the ARC—a facility shrouded in dark rumors of torture, experimentation, and death. Her only alternative is to accept a last minute ultimatum to become a laboratory test subject for a new God-dissolving serum.
With a decade of solitude behind her and a lifetime of confinement before her—what does she have to lose? Except maybe her soul.

The Commandment is available for pre-release this week, not only from Anna’s publisher, Pelican Book Group, it can also be purchased from other fine book retailers including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Anna’s newest novel will release this Friday, August 24.

If you missed Inner Source’s Monday interview of Anna’s heroine, Briar Lee, you can read it here, and on Friday (the release date for The Commandment), Anna shares a heartfelt blog about her journey in writing the story.

Meet Briar Grace Lee from Anna Kittrell’s The Commandment

Today’s guest on Inner Source is Briar Grace Lee from Anna Marie Kittrell’s latest novel, The Commandment.

Briar, it’s good to have you here today. Tell us a little about your life. Where are you from? What is life like in the time in which you live? What difficulties do you face?

Thank you for having me, I’m honored to be a guest on Inner Source. Your site is such a wonderful and informative resource for believers. However, just weeks ago, you would not have been allowed to host me on your blog without being harshly interrogated and likely, arrested. Although drastic changes have taken place in the U.S. since the fall of the OLG, in the back of my mind those old fears still linger. In fact, at this very moment, I find myself wondering how long it will take for this interview to be flagged and reported to authorities. Until recently, Operation Level Ground ran surveillance on every email, video stream, blog, social media site, text message, phone call, and all other means of electronic communication to ensure nothing Christian-oriented slipped past. The severity to which you would have been punished by sharing my story disturbs me even now, though the threat of Christian persecution no longer exists.

As you earlier stated, my name is Briar Grace Lee. The year is 2050, and I am currently eighteen years old. I am an only child, born and raised in Greenfield, Oklahoma. My middle name, Grace, is in honor of my grandmother, with whom I was extremely close. She lived with my family up until the time of her death, when I was seven. She died just three days before she was scheduled, by order of the Commandment, to receive the government-mandated vaccine known as SAP (Serum to Advance Progressivism) an injection formulated to erase God from the mind. I’m convinced she asked God to take her before that day arrived.

Immediately following the death of Granna Grace, I was placed under house arrest and ordered to wear an ankle monitor (or, shackle, as I preferred to call it) because my body rejected the SAP vaccine. Every six months from the age of seven to seventeen, I was forced to undergo another vaccination. My body resisted the serum each and every time. A few weeks before turning eighteen, my mother and I were informed that because of my body’s continual resistance to SAP, I would be institutionalized on my birthday. I would become a permanent resident of the ARC (Alternative Research Center), a facility shrouded in dark rumors of torture, experimentation, and death. My only alternative was to accept a last minute ultimatum to become a laboratory test subject for a new God-dissolving serum. And that’s where my real story begins.

Your story is a compelling one, a warning to those of us who live in a world where God’s Truth is being seen as the enemy, where God’s people are called self-righteous and our values are degraded. Your grandmother was a strong influence on your life, so I’m not going to ask what you would do. I’d like to know what your granny, who lived in this time, would tell us to do in order to prepare or to resist what would be coming our way.

In order to prepare for or resist against what is coming our way, Granna Grace would have first and foremost encouraged believers to read the Bible. Having spent her life in God’s word, she knew the day was quickly approaching when the Bible would be stripped from our hands and banned from our eyes. What she didn’t know, until shortly before her death, was that God’s sovereign word would also be erased from the minds of most of our country’s population. Nonetheless, Granna Grace had prepared me for this occurrence not only by teaching me to memorize scripture, but by sewing a miniature Bible into the small stuffed animal that hangs on my keychain. Who knows whether you have come here for such a time as this? This verse from Esther, chapter four, was one of Granna Grace’s favorites. I will always believe that my body’s resistance to SAP is a direct result of my grandmother’s prayers. She believed God places us where we are for a reason—and that all of our attributes are vital to His purpose. There are no accidents.

