Food for the Soul

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Posted 10/31/14 at 3:40 PM | Audra Jennings

Illustrator of The Beginner's Bible Brings Rhyme and Humor to Story Time

Treasury of Bible Stories by Kelly Pulley
David C Cook

Chances are you still remember your favorite nursery rhyme — why? Because meter and rhyme are powerful memorization devices. So for parents who want their children to have the lessons of the Bible hidden deep in their hearts, Kelly Pulley’s new Magnificent Tales™ release, Treasury of Bible Stories: Rhythmical Rhymes of Biblical Times (David C Cook/September 1, 2014/ISBN: 978-0781409179 /$19.99), will be the perfect nighttime read.

Best known for his work as the illustrator of The Beginner’s Bible, which sold more than 1.5 million copies, Pulley introduces us to his Treasury of Bible Stories, a full-color, hardcover book which is engaging enough to capture the attention of even the most media-savvy youngsters.

Q: Who was the Treasury of Bible Stories written for and what are some of the best ways parents can use the book within the home? Can Bible class teachers use it too?

I’ve illustrated many children’s Bible storybooks over the years; most are for toddlers or early readers. Treasury of Bible Stories, however, was created primarily for more advanced readers (4-8 years). It’s meant to be fun and entertaining, yet it follows the original Bible stories very closely; it has no made-up characters or talking animals, etc., and the stories all have clear messages. So, yes, I think it could be a very useful tool for church or at-home Bible classes.

Q: You’re a well-known illustrator, having done the art for the most recent release of The Beginner’s Bible, which sold 1.5 million copies. How did you transition from being a graphic designer to illustrator and writer?

I had a lull in illustration projects so I thought it would be a good idea to try something new during my down time. Writing children’s stories was an obvious choice since I was already illustrating them, but I had no idea if I could write a decent story or not. I’d never tried. My first attempt was Food for a Fish. I showed it to my publisher, and she liked it! That was in 2008.

Q: Why is it so important for parents to make sure their children are getting a steady diet of Bible stories?

As we get older and busier it gets harder and harder to find/make time to read our Bibles. At least that’s what I’ve found in my life. Getting in the habit of reading our Bibles as early as possible seems to me to be a good idea. And when something is fun for kids, they will more likely want to do it.

Q: Treasury of Bible Stories has been called “The Bible . . . if it were written by Dr. Seuss.” Has his work been an inspiration for you?

Yes, definitely. When I was in grade school, and I was in the school library, I would always head straight to the Dr. Seuss books. I loved the rhyming stories and the fantastical illustrations. I still do. It’s not that I try to make my stories sound “Dr. Seuss-like,” but I enjoy writing in the same meter he usually used. It works well for longer, more complex stories.

Q: Do you think the cadence of the rhyming in this book will help children remember the stories better?

The stories are a lot of fun to read, not only because of the rhyme and meter, but also because of word plays and the wacky pictures. I think because they are so fun, they will be reread over and over, which will help them to be remembered.

Q: In our world of slick marketing and non-stop stimulation, kids are more media-savvy than ever. How will Treasury of Bible Stories hold their attention? Why does using it as a bedtime storybook work well?

The illustrations in Treasury of Bible Stories are more contemporary and the stories more entertaining than most Bible storybooks. The stories are long enough to get the entire story and message in without dragging on and on. Most of the stories take around ten minutes to read. Just long enough for an end-of-the-day wind-down.

Q: Kids love repetition — but all parents have had a moment where they’ve thought they cannot read a particular book to their children one more time. Why won’t parents mind picking this book up night after night?

I have four kids, so you know I’ve been there! I must admit, I’ve tried hiding books or skipping pages to get through them faster . . . that never worked! I think the writing is clever enough to make them enjoyable for adults as well as children. I still like them, but I doubt that counts.

Treasury of Bible Stories by Kelly Pulley
David C Cook

Q: How did you decide which Bible stories went into this book?

I started out with the most popular stories: Noah, David and Goliath, Daniel and the Lions, Jonah and the Whale and the story of the Nativity. The stories leading up to and including Christ’s death and resurrection were a must. For the rest I chose the most interesting stories with a good message that brought to mind the best images for illustrations. A good story should stand without illustrations but also work with only illustrations and no words.

Q: Which story in Treasury of Bible Stories is your favorite?

I have two favorites. One is “A Shout for the Lord (The Convincing Story of Gideon’s Doubt).” I like it because it has a lot going on (it has action and soldiers and such), but also because I can relate to Gideon. Many times I’ve felt God leading me, but I doubted I was the right guy for the job. My wife has warned me more than once that I was thinking like Gideon.

My other favorite story is “He Has Risen!” It’s the last story in the book and the last one I wrote. Sometimes during the writing process the right word or phrase will just pop into my head without any thought at all, as though it were a gift from God. This story has many gifts in it!

For more information about Kelly Pulley, or to request a review copy of Treasury of Bible Stories: Rhythmical Rhymes of Biblical Times, please contact Audra Jennings, audra@litfusegroup.com.

Posted 10/29/14 at 3:06 PM | Audra Jennings

Judith Miller to Host Facebook Party to Celebrate New Book

The Brickmaker's Bride webcast
Litfuse Publicity Group

Author Judith Miller invites readers to join her to celebrate the release of The Brickmaker’s Bride (Bethany House Publishers/October 7, 2014/ISBN 978-0764212550/$14.99) on November 4 at 8:00 PM EST when she hosts a live Facebook party. The online event is a part of the launch of Miller’s Refined by Love series set in West Virginia in the years following the Civil War.

