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Genesis of a Story by Marie Wells Coutu

Marie Coutu headshot smallestToday’s guest blog comes from Marie Coutu Wells, who began telling stories soon after she learned to talk. At age seven, Marie convinced neighborhood kids to perform a play she had written. She wrote her first book, “I Came from Venus,” in eighth grade, but studied journalism in college. After a career writing for newspapers, magazines, governments, and nonprofits, she returned to her first love—writing fiction—at the age of fifty-five. For Such a Moment, winner of the Books of Hope contest, is her debut novel. Recently retired from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, she and her husband now divide their time between Florida and Iowa, where they can be closer to their two children and three (soon to be four) grandchildren.

You can connect with Marie on Facebook, Twitter, the Mended Vessels website, and at Mariewellscoutu.com.

Today, Marie shares with us the Genesis of a Story.

The character of Ellen Neilson first came to me as a little girl, as she boarded an airplane for the first time. The scene was vivid as I imagined how it felt to be leaving the only home she had ever known to go to a country where she knew no one and could not even speak or understand the language.

And yet, the place she was leaving held much pain and sorrow for her. Her mother had died months earlier, she had been ridiculed and abused, and she had little food and no roof over her head. She was glad to be leaving and never wanted to return.

Why this little girl invaded my dreams and my waking hours, I will never know. I have not experienced anything like she did, and I don’t personally know anyone who has. But when I began to plot the story of Esther in a modern-day setting, this is how her childhood secrets developed in my mind.

It is almost impossible for a fiction writer to identify exactly how story ideas come or the origins of their characters. We can define how we research settings, study personality types, and plot a novel. And we may remember, as I do with Ellen, the first “visit” from a character. But the “why” often remains elusive.

And yet, I do know why I wanted to write the Mended Vessels series, beginning with the story of Esther. Too often, biblical characters are considered to be vibrant, flawless people or, at least, flawless after God got hold of them. That makes it difficult for imperfect people like us to relate to them. And yet, the Bible shows us their failures, both before and after God changed them. (Remember King David and Simon Peter.)

I know many people who, like Ellen, are ashamed of their pasts. In some cases, they are unashamed and continue to make the same poor choices. They do not know or care that God loves them anyway. The Mended Vessels series attempts to show people just like them who God touches, repairs, and makes useful in His kingdom.

And I think that is why ten-year-old Ellen wanted me to tell her story.

For Such a Moment FRONT COVER FINALAbout For Such a Moment:

“If I don’t do this … I might as well perish.”

Revealing her secret could save lives…or change hers forever. In this book that re-imagines the story of Queen Esther in a contemporary setting, Ellen Neilson enjoys her comfortable life as the wife of an American CEO. Having lived in America since the age of ten, she has forsaken her mixed heritage and kept aspects of her childhood secret. Her husband has become engrossed in his job, and she believes having a child will salvage their troubled marriage.

When her cousin Manuel, whom she hasn’t seen for twenty years, shows up as one of her husband’s managers, Ellen fears that her past will be revealed.  The company buys a banana plantation in her home country of Guatemala, and Manuel informs her that illegal pesticides have poisoned the water. People are dying, but she doesn’t know who’s to blame for the cover-up.

If you missed Monday’s Interview with Marie’s heroine, Ellen Nielson, click here.

If you missed Wednesday’s Interview with Marie, click here.

Author Interview: Marie Wells Contu, Author of For Such a Moment

Marie Coutu headshot smallestToday, meet Marie Wells Contu, the author of For Such a Moment. Marie began telling stories soon after she learned to talk. At age seven, she convinced neighborhood kids to perform a play she had written. She wrote her first book, “I Came from Venus,” in eighth grade, but studied journalism in college. After a career writing for newspapers, magazines, governments, and nonprofits, she returned to her first love—writing fiction—at the age of fifty-five. For Such a Moment, winner of the Books of Hope contest, is her debut novel. Recently retired from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, she and her husband now divide their time between Florida and Iowa, where they can be closer to their two children and three (soon to be four) grandchildren.

You can connect with Marie on FacebookTwitter, the Mended Vessels website, and at Mariewellscoutu.com.

Readers are always interested in knowing how an author develops his or her characters or the conflict an author designs for those characters. You bring a modern-day twist to the story of Esther. Would you mind sharing with us, just how you developed the idea and the conflict in For Such a Moment?

I’ve always loved the story of Esther, and often thought about how her life and the risks she took would pertain to my own life. I wanted to try writing a novel, and it seemed like giving her story a contemporary setting would be interesting and might help other women relate her courage to their own situations. I followed the basic plot and conflicts from the biblical story as closely as I could for our modern-day world. I didn’t make the main character the wife of the president of a country because I wanted her to be in a situation that would be closer to “average”—not that being married to a CEO is average, but at least it seemed more typical than being the First Lady!

Good thinking! I don’t think she would have been as relatable as someone in the political sphere. I love the contrast in the two major locations where your character lived. Guatemala is a long way from Minnesota in distance and weather. Is there a reason you chose both of these areas for the story? Do they relate to the story of Esther in any way?

That’s easy. They really don’t relate to the story of Esther. But we lived in Minnesota for 25 years, near the Twin Cities, and I worked in downtown Minneapolis for about five years. I knew there were lots of interesting locations around the city for the various scenes that would be needed for the book. When I first began to plot the book, I was searching for an issue that would challenge my character much as Esther was challenged. I heard someone speak who had been on missions trips to Guatemala, and she talked about the illnesses suffered by people who had worked on banana plantations and been exposed to harmful chemicals. That seemed like the situation I needed! (By the way, the chemical I mention in the book does not exist—I made it up after doing a lot of research and deciding against using a real one, mostly due to potential liability.)

I can see why you did that. In For Such a Moment is there a key scripture or biblical concept that you explore? If so, what scripture or concept do you hope to bring to the light to help readers who may have suffered much the same as your hero and heroine?

There are so many scriptures that are key to this story, starting with Esther 4:14, which is the basis for the book title, and, of course, John 3:16. But I think the one that is the greatest comfort to Ellen, and can be anytime we go through suffering, is Isaiah 43:2: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.” God wants us to know that He never abandons us and is right there beside us, no matter what we are going through. He loved us so much that He even allowed His son to suffer indescribably. Because of that, we can be assured that He knows the pain we are going through and He will bring us through it if we put our faith in Him.

What advice would you give to an individual who is dealing head-on with a situation that God has placed her in for just such a moment?

Trust God. Remember that we are not called to solve the problems of the world, but we are called to do what we can. That’s what I love about Esther—she used what God had given her, she did what she could, and she left the outcome to God.

And now, I’d love to know if you have any other projects in the works, and if so, what are they?

Yes, there are two more books in the Mended Vessels series. They’re not sequels to For Such a Moment, although lots of people have asked for a sequel! But like this book, they take a biblical woman and re-imagine her story in today’s world. The next is based on the Samaritan woman at the well and takes place in Charleston, SC. The third book will be based on Bathsheba and is set in Nashville. We are given less detail in the Bible about these two women, so telling their stories stretches my imagination even more!