The one aspect of the story that I noted was that despite the world’s dislike for Christians, there were those who still believed in God. Yet there were individuals who had been a part of what your world required of them so that God would, in the world’s misdirected belief, cease to exist, but they were good and kind. In your world, what did that mean to you?

I believe that in this aspect, my future world of The Commandment and your current world are relatively the same. Despite the dislike and disrespect Christians (Unlevels, in my world) sometimes endure in society, believers continue to place their faith in God. Just as those resistant to SAP in my world, the believers in your world feel Christ in their spirits and experience His presence in their souls. How is it possible to deny a part of one’s own being? In The Commandment’s future world, the entire population is injected with a chemical that numbs the area of the brain that houses Christian beliefs. We who remain resistant to the vaccine know that we will endure experimentation and death. Even so, the “God Zones” in our brains light up like Christmas trees every time we think about Jesus. The belief can’t be shrugged away or brainwashed from existence—even if, on a superficial level, we wish it could be. It’s there to stay.

On the other side of the coin, are those who do not believe in Christ, but are still good people. Your world (and mine) is filled with unbelievers who sacrificially give to and provide for their fellow man—oftentimes out-serving those of us who are Christian. Thank God for these people. I can only imagine how much more they would bless and be blessed if influenced by the power of the Holy Spirit that comes through believing in the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

In The Commandment, as in today’s society, people have many “good reasons” for not believing in God. Lukas, the medical scientist I’ve been assigned to, leans upon science, the medical field, and his own intelligence as practical proof that God doesn’t exist. It is only through building a relationship with me, a believer, that Lukas is ultimately persuaded to seek a relationship with Christ. Witnessing my faith at work, watching as God directs my life and shapes my future, is a truth he can’t reason away. And just like in your world, when Lukas earnestly seeks Christ, he finds Him, and is able to experience not only the transformation of his own life, but aide in the transformation of countless other lives.

On the other hand, there were individuals who were, for lack of a different way to say it, gnashing their teeth and spitting at the face of God, angry and vengeful. Why do you think that is?

As in your society, many people in The Commandment resented any mention of the existence of God and—more specifically—the existence of sin. In my world, this resentment came from the detestation for being told what to do. Not only did society not want to be held accountable, they did not want accountability to exist. Period. I suspect these sources of resentment in relation to God are not so different in your world.

Briar, you are a strong heroine, but at times you shared with us that you felt weak. Then strength would return. Can you explain why that occurred?

I believe the times when I am strongest and most victorious, are the times I let go of myself and depend fully upon God. The moment I begin questioning my strength and abilities, fear and weakness set in. Acknowledging that God is strongest when I am weakest perplexes my mind. It is for that reason that I leave my mind—God Zones and all other zones—to God.

 More about The Commandment:

Ten years ago, Briar’s body rejected a government mandated vaccine known as SAP (Serum to Advance Progressivism), formulated to erase God from the mind. Briar was seven years old. She’s been on house arrest ever since.

Now, just weeks from becoming a legal adult, Briar remains non-responsive to her mandatory SAP injections. Along with her rapidly approaching eighteenth birthday looms a grim reality: by order of the Commandment, adulthood means institutionalization for those resistant to SAP.

In a matter of days, Briar will become a permanent resident of the ARC—a facility shrouded in dark rumors of torture, experimentation, and death. Her only alternative is to accept a last minute ultimatum to become a laboratory test subject for a new God-dissolving serum.
With a decade of solitude behind her and a lifetime of confinement before her—what does she have to lose? Except maybe her soul.

The Commandment is available for pre-release this week, not only from Anna’s publisher, Pelican Book Group, it can also be purchased from other fine book retailers including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Anna’s newest novel will release this Friday, August 24.

About the Author, Anna Kittrell:

Anna works as a middle school secretary in her beloved hometown of Anadarko, Oklahoma, where she resides with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband, Tim. She has nine books in publication, including her new Christian futuristic thriller, The Commandment.

