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Posted 7/28/15 at 4:14 PM | Audra Jennings

Author Learns How to Forgive Her Father's Killer

An interview with Laurie Coombs,

Author of Letters from My Fathers Murderer

Laurie A. Coombs, author of Letters from My Father's Murderer
Laurie A. Coombs

If you asked anyone who knew Laurie A. Coombs, they would tell you what an incredibly strong person she was — the kind of person who can make it through anything. As Coombs details in her new memoir, Letters from My Father’s Murderer: A Journey of Forgiveness (Kregel/June 27, 2015/ISBN: 978-0825442292/$14.99), that outward veneer of strength masked a crumbling interior. FULL POST

Posted 7/17/15 at 2:53 PM | Audra Jennings

Award-winning Author Explores the Cost of Living Truthfully

An interview with Melanie Dobson,

Author of Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor

Melanie Dobson, author of Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor
Melanie Dobson

Every family has secrets they’d prefer to stay hidden, but where is the line between protecting the ones you love and simple self-preservation? The theme of Melanie Dobson’s sweeping new novel, Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor (Howard Books/May 5, 2015/ ISBN: 9781476746142/$14.99) is how the choices of a few can impact generations.

Q: In your latest book, Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, we meet 19-year-old Maggie — innocent in many ways — but she finds herself in an unwed pregnancy during a time period when that was socially unacceptable. What does that situation mean for her and her family?

Maggie lost her biological parents during World War II, and her beloved younger brother died in an orphanage after the war. Heartbroken and scared, Maggie was raised by foster parents near Bristol, England. In the 1950s, British mothers often told their children that a midwife or a stork brought each new baby, so many young women were naïve about the facts of life. Maggie and her foster mother never discussed where babies came from.

Maggie craves love at the beginning of this story, but the father of her baby has sailed away from their coastal village, and she knows this unexpected pregnancy will humiliate her foster family. Since she has no place else to turn, Maggie begins to contemplate suicide, thinking it will be better for her child to be cradled in heaven rather than dying slowly in an orphanage like Maggie’s brother.

Q: Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor spans four generations of women, slipping back and forth between a past and contemporary story. Why do the three older women keep secrets from their daughters? How far are some people willing to go to cover the shame of their past?

Mother-daughter relationships can be complicated. This relationship can be one of the closest a woman might experience, but it can also be one of the most hurtful. In both the past and present parts of the story, the mothers kept secrets from their daughters in order to protect them, but as these secrets are passed down through generations, they almost destroy their family.

While these women believe they are protecting the people they love, they are really protecting themselves. The wounds from shame have been around since Adam and Eve sinned against God and then hid themselves in the perfect garden. Like Adam and Eve, many of us are willing to go a long way to cover up sin or abuse from our past. This makes me even more grateful for the grace of God that has the power to redeem our past and cleanse all our shame.

Q: Why did you choose to weave the theme of butterflies through this story?

Maggie’s daughter, Libby, is a unique young woman who is fascinated by butterflies. She is a beautiful, passionate girl who thrives on wandering among the flowers in Ladenbrooke’s gardens and spilling her heart on the pages of her sketchbook. Even though she struggles socially, Libby is enchanted by the beauty and dance of butterflies. As she grows older, Libby loves creating colorful butterflies — her friends — through painting, and these butterflies ultimately bring new life to her as well.

I chose to use the example of butterflies throughout this story because of their struggle to break free of the cocoon that both shelters and confines them and because of their transformation into elegant, vibrant creatures that rely on the sun for life. Once we allow God to peel back the shame and guilt that bind us, we — like these magical butterflies —are finally free to be exactly who He made us to be.

Q: You’ve said if Libby had been born in modern times, she could have fallen on the autism spectrum. Why did you choose to include that aspect as part of her story?

My oldest daughter has sensory processing issues, and we have journeyed with friends throughout the years who have children on this spectrum as well. Parents of kids on the autism spectrum often experience a lot of guilt and shed many tears on behalf of their son or daughter. Until parents have a diagnosis, there is a lot of confusion as to why their child is different than other kids and why they struggle to do seemingly simple tasks when really they are fighting to survive. There can also be judgment from teachers and other adults who are confused or uneducated about this spectrum.

Children on the autism spectrum often struggle with self-control and relationships, but they can also be incredibly bright, passionate people, such as Libby, who excel at art or science or whatever talents God has given them. In this story, I wanted to celebrate these wonderful kids and encourage moms, in particular, who might feel hopeless and alone.

Q: How were people with autism and their families treated differently 50 years ago?

In the 1950s, the mother of a child with autism was referred to as a “refrigerator mom” because it was thought autism was a result of being parented by a cold, unfeeling mother. Ouch! I can’t imagine how hurtful that must have been to moms of autistic children. In Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, Walter and Maggie debate what would help and what would hurt Libby. Walter wants Libby to face her fears while Maggie wants to protect her daughter from the world and the children who tease her. They both feel helpless at times as they seek to understand Libby’s heart and mind.

When I was in England, I spent time with a woman who had been a special education teacher 50 years ago. She said during this time period, autistic children would have been sent to a separate home, while those with Asperger syndrome or sensory processing issues would most likely have been rejected by other children and adults because their differences.

Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor by Melanie Dobson
Howard Books

Q: Do you think sensitivity and understanding for those with autism has increased in modern times? What can individuals do to help change the way society views and interacts with those impacted by autism?