“I’m excited about the prospect of sharing this new series with readers,” Miller shares. “The Refined by Love series is near and dear to my heart because it is set in West Virginia where I have lots of family ties. I look forward to visiting with readers about the post-Civil-War era and the professions I’ve featured in the series. I can’t wait to get some fun dialogue going!”

During the Facebook party, Miller will talk to readers about The Brickmaker’s Bride, introduce the Refined by Love series and answer questions submitted by participants. Throughout the hour, readers will also have an opportunity to interact with other fans and answer trivia about the book. Participants in the conversation will be eligible for prizes, including copies of Miller’s books and gift cards. At the end of the webcast, the winner of a Kindle Fire HDX will be announced. The Kindle giveaway is being held in conjunction with blog tour for The Brickmaker’s Bride, being coordinated by Litfuse Publicity Group during the three weeks leading up to the webcast.

“We are really excited to share The Brickmaker’s Bride with readers. It’s been getting great advanced praise, including a starred review from Library Journal that calls it ‘a must read,’” said Noelle Buss, fiction marketing manager at Bethany House. “Beyond the book, Judy is such a delightful and funny person. I am sure readers will be cracking up as they learn more about her and her writing during the party.”

Booklist describes The Brickmaker’s Bride as “written with an elegance that reflects the social graces of the time. Readers will enjoy intriguing themes of personal, professional, and spiritual integrity; prejudice; and caring for those in need.”

The author chat for The Brickmaker’s Bride will be hosted on Miller’s Facebook page. Leading up to the party, readers can RSVP for the event and sign up to receive an email reminder. From October 16 – November 4, fans can also enter the contest for the Kindle Fire HDX via the author’s Facebook page.

About The Brickmaker’s Bride:

The Brickmaker's Bride by Judith Miller
Bethany House

In the clay-rich hills of the newly founded state of West Virginia, two families tentatively come together to rebuild a war-torn brickmaking business.

Ewan McKay has immigrated to West Virginia with his aunt and uncle, promising to trade his skills in the clay business for financial help. Uncle Hugh purchases a brickmaking operation from a Civil War widow and her daughter, and it's Ewan's job to get the company up and running again.

Ewan seeks help from Laura, the former owner's daughter, and he quickly feels a connection with her, but she's being courted by another man--a lawyer with far more social clout and money than Ewan. Resolving that he'll make the brickworks enough of a success that he can become a partner in the business and be able to afford to bring his sisters over from Ireland, Ewan pours all his energy into the new job.

But when Hugh signs a bad business deal, all Ewan's hard work is put in jeopardy. As his hopes for the future crumble, Laura reveals something surprising. Can she help him save the brickworks, and will Ewan finally get a shot at winning her heart?

About the Refined by Love series:

The Refined by Love series is a family saga that follows Ewan McKay and his family from Northern Ireland to the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia after the Civil War. Determined to carve a new life, the family faces myriad obstacles as they begin to forge a living from the rich clay of the West Virginia hillsides. Their personal, professional, and spiritual integrity are tested as they encounter financial failure and family betrayal in the midst of blossoming love.

The Brickmaker's Bride by Judith Miller
Judith Miller

About Judith Miller:

Judith Miller is an award-winning author whose avid research and love for history are reflected in her bestselling novels. When time permits, Judy enjoys traveling, visiting historical settings and scrapbooking the photographs from her travel expeditions. She makes her home in Topeka, Kansas.

Readers can learn more about Miller and her books at www.judithmccoymiller.com, by becoming a fan on Facebook (authorjudithmiller) or by following her on Twitter (JudithMiller18).

Posted 10/28/14 at 11:42 AM | Audra Jennings

Leslie Gould's New Book Inspired by Shakesperean Classic

Becoming Bea by Leslie Gould
Bethany House
Becoming Bea by Leslie Gould

Leslie Gould’s latest release, Becoming Bea is based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. It is the fourth and final book in the Courtships of Lancaster series. In this interview, Gould talks about the inspiration behind the series as well as her latest release.

What led you to write an Amish fiction series inspired by Shakespearean plays?

When I was in my master of fine arts/creative writing program at Portland State University, one of our assignments was to re-tell plays in short-story format. I loved writing those stories! When I started writing Amish fiction, it dawned on me that Shakespeare could be easily be retold using Plain characters and settings.

Which plays are the Courtships of Lancaster County books based on, and how did you choose which to use?

The series is based on The Taming of the Shrew (Courting Cate), Romeo and Juliet (Adoring Addie), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Minding Molly), and Much Ado About Nothing (Becoming Bea). I chose comedies—okay, Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy but the first part counts as a comedy— with strong female characters or characters who had the potential to be strong. All of the stories have a definite romantic element and conflict between young adults and their parents, along with each other.

Tell us more about your latest release, Becoming Bea.

I’ve always loved the characters of Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing so retelling their story in Becoming Bea was a delight. There are some novels that seem to write themselves and this was one of them. Bea and Ben have had a tumultuous friendship since their school days, and as they become young adults it morphs into a love-hate relationship. Misunderstandings haven’t helped—and neither do their meddling friends. But as Bea faces challenge after challenge, she must decide whom to trust, and in doing so she begins to change. Becoming Bea could have been as easily called Transforming Bea, but that wouldn’t have been a fun alliteration.

Can you share a little bit about your research for this series and the process of translating the plays to a modern-day, Amish setting?