Anna has written for as long as she can remember. She still has most of her tattered creations—stories she used to sell on the playground for a dime, written on notebook paper. Her love of storytelling has grown throughout the years, and she is thrilled her tales are now worth more than ten cents.

Author Points of Contact:

As an author and in speaking with many authors, we love to have readers contact us on social media. If you want to learn more about Anna Kittrell and her awesome writing, be sure to visit the following: Anna’s website, appropriately entitled Anna Kittrell, her Facebook Author’s pageThe Commandment Facebook page, Amazon Author Central, and Anna invites you to e-mail her. You can also take a look at Anna’s wonderful book trailer for The Commandment.

Be sure to join us here at Inner Source on Wednesday when we discuss Anna’s latest release with her, and on Friday (the release date for The Commandment), Anna shares a heartfelt blog about her journey in writing the story.

Author and Reader Connection

Up until the New Year, I was using a newsletter to connect with readers and writers each week, but that felt too intrusive. Yet, I had promised several great authors and wonderful readers that I would include them on a newsletter. What better way to start the New Year then meeting some refreshing authors and some wonderful readers?

WONDERFUL AUTHORS

MARJI LAINE CLUBINE:

Marji Laine Clubine is more than an author. She’s a publisher. She’s my publisher, and I’m her cohost, and so blessed that she asked me to join her each month on Down Publishing Laine. If you haven’t caught the show, be sure to mark your calendar and join us on the first Tuesday of every month.  I’m so delighted to get to introduce you to her (if you don’t know her already). Even though Marji and I haven’t met in person–or we did and don’t remember–we have had some misadventures over blog talk and on the phone. All of them fun.

Marji’s a former homeschooling mom who’s not looking forward to an empty nest. Thankfully, her final two graduates are gracing her with their presence for a little while longer. She loves family game night, hosting a weekly high-school/college Bible study, directing her church’s children’s choir, and singing harmony in the adult choir. When she’s not publishing others’ books or working on her own, she’s taking spontaneous road trips with her trusty camera and a couple of besties, or she’s scrapbooking or cover-making with a Hallmark movie on in the background. She love nanograms, Marvel movies, Hand and Foot, worship music, Tim Hawkins, “When Calls the Heart,” and “Live PD.” She prefer mountains to beaches, dogs to cats, winter to summer, and cookies to any other dessert. I have a passion for encouragement and spreading hope, and my goal is to show that through all of my stories.

Why Marji believes readers will enjoy her work:

I was editing my latest book, Ain’t Misbehaving a couple of days ago. I hadn’t read the manuscript in probably 2 or 3 years and was reduced to tears at least 4 times. The take-the-glasses-off and find-a-tissue type of tears. The characters in my stories are raw, broken, and struggling to follow the Lord just like I am. Just like most readers are. I swear they are real. In fact, the building where I situated CJ Whelen – my hero in Ain’t Misbehaving – is in downtown Dallas in the Arts District. And every time I drive past it on the freeway, I can’t help but glance up to the 18th floor, northwest corner balcony. One of these days, I’m just sure I’ll see him standing up there.

JAMES CRESSLER:

I’ve connected with and stayed connected with many authors I’ve met at conferences. James and I have been in contact for three or four years. I was intrigued by Jim’s Diary of an Oak Tree, a unique story for children, which is also a learning tool. James is multi-faceted in his writing.

James is a 2012 graduate of Valencia College. He lives in Orlando with his wife, Julia. His twenty years of Army service in the Cold War and Desert Storm gives Jim some of his writing inspiration. He is currently writing Demimonde, a fantasy fiction about a mysterious entity that traps and enslaves people in its half-world where reality, insanity, and addiction reign. Ben Astray escapes from Baser’s corner bars and Shantytown vices to Ism Harbor and boards a Treatment Ship to Sobriety Island. Will he die at sea, find truth and recover or is it all madness?

