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What Will Spill Onto Your Page?

 

What Will Spill Onto Your Page?

Hey, y'all. Jan here with a thinking-type post.

(Yes, I can talk Southern. My years in West Texas and in Kentucky taught me how!)

I've been convicted of something lately, and I'd like to share my thoughts with you.

Let's start here - 

What Will Spill Onto Your Page?

I'm teaching school-age children at Bible Study Fellowship this year, and we're studying Matthew. The immersion into this study (not only my own study, but in preparing to teach) reminds me that what we put into our hearts is what is going to come out.

In this section of Matthew, Jesus is talking to the Pharisees. You know, those religious leaders who were all about religion...but not so much about God. Like many of us, they thought they knew God. They thought they were obeying God with all their laws to "help" people follow God's Law.

But Jesus had a special name for them: brood of vipers. He uses that term more than once! Like I told the students in my BSF class, that means that He considered them to be a nest of venomous snakes.

I don't know about you, but I don't want the Lord of the Universe to consider me to be no better than a venomous snake.

I don't want my heart to spew out poison - untruths, slander, and even "mistakes" when I'm trying communicate to my readers about Jesus and His world...which covers 100% of what I write about.

But as writers, we are constantly filling our heads and hearts with knowledge - research for our latest novel. Sales statistics. The best price points. Reading blogs and listening to podcasts about writing and marketing.

As we watch the news or read the newspapers, we fill our minds and hearts with the noise of the World.

As we go about our non-writerly lives, we deal with family issues, church issues, and what in the world to fix for dinner.

When our heads and hearts become filled with the things of this world, what will overflow into our writing? 

"For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks."

What's the answer?

We must balance all of that - over-balance all of that - with God's Word.

Not just reading scripture, but delving deep into it.

Not just reading someone else's teaching on scripture, but studying it for ourselves.

Even if my daily word count suffers...

The time spent in God's Word - just me, my Bible, and the Holy Spirit - is never wasted. That's treasure to fill our hearts.

What Will Spill Onto Your Page?

My prayer for all of us is that our heads and our hearts will overflow with Jesus, and that is who our readers will encounter in our books.

I'd love to hear your thoughts!



Are We Living a Kaleidoscope Life?

 by Diann Mills


Kaleidoscopes show us the many characteristics of light and color. With the twist of the wrist, mirrors and colored pieces of material, usually glass, reflect beauty in various shapes. Each glimpse of the art becomes a gift for those who appreciate a dynamic creation. Much like each one of us is a unique gift to the world.

How we react to life’s ups and downs reflects how we examine and process life. Every experience fuels an emotion that adds light and color to our image. We can choose to enjoy the splendor and cultivate hope, or we can block every hint of it.

The most ordinary of shapes are made spectacular through a kaleidoscope’s lenses. Similarly, ordinary lives become extraordinary when courageous people choose to defy odds that could otherwise keep them chained to a dull, formless worldview.

A display of lives explodes across the horizon. People empty themselves of selfishness and greed to let goodness mirror their actions.

  • An underprivileged youth works hard to attend college and help his siblings continue their education.
  • A woman forsakes a life of abuse and seeks counseling.
  • A retired couple forms a nonprofit to help military personnel who are struggling with PTSD.
  • A wealthy businessman sells his firm to serve as a missionary.
  • A group of neighborhood teens does odd jobs for shut-ins.

To live a kaleidoscope life, we use all our resources to war against the dark, ugly shapes that have the power to stagnate our mental, spiritual, and physical growth. Our yesterdays do not define us, and we are determined to turn heartache and pain into a life lesson that makes us stronger.

We need setbacks to help us focus on what is important. Most of the time, the critical need isn’t ourselves. We accept truth as reality and apply it to the way we react and respond to every life happening. With new information, we can reevaluate how we spend our time, love our families, work successfully in our careers, push forward in our goals, and allow kaleidoscope living to shine with light and purpose.

An object viewed through a kaleidoscope never appears the same way twice. Don’t we want the same distinction? Don’t we want to examine the world new every morning?

While we want to ensure our faith, morals, and values remain intact, we also need to examine our core values. If they line up with truth, we are standing on a firm foundation. If they need adjustment, we find the strength to change.


What is one way we can show kaleidoscope living?


ABOUT DIANN


Are We Living a Kaleidoscope Life?
DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne du Maurier, Inspirational Reader’s Choice, and Carol Award contests. Firewall, the first book in her FBI: Houston series, was listed by Library Journal as one of the best Christian fiction books of 2014. Her upcoming novel, Trace of Doubt, releases from Tyndale House Publishers in September 2021. Connect with DiAnn at diannmills.com.




ABOUT TRACE OF DOUBT


Are We Living a Kaleidoscope Life?
Bestselling and award-winning author DiAnn Mills delivers a heart-stopping story of dark secrets, desperate enemies, and dangerous lies.

Fifteen years ago, Shelby Pearce confessed to murdering her brother-in-law and was sent to prison. Now she’s out on parole and looking for a fresh start in the small town of Valleysburg, Texas. But starting over won’t be easy for an ex-con.

FBI Special Agent Denton McClure was a rookie fresh out of Quantico when he was first assigned the Pearce case. He’s always believed Shelby embezzled five hundred thousand dollars from her brother-in-law’s account. So he’s going undercover to befriend Shelby, track down the missing money, and finally crack this case.

But as Denton gets closer to Shelby, he begins to have a trace of doubt about her guilt. Someone has Shelby in their crosshairs. It’s up to Denton to stop them before they silence Shelby—and the truth—forever.

Audience interest points:
  • While working undercover to solve an embezzlement case, an FBI agent becomes convinced of the wrongful sentencing of Shelby Pearce, who served 15 years in prison after confessing to the murder of her brother-in-law.
  • Bestselling Christian author DiAnn Mills releases another action-packed, suspense-filled romance novel for fans of Dee Henderson, Lynette Eason, and Dani Pettrey.
  • The importance of treating all people with honor and respect, regardless of what their backgrounds may imply about who they are.
  • The value of seeking out truth and justice, lifting up the voices of those who have been silenced in the past.


GIVEAWAY


Tyndale Publishers is giving away a copy of Trace of Doublt to one reader today. Just leave a comment below for DiAnn and you're entered.

(Seekerville's Giveaway rules applied. Open to US residents with a US mailing address only.)

Journeys of Faith: The Road to Finding God with guest Jennifer L. Wright

 Journeys of Faith: The Road to Finding God with guest Jennifer L. Wright

Please welcome guest Jennifer L. Wright as she shares a bit of her writing and faith journey with us.

I have always wanted to be a writer.

Even from a young age, I had a love of books, and I wrote my first “novel” in the seventh grade. For the longest time, I believed my future lay in journalism, but it took only a few short months of working local news to realize it wasn’t a good fit for me. After my son was born and I became a full-time stay-at-home mom, I decided it was time to take my passion in another direction: I was going to write a book.

So I did. Then I wrote another one. And another one.

But none of these novels went anywhere. I couldn’t get a publishing deal. I couldn’t get an agent. I couldn’t even to find someone outside my family to read my writing.

I knew—just knew—writing was what God had called me to do. It was the only thing I’d ever felt drawn to, passionate about, inescapably bound to pursue. But if this was God’s plan for me, then why was every door slamming in my face?

One particularly depressing day, I found myself at my kitchen table, Bible open in front of me, tears streaming down my face. I’d received another pass from an agent I’d been so sure was the one. Another false start. Another dashed hope.

It had now been six years since I’d begun my writing journey. Six years of constant disappointment, heartache, and rejection. The secular marketplace was looking for particular types of books—and they were not the books I was trying to write. I wanted to believe I wasn’t wrong, that I hadn’t misinterpreted God’s calling for me, but my spirit was crushed beneath the weight of my own failure. Surely God’s plan wouldn’t involve this much pain, right? I was at a crossroads; I could no longer continue down this path, and yet neither carrying on nor quitting seemed to be the right answer.

 Journeys of Faith: The Road to Finding God with guest Jennifer L. Wright
So that morning, as tears wet the thin pages of my Bible, I cried out to God in my grief: “Lord, I can’t do this anymore. I was so sure this is what You wanted me to do, but maybe I was wrong. I am broken. I am lost. I am confused. What am I supposed to do?”

And then a voice answered me from inside my head, so loud, clear, and concise—so different from the muddled indecision clouding my brain—that I froze.

Wait.

If you’ve never had a moment with God like this, I don’t expect you to understand. But I knew I was hearing His voice. He had met me in my pit. He had heard. And He had responded in a way I had never experienced before.

Wait.

And so I did. I kept writing. I kept querying. I kept waiting.

Three more years went by . . . and still I was waiting. During that time, I had more rejections, more heartaches, more disappointments. But I remained steadfast, buoyed by the memory of that long-ago encounter. I knew I had heard God’s voice; doubt wasn’t the issue. Instead, my grief manifested itself as something else: impatience.

Sometimes, even with the assurance of God’s promises, we can grow impatient and irritated by what we see is a lack of action on His part. You said You were going to do this, Lord. So . . . when?

Or in the words of David, “How long?”

In Psalm 13, David writes: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” (verses 1-2).

In just two verses, David asks “How long?” four times. The man had been anointed by Samuel, destined for kingship . . . and yet fifteen to twenty years had passed. In his waiting, he was pursued and persecuted, chased into the wilderness and hidden in a cave, fearing for his life. It was such a stark contrast: his eyes were on the palace, but his body remained in a pasture.

 Journeys of Faith: The Road to Finding God with guest Jennifer L. Wright
It’s no wonder he began to get a little impatient.

But it was precisely in this waiting where David became equipped to become king. His courage was tested. His character was refined. His faith was strengthened. Faced with what could have very easily been perceived as at best inaction and at worst faithlessness on the part of his God, David chose to lean in to what he knew to be true instead: “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me” (Psalm 13:5-6).

David couldn’t see an end to his waiting. He couldn’t see how this seemingly unwinnable situation would play out. And he certainly couldn’t see how he would ever move from a cave to a throne.

What he could see, however, was God.

Our waiting can often bring forth a type of “spiritual amnesia” where our present circumstances overshadow the ways in which God has been faithful, not only to His people, but to us personally in the past. During those years between that fateful morning prayer and when I finally signed with agent, I was tempted many times to discredit what I knew to be God’s voice. Leaning in to what I knew to be true about who He is and reminders of His past goodness were the only remedies for a present that didn’t feel quite so good.

God loves me . . . and He has told me to wait.

God has a plan for me . . . and He has told me to wait.

God has delivered me in the past . . . and He has told me to wait.

God is faithful, merciful, all-knowing, and all-powerful . . . and He has told me to wait.

My debut novel, If It Rains, will be released July 6 from Tyndale House Publishers—a full ten years after my writing journey began and four years after that fateful morning in which God told me to wait. I will not sugarcoat the experience—it was brutal. And yet, holding my first published novel in my hands, I can so clearly see how God used the experience to ready my heart. Ten years ago, I wasn’t ready for the plans and purposes He had for me. He used this time not only to grow me as a writer but to strengthen my faith and mature my spirit for this moment. 

Because this experience wasn’t just about finding a publisher. It was about finding Him.

What about you? Is there something you’ve been waiting for? You may not experience God’s voice the way I did that morning, but you can rest assured that He is just as much there with you as He was with me. Don’t let your impatience or frustration in your waiting distract you from the answer you’ve already received: Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who sees every tear, hears every cry, knows every longing. As we struggle through our waits, never knowing when or how or if the deepest desires will be fulfilled, we can still find peace in the arms of the Savior. By focusing our eyes on the God who holds our past, present, and future in His hands, we can boldly proclaim the words of David, who, while still in his waiting, penned this verse: 

“I am still confident in this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

Psalm 27:13-14

 

One commenter will win a print copy of Jennifer's debut, If It Rains! (US only)

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 Journeys of Faith: The Road to Finding God with guest Jennifer L. Wright

Jennifer L. Wright has been writing since middle school, eventually earning a master’s degree in journalism at Indiana University. However, it took only a few short months of covering the local news for her to realize that writing fiction is much better for the soul and definitely way more fun. 

A born and bred Hoosier, she was plucked from the Heartland after being swept off her feet by an Air Force pilot and has spent the past decade traveling the world and, every few years, attempting to make old curtains fit in the windows of a new home. She currently resides in New Mexico with her husband, two children, and one rambunctious dachshund.

Visit her website.


ABOUT THE BOOK

If It Rains by Jennifer L. Wright (Tyndale, July 2021)

 Journeys of Faith: The Road to Finding God with guest Jennifer L. Wright
A story of resilience and redemption set against one of America’s defining moments—the Dust Bowl.

It’s 1935 in Oklahoma, and lives are determined by the dust. Fourteen-year-old Kathryn Baile, a spitfire born with a severe clubfoot, is coming of age in desperate times. Once her beloved older sister marries, Kathryn’s only comfort comes in the well-worn pages of her favorite book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Then Kathryn’s father decides to relocate to Indianapolis, and only the promise of a surgery to finally make her “normal” convinces Kathryn to leave Oklahoma behind. But disaster strikes along the way, and Kathryn must rely on her grit and the ragged companions she meets on the road if she is to complete her journey.

Back in Boise City, Melissa Baile Mayfield is the newest member of the wealthiest family in all of Cimarron County. In spite of her poor, rural upbringing, Melissa has just married the town’s most eligible bachelor and is determined to be everything her husband—and her new social class—expects her to be. But as the drought tightens its grip, Henry’s true colors are revealed. Melissa covers her bruises with expensive new makeup and struggles to reconcile her affluent life with that of her starving neighbors. Haunted by the injustice and broken by Henry’s refusal to help, Melissa secretly defies her husband, risking her life to follow God’s leading.

Two sisters, struggling against unspeakable hardship, discover that even in their darkest times, they are still united in spirit, and God is still with them, drawing them home. Learn more... 


Persistence in Writing and Learning to Accept Critiques with guest Janice Cantore

Persistence in Writing and Learning to Accept Critiques with guest Janice Cantore

Please welcome guest Janice Cantore as she shares how persistence in writing goes hand in hand with learning to accept critiques.

I’m often asked how long it took for me to get my first book published. It was a long time—seven years—and there were many rejections before I saw my first novel on a bookstore shelf. Two lessons I learned from the process: (1) keep writing and (2) learn to accept critiques.

#1 Keep writing. 

Persistence in Writing and Learning to Accept Critiques with guest Janice Cantore
Sometimes a painful rejection can make you feel as though you should be doing something else, that writing is not your gift. When I was in the police academy, the first few weeks were tough; they were meant to weed out people who did not have the mindset or skill set that would make them good police officers. At first, people were quitting left and right. Those of us who eventually stuck it out had a running joke: When things were hard and a classmate complained, someone would say, “I think Truck Masters is hiring,” meaning they could always quit and try something else.

I’ve talked to enough Christian writers who feel called to writing, whether it be devotional, fiction, nonfiction, or for the secular market, to know that rejections sometimes hit them in their faith. I don’t mean their faith in God; I mean they begin to wonder if writing is their gift after all, or if maybe they should be doing something else. If that’s the case, keep writing, no matter the rejections. I’m not saying ignore the rejections. Hopefully, you’ve received feedback to help you improve. What I am saying is you can’t edit a blank page. If this is your calling, you’re not going to be happy not writing. Quitting because someone said no will simply make you miserable.

No one ever told me that getting published was going to be easy. All I knew was that I had to write. I just kept at it. And I’ve never met a writer who said that since they believed it was their calling, every page came out perfect the first time. Great writers work at their craft.



#2 Learn to accept critiques. 

Persistence in Writing and Learning to Accept Critiques with guest Janice Cantore
Number two goes hand in hand with number one. If you’re going to persist and keep writing, be honest with yourself about why the rejections come. I’ve heard stories at writers’ conferences about writers who won’t accept criticism. They are in love with what they have put on the page, and they refuse to listen to editors or agents who give helpful critiques. A person who can’t look at his or her writing honestly and make changes is not likely to ever be published. Just yesterday I deleted a page and a half from my work in progress because honestly, after reading and rereading it, as much as I loved what I had written, it was misplaced and completely slowed the story down.

My first book was rejected multiple times before a paid reader pointed out a major flaw in the first chapter. I’m glad I didn’t quit and that I accepted the criticism and fixed the flaw. I had a book contract a month later.

Don’t take rejection personally. Try to look at any criticism objectively. I sometimes think the writing process is a mess. I use so much ink and so many pages of paper before I get to the point where I think the book is ready. Then I send it to the editor, and it comes back all marked up with changes that have been made and notes about more changes that need to be made. Sometimes at first pass I don’t agree with the editor about what needs to be edited. And then after a few more passes, I realize that she’s right, and the changes make the book stronger. Most critiques are made to help you improve, not to destroy you.

In the police academy there were many reasons people quit. Some could not meet the physical standards. Some realized that wearing a uniform would make them a target. Others maybe realized that carrying a gun might mean they’d have to take a life one day. I just remember being glad I stuck it out, that when I completed the academy and was sworn in, I truly felt I’d accomplished something special. In reality, the work had only just begun, but that is another story.

It was the same with writing. When that first contract came, I was so gratified that I had stuck with it. It was such an exciting rush to see my words in print. And truly, the work had only just begun.

If writing is what you must do, keep at it. Read about writing, go to conferences, learn your craft. Absorb good critiques and forget bad ones. Keep writing, keep editing, don’t give up easily, and never give up if it is your dream.


One commenter will win a print copy of Janice's new release, Breach of Honor! (US only)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Persistence in Writing and Learning to Accept Critiques with guest Janice Cantore
Janice Cantore is a retired Long Beach police officer who now writes suspense novels to keep readers engrossed and leave them inspired. Her twenty-two years of experience on the force lend authenticity to her stories. She has penned twelve romantic suspense novels: the Cold Case Justice series, the Pacific Coast Justice series, the Line of Duty series, and Critical Pursuit and Visible Threat. Her latest novel, Breach of Honor, releases in July.

Website | Facebook | Romantic Suspense A-Team Facebook Group


ABOUT THE BOOK

Breach of Honor by Janice Cantore (Tyndale, July 2021)

Persistence in Writing and Learning to Accept Critiques with guest Janice Cantore
As a police officer in Table Rock, Oregon, Leah Radcliff puts her life on the line to help others every day. But at home, Leah’s battling her own personal nightmare: Brad, her abusive husband, a fellow officer, celebrated hero, and beloved son of a powerful prominent family. Brad’s violent outbursts and suspicious activities have left Leah physically and emotionally scarred, until one desperate action to put a stop to his abuse results in deadly consequences.

Though public opinion seems ready to convict Leah, Officer Clint Tanner is one of the few to believe she acted in self-defense. As he works with Leah’s attorney to produce the evidence they need, new truths about Brad’s dark side come to light—and reveal a deep-rooted problem in Table Rock. There are some who have breached their sworn duty to serve and protect . . . and they’ll do anything to keep their secret safe. Learn more...

Embracing the Marginalized: Writing Characters Who Are Considered Different by guest T.I. Lowe

Let's give today's guest author T.I. Lowe a warm Seekerville welcome as she shares her heart for writing characters who are considered different by embracing the marginalized.

Embracing the Marginalized: Writing Characters Who Are Considered Different by guest T.I. Lowe

I was asked the following question in an interview for my book Under the Magnolias and thought I would elaborate on it for you in this post:

Why did you choose to represent characters who are “marginalized” or “misunderstood” in this book?

My answer: I am just so tired of the labels and the unrealistic boxes society creates and expects you to live up to. That’s hogwash. If God wanted us all to fit in the same box, he would have created us as carbon copies. He didn’t, so that means it’s a gift to be different and I think differences should be celebrated. I did a lot of celebrating this in Under the Magnolias.

Embracing the Marginalized: Writing Characters Who Are Considered Different by guest T.I. Lowe

That’s the blunt answer, and I feel like bluntness is needed for this question. No beating around the bush.

As a writer, I think it would be an injustice to write solely about cookie-cutter characters. I don’t know about you, but I’m a hot mess. I have issues. I’m pudgy. When I’m nervous, I cannot find eloquence to save my life. And those are just some of my issues. Other folks have other issues. Honestly, that’s what makes them interesting in my book.

My desire is to showcase differences, in all forms, and to have people realize how unnecessary labels and boxes are. The ones who are typically overlooked are the ones I always gravitate toward when investing in character studies.

Labels created by society come with scarlet letters of shame. Body-shaming. Race shaming. Gender shaming. Social views shaming. I could go on and on. If one person reads Under the Magnolias and can relate to one of the marginalized characters and realize they are perfectly acceptable as is, then I’ve done the job I wanted to achieve.

Here’s a sneak peek at the interesting mix of characters you will meet in Under the Magnolias.

As the piano came to life, I sat a little straighter and scanned the small pews and felt certain the ragtag congregation near about represented any walk of life you could think of.

A fortune-teller accused of being a witch doctor. Check.

An ex-con with a glass eye. Check.

An atheist believer with a Polish accent. Check.

The town’s undertaker whose sexual orientation was questionable. Check.

The town floozy with a penchant for neon-blue eye shadow. Check.

A poor farming family with way too many kids. Check.

A madman leading them. Check.

As you can see in this small excerpt, there is quite a colorful group of people just waiting to introduce themselves to you. Sadly, they carry labels and shame formed from falsities and gossip. Mostly because those characters didn’t look or act like the “normal” townsfolk. Surfaces can be deceiving, but with a closer look, my readers are going to meet a spectacular group of people.

Embracing the Marginalized: Writing Characters Who Are Considered Different by guest T.I. Lowe
It’s time to stop the shaming and start being encouragers. I know this sounds more like a soapbox speech, but I think it’s important to grasp, in real life and in fiction. And as a Christian author, I feel like it’s my duty to love as Jesus loved. That means encouraging and not shaming. I want people to read my stories and see themselves walking through the mistakes with my characters, and I want them to celebrate in the moments of redemption as well.

Sometimes our issues or the labels placed on us due to our issues hold us back from seeking help when we need it. Shame will send us into hiding. Readers will discover how detrimental this is in Under the Magnolias. My characters hide behind the labels, become prisoners to them actually, until it almost becomes their ruin.

As a writer I have the gift of giving the story a happy ending. Sadly, this isn’t always the case in real life. Please, if you are struggling with any form of mental illness or have been hiding some other issue, I want to encourage you to get help. As Austin Foster discovers in this book, you’d be surprised how supportive those around you can be if you just let them in.


Is there a marginalized character you’ve discovered in a book you related to? If so, what book and how did it affect you? 

Share your thoughts in the comments and one reader will win a print copy of Under the Magnolias courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers.


Embracing the Marginalized: Writing Characters Who Are Considered Different by guest T.I. Lowe
Under the Magnolias
Releasing May 4, 2021
 
This night not only marked the end to the drought, but also the end to the long-held secret we’d kept hidden under the magnolias.

Magnolia, South Carolina, 1980

Austin Foster is barely a teenager when her mama dies giving birth to twins, leaving her to pick up the pieces while holding her six siblings together and doing her best to stop her daddy from retreating into his personal darkness.

Scratching out a living on the family’s tobacco farm is as tough as it gets. When a few random acts of kindness help to ease the Fosters’ hardships, Austin finds herself relying upon some of Magnolia’s most colorful citizens for friendship and more. But it’s next to impossible to hide the truth about the goings-on at Nolia Farms, and Austin’s desperate attempts to save face all but break her.

Just when it seems she might have something more waiting for her—with the son of a wealthy local family who she’s crushed on for years—her father makes a choice that will crack wide-open the family’s secrets and lead to a public reckoning. There are consequences for loving a boy like Vance Cumberland, but there is also freedom in the truth.

T. I. Lowe’s gritty yet tender and uplifting tale reminds us that a great story can break your heart . . . then heal it in the best possible way.

Embracing the Marginalized: Writing Characters Who Are Considered Different by guest T.I. Lowe

T. I. Lowe
is an ordinary country girl who loves to tell extraordinary stories and is the author of nearly twenty published novels, including her debut, Lulu's Café, a number one bestseller. She lives with her husband and family in coastal South Carolina. Find her at tilowe.com or on Facebook (T.I.Lowe), Instagram (tilowe), and Twitter (@TiLowe).

Organization: What Works for Me

Organization: What Works for Me

written by Beth Erin

One of the many great things about community is learning from one another and we’re excited to bring you even more practical Seekerville posts to learn from. Carrie is spearheading a new addition to the monthly rotation featuring nuts and bolts type articles from various industry professionals sharing what works for them in hopes that y’all will find precious little nuggets that work for you too! While she officially starts those posts in March, I thought I would kick things off by sharing some organizational tips and tools that work for me.

Regardless of who you are or what you do, life is a multifaceted gig. We all allocate time for faith, finances, loved ones, home, health, and the list goes on and on and on. Some confidently refer to this balance as donning many hats, some say it feels like a juggling act, others may reference the more hazardous act of spinning plates, and then there’s one of my personal favorites, herding cats. Let’s face it, even if we manage to get our ducks in a row, those little quackers are going to waddle, swim, and fly away at times.

As I finally dive into writing this post less than 12 hours before it’s scheduled to go live, allow me to assure you that I do not have all the answers. What I do have is a commitment to flexibility, streamlining, and giving myself grace plus a few tools that help me manage life in a manner that is a little bit less stressful. So grab your hats, plates, cats, and ducks as we dive into the act of ordering our chaos!

Organization: What Works for Me
In addition to working from home (plus blogging, reading, etc.), I homeschool our four children (ages 8-15) while my husband works odd hours outside the home (in many ways creating a second family time zone). The kids and I especially tend to lose track of time while focused on a project or engrossed in a good book so daily reminders for snacks, meals, bedtime, etc. broadcast from our Google displays, speakers, and smartphone apps. We share and collaborate everything from chores and lessons to photos to shopping lists with our online calendar and cloud drive storage, keeping everyone in the loop with easy access to the same information.

Side note: While we primarily use Microsoft & Google products, Apple, Amazon, etc. have similar products with similar features. If you want to go old school, you might use a traditional kitchen timer or alarm clock, a wall calendar, and a message board to keep your daily routine rolling. Secondly, I try not to obsess over the whole “big brother is listening to/watching everything we do” factor. The way I figure, that factor came into play way before smartphones entered the picture so we might as well get all the help we can out of our nosey technology.

Professionally, we at JustRead Publicity Tours use a variety of tools to manage the four to six campaigns we organize 47 weeks out of the year. For those who aren't familiar with us, JustRead has three owners (Carrie in Georgia, Rachel in Washington, and I am in Illinois) and an entire hive of wonderful volunteer book bees! Google is again a large part of the organizational equation but for the three of us, managing multiple projects and business matters as a team calls for the addition of a task management program.

Organization: What Works for Me

While there are several options available (Monday.com, Wrike, SmartSheet, etc.), we’re currently loving Asana for its versatility, functionality, and rainbows (because we all need more rainbows). Even though we chose to go with the upgraded features of a paid plan, the free version worked well for us during our transition from the last program we used. Other tools such as Trello are also good options for managing multiple projects and even collaborating with others.


Enough about me, let’s get back to you!

Most importantly, I want to encourage you to find an approach to organizing that makes sense for you. The most sophisticated program can’t compete with consistent old school methods if utilizing technology isn’t your thing. If sticky notes on the refrigerator work for you, do that! A bit of organization should make your life LESS stressful, never more stressful.

Organization: What Works for Me
Be flexible. Allow yourself a little extra time for random occurrences of Murphy’s Law when setting due dates. Be brave. Try something new or tweak what you’re already doing. Successful or not, trial periods are always learning experiences.

K.I.S.S. your chaos. “Keep It Simple, Silly!” The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. If you’re like me and have a hard time switching gears between different roles, don’t try to do all the things at once. Focus on one project for an hour or even a day at a time.

Give yourself grace. Some of us may have superpowers but most of us don’t. Our chaos gets a little out of control and we roll with the punches. Don’t allow pride or shame to keep you from asking for an extension or assistance when you need to.

Share your favorite organizational tools or methods in the comments for a chance to win a book from my stash of Christian fiction.



Beth Erin is a happy wife, a busy homeschooling mama of four, an owner of JustRead Publicity Tours, and a Christian fiction enthusiast. You'll occasionally find her on Faithfully Bookish and on social media but mostly she's striving to balance all things work and home. Beth is passionate about promoting authors and their entertaining, encouraging, and redemptive stories. If none of the above was helpful in a practical way, she hopes that it at least made you smile.

Commitment

 

Commitment
by Mindy Obenhaus

I’ve been a regular at my local gym for many years and during that time I’ve noticed there’s always an uptick in attendance in January. Almost double or triple the usual number as people try to uphold their New Year’s resolutions. By February, though, the numbers begin to decrease and by mid-March only a couple of those new folks remain. Why is that?

I suppose it could be the expense, but more often than not, it’s a lack of commitment. If one is truly committed to becoming fit, whether they do it at the gym or somewhere else, they’re willing to put in the time and effort to achieve that goal.

Writing is no different. It takes commitment, time and effort. First, one has to learn the craft and hone their skills. Then, once you sign that elusive contract, the work continues. There are deadlines to be met, edits that have you wondering why they bought your book in the first place, and countless other things that require time and effort.

Commitment is defined as “a state of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.” So what does commitment look like?

Commitment means you’re always learning– From the day I attended my first writers’ group, I have never stopped learning about the craft and/or the business of writing. And the fact that you’re reading this blog post proves your desire to keep learning, too. Whether it’s through books, blogs, virtual workshops, writers’ conferences or online groups, there are so many opportunities to learn and connect with other writers. And being with like-minded people is imperative to learning. Like it says in the book of Proverbs, iron sharpens iron.

Commitment

Commitment involves sacrifice
– That could mean writing during your lunch hour instead of going out with a friend, attending an online workshop on a beautiful Saturday afternoon when you’d rather be outside, or forgoing your television time to do some research for your story. It could even mean waking up at three or four in the morning to write while the house is quiet, like someone on this blog does.

I don’t work outside the home, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a gazillion and one things demanding my time. So I choose to have regular business hours where I’m in my office either writing or addressing the business side of my career. Back when I had kids in the house, I carved out writing time based on their schedules. When something is important, you make time for it.

Commitment leaves no room for excuses– Just like going to the gym, there are times when it is so easy to find excuses not to write. I don’t feel like it or the story isn’t working. But those are simply code for, “Writing is hard, and I don’t want to do it.” Yes, writing is hard, some days more so than others. That’s when you have to ask yourself how badly you want to be a writer. Because it’s not going to get any better once you’re published. So throw those excuses aside, put on your big-girl pants and get to it.

Commitment

Commitment means following in obedience
– When I first began writing I didn’t even know there was such a thing as Christian romance. Even when I did learn about it, I discounted it because I couldn’t imagine how God could use a sinner like meto write stories for Him. But God was persistent. He used people and music to speak to me and gently bring me into obedience. And even when I did give in, I said, “Okay, God, I will do this, but You’re going to have to help me.” Yeah, I still envision Him smiling down at me, all the while shaking His head.

Writing what God has called you to write, whether it’s for the secular or Christian market, is a humbling experience. We say that if He calls you, He will equip you, but I would add that if God calls you, the enemy will do anything he can to thwart you. So gird yourself with the armor of God so you’ll be able to extinguish those flaming arrows.

We’re not even a week into 2021. Have you set any goals, resolutions or chosen your “one word?” I’ll give you one guess what mine is. 😉Whatever you set out to achieve, ask yourself how committed you are to it. Will you throw in the towel by March or are you willing to make a commitment to see it all the way through December?

Oh, and in case you haven’t heard, I’ve got a new book releasing late next month. So how about I giveaway a copy to one lucky commenter (U.S. mailing addresses only, please).

Commitment

He didn’t realize he wanted a family… Until he suddenly became a single dad.

After his sister’s death, rancher Mick Ashford’s determined to ensure his orphaned niece, Sadie, feels at home. And accepting guidance from Christa Slocum is his first step. But just as Christa and Sadie begin to settle into Mick’s heart, Sadie’s paternal grandparents sue for custody. Now Mick must fight to keep them together…or risk losing the makeshift family he’s come to love


Commitment

Award-winning author Mindy Obenhaus is passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. She lives on a ranch in Texas with her husband, two sassy pups, countless cattle, deer and the occasional coyote, mountain lion or snake. When she's not writing, she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, cooking and watching copious amounts of the Hallmark Channel. Learn more at www.MindyObenhaus.com  

Does Evil Have a Place in Christian Fiction?

 

Does Evil Have a Place in Christian Fiction?

My newest release, “Softly Blows the Bugle,” deals with some dark subjects against the backdrop of the idyllic setting of the Amish community of Weaver’s Creek.

By the way - in case you haven’t noticed, I don’t write typical Amish novels. I call them “historical fiction with Amish characters.” Don’t expect everything to be buggies, bonnets, and sunshine when you read my stories!

Does Evil Have a Place in Christian Fiction?

Although my book has gotten great reviews, one reader didn’t like my antagonist. I was expecting her poor review – she had contacted me a few times while she was reading – and I knew what she objected to. My antagonist isn’t just a bad guy. He is evil.

As I read her review and thought of her earlier comments, I had to consider: what place does evil have in Christian fiction?

I’m open to discussion on this! I’m in the process of thinking through this myself.

Here’s my position:

1) There is evil in the world. From the beginning of time, back in Genesis chapter three, we are told that evil is working against God’s plan. We’re also given hope for evil’s eventual destruction (Genesis 3:15.) So, we know evil is real.

2) Christians are to resist evil. That’s why we’re given armor – our breastplate, our shoes, our shield, and our helmet (Ephesians 6:13-17.)

And we are to be prepared to fight against evil with the sword of Truth: God’s word.

3) Since we know those things are true, I believe that one of the things we’re called to do as Christians is to spur our fellow-believers on in the battle.

God has called me to be an author to speak to the Church – to believers – and that’s who I write my stories for.

So, where does evil fit in all of this?

Evil disguises itself as light, hope, and truth. Unless we are prepared to hold it against the plumb line of the Word of God, we can easily be swayed by a smile, a kind gesture, or words that tickle our ears.

This is where Solomon Mast, the antagonist of my story comes in.

Solomon appears to be exactly what he says he is: an Amish man from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. A grieving widower who moved to Ohio to leave sad memories behind and make a fresh start. A wealthy, successful farmer who seems to be destined to be a leader in the community.

He is charismatic, self-assured, and disarmingly charming.

What the reader sees long before the members of the community do is that Solomon is leading a double life. Behind closed doors his true nature is revealed.

Movement on the road to the east of the Patterson place drew his gaze. A spring wagon pulled by a single horse. A young man and an older woman. He watched the horse turn into his farm lane.
“Callers.” The very thing he had expected when the morning had dawned so fine. He turned around and cracked open the front door. “Dulcey!”
The young woman appeared in the hall leading to the back of the house, her dark skin blending into the shadowed interior.
“Get yourself down into the cellar and stay put. Someone is coming and I don’t want them to see you yet.”
The girl disappeared like a shadow and Solomon closed the door. He shook his arms, letting his hands hang loose for a moment, then took a deep breath. As he let it out, he stepped into the man his visitors expected to see. Well-to-do Amishman Solomon Mast, new to the community and pleased to be part of it.

I almost wish that he wasn’t any worse than a con man, but as the story progresses, we see that he is totally depraved and ruled by his evil nature.

It isn’t pretty.

That evil side is what Aaron, the hero of the book, recognizes before anyone else does. And it’s that evil that breaks through Aaron’s self-pity and feelings of inadequacy to bring out his heroic qualities.

I needed Solomon to be a powerful foil to Aaron’s powerful faults.

So, what place does evil have in Christian fiction?

I believe that it can inspire us to fight against the evil in our own world. The greater the evil, the stronger our armor needs to be.

What do you think?

Many people think that Christian fiction should only be clean and wholesome, without the stain of the world’s influence. I certainly agree that those books are wanted and needed.
But is there also a place for evil in Christian fiction?

And what role should we, as authors, play in this battle?

Readers - what do you think? What are your expectations when you read a book from a Christian author?

Commenters will be entered in a drawing to win a copy of one of the books from my backlist, your choice! (Sorry, due to postage costs this drawing is open to US readers only.)

The book list can be found on my website: www.JanDrexler.com 

Does Evil Have a Place in Christian Fiction?


 

 

How Healing Happens with Guest Robin W. Pearson

I'm pleased to have Robin Pearson with us today. Be sure to check out her debut novel from Tyndale, A Long Time Comin', which got a starred review from Publishers Weekly! Thanks for being with us today, Robin!


How Healing Happens with Guest Robin W. Pearson
How Healing Happens
Letting Others into the Hurt

By Robin W. Pearson
When Hubby has something to say, he says it. He doesn’t believe in toting around his hurt feelings like a turtle bears its shell, burrowing inside to hold his tongue or hide his thoughts. He doesn’t wound with his words, but the weight of them often pressures me into sharing what I haven’t sifted through and muttering an “I’m sorry” or an “I forgive you” that starts in my head and ends nowhere near my heart.
I do admire his forthrightness, his boldly going where my tongue dares not go. All my peeps can tell when my feelings are really hurt—generally, by the words I don’t say. The heat of my anger, disappointment, and frustration can cause the temperature in my house to plummet nearly twenty-five degrees. More during the wintertime. I’ve reconciled this silence by calling it my “process”—the time I take to self-evaluate and self-edit to whip my mind and my mouth into obedience. At least that’s what I’ve told myself and the people I’ve refused to talk to.
Now, if I follow the world’s line of thinking, I’d point all five fingers to our pasts and blame “learned behavior” for our present choices and actions. While my daddy and mama love without restraint, dispensing hugs and kisses like candy from a parade float, they can turn home into a chilly, silent place when an internal storm brews. They’ve been known to go a week without speaking to each other until Sunday dinner melts the ice between their lips.
And on the other side of the family table sit Hubby’s folks, who love just as hard and deeply as my own parents. My in-laws don’t spew emotions and ooze advice long after their initial outburst, like volcanoes, or reveal only a little of what’s floating underneath, like icebergs. They’re more like your favorite two-liter sodas that have rocked and rolled around the floor of the car. Once uncapped, they’ll likely spray anyone who doesn’t get out of the way. But when all is said and done, it’s just that.
So needless to say, Hubby and I have brought along a bit of life-size baggage on our wonderful marriage adventure, and we’ve had to unpack and stow our emotional “belongings” just so. To let the other in without shutting the other out. To talk a lot more while the other . . . well, talks a little less. To redeem healing from the hurt.
Acknowledging the (Holy) Ghost Writer
We do carry our own family history, complete with its blessings and burdens. It seems I inherited an invisible “gene” for stewing, as well as procrastination, sarcasm, hugs, and a love for all things cheesy. Yet, my heavenly Father designed me with unique thoughts and feelings—and a manner of communicating them. In order to take up my cross daily—and not become the one someone else must bear—this “fearfully and wonderfully made” child had to accept responsibility for my own choices and use my writing powers for good . . . and God (Psalm 139:14).
Editing the Story
Truth: A “cooling-off period” doesn’t give me time to think before I speak. It merely helps me gather more wood to stoke fires yet smoldering. Instead of building up my arsenal of silence and wielding it, I record my prayers, feelings, and memories in journals, type them on my laptop, and jot them down on notepads. Reading the hurt in black and white takes some of the sting out of the pain and helps me see many injuries are either self-inflicted or at least, not life-threatening.
Once I see myself and my role in events and relationships more clearly, I recover more quickly from conflict. I sincerely extend and accept forgiveness. I see that what was doesn’t have to be.

How Healing Happens with Guest Robin W. Pearson

Telling the Tale
What’s a story without an audience? Sometimes my written prayers and pleas are meant for One—for God’s ears and eyes only. At first. He, in turn, enables me to open up to Hubby and the little people, flesh of my flesh, and uncover those hurt places I’d bandaged with a smile.
Then I’m often led to set my sights on the million after the One. In my blog, Mommy, Concentrated, I write about my daily walk as a freelancing homeschooler. I work through the whys, whos, and hows that help me interpret and apply His life lessons. I intermingled lore and life in my debut, A Long Time Comin’, a work of fiction that reveals many truths about faith in God and the impact of long-buried memories. My book and my blog let others into how I’ve been hurt and helped, providing encouragement and comfort as I’ve been comforted (2 Corinthians 1:4). 
Telling the tale is how I “let the works I’ve done speak for me” as my church mothers sang. It’s my way of acknowledging the Author of my life’s story and why I’m continually reviewing and editing, for I know that what was doesn’t have to be. How do you invite others to come alongside, whether to wail or to whoop for joy? Use your words, whether they’re written or spