Jul 28

FOR FAITH: Oz and I–The process

OZ AND I image copy

This morning Oswald Chambers smacked me in a more gentle way than he usually does. In today’s devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, Oz reminded me that the process is more important than the product. He said:

What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end, God sees as the goal itself. 

It’s about trusting God now. It’s about relying on His strength alone. It’s about following His leading and jumping onto His wagon now instead of building our own wagon, loading it down with non-essentials and then trying to push the whole thing up the hill–by ourselves.

Often we look at trials in our lives and wonder what is going on. Why has God placed them in our lives? And we answer ourselves that perhaps God is preparing us for something bigger in the future.

While, God can and does use everything for good, including preparation, today Oz reminded me that God is also–and perhaps more–concerned with the now, not the later.

So am I trusting God this very minute? Am I learning to see Him leading me right now? Am I jumping into His wagon this moment?

Or am I looking off into the horizon (or not looking at all) and imagining that God is only using the now to prepare me for the then?

Moment-by-moment obedience. Because the work He is doing right now is His goal. Thanks for the heads up, Oz!

Jul 25

FOR READERS: Interview with Author Anne Jean Michele

Today it is my pleasure to welcome my writing friend, Anne Jean Michele.

 

Unseen Promise

CAROL:         Congratulations on your first novel, Unseen Promise. What inspired you to write this novel?

ANNE JEAN: When our children were small, our house was the gathering place for neighboring children to play. When the girls were in their teens, our house was a safe place for their friends who for some reason needed a place to stay. Although our daughters did not experience the events in this book, I knew or heard about so many who did, and the emotions were heartbreaking. I often thought ‘why doesn’t someone write a story that helps to open the eyes of young adults struggling with life decisions, something that shows God’s love, free of human condemnation?’ I never expected that someone to be me, however I could not get the thoughts out of my mind until I finally gave in and began to write. Could this have been God’s gentle push? I think so, and was able to finally release all those years of compassion and heartache into this book.

My hope in writing this book is to give readers pause to think, really think, about God’s master plan. Every person is important; YOU are important to God. No mistake is beyond the reach of God’s love and grace. Open your eyes to trust in God…there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is Christ.

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CAROL:         I love the theme of how God can work all things for good. Was there one particular character you felt closest to when you were writing about how God worked in their life? Why?

ANNE JEAN: Hmmm..no, not really, I loved all the characters! Derek and Deena represent the mistakes we make in life. Little mistakes, big mistakes, we all make mistakes and we can all find grace in turning to God… this is the message I am trying to share.

Jabari is perhaps my favorite character. He represents the good in mankind, honorable, trustworthy, willing to die for his brothers. He and Makalo rise from the epitome of poverty to form beautiful family relationships with strength and love. I truly believe no matter what the circumstances, with God at the helm, anyone can overcome the worst of situations.

The angel is of course pure fantasy. Most of the story required detailed research and writing was slow with many rewrites. However, the story of the angel was pure fun. It required no research. I let my imagination go and wrote without stopping. So much fun!

The character with the least exposure must not be forgotten. My heart breaks at the thought of the child who never experiences his or her first breath, yet I find love and understanding for those who make this ultimate choice. My question though; is the decision made with full understanding of God’s love and grace? Could different decisions be made with a deeper knowledge of God’s creation? I wanted to represent this child as a real character, alive, already loved by God. My hope is to open the eyes and share the hope we have in Him.

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CAROL:         You skillfully switched point of view throughout the book. Could you describe the process you went through in determining whose point of view to focus on during various sections of the book?

ANNE JEAN: Each chapter had a purpose, a meaning. I changed point of view to match the purpose of each chapter, letting the key character for each chapter to speak for themselves.

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CAROL:         How long was it from idea to publication for Unseen Promise?

ANNE JEAN: I had vague thoughts of this story 20 years ago, yet did not have the confidence to believe I could be the author. I was quick to squelch any thoughts that I could actually write a book. However I could not get the thoughts out of my mind and the story continued to grow and evolve in my head. In idle time, on a walk, working on the garden, I would run the story through my head, developing characters, growing the story, creating side stories…it was a good story, but it was all in my head.

In 2004 a cancer scare pushed me to realize that if I never wrote the story that had continued to swirl through my head, it would definitely not be published!  My lack of confidence and my fear of not being published had held me back but my cancer scare propelled me to give in. I began to write, real words on the computer, not with hopes of being published, but just to finally put in words a story that I could not let go of.

But the story changed a bit. My initial thought was a story that would appeal to young adults, yet with the years gone by, I matured to the understanding it is not just the young who make mistakes or poor choices, we all fall short. Sometimes the poor decision is of our own doing, sometimes the mistake is something that happens to us, like an injury or disease. Sometimes we lose a loved one and find it hard to see God’s purpose. Sometimes it’s just a small misstep. And sometimes we get too busy to listen… listen to God speaking to us, listen for his call.

