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Character Interview: Delores “Dee” Moraga Carter Russell

LyreLambsFront_smallToday we have a return guest, Delores Moraga Carter Russell, the heroine of The Lyre and the Lambs and The Sheepwalker’s Daughter. Dee, I devoured the continuation of your story, this time set in the 1960s, as fast as I did the first novel.

Your life has sure has some twists and turns. Would you mind sharing a little about what has happened to you since we last saw you?

Fourteen years have passed quickly! I spent about ten years in Carmel working at the gallery, and growing as an artist and business woman. Roger was immersed in his career, travelling all over the world. We saw each other when we could but I guess neither of us were willing to give up work we loved to be together, that is until Roger had his heart attack. That changed everything. When you begin to feel your mortality you get serious about your priorities. You know, Fay, a brand new start keeps us young!

So that’s the secret. I can see that the same-old/same-old can make us feel pretty old as our feet dig the ruts.

I loved the eclectic family that you have gathered around you. Your arms were opened to bring others into the fold. Knowing you as an intensely private person from the previous novel, I’m interested in knowing what you found the most difficult about dealing with this new situation?

Doesn’t life have a way of bringing situations to your doorstep you never thought you could handle? Being an introvert, having people around me all the time exhausted me. I used a lot of energy biting my tongue! I didn’t want to be a lecturing mother and a crabby wife, so I tried very hard to keep perspective on the situation. Trying hard only gets you so far, though. I really learned to pray for grace during the time we lived in the Glass House. And I have to say, when I began to see things from the point of view of the young people, it was very energizing. I loved hearing about their hopes and dreams.

Your story comes to us from the 1960s, a turbulent time in our nation’s history. Two members of your family group are not American citizens when they come to live with you, but despite the escalation of the war in Vietnam and the possibility of a draft, they make plans to become citizens. This was mentioned briefly, but as the parental figure of the group, how did you feel about the draft that possibly loomed ahead and how it would change their lives?

I lived through the war years and married a soldier, so to my way of thinking military service is a privilege, a price we pay for freedom. Being from Israel, David understands this. And Danny’s Basque heritage is a culture of resistance against a government that tried to suppress his native language. They both believe that freedom is worth fighting for. But you are right. These boys are like my sons. No mother wants to watch her sons go off to war, especially this war. I really don’t understand why we are in Vietnam. I’m not pleased about the possibility that they might get drafted, but I love my country. I believe in the American Dream, and I’m proud they both made the choice to become citizens.

Your friend, Laura, refers to you as a lyre to the lambs you have gathered around you. I’d love it if you’d share a little more about this with us. It’s a captivating thought.

I discovered my heritage and faith late in life, I take seriously my responsibility to pass down family and faith traditions so the generations that come after me will know who they are.. Laura knows the Bible better than I do. When she shared with me how David played the lyre to soothe Saul, my artist’s eye could visualize fingers plucking strings in an effort to communicate through music what words sometimes cannot. God’s message of peace and love plays out in art, nature, and music. Laura helped me see that although I don’t always say the right things, young people flocked tour home because we made it a soothing, safe place for them to grow. We made the sounds of family, and they came.

That is a lovely thought and a beautiful picture. As your little family began to grow, it seemed things outside their control began to erode the situation. Your new husband, Roger, shared a verse in Psalms. Would you mind sharing that verse and what it means to you in light of all of the troubles that begin to exist around you?

Yes, of course. Psalm 121:1. I like the King James translation,” I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my hope.” When we wrap ourselves in our woes we fail to see the hope and the future that is there for us. It is an act of will to broaden our perspective on a bad situation. Roger had to take me out on the patio and point me in the direction of the hills I love to pull me out of my funk and help me take the long view. Despite the mounting stress of our situation we knew there would be justice because God is faithful and good. I needed to keep plucking along, living a life that sent out messages of hope and love. You know, I almost missed the fact that in the midst of trouble, my husband moved closer to the Lord!

Dee, again, thank you so much for sharing your life with the readers. I enjoyed both of the novels so much, and I look forward to the interview with your author, Sydney Avey, on Wednesday.

More About The Lyre and the Lambs:

A feast of family can be a plate-load of problems!

It’s the Sixties. Modernity and tradition clash as two newlywed couples set up house together. Dee and her daughter Valerie move with their husbands into a modern glass house Valerie built in a proudly rural Los Altos, California neighborhood. When their young relatives start showing up and moving in, the neighbors get suspicious. Then a body is found in the backyard and the life they are trying to build comes undone.

Father Mike is back to guide Dee through a difficult time with humor and grace, even as his own life is unraveling. Now he’s going to have to take some of his own advice about love.

The Lyre and the Lambs explores the passions that draw people together and the faith it takes to overcome trauma.

sydauthorphoto_smallAbout the Author:

Sydney Avey lives in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Yosemite, California, and the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and a lifetime of experience writing news for non profits and corporations. Her work has appeared in Epiphany, Foliate Oak, Forge, American Athenaeum, and Unstrung (published by Blue Guitar Magazine) and Ruminate. She has studied at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. Sydney is the author of two novels, The Sheep Walker’s Daughter and The Lyre and the Lambs. She blogs at sydneyavey.com on topics related to relationships, legacy, faith, and the writing life.

Transhumanism: Did I or Didn’t I Make This Stuff Up? by Victoria Buck

Human like faces covered in text  Text is from HG Wells The TImeI read an article this week called “10 Amazing Superpowers Humans Will Be Able To Get From Brain Implants.” (I posted it on Facebook and Twitter.) My first thought was that I shouldn’t have set Wake the Dead twenty-something years into the future. Maybe ten. Maybe next week.

My second thought was that my brain is already connected to cyberspace and I just didn’t know it. I ruled that out when I tried to check my bank balance without using the app on my phone.

But some of the stuff on the Top Ten list really does happen to Chase Sterling (the transhuman I wrote about). One: super hearing.  Two: night vision. Of the ten superpowers examined in the article, the only one that wasn’t used to enhance Chase or some other character in the book was number three: the ability to zoom in and focus on a faraway object. I’m sure Chase could use that. I’m writing the sequel—maybe he’ll get it.

So I wonder after reading the article, even more than when I first began plotting this story in my head, what the world will be like when a growing percentage of us can leap a tall building in a single bound, so to speak.

Leaping isn’t actually on Top Ten list, but a leap is what it’s all about. Will we voraciously take the evolutionary jump that Chase was forced to make? Will we understand it? Chase just doesn’t get it. He’s a game show host, for crying out loud, not a scientist. He finds the hearing enhancement and night vision a bit of a joke.  Even the doctor who implanted the superpowers calls them gimmicky.

But soon it may be more than fiction. No joke. Motivation exists for aiming toward the transhuman. Health, comfort, convenience, safety. Money. Utopia.

More than anything: power.

More than power: eternal life.

The everyday consternations of the human being might very well meet a new world and claim new victory. But real power belongs to God. And eternal life is a gift from God. And He gives it freely. Don’t look to the superpowers coming soon to offer thin hope in winning the war against death. Instead, behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Victoria BuckAbout the Author:

Victoria Buck is a lifelong resident of Central Florida. She clings to the Gospel, serves in the local church, relishes time spent writing, and curiously contemplates the future. Wake the Dead is her first novel.

You can connect with Victoria at her website, at Author Central on Amazon, on Twitter, and at Pelican Book Group.