My Amish research is ongoing with trips to Amish communities, mainly in Lancaster County, and tons of reading about the Amish. I have a wonderful friend who used to be Amish who answers my questions and reads my manuscripts. I am so grateful for her! (Thank you, Marietta!)

As far as the Shakespeare plays, I re-read each one a couple of times before I started writing and then, if available, watched films based on the plays. Thankfully I was able to attend local productions of Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream while I was working on the novels, inspired by those particular plays. I also saw The Taming of the Shrew at the Oregon Shakespearean Festival in Ashland soon after I finished Courting Cate. That was a lot of fun too.

Which Shakespearean play do you enjoy the most? Why?

This changes all the time! Right now it would be Much Ado About Nothing. The banter between Beatrice and Benedick is a hoot, and the exploration of different kinds of love, from shallow to sacrificial adds depth to the story.

What is your favorite lesson from Shakespeare?

Overall, Shakespeare teaches us to have empathy for a wide range of people, all with many different kinds of wounds, faults and gifts. Shakespeare’s complete work features 1,223 characters. He must have covered every archetype ever imagined!

Favorite Shakespearean quote:

This changes all the time for me too. My current one is from As You Like It. Duke Senior, who has been exiled, finds good in a bad situation.

Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.
 II.i

This is the quote that makes me smile the most, because it leads to another back and forth banter between Benedick and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing:

I pray thee now tell me, for which of my bad parts didst thou first fall in love with me? V.ii


Leslie Gould
Leslie Gould

Leslie Gould is the bestselling author of nineteen novels, including the #1 bestseller and 2012 Christy Award winner The Amish Midwife, co-written with Mindy Starns Clark. Leslie’s novel Beyond the Blue was the winner of the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Inspirational Novel in 2006, and Courting Cate (inspired by The Taming of the Shrew) was a best-seller and a finalist in the FHL Inspirational Reader’s Choice Awards for 2013.

Leslie received her master of fine arts in creative writing from Portland State University and has taught fiction as an adjunct professor at Multnomah University. She was the first-ever recipient of the Oregon Christian Writers’ Trailblazer Award (2013) for her writing achievements and for her encouragement and support of other writers. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, Peter, and four children.

Visit her at www.lesliegould.com.

Posted 10/27/14 at 9:26 AM | Audra Jennings

Doctor Finds Proof of God’s Existence in the Highlands of Peru

I Have Seen God by Klaus Dieter-John
Monarch Books

Imagine being medically trained at some of the most prestigious institutions in the world — Harvard and Yale — and turning your back on a lucrative medical career in private practice to care for the poor. As Klaus-Dieter John writes in his book, I Have Seen God (Monarch Books/November 27, 2014/ISBN: 978-0857215741/$16.99), it was a dream he had since he was a young child, growing up in Germany. In high school, John met his future wife, Martina, who shared a similar dream to become a missionary doctor. After medical school, the Johns set out to fulfill their goal. “We shared exactly the same vision for our future,” John shares. “We wanted to get the best medical training available and then work as missionary doctors for the rest of our lives.”

John’s journey took his family around the world, including stops in Ghana, South Africa and Ecuador, before settling in the highlands of Peru where he founded the Diospi Suyana Hospital. He has written I Have Seen God to tell the world about the miracles God is doing in this top-quality health facility serving the Indians of the Peruvian Andes.

Descended from the ancient Incas, the Quechua make up approximately 40 percent of Peru’s population but have largely been either neglected or exploited by authorities for centuries. The majority of them lives in abject poverty, without windows, doors, running water, electricity or sewage systems. As a result, they have a significantly reduced life expectancy.

The healing that comes from the state-of-the-art medical care isn’t the only miracle seen at the hospital, which serves 150 patients a day. If faith can move mountains, it can also shake wallets and transform hearts; astonishingly, more than 50,000 private individuals and 180 companies from around the globe have donated more than $21 million to this work. Patients only contribute to about 20 percent of operating costs, can attend daily church services and while they’re seated in the waiting rooms will most likely catch the Jesus Film on TVs.

I Have Seen God explains how the hospital, whose name is translated into the Quecha language as “we trust in God,” has overcome the mire of bureaucracy and united Catholics and Protestants in one love for God and their fellow people. The ministry also reaches beyond the walls of the hospital — with a dental clinic and teams that go into the villages to mentor and teach children.

John believes the stories told in I Have Seen God have the power to change lives, including his own. “When I was a medical student I would wonder whether God was real or if it was just wishful thinking. One night I shouted at the top of my voice, ‘God where are you? I want to see you!’ In the history of our hospital, God has become very visible to me and to the hundreds of thousands of people who have heard the story.” John hopes readers will close the covers of his book more convinced than ever in the truth of a living God.

About the Author

Klaus Dieter-John author of I Have Seen God
Klaus Dieter-John

Dr. Klaus-Dieter John grew up in Germany and met and fell in love with his wife, Martina, during his term as high school class president. The two bonded over the strong call they felt to obtain medical degrees in order to serve the medical needs of the poorest of the poor.

Dr. John began medical school in Germany, eventually completing his surgical training at Harvard and Yale in the U.S., as well as in Johannesburg, South Africa. Martina was trained in both Germany and the U.S. and is now a certified pediatrician in both countries.

Their medical missions work took them from Ghana to Ecuador, eventually bringing them to Peru, where they helped found the ministry Diospi Suyana in August of 2002. The main goal of Diospi Suyana was to maintain an interdenominational mis­sion hospital, which was opened in the highlands of Peru in 2005. The ministry also operates a dental clinic, a school and a children’s ministry in Curahuasi, Peru.