And I’ll be waiting to read those stories, Marie. You do such a wonderful job bringing the Scripture alive in a modern setting. Thank you for visiting with us, and I’m hoping you’ll come back and tell us more when the other novels are released.

For Such a Moment FRONT COVER FINALAbout For Such a Moment:

“If I don’t do this … I might as well perish.”

Revealing her secret could save lives…or change hers forever. In this book that re-imagines the story of Queen Esther in a contemporary setting, Ellen Neilson enjoys her comfortable life as the wife of an American CEO. Having lived in America since the age of ten, she has forsaken her mixed heritage and kept aspects of her childhood secret. Her husband has become engrossed in his job, and she believes having a child will salvage their troubled marriage.

When her cousin Manuel, whom she hasn’t seen for twenty years, shows up as one of her husband’s managers, Ellen fears that her past will be revealed.  The company buys a banana plantation in her home country of Guatemala, and Manuel informs her that illegal pesticides have poisoned the water. People are dying, but she doesn’t know who’s to blame for the cover-up.

If you missed Monday’s Interview with Marie’s heroine, Ellen Nielson, click here.

Character Interview: Ellen Nielson from For Such a Moment by Marie Wells Contu

For Such a Moment FRONT COVER FINALToday’s special guest is Ellen Nielson from For Such a Moment by Marie Wells Contu. I recently read Marie’s novel, For Such a Moment because I love novels that are a modern-day retelling of Biblical history. Marie’s novel did not disappoint. So, let’s meet Marie’s heroine:

Ellen, please tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? What do you do?

I am no longer ashamed to admit that I was born in Guatemala. My mother was Mayan and my father was an American. From the time I was ten, I lived in Kentucky, but my home now is Minnesota. I am an artist, and my real love is teaching art to elementary school children in an after-school program. When I see a child take joy in creating something beautiful, it brings joy to my heart.

Your story is a modern-day retelling of the story of one of my favorite Biblical persons: Esther. Would you mind telling us a little about why you brought this story to your author?

At first, it was difficult for me to talk about my story, but once I understood God’s great love for me, I wanted to share my experience. My author seemed to understand what I had been through and, like me, she wants others to realize how God can use someone regardless of her past.

I feel as if you wore a mask for so many years, and the reason you wore that mask was poignant to me, the reader. Why do you believe it was easier to hide behind the mask than to accept who you were?

When I was growing up, I believed there was something more to life, a better way to live than what I had experienced as a young child. When I was given the opportunity to come to the U.S., I made the decision to have a different life, to grow up to be somebody different. To do that, I had to forget–or at least  keep secret–what I had been through and who I really was. The more I lived that “other” life, the harder it became to admit the truth about my past, even to myself.

For Such a Moment doesn’t just focus on one character’s moment in time. As the heroine, of course, the story is yours, but how do you feel God used others to bring about the results that He orchestrated?

Oh, there’s no question in my mind but that God used many other people in my life. My father and stepmother, of course, accepted me in spite of the circumstances of my birth. My friend Diane stuck by me even when she knew I was pretending to be somebody that I wasn’t. And of course, God used my cousin Manuel and my friend Salvador to help me realize that God loves me and accepts me in spite of my past and my pretenses. But during the time period of the book, He used my husband Erik, Manuel, and even Warren–against his will–to accomplish what needed to be done.

I know that Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” When God says, “all things” I believe He means even the bad things that happen to us. You were born into circumstances that were far from ideal. How do you feel God used those circumstances to help you fulfill that moment in your life?

God used my difficulties, my struggles, and even my mistakes to bring me to the point of recognizing and admitting my need for Him. And when I faced the decision whether to risk everything important to me, I could relate to those people who were suffering. I knew that I had to do whatever I could to help them, and that I could trust God to work out the situation according to His will.

Lastly, is there scripture or a biblical concept that you lean upon to help you through the tough decisions you had to make in your story?

Most often, I think of the verse in the Book of Esther that is the basis for the title of the book. “Who knows? Maybe it was for a moment like this…” It makes me realize that every moment presents an opportunity to glorify Jesus. Whether it’s difficult decisions like I had to make in the story, or the daily choices of how I spend my time or my money, I want my life to be in line with God’s will.

About For Such a Moment:

“If I don’t do this … I might as well perish.”

Revealing her secret could save lives…or change hers forever. In this book that re-imagines the story of Queen Esther in a contemporary setting, Ellen Neilson enjoys her comfortable life as the wife of an American CEO. Having lived in America since the age of ten, she has forsaken her mixed heritage and kept aspects of her childhood secret. Her husband has become engrossed in his job, and she believes having a child will salvage their troubled marriage.

When her cousin Manuel, whom she hasn’t seen for twenty years, shows up as one of her husband’s managers, Ellen fears that her past will be revealed.  The company buys a banana plantation in her home country of Guatemala, and Manuel informs her that illegal pesticides have poisoned the water. People are dying, but she doesn’t know who’s to blame for the cover-up.

Marie Coutu headshot smallestAbout the author:

Marie Wells Coutu began telling stories soon after she learned to talk. At age seven, she convinced neighborhood kids to perform a play she had written. She wrote her first book, “I Came from Venus,” in eighth grade, but studied journalism in college. After a career writing for newspapers, magazines, governments, and nonprofits, she returned to her first love—writing fiction—at the age of fifty-five. For Such a Moment, winner of the Books of Hope contest, is her debut novel. Recently retired from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, she and her husband now divide their time between Florida and Iowa, where they can be closer to their two children and three (soon to be four) grandchildren.

You can connect with Marie on FacebookTwitter, the Mended Vessels website, and at Mariewellscoutu.com.

Mining Memories for Inspiration by Ann H. Gabhart

Ann Gabhart 2Today’s guest is Ann H. Gabhart, the author of several bestselling novels, has been called a storyteller, not a bad thing for somebody who never wanted to do anything but write down stories. She’s published twenty-six novels for adults and young adults with more stories on the way. She keeps her keyboard warm out on a farm in Kentucky where she lives with her husband, Darrell. They have three children, three in-law children, and nine grandchildren. To find out more about Ann or her books visit www.annhgabhart.com. Check out her blog, One Writer’s Journal, or follow her on Facebook,  Twitter,  or Pinterest.

My Heart of Hollyhill stories are very special books for me. That’s partly because I love those characters. I liked getting into Jocie’s head and letting her tell a lot of the story from her adolescent point of view. I loved the mystery of Wes that he hid behind his Jupiter stories. I had no idea who Wes was or why he had shown up in my story when he suddenly appeared in my head. I hadn’t expected him, but then that Jupiter spaceship hit an air bump and the magnetic seal failed and Wes fell out and ended up in Hollyhill. At least, that’s how he explained his presence in Hollyhill to a young Jocie and to a writer who had to delve into his background a little at a time. That’s the way it was with the whole story.