Remember how I could not get this story out of my head? I think this may have been God’s gentle push. He was calling me and I kind of ignored Him for a long time, allowing my lack of confidence to override His call. I guess I needed a swift kick in the pants! There is a scene in the book where the main character is called to do God’s work in the most remote jungle of the world, and he argues with God… I can’t do this, I’m not qualified, it’s too hard. That scene is me, maybe a bit exaggerated for literary license, but it is me, arguing with God. Guess what? He won. I finally started to write, and the cool part is once I started writing, I was able to release all those years of compassion and heartache I felt for those who struggle with life’s decisions. And, I was able to see this message is not just for the big decisions we make, but for every little step or misstep we take. No matter how many times we miss the call, or fail Him, He will not fail us.

Writing took several years. The basics of the story I whipped out in no time but the rewriting, revising, development of characters and efforts to change plain words into words the reader could “see” took much longer! I went through two years of writing and three years of editing before the manuscript was ready for publication!

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CAROL:         What was the best part of writing Unseen Promise?

ANNE JEAN: Discovering that the more I developed a character, the more he or she became real!

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CAROL:         What was the biggest struggle you had writing Unseen Promise?

ANNE JEAN: Editing and publication. Once the story was complete, I found it very hard to find a quality editor and a publisher. You can find thousands of editors online who will happily take your money, but the results are very disappointing. Same with publishers. I spent over a year learning about the publishing process, sending manuscripts and proposals. I finally self-published with WestBow Press. It was a step-by-step process, and they met their contractual obligations, however I was very disappointed with the editing process (which required an additional fee!) Fortunately, my story was picked up by Tate Publishing. I had to start over with the publishing process, which took another year, however, I am very happy with the results.

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CAROL:         What one thing would you like people to know that I haven’t asked?

ANNE JEAN: If someone asks me what my story is about, my answer is Hope! And why did I write it, because we all have hope, every life is important to God and no matter where life takes us, we have hope in Christ. My favorite verse for this story is Hebrews 10:23: Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. A story of redemption and hope, I wrote Unseen Promise to share God’s divine goodness and the reassurance to be found in His strength.

 

Thank you, Anne Jean for joining us here today. And readers, here’s what you need to know:

 

SandyHere is the link to Anne Jean Michele’s website.

 

You can purchase Unseen Promise at Amazon or the Tate website.

Jul 21

FOR WRITERS: Marketing for the Humble-Hearted

 

What’s the hardest part of writing: Getting our work into the hands of readers.

Today I’m guest-posting over at JonStolpeStretched.com about Marketing for the Humble Hearted. Here’s the link

Jul 18

FOCUS WORD: FIRM

More than half of 2014 over.  I had hoped my focus word “firm” for 2014 would have taken effect physically as well as spiritually and relation-ally.

faith

 

Been doing Shaun T’s exercise video “T25” for 3 months; lifted weights and walked 3 miles a day before that. But alas, this girl’s old bod isn’t getting much firmer.

But my resolve remains firm. And that’s a big part of the equation. So like Lone Watie in The Outlaw Josey Wales, “I shall endeavor to persevere.”

…through 2014 and beyond. Because the alternative to firm is less than attractive in so many ways.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? Are you still plugging along toward improvement or at least upkeep?

Jul 14

FOR READERS: Day Day

Don’t you just love free stuff? And bargains? Me, too!

Over the past year I’ve been thrilled to receive hundreds (yes, really) of free books for my Kindle. Some have been better than others; most I haven’t gotten to yet.

But one of the cool things about some of the free books is that they’re the first in a series. The series author offers the first book for free. If the reader likes it, she’s more likely to buy the rest of the series.

Chop Chop by L.N. Cronk

My hat is off to that great marketing tool! I’ve purchased more than one set of books after reading the first free one in the series. And I’ve recommended those books to my friends. And my book club. So those brilliant authors did good—both on our behalf and theirs. It’s a win all around.

The latest series I’m reading that started free is the Chop, Chop series by L.N. Cronk. Chop, Chop introduces us to the characters we’ll get to know in the rest of the books. It starts with the main characters as kids and ends at high school. The first three-quarters of the book is light and funny and engaging. Then suddenly—if you’re like me—you’ll be sobbing.

 

 

Day Day

That first book was free. Our book club read it, loved it and we all bought the second one, Day-Day. We’re meeting today to discuss it. Funny in parts, heart wrenching in others. Great writing and storytelling throughout.

I went through nearly an entire box of Kleenex reading this one. That’s a good thing.

When I swiped my last Kindle page, I saw that there are a total of eight books in the Chop, Chop series. I have a feeling I’ll need to invest heavily in Kleenex.