For more information about Klaus-Dieter John and the work of the Diospi Suyana Hospital, visit www.diospi-suyana.de.

Posted 10/13/14 at 4:38 PM | Audra Jennings

Author Lynn Austin to host live webcast on October 21

Lynn Austin hosts Keepers of the Covenant webcast
Litfuse Publicity Group

Best-selling author Lynn Austin invites readers to join her for a live webcast on October 21 at 8:00 PM EDT to talk about the latest addition to The Restoration Chronicles series. The evening will center on a Biblical fiction book club discussion featuring Austin’s new release, Keepers of the Covenant (Bethany House Publishers/ October 7, 2014/available in hardcover, paperback and ebook).

During the online event, Austin will be discussing Keepers of the Covenant, answering reader questions live and giving a sneak preview of future releases. Throughout the hour, readers will have an opportunity to chat with other fans, answer trivia about the book and submit questions for Austin to answer during the evening. A number of prizes will be given away to those participating in the discussion, including copies of Austin’s books and gift cards. At the end of the webcast, the winner of a Kindle Fire HDX will be announced. The Kindle giveaway is being held in conjunction with the Keepers of the Covenant blog tour being coordinated by Litfuse Publicity Group during the month of October.

“We are so excited for readers to be able to connect with Lynn through this upcoming webcast,” states Noelle Buss, marketing manager at Bethany House. “Lynn is just as delightful and well-informed as her books. I’ve always come away cherishing my interactions with her.”

Austin’s The Restoration Chronicles have received rave reviews from critics and readers alike. Library Journal wrote of the first book in the series, Return to Me, “. . . a powerful new historical series that brings the Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah to life.” According to Publishers Weekly, “Austin shines a bright light on ancient Jewish life and lands. Biblical fiction fans will cheer her latest offering, which bolsters this challenging genre.”

“I know many readers have been eagerly awaiting the next novel in my Restoration Chronicles series. It is based on the biblical book of Ezra and features him as one of the main characters. I really enjoyed researching this exciting time in biblical history and bringing the story to life for my readers. Even for those who didn’t read Book I, this book works well as a stand-alone novel, too,” explains Austin.

The Keepers of the Covenant webcast will be hosted on Austin’s Facebook page, as well as the Litfuse Publicity Group website for readers without a Facebook account. Leading up to the webcast, readers can RSVP for the event and sign up to receive an email reminder. From October 1-21, fans can also enter the contest for the Kindle Fire HDX via the author’s Facebook page.

About Keepers of the Covenant:

Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin
Bethany House

In their darkest hour, where would hope be found?

In one life-changing moment, the lives of the exiles in Babylon are thrown into despair when a decree from the king's palace calls for the annihilation of every Jewish man, woman and child throughout the empire in less than one year.

Ezra, a quiet but brilliant scholar, soon finds himself called upon to become the leader of his people. Forced to rally an army when all his training has been in the Torah, he struggles to bring hope in a time of utter despair, when dreams of the future — of family and love — seem impossible.

Austin weaves together the struggles and stories of both Jews and Gentiles, creating a tapestry of faith and doubt, love and loss. Here, the Old Testament comes to life, demonstrating the everlasting hope displayed in God's unwavering love for His people.

About The Restoration Chronicles:

The Restoration Chronicles bring the books of Ezra and Nehemiah to vibrant life, telling the stories of Babylonian exiles: the few faithful followers who struggle to rebuild their lives in obedience to the God who beckons them home. The series follows biblical characters like Zechariah and Ezra as they bring hope to God’s people in a time when dreams of the future—of family and love—seem impossible.

The first release in the series, Return to Me, released in October 2013.

Lynn Austin, author of Keepers of the Covenant
Lynn Austin

About Lynn Austin:

Lynn Austin has sold more than one million copies of her books worldwide. She is an eight-time Christy Award winner and an inaugural inductee into the Christy Award Hall of Fame, as well as a popular speaker at retreats, conventions, women’s groups and book clubs.

Along with reading, two of Austin’s lifelong passions are history and archaeology. While researching her Biblical fiction series, Chronicles of the Kings, these two interests led her to pursue graduate studies in Biblical Backgrounds and Archaeology through Southwestern Theological Seminary. Twenty-five years ago, Austin was able to travel to Israel to take part in an archaeological dig at the ancient city of Timnah.

Austin’s husband’s career allowed them to live in Bogota, Colombia, as well as Ontario and Manitoba, Canada. They now make their home in Michigan.

Readers can keep up with Austin via her website www.lynnaustin.org or on Facebook (LynnAustinBooks).

Posted 10/10/14 at 2:41 PM | Audra Jennings

Terminal Cancer Patient Implores Brittany Maynard to Reconsider Her Last Days

Kara Tippetts, author of the Hardest Peace
Jen Lints Photography
Kara Tippetts

This week the story of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman with terminal brain cancer who plans to end her life on November 1, has made national news. A California native, Maynard moved to Oregon for the purpose of being able to take her own life legally by aid of a prescription under the Death with Dignity Act. Her goal is to bring attention to assisted suicide laws in hopes that other states will follow Oregon’s lead.

Kara Tippetts, a Colorado mother of four, has written a letter to Maynard asking her to reconsider. Similarly, Tippetts has stage-four cancer (which started as breast cancer two years ago) that has passed the brain/blood barrier and metastasized throughout her body. She too knows that her days are numbered but believes it is possible to die with dignity while cherishing every breath she has been given. In her letter, Tippetts gently challenges the medical community to consider whether or not they are walking away from the Hippocratic Oath.