More about Wake the Dead:

What if the first man reborn of an evolutionary leap doesn’t like his new life? Is escape even possible?

WakeTheDead_h11557_300The time is right for introducing the world to the marvels of techno-medical advancements. An influential man, one loved and adored, is needed for the job, and who better than celebrity Chase Sterling? After suffering injuries no one could survive Chase is rebuilt like no one has ever seen before.

In the not-too-distant future a man–if he can still be called a man–breaks away from the forces taking over his life and finds new purpose in the secret world of hiding believers.

Author Interview: Victoria Buck

Victoria BuckVictoria Buck, author of Wake the Dead, an unusual and highly thought-provoking and entertaining Christian adult Dystopian novel is here with us today. 

Victoria is a lifelong resident of Central Florida. She clings to the Gospel, serves in the local church, relishes time spent writing, and curiously contemplates the future. Wake the Dead is her first novel.

You can connect with Victoria at her website, at Author Central on Amazon, on Twitter, and at Pelican Book Group.

Victoria, first of all, I have to say to the readers that I was looking for a Dystopian novel that I felt safe for a Christian teenager to read when I read your adult novel. My problem with each YA Dystopian I came across was the horrible violence depicted. Then I read your novel, admittedly written for adults but without the gore I’d been seeing in the YA genre. My first thought was “this is how it can be done!” and you have done a great job with this story.

With that said, please tell us about Wake the Dead.

At the forefront it’s about the world’s first transhuman. On a deeper level it’s about what happens to a man when he gains great power and position but loses everything he loves. Beyond gauging what blessing or evil technology might bring, the reader must consider a future of social and political change, of accepted persecution, and of a Church that has lost its voice. But in life and in writing I seldom let a serious issue go without a witty tug. Wake the Dead doesn’t leave the reader floundering in hopelessness.

No, it doesn’t. I know from talking to you that the theme of Wake the Dead is important to you. Would you mind explaining to us why transhumanism is a subject you care about?

Most Christians don’t know anything about it. In fact, some have thought I made up the word. It’s a very real movement of science as well a faction of society. Literature has addressed it for years, but not in the Christian market. If you go on Amazon and type in transhuman fiction, you get eleven pages of it. If you type in Christian transhuman fiction, you get my book. I’m glad mine is the first. I don’t think it will be the last. The Christian community knows all about Hollywood’s version of the cyborg, but little about the reality of what’s coming.

Your hero, Chase Sterling, doesn’t live in a time too far away from where we are now. Do you feel that our government, in particular, is acting in some ways like the government you depict in the novel, and do you feel that today’s generations can be as easily controlled by the appeasement in the way they are in your near-future story?

I see the government in this story as the offshoot of current political trends and societal shifts. So yes, our leaders must be doing some things that have the potential of landing us in such a world. As far as today’s generation being easily controlled and appeased, of course it’s true, though it’s a temporary farce. When I wrote the first pages of this story I planned it to be a satire about game shows. This idea sparked from watching the crazed reactions when everyone in an audience got something as simple as a new camera or even a box of chocolates. People are easily excited by material gain. Then I wondered what it would be like if the prizes were outrageous. The more you give people, the more they expect. If you can amaze them, you can control them.

What do you believe will be the outcome if governments do reach a degree of technology where humans like Chase can be transformed? Or do you believe it has already beginning to occur?

In some ways the outcome would benefit society. Organ transplants would be simplified. Some illnesses could be irradiated. Education could be as easy as loading a program into your brain. But if everyone had cognitive power like Chase, I think it would result in chaos. At the core of transhumanism is the quest for eternal life. If God allows this progression, we all know how it will end. The question is how far will it go before He stops it? As to whether it has already begun, even when I’m away from my computer my IPhone is seldom far from my itching fingers. We are dependent on our devices. That’s a step in the transhuman direction. And we’ve come so far with technology in medical advancements. I read an article about the top ten superpowers available to humans in the future. Of the ten, I wrote about nine in Wake the Dead. And I thought I made up some of those!

Do you have any current projects in the works? If so, we’d love to hear about them.

I’ve written the next book in what I hope will be a trilogy about the transhuman, Chase Sterling. In book two, Chase hooks up with the Underground Church and offers himself and all his techno-abilities for their service. After the turmoil of Wake the Dead, he finds his place in the world, confident he will be a great benefit to the believers. With a plan like that, what could possibly go wrong? Since the characters are still chattering in my head, I’ll be starting book three soon. I love this story. Beyond the sci-fi and the subtle commentary and the adventure, it carries a message of steadfast hope in a changing world.

And that it does. Victoria, thank you for joining us on Inner Source, and I can’t wait to have you back when the other books in this series are released.

WakeTheDead_h11557_300More about Wake the Dead:

What if the first man reborn of an evolutionary leap doesn’t like his new life? Is escape even possible?

The time is right for introducing the world to the marvels of techno-medical advancements. An influential man, one loved and adored, is needed for the job, and who better than celebrity Chase Sterling? After suffering injuries no one could survive Chase is rebuilt like no one has ever seen before.

In the not-too-distant future a man–if he can still be called a man–breaks away from the forces taking over his life and finds new purpose in the secret world of hiding believers.

 

Character Interview: Chase Sterling from Victoria Buck’s Wake the Dead

WakeTheDead_h11557_300Today’s guest on Inner Source is Chase Sterling, the hero of Victoria Buck’s adult Dystopian novel, Wake the Dead. If you’re a reader of Dystopian novels, you will not want to miss this one. And if you haven’t read a Dystopian novel yet, make this novel your first. You’ve heard the phrase, “Not your typical …” That about sums it up for Victoria’s story. Let’s meet our guest.

Chase your story is a very unique one, and I’d like you to tell everyone a little about yourself. When were you born? What time do you live in now?

I was born around the year 2000. As of this moment, I’m living in the mid-2030s. My writer-creator never told me exactly what year it is. Or maybe I never told her.

You have made a career of handing people their wildest dreams and then some. You had a major transformation to your life, but I want to know what your wildest desire would have been before that transformation.

That’s easy. I wanted to be the man who made great things happen for people who’d lost their way. I’ve always loved helping people. I wanted to please…everybody. Changing lives the way I did made me feel important—like those people couldn’t make it without me. Nothing wild about that. It’s just who I was. I guess what I really wanted was love. I planned to keep doing what I was doing because it made me feel loved. I liked the life I had. This transformation they forced on me was not part of my plan.

Also, before your unusual transformation, what did you think of your government and its way of coping with the citizenship?

It seemed right. The government gave you a job, took care of your needs, put you at the top if you deserved it. And I was sure I deserved it. It wasn’t until the day I saw all those people living in a village of old vans that I realized my perfect world was a sham.

Something happened to you (that transformation), and I’d like to ask the same questions I asked above except I want to know, what’s your current wildest desire?

It’s not to show the world the benefits of techno-medical advancements. That’s why they did this to me. I never wanted to take an evolutionary leap. But there is something I want. I had these dreams. And I saw this place and I want to get there. No, I have to get there. The transhuman stuff they put in me is useful. But the way I plan to use it would get me put in prison. Who am I kidding—if they catch me I’m dead. Again. My wildest desire is to help the people of the Underground Church. I’m not even one of them. Tell me that’s not wild.

And what do you think of the government now?