You see, when I wrote the first Hollyhill book, Scent of Lilacs, I was going through a time of writing despair as nothing I’d written had sold for over five years. I wrote book after book and collected reject after reject. So I told myself I’d write this one more book. I’d remember how it was in the Sixties and I’d bring a cast of characters to life in Small Town, America. When I began writing I had the setting. I had the main character, a young girl named Jocie whose father was a newspaper editor along with being a preacher. But he has a problem. His wife divorced him. That meant no church would hire him to lead them. That’s how it was in the 1960s in my part of the country. A man who couldn’t keep his personal family together couldn’t be depended on to lead a church family.

My beginning plot question was “What if I have a young girl whose father is a preacher and whose mother deserted her years before?” More what ifs followed as I wrote the story. Questions from the past that Jocie needed answered. Some questions she didn’t even know to ask. Questions that when they were answered might change her life forever. That first story came out well. My characters leaped to life in my imagination. The small town atmosphere seemed right, and the book found a loving editor at Revell Books. I was ecstatic.

I didn’t have to stay in Hollyhill for my next book, but I wasn’t ready to give up my characters. They had more stories to tell. More secrets to reveal. And I had an editor willing to go back to Hollyhill for another story. For the first time in my writing career I had a contract for a story not yet written. For the previous fourteen books I’d published, I wrote the story and then tried to find a publisher. Now I had a deadline and the promise of publication if I could come up with an acceptable story.

That meant it was time to think about what next. Those family secrets had been revealed and dealt with in Scent of Lilacs, but I needed conflict to build a new story around. I found that conflict when I let the fight for Civil Rights come to Hollyhill. Sometimes it’s hard to fully understand the need for Civil Rights unless we experience prejudice first hand. In Orchard of Hope, I let that be especially true for Jocie whose schools were being integrated for the first time. She knew black kids went out of town to high school but she’d never thought about why. It was just the way it had always been. She’d never realized blacks couldn’t sit at the soda counter at the Grill or go in the front door at the Courthouse or attend whichever church they wanted. But then the Hearndons move to Holly County and she meets Noah whose mother has been riding the Freedom Train.

So with all that in mind, I pulled up my memories of that era. I remembered my high school being integrated. I remembered the Ku Klux Klan marching in my town’s Christmas parade and how very wrong that felt. I remembered people talking about crosses burned in yards. I did my best to look at those memories through the eyes of my characters and then sift them into my Hollyhill story. I think that made the conflict real and helped give the story extra reading interest.

Writing about my cast of small town characters has been a great experience for me. My Hollyhill people became family in my imagination and I wanted things to turn out well for them. Orchard of Hope has been the story that has brought the most tears to this writer’s eyes. Every time I read the revival scene toward the end of the book, I had to reach for the tissues. It is my hope that the story moves readers in the same way.

Watch for the third Heart of Hollyhill book, Summer of Joy, to be released with a new cover in March. And yes, I had to go mining those Sixties memories and hunting new conflicts for that story too.

Orchard of HopeAbout Orchard of Hope:

It is 1964, and fourteen-year-old Jocie Brooke is about to have an unforgettable summer. Her father has found a new love, her hippie sister is about to have a baby, and her aunt is finally pleasurable to live with. But, when a black family from Chicago moves into the quiet hamlet of Holly County, Kentucky, Jocie finds herself befriending a boy that some townspeople shun. Due to the unspoken racial lines in this southern town, the presence of these newcomers sparks a smoldering fire of unrest that will change Holly County–and Jocie–forever.

Orchard of Hope, the riveting sequel to The Scent of Lilacs, takes readers along to experience unexpected love, fear, forgiveness, new life, and a deeper understanding of the value of each individual’s story.

Scent of LilacsAbout Scent of Lilacs:

Jocie Brooke has never wanted for love, despite the fact that she hardly remembers her mother. Jocie’s father, preacher David Brooke, has done his best to be both father and mother to his daughter. Even Jocie’s spinster Great-aunt Love, who’s slowly going senile, cares for Jocie in her own stern way. But in their small town of Hollyhill, Kentucky, painful secrets lie just beneath the surface, and inquisitive spirits discover surprising truths. There’s a reason why Aunt Love hides behind black dresses and a stoic countenance. And David takes his morning walks not just for quiet solitude, but to wrestle with the past.

Full of stories of lost loves and the trials of small-town living, this heartwarming novel explores the journey of faith and family.

Summer of Joy 9780800731700About Summer of Joy (Re-releasing soon):

The summer of 1964 certainly was eventful, but it’s nothing compared to what’s coming to the Brooke family and to Hollyhill, Kentucky. David finally gets up the nerve to pop the question to Leigh and wedding plans are in the making. But the past is coming to call on many in Hollyhill, threatening to destroy the relationships that everyone thought were so strong. Two people–one David thought was gone for good and the other no one’s ever heard of–are making their way to the small town and promise trouble.

This complex and well-written story is the perfect conclusion to the Hollyhill story. With true-to-life family drama, refreshing humor, and lovable characters, Summer of Joy will delight readers.

Ann is giving away a copy of Orchard of Hope.  Ann will be busy here this week with her interview on Wednesday and a guest post on Friday. To be registered for your chance to win a copy of this absolutely wonderful novel, be sure to leave a comment for each of the posts. Those who have commented on all three posts will be registered, and a winner will be drawn on Friday evening and the winner notified by e-mail (so be sure to leave that with your comment.

If you missed Monday’s interview with David Brooke, click here.

If you missed Wednesday’s interview with Ann,click here.

Author Interview: Ann H. Gabhart, Author of Orchard of Hope

Ann Gabhart 2Today’s guest is Ann H. Gabhart, the author of several bestselling novels, has been called a storyteller, not a bad thing for somebody who never wanted to do anything but write down stories. She’s published twenty-six novels for adults and young adults with more stories on the way. She keeps her keyboard warm out on a farm in Kentucky where she lives with her husband, Darrell. They have three children, three in-law children, and nine grandchildren. To find out more about Ann or her books visit www.annhgabhart.com. Check out her blog, One Writer’s Journal, or follow her on Facebook,  Twitter,  or Pinterest.

First of all, Ann, I want to tell you that I love the way you handled this story. The writing struck me as laid back, but the issues were anything but, and the contrast is what made the story so powerful for me. Readers are always interested in knowing how an author develops his or her characters or the conflict an author designs for those characters. I want to know if, at a young age, you experienced some of the history that brings about the conflicts you write about in Orchard of Hope.

Thank you, Fay. I appreciate your kind words about the story. As a young teen, I think I was a little like Jocie, only more so, in that I had no idea about the reality of racial prejudices and the need for Civil Rights in my small town. I was too busy growing up out in the country where all the families I knew were much the same with hard working fathers and stay at home mothers. Nobody was very rich. Nobody was very poor although some of the tenant farmers who didn’t own land had a harder time making ends meet. But all of us had the same color skin. If there were “whites only” signs in my town, I never saw them. But the schools were segregated. All the black families lived in the same neighborhood. It was a topic of conversation when a black family bought land out in the county which must have made an impression on me since that became part of my story in Orchard of Hope.