I am incredibly grateful for the advances in understanding the spectrum of autism and all the amazing techniques, exercises and therapies to help kids on this spectrum succeed. Still many children with Sensory Processing Disorder are misdiagnosed. It’s important to continue educating parents and teachers about the range of this spectrum and how children with heightened sensory awareness might react with fear or anger when they feel threatened. It is also helpful when parents of children on the autism spectrum are able to be honest about the successes and failures of their journey. Instead of judging, we should all encourage parents who love their kids but feel discouraged on their quest for answers.

Q: Willow Cottage, the home of the Doyle family, sits in the shadows of the Croft family’s Ladenbrooke Manor. What is the significance of these shadows?

The Crofts are an upper class, noble family in England while Walter and Maggie Doyle are solidly middle class. During the 1950s, there were strict society rules between the British classes, but both Oliver (the son of Lord and Lady Croft) and Libby (the Doyles’ daughter) defy these rules. Like the boundaries of society, a stone wall separated Ladenbrooke Manor and Willow Cottage until tragedy strikes both families and these social boundaries begin to crumble. Ultimately God’s light shines through the shadows on both sides of the wall.

Q: Your favorite characters to write about are everyday heroes and heroines who sacrifice their lives for someone else. Do any of your characters sacrifice their lives in Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor?

I am fascinated by seemingly ordinary people today and throughout history who have done extraordinary things to help others. In Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, Walter chooses to sacrifice his career and his plans for the future to raise a daughter who’s biologically not his. He grows to love Libby, and even though his emotions are tumultuous throughout this story, Walter ultimately decides to accept and care for this girl he believes God has given him. Also, Maggie originally thinks that taking her own life, along with the life of her unborn daughter, is the most loving thing to do for her child, but Walter stops her from killing herself; she ultimately sacrifices herself to fight for Libby and to care for Libby’s daughter.

Q: Despite the fear of disappointing people we love, how can we learn to live our lives in the light of the truth instead of hiding?

One of the verses I cling to regularly as a parent is 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” Christ ripped the veil of our shame in two when He died so we no longer have to hide behind it. I love when women of different generations are honest with one another about their weaknesses and offer each other grace, just as Christ gave freely to each of us.

Q: There seem to be some similarities in time period and setting between the BBC’s surprise hit Call the Midwife and Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor. Why do you think Call the Midwife has become such a popular program in both England and the United States, and what are some of the parallels between this show and your latest novel?

Viewers love Call the Midwife for many reasons, but some of the main reasons are because it’s a show about a character reflecting back on her life during the 1950s with new clarity and because of the rich themes of faith and morality that echo through the generations. Also, the stories take an honest look at both the beauty and sometimes sorrow that happen with each new birth. Each episode is authentic in its display of inner and external conflict while maintaining its focus on the relationship between God and humanity.

The story in Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor is also bound together by the journal entries of a character reflecting back on life in England during a similar era. I hope readers will appreciate the honest perspective of the challenges of an unexpected pregnancy and wrestle through their own emotions alongside the characters. Also similar to Call the Midwife, the themes of faith and grace are integral to this story.

Q: Could you tell us about the trip you took to research this book?

I visit all the main settings of my novels to capture the spirit and culture of each location along with the sights, sounds and even tastes of the area. I spent a week on a “whistle stop” tour of England last spring, exploring Oxford, London, Bristol and the lovely manor homes in the Cotswolds. I thoroughly enjoyed my many pots of English tea, sleeping in homes that were almost 1,000 years old and meandering through cottage gardens around Oxford. I also had the pleasure of meeting with friends and fellow novelists Carrie Turansky and Cathy Gohlke while they researched for their upcoming novels and then spending the day with a lovely British woman named Evelyn who thought my novel should be set in the quaint village called Bibury. Turns out, she was exactly right!

Q: You have said you almost feel a compulsion to write. What do you mean by that?

Someone gave me a red journal when I was seven, and I’ve loved to write and create stories ever since. I enjoy the challenge of researching and writing fiction, and when I’m not working on a new book, I’m either making up stories for my girls or dreaming about ideas for my next novel. I believe we all have talents and abilities that God wants us to use. Writing is life-giving to me, and I get cranky (as my family will confirm!) when I take too long of a break from my pen and paper.

Q: Ultimately, what is the main message of Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor?

Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor was my exploration of God’s light shining through the shadows of life, along with the beauty and power of His restoration through generations. The story is ultimately about transformation — how even in the hardest situations God can weave together a story of hope and redemption and create incredible beauty from the ashes of our lives.

To keep up with Melanie Dobson, visit, become a fan on Facebook (Melanie-Dobson) or follow her on Twitter (@MelBDobson).

Posted 7/17/15 at 8:57 AM |

Do Christians still believe in covenant marriage?

Author with Ph.D. in Clinical Christian Counseling shares her personal story of divorce and infidelity in new book

As prominent pastors continue to fall into sexual sin, the headlines betray the reality that many church leaders refuse to acknowledge. According to Barna Research, nearly one-third of born-again Christians admit to having extramarital affairs. A Christianity Today survey found that 23% of pastors admitted to sexually-inappropriate behaviors with someone other than their wives. On the Ashley Madison website, which introduces people who are already married or in relationships to other people, nearly 48% of the membership is made up of people who identify as “born-again” Christians or as Protestants. These are statistics that Dr. Carol Erb knows all too well, both professionally and personally. But in her home, the percentage was 100%. FULL POST

Posted 7/17/15 at 8:49 AM |

Pre-sales of new novel making a difference for those less fortunate

Pelican Book Group donates enough proceeds to Food for the Poor to pay for clean water pump for poor community, food and education

Even before it releases in August, the new fiction book from Pelican Book Group entitled Summer’s Flame, has already made its mark internationally. Pelican is donating proceeds from the sale of the new novel to Food for the Poor, the largest international relief and development organization in the United States which serves the poorest of the poor in 17 countries throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. Through pre-sales alone of Summer’s Flame, Pelican has already been able to pay for a new clean water pump for a community, feed one child for a year, as well as send a child to school for a year. Pelican’s editor-in-chief, Nicola Martinez, says the venture has been consistent with the goals of the publishing company.