I’m going to do what I can—and I can do a lot—to keep the government chasing its proverbial tale. I can access their programs, their military plans, their Intel and screw up every attempt they make to find me. I don’t want any part of the government.

One last question: This transformation that you had no choice in, why do you believe the true Creator of the technology used allowed this to happen to you?

If you’re talking about God, He and I haven’t exactly worked that out. I’m supposed to protect His people. But why couldn’t He have picked one of them to do that? Why me? Well, maybe no sensible Christian would get himself into a position where he’d end up transhumanized. Is that a word? I don’t know why this happened to me. If I find the place I’m looking for, maybe somebody there can explain it.

Chase, thank you for being here and for helping me be intentionally elusive. Your story is just one in which I want the reader to get the full impact of without giving away a lot of the story for them. I’m sure Victoria will share a little bit more about transhumanism when she guests with us on Wednesday.

More about Wake the Dead:

What if the first man reborn of an evolutionary leap doesn’t like his new life? Is escape even possible?

The time is right for introducing the world to the marvels of techno-medical advancements. An influential man, one loved and adored, is needed for the job, and who better than celebrity Chase Sterling? After suffering injuries no one could survive Chase is rebuilt like no one has ever seen before.

In the not-too-distant future a man–if he can still be called a man–breaks away from the forces taking over his life and finds new purpose in the secret world of hiding believers.

Victoria BuckAbout the Author:

Victoria Buck is a lifelong resident of Central Florida. She clings to the Gospel, serves in the local church, relishes time spent writing, and curiously contemplates the future. Wake the Dead is her first novel.

You can connect with Victoria at her website, at Author Central on Amazon, on Twitter, and at Pelican Book Group.

Character Interview: Randall Connor from G. E. Hamlin’s Marriage Takes Three

Marriage Takes ThreeToday’s guest is Randall Connor, the hero in G.E. Hamlin’s novel, Marriage Takes Three. Randall is the husband of Darla Connor. Randall, please tell us a little about yourself and the story that you have to tell?

First, I’d like to thank you for having me as your guest. To be honest with you and your readers, I feel refreshed by the Holy Spirit and my faith is stronger today, so this is a great time for an interview. Twenty-four hours ago my perspective was not as favorable, but that’s okay because as a recovering alcoholic, I’ve learned through A.A. and God’s Word to take life one day at a time.

My wife, Darla and teenage son, Paul, would say I have an opinion on just about everything, which is part of the issue in our lives. They see me as controlling, more specifically that I’m trying to control them through religion, but that’s not the case. I love them—more than they know, so I want them to have a relationship with Jesus, too. I have tried to tell them I abhor religion, Christianity is about our individual relationship with God. Sadly, I don’t do a great job of expressing that to them in word or deed, but I’m learning.

Our lives as a family are not any easier with an ungodly influence coming from the likes of J.J. Collins. He keeps sticking his boot in our business every chance he gets. It’s a battle I am learning to trust God with and I hope an end to his interference comes soon.

When couples that I have known (including myself) have gone through troubled times, some leading to divorce, I have always adopted the stance that there are two sides to every story. Would you say that is true with the situation you face in your marriage?

In part I agree, there are two sides to every couple’s story, however I’ve learned there is more to a marriage than what a husband or wife believe is true to them. I believe marriage is triangular, that is the husband and wife walk side by side with God as the head. And if the husband and wife focus their eyes on God and leave the results of their marriage to Him, they will grow stronger in faith and love; this is why I believe marriage takes three.

I also believe the key to finding resolution in any disagreement is looking for God’s truth in the situation versus being a “right-fighter”, which I have been guilty of from time-to-time, and trust me, I’ve been around that mountain enough times to know it doesn’t work.

What would you say is the key to a happy marriage?

I think many people have a misperception of what makes a happy marriage. It’s not that a couple never disagrees and that everything is always peaches and cream, in fact, I don’t think they’re being honest with themselves or family and friends if they portray that to others. Such a portrayal is contrary to what the Word says about a Christian’s life. The Word says that we will face trials and tribulation, so for a marriage not to experience trying times means something is amiss.

What I’ve learned in the past few days is that if I keep my eyes on the Lord, He will give me what it takes to be the head in my marriage and family, which is taught in Ephesians 5:19-28.
Thankfully, God is faithful even when I’m not and His promise is to finish the good works He’s begun in me. So, to your answer your question more succinctly, I try to live by Matthew 6:33.

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.” In this case, your pasts gave you both heartache and joy. Do you believe that without the past you had that you would be as happy as you are today?

There are spiritual things we need to learn and I think it comes down to how much I trust God. I choose to trust that God has a plan and that plan includes all my choices good and bad, so in that regard, I believe God has used all things to bring to me where I am today, which isn’t a bad place—all things considered.

What advice would you give to a couple who is facing trouble in their marriage?

First and foremost, I’d pray for them and with them. Sadly, prayer has become something that we often resort to after we’ve exhausted everything else. It should be the first thing we turn to. I also believe if we try to resolve the problems ourselves we can become isolated from the body, and that is where the enemy wants us. When we are among believers, who are guided by the Holy Spirit to speak truth into our lives, it will move our focus away from ourselves and our desire to control things, and instead, we will turn our focus toward the One we should be looking to for help. I can no more control my wife than I can the rising or setting of the sun. However, the Creator can do all things, and He will make the needed changes in each of us.

I can say without a moment’s hesitation the only thing that will save my marriage—is God.

Thank you, Randall for your honesty and some very sound advice, which comes from the Source that fulfills all our needs when we allow Him to do so.

More About Marriage Takes Three:

Darla Connor is struggling with whether to stay in her troubled marriage or walk away. Maintaining a long distance friendship with an old sweetheart isn’t making the decision easier, especially when that sweetheart, now a famous country music star declares his love for her, even though she is married. Randall Connor is a recovering alcoholic and wants to heal his broken marriage, and as a new believer, he is counting on God to help him. When Darla rejects his ultimatum to sever ties with her old boyfriend, he’s in for the battle of his life. Will Darla follow promises of a better life with her old boyfriend, or will she surrender to God in time to save her marriage?

GE Hamlin Photo-1About the Author:

G.E. Hamlin (Ginny) passionately writes about broken marriages and the restorative power of Jesus Christ. Her stories stem from personal experiences and working in lay ministry as a member of her church. Her characters encounter the natural consequences of addiction to: alcohol, drugs, and sexual immorality. It is Ginny’s hope each story will create a bridge for discussion in real life.

Ginny has been a member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) for over six years. Her style of writing reflects the qualities of Nicholas Sparks’ soft side and the fast pace of James Patterson.

She and her husband Ed have a blended family with five adult children and eight grandchildren. Ginny and her husband live in Southern California where they enjoy the beach, desert, and mountains. As a full time author, she is blessed with frequent opportunities to spend time with the grandchildren.

You can connect with Ginny on her blog, on her Facebook page, her Facebook author page, at Google+, on Twitter, LinkedIn, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Blessed Redeemer: Healing the Brokenhearted and Setting Captives Free by Jerusha Agen

Praise The LordAs I vacuumed the floor at the domestic abuse shelter, my gaze fell on the stains blotching the carpeting that was some blend of blue, gray, and moss green. I turned off the loud vacuum to pick up pieces of something I didn’t want to identify next to the scratched dresser and faded wall. Thank the Lord I didn’t have to live in a place like that.

“Wow.”