The schools were integrated when I was in high school just as they are for Jocie. I don’t remember any trouble at the school but I do remember hushed talk of burning crosses and harassment of mixed race couples. And, as I write about in my guest post, the Ku Klux Klan did spoil our Christmas parade one year. Definitely not something that was welcomed by anyone I knew, but the town officials claimed they couldn’t keep them from marching. So I did use some of my own memories, but I also researched about the Civil Rights movement to make my Hearndon family come to life in my imagination, especially young Cassidy who was badly frightened at the Birmingham Children’s March in 1963.

Your character, Jocie, was a little bit older than I was during the Civil Rights era. I remember the integration of schools, and like Jocie, I recall that for the children it wasn’t such a big deal. I believe the kids didn’t see the color of each other’s skin unless adult prejudices put the color in place. I’m interested in knowing if this story was born out of an occurrence that you remember about this era in our history? If not, what caught your attention and made you want to write about this era and the conflicts your characters faced?

I covered some of this in my answer to the last question. I’m sure some kids in my school were prejudiced and may have tried to stir up trouble, but our principal kept a close eye on things and refused to let it happen. But mostly I remember the kids fitting right in. We liked the kids who seemed ready to make friends. High school is a tough age for a lot of kids. So, although I don’t remember specific problems, I could imagine plenty of potential conflicts that might involve my characters. The ideas for that conflict grew as I researched about the Civil Rights marches and set my characters down in the midst of all that.

Pastor David Brooke fascinates me as a character. He has overcome some family issues and has been asked to pastor a local church. His issues also overlap with those of his daughter, Tabitha. They were very unique issues for that era. I’d love to know if you knew someone who faced these issues and overcame them the way that David was able to overcome them. If not, what brought those conflicts to mind for you?

The pastor of our little country church is a very gifted preacher and heard the call to preach when he was still a teen. He married a woman who was unfaithful to him and divorced him. For years he was unable to find a church willing to allow him to preach. I thought of him when I was working on developing David’s character. I tried to make David very loving and forgiving, but a man who married the wrong woman. Even so, he had done his best to save his marriage in spite of her evident disregard of his feelings. Tabitha brought home more troubles for him, but there was never any other way for David to respond to her problem. She is his daughter. Some of what Tabitha goes through in the story came from my memories of my first pregnancy and delivery.

By the way, I loved those issues because they made me stop and think about how I would handle those even today. The story made a difference for me in my way of thinking about a pastor and his family. Was that intentionally done?

It’s hard to say what is intentionally planned and what grows out of the characters’ development in a story. I did know at the beginning that Tabitha would come home and bring her problems with her. I had no idea that Aunt Love would have such a story in the first Heart of Hollyhill book, Scent of Lilacs, until Jocie made her discovery in that little cave. I did want to make David and Jocie ordinary people with family problems and joys like anybody else. I wanted David to be a good man with regrets over things that happened in the past and a man who leans on the Lord and loves his daughters very much. The only thing intentionally done was I chose Jocie and surrounded her with family and friends to tell the Hollyhill stories. She’s still telling Hollyhill stories on her very own blog, the Hollyhill Book of the Strange. www.hollyhillbookofthestrange.blogspot.com. She usually posts on Monday or Tuesday.

I’m going to have to visit Jocie’s blog. She is such a dear. Do you have any future projects in the works, and if so, what issues do your characters deal with?

Summer of Joy, the third Heart of Hollyhill book, is being re-released in March with a new cover. In it, David is finding love and both he and Jocie must face some unexpected challenges from the past. Then in July I’ll take readers back to Rosey Corner in 1945 when Love Comes Home releases. The Merritt sisters are ready for life to get back to normal after World War II, but first they have to find ways to get past some hard losses and find new beginnings.

Currently I’m working on a new story set in my fictional Shaker village of Harmony Hill. It’s in the early stages, but the tentative title is The Innocent. My character, Carlyn, will struggle with accepting the loss of her husband and finding a way to love again. My plan is to incorporate a little mystery and intrigue in my Shaker village this go around. And so we’ll see where the story takes me.

Thanks so much for inviting me over to Inner Source, Fay. I’ve enjoyed visiting with you and your readers.

Thank you, Ann, for visiting with us. I hope you’ll visit again soon.

Orchard of Hope About Orchard of Hope:

It is 1964, and fourteen-year-old Jocie Brooke is about to have an unforgettable summer. Her father has found a new love, her hippie sister is about to have a baby, and her aunt is finally pleasurable to live with. But, when a black family from Chicago moves into the quiet hamlet of Holly County, Kentucky, Jocie finds herself befriending a boy that some townspeople shun. Due to the unspoken racial lines in this southern town, the presence of these newcomers sparks a smoldering fire of unrest that will change Holly County–and Jocie–forever.

Orchard of Hope, the riveting sequel to The Scent of Lilacs, takes readers along to experience unexpected love, fear, forgiveness, new life, and a deeper understanding of the value of each individual’s story.

Scent of LilacsAbout Scent of Lilacs:

Jocie Brooke has never wanted for love, despite the fact that she hardly remembers her mother. Jocie’s father, preacher David Brooke, has done his best to be both father and mother to his daughter. Even Jocie’s spinster Great-aunt Love, who’s slowly going senile, cares for Jocie in her own stern way. But in their small town of Hollyhill, Kentucky, painful secrets lie just beneath the surface, and inquisitive spirits discover surprising truths. There’s a reason why Aunt Love hides behind black dresses and a stoic countenance. And David takes his morning walks not just for quiet solitude, but to wrestle with the past.

Full of stories of lost loves and the trials of small-town living, this heartwarming novel explores the journey of faith and family.

Summer of Joy 9780800731700About Summer of Joy (Re-releasing soon):

The summer of 1964 certainly was eventful, but it’s nothing compared to what’s coming to the Brooke family and to Hollyhill, Kentucky. David finally gets up the nerve to pop the question to Leigh and wedding plans are in the making. But the past is coming to call on many in Hollyhill, threatening to destroy the relationships that everyone thought were so strong. Two people–one David thought was gone for good and the other no one’s ever heard of–are making their way to the small town and promise trouble.

This complex and well-written story is the perfect conclusion to the Hollyhill story. With true-to-life family drama, refreshing humor, and lovable characters, Summer of Joy will delight readers.

Ann is giving away a copy of Orchard of Hope.  Ann will be busy here this week with her interview on Wednesday and a guest post on Friday. To be registered for your chance to win a copy of this absolutely wonderful novel, be sure to leave a comment for each of the posts. Those who have commented on all three posts will be registered, and a winner will be drawn on Friday evening and the winner notified by e-mail (so be sure to leave that with your comment.

If you missed Monday’s interview with David Brooke, click here.

Character Interview: David Brooke from Orchard of Hope by Ann Gabhart

Orchard of HopeToday’s special guest is David Brooke, the father/hero of author Ann Gabhart’s Orchard of Hope. David visits us here from Hollyhill, Kentucky, the setting for Ann’s Heart of Hollyhill novels.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where you’re from? What do you do?

My name is David Brooke. I grew up right here in Holly County. I had great parents. My mother was the kind of Christian woman who is continually a blessing to her family and to all who knew her. She was a rock for me when my wife deserted us when Jocie was four years old. That changed everything for me. I had to give up my church and question my calling to preach. I didn’t doubt the Lord called me to share his Good News. That happened while I was on a submarine serving in World War II. Still, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever get to follow that calling after my wife divorced me since no church would allow a divorced man to stand behind their pulpit.

