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Posts tagged ‘fiction’

Character Interview: Janie Manson from Julie B. Cosgrove’s Baby Bunco

Today’s guest on Inner Source is Janie Manson from Julie B Cosgrove’s Baby Bunco, part of the Bunco Biddie’s Mysteries.

Welcome, Janie. I’d love for you to introduce yourselves to our readers because I think you have an interesting life to share.

Oh, my dear. I think all of us live interesting lives, don’t you agree? We all have our woes and joys. It makes us who we are.

My husband, Jack Manson, a renowned detective in the Austin Police department, was killed in the line of duty―leaving me a widow when my children were in their late teens and early twenties. After two decades, I decided to sell the house and move into a Fifty-five Plus community to be nearer to my daughter and her family. Her husband is the Chief Detective of the Alamoville Police Department. Not as famous as my Jack was, but he is a sharp cookie, nonetheless.

Anyway, several of my lifelong friends already lived there or were planning to make the move as well. Eventually we started a Bunco group going because (she whispers with her left hand angled to her mouth) their scheduled “senior” activities here at Sunset Acres are awfully lame.

Early on in our adult lives, Betsy Ann and I became walking buddies, and Ethel also joined us. It has kept us fairly fit and spry through the years. We still try every morning to power walk the almost two miles around the side roads of the community, not counting the golf course. We veer away from it. Old men with poorer eyesight swinging clubs at little hard balls with divots? That can get a bit dangerous. (She laughs.)

True story. My husband and I were driving around a curve at a local golf course, and an older man was on the tee. He swung the ball with all his might, and I tell you, I saw his eyes widen as he noticed his ball sailing right toward our car and my window. He missed, and I don’t know who was more thankful. I think you’re smart to avoid the golf course.

As the widow of a detective on the police force, I can’t imagine how difficult it was for you to let your husband go out the door every time he headed for work. With the growing crime rate against our police officers, is there any bit of wisdom, maybe even a Scripture, that sustained you through those years?

You cannot live healthily in fear. Our hearts, bodies and minds are not designed to do that. God asks us to live by faith instead, believing that come what may He is right beside us and has a purpose for all we go through. Romans 8:28- 31, knowing He works all for good to those who love Him, often was my go-to verse. Well, it still is.  Many a time I also poured over Psalm 144 in the wee hours of the morning when Jack was on a stakeout. I know it is the Soldier’s Psalm, but my husband often faced a battle of good versus evil, too. (She chuckles). But, then again, don’t we all?

Yes, we do. You have some awesome friends, and I’d love for our readers to be introduced to them by you. I believe you have a unique perspective on each of these quirky ladies and gents.

Let’s see. I’ve told you a bit about Blake. He is a good and honest man who loves his family. More than a job, his mission is to protect the citizens of this community. But underneath that Stetson is a fairly hard head. Even so, I think we get along okay, as much as any mother-in-law and son-in-law can.

Ethel and Betsy Ann are my lifelong buddies. We met early on when I Jack and I moved into our first home back in 1970. Betsy Ann and I were both pregnant at the time, and Ethel was organizing a neighborhood watch. She is a mystery aficionado and has collected, and read I might add, over five hundred whodunnit paperbacks. She has them sub-categorized in a file catalog by author, crime and method. Betsy Ann was a reporter for the garden section of the local newspaper for twenty-five years, so she has a touch of the sleuth gene in her as well.

If you had to pick one of the Bunco Biddies to go into a dangerous situation with you, which one would you trust the most? Which one would you not want to go into a perilous adventure by your side?

I’d trust Ethel the most because she is level-headed and has a no-nonsense attitude about life. Betsy Ann is a dear, but she tends to be a bit emotional and, well ditzy. But that’s part of her charm. Mildred has a tender heart, but she is too fragile right now. She’s had some major life challenges in the past year. We try to tiptoe on eggshells around her right now, but she’s gonna be fine. (Janie winks.)

And my last questions have to be about your son-in-law. You know he loves you, don’t you? I actually think he admires you very much. Blake is a wonderful guy, but I really want to know how you took the news when you learned that your daughter, Melanie, would be dreading her husband walk out the door, just as you must have all those years.

I hope that, by watching me as she grew up, I showed her how to boldly live this life. Perhaps I showed her too well. Blake reminds me a lot of my Jack at that age. There are times I wish she’d married an accountant or something, but I know God planned for them to be joined and truthfully, she couldn’t have picked better. Trust me though, each night I go down on my knees for her and the kids, and each morning I ask God to send His angels to guard Blake.

Being a cop’s wife is not easy, but at least their husbands come home when they get off duty, God willing. Of course the same goes for the families of our policewomen who serve. I cannot imagine how the spouses of our deployed service men and women make it day to day knowing their loved one is a second away from danger at any moment. They have to lean on God Almighty as well as family and friends. I pray for them as well. We all should, don’t you agree?

I agree 100%. I believe prayer is the best gift that we can give to those who stand between us and evil.