Jul 11

FOR FAITH: Stirring the Saints

OZ AND I image copy

I’m still smarting from the head whacking Oswald Chambers gave me yesterday. He said:

“We want to stay off the rough roads of life, and our primary objective is to secure a peaceful retreat from the world.”

Well, yes, that is a lovely thought, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, a peaceful retreat from the world isn’t what Jesus had in mind for us. Jesus only occasionally retreated to the desert or the garden to commune with the Father. Then He was back in the world, turning over Temple tables, healing diseases and loving on the unlovely.

Oz would say, Jesus was in the business of stirring up the world. And He wants to stir us up, too for His purpose and to accomplish His plans. When we resist being stirred up, says Oz, we become lazy saints. Ouch.

As I rub my aching head from yesterday’s head whacking, I remember something important: I’ll get that peaceful retreat from the world when God decides I’ve had enough time here on planet Earth.

So…we might as well enjoy the stirring up while we’re here.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? Do you resist being stirred up and on fire for what God has in mind? How can you live in excited expectation for the stirring?

 

NOTE: based on Oswald Chambers’ devotional for July 10, My Utmost for His Highest

Jul 07

FOR WRITERS: Q2 Goal Review

Last week I nagged you that it was time to review your 2014 goals. Did you do it? (nag, nag, nag)

Goals

Once again I discovered that priorities have shifted. Here are my writing goals through 2014. I’m posting them here to give you permission to switch up your own goals. The important thing is having a focus and working toward it.

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  1. At end of March, my goal was to publish 4 Bible studies by the end of 2014. I’ve switched that up to launch the With Faith Like Hers SERIES in September with three books, I am Eve, I am Esther and I am Ruth. I’m working on my launch now, writing articles for a blog tour, creating freebies for the week and cooking up a “cyber book launch lunch” for you all. I’m also preparing to lead a group Bible study on Eve to garner helpful ideas to share with others about leading a group Bible study.
  2. I asked my daughter to develop a line of beauty products to accompany my women’s Bible studies. We hope to launch the body scrub in September, with a different scent for each of the woman from Scripture in the series.
  3. Release I am Mary (Mother Mary) in November for the Christmas gift/study markets along with a frankincense body scrub. I am Mary is in its third revision; the cover is completed.
  4. November I plan to join Nanowrimo and draft two books for revision in 2015: a children’s book about money: Kids and Cash and the first book of a new Bible study series Atop the Mountain: The Beatitudes.
  5. I enrolled in a class on website design. I will work on my author site and the Honor Bound Books website on a continuing basis for the remainder of the year.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? What have you been up to? What do the next three months look like?

Jul 04

FOR FAITH: Independence Day

Americana 11

 

Today is the day we celebrate our nation’s independence. That reminds me of Jesus…

…because every day is a day to celebrate the freedom we have because of Jesus.

Jun 30

Q2 NAGGING

Today is a reminder: 2014 is half over.

What did you start out the year wanting to accomplish?

How are you doing?

How might you need to reorganize and head in a new direction?

What one thing can you do today to reach toward your goals?

Will you do it?

Thank you for your attention. My nagging for the day is complete.

Jun 27

FOR WRITERS: Joining the 21st Century

I am SOOOO last century.

600px-Eternal_clock

Image from Wikimedia Commons

OK, maybe not all the way into last century. But definitely last decade—technologically speaking.

In the past couple of years, I’ve started a blog and developed three websites on my own—with no help and only a few teardrops. They’re not fabulous but they’re up and working. Mostly.

I can email; I can Skype. I’m on Facebook and just joined Linked-in. I have a twitter account I never use and on occasion, I even know which remote control corresponds to which device next to the TV.

I also have figured out the whole indie publishing thing and can format my books, create a cover, and get them uploaded and available for print and electronic publishing.

But here’s the thing. Most recently I have set about creating leader’s guides for my women’s Bible study series, With Faith Like Hers. Although the studies were written for women to read each day on their own, we gals love to get together and talk. Therefore, we also love doing group Bible studies.

So here’s where I’m still stuck in the last decade. I’m writing this first set of leader’s guides as a downloadable Power Point.

Really? you ask.

…uh, yes…she replied sheepishly.

I know! Video is the thing. But that means researching software and hardware; learning how to use both. It means having to get dressed at least for the day of shooting with makeup and lipstick. It means trying to be enthusiastic, real and encouraging while worrying whether the camera is giving me fish face.

So, yes, one day I will move into this decade. But let me cling to my Power Point a bit longer. Get the content before focusing on the how-to-present-it part. That sounds good, right? And it’ll be free so that’s a plus, right?

Sigh. By the time I’m ready to shoot my first video, there’ll probably be something new to learn and master. Will I ever join the modern world?

WHAT ABOUT YOU? Is there a technology skill you need to learn? What is holding you back from learning it?

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