I looked up to see the owner of the female voice. A teen girl I had seen a few times at the shelter stood in the doorway, her red hair straggling over her shoulders as her gaze surveyed the room from behind her glasses.

“This room is really nice.” Her tone held a sincere breathlessness that matched her widened eyes. “I wish I could stay in a room as nice as this.”

I was speechless for a while. Or at least I felt speechless inside. I think I said something polite on autopilot, something that didn’t betray the shock, guilt, and sadness that swirled simultaneously in my mind.

The girl walked away after a little chat that I don’t remember. I only remember being left to face myself and the realities I was just encountering as a volunteer at the local domestic abuse shelter for women and their children.

I come from a privileged background. I’ve lived in a comfortable home all my life and stayed in nice, sometimes even luxury hotels when traveling. My life experience didn’t include abuse, poverty, or homelessness. I knew those things existed, of course, and wanted to use my time to assist the people who were caught in those circumstances.

One of the surprising things I learned as a volunteer, however, was that those people, the “victims,” often didn’t want the aid they really needed. I quickly learned from the regular staff at the shelter that I shouldn’t expect gratefulness or friendliness from the shelter residents. In fact, I discovered we shouldn’t even expect kind or decent behavior. Thefts were rampant at the shelter, as was rude behavior and fighting among residents.

I would have thought that people in such dire need as these women would at least be thankful to the people who were providing them shelter and necessities. Some of them were grateful, of course, but there were many who seemed to take the help for granted, almost as something expected. But their poor attitude didn’t negate their need.

I heard story after story and read report after report on real-life, horrible abuse. I saw women, battered and beaten-down, trying to survive until the next day—women trying to give their kids some kind of life or just keep them out of harm’s way for another twenty-four hours.

I saw myself, the protected life I had and the responsibility I therefore possessed to not let that special blessing go to waste. I noticed my tendency to judge some of the women as less than myself because they didn’t even try to stand up for themselves or their children, didn’t seem to care about becoming better, and couldn’t even be nice … or clean.

Like police sergeant Gabe Kelly in my novel, This Redeemer, I had to remember that I had all the flaws of these women and more. Who was I to judge myself as better and stronger when I don’t take a stand in the face of potential embarrassment or persecution, when I often don’t care about becoming more like Jesus, when I’m often unkind to others, and when my sin cloaks me like filthy rags?

Yes, I was and am just like those women. And, like them, I need help. I can make small improvements if I try to become a better person on my own and people’s efforts to meet the physical needs of domestic abuse victims can make a difference. But without something more, I would still be caught in the cycle of my sin just as these women and children will never fully escape the cycle of abuse and darkness.

As I talked to women residents at the shelter, my heart ached for them when I saw what the shelter, wonderful as it was, couldn’t do for them. Security cameras and a roof over their heads couldn’t bring life, peace, and joy to their imprisoned souls.

Charlotte Davis, the main character of This Redeemer, is a woman very like those I met at the shelter. Like these women, Charlotte needs a Redeemer to set her free from the prison of fear, pain, and death that ensnares her soul. The fact is that all of us need that Redeemer just as much as the people in more obviously dire situations.

Only when we have been redeemed will the darkness of our circumstances and our own dark souls not imprison us. Only then, will we be free. As the Apostle Paul writes, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

Do you know the Redeemer? If you do, then live as one who has been set free. If you don’t know Him, ask Him to free you from your prison of sin and darkness. He promises that He will. “I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you” (Isaiah 44:22).

Jerusha AgenAbout the Author:

Jerusha Agen is a lifelong lover of story–a passion that has led her to a B.A. in English and a highly varied career. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Jerusha is the author of the Sisters Redeemed series, which includes the titles This Dance, This Shadow and This Redeemer. Jerusha co-authored the e-books A Ruby Christmas and A Dozen Apologies from Write Integrity Press.

Jerusha is also a screenwriter, and several of her original scripts have been produced as films. In addition, Jerusha is a film critic, with reviews featured at the website, www.ReedeemerReviews.com.

Jerusha relishes snowy Midwest winters spent with her large furry dogs and two small furry cats.

Connect with Jerusha on her websiteFacebook: (Jerusha-SDG Words), and Twitter.

This_Redeemer_FRONT_COVER resized (655x1024)More About This Redeemer:

Not all prisons have bars.

Charlotte Davis should know—she’s lived in one for years. She can handle getting slapped around by her boyfriend, Tommy, and even being forced to do things she would never choose, but when Tommy turns on her 10-year-old daughter, Charlotte must try to escape. With nowhere else to turn, Charlotte runs to the stranger her dying mother believed would help her.

Looking only for shelter or cash, Charlotte finds a family she longs to call her own and a gentle man she could learn to love. But if Tommy catches up with Charlotte, these strangers could learn the truth about her. Will they send her back to Tommy? Or can a Father’s love set her free?

This_Dance_FRONT_COVER_smaller (for promo use)About This Dance:

No love, no pain. No God, no games.

A tragedy three years ago destroyed Nye’s rise to the top of the dancing world as an upcoming tango star, and in the process destroyed her reason for living, too. She survived the pain and built a new life resembling nothing like the one she left behind, determined never to hurt again.

Nye’s emotional walls hold up perfectly until she meets a handsome lawyer and an elderly landowner. They seem harmless, but one awakens feelings she doesn’t want and the other makes her face the God she can’t forgive. Will these two men help Nye dance again?

This_Shadow_FRONT_COVER (660x1024)About This Shadow:

She’s famous for her upbeat outlook.

Then the world goes black.

Oriana Sanders is always happy. And why shouldn’t she be? She enjoys a close relationship with God and a purpose-filled career teaching troubled kids. She even has the potential for romance in her sister’s friend, Nicanor, whose dark good looks and brooding manner make him an intriguing project for Oriana.

Oriana’s attempts to reach Nicanor with the joy of the Lord are brought to a halt when a confrontation with her student’s drug-dealing brother ends in tragedy. Facing darkness she has never known, can Oriana learn to forgive the unforgivable and find her way through the shadows to the light?

Check out Inner Source’s interviews with Jerusha Agen, and her heroine of This Redeemer, Charlotte Davis.

Author Interview: Jerusha Agen

Jerusha AgenJerusha Agen joins us today. She is a lifelong lover of story–a passion that has led her to a B.A. in English and a highly varied career. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Jerusha is the author of the Sisters Redeemed Series, which includes the titles This Dance, This Shadow, and This Redeemer. Jerusha co-authored the e-books A Ruby Christmas and A Dozen Apologies from Write Integrity Press.

Jerusha is also a screenwriter, and several of her original scripts have been produced as films. In addition, Jerusha is a film critic, with reviews featured at the website, www.RedeemerReviews.com.

Jerusha relishes snowy Midwest winters spent with her large, furry dogs and two small, furry cats.

Connect with Jerusha on her websiteFacebook: (Jerusha-SDG Words), and Twitter.

Welcome, Jerusha.  I want to tell you that this story struck so many chords with me, and I thought if it touched me, the issues that reached out and grabbed me might interest your readers. First of all, your hero, Charlotte Davis, was raised without a father. Her mother, at least in my thinking, raised her to put the blame on others for her plight, and Charlotte seems to do this. What would you have to say to those who are living less of a life than God intended for them but who choose to blame others rather than to face facts that often we are our own worst enemies?