Thank you for visiting with us, Janie. I look forward to the interview of your author, Julie B. Cosgrove on Wednesday.

More About Baby Bunco:

Who would leave a newborn baby in the bathtub of a condo in Sunset Acres, a retirement community, and why? And was a young woman slain behind the convenience store across the highway it’s mother? Janie and the Bunco Biddies want to find out, but soon they discover sleuthing can get a bit dicey.

Julie’s First Book in the Bunco Biddie’s Mysteries is Dumpster Dicing

As Janie and Betsy Ann go for their morning jog, the city sanitation vehicle follows its normal five-mile Tuesday morning route through their retirement community of Sunset Acres. The two Bunco-playing biddies spot a leg dangling out of the dumpster when the truck lifts the trash container high in the air. Someone diced up one of their newest residents—a grouchy loner named Edwin Newman. Did he unpack too much of his dicey past when he moved in last weekend?

About Julie’s next release, Three, Sixies and Thieves

In Sunset Acres, some of the condos with threes and sixes in their house numbers are being robbed. The police see it as random, but Janie thinks otherwise. When she and her Bunco friends catch the thieves red-handed, one of the robbers is arrested. However, the next morning he is found hung in his cell. With her son-in-law, Chief Detective Blake, on vacation, can she trust anyone in the department to reveal what really happened?

More About the Author:

Besides being an award-winning suspense and cozy mystery writer, Julie is also an Internet missionary for Campus Crusades Canada. The articles and devotionals she writes and edits reach over 600,000 people a month and lead many of them to contact mentors who guide them through life issues and into a deeper relationship with Jesus. She writes for several other faith-based devotional sites as well, and her blog Where Did You Find God Today has readership in ten countries.

Character Interview: Hugh Foster from Deborah Dee Harper’s Misstep

Today’s guest is the pastor of a little church in Road’s End, Virginia, and the hero of Deborah Dee Harper’s novel, Misstep. Welcome to Inner Source, Hugh. We’d love to hear a little about your past and just what brought you to this small Virginia town.

Thanks, Marji. Glad to be here. Melanie and I just finished up twenty-seven years in the Air Force where I served as chaplain. We lived all over the world, but through it all, Mel has dreamed of owning an inn much like the ones found in the Colonial Williamsburg eighteenth century style. When we found Road’s End, quite by accident, we were intrigued with the beautiful house that we’ve since bought and named The Inn at Road’s End. We were hooked.

Now, in one sentence, I’d love to have you describe your parishioners?

My parishioners at the Christ Is Lord Church are fine (funny), loyal (loony), patriotic (pushy), Christian (without a doubt), awesome (argumentative), and unconventional (off-the-wall) folks who enrich (exasperate) my life in so many wonderful (wild and wooly) ways.

That’s a delightful description of that unique crew of wacky individuals.

Your wife, Melanie, is a wonderful person. She has to be because I’m going to tell you that while you might not believe so, you fit right in with the rest of the folks in that little place. Melanie seems to be the stable one, and well, she’s put up with a lot. What do you believe is her secret to remaining calm in the midst of lunacy?

Yes, well, Fay, I’ve begun to wonder myself if I’m part of the problem here. I have my own idiosyncrasies (fear of spiders, snakes, close places, storms, etc., not to mention my OCD tendencies—and I do mean don’t mention it—please).

Mel is a lucky woman in that she married me—which allows her to remain calm in the face of constant chaos, serene when everyone around her is psychotic, and happy when I’m hot under the collar. And she can do all that because in contrast to what I’m doing, she can’t help but appear calm, serene, and happy. (That’s why she’s lucky. She gets to be compared to me which makes her look supremely better in all situations.)

All joking aside, though, her secret is her deep, abiding faith in Jesus Christ. She, better than me (and I’m the pastor, for crying out loud), has been able, ever since I’ve known her, to throw all her burdens at the foot of the Cross and believe with all her heart that Christ has her back. She’s cool when I’m sizzling with frustration and anger. She’s calm when I’m clutching at straws and looking for the lifeboats. She’s unflappable when I’m … well, flappable. Mostly, though, Mel is a child of God, and I will be everlastingly grateful to Him for putting her in my life.

Of all the characters that you live amongst, which one (besides Melanie) would you say is your best friend and why? Which one would you avoid the most if you could and why? And which one makes you laugh the most and why?

I’d have to say Bristol Diggs is my best friend, if for no other reason than he’s the only other totally sane person in town. Bristol has some strange things in his past, but those have only made him stronger and have brought him to Road’s End, for which I will be eternally grateful. He shares my sense of humor, and maybe most importantly of all, is just about as clueless as I am, particularly when it comes to women and what makes them tick. We make a great team.