Since Tippetts’ letter to Maynard was posted on Wednesday (October 8) on Ann Voskamp’s popular blog, A Holy Experience, the post has been shared almost 900,000 times on Facebook. Tippetts book, The Hardest Peace (released last week), has also rocketed to the top 15 in sales on Amazon.com.

In her letter to Maynard, Tippetts writes:

“Dear Brittany Maynard,

This morning my best friend and I read your story. My heart ached for you, and I’m simply grieved by your terminal brain tumor, for the less than six months the doctor’s gave you, just past your 29th birthday. With a heavy heart, I left my home and headed for my oncologist. I too am dying, Brittany. My oncologist and I sat for a long time with hurting hearts for your story. We spoke in gentle tones discussing the hard path you are being asked to travel. . . .

. . . Today my oncologist and I spoke of your dying, of my dying and of the beautiful partnership I have with my doctors in carrying me to my last moments with gentle care. For 2,000 years doctors have lived beside the beautiful stream of protecting life and lovingly meeting patients in their dying with grace.

The doctor who prescribed you that pill you carry with you that will hasten your last breath has walked away from the Hippocratic Oath that says, “First, do no harm.” He or she has walked away from the oath that has protected life and the beautiful dying we are granted. The doctors agreeing to such medicine are walking away from the beautiful protection of the Hippocratic Oath. . . .

. . . Hastening death was never what God intended. But in our dying, He does meet us with His beautiful grace. The Hippocratic Oath matters, and those who are choosing to walk away from it need to be challenged. My heart hurts that they have decided to swim from the shores of grace that it protected in our living and dying. I get to partner with my doctor in my dying, and it’s going to be a beautiful and painful journey for us all.

But, hear me — it is not a mistake — beauty will meet us in that last breath.”

(Click here for the full letter.)

The Hardest Peace by Kara Tippetts
David C Cook
The Hardest Peace by Kara Tippetts

Tippetts has also been interviewed on Colorado Springs CBS affiliate KKTV (Click here to view.) as well as Denver and Colorado Springs ABC affiliates about both The Hardest Peace and her letter to Maynard.

Tippetts’ story has also been featured by:

Visit Kara Tippetts online home at www.mundanefaithfulness.com, become a fan on Facebook (mundanefaithfulness) or follow her on Twitter (@mother_to_many).

Posted 10/9/14 at 2:51 PM | Audra Jennings

Robin Caroll Discusses Dealing with Shattered Hopes

Robin Caroll
Robin Caroll

Where do you turn when a dream you’ve cherished in your heart for your entire life is completely shattered? In her new release, Hidden in the Stars (Quilts of Love series from Abingdon Press/September 16, 2014/ISBN:9781426773600/$13.99), Robin Caroll introduces us to a young woman who must find the strength to continue living after losing everything she cares about.

Following an attack that killed her mother and stole her ability to speak, 21-year-old Sophia Montgomery has no choice but to accept her estranged grandmother’s offer to return to their family home. Although detective Julian Frazier is working hard on the case, Sophia unknowingly frustrates him because her inability to speak thwarts her eyewitness evidence.

Little do they know, the clues to solving the case may be right in front of them, displayed in Sophia’s mother’s “special” quilt design. Who will realize the secret Sophia’s unwittingly been hiding in plain sight? When the truth comes to light, will Sophia find her voice again? Or will the murderer — still at large — silence her forever?

Q: Tell us about the main thread or theme that runs through Hidden in the Stars. 

The strength of the familial bond is the strongest thread in the story, but another theme would be the sacrifices we make for the people we love.

Q: How important to you is the faith element in your stories?

I never “plot” the faith element of my books in advance. I always pray for God to show me the spiritual arc for the characters, and then I let it grow organically from the characters as I interview and write them. Sometimes I’m lucky and the arc is apparent in the beginning of the story — sometimes it doesn’t become clear until near the end (that’s usually when God’s using my own story to teach me something or refine something in me). It’s my job to put that on the page with realism, but not beat anyone over the head.

Q: The main character in Hidden in the Stars, Sophia, loses not only the person she loved the most in life, but also her dream of becoming an Olympic gymnast. What can readers learn from how she manages this loss?

So often we begin to believe our dreams define who we are. What we do becomes our identifier. I wanted to portray a character who had worked hard for something all her life — something her mother had sacrificed much to help her attain — yet she had it snatched away with no hope of reclaiming it. I think we (myself included) sometimes need to realize we are, first and foremost, a child of God and not a dream or a goal.

Q: Sophia suffers a brutal attack, and the criminal remains at-large, leaving her feeling vulnerable and afraid. We all face moments in life when we feel that way, even if the events in our lives vary. Where do you go for strength in those times?

God. Yes, I have family members who are loving and supportive and encouraging and helpful. Yes, I have friends who are there for me through thick and thin. But when it comes down to brass tacks, as my grandmother used to say, God is my source of strength, comfort and peace.

Q: Why is it so challenging to forgive people who have hurt us?

Because we’re human and our initial reaction is based on our own thoughts and feelings. When we’re hurt, we don’t WANT to forgive. Sometimes, at least for me, the choice to forgive is more about wanting to be obedient to God and wanting to keep that pain from clawing at me.

Q: The attack left Sophia without a voice — is this a metaphor in any way?

Yes. When we’re attacked — physically, mentally or spiritually — we often feel like we aren’t heard . . . that our cries for help fall on deaf ears.

Hidden in the Stars by Robin Caroll
Abingdon Press

Q: Which character in the book do you identify with the most and why?