Why James believes readers will enjoy his work:

Diary of an Oak Tree is illustrated and LifeRich did a perfect job on the cover and pagination. But more importantly, like all of my work, it’s different. The reader gets to live the life of Notch, the governor squirrel, Dagger the cat, or the wayseer raccoon, Sage. They time travel to post-Edenic Earth. They learn a new language. They escape our world and live in another where everything is possible, even animated mother oak trees.

I write to create a legacy, something that will endure the test of time.

SHARON K. CONNELL

Sharon K. Connell was born in Wisconsin and lived there for five short days. From that time through college, she lived in Illinois. For over twenty years, Sharon made her home in Florida where she graduated from the Pensacola Bible Institute. She has also lived in California, Ohio, and Missouri. Now retired from the business world, she resides in Houston, Texas, enjoying every minute of her writing career.

Except for six, Sharon has visited every state in the United States. She has also travelled to Canada and Mexico. The stories in her four published novels reflect some of the experiences she has had in her travels. Sharon writes stories about people who discover God will allow things to happen in your life that will help you grow and/or increase your faith. Her genre is Christian/Romance/Suspense, with a little mystery and humor added for good measure.

Why Sharon believes readers will enjoy her work:

Readers love to read my books because the stories are written in a way that draws the reader into the lives of the characters. My characters have flaws just like real people, and struggle to find answers, just like real people do.

The style of writing I have adopted helps the reader to feel the emotions of the characters. I also include twists and turns which makes the story suspenseful and adds an element of mystery. But of course, I always have moments of humor, because laughter is good for the soul.

JUNE FOSTER

June is a good friend of mine. We have gone on a few adventures, some planned and some accidental, but all of them fun. We met when I fell in love with her hero in Ryan’s Father, and our friendship grew from there. I love June Foster’s quirky characters and plots.

An award-winning author, June Foster is a retired teacher with a BA in education and MA in counseling. June has written four novels for Desert Breeze Publishing. The Bellewood Series, Give Us This DayAs We Forgive, and Deliver Us, and Hometown Fourth of July. Since then she’s also written Ryan’s Father, Red and the Wolf, a modern day retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, The Almond Tree Series: For All EternityEchoes From the PastWhat God Knew and Almond Street Mission. Also available is Lavender Fields InnChristmas at Raccoon CreekRestoration of the HeartLetting Go, and Prescription for Romance. Find all June’s books at Amazon.com. June enjoys writing stories about characters who overcome the circumstances in their lives by the power of God and His Word. Find June online at junefoster.com.

Why June believes readers will enjoy her work:

Great question. First I need to think about my target audience—people who might read my books. If I’m correct, women between eighteen and ninety read my work. Many are Christians, some are seeking the Lord, and others are working through spiritual issues in their lives. I believe they will like my work because they can identify with the struggles, the aspirations, the joys, the blessings, and changes God is making in their hearts. My characters deal with anger, obesity, low self esteem, abortion, loss, and even homosexuality, not to mention some who just enjoy life. And finally, others will enjoy my work because they will read a great story that keeps them engaged.

LINDA MARAN

I met Linda Maran through acquisitions, and fell in love with her style. Linda began writing poetry as a teenager and then turned to food and self-help article writing in her adult years. Now, in her sixties, she is blessed to have her first novel published, which has been her goal for many years.  She enjoys reading, writing, research, painting, music, playing drums, painting, walking, contemplative prayer, and sampling new eateries. Her personal experiences, both good and challenging, have become material for stories. This helps her to write about what she knows best, which lends authenticity to her platform. She has been married for thirty-eight years, is a practicing Catholic, and has been surrounded by musicians most of her life. She resides in both city and country settings.

Why Linda believes readers will enjoy her work?

I think readers will enjoy the book because it seems that at one time or another in our lives, we long to be part of something. We want to fit in. For some of us this happens as children or as teens, and for others at various times in our lives. When we get a new job. Join a new church. Meet our future in-laws. A part of being human, for me, is to know I am loved and belong to specific people. Be they my spouse, family or good friends. The heroine in the novel, Kristen, is trying to find herself and see where she fits in while experiencing the new sense of family and people who rally around her. I think we all want that, and for those of us who do not always have it, it encourages us to not lose hope. God provides for all of us in His own time and sometimes in the most unexpected ways.