I was fortunate to get a job as editor of the Hollyhill Banner and then even more fortunate to have the paper’s owner give me generous terms to allow me to buy the paper from him. It was a good job for me because I could bring Jocie with me to work after my mother had a stroke and died suddenly. While sometimes I feel as if the Lord sends too many trials my way, I also have to acknowledge and be thankful for his blessings and help. For one, He sent me Wes to not only help me keep the presses running but for Jocie. She needs that pure grandfather-type love Wes gives her so freely. And Wes needs Jocie, too.

It’s good putting out a paper with local news. A different way of ministering to folks, but sharing good community news and being compassionate with bad news does give me the feeling of helping people. Now I’ve found a church willing to chance having a divorced pastor lead them. So maybe the Lord always had a plan. I just had to wait on His perfect timing.

Orchard of Hope is about hope in the midst of a turbulent era in the South. I’d love to hear what you think about what was going on around you at that time. Do you believe that the tensions that caused such strife could have been handled in a different manner?

Things have been wrong in the South for a long time before now, 1964. A man should never be judged by the color of his skin or his religion. The Lord loves us all and in our great country, we claim to believe all men are created equal. If we truly believe that, we should live that truth. So things did need to change, but change can be difficult and as you say, turbulent. Sometimes it’s easier to not stir up trouble, to just let things drift along the way they always have been. But the Lord can poke our consciences to open our eyes and see that changes need to be made however hard that is to do. He gives a young woman courage to sit in a seat on a bus that she’s forbidden to sit in. He makes a child brave enough to walk with soldiers to a new school. He empowers a man like Martin Luther King Jr. with a gift of words to find a peaceful way to make people see that all men have the right to equal opportunities. I’m a peaceful man, as is Martin Luther King Jr., but there are times when a man has to stand up for what is right no matter the consequences.

Sadly, I think the strife was bound to happen because there are so many people who cling to the old prejudices. That’s sad but too true. Just think about those little girls killed in that church bombing or how the Birmingham police used dogs against children marching for their rights while the firemen turned water hoses on them. While I wish none of that had happened, being human is a messy condition. We are not puppets on a string. The Lord gives us freedom of choice even when those choices lead to sorrowful and sinful decisions and outcomes.

So, true, David. So true. When I think about your story, the words of 1 Corinthians 13:13 come to mind: “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” These words come after several verses that tell us what does and doesn’t constitute charity (or love). You faced some trying times. Do you think that those who were front and center of the controversy at that time, took to heart the wisdom and truth of 1 Corinthians 13. If so, how? If not, how do you believe it was ignored?

Some did and some didn’t. There are times when a man has to accept that he can’t change everyone he meets. That’s when he has to focus on his own thoughts and actions and those of the people he knows best. I love that chapter in the Bible. Love does make a difference and of course, as you point out, charity here is another word for love. But wisdom is something that at times is lacking in all our lives. That’s not knowledge. A person can have mountains of book learning and still lack wisdom. True wisdom comes from God. So some of the people in the midst of the Civil Rights struggle did embrace the truths in 1 Corinthians 13:13. Others may have thought they were, but without the God-given wisdom to understand those truths. And some cared nothing about words from the Bible and only wanted to live for themselves without faith, hope, or charity. I’m thankful the Lord rained down wisdom on my church people and that together we were able to find a way to get past unreasonable prejudices and step closer to being the church the Lord wants us to be. The Lord can change the hardest heart and bring revival in His perfect timing.

The folks in your church are good folks, even it if takes a while, and tragedy, for some of them to come around. I always have to ask about Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” When God says, “all things” I believe He means even the bad things that happen to us. Did you discover this to be true in the issues you faced?

That’s a hard verse for many people. Some believe the Lord sends the bad things to teach us. Some believe the bad things happen because they didn’t love God enough. I personally believe the Lord can and does make good come from all things, but that He cries with us when tragedy strikes. He sorrows over the bad choices we make. He wants good for us.

So even though I don’t believe God caused the bad things to happen in my life, life does happen. And some of life is not happy and good. Evil pokes up and not only injures those who give in to wrong temptations but also to innocent family members and bystanders. That’s how it was when Adrienne left us. She hated being married to me. I couldn’t be the husband she wanted. She chose to find her happiness somewhere else, but I had to live with the consequences of her decision and so did Jocie and my older daughter, Tabitha.

It was a long time before I could see anything good coming from that, but the Lord did strengthen my spirit and make me more compassionate with others who suffer life struggles. So whether our troubles are the result of our own mistakes or those of others or happening for a purpose we can’t divine, I have no doubt that He is right beside us through whatever happens to us. If we lean on the Lord, He will give us the strength to face whatever life throws at us and the courage to stand up for right.

Is there scripture or a biblical concept that you lean upon to help you through this time of both national and personal conflict?

Every time I open my Bible, I find new verses that strengthen and comfort me. The Bible is a testament to the power of God. His word abides there and it goes out and settles in hearts and does not return empty.

I tell in Orchard of Hope one verse that has meant so much to me and has helped me through some rough patches in my life. I’ve had plenty of those–so many that there are times when I’m almost afraid to stick my head out from under the covers in the morning for fear of what challenges might come my way next. But then the sun starts pushing light in through my window and I say my morning prayer. “Oh, Lord, be with me today.” The Lord’s answer has never failed to echo back to me. “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

That’s the last line of the last verse in Matthew where the Lord is giving his disciples the Great Commission to go and teach the nations and baptize them. Those men, the Lord’s disciples, faced hardships I can’t even begin to imagine and yet they were faithful in carrying out the Lord’s command in spite of persecution and the very real threat of death. I too want to be faithful in what the Lord wants me to do and it is very good to know that He is with me always. Eternally. That’s why I preach. To share that good news with the people the Lord puts in my path.

Thank you for letting me share my beliefs here, Fay. I do hope sharing a year of my life with all its problems and challenges in the Heart of Hollyhill books will touch people’s hearts and lead them to seek a closer relationship with the Lord. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

David, your story challenged me, and it touched my heart tremendously. Thank you for visiting with us here at Inner Source. I look forward to Wednesday’s interview with your author, Ann Gabhart.

Ann Gabhart 2About the Author:

Ann H. Gabhart, the author of several bestselling novels, has been called a storyteller, not a bad thing for somebody who never wanted to do anything but write down stories. She’s published twenty-six novels for adults and young adults with more stories on the way. She keeps her keyboard warm out on a farm in Kentucky where she lives with her husband, Darrell. They have three children, three in-law children, and nine grandchildren. To find out more about Ann or her books visit www.annhgabhart.com. Check out her blog, One Writer’s Journal, or follow her on Facebook,  Twitter,  or Pinterest.

About Orchard of Hope:

It is 1964, and fourteen-year-old Jocie Brooke is about to have an unforgettable summer. Her father has found a new love, her hippie sister is about to have a baby, and her aunt is finally pleasurable to live with. But, when a black family from Chicago moves into the quiet hamlet of Holly County, Kentucky, Jocie finds herself befriending a boy that some townspeople shun. Due to the unspoken racial lines in this southern town, the presence of these newcomers sparks a smoldering fire of unrest that will change Holly County–and Jocie–forever.

Orchard of Hope, the riveting sequel to The Scent of Lilacs, takes readers along to experience unexpected love, fear, forgiveness, new life, and a deeper understanding of the value of each individual’s story.

Scent of LilacsAbout Scent of Lilacs:

Jocie Brooke has never wanted for love, despite the fact that she hardly remembers her mother. Jocie’s father, preacher David Brooke, has done his best to be both father and mother to his daughter. Even Jocie’s spinster Great-aunt Love, who’s slowly going senile, cares for Jocie in her own stern way. But in their small town of Hollyhill, Kentucky, painful secrets lie just beneath the surface, and inquisitive spirits discover surprising truths. There’s a reason why Aunt Love hides behind black dresses and a stoic countenance. And David takes his morning walks not just for quiet solitude, but to wrestle with the past.

Full of stories of lost loves and the trials of small-town living, this heartwarming novel explores the journey of faith and family.

Summer of Joy 9780800731700About Summer of Joy (Re-releasing soon):

The summer of 1964 certainly was eventful, but it’s nothing compared to what’s coming to the Brooke family and to Hollyhill, Kentucky. David finally gets up the nerve to pop the question to Leigh and wedding plans are in the making. But the past is coming to call on many in Hollyhill, threatening to destroy the relationships that everyone thought were so strong. Two people–one David thought was gone for good and the other no one’s ever heard of–are making their way to the small town and promise trouble.

This complex and well-written story is the perfect conclusion to the Hollyhill story. With true-to-life family drama, refreshing humor, and lovable characters, Summer of Joy will delight readers.

Book Giveaway:

Ann is giving away a copy of Orchard of Hope.  Ann will be busy here this week with her interview on Wednesday and a guest post on Friday. To be registered for your chance to win a copy of this absolutely wonderful novel, be sure to leave a comment for each of the posts. Those who have commented on all three posts will be registered, and a winner will be drawn on Friday evening and the winner notified by e-mail (so be sure to leave that with your comment.

If you missed the interview with David Brooke, click here.

Walking in the Spirit by June Foster

bigstock-Fruit-of-the-Spirit-9860753Because I’m a follower of Jesus, my flesh has been crucified through Christ. Romans 6:6. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. I’d like to point out this is by no effort of my own, but the Lord’s.

I now possess a new Spirit, the one the Lord put in my heart, replacing my dead one. 11Corinthians 5: 17. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come. But I still must choose to walk in the Spirit, to do the things that please God. I still have a free will in all of this.

How do I walk in the spirit? In a word, choose to please God and not myself. That doesn’t sound too easy, but since I have the Spirit of God living in me, it’s possible. Not in my own power, but in the Lord’s. The Lord wouldn’t tell us to keep in step with the Spirit if he didn’t think we could do it. Galatians 5: 25  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Is there a Spiritual thermometer to help us see how we’re doing? We have some clear indicators listed for us in the Bible: the Fruit of the Spirit. How many of these character traits can you indentify in your life?  Love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. All by-products of a Christian life.

June FosterAbout June Foster:

June has written four novels for Desert Breeze Publishing. The Bellewood Series, Give Us This Day – February 1, 2012, As We Forgive – September 1, 2012, and Deliver Us – April 1, 2013, and Hometown Fourth of July – July 1, 2012. June’s book, Ryan’s Father, will be available from WhiteFire Publishing January 2014. For All EternityRed and the Wolf, and Misty Hollow, God willing, will be published in the near future. June loves to write stories about characters who overcome the issues in their lives by the power of God and His Word. June uses her training in counseling and her Christian beliefs in creating characters who find freedom to live godly lives. You can meet up with June on her blog: The Traveling Writer at Home

Ryan's FatherAbout Ryan’s Father: 

Ryan Reid is a first-grade teacher and a Christian with a heart for neglected kids, but a chance encounter during an earthquake with Sandy Arrington, a beautiful young nurse, rocks Ryan’s carefully guarded world and unearths the secret he has held deep in his heart. Though Sandy falls in love with him, Ryan’s forbidden affections lie elsewhere, and he must depend on the Lord to see him through a battle he always hoped he’d never have to face. Ryan’s Father releases January 2014. Don’t miss it.

Be sure to also read June’s other novels in her Bellewood series: Give Us This DayAs We Forgive, and Deliver Usas well as her Hometown 4th of July.

You can pre-order Ryan’s Father here.

If you didn’t get a chance to read the Inner Source interview with June’s hero, Ryan Reid, click here.

If you missed the opportunity to read the Inner Source interview with June, click here.

Interview: June Foster, Author of Ryan’s Father

June FosterI met June Foster in the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Scribes’ critique group. She introduced me to her character, Ryan Reid, and I was a fast fan because June had a story that could make an impact, and well, I just fell head over heels in love with Mr. Reid.  Since then, June has visited with me on several occasions, and I have the awesome memory of watching June scamper when an alligator made its way toward her. But that’s enough about that. June has her own stories to tell about me as well.

 June has written four novels for Desert Breeze Publishing. The Bellewood Series, Give Us This Day – February 1, 2012, As We Forgive – September 1, 2012, and Deliver Us – April 1, 2013, and Hometown Fourth of July – July 1, 2012. June’s book, Ryan’s Father, will be available from WhiteFire Publishing January 2014. For All EternityRed and the Wolf, and Misty Hollow, God willing, will be published in the near future. June loves to write stories about characters who overcome the issues in their lives by the power of God and His Word. June uses her training in counseling and her Christian beliefs in creating characters who find freedom to live godly lives. You can meet up with June on her blog: The Traveling Writer at Home

June has a knack for presenting heroes and heroines that are unique yet lovable in their uniqueness, and on Monday, we met Ryan. Today, we’re talking to June about the issues that she tackled in writing Ryan’s Father.

Readers are always interested in knowing how an author develops his or her characters or the conflict an author designs for those characters. Ryan’s Father tackles a tough and controversion issue. Would you mind sharing with us why you believe the Lord brought this issue to your heart?

In today’s world, we hear more and more about homosexuality. Same sex relationships and even marriages are accepted and encouraged. As a teacher, I joined NEA, National Education Association. School counselors were directed to instruct teens who professed to same sex attraction that the feelings were normal and natural.

Then the issue struck a little closer to home. A young friend of my daughter’s, who loved the Lord, once asked if we could talk. He described his attraction to another boy in our church. Too, I have a person in my family who confesses to be gay, so I couldn’t avoid the subject any longer.

When I read the Bible, in particular the books of Leviticus and Romans, God makes it plain that homosexual relations are not pleasing to Him. There are people out there who twist those passages, interpreting them to say what they’d like to hear. One argument is people are born gay. But I’d like to know why God would make someone gay if it’s against His will.