Sophia. She was strong and determined and wouldn’t let her attack and the murder of the one person she loved the most stop her from living a good life.

Q: Tell us about the quilt in Hidden in the Stars.  How does it play a role in solving this mystery?

The quilt itself was made from the costumes of Sophia’s mother, Nina. It’s like a large declaration of her life’s ballet work. Once the police get the quilt, they determine it holds the key to solving the mystery and the murder.

Q: Tell us a little more about the Quilt of Love series and how you became involved in it.

As a young girl, my family lived in the country. We didn’t have many friends close enough during the winter where we could just hop on our bikes and ride down to a neighbor’s house. During those lonelier times, my mother taught me how to quilt. I will always associate quilts with the strength of the mother-daughter bond. When I heard about the Quilts of Love series, I wanted to be a part of it.

Q: How have you seen the Lord’s hand in your writing career, whether it be open doors, prayer partners, etc.?

I’d spent many, many months studying the craft and learning as much as I could. After finally getting up the nerve to start the submission process, I found myself faced with rejection slips, one after the other. I was extremely blessed to have strong critique/prayer partners who encouraged me, but I also had a mentor who pushed me and helped me develop the ability to separate my writing from myself as a person.

One day, fully frustrated and on the verge of tears, I prayed the scary prayer: that if writing wasn’t what He called me to do, then I’d walk away from it, but He’d have to remove the desire from my heart because I wasn’t strong enough to do it myself. I was lucky enough to get my first contract not too long after that, but I truly was willing to walk away if that’s what He told me to do. It was really scary because, for me at least, writing was, in my mind, tied to my identity. I learned that writing, while important to me and I love it, is still what I do, not who I am. I love being an author, but I’m also so much more: wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, friend, etc.

Q: Do you ever hear from readers about how they have been touched by reading your books?

I hope each of my books brings glory and honor to God. Some of the reader mail I’ve received has put me in tears of praise for being allowed to share stories with readers. For instance, one reader wrote me after reading one of my books and thanked me for showing that it was possible to reconcile with God after being angry with Him. It truly blesses me for God to use me in such a way.

Q: What is the one thing you hope your readers will walk away with when they close the cover of Hidden in the Stars?

I hope they will feel they were entertained, but also they will be reminded that no matter what their circumstances, what the Enemy means for evil, God will turn to good.

For more information about Robin Caroll and her books, visit her online home at www.robincaroll.com. She is also active on Facebook and Twitter.

Keep up with the Quilts of Love series online at: QuiltsOfLoveBooks.com ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Pinterest

Posted 10/8/14 at 10:27 AM | Audra Jennings

Some Secrets Are Like a Noose

A Lady at Willowgrove Hall by Sarah E. Ladd
Thomas Nelson

When the noose of your secrets begins to tighten, it can cut off any hope for freedom and love in the future. Letting the light of truth sever your unhealthy tie to the past is a major theme of award-winning author Sarah E. Ladd’s latest release, A Lady at Willowgrove Hall (Thomas Nelson/October 7, 2014/ISBN: 978-1401688370), the third and final installment in the Whispers on the Moors series. Set in Great Britain’s Regency era, A Lady at Willowgrove Hall perfectly conveys the romantic sensibilities of that time.

Rampant change — socially, politically, and economically — marked this period from 1811–1820. The great excesses of the wealthy class sharply contrasted against the rioting and social upheaval among the poor, making it an era of great interest to Ladd not only as a reader herself but as an author.

Cecily Faire carries the shame of her secret past with her when she begins a new position as a lady’s companion at Willowgrove Hall. She knows one slip of the tongue could expose her disgrace. “During this era a woman was defined by her reputation,” Ladd reveals. “If her reputation was soiled and she could not find a good husband, she was essentially condemned to a difficult, lonely life.”

Shortly after making her home at Willowgrove Hall, Cecily finds herself face-to-face with a man well-acquainted with the past she’s desperately hidden for years. Nathaniel Stanton has a secret of his own though — one that has haunted him for years and tied him to his father’s position as steward of Willowgrove Hall. To protect his family, Nathaniel dares not breathe a word of the truth. As long as this shadow looms over him, he’ll never be free to find his own way in the world — or fall in love.

When the secrets swirling within Willowgrove Hall come to light, Cecily and Nathaniel must confront a painful choice: Will they continue running from the past, or will they stand together and fight for a future without the suffocating weight of secrets long-suffered?

Hiding behind a shroud of secrets always results in isolation and loneliness, and that is true of the characters in A Lady at Willowgrove Hall. “When we are so afraid to share the truth about ourselves with others, we are not allowing them to know the ‘real us,’ which prevents us from those truly meaningful relationships that bring so much joy to life,” Ladd explains.

Ladd hopes A Lady at Willowgrove Hall will show readers even though their pasts may be shameful or painful, God can take the darkest personal histories and turn them into the brightest futures.

About the Author

Sarah E. Ladd author of A Lady at Willowgrove Hall
Sarah E. Ladd

Sarah E. Ladd has always loved the Regency period — the clothes, the music, the literature and the art. A college trip to England and Scotland confirmed her interest in the time period and gave her idea of what life would’ve looked like in that era. It wasn’t until 2010 that Ladd began writing seriously. Shortly after, Ladd released the first book in the Whispers on the Moors series, The Heiress of Winterwood (2013). That title was the recipient of the 2011 ACFW Genesis Award for historical romance and is a finalist in the Debut Author category of the 2014 Carol Awards. The second book in the series, The Headmistress of Rosemere (2013), was on the ECPA best-seller list for several months.