SHIRLEY CROWDER

Born in Nigeria, West Africa, where her parents served as missionaries, Shirley is passionate about disciple-making, which is manifested through a myriad of ministry opportunities that include biblical counseling, teaching Bible studies, speaking at conferences, writing, co-hosting a radio/TV program for women, and serving on the national advisory team for The Addiction Connection. Three published books and two soon-to-be released devotionals were contributed to, authored, or co-authored by Shirley. She has written a newspaper, Student Life, Seek Magazine, and Woman’s Missionary Union. Shirley has spiritual children and grandchildren serving the Lord in various ways throughout the world.

Why Shirley believes readers will enjoy her work:

Writers are busy people who usually have a gazillion projects in the works a the same time. These three devotionals examine what the Bible says through explanation and personal stories that the Holy Spirit can use to ignite or deepen the readers passion to now Him better. “Hope for New Beginnings” adds in-depth challenges to the reader as he or she interacts with the biblical principles and develop concrete steps for spiritual growth. The “Study Guide on Prayer: It’s Not About You by Harriet E. Michael” guides you, as you read a chapter in Harriet’s book, to delve deeper into the teachings, principles, and/or practices from each chapter.

Why Shirley’s publisher, Write Integrity Press, loves her work:

Shirley’s Bible study guide allows readers to go even deeper as they are studying Prayer: It’s Not About You. Her devotions include personal stories, some heartwarming and others full of humor. She writes encouragement and comfort for Christ-followers. And in all of her writings, she persuades the reader to draw closer to God.

AWESOME READERS

While we know that all authors should be readers, not all readers are authors. However, where would an author be without someone to read their work? Here are a few readers, I’ve asked the same questions to–purposefully. I wanted to see the variety of answers and introduce authors to the audiences for their chosen genres.

TINA BOYER

I met Tina online through our mutual friendship with author, Linda Maran, and she gladly accepted my invitation to answer these questions.

In what state or region do you reside?

I live in Arizona.

Besides reading, what is of major interest to you?

I am also interested in Film and Digital media/graphic design.

What is your favorite genre, and why?

Favorite genre is Inspiration Romance, which includes both historical and modern equally. I am a sucker for a good romance, but I prefer a “clean” and non-graphic romance, which is why I am drawn to the Inspirational Romances.

What is the book that you consider your all-time favorite?

All-Time favorite would be Christy by Catherine Marshall.

What book are you reading right now?

I am currently reading Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter.

MARJI LAINE CLUBINE

Marji’s back–this time as a reader, but she’s also a publisher, so authors might want to take note.

In what state or region do you reside?

I live in North Dallas. I group up in the suburbs on the east side and have lived in Northeast Texas (including college years) since I was 2 years old.

Besides reading, what is of major interest to you?

My major interest is publishing other authors’ books – I really love my job. But I also love leading our high school/college Bible study and directing our church’s children’s choir. Oh, and family game night – LOVE family game night!

What is your favorite genre, and why?

Romantic suspense and romantic mystery have always been my favorites. Phyllis A. Whitney, Mignon Eberhart, Agatha Christie, and Trixie Belden Mysteries when I was growing up. Now that I’m older, I enjoy Dana Mentink, Lynette Eason, Dani Pettrey, Kristen Hogrefe, Elizabeth Noyes, and Fay Lamb! 🙂

What is the book that you consider your all-time favorite?

I couldn’t possibly narrow it down to one. I love the story of Pride and Prejudice, though I confess I only read half of the book. I’ve only read a handful of books more than once – most of them children’s chapter books when I did read-alouds as a teacher. I think my current favorite, though is the Rogue series by Kristen Hogrefe – masterfully written and full of action, mystery, and suspense – and romance. Yep. Gotta have some romance in it!

What book are you reading right now?

Another confession, now that my new job requires so much reading (editing) I seldom read for enjoyment. I find I’m correcting too much. But I do listen to books on Audible. I just finished Eason’s Elite Guardian series and am now listening to Joanne Fluke’s Hanna Swensen mysteries. I love the Hallmark movies based on these books and having fun with more of the stories.

ELIZABETH “BETTY” NOYES

Elizabeth “Betty” Noyes and I met as critique partners and we have become fast friends. I have been privileged to listen to her provide in-person critique, and I have been blessed to have her critique my work. I know she reads with a different eye, and I’m excited for you to meet her as a reader.

In what state or region do you reside?

Atlanta, Georgia.

Besides reading, what is of major interest to you?

Bible studies, Travel, Crocheting, Baking, Grandkids

What is your favorite genre, and why?

Favorite genre to read is sci fi; to write is romantic suspense.

What is the book that you consider your all-time favorite?

Gone With The Wind followed closely by The Stand.

What book are you reading right now?

The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn

SARAH BLANCHARD

Sarah is one of my favorite persons in the world. We met when were very young teenagers. She and her brother lived next to my grandmother’s “vacation” home on Merritt Island, and we spent a lot of time on the river and in Sarah’s house. Sarah’s beautiful mother, Nancy, was the one who encouraged me to keep writing all those years ago. We reunited for a sad day last year, but we’ve stayed in contact since, and I was very interested in getting Sarah’s answers to these questions.

In what state or region do you reside?

Tampa Bay, Florida

Besides reading, what is of major interest to you?

Florida’s environmental preservation, Christianity, and studying piano

What is your favorite genre and why?

Murder mysteries. I love to hide under the covers and lock all the doors and windows.

What is the book that you consider your all-time favorite?

Hiroshima, John Hersey.  A tough read and life-changing reading experience.

What book(s) are you reading now?

Dawn of The Belle EpochThe Paris of MonetZolaEiffelDebussyClemenceau, and Their Friends By Mary McAuliffe.

FAY LAMB:

Fay Lamb writes emotionally charged stories with a Romans 8:28 attitude, reminding readers that God is always in the details. Fay donates 100% of her royalties to Christian charities.

Storms in Serenity is the first book in Fay’s Serenity Key series, which will release in March of this year. Fay’s other series include, Amazing Grace and her novels, Stalking Willow, Better than RevengeEverybody’s Brokenand Frozen Notes. The Ties that Bind Series includes Charisse, Libby, and Hope. Delilah, is coming soon.

Fay’s is also the author of The Art of Characterization: How to Use the Elements of Storytelling to Connect Readers to an Unforgettable Cast.

Why do I believe readers will enjoy my work?

When I sit down to write, I don’t plan on writing a book. I plan on creating a world inside of my readers’ imaginations where they can escape and unwind. I imagine my characters on stage, that I’m a part of the cast, and I’m in the midst of the story with them. In that way, I am sure that my readers will be in the story as well and not simply watching the stage from the audience.

A special thank you to all who took part in the spotlights.

I’m praying that reader and authors alike will have a very Blessed and Happy New Year!

And that pesky newsletter? I think I’ll bring it back in another format pretty soon. For now, here’s a little bit about me:

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Linda Maran, Author of The Stranger

Today’s guest is Linda Maran, the author of The Stranger. Linda began writing poetry as a teenager and then turned to food and self-help article writing in her adult years. Now, in her sixties, she is blessed to have her first novel published, which has been her goal for many years. She enjoys reading, writing, research, painting, music, playing drums, walking, contemplative prayer, and sampling new eateries. Her personal experiences, both good and challenging, have become material for stories. This helps her to write about what she knows best, which lends authenticity to her platform. She has been married for thirty-eight years, is a practicing Catholic, and has been surrounded by musicians most of her life. She resides in both city and country settings. Wherever Linda is residing, you can find her on Facebook, on Twitter, on her blog, and you can learn more about her debut novel here.