I realize that some may have a predisposition toward homosexuality. But because a person is born with a predisposition to anger doesn’t mean he should commit murder. Or like me, with a legacy of alcoholism. Though I struggled for many years, God set me free, and I don’t have to practice alcoholism.

Okay, now for the S word – sin. I believe homosexuality is a sin. But Christ died for all sin and wants to forgive us. Homosexuality is no worse than murder, adultery, lying, gossiping.

I want to make it plain. I am not homophobic. I love gay people and want to accept them with open arms. I’m as much a sinner as any homosexual, thief, or glutton. I’d welcome him/her in my church in a heartbeat.

I believe God has a perfect plan for each of our lives. I’d love to see many find that purpose. When a person lives a homosexual lifestyle, I don’t believe they are experiencing God’s best. I want to see others set free. Frankly, I question whether a person in a gay relationship is truly happy, but only the individual can answer that question.

All that to say, with Ryan I wanted to convey the message that homosexuality is wrong, but it is possible to be set free of the lifestyle. I’m not so naive to believe freedom could happens with one decision or a counseling session. But in time, God can draw us out of that pit of deception. But only if we first call on the Jesus Christ for salvation. Then God’s infinite power, peace, and truth can permeated our lives.

I love your answer, June, and I love your heart for this issue and those who struggle with it. You and I have had this conversation often in the past, and I know that the original publisher you targeted for Ryan’s Father actually told you they had another book coming out that covered this issue, and this is why they didn’t accept your manuscript. However, when that other book was published, we learned that the message was very different from the message in your book. It condoned the sin that is at issue in Ryan’s Father. I’m very interested in hearing what you have to say about these differences.

Yes, Fay. That’s correct. After my manuscript was rejected, I read the other book out of curiosity. I didn’t know anything about the story the first time I switched on my Kindle. When I read the words The End, I sat for a moment, my mouth gaping. In the story, a woman must accept her gay brother and his lover as natural and normal sexual partners. She’s reproached because at the first of the story, she questions the relationship. At the end of the novel, her character arc comes when she accepts her husband’s homosexuality. The story’s message is far from Biblical, yet the publisher claims to be a Christian publishing house.

I especially love the way you bring out the issue in this story. You don’t condemn individuals who are dealing with the same issue that Ryan Reid is dealing with. You even include a scenario in which Ryan hears someone talking about him, and his heart is broken for what this individual believes Ryan is capable of doing? What would you say to a Christian who hates the sinner as well as the sin?

I’d ask that person if he hates workaholics or cheaters or self-centered people, or any others committing the rest of the sins I’ve mentioned. I’d remind them to be careful they don’t commit those sins lest they’d be found a hypocrite. My point: homosexual sin is no worse than any other sin. Jesus Himself said He came not to judge the world but to save it. John 12:47. He commanded us to love others as ourselves. Matthew 19:19. What right do we have to revile another person when we ourselves are in need of salvation and restoration before a mighty God.

Amen, June! Now, I’d love to hear your advice to someone struggling with homosexuality.

First and foremost, examine your heart. You need salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross like anyone of us. Allow a mature Christian to pray with you to receive Jesus in your life. That is the most vital thing you can do. Next, join a Christian church that believes in the validity of the Bible and teaches traditional values. Read your Bible, learn what it says, and seek the Lord in prayer. He will never leave nor forsake you. Get into Christian counseling to work on the issues that brought you to this place. Decide that homosexuality is wrong and confess it to the Lord. Don’t expect change right away. Give yourself a break, seek God daily, and trust in Him. As I explain in my notes to the reader at the end of Ryan’s Father, if a person is born again by the blood of Jesus and truly wants to walk away from the lifestyle, God will bring freedom. In your heart and mind, make that quality choice. Your feelings may not change for a long time, but feelings are not representative of truth, your choice made by God’s word is. The Lord bless and sustain you.

Do you have any future projects in the works, and if so, what issues do your characters deal with?

I love writing about Christian characters who struggle but overcome by God’s word and His power. In the past, I’ve written about obesity, shop-o-holism, anger, poor self esteem, abortion, cults, and adoption. Right now I’m writing a story called Misty Hollow which deals with illiteracy. My hero is an illiterate backwoodsman from the Appalachians who falls in love with a beautiful Seattle anthropologist. Though they are cultures apart, God can bridge any gap.

June, I must say that no one can accuse you of not having unique characters. I love your imagination!

Ryan's FatherAbout Ryan’s Father: 

Ryan Reid is a first-grade teacher and a Christian with a heart for neglected kids, but a chance encounter during an earthquake with Sandy Arrington, a beautiful young nurse, rocks Ryan’s carefully guarded world and unearths the secret he has held deep in his heart. Though Sandy falls in love with him, Ryan’s forbidden affections lie elsewhere, and he must depend on the Lord to see him through a battle he always hoped he’d never have to face. Ryan’s Father releases January 2014. Don’t miss it.

Be sure to also read June’s other novels in her Bellewood series: Give Us This DayAs We Forgive, and Deliver Usas well as her Hometown 4th of July.

You can pre-order Ryan’s Father here.

If you didn’t get a chance to read the Inner Source interview with June’s hero, Ryan Reid, click here.

Character Interview-Ryan Reid from Ryan’s Father by June Foster

Ryan's FatherRyan, thank you for being our guest today on Inner Source. Your author and I are good friends. In fact, you were the one who connected us. You brought some very heavy issues to the table for June. Do you mind sharing those with us?

Hello, Fay. I’m happy to be your guest today. Yes, I had quite a journey. There were times when June didn’t want to admit the truth about me, but with your encouragement, the reader is now able to hear the whole story.

I grew up never knowing my father. In fact, my mother didn’t even know his name, just remembered the lanky cowboy she met at a bar one night.

I’m not trying to place blame on someone else but wanted to explain the events which occurred. As a little boy, I never had a father’s love or attention. No man to give me a hug or a pat on the shoulder or to say he was proud of me. When I became a teen, my unfulfilled need turned sensual, and I began to notice an attraction to guys.

Growing up, Mom didn’t spend much time with me. In fact, she frequently left me alone. Because I was unsupervised, I attempted to steal a car once in high school. My partner in crime happened to be gay. Our encounter was brief, and later I dismissed it as teenage foolishness.

My punishment involved community service, cleaning up the park across the street from a church. The youth pastor reached out to me, and I committed my life to the Lord. When I began to walk with God, I discovered that being gay wasn’t His perfect will for my life, so I tried to ignore my errant feelings. But that became impossible, and homosexuality threatened to bury me. To make things worse, a beautiful young nurse fell in love with me, though I felt no attraction to her. But you’ll have to read the story to find out how it all turned out.

That’s some heavy conflict, both internal and external. Would you mind telling us what you would like the reader to learn from your story?

Yes. Through the study of God’s word and Christian counseling, I learned that homosexuality is not in God’s perfect plan for anyone. It is a sin, but we don’t have to remain under the bondage of that sin. With the help of my counselor, Greg Aldridge, I learned that we are no longer slaves of sin. In fact, we are dead to sin and alive in Christ. Romans 6 helped me to learn those truths.