First off, I’d tell them to read Charlotte’s story! In my experience, pointing out that people are blaming others for their self-created problems never goes well. How do I know? Because I, like most of us, am guilty of doing this same thing! Yes, Charlotte may be an extreme example, but all of us share her desire to have our guilt be someone else’s. We don’t like to admit our faults or flaws. In fact, this tendency is what keeps many people from Christ. We don’t need a Savior, many of us think, because we’re fine the way we are. Sadly, our culture and even Christians encourage this perspective through the emphasis on building self-esteem. Feel good about yourself, society tells us. Low self-esteem is cited as the root cause of problems like eating disorders, addiction, and suicide.

The solution of the experts is to build up the person’s view of himself or herself. You’re special, perfect, a good person just the way you are, the experts say. You just have to love yourself more. Ironically, the root cause of all such problems and sin is that people already love themselves too much. Even depressed, suicidal individuals who believe they hate themselves are actually living a wholly self-centered existence in which they think only about themselves. Yet, most of us choose this mentality. After all, feeling good about ourselves is so much easier than having to feel guilty and admit we need someone outside ourselves to help us.

But people can’t take a hard, truthful look at their own guilt until God enables them to do so. In an effort to be used of God to get a person like Charlotte to that point of revelation, I would probably borrow your wording and tell that person that God offers a much greater life than what he or she is living. Not a happier, richer, more worldly prosperous life, but a life of deep-seated joy, hope, incomparable power, and the peace that surpasses all understanding. That life isn’t offered to perfect people who have no guilt (no such people exist!)—only to sinners who need a Savior (Romans 7:24-25).

Great stuff!

Charlotte also seems to have wanted out from the life she lived with her mother, yet Charlotte finds herself and her child probably in a worse predicament. It even seems that her mother realized that truth as well. Why is it do you think that we often reach for the very thing we should turn from?

Another great question. The Bible has a ton to say on this subject, from the first page to the last. Ever since Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden, humans have been born into sin, with a fallen, sinful nature. So we keep reaching for things that harm us either immediately or eventually (even eternally), rather than for the things of God and God Himself, because our nature is bent toward wanting to sin. Our fallen nature is even so twisted that sometimes we perceive sinful things as good and good things as undesirable.

As with the situation of not wanting to admit our guilt, the things we ought to turn from often seem simpler than the alternative. Charlotte, for example, doesn’t want to get caught in an abusive relationship, but she ends up there because following the path that leads to that situation is easier and feels more natural than facing the horror of seeing herself as she truly is.

Reaching for the lesser, often sinful options in life may appear to keep us afloat or happy for a while, and may even seem like the only choice we can make, but in the end these very choices will destroy us. There is another option, the only thing we can reach for and never be disappointed, the only thing that will save us from our own unending pattern of self-destruction. That one thing is a Person—Jesus Christ. (John 8:34-36)

Trust is an issue with Charlotte. She holds a painful secret deep inside, one that she has paid dearly for, but at the same time, it seemed to me that her holding that secret in truly affected her special-needs daughter because Phoebe is a lot brighter than I believe even Charlotte thinks. What would you say to a person who is holding some awful truth inside and needs freedom from that secret to see life clearly?

Let it go! You know that Disney hit song, “Let It Go”? That song actually drives me nuts because it’s about letting go of one’s emotions, which I don’t think people in our world need any more encouragement to do. But the title at least seems pertinent here. Of course, if the secret is dark and carries potentially severe consequences as in Charlotte’s case, then just telling a person with such a secret to “let it go” seems overly simplistic.

Yet, that person will never experience joy, love, hope, or peace until he or she does let that secret go and tells the truth. In reality, an awful truth that is bottled up inside as a secret will eat away at a person’s heart and soul. The person becomes, as you suggested, a slave to that secret, unable to experience freedom or life as God intended.

So while the solution to “let it go” might seem impossibly simple or simply impossible, you’re not really living until you can do just that. You’re dying instead, day by day, moment by moment. If you can’t let the truth come out on your own, ask the Lord to help you. He will, and He’s the only way you’ll ever be free (Galatians 5:1 and John 8:31-32).

I love the romance between Charlotte and Gabe. I’m not going to give it away here, but I think my favorite thing about the romance is how understated the differences are between Gabe and Charlotte. It comes out in the novel, and I love Gabe’s protectiveness over Charlotte. Is Gabe a completely imaginary man or do you know men like Gabe who you have modeled him after?

Since I don’t know a single person who’s exactly like Gabe, my first thought is that he’s completely imaginary. In actuality, he’s probably not a completely original creation, but rather a compilation of traits I’ve seen in the men I’ve known with a dash of idealized imaginary qualities throw in.

As you probably noticed, though, Gabe is far from perfect. He’s a flawed hero and Christian with many faults, just like the rest of us. I enjoyed getting to explore in Gabe the tendency that I think many of us as Christians have to judge others as worse than ourselves because of their sins. Yes, we have every right biblically to “judge the world” (1 Corinthians 6:2), but we have to watch out for the slippery slope Gabe slides down of subsequently comparing ourselves to others and thinking we are innately better. We can’t lose sight of the reality that we are the worst of sinners, saved not because of ourselves but because of and by the grace of Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Do you have any future works planned? If so, will you share a little about those with us now?

I recently completed a contemporary suspense novel that I hope to have published. The novel is a tense, but fun journey that takes a self-centered billionaire to Ireland, where he has to face his painful past and solve a 100-year-old mystery.

As much as I loved The Sisters Redeemed series, I’m looking forward to seeing this next one in print. Thank you for sharing with us, Jerusha.

This_Redeemer_FRONT_COVER resized (655x1024)More About This Redeemer:

Not all prisons have bars.

Charlotte Davis should know–she’s lived in one for years. She can handle getting slapped around by her boyfriend, Tommy, and even being forced to do things she would never choose, but when Tommy turns on  her 10-year-old daughter, Charlotte must try to escape. With nowhere else to turn, Charlotte runs to the stranger her dying mother believed would help her.

Looking only for shelter or cash, Charlotte finds a family she longs to call her own and a gentle man she can learn to love. But if Tommy catches up with Charlotte, these strangers could discover the truth about her. Will they send her back to Tommy? Or can a Father’s love set her free?

This_Dance_FRONT_COVER_smaller (for promo use)About This Dance:

No love, no pain. No God, no games.

A tragedy three years ago destroyed Nye’s rise to the top of the dancing world as an upcoming tango star, and in the process destroyed her reason for living, too. She survived the pain and built a new life resembling nothing like the one she left behind, determined never to hurt again.

Nye’s emotional walls hold up perfectly until she meets a handsome lawyer and an elderly landowner. They seem harmless, but one awakens feelings she doesn’t want and the other makes her face the God she can’t forgive. Will these two men help Nye dance again?

About This Shadow:

She’s famous for her upbeat outlook. Then her world goes black.

This_Shadow_FRONT_COVER (660x1024)Oriana Sanders is always happy. And why shouldn’t she be? She enjoys a close relationship with God and a purpose-filled career teaching troubled kids. She even has the potential for romance in her sister’s friend, Nicanor, whose dark good looks and brooding manner make him an intriguing project for Oriana.

Oriana’s attempts to reach Nicanor with the joy of the Lord are brought to a halt when a confrontation with her student’s drug-dealing brother ends in tragedy. Facing darkness she has never known, can Oriana learn to forgive the unforgivable and find her way through the shadows to the light?