Without a doubt, the person I avoid the most HAS to be Ruby Mae Headley. Don’t get me wrong, Ruby’s a fine lady, but she never …stops …talking. Never. With her daughter Grace being my secretary, Ruby Mae thinks she’s somehow got the inside track on anything remotely church-related, which in her mind means she’s in charge. If it isn’t what hymns she’s going to torture…whoops, I mean perform on Sunday, it’s what topics I should address in my sermons (just how God chooses His special projects, meaning her, for instance) or how we can bring in more money to the church coffers (which usually involves the church buying something from her to turn around and sell to someone else). And don’t get me started on those hats.

The one who makes me laugh the most would have to be Dewey Wyandotte. Bless his heart, he’s a little dim, and George, who has an inflated opinion of himself anyway, takes full advantage of every opportunity to let Dewey know just how dim he is. On the other hand, Dewey can be shrewd; you just have to sort through all the silliness to find out who the real Mr. Wyandotte is. In the third book of the series, Misjudge, the readers will get a closer look at the characters and find out just how much they’ve contributed to our nation and their neighbors. Dewey is always good for a crazy idea, and more often than not, gives it right back to George. Go, Dewey!

Yes, Ruby Mae, bless her heart, is a strange bird, and I would love to sit and listen to Dewey and George ague all day.

Hugh, I purposely shared your story with my pastor and his wife, more particularly his wife, because I wanted them to know that they are not the only ones with eccentrics in the congregation. As a pastor who has a whole church filled with eccentrics, I’d love for you to provide some advice on how you deal with a total group of lovable loons so that maybe my pastor can learn to deal with a group of them, of which I know he considers me one.

Ha! If your name was Clair, we could call you Clair de lune. Just a little joke there. Just as your pastor does, I’m sure, I rely on God to keep me sane. If He didn’t want me as a pastor, believe me, He had every chance to make sure I didn’t make the grade. I’ve often asked Him whether or not He’s blessing or punishing me by setting me in the midst of all these crazy … er, eccentric people. In fact, I ask that very thing in Faux Pas after a particularly insane meeting in the church basement. I take it one day, or argument, as the case may be, at a time and ask for His guidance continually. He never lets me down.

Thank you for visiting us, Hugh. I’m looking forward to the next adventure Faux Pas.

Thank you, Fay, for hosting me. I’ve had a blast, but please don’t show this to any of the folks in Road’s End, because then I’d have to hurt you, and you can imagine how that would go against my grain, being a pastor and all. Still … (sorry, Lord).

Your secret is safe with me. However, I know at least one of those eccentrics can use a computer, can’t they?

I look forward to the interview with your author, Deborah Dee Harper on Wednesday. Until then, I want to introduce her to your readers.

More about the Author:

Deborah Dee Harper currently resides in Alaska where she writes inspirational and humorous books for both children and adults and takes thousands of photographs. When she isn’t writing or taking photos, she stalks moose and other wildlife, survives earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, endures the long, dark, frigid winters, revels in the endless summer days, and is awestruck by the rippling northern lights of the Alaskan night skies. She also leaps mountains in a single bound and wrestles grizzly bears along hiking trails. (Not really. Just making sure you were paying attention.) Whenever she can, she loves being with her daughter, son-in-law, and three grandsons in Kentucky, and her son, daughter-in-law, and two more grandsons in Michigan. (For real.)

She can be reached at deborahdeetales@gmail.com, at her website www.deborahdeeharper.com, and her three blogs: www.deborahdeetales.blogspot.com, www.deetrails.blogspot.com and www.laramieonthelam.blogspot.com.

More about Misstep:

Winnie and Sadie are still fighting, and I’m still living in the strangest town on earth.
It’s December in Road’s End, Virginia, a tiny town long forgotten by anyone but its residents, where Colonel Hugh Foster and his wife, Melanie, have chosen to live—for better or worse. The jury’s still out on that one!
Road’s End is comprised entirely of senior citizens whose kids have grown and left for greener pastures. Hugh, Melanie, and Bristol (one of the few sane people in town) are faced with a crumbling church in desperate need of repair and renovation, a dwindling congregation of opinionated, ornery senior citizens, and a camel—yes, a camel. And if that’s not enough, the trio and the rest of the Road’s End residents, are soon mired in danger and intrigue when a group of gun-toting drug dealers arrive in town, bent on killing the church handyman, and conspiring to ruin the doggonedest record-breaking blizzard the town has ever seen.
Poor drug dealers.

Deborah has an upcoming sequel to Misstep entitled Faux Pas. Here’s more of the hilarity you’ll find in Road’s End, Virginia.

What would you do if the President of the United States was attending your daughter’s wedding?

Panic. You’d panic. Add in a severe storm, crazy senior citizens who believe the POTUS lied his way into office, a crumbling, but historic church you happen to pastor, a cranky Secret Service agent, a four-year-old grandchild-to-be you know nothing about, and a son-in-law-to-be whose faith in the Lord has waned, and you’ve got yourself a humdinger of a wedding. Not to mention that same future son-in-law is a University of Michigan Wolverines fan (not a Michigan State Spartans fan) and prefers sweet tea to unsweetened. My gosh, what is the world coming to? Talk about a faux pas! Well, good luck with all that, Pastor Foster.