Thank you for being with us, Linda. I’m excited for your brand-new release, a unique Amish story that I’ve seen described as “bonnet” fiction with a suspenseful twist. We discussed the story with your heroine, Kristen Esh, earlier this week, but I’m anxious to hear how you came to write The Stranger.

I have wondered the same thing, until I went back and reviewed my childhood and teen years. I grew up as an only child and the others who were my age on our block had siblings. I loved going over to my friend’s house two doors down to be in a lively household, especially during holidays. I enjoyed having a friend as added company to come over and eat dinner with us. One time my parents allowed a friend to come on vacation with us so I had a companion my own age. I suppose there’d been a sense of loneliness that I can relate to in my main character. It amazes me how it comes forth in the writing.

Kristen’s story is one of a modern-day teen, almost a woman, who is unfamiliar with the ways of the Amish, yet she finds herself living among them. If you were to find yourself in the same situation as Kristen, how do you think you would do?

I am a creature of habit, and the thought of moving away from friends and relatives seems unthinkable. One of my critique partners said that Kristen’s panic upon arriving at the home of her Amish relatives comes forth loud and clear. That must be my own feeling about it coming through.

There is a subtle message in the story concerning appearances and truth and how misunderstandings can separate people from the ones they love. In the Amish setting it is a plot that shines brightly. When I write, sometimes the message or the theme finds me, so I’m very interested in how you may have discovered the theme that fits so well into the story.

Throughout my life I have tried to be ‘me’ in not only how I behave but in how I present myself. Many times, especially before I knew who I was on the inside fully, I’d worn various “masks.” I had many pairs of high heels never worn, flashy jewelry, and other outer adornments that were purchased to impress or to fit in. I never gravitated toward makeup. I guess I was more of a “Plain Jane” and a sweat shirt and jeans kind of gal. So, I loved going where the artsy folks lived because our tastes are similar. I came to know where I fit. It’s a good feeling when you find it and I wanted Kristen to find her ‘fit’ as well. And in my experience, that can only start on the inside, then it just all falls into place.

I smiled when I saw you mention “Plain Jane.” I have to admit it takes an Amish story with a good twist like The Stranger, to get my attention in the genre. One of my other favorite Amish stories is entitled Plain Jayne.

You write so well about the Amish life that I had to ask Kristen these same questions. Today, I’d like to know what things in the Amish life that you would have trouble with accepting, and what would you embrace?

I have trouble with their lack of affection both in public and within the home. Being Italian, we hug and kiss our greetings and older women tend to take your arm when walking. Children are very openly affectionate. I would not do well in a household with an outhouse. I’d have to come up with something to avoid that issue, sort of like Kristen’s under-the-bed chamber pot.

I respect their work ethic and how they help one another in times of trouble with repairing homes, caring for farms and erecting barns. And as a woman, there’d never be a problem with deciding what to wear!

Are you working on a new project, and if so, what can we look forward to seeing from you next?

I am currently editing two novels. One is a contemporary inspirational romance about the world of entertainment and the struggles within such an environment in maintaining a relationship and Christian values. The other is an Amish suspense novel that takes place in the same area as my first novel.

Well, I’m hoping to get the chance to read those novels. Please keep us advised. We’d love to have you visit us again on Inner Source.

More About The Stranger:

When Kristen Esh loses her mom in a tragic accident months before her eighteenth birthday, she suddenly finds herself among Amish relatives she never knew she had. The dramatic change from the Jersey Shore to the remote Stone Arabia in upstate New York is difficult enough, but abiding by the Amish rules and lifestyle is a challenge unlike any other.

When anonymous notes begin to arrive for her to go back to where she came from, Kristen longs for her past life and her mom. As she discovers secrets that unravel her true identity, she finds an unlikely ally in John Wagler, the step-son of her aunt. He lessens Kristen’s fears and encourages her faith.

Interwoven with gradual revelations is the growing love between Kristen and John. One that encourages forgiveness and helps seal Kristen’s fate.