Ladd also has more than ten years of marketing experience. She is a graduate of Ball State University and holds degrees in public relations and marketing. Ladd lives in Indiana with her husband, daughter and spunky Golden Retriever.

To keep up with Sarah E. Ladd, visit www.sarahladd.com, become a fan on Facebook (Sarah Ladd Author) or follow her on Twitter (@SarahLaddAuthor).

Posted 10/7/14 at 9:49 AM | Audra Jennings

Finding the Courage to Make Unpopular Choices

Daughter of Highland Hall by Carrie Turansky
Waterbrook Multnomah

When family expectations and societal pressures collide with love and faith, which values will emerge the victor? Award-winning author Carrie Turansky explores this theme in her new book, The Daughter of Highland Hall (Multnomah Books/ October 7, 2014/ISBN: 978-1601424983/$14.99). FULL POST

Posted 10/6/14 at 1:38 PM | Audra Jennings

Finding Your Role in the Alternative Kingdom

Rob Peabody, author of Citizen
Monarch Books
Rob Peabody

When living what you believe to be a good Christian life still leaves you feeling empty, you might begin to wonder: Do I really know what it means to follow Christ? It’s a question Rob Peabody, author of Citizen: Your Role in the Alternative Kingdom (Monarch Books/July 29, 2014/ISBN: 978-0857215420/$14.99), asked himself at the age of 26, shortly after landing his dream job as the lead campus pastor of a burgeoning new campus of a Texas mega-church. “The church exploded with excitement. People were being baptized and saved, and true growth was occurring,” Peabody says. “It was all going to plan . . . and then it hit me. I couldn’t go on this way any longer.”

Peabody realized his faith had little connection with the world around him. He had inherited a westernized view of Christianity that too often glorifies personal success, comfort and individualism to the detriment of the lifestyle to which Jesus calls his followers. He realized Jesus was calling him — and all of us — to an all-or-nothing lifestyle, not a pick-and-choose faith salad bar. Something had to change.

Q: Let’s start off by talking about the title of your book — Citizen: Your Role in the Alternative Kingdom. What is the “alternative Kingdom”?

The “alternative Kingdom” is the way in which God originally intended for creation to live. In the Garden of Eden, everything was right, perfect and the way it should be, but man’s sin corrupted this perfection. Ever since, all of humanity has been subject to living in a world that is not right; there is something wrong with it. We find in the Gospels that, through Jesus, God is setting the world back to the way it should be, and when we find Jesus, He invites us to do the same. I find it interesting that at the height of the Roman Empire, Jesus (and later the Apostle Paul) begins speaking of the “Father’s Kingdom,” or a new way of life. He didn’t speak of a better empire or corrections to the current world system but rather a completely different kind of Kingdom. Jesus showed us how to live as part of the only Kingdom that will truly last and the Kingdom that brings heaven to earth. He then He empowers and releases His followers to do the same. The “alternative Kingdom” is the “Jesus way” of living life. It is a rebellion of righteousness in a broken world that is far from God.

Q: You once held a position as the lead campus pastor at a mega-church in Texas. While there, you had a major realization about your life and work. What was that realization, and what did it lead you to do?

I was 26 and had just finished seminary when I was promoted from young adult pastor to the new role of leading our newest church campus. It was my dream job with great influence, hundreds of congregants and the chance to lead a thriving church community. The church exploded with excitement. People were being baptized and saved, and true growth was occurring. It was all going to plan . . . and then it hit me. I couldn’t go on this way any longer.

God was doing something in my heart. Later I would come to describe it as a “holy discontent.” I began realizing the way I viewed church was off-kilter. For me and many others worship was being reduced to an hour time slot on Sunday morning. Don’t get me wrong; worship services are an essential part of following Jesus, but God was showing me that true worship transforms a life completely, not just when it is time to sing. Monday through Saturday is just as important as Sunday morning when it comes to following Jesus.

This realization led me to our city mayor’s office, along with my friend and worship leader Joel Warren. We told the mayor Jesus did not just save us from something (hell and eternal separation from Him), but He saved us for something. Stated simply, we wanted to see the worship overflow from the church building to the streets in which we lived. We wanted to be agents of change where we lived. We asked the mayor about the greatest needs in the community and vowed to strive to meet those needs in the name of Jesus. We mobilized the church to adopt local schools and mentoring programs to teach life skills to the down-and-out in our community. We began the process of being the church and not merely going to church.

This wake-up call for me personally led to the formation of the Awaken Movement. Later my family moved to London, England, to facilitate Awaken’s vision in the U.K., as well as church-planting amongst those in their 20s and 30s who would never step foot in a traditional church environment.

Q: What did your family and friends think about your move to another country?

My family and friends were very supportive of our move to the U.K. Although it was hard for the grandparents to see their only grandchild at the time move across the Atlantic, they understood God had paved the way to London in so many ways. It was clearly His plan too.

Q: Do you think the majority of Christians are really living the kind of life Christ calls his followers to?

I don’t think so . . . at least from my limited viewpoint of the church in the West. Unfortunately, we have inherited a Christian sub-culture that thrives on individualism and personal choice to the detriment of pursuing the true calling of ultimate allegiance to King Jesus. Jesus makes very bold and explicit claims about what it looks like to follow Him, and for many churchgoers these claims get in the way of how WE want to live our lives. Jesus is calling us to an all-or-nothing lifestyle in the way that we follow Him, not a pick-and-choose salad bar. When Jesus becomes King in our hearts and minds, our actions and behaviors will follow suit. Until that happens we (churchgoers) find ourselves a conflicted people wanting to love Jesus on the one hand, while still bowing to the idols of our flesh. This conflict must be dealt with before we can truly live out the kind of life to which Jesus calls us.

Q: You talk in Citizen about how Christians have competing allegiances. What are those allegiances, and how do they stand in the way of Kingdom living?

We all have allegiances. Some are healthy and God-given, such as marriage, parenting, being an employee or employer, friendship, etc. When Jesus takes His rightful place in our life, there is a re-prioritization of life that naturally takes place. When this happens, our relationship with the King becomes the lens by which we see all our other loyalties and allegiances. Therefore living for the Kingdom informs all areas of our lives and all earthly loyalties and penetrates everything that we do. According to Jesus, there is no such thing as compartmentalization of certain areas of our lives.

Q: You say, “Citizens of the Kingdom should be the most risk-taking people on the planet.” What do you mean?

I’m finding this quote is really standing out to people. It means if we have truly died to our allegiance to ourselves and it has been replaced by a greater ultimate allegiance to Jesus, then our lives are no longer our own. In 1 Corinthians, Paul tells us we have been “bought with a price” — that price being Jesus’ own life — and that we died with Him (Romans 6:3) and will be resurrected with Him. So if we have already died and the penalty for our sin has been dealt with, we have absolutely nothing to lose! There is no fear of death for people who have already died. For the believer, death has been dealt with, so what is the worst that could possibly happen to them?

I think it is this reality that frees us to live as risk-takers, Kingdom-bringers and radical, righteous rebels who take Kingdom ground during our relatively short time on this earth. I am becoming increasingly convinced that Kingdom ground is not taken any other way.

Citizen by Rob Peabody
Monarch Books

Q: Has the spiritual climate in the U.K. changed the way you view the American church? How so?

Absolutely. You never really see your blind spots until you are given a different perspective. Living as an outsider in a different country has given me a unique view into Great Britain but also a different perspective of my homeland.

Living in a post-Christian city (London) made up of less than 2% evangelical Christians has opened my eyes to the reality that if the church in America does not make some serous changes, they will go the way of post-Christian Europe. I think the American church, with all its members, money and “success,” is (at times) over-complicating what it means to follow Jesus. I’m finding that as an American pastor, I didn’t really understand the need for unity or Kingdom living amongst the body. I got too caught up in numbers to the detriment of true discipleship. Programs began replacing relationships, and buildings clouded my view of the body. When you live in a city as a part of the tiny religious minority, your faith either falls away or becomes very real. I think the church in America could use some of this shock to wake them up from operating as business as usual before it is too late.

Q: Some have called Citizen a “wake-up call to the church in the West.” What is it that American Christians need to awaken to?

I’ve thought about this question a lot recently, and I would say discipleship, prayer, unity, stewardship, lifestyle worship and Kingdom-living. What it all comes down to, though, is Jesus. We must re-imagine our lives, re-position what we value, re-identify who we are and re-center all of these things on the true King of the world.

Q: Tell us more about the Awaken Movement you helped found. What is its mission and purpose?

Awaken was born in 2008 as an organization to help resource the church for action. We inspire, educate and equip local churches to put action to their faith as they strive to be the church outside the walls of the church building.

Co-founded by Joel Warren (musician/worship leader) and me, Awaken came out of our work together in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas, as we sought to help our church “reclaim our Jerusalem” and live as agents of change in the cities in which we lived. Awaken is led by a collective of compelled artists, musicians, pastors, photographers, filmmakers, songwriters, authors, missionaries and business professionals who are dissatisfied with the status quo of merely attending church. We desire to see a generation of churchgoers living as Kingdom-bringers in their communities. We create small-group studies, films, music, books and church-wide campaigns to help carry this message and vision to the church in the West.

Q: One unique characteristic of the western world is our love of personal autonomy. How can this actually be a detriment to the Christian life?

Individualism and personal autonomy are two of the things our Western dreams are based upon. The tricky part is that Jesus lived on earth and the Bible was written from an Eastern perspective and worldview. So the task is to see how Jesus lived, hear His words and examine His life, and then apply that to our 21st-century lives. It seems to me that individualism is actually a Western cultural stronghold that prevents us from living like Christ at times. If the goal of our lives is to make money, be comfortable, save for the future, enjoy life and seek happiness, those values and ideals can be pitted against the very things Jesus is calling us to. We must let Jesus transform our heart and reevaluate what we want to devote our life to. This is especially important when living in a culture where personal autonomy reigns supreme.

Q: What do you think is the biggest enemy to the Gospel in America? The world?

I believe one of the main ploys the Enemy uses against believers in the West is to encourage them subtly to give in to the silent killers of apathy and fear. Comfort could also be added to this list for many of our brothers and sisters in the West.

Q: Does a Christian need to quit his or her job and go into full-time missions work to apply the principles you lay out in Citizen?

Most definitely not. In fact, I think that would completely defeat the purpose of my message in Citizen. This book is for everyday people who want to follow Jesus and live for something greater than themselves.

Q: How do you hope Citizen changes its readers?

My prayer is that Citizen would show you who you really are in Jesus and then release you to live a life more abundant, more fulfilling, more daring and more joyful than what you are currently settling for. There is so much more to life, and it can only be found in our true King.

For more information about Rob Peabody, visit his online home at awakenmovement.com, become a fan on Facebook (awakenmovement) or follow him on Twitter (@AwakenRob and @awakenmovement).

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