And Heaven help the president.

Stepping out of her humorous genre, Deborah also has another upcoming release entitled The Sin Seeker.

Sin Seeker, is the first book in my Sin Seeker series. The story deals with sin and the very real battle we’re in every day of our lives with the forces of darkness. Graves (Gray to his friends) Hollister is a discouraged social services employee tasked with the thankless job of keeping children safe from parents who don’t deserve them in the first place and who neglect and abuse them regularly. He starts hearing demonic voices shortly before a hideous tragedy occurs, after which he quits his job and sinks to the bottom of a bottle of anything he can find that’ll put him in an alcoholic stupor. He spends two months trying to obliterate his memories. Finally, he realizes he can’t; he must face them, so he enrolls in seminary and becomes a pastor. With his new role as pastor and his newfound ability to actually see the sin on the people God has tasked him with helping, Gray finds himself thrown head-first into a world of evil and demons, angels and miracles.

Discovering Nila’s Hope by Kathleen Friesen

NilasHope_h11737_300I fell in love with Nila Black while writing my first novel, Melody’s Song. My heart broke for Nila’s hopelessness caused by years of neglect and her current abusive relationship. So, when that story finished, I knew I had to continue Nila’s.

As you read her story, you may wonder if I drew on experiences from my own life. The answer is yes and no. I thank God that I have never experienced the kind of abuse that Nila endured. I will confess that as a teen I was attacked and molested, and that gave me some reactions to explore. But when my husband and I cared for four siblings who were terribly abused by someone who should have protected them, that changed me. The damage done to these innocent, beautiful children tore away my mask of naiveté. I could not simply wish that children everywhere would be cared for and protected. I, like Will in Nila’s Hope, became desperate to protect, but for the most part, I was powerless.

That’s why Nila’s journey from fear and despair to courage and bright hope resonated within me. I knew that what I could not accomplish in my own strength, God could redeem.

Nila learned that her quest for a trustworthy hope could only be found in her Savior, Jesus Christ. And with the help of her landlords/friends, Pastor Dave and Lydia, Nila dug deep into God’s word and found treasures of promise.

Treasures like, “The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (Psalm 147:11). Nila had never known an unfailing love. In her childhood, everyone she’d loved had abandoned her. It’s not surprising that this verse grabbed her heart.

And when the danger that stalked her pushed her to despair, Psalm 119:49-50 became her buoy of hope. “Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope. My comfort in my suffering is this: your promise preserves my life.”

I greatly admire Nila, and while I hope I never have to what she did, her journey encouraged my faith. I pray it does the same for you.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). Amen.

profile shot by JamesAbout the Author:

Once upon a time, there was a shy girl who loved to read. She found friends, adventure, and reasons to trust God in the pages of her favorite books. When she grew up, she carried a dream in her heart that some day she would join those authors long admired in the adventure of writing stories. Today Kathleen Friesen is writing and loving it. Her stories invite readers to risk faith, dare to love, and trust God with the consequences.

After thirty years on the Canadian prairies, Kathleen and her husband Ron now live in the beautiful Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, Canada. They enjoy travelling, long walks in nature, and time spent with family and friends. And wherever they go, Kathleen’s on the prowl for ideas for her next book. Catch us with Kathleen on her website, and on Facebook.

More About Nila’s Hope:

Just when her career as a carpenter and a relationship with handsome co-worker Will Jamison are within reach, Nila Black’s abusive ex-boyfriend is released from prison. He’s out of jail, out for revenge, and making promises she knows he’ll keep. Nila will do whatever it takes to save her friends from the evil that will come their way if she doesn’t put distance between them-even if it means abandoning her new-found faith. It will take a miracle and an angelic messenger to show Nila that God is her greatest protector. He has never left her side, and He wants only the best for her and for the man she loves.

 

Character Interview: Jael of Rogan from The Lady of the Haven

ladyofthehavenToday’s guest is Jael of Rogan from Betty Thomason Owen’s novel, The Lady of the Haven. Jael, thank you for being with us today. Please tell us about yourself and a little about your world?

Thank you, Lady Fay, for inviting me. I am a daughter of Rogan, the last of that great family. We are sailmakers by trade, and healers by calling. My da and grandpere made names for themselves, but enemies also, by working to free the slaves of the magistrate. For this reason, I spent my childhood in hiding.

We have lived at the base of the Verani Falls for many generations. I suppose you would call it a wilderness. We are enclosed on one side by a great cliff, where the cascade drops to Verani Basin. A grand old forest separates us from the plains of Dolor, farmlands along the river. My home is in the haven, a place like no other, feared by the locals. And for good reason. If you don’t know the secrets of the haven, you’re liable to disappear, never to be seen again.

When we first meet you, we find that you are a healer. From where did you receive the knowledge of the plants and the herbs that you use?