Check out Inner Source’s interview with Jerusha’s refreshing heroine from This Redeemer, Charlotte Davis.

 

 

 

 

Character Interview: Charlotte Davis from Jerusha Agen’s This Redeemer

This_Redeemer_FRONT_COVER resized (655x1024)This week’s guest is Charlotte Davis who is the heroine of Jerusha Agen’s This Redeemer, the third book in The Sisters Redeemed series.

Charlotte, for those who have been reading the series, your story is a little different from Nye’s and Oriana’s stories. You grew up in a different world than they did. Would you tell us about your life, where you lived, and what brought you to Pennsylvania from Texas?

I’d say I was raised in Texas, but since I pretty much raised myself, that wouldn’t exactly be true. I was born in Dallas and grew up there, mostly fending for myself and trying to stay out of Momma’s way. You’re right when you say I grew up in a different world than Oriana and Nye. I sometimes think it was a different planet. Even they admit they were really blessed.

They had a loving mom and dad, but I only had Momma, and she was too drunk most of the time to know I even existed (those were really the best days, since it was worse when she noticed me). Nye and Oriana grew up spoiled rotten, too. Well, they were at least filthy rich. I’d never seen a house as nice as their parents’ place in real life before.

I never thought I’d leave Tommy, my boyfriend, and I sure never thought I’d get out of Texas. Tommy can get mean sometimes, and I’m used to that, but when he started on my baby girl, I knew I had to get her out of there, away from him. The only place I could think of to go was the home of a stranger in Pennsylvania Momma told me about before she died. He owed me big time, and I wanted to collect, or at least find a place to hide from Tommy.

I know you love your daughter, Phoebe, very much. Will you tell us a little about her?

Pheobe is special. People think she’s slow, but she’s isn’t. Not really. She’s a lot smarter than folks suppose. Sometimes, she’s the only thing that keeps me going, keeps me alive. She doesn’t deserve the life she’s had. I try to do what I can to make it better, to let her experience the kinds of things normal kids do, like ice cream melting on your hand and catching fireflies at night. But she’s had it rough, just like me.

The Lord is important to the people that He brings into your life in Pennsylvania. How did you feel when you realized that you had stumbled your way into a group of people who believed in the goodness of God despite the things they have gone through in their lives?

To tell the truth, I didn’t think they had gone through anything hard. They and their lives seemed perfect. But I sure saw that they believed in God and thought He was good all the time. I thought they were judgmental and stupid, looking down their noses at me because they believed in some silly old man in the sky who was only nice to the people who had such great lives they couldn’t help but be perfect all the time.

I had a very different experience in my life. The way I grew up and got used by so many people, I couldn’t believe a good God would ever let that kind of stuff happen to anybody. Come to find out, Nye and Oriana went through some rough stuff themselves, but I couldn’t believe it until God changed my heart. They seemed too happy and peaceful to have gone through anything bad. I didn’t realize until I met God that being like they were is really possible, even when you go through awful things.

The main focus of Inner Source is Romans 8:28 which tells us basically that God intends all things for good to those who love Him. He exemplified how the horrific can be turned to good for us when He declared that the only redemption we have is through the shed blood of His Only Son. God doesn’t just say that all things are intended for good. He set before us the cross: Jesus death, burial, and resurrection as a living example. How would you say that God worked all things out to good for you and for Phoebe?

I never thought I’d say this, but I can see now how even the bad things Tommy did, like on that day when I decided I had to leave him and go to Pennsylvania, brought me to where I needed to be in order to meet my Savior. Phoebe and I needed to be saved from the life we were trapped in, but I thought I could get out with some more cash or a big strong man to protect me.

Until the very worst thing happened, and I thought I’d lost my reason for living, I couldn’t see that my prison wasn’t caused by Tommy or other people. The bars of my prison were on the inside, in my heart and soul. God was the only One Who could free me from that kind of prison. He used all those awful things to bring me to the point where He redeemed me and my baby girl, not just from our hard lives, but from the sin and guilt that really made me a prisoner.

Have you come away from your story with a favorite scripture that you use to remember that God is in the details of our lives?

Yes. Nothing gives me comfort more than His promises in Isaiah 43:1: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine.”

A great verse to go with a great story. Charlotte, thank you for sharing with us on Inner Source. I look forward to having your author, Jerusha Agen with us on Wednesday. I have enjoyed all three of the books in The Sisters Redeemed series.

More About This Redeemer:

Not all prisons have bars.

Charlotte Davis should know—she’s lived in one for years. She can handle getting slapped around by her boyfriend, Tommy, and even being forced to do things she would never choose, but when Tommy turns on her 10-year-old daughter, Charlotte must try to escape. With nowhere else to turn, Charlotte runs to the stranger her dying mother believed would help her.

Looking only for shelter or cash, Charlotte finds a family she longs to call her own and a gentle man she could learn to love. But if Tommy catches up with Charlotte, these strangers could learn the truth about her. Will they send her back to Tommy? Or can a Father’s love set her free?

This_Dance_FRONT_COVER_smaller (for promo use)About This Dance:

No love, no pain. No God, no games.

A tragedy three years ago destroyed Nye’s rise to the top of the dancing world as an upcoming tango star, and in the process destroyed her reason for living, too. She survived the pain and built a new life resembling nothing like the one she left behind, determined never to hurt again.

Nye’s emotional walls hold up perfectly until she meets a handsome lawyer and an elderly landowner. They seem harmless, but one awakens feelings she doesn’t want and the other makes her face the God she can’t forgive. Will these two men help Nye dance again?

This_Shadow_FRONT_COVER (660x1024)About This Shadow:

She’s famous for her upbeat outlook.

Then the world goes black.

Oriana Sanders is always happy. And why shouldn’t she be? She enjoys a close relationship with God and a purpose-filled career teaching troubled kids. She even has the potential for romance in her sister’s friend, Nicanor, whose dark good looks and brooding manner make him an intriguing project for Oriana.

Oriana’s attempts to reach Nicanor with the joy of the Lord are brought to a halt when a confrontation with her student’s drug-dealing brother ends in tragedy. Facing darkness she has never known, can Oriana learn to forgive the unforgivable and find her way through the shadows to the light?

Jerusha AgenAbout the Author:

Jerusha Agen is a lifelong lover of story–a passion that has led her to a B.A. in English and a highly varied career. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Jerusha is the author of the Sisters Redeemed series, which includes the titles This Dance, This Shadow and This Redeemer. Jerusha co-authored the e-books A Ruby Christmas and A Dozen Apologies from Write Integrity Press.

Jerusha is also a screenwriter, and several of her original scripts have been produced as films. In addition, Jerusha is a film critic, with reviews featured at the website, www.ReedeemerReviews.com.

Jerusha relishes snowy Midwest winters spent with her large furry dogs and two small furry cats.

Connect with Jerusha on her website, Facebook: (Jerusha-SDG Words), and Twitter.

Author Interview: Valerie Comer

Valerie-Comer-300x300Inner Source welcomes the return of author Valerie Comer. This week, we’re celebrating the release of Snowflake Tiara, two lovely novellas set in Helena, Montana, 125 years apart written by Valerie and by Angela Breidenbach.

Valerie life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local foods movement as well as their creation-care-centric church. She only hopes her creations enjoy their happily ever afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters.

Valerie writes Farm Lit where food meets faith, injecting experience laced with humor into her award-winning Farm Fresh Romance stories.