“As a publisher of Christian fiction, I’m privileged to provide readers with entertainment that instills hope and joy through the Gospel message,” says Martinez. "It’s a privilege and a responsibility to feed readers spiritually, to help bring someone to faith or to bolster the faith of a believer. But I ask myself often: is it enough? The book of James is very clear that faith and action go hand-in-hand by saying, ‘If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?’ (James 2:15-16 NAB) It would be easy for me to say that publishing is the action behind my faith—and on one level it is, because at Pelican Book Group, we’re helping to spread the gospel through fiction—but if I say my responsibility ends there, then I fear I am kidding myself. Books can’t quell a physical hunger, can’t warm a cold and trembling body, cannot quench a physical thirst, so it became clear to me that we needed to do more.” FULL POST

Posted 7/9/15 at 1:25 PM | Audra Jennings

Anita Higman Writes How a Dying Wish Alters a Young Woman’s Life

An interview with Anita Higman, Author of Summers List

Anita Higman, author of
Anita Higman

For a single girl in her 30s who longs to be married, it can be easy to feel a little lost when all your princes keep turning into frogs. Anita Higman details the twists and turns, triumphs and failures, in one young womans search for love in her new book, Summers List (River North/June 1, 2015/ISBN: 978-0802412324/$14.99).

Life hasn’t been easy for Summer Snow. She spent what should have been her carefree 20s selflessly caring for her ailing parents and denied herself the dreams in her heart to run her grandmother's bookstore. And if you asked her, she would say she’s mostly happy — but she knows she’s missing something — and her grandmother’s love doesn’t fill that aching part of her heart that longs for love and romance.

Q: In three sentences or less, tell us about your new book.

A young woman, Summer Snow is sent on an unexpected adventure with Martin Langtree, a kind but gangly young man from Summer's past. A childhood friendship is rekindled, a romance is sparked and mysteries are solved in one magical Texas summer.

Q: What is the main theme that runs through Summers List?

Forgiveness and reconciliation do not come naturally to mankind, but it’s the only right way to live. It’s the way Christ taught us to live.

Q: What was the inspiration behind the story?

My answer isn’t romantic. It’s not literary sounding in any way. It’s the kind of answer that lets you see behind the curtain. I hope it doesn’t spoil any of the magic for you, but here’s my answer. It’s always been easy for me to create quirky characters but not so easy to create conflict that can keep going for 80,000 words. So I thought if a heroine had a list of things she was compelled to do — and the list was challenging and fun, with surprises along the way — that this concept could create enough plot and conflict to get me through to the end of a book. I’ll let you decide if my idea worked or not!

Q: Your heroine, Summer Snow, is used to putting others interests before her own. We are taught to serve others, but is there a point when selflessness can become damaging?

Yes. It could be that Summer’s parents should have insisted she at least attend a local college so she could prepare for her future while she was watching over them. Even loving parents can make selfish decisions at times.

Q: Can you identify with Summers search for love?

Yes, before I met my husband I was sort of lost in love like Summer. But I was fortunate enough to find my husband without a life-list.

Q: Why do you think the number of people delaying marriage into their 30s and even beyond is growing?

I don’t know for sure, but my guess is they are frightened of commitment. The reason may be because the divorce rate has some pretty scary statistics attached to it. For some men and women, maybe it feels hopeless for a marriage to last a lifetime. But it is possible. My husband and I have been married 35 years. We don’t have a perfect marriage, but we’re committed to each other, and we love each other. If we were to fall out of love someday, I know our commitment would keep us safe until we could fall in love all over again. My advice is to love freely, forgive easily and invite God to be ever-present in your marriage.

Q: What expectations and social pressures are put upon single women in the church?

Perhaps they feel if they can’t find Mr. Right, then they are somehow second-class women. That is, of course, not true. But people in the church need to be sensitive to those who do not marry. We should never exclude them or make them feel they are somehow unacceptable or unlovable if they remain single.

Q: Can it be dangerous for women to believe in the notion of a soul mate or one single person whom God has for you to find and marry?

Yes, I suppose it could be a dangerous mindset because when you get bored or angry with your spouse — which is very common in most marriages — then it’s easy to think you’ve made a grave error in your choice and someone else was your true destiny and would make you happier. That kind of faulty thinking is an effective way to dismantle a marriage.

Q: What is the best advice you have for someone who truly longs for marriage?

Tell God the desires of your heart. He cares deeply for us. But in my opinion, it wouldn’t be wrong to consider using a good Christian dating service. I know of a woman right now who is living her happily-ever-after because of one of these services.

Summer's List by Anita Higman
River Noth

Q: Summers story is unique, as she completes the bucket list her Grandmother made for her. What are some other ways single women can connect with their purpose in life, despite their disappointments?

Make a list of all the talents God has given you, and then go about using them for His glory. You’ll find satisfaction and purpose in doing what you were created to do.

Q: Have you ever made a bucket list? How did it change your life?

I’ve not made a bucket list, but my husband and I have made a list of places we’d like to travel to before we journey to heaven. Some places left on that list are Israel, Greece and Norway. Can’t wait!

Q: Why do Gods plans for our lives often look so very different than our own?

Because we see through a glass darkly while we’re here on earth. If we could see more as God does, we would have different plans. They would come closer to lining up with His ways, and there would be much less turmoil and disappointment.