This is a knowledge—a gift—passed down through many generations of my family. Grandmere trained me in the use of herbs. She taught me where to find them, how to cultivate and preserve them. There are some, even among the Christians of my day, who call it sorcery. I disagree. It is learning to use what Jehovah has provided, in much the same way as He provided plants for food.

Your strength is the characteristic that makes you most memorable to me. You are not a lady saved by a knight in shining armor; you are a warrior who fights her own battles. From where does this strength of heart, soul, and mind resonate?

I am honored and humbled by your words. I believe strength comes ultimately from Jehovah. My stubbornness has proved useful, as well, along with a simple belief in the truth of God’s promises to us. If He has written it, surely it is true.

Your strength is what gets you to the place that your quest takes you, but your hero, William of Coldthwaite is not without his moments. I liken his journey to a knight seeking to slay a dragon (though the villain he seeks is not really a dragon). Tell us what draws you to William?

Besides the fact that he is the handsomest man I’ve ever beheld? But more than outward appearance, his heart draws me. He has a presence that commands respect, yet a gentle spirit rests beneath the surface. Without doubt, his integrity and strong faith, also. And his horse loves him.

The Lady of the Haven is the first novel in the series. Please tell us where your adventures take you next.

To the northernmost border of the kingdom of Coldthwaite, a stronghold high in the Touri Mountain range. Cragmorton, named after the strong people who first dwelt there: the Mortons of the Crag. Along with my husband, I am sent as the king’s emissary, to oversee the reuniting of the two governments. Our hope is to bring peace and carry the gospel into the darkest regions, to a people long held captive by an evil magistrate.

More About The Lady of the Haven:

Jael of Rogan, a young healer-woman known as the Lady of the Haven, has no idea who she’s pulled from the rain-swollen river when a mortally wounded warrior practically falls into her arms. Her healing skills and deep faith in God combine to snatch William, Prince of Coldthwaite, from the brink of death only to learn that the peril to his life is far from over.

As soon as William is able, Jael aids his escape through the mysterious disappearing trail. He vows to return if she ever summons him when the danger has passed. William begins the long and hazardous journey over the Touri Mountains, his heart forever bound to the beautiful young healer whose songs haunt his dreams.

Forced to flee her home, Jael remembers the Warrior’s promise and races to find him in his far off land. Pursued, captured, relentlessly interrogated, her life is in danger nearly from the start. Just as hope begins to fade, Jael is freed by a band of soldiers and learns that William is only a short distance away. Their paths cross briefly as he leads his army in the struggle to defeat their foe. William departs and evil men move in once more.

Here in this strange land, amidst a deadly struggle, Jael comes face to face with a truth she never suspected. Perhaps the power she’d attributed to the haven lay within her all along. But can she, an outcast, ever hope to gain the heart of the prince?

Betty Owens 2About the Author:

Betty Thomason Owens the author of The Lady of the Haven, a wonderful inspirational fantasy filled with adventure and heart. Betty lives in Kentucky with her husband, Robert. They have three grown sons living in the area, along with their daughters-in-law, four beautiful granddaughters (one more on the way!), and two handsome grandsons.

Betty is semiretired, and spends most of her time writing, studying about writing, and critiquing other peoples’ writing. She is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), where she leads a critique group, and attends regular local meetings. She’s also involved with Bluegrass Christian Writers, a lively group of Kentucky writers, who meet quarterly in a Lexington, Kentucky bookstore.

Betty has two fantasy-adventure novels, The Lady of the Haven and A Gathering of Eagles, in a second edition published by Sign of the Whale Books, an imprint of Olivia Kimbrell Press.

She also writes historical fiction. Her most recent release, Amelia’s Legacy is the first novel in the Legacy series for Write Integrity Press. In addition to the ’20’s era romances, Betty also writes contemporary stories as a co-author of A Dozen Apologies and the upcoming The Love Boat Bachelor.

Connect with Betty at her webpage or find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+

Author Interview: Anna Marie Kittrell

Anna Marie KittrellToday’s guest is Anna Marie Kittrell the author of the Redbend High series, which includes the wonderful young adult novels Witcha’be and Dizzy Blonde.  

Anna works as a middle school secretary in her beloved hometown of Anadarko, Oklahoma, where she resides with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband of twenty-four years, and their seventeen-year-old daughter. With a son, daughter-in-law, and precious grandbaby nearby, life is her favorite story.

Anna has written for as long as she can remember. She still has most of her tattered creations—leftover stories she was unable to sell on the playground for a dime—written in childish handwriting on notebook paper, bound with too many staples. Her love of storytelling has grown throughout the years, and she is thrilled her tales are now worth more than ten cents.

Connect with Anna at her website, on FacebookTwitterGoodreads and at Prism Book Group.

Anna, welcome back, and thank you for letting me get to know Lenni much better. Dizzy Blonde struck me as truly authentic. I could see a teen like Lenni struggling with changes in her life by trying to change herself. How did you bring such authenticity to the story?

Thank you for having me, Fay. I am truly thrilled to be here.

My stories are authentic because most days I feel I am a teenager, who just happens to be middle aged. I’m like, “Forty-three? When—and how— did this occur?” Somehow, I’ve managed to hold onto an adolescent mindset which is both a gift, and a curse. It makes my secretarial job at a middle school a lot of fun and makes writing young adult a blessed experience because I deeply relate to my characters. But, on the down side, I feel my personality is too sensitive, too silly, and often too self-absorbed.

Like Lenni, I keenly remember wanting to change myself in high school. I wanted to be spontaneous, reckless, and uninhibited, just like my wildest friend. The problem was, just like Lenni, the good-girl inside me never let me enjoy the bad-girl lifestyle. Each act of rebellion was shadowed with shame.

For me, the good vs. evil struggle is still a very real part of everyday life. I might not chop off my hair and shorten my skirts, but inside, that battle still rages on. Praise God for the essential (sometimes maddening) gift of a good conscience. And for the wisdom to recognize it—especially in the uncertain teenage years.

Lenni, is a different type of heroine. Things happen to her, and they worsen because she doesn’t take care of them or she gives people the benefit of the doubt until they prove themselves unworthy of her trust. Why is it, do you think, that teens somehow have trouble getting themselves out of trouble, whether it’s a mess they’ve made or through the actions of others?

Lenni and I have in common is the concern for what other people think of us, and an extreme fear of hurting another person’s feelings. As an adult, I still find myself in uncomfortable circumstances because of these deeply seated attributes. The same qualities that cause a person to be likable and approachable can be crippling—sometimes even dangerous—if the person continually regards the feelings and opinions of others above her own.  

Such is the case with Lenni. She has always cared so much about others. She even stood at Bianca’s side when the entire school turned against Bianca. She can’t bear to see people hurting. To reject someone isn’t in her nature. Unfortunately, certain people prey on the kindness of others. Lenni discovers this when she befriends a girl who uses her for selfish gain, and ends up in a dangerous, and seemingly inescapable, dilemma.

As I mentioned to Lenni in her interview, she did a 180 degree turn in order to make herself into someone she wanted to be. How hard was it for you, her author, to give her that turnaround and let her walk herself into harm’s way?

Lenni is such a sweetheart, making her into a believable bad-girl was a challenge. I wanted her to remain likable, even when she was making poor choices. The rock-star image she struggled to present was so self-assured and bold, to keep Lenni naïve and innocent at the same time was nothing short of a balancing act.

Lenni, attends church, and she seems to have all the right answers, the right look, the right personality, but the truth is, Lenni doesn’t know the Lord while attending church. She even tries to intervene and pull someone away from a spiritual experience. I’m curious. Why would she not want someone to lean upon God—at least at that point in the story?

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10), and sometimes gaining wisdom, or believing, in something as big as God can be, well, fearful. Lenni knew God had the power to change lives. She saw Him transform Bianca and heal her pain, and witnessed the love he showed Molly through her creative writing teacher, Mrs. Piper. She knew God was real, but she didn’t know him personally. She’d never asked him into her heart.

When God reached out to Lenni through the Holy Spirit, the feeling frightened her. She turned away from God, just as she turned from every other good thing in her life, including her friends and her mother. Like most of us at some point in our lives, Lenni didn’t want to take care of her problems God’s way, she wanted to take care of them her way. She’d tried to be good, and good didn’t work—her parents still divorced. It was time to toughen up, to grow callouses on her heart to keep it from hurting. To destroy everything associated with “old Lenni.”

When Lenni’s mother reached out to God in her time of need, it angered Lenni. She had decided to handle the pain of divorce her own way, and wanted her mother to do the same. She saw her mother’s surrender to Christ as a sign of weakness—an insult to Lenni’s newfound strength.

It was not until Lenni was shoved by tragedy to the point of surrender that she realized the weight of sin and refusal salvation were the real source of her anger. Only then, could she truly forgive herself, accept the forgiveness of God, and appreciate her mother’s relationship with Christ.

I know your next project is Lineage, and I took a sneak peek at what the story is about. You’re already invited back here for the release, and I’m looking forward to getting to know your character, Bianca (the witch wannabe in Witch’abe.) Will you share with our readers a little about her story.

I would love to come back and celebrate the release of Lineage! Thank you so much for the invitation. I’ve included a small overview of the story, followed by an excerpt.

Please, enjoy…

Following the death of her mother, Bianca and her dad are on their own. But when a redheaded stranger at the funeral claims to be her biological father, Bianca’s reality crumbles. She soon finds herself trapped between the alcoholism of one father, and the wicked schemes of another—with no way to escape.

Bianca can’t walk away from her family—she’ll have to run.

“Can we just get on with it?” I asked, frustrated. “Who is this Chase-guy, and why didn’t you want him at Mom’s funeral?”

Dad shut the refrigerator, plodded to the kitchen table, and repositioned himself in the chair across from me. “It’s difficult to know where to start.” He raked a hand through his hair.

“At the beginning,” I said. “Don’t beat around the bush, Dad. Just say it.”

He took a deep breath and blew it out. “That man you were talking to…at the funeral.”

“Yes. Chase Archer.” I nodded slow.

“He…” Dad dropped his head to his hands. “Oh, God, please help me say this,” he cried hoarsely.

My chest tightened. Whatever this was about, it was a big deal.

He raised his head and returned his gaze to mine. “Bee, that man is your biological father.”

My brain scrambled, as if someone lifted my head from my shoulders and shook it like a box of puzzle pieces. I pressed my fingers between my eyebrows. “Whatever. Good one, Dad.”

Dad was pretty clever, I’d give him that. I could see how he’d think I’d fall for it—with me and Chase having the same hair color.

The truth hurts. I swallowed the sob working its way up my throat and blinked back the sting of tears. The truth hurt, all right. Like an overinflated basketball bulging through my eye sockets.

Thanks so much for sharing a bit of Bianca’s story. This is the first time I’ve told you this, but I wanted to share. I think of your Bianca as having the same personality as my antagonist, Delilah, in the Ties that Bind series. She’s tough, and her personality remains intact even after she meets Jesus. While I love all three of these Redbend High School gals, I think I’m partial to Bianca.

DIZZY ECOVER (427x640) (387x580)More About Dizzy Blonde:

All of her life, Lenni has been the perfect child, but still her parents are divorcing. Invisible and angry, Lenni trades her innocent princess image for the rebellious likeness of her favorite rock icon, Dizzy. In an effort to shed the old Lenni, she turns her back on those who love her most, trading true friendship for a dangerous affiliation with a shady upperclassman. When deception and rumors threaten to ruin Lenni’s life, she learns the value of good friends and the importance of an honorable reputation. But can this realization save her from the clutches of danger? Or was the lesson learned too late?

EbookCover_Witcha'beAbout Witcha’be

Is the power of forgiveness really stronger than a Witcha’be spell?

New to the small community of Redbend, Molly Sanders is delighted when she and Lenni Flemming become instant friends during the final weeks of her first Oklahoma summer. However, Bianca Ravenwood, Lenni’s best friend and self-proclaimed witch in training, is less than thrilled. In fact, she’s cursing mad, vowing to destroy Molly while honing her craft in the halls of Redbend High School.

Molly’s new school becomes a waking nightmare as Bianca, beautiful wannabe witch, targets her in a jealous rage. Plagued by terrifying, inexplicable occurrences and an embarrassing case of panic-induced hiccups, Molly is unable to escape Bianca’s snare.

But if Bianca refuses to back down and Molly refuses to stand up, not only will Molly lose the best friend she’s ever had…she may also lose her sanity.

Character Interview: Lenni Flemming from Anna Marie Kittrell’s Dizzy Blonde

DIZZY ECOVER (427x640) (387x580)Today, our guest is Lenni Flemming from Anna Marie Kittrell’s Dizzy Blonde, the second book in the Redbend High series.

Lenni, I first met you in Witcha’be, but I want you to introduce yourself to our readers. Tell them a little about yourself, what you enjoy doing, where you live, things like that?

Yay! Okay, my name is Lenni Flemming—oh, sorry, you already said that. I live in a small Oklahoma town called Redbend, and attend Redbend High School with my two besties, Molly and Bianca. We’re all sophomores. Of the three of us, I love school the most. I don’t really like the work so much, but I love spending time with my classmates and my boyfriend, Saul. Everyone calls him “too-tall Saul” because he’s, like, six-foot-something.

Anyway, besides my besties, my school, and my boyfriend, I also like—No! Wait! Make that LOVE—the best rock-star in the whole entire universe, Dizzy. Me and Bianca saw her in concert last year, and it was amazing. I wish Molly would have gotten to see her too, but things didn’t work out so well. We all three plan on getting tickets to her next show, so it’s all good!

What else do I enjoy… Ohmigosh! I can’t believe I almost left out the Cornerstone Youth Group! Molly, Bianca and I go there together every Wednesday, and twice on Sunday. It is so much fun. Saul plays guitar in the band and everything. We have a neon-green wall called the Kneeling Zone, where everybody prays, and a big Pray-Dough can where we put our offering. Greg and Sandy are the youth pastors. They are really cool, and make learning Bible scriptures a complete blast. You should totally join us sometime!

Lenni, your story has to strike a chord with many young adults and teens because of the pain you have endured with the divorce of your parents. I know I’m delving into painful territory, but can you share with us a little of what you feel about your dad’s leaving your mother and his remarriage?

When I first found out Dad was leaving Mom for his secretary, it was the worst pain—ever. I thought I would literally cry my heart out—that it would stretch through of one of my tear ducts and plop to the floor. Then, when Dad told me he was getting remarried, my heart froze solid, and I couldn’t feel anything at all. That was almost worse than the tears. As more time passed, the pain dulled, and my heart started tingling, like a foot that falls asleep and then gets its feeling back. Even with God’s help, it took a really long time to completely feel again, and for a while I was afraid my heart had frostbite.

It’s better now, but sometimes it still hurts. Mostly when I think back to when I was a little girl, and remember what Mom and Dad were like together. The time he tickled her and she laughed so hard she lost a false eyelash in the carpet. The time he moved her hair aside and kissed the back of her neck while she washed dishes. The way Mom cried when Grandpa died; the way Dad cried with her. It’s sad knowing they’re not in love anymore. That they’ll never touch again.

Your entire life took a 180 degree turn. Can you talk to us about that?

All my life, I’d been the perfect child, but still my parents were divorcing. I felt invisible. Angry. I made up my mind to get rid of my Princess Goodgirl image and become more like the person I admired most in the world—my favorite rock-star, Dizzy.

But as it turned out, to kill old Lenni, I had to turn my back on those who loved me the most. I ended up trading in my true friends just so I could hang around with a shady upperclassman who almost ruined my life.

Now, thank goodness, I know the value of good friends and the importance of an honorable reputation. I’m so glad God brought me to my senses before it was too late.

I’m not sure how to put this next question, but Lenni, how is it that you are so patient with the things that are going on around you and so kind to those who wrong you?

I don’t really know. Part of it probably comes from my mom. She’s very caring and tenderhearted. Both of us really enjoy making people feel comfortable. I’m really fortunate to have such a compassionate—is that the right word? Yeah, I think that’s right—mother. And another big part of it is God. My whole life, I’ve always loved people. But now that I know Jesus, I love people more than I ever thought possible. The Bible says in Jeremiah 1:5, God knew me back before I was formed. Way back then, he knew I would someday belong to Him and use my love of people to further His kingdom. How cool is that?

You met up with some truly despicable people who twisted things, shared things, lied to you, and even brought harm to you. What kind of advice would you offer someone who is dealing with people like that in their lives?

Gee, that’s a tuffy. I guess the best advice I could think of, is to pray for those people. As crazy as it sounds, it really does work. Sometimes it’s hard, because you’re angry and don’t feel like praying. For some reason, we think holding onto anger keeps us in control. But that’s a lie. Holding onto anger makes us lose control. Trust me—I know. I lost everything because of anger. Only by the grace of God did I get back those things I’d lost. It chills my heart to think of what could have happened if God hadn’t intervened in my circumstances.

Then, after you’ve prayed, forgive. That’s what truly sets us free. To forgive someone doesn’t mean you have to become their doormat or their punching bag. It just means you no longer have to hate or judge them. You are relieved of those burdens, and able to move on in God’s perfect will. When you forgive—it’s all good!

Lenni, thank you, again, for visiting with us. I look forward to Wednesday’s  interview with your author, Anna Marie Kittrell.

More About Dizzy Blonde:

All of her life, Lenni has been the perfect child, but still her parents are divorcing. Invisible and angry, Lenni trades her innocent princess image for the rebellious likeness of her favorite rock icon, Dizzy. In an effort to shed the old Lenni, she turns her back on those who love her most, trading true friendship for a dangerous affiliation with a shady upperclassman. When deception and rumors threaten to ruin Lenni’s life, she learns the value of good friends and the importance of an honorable reputation. But can this realization save her from the clutches of danger? Or was the lesson learned too late?

EbookCover_Witcha'beAbout Witcha’be

Is the power of forgiveness really stronger than a Witcha’be spell?

New to the small community of Redbend, Molly Sanders is delighted when she and Lenni Flemming become instant friends during the final weeks of her first Oklahoma summer. However, Bianca Ravenwood, Lenni’s best friend and self-proclaimed witch in training, is less than thrilled. In fact, she’s cursing mad, vowing to destroy Molly while honing her craft in the halls of Redbend High School.

Molly’s new school becomes a waking nightmare as Bianca, beautiful wannabe witch, targets her in a jealous rage. Plagued by terrifying, inexplicable occurrences and an embarrassing case of panic-induced hiccups, Molly is unable to escape Bianca’s snare.

But if Bianca refuses to back down and Molly refuses to stand up, not only will Molly lose the best friend she’s ever had…she may also lose her sanity.

Anna Marie KittrellAbout the Author:

Anna works as a middle school secretary in her beloved hometown of Anadarko, Oklahoma, where she resides with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband of twenty-four years, and their seventeen-year-old daughter. With a son, daughter-in-law, and precious grandbaby nearby, life is her favorite story.

Anna has written for as long as she can remember. She still has most of her tattered creations—leftover stories she was unable to sell on the playground for a dime—written in childish handwriting on notebook paper, bound with too many staples. Her love of storytelling has grown throughout the years, and she is thrilled her tales are now worth more than ten cents.

Connect with Anna at her website, on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and at Prism Book Group.

 

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.

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.