At first I couldn’t understand the meaning behind the words, but as Greg and I talked, I discovered that Jesus had died to set me free from sin, and it no longer had power over me. You mentioned internal and external conflict—the internal conflict, of course, was getting these truths down inside my spirit. One of my external conflicts related to my counselor, Greg. With a warm face, I’ll confess to you that at first Greg attracted me in the wrong way. As I struggled to be set free, I also had to battle an attraction to him.

Just like you, I was a fatherless child. Unlike you, I knew the name of my father, but he was absent for most of my life. So, I’m always interested in what someone who was raised without a parent would say to that absent parent. Would you mind sharing that with us?

If I can. It’s going to be tough, Fay.

Dad, I guess that’s what I’d call you. I can’t help but wonder how different my life would’ve been if you’d been in it. But right now, I can’t dwell on that, or I might cry and my sweet editor, Roseanna White, says I do too much of that. Dad, though you were never there for me, I’ve got another Father now. A Father who will never fail or disappoint me, a Father who will never leave or forsake me. Because He forgave me of my sins, I forgive you, Dad, for being a part of my life.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” When God says, “all things” I believe He means even the bad things that happen to us. Did you discover this on your journey, and if so, how?

Most definitely. For starters, as I told you, the penalty for my crime was community service in the park across from the church. If that hadn’t happened, I may not have heard the gospel that led to a changed life. Later, as an adult, the Lord led me and Greg to take on a project to build an annex to the church for underprivileged children and teens. Through that relationship, God provided the Christian counseling and help I needed to become whole.

But I can’t neglect to tell you about the scary earthquake I endured. Yeah, I thought I might die that day, but I also met the woman whose friendship God used to nudge me along to finding freedom. In the process, she gained a bit of freedom as well—over childhood fear.

There were many other examples, but those are the main ones.

Is there scripture or a biblical concept that you lean upon to help you through your crisis?

Yes, in fact, June reminds me of this scripture by placing it at the first of my story. “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” Romans 6:6

Thank you Fay, for helping June tell my story. She’s forever grateful.

As you know, Ryan, June put up with a lot from me during her writing of the story. I’m thankful for her special friendship, and to you for bringing June, and her husband, Joe, into my life.

About Ryan’s Father:

Ryan Reid is a first-grade teacher and a Christian with a heart for neglected kids, but a chance encounter during an earthquake with Sandy Arrington, a beautiful young nurse, rocks Ryan’s carefully guarded world and unearths the secret he has held deep in his heart. Though Sandy falls in love with him, Ryan’s forbidden affections lie elsewhere, and he must depend on the Lord to see him through a battle he always hoped he’d never have to face. Ryan’s Father releases January 2014. Don’t miss it.

Be sure to also read June’s other novels in her Bellewood series: Give Us This DayAs We Forgive, and Deliver Usas well as her Hometown 4th of July.

You can pre-order Ryan’s Father here.

June FosterAbout June Foster:

June is a retired teacher with a BA in Education and a MA in counseling. June has written four novels for Desert Breeze Publishing. The Bellewood Series, Give Us This Day – February 1, 2012, As We Forgive – September 1, 2012, and Deliver Us – April 1, 2013, and Hometown Fourth of July – July 1, 2012. June’s book, Ryan’s Father, will be available from WhiteFire Publishing January 2014. For All EternityRed and the Wolf, and Misty Hollow, God willing, will be published in the near future. June loves to write stories about characters who overcome the issues in their lives by the power of God and His Word. June uses her training in counseling and her Christian beliefs in creating characters who find freedom to live godly lives. You can meet up with June on her blog: The Traveling Writer at Home

Faith by Anne Baxter Campbell

Red_4785Our blog post today comes to you from my friend, Anne Baxter Campbell. Anne is a wife, mother, and grandmother who loves her Lord, her family, and writing. She and her husband, one very small dog and one overweight cat live in North Central California. Anne is the author of The Roman’s Quest, and she’s sharing a precious Christmas memory with us today.

Meet up with Anne on  Facebook,  Google+,  Linked-In, on Twitter, and her blog A Pew Perspective.

Thanks, Fay Lamb, beloved friend and mentor (bet you didn’t know that, did you?). You have been a mentor, not just to me but to so many others. Of all the people I’ve learned writing stuff from, you contributed the most and the best.

I think possibly the central issue in this book is faith, although there are other interwoven issues, too. Faith is a nebulous thing, difficult to grasp or even define. How can you define something that can’t be touched or seen or even felt? You cannot depend on your senses of touch or sight or your emotions for faith. It is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 1:1), not the touchy-feely thing maybe we would like it to be.

We often talk about having a weak or strong faith, but who knows what that feels like? If we go on feelings for our faith, we will never get there. Our feelings lie to us constantly. Although I know some people who have the gift of healing, I’ve never questioned them in how they know someone will be healed. Jesus said He did the things that God showed Him first. He said nothing about “I can feel it in my bones.”

I’m going to make a statement here that some folks might consider blasphemy. Simply ending your prayer by pasting on the words “In Jesus Name” WILL NOT ENSURE THAT THE PRAYER IS GRANTED. God is not our servant, required to obey us. We are His and should be listening for His direction.

Think about it. If a project manager of a corporation promises something in his company’s name, that better mean that he knows what the company’s aims and desires are. He is committing the resources of his corporation to accomplish something.

In the same way, we need to seek God’s wants for ANYTHING and EVERYTHING we pray about. Sometimes I’m asked to pray for someone who is seriously unwell. Before I grant that request, I send an instant prayer up asking how He wants me to pray. And then I pray as I believe He wishes, trusting the Holy Spirit for the words and ending the prayer with thanks for His answer. It might not be a prayer for healing, even though that is what my heart really wants. It’s not what I want that’s important; it’s what He wants that must be done.

If you want first and foremost what God wants, He’s not afraid to give you the desires of your heart. If you want something selfishly or even out of concern for a friend, it might not be the same thing He desires. Listen and wait for His leading.

Once I have prayed, I place the result in God’s capable hands. I have quit nagging God. When I “feel the urge to pray” again for the same exact thing, it’s usually because I have taken the issue out of His hands. So I give it back to He who is able to do way more than I ask or think, and I give thanks again.

The issue of faith comes up several times in different ways in my novels. Faith must go beyond feelings, and that’s what I try to get across in the books. It’s a learning process for all of us. Be patient with yourself and have faith ☺ that He who has begun a good work in you knows how to finish it. (Hebrews 12:2 and Philippians 1:6)

CampbellRoman-FLAT-02About The Roman’s Quest:

Centurion Julius has eyes for a young Jewish woman, but a Roman is not what her father intends for her. Miriam is a pious Jewish girl, determined to do the right thing by her God and her parents, and she bows to her father’s wishes to promise her to a Jewish fisherman, James ben Zebedee. Her heart yearns for the Roman, but their love is impossible. Miriam’s mother lies close to death, and her last wish is to see her daughter wed. The marriage has to take place before it’s too late.

You can purchase The Roman’s Quest at Amazon.com

If you missed Monday’s interview with Miriam from The Roman’s Quest, click here.

If you missed Wednesday’s interview with Anne, click here.