Visit Valerie’s website at  http://valeriecomer.com to sign up for her newsletter and to learn of other links to connect. Also, Valerie and co-author Angela Breidenbach have an interesting Snowflake Tiara page at Pinterest.

Valerie, I’d love to hear how this project came about. Would you mind sharing with our readers the collaboration process between you and co-author, Angela Breidenbach?

Angela and I have known each other for several years, first through ACFW and then through the Inland Northwest Christian Writers Conference IMG_2813we both attend near Spokane, Washington. We decided to write a two-part collection together several years ago, but it took a few months and several Google hangouts to begin to narrow it down to a theme and a setting.

As your readers know, Angela is Mrs. Montana 2009, so she’s a veteran of the pageantry world. I am not, to no one’s surprise! But as we talked, we could see great potential for themes and story lines that we’re both passionate about. Kids in need, for both of us, but for me particularly, real food.

Once Helena was chosen as the location, my husband and I drove to Montana one weekend about a year ago and stayed with Angie and her husband. Angie, Jim, and I made a day trip to explore Helena. We took tons of photos as we explored the State Capitol, the museum, the Cathedral of St Helena, and the mansion district, as well as roamed the downtown area.

IMG_2945After that, our process continued via email, texting, a shared Dropbox folder, and numerous Google hangouts. As we completed story drafts, we’ve critiqued and edited each other’s work. We also talked at length about the publication and marketing processes. (Originally this collection was contracted by Choose Now Publishing, but the contract was canceled due to the house’s choice to focus on nonfiction.) We’ve also gotten together in person several times throughout the past year to keep ourselves focused on a united direction.

IMG_3035What is it that attracted you to Helena and its history that brought about this story?

At first, we talked about targeting the Love Finds You series Summerside Press was producing, as they were doing joint historical-contemporary Christmas books like ours. They were looking for settings in the East, so our first discussions explored various locations there. When Summerside closed, we decided to keep going, even if it meant indie-publishing. Then CNP came in… and out… and again, we forged ahead.

Meanwhile, we’d moved our thoughts closer to home and discovered Helena. We stumbled upon the fact that 2014 was both the city of Helena’s 150th anniversary and the state of Montana’s 125th. We couldn’t let another year go by to release this collection.

Helena was the wealthiest city in the world per capita in 1889. Although we know of no beauty pageants in the West at that time, pageantry had already begun in the East. If any city in the West would have had the nerve to grab that ball and run with it in that era, it would have been Helena. It certainly had the glitz, the glam, and the millionaires needed.

And in the world Angela and I created, that’s exactly what Helena did, through the vision of Albert Shanahan, owner of Tomah Inn.

You are a farmer who has a passion for spreading the word about growing foods that provide nourishment to our bodies. My mother and her mother were exceptional farmers. They could make anything grow, and as a child I was raised on fresh vegetables. For me, though, I have actually killed an entire cactus garden. What advice would you give someone like me who is interested in starting a garden and enjoying the “fruits” of my labor?

Yes, I am a gardener, farmer, and beekeeper, together with my husband, and our son and his family, who live on our 40-acre farm. In this day of genetically modified food designed by international conglomerates, prepackaged mixes full of chemicals, and produce that comes from all parts of the world, many people have lost sight of what real food is. The path our food industry is on scares me, quite frankly.

Anything anyone can do to get closer to the source of what they eat is a good thing. Depending on where you live and how much space you have, you might do the following:

  • Grow a few pots of herbs on your windowsill, and use them often.
  • Grow tomatoes and salad greens on your balcony. Maybe even a pot of pole beans if you can hang string from the balcony above.
  • Ask your front flowerbed to share with a few vegetables.
  • Create a raised bed or two in your backyard and learn about square-foot gardening for compact spaces.

In any event, don’t dig up your whole backyard and expect to go from zero to producing all your food in one year. Gardening can be overwhelming!

In addition to (or instead of) growing some of your own vegetables, try some of these:

  • Learn to cook from scratch, avoiding packages, cans, and mixes.
  • Join an organic box program (CSA—community supported agriculture).
  • Buy from farmers’ markets and roadside stands.
  • Invest in a chest freezer and buy bulk meat from small-scale meat producers in your area, who treat their animals humanely.
  • Learn to can tomatoes and fruit.

In short, take the initiative to control what you’re eating and be sure of the quality, whether you have the time and desire to grow it yourself, or not! Your body will thank you, as will your local economy.

Yes, I could have written a complete blog post on this topic. Wait, I already have! If you or your readers are curious food from a Christian point of view, come on over to my website at www.valeriecomer.com. You’ll find it at the junction where food meets faith.

In Snowflake Tiara (both novellas), the center is on godly missions to help the poor, whether they are homeless children or orphans or young mothers striving to support their children. Can you share with our readers any organizations that might need their contributions of time, talent, or service?

There are so many, it’s hard to know where to begin. But, just as I believe in local food, I believe in local charities, too. Look around your community and see what someone else is doing that you can be a part of. Whether it’s a soup kitchen, a church-run thrift store, a community garden, or a program for underprivileged families, check them out and see what they’re doing, what needs they’re meeting, and if it’s a place you can whole-heartedly support. You may meet some kids and their parents who could use a mentor and a helping hand.

IMG_3055What other projects are in the works for you? We’d love to hear about them.

Since the closure of CNP’s fiction line, I’ve regained the rights to my first two Farm Fresh Romance novels, which I republished independently this summer. My main goal is to bring out four more books to follow Raspberries and Vinegar and Wild Mint Tea in this series. The third book, Sweetened with Honey, is with an editor and will release in November. I’m currently writing the fourth book, Dandelions for Dinner, which I plan to release in early spring.

The Farm Fresh Romance series follows the adventures, romantic and otherwise, of a group of young women who purchase a farm together in northern Idaho with the purpose of growing their own food, living sustainably, and teaching others to do the same.

I’m also releasing Petals and Pedals next year, a contemporary romance set in Victoria, Canada, also with environmental themes. This one was written several years ago and just needs some dedicated work to bring it to a publishable quality. And another trip to Victoria to check out some questions about the setting.

Majai’s Fury, a fantasy novel of forbidden romance amid clashing cultures and religions, released in July. I have several other fantasy novels on my hard drive begging for a chance to be seen in public, but they may have to wait their turn as I have another food-and-farm series ready for center stage when I’m done the Farm Fresh Romance books.

Yes, you’re correct. I could write several books a year for the next two decades and not need another original idea. They are spilling out all over!

Thanks so much for inviting me, Fay! I always love your thoughtful questions, and I hope this interview will be both entertaining and challenging for your readers. God bless!

I loved the interviews with the characters and with you and Angela. You ladies are very interesting, informative, and entertaining, and I have always had a fondness for writers who like to come alongside others and work together.

These interviews have been a great pleasure.

Final book cover ST10More About More Than a Tiara and Snowflake Tiara:

What if you were caught doing something good, but the man you loved didn’t see it that way?

The Debutante Queen by Angela Breidenbach ~ 1889 (Helena, MT): Calista Blythe enters the first Miss Snowflake Pageant celebrating Montana statehood to expose the plight of street urchins. But hiding an indentured orphan could unravel Calista’s reputation, and her budding romance with pageant organizer, Albert Shanahan, if her secret is revealed. Will love or law prevail?