Q: Summer manages a children’s bookshop. Was there someone in your childhood who helped instill in you a love for literature?

My mother read fairytales to me when I was a little girl. Those stories had a profound effect on me. People have told me my novels read a little like modern fairytales. My husband and I are about to break ground on our retirement home. Can you guess what it is? It’s a fairytale house in the woods. Stories stay with us for a lifetime!

Q: You are, in fact, very enthusiastic about promoting literacy and have even won awards for your efforts in that arena. Why is that such an important cause for you?

If people can’t read, I’m out of business. But beyond that reasoning, I always hope all people are able to read and know the power of words. Imagine going a lifetime without reading Oliver Twist or Pride and Prejudice or the Bible!

Q: What is the number-one message you want your readers to receive from Summer’s List?

My brand is “Stories with a soft landing because life is hard.” I hope readers finish all my books with a lighter heart and a sense of joy and hope.

To keep up with Anita Higman, visit become a fan on Facebook (AuthorAnitaHigman) or follow her on Twitter (@anitahigman).

Posted 7/8/15 at 12:29 PM | Audra Jennings

Does Social Media Keep Us From Making Authentic Connections?

Part 1 of an interview with Pamela Havey Lau,

Author of A Friend in Me

Click here to read the complete Q&A!

Pamela Havey Lau, author of A Friend in Me
Pamela Havey Lau

With 232 million people using Twitter every month and more than 1.3 billion people on Facebook last year, it’s safe to say we live in an incredibly “connected” world. Yet with hundreds of friends and loved ones just a click away on social media or a text away on the phone, why do so many women feel isolated and alone? With ladies longing for meaningful connections to help them grow in their faith and find emotional wholeness, now is the perfect time for Pamela Havey Lau’s new book, A Friend in Me: How to be a Safe Haven for Other Women (David C Cook/June 1, 2015/ ISBN: 978-1434708649/ $15.99).

Women today also crave relational connection with women who are further ahead of them on their journey. So many want mentors, guides and role models to whom they can bring their accomplishments and failures to feel affirmed, mutually respected and understood. In A Friend in Me, Lau shows women how to be a safe place for those who are in earlier stages of life than they are, teaching them habits for strengthening bonds such as offering comfort, acting with understanding and relating with compassion.

Click here to watch Pamela Havey Lau talk about why she wrote A Friend in Me.

Q: You say the themes in A Friend in Me have been forming in you for your entire adult life. Can you tell us more about that?

When I was in my early 20s, I had an insatiable desire to understand spiritual things but felt trapped by what I read and saw in Christian media and the church. My own family fell apart when I was a teenager, so in many ways my early adult years were a time of healing. I couldn’t find examples of women I could identify with. It was tempting to become spiritually independent. I even used my graduate thesis project to explore this journey by looking at mediated images of women. What opened my heart and mind fully to the things of God was deeper relationships with key women along the way. Certain women’s relationship with me and their ways of being close to me softened my heart toward the Kingdom, to the real person of Jesus Christ. This was particularly true in my early adult years as my faith was becoming more of my own. The ones, however, who made the biggest impact on my faith were women who didn’t compartmentalize my vocation or my personal life but related Christ to the whole of who I was. Through these relationships I discovered that coming from a broken home, being single or married, becoming a mother, being a working woman or leaving my career, experiencing painful losses, enjoying successes — none of these things were more powerful than my identity in Christ.

Q: How have social media and technology both helped and hindered intimate friendships?

Overall, it seems social media keeps us connected to people we wouldn’t normally reach out to, especially people from our past. Research shows that high use of Facebook can cause depression among women. My friends tell me that Facebook makes them jealous or brings up a fear of missing out faster than anything else. Does that mean social media outlets are evil? No. It just means that’s what really is in our hearts. The question becomes are we prepared to do what we need to do to keep our hearts clean when using all kinds of media? It’s like we’re on fast-forward relationally, and not much else kills intimacy in friendship than comparing, jealousy or feeling left out.

I love Skype and FaceTime because many of my intimate friends are around the nation and the world. Once a week, my friend and I dialogue about NT Wright’s latest Bible study via Skype. It’s like we are sitting together in my living room. In our case, technology has absolutely helped our friendship as our time together doesn’t require traffic jams, long drives or finding places to meet. Texting is an amazing device to send/receive prayer requests or to just check in with someone. Texting can be toxic when it’s used for solving conflict. Relying solely on texting can create misunderstandings. No amount of emoji can replace human facial expression. As much as I can, I try to meet someone in person, talk on the phone or use Skype. If that’s not possible, I move to text or social media.

Q: Tell us what personal tragedy caused you to realize finally how deeply you needed to be in close relationships with other women?

The day before our third wedding anniversary, my brother-in-law and his fiancée were killed in a head-on collision on their way home from visiting family in Oklahoma. I write about it more extensively in the book, but I realized after six months of drowning in grief how much I needed constant support and input as I walked through suffering with my young husband. Even more, I needed to hear how women got to the other side of their suffering. The only way I could ever know stories like that was by truly knowing them, not just hearing about them

Q: What would you say is the primary factor that holds women back from truly loving other women?

Obviously, each woman is unique in her growing-up years, her make-up and her relational needs. First, I would say it’s a spiritual battle; the enemy wants women divided and distanced from one another. If I could identify the primary factor that holds women back from truly loving other women, it would be safety. When an agenda is introduced into the relationship, hearts begin to shrink. Increasingly, women’s relationships are not safe places for other women to find rest, encouragement, motivation, prayer and support. We don’t need to be uniformly like-minded to have another woman’s back. Having someone who is for her with no strings attached — that’s the sense she wants and needs from other women so she can let her guard down, receive some ministry and hear from God.

For some women, loving other women well has never been modeled for them, and that’s a problem as the next generation is watching us to see how beautiful, loving, life-giving relationships are formed.

Q: What are some practical steps women can take to start and form deep friendships?

A Friend in Me by Pamela Havey Lau
David C Cook

First of all, ask yourself if you sense a need for deeper connections. If you can answer that with an honest affirmation, then the next step is to pray and ask God for what you need. While you are praying, learn to initiate. Initiating with another woman feels risky because we all know the “Hey, let’s get together some time” routine, and it doesn’t ever happen. The more women initiate with one another and follow through, the greater the chances are of making a lasting a connection. See initiating as planting seeds, and watch your crop grow.

When you finally get together, the two most important steps you can take is to ask good questions and listen. Madeleine L’Engle once said something like this: If more of us had a friend whom we could share our deepest selves with, there wouldn’t be a need for professional counselors. I’m not suggesting we don’t need professional mental health care — we do! Nevertheless, many of our struggles and problems could be ironed out with the care and concern of close friends.

Does that mean friendship exists only to serve as a sounding board? Absolutely not! And that’s the art of true friendship — to enjoy one another, have fun, celebrate the good, share life and shopping and insights. And when the suffering times come — which they always do — mourn with those who mourn. Learn to comfort, to show up at midnight when the phone rings, to pray for your friend.

Q: Many women are wary of being vulnerable with other women because they’ve been burned in the past. What are ways women can make sure they’re safe havens for others?

The more women can become humble in their relationships, the greater the chances are of becoming a safe haven for other women. Two areas women are longing for more vulnerability from other women are in vocation and sexuality. I’ve discovered it’s in these two areas in which we can easily feel miserable because not enough of us are talking about them safely. Once we’ve determined to put aside any agenda to fix another woman, she can open up to us. As long as we remember her number-one identity is in Christ and not in an image we want her to have, we can lessen the chances of “burning” her. I think that goes both ways.

I devoted an entire chapter to sexuality. After years of working with college students, I saw the damage we can create when we don’t talk openly about sex. Christian women across the globe can become safe havens for others as they swallow their wrong attitudes and fears about sex and listen to what other women need to ask or say. No matter our beliefs on homosexuality, pornography or other sexual issues, we must develop a grit and vocabulary to have these conversations. Why would we want the culture to have a stronger voice than the Church?

Q: What is your prayer for your readers as they dig into A Friend in Me?

I’m praying for a movement around the globe for women to find satisfaction, healing and safety in closer relationships with the women God has placed in their lives. For the believing women who are silently suffering from depression, anger or hard to share emotions, I am praying for them to find a safe haven so they can be ministered to. From that movement, I’m praying for women who don’t know Jesus Christ to look on and say, “I want that! I want the kind of relationships those women are having!” My prayer is that as they examine what other women have, they will see the merciful, forgiving, compassionate, comforting love of God.

Learn more about Pamela Havey Lau and A Friend in Me at, on Facebook (pamela.h.lau) or by following her on Twitter (@pamelahaveylau).

Posted 7/2/15 at 10:34 AM | Audra Jennings

What if Your Worst Mistake Was Really the Best Choice?

Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Howard Books

Marriage is serious business — both for the couple tying the knot and for wedding vendors, with the average cost of an American wedding topping $25,000. As budgets get stretched, so can fraying nerves and already-taut emotions, as captured in Beth K. Vogt’s new Destination Wedding series.

In the first novel in the series, Crazy Little Thing Called Love (Howard Books/June 30, 2015/ISBN: 978-1476789781/$14.99), paramedic Vanessa Hollister thinks she has moved beyond the pain of her first marriage — a “what-were-you-thinking” teenage elopement — and is planning an elegant destination wedding in Destin, Fla., with her new fiancé. Her dream of an idyllic beach wedding is disrupted, though, with the sudden reappearance of her first husband.

Storm chaser Logan Hollister is used to taking risks, but a reckless decision during the last tornado season has him questioning his career’s future. Coming face-to-face with his ex-wife eight years after their divorce compels him to confront his greatest regret: losing Vanessa.

When a powerful hurricane throws Vanessa and Logan together, the pair battles unexpected renewed feelings for each other, and the two are left with a choice: Should they accept, once and for all, their teenage marital mistake? Or is God offering them a second chance at happily ever after?

Vogt’s Destination Wedding series will explore the power of love and the possible mishaps and missteps that happen on a couple’s journey down the aisle. Vogt says she was ready to write something a little different. “So often in contemporary romance stories, the wedding comes at the end of the novel — often as an epilogue,” Vogt points out. “In this series, the wedding is a main plot point. And travel — who doesn’t love to read about new travel destinations?” Fans of Vogt are in for an extra treat; Vogt is releasing an e-short, Can’t Buy Me Love, on May 5, 2015 in which chic bride-to-be Bellamy plans the Manhattan wedding of her dreams.

Vogt’s writing process always starts with a story question. For Crazy Little Thing Called Love, her question was: Is it possible what you thought was your biggest mistake was actually the right choice? “God’s best often waits behind the doors marked ‘never,’” Vogt muses. “Crazy Little Thing Called Love delves into the choices we make and asks, if we are given a second chance at love, should we take it?” Vogt says she hope readers will close the covers of Crazy Little Thing Called Love understanding that while a second chance in life or love might not be an automatic affirmation from God, it should be approached prayerfully and counted as a treasured opportunity.

About the Author

Beth K. Vogt, author of Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Beth K. Vogt

Beth K. Vogt is a non-fiction author who said she’d never write fiction, the wife of an Air Force physician who said she’d never marry anyone in the military and a mom of four who said she’d never have kids. Vogt believes God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “never.”

A 2014 Carol Award finalist, Vogt enjoys writing contemporary romance fiction because she believes there’s more to “happily-ever-after” than the fairy tales tell us. Her 2014 novel, Somebody Like You, was one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Books of 2014. In 2015, Vogt introduces a four-part Destination Wedding series with the eBook, Can’t Buy Me Love, and her new novel, Crazy Little Thing Called Love.

A magazine writer and former editor of the MOPS International magazine, Connections, Vogt is a part of the leadership team for the writing community My Book Therapy. She lives in Colorado with her husband, Rob, and their youngest daughter.

To keep up with Beth K. Vogt, visit, become a fan on Facebook (AuthorBethKVogt) or follow her on Twitter (@bethvogt) and Pinterest (beth_vogt).

Posted 6/24/15 at 1:50 PM | Audra Jennings

Odyssey Adventure Club Offers Exciting Summer Plans for Active Families

Jesse Florea, Odyssey Adventure Club
Jesse Florea

Q: Why do you think some parents dread the idea of their kids being out of school all summer? Is it the added pressure of having to entertain them?

Florea: I’m not sure parents dread the summer as much as they have to get used to a new routine and spend more time organizing schedules. But, yes, there is added pressure to keep kids engaged and active over the summer. No parent wants his or her child sprawled on the couch for months watching TV and playing video games. And kids don’t want that either.

Bob Smithouser, Focus on the Family
Bob Smithouser

Smithouser: Parents get tired of hearing “I'm bored,” as if it's their job to keep the kids occupied 24/7 between now and Labor Day. Shortly after school lets out, there's the stress of adapting to a new routine. By August, we're wondering what's left to do we haven't already done. Fatigue can set in. Like Jesse said though, we don't want to cop out and let our children zone out with endless hours of TV and video games. That's why Adventures in Odyssey is great, because those audio dramas stimulate the imagination. And combined with the activities, daily devotions and message boards in the Odyssey Adventure Club, there are plenty of safe, spiritually enriching ways to keep kids engaged. It's the best possible answer to “I'm bored.”

Q: Some research shows that kids from ages 8 to 18 spend more than 7.5 hours a day with electronic devices such as a computer, phone or TV. Why should this be a concern to parents?

Christi Lynn, Focus on the Family
Christi Lynn

Lynn: We believe kids should be using their imagination and interacting with their family and friends. Many times media today tend to isolate. While the Odyssey Adventure Club is consumed through a computer or mobile device, it doesn’t require a child to sit and stare at a screen. Kids can listen to episodes while doing other activities, such as coloring, playing with their toys or outside, riding in the car or exercising. The Odyssey Adventure Club also provides activities and devotions meant to be done as a family, encouraging that important interaction. Through the audio dramas, imagination is brought to life for kids within the theatre of the mind.

Q: How does the Odyssey Adventure Club help moms and dads make spiritual investments into the lives of their children?

Lynn: Through the power of story and imagination, Adventures in Odyssey teaches life lessons through the lens of a biblical worldview. This helps a child grow and develop spiritually. All of our episodes with the Odyssey Adventure Club are also connected to a devotional, which will give parents the ability to tie together easily the program to a scripture and a spiritual lesson. Additionally, parents will find a daily devotional on the website that will take their children and their family deeper on their spiritual walk.

Odyssey Adventure Club
Focus on the Family

Q: How will the Take the Plunge challenge help parents spiritually disciple their kids while giving them a great time with their family?

Florea: The Take the Plunge challenge focuses on a child’s mind, body and spirit. We want families to be active together and create memories. At the same time, we want to see our members grow closer to Christ. As parents help their children memorize God’s Word and reach out to others in God’s love, the kids will see God move and understand He can use them to further His kingdom.

Smithouser: Research tells us the more senses we involve when teaching children a principle, the more likely the principle will stick. Bible memorization by itself is great, but it becomes even more powerful when put into action. Know it. Share it. Live it. Any campaign that helps families make memories while being the heart and hands of Jesus to a hurting world is one worth getting behind.

To learn more about the Take the Plunge challenge, visit

Posted 6/23/15 at 4:29 PM |

Two young writers enter the genre of Christian fiction with a suspense novel that is 75% anti-Christian

First-time authors Ryan Mix and J.T. Payne held nothing back from their initial endeavor into Christian fiction with the new book, The Academy, releasing from Rossling Publishers and distributed by Ingram. Abortion, drugs, suicide, evolution, and death are just a few of the concepts the main character encounters at a fictitious Christian school. The Academy has a suspense element that both Mix and Payne wanted to create to keep readers on their toes. They admit to intentionally making “75% of the book anti-Christian,” but they had a good reason for doing so.

“We tried to take a bold new approach,” says Mix. “We wanted to build tension for Christians reading the book by flipping stereotypes and clichés on their heads so readers cannot assume anything and are forced to question what is coming next. But we also wanted to offer a storyline that might draw in non-Christians as well. Jesus taught in parables all the time in order to get people to think about spiritual things." FULL POST

Posted 6/22/15 at 12:13 PM | Audra Jennings

Award-winning Author Cynthia Ruchti Releases a New Novel Hemmed in Hope

As Waters Gone By by Cynthia Ruchti
Cynthia Ruchti

Every married couple has tensions they need to work through, but can a relationship survive hundreds of miles and endless yards of razor wire? The tenacity of God’s love and His longing to redeem broken people and their relationships are principles at the core of award-winning author Cynthia Ruchti’s new novel, As Waters Gone By (Abingdon Press/May 5, 2015/ISBN: 978-1426787270/$14.99).

Q: In a few sentences, tell us about As Waters Gone By and your inspiration for the book.

As Waters Gone By is the story of a woman struggling to figure out what happens to a marriage when the distance they face isn’t miles only, but concrete walls and razor wire. Emmalyn and Max’s marriage was given a court-mandated five-year time-out when Max’s actions sent him to prison and put an end to Emmalyn’s hopes for motherhood. On a self-imposed exile to beautiful but remote Madeline Island in Lake Superior, Emmalyn has only a few months left to figure out if and how she and Max can ever be a couple again.

When writing As Waters Gone By, I quickly saw the connections for those whose spouses are deployed or gone for long stretches because of their jobs. How do you make a home when your mate is never home?

Our family has been plunged into some of the chapters in As Waters Gone By. My brother-in-law is currently incarcerated several states away. I’m watching my sister react to the situation with such grace, and the remarkable strengthening of their marriage and their faith despite the grave disappointments and uncrossable distance. Their marriage has been an inspiration to others who make the natural assumption that time behind bars is an automatic death knell for a marriage. It doesn’t have to be. Through this novel’s characters—whose story is much different than the one my sister and her husband are living—I wanted to communicate the Hope I’ve personally witnessed, and the grace that can transform a long distance relationship from unraveled to hemmed in that Hope.

Q: You aren’t afraid to take on difficult subjects in your stories. As Waters Gone By deals with serious life issues such as infertility, broken marriages and even the incarceration of a spouse. Why do you take on these heavy-hitting topics?

It would be far easier to pretend these issues don’t affect us or to write about the most popular topic of the day. Instead, I feel most drawn to the stories that rattle us to our core but offer unshakable hope. My books are an emotional journey for the characters and usually prove to be the same for readers too. And yet, there are moments of humor and tenderness in the stories because those elements also show up in our life crises. I pray readers find themselves identifying with the characters and their faith struggles as well as their conflicts. And if they don’t identify with the circumstances, I pray they’ll empathize. My hope is that their compassion for those who do face stories like Emmalyn’s will grow, that books like As Waters Gone By will touch readers at a soul-deep level. While answering these questions, I heard from a reader who gave me the greatest compliment by saying that I have such a way with broken characters that she has a hard time leaving them behind.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your heroine, Emmalyn. Did you include any elements of yourself when crafting her?

Emmalyn Ross had her life plan figured out. Her career path and her husband’s tracked as they wanted them to. But heart-wrenching disappointments chipped away at their carefully crafted plans and at their pride. Emmalyn is unlike me in dozens of ways. I haven’t faced her battle with infertility, but I care deeply about those who do. And through Emmalyn, I had the opportunity to explore what happens to a strong woman when she’s rendered helpless to make a difference in the most important areas of her life — her marriage and her longing to have a child.

I probably identify most with the character who owns the Wild Iris Inn and Café. The owner saw hope hiding behind Emmalyn’s pain and served as a spiritual midwife, in a way, to help Emmalyn see the hope too.

Q: Do you think a marriage can survive any kind of trial?

It’s not easy. I watch as my sister and brother-in-law grow their marriage during his incarceration. They’re intentional about seeking God’s help, about beating the odds, about doing what it takes to invest in their marriage at a time in life when the natural thing would be to walk away. They’ve become living examples that even prison bars don’t have to spell the end of a marriage. And they’re helping convince other couples of the same truth. Emmalyn and Max did almost everything wrong when faced with that forced separation. And still, hope fought its way to the surface.

This is a theme that found expression in my first novel, too—They Almost Always Come Home. In that story, the husband and wife grieved in completely different ways, and it almost spelled the end for them as a couple. I think where we lose our way when faced with what we feel is an unbearable situation is in giving up because it’s easier to give up, or calling it quits because it’s the expected thing to do, or pulling away from each other because of the crisis rather than leaning INTO each other.

Q: How can families come together during a tragedy rather than letting it drive them apart?

Some families might find that natural. Their individual personalities make linking arms and hearts at a time like that seem the obvious choice. But others—especially those who’ve been bombarded with a history of tragedies or shredded by past relationship distresses—might find they have to work at it, seek outside counseling, take determined steps toward each other rather than away.

When Emmalyn and Max in As Waters Gone By began talking—really talking—and watching out for the other’s best interests, when they sought outside help, and subconsciously renewed their commitment to the marriage is when change started to happen and hope was reborn.

Q: How can unmet expectations drive a wedge between us and God?

Unmet expectations can become a wedge in any relationship. Parent/child. Marriage. Friendship. When life doesn’t turn out like we thought it would, our natural inclination is to look for someone to blame. Max made an easy target for Emmalyn’s blame-fixing. She might not have admitted to herself that she also blamed God — for not preventing what happened, for not answering her prayers, for seemingly abandoning her. How many people would tell the same story: that unmet expectations escalated to blame-fixing and bitterness and ultimately to emotional distance from those they love? When Emmalyn learns how to guard her heart against the effects of unmet expectations, she can finally start to gain her footing.

One of the significant subplots in As Waters Gone By is the undercurrent of acceptance and mending that is rooted in the Wild Iris Inn and Café. It’s a location that represents an attitude—taking people as they are—unmet expectations and all, understanding the pain that lies behind unwise choices and the power the lies in second chances. The owner of the café lives an outrageous example of love and acceptance that becomes contagious within the community and for Emmalyn. And for me.

As Waters Gone By by Cynthia Ruchti
Abingdon Press

Q: In your own life, how have you found peace in life despite disappointments or troubling circumstances?

Life is laced with disappointment and troubles — some small enough to weather with a mere sigh before we take a deep breath and move forward. Others rock us to our core.

I sometimes need the reminder, though--and I assume many readers do too--that every disappointment we face in life is temporary. And that we’re not left alone to flounder during those times.

Q: Do you think God brings certain people into our lives at the right moment? Could you share a story about someone who came into your life at just the right time?

I think that’s been His pattern from the beginning of time. We read in the Bible that He brought Boaz into Ruth and Naomi’s life at just the right moment. He sent Mary to Elizabeth’s house at a time that provided much needed encouragement for both of them. In my own life, I’ve often had reason to lean on the Bible verse in Habakkuk 2:3 TLB that says, “But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day!” Sometimes the answer I waited for was a person. I remember going through a stretch of time when I had no kindred spirit friend. Lots of acquaintances, but my heart longed for that heart-to-heart kind of friend. I prayed and prayed. Waited and waited. My answer lived next door. She was 22 years older than I was, but our friendship has lasted more than 36 years and eventually led us into decades of working together. Hope often shows up in the form of a person.

Q: How important are strong female friendships during hard times?

Immeasurably important! A circle of caring friends—even a small circle—can:

· Help us laugh when that’s the last thing on our mind.

· Remind us someone cares.

· Remind us God cares even when we don’t see the evidence at the moment.

· Hold us up when our knees are weak, when our faith is wobbling.

· Help keep us from drowning in the details of the crisis.

· Return our focus to the act of living while we’re waiting.

It hasn’t been intentional on my part, but in every novel I write, female friendships play a significant role. It’s been there all along in They Almost Always Come Home, When the Morning Glory Blooms, and All My Belongings. In As Waters Gone By, Emmalyn found pieces of her broken heart’s puzzle through her friendships with Boozie and Cora.

In the novels yet to be released, it will play out again—that remarkable impact of friendship.

Q: You use actual locations and geographical features found on Madeline Island, Wisconsin, in the book. Tell us about your trips to this area and how the setting, including a little cottage, stayed with you.

Almost everything location and geography-wise in As Waters Gone By is authentic, with a few exceptions. The Wild Iris Inn and Café — and its outrageous owner — are products of imagination, as is the hunting cottage Emmalyn worked to restore. Someone’s home stands not far from where Emmalyn’s cottage lives in my imagination. Maybe I should put that piece of property on my bucket list.

My husband and I vacationed on Madeline Island years ago. We biked the backroads of the island. The memory of the bike trip is vivid in my mind, as is the moment when the road led us to a sharp elbow of asphalt with the clear waters of Lake Superior on our right and an enormous maple tree in front of us, an explosion of sunlit yellow leaves. Just beyond the tree lay a stretch of cobbled beach . . . and a for sale sign.

We had no money for vacation property. We barely had money enough for the ferry ride back to the mainland. But when we returned to the village, we stood outside of a realty office and looked through the listings plastered to the windows until we found the listing for that piece of property. For a few moments, we allowed ourselves to dream about calling that enchanting intersection of woods, water and shore ours. Ours.

What a sweet memory. Even before writing my first novel, I held onto that scene in my mind.

Q: In what way is that setting—and the timeline of late autumn and winter—key to the story?

I live in the Northwoods, about 200 miles south of Emmalyn’s Madeline Island. So I understand the starkness winter often represents-- the loneliness that winter’s bitter cold exaggerates. The sense of imprisonment Emmalyn would have felt when the island’s ferry stopped running and she was cut off from the rest of the world, just as Max had been. I think as the island changes from a tourist destination to the quieter season when the island’s residents began to hunker down for winter, Emmalyn felt Max’s isolation on a soul-deep level. She hadn’t felt a soul-deep connection to anything with Max for too long. Symbolically, the seasons had a voice in her healing.

Q: Most of the characters in As Waters Gone By are layered with their own painful histories or current crises. How did it change you as you created them?

Every book I write educates me. I learn more about myself, about humanity, about the intersection of God’s story and ours. Fleshing out characters like Boozie Unfortunate and Pirate Joe, Emmalyn’s mom and sisters, Cora and the book club ladies deepened my understanding that the people who surround me every day — those I meet through speaking engagements, listeners to interviews, readers I’m privileged to connect with — have stories behind their stories too. How could my compassion and empathy not grow?

Q: You chose to use several instances of symbolism in As Waters Gone By. What was the most meaningful piece of symbolism for you?

I’m not alone in being mesmerized by waves on what we sometimes call “big water” — oceans, inland seas like Lake Superior, large lakes. The rhythm of the waves, the realization that they have their source far beyond the shore, their consistency yet uniqueness, the treasures they carry to shore and debris they carry out to sea. . . . The premise of As Waters Gone By was birthed from a single verse of Scripture I must have tripped past dozens of times throughout the years. Now that I’ve seen it — really seen it — it won’t let me go. It’s Job 11:16, and it helps explain why waves represented hope to Emmalyn, why they represent hope to me. It reads, “You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by.” (NIV)

Q: What do you hope readers learn about the evolution of personal faith by reading As Waters Gone By?

I think one of the smartest things Emmalyn did — despite her long line of less-than-wise decisions — was to allow herself to be real with the God who knew what was going on inside of her all along. She risked trusting again.

Faith is always a risk. And always a risk worth taking. So is love.

To keep up with Cynthia Ruchti, visit You can also become a fan on Facebook (CynthiaRuchtiReaderPage) or follow her on Twitter (@cynthiaruchti).

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