More Than a Tiara by Valerie Comer ~ 2014 (Helena, MT): Marisa Hiller’s interest in competing in Miss Snowflake Pageant for the city of Helena’s 150th anniversary is at zip zero zilch when she discovers the official photographer is Jase Mackie. Can Jase make amends for past mistakes and offer her, not only a tiara, but a partner in her crusade to help needy children and families?

 

Character Interview: Marisa Hiller from More than a Tiara Novella in Snowflake Tiara

Final book cover ST10Our special guest today is Marisa Hiller. She is the great-great-great granddaughter of Monday’s guest, Miss Calista Blythe. Marisa, please tell us about yourself, what you do, where you grew up, and what you value the most.

Hi Fay. Thanks for inviting me to Inner Source. I was born and raised here in Helena, Montana, by a single mom. Times would have been tougher for us if we hadn’t lived on the farm that had been passed down through the family for several generations. We always had a large garden, even when Mom leased out most of the property to neighboring farmers. The value of fresh, real food was instilled in me from early on. We were living evidence you didn’t have to have a lot to eat well and live well.

But like a lot of kids from rural areas, I longed for a faster pace and a more glamorous life. One of my roommates in college modeled part time and got me my first gig. I was hooked! I found the glam I was looking for, and at first, that was enough.

What types of changes have come to Helena, Montana, since Calista’s times?

Wow. A lot! In 1889, Helena was the richest city in the world per capita. You can still see a lot of evidence for that around town. The State Capitol and the Cathedral of St. Helena are two examples of magnificent structures from around the turn of that century with stained glass windows, marvelous murals, and gold inlays. Also, many of the mansions built in that era are still standing and in good repair. Sadly, the Broadwater Hotel and Natatorium no longer exist but for a grassy field on the outskirts of Helena.

The heart of old Helena was Last Chance Gulch where miners desperately sought for gold. Today the gulch is a walking mall—a street that’s been closed to vehicular traffic for several blocks. This section of downtown is where Jase has his photography studio in Mr. Penhaven’s building, not far from the very real Parrot Confectionary and Lucca’s Restaurant that are also featured in my story.

Now Helena is a small but bustling city proud of its heritage and culture. Albert’s fears that it would fall off the map when the gold dried up didn’t come to fruition. Or maybe it survived because the first Miss Snowflake Pageant in 1889 made all the difference! It’s hard to know.

How does one go from being a model, traveling to exotic shoots, being noticed by the fashion world to farming? Do you ever long for the career you had?

One of my life mottoes is from 1 Corinthians 10:31: Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. The pace and pressures of the modeling world were starting to get to me. When Jase (did I forget to tell you I originally met him on location?) and I started dreaming of a future together, in my mind I saw a different life. In modeling you’re only as sought after as your last shoot, and every model gets older. No, I’m not over the hill yet, but it comes for everyone. Anyway, I was becoming edgy in my spirit, so when Jase made those horrible accusations to me, I ran.

I do everything with gusto. It’s just the way I’m wired. So when I came back to Montana and my mother had just been laid off from her longtime job, it didn’t take much convincing for either of us to do a big one-eighty and start growing organic food for our local CSA. Are you familiar with those? It stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Basically people subscribe to the service for a set fee and receive a box of fresh garden produce every week during the growing season.

Even that wasn’t enough for either Mom or I. We saw a need we could meet when we looked around at the young single moms on social assistance. The kids surely didn’t deserve their life of poverty, and a lot of the moms were desperate to provide something better. Mom and I just tilled up the front lawn at the farm and created a community garden for these young families. We taught them how to grow a garden and preserve the excess. I have to say, it’s been very rewarding.

Do I ever long to go back to modeling? Hmm. I do miss the travel. I love what we’ve accomplished here for our five families, but the world is bigger. There are kids—families—in need everywhere. I wish I could help them all.

Humility is one of the characteristics I would name about you. That doesn’t necessary fit in with a model’s lifestyle as the business is very competitive. I believe God taught you a few things about the concept of humility. Would you care to share how He showed you the value in that characteristic?

Okay, I admit modeling for some of the big fashion companies went to my head for a few years. But when I met Greg and Tammy who are missionaries in Nairobi and saw the needs of the kids living on the streets, the facts of my privileged life struck home. Where I was born (and to whom) was luck of the draw, not because I’d done anything to deserve this favor.

I think, when you really look that squarely in the face, you’re reminded it’s not all about you. That God has given you a responsibility with that privilege.

Of course, just when I was grappling with all that is when Jase accused me of… well, I don’t want to talk about it right now. Enough to say, our breakup was nasty and I headed home to cry in my pillow… and re-evaluate my life.

The path that Calista and Albert set for their future family was changed in the Great Depression, yet that path seemed to be the perfect one for you. Do you think that God will open the door for you to not retrace the path but to have those paths come together again as hotelier and farmer? If so, what purpose do you think God would have for bringing the paths together?

Now that’s an interesting question. I know a few farmers who’ve opened their homes as B&Bs, but our farmhouse is old… and not so much in the charming sense. I can’t see Mom or I wanting to take it that direction.

I did see that the resort our old family inn is a part of was for sale for several years, and I couldn’t help looking at the Realtor listings for it. It was more out of curiosity than a desire to own or operate something like that, but the price tag cured me of even casual interest. Too many zeroes!

So, no, I don’t dream of running an inn or resort. It seems it would tie me down, just when I’m starting to get itchy feet again. Or maybe that would be a good thing! Truly, God only knows.

I entered the Miss Snowflake Pageant reluctantly. Partly because I knew Jase was here as the official photographer, but also because I didn’t want my life disturbed. It’s kind of hard to say no to Bob, though. He’s the director of our CSA and he knew all the right buttons to push to get me to agree to represent the CSA in the pageant.

What happened is exactly as I feared. Too much of Jase, and too much thinking about the world beyond our farm, the CSA, and Helena. But I guess God has a plan for all that, too. It’s always exciting stepping out in faith to see where He leads.

Thank you for sharing with us about your story and about the history your family represents in Helena. I look forward to the return visit tomorrow by your author, Valerie Comer.

More About More Than a Tiara and Snowflake Tiara:

What if you were caught doing something good, but the man you loved didn’t see it that way?

The Debutante Queen by Angela Breidenbach ~ 1889 (Helena, MT): Calista Blythe enters the first Miss Snowflake Pageant celebrating Montana statehood to expose the plight of street urchins. But hiding an indentured orphan could unravel Calista’s reputation, and her budding romance with pageant organizer, Albert Shanahan, if her secret is revealed. Will love or law prevail?

More Than a Tiara by Valerie Comer ~ 2014 (Helena, MT): Marisa Hiller’s interest in competing in Miss Snowflake Pageant for the city of Helena’s 150th anniversary is at zip zero zilch when she discovers the official photographer is Jase Mackie. Can Jase make amends for past mistakes and offer her, not only a tiara, but a partner in her crusade to help needy children and families?

Valerie-Comer-300x300About the Author:

Valerie Comer’s life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local foods movement as well as their creation-care-centric church. She only hopes her creations enjoy their happily ever afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters.

Valerie writes Farm Lit where food meets faith, injecting experience laced with humor into her award-winning Farm Fresh Romance stories.

Visit Valerie’s website at  http://valeriecomer.com to sign up for her newsletter and to learn of other links to connect. Also, Valerie and co-author Angela Breidenbach have an interesting Snowflake Tiara page at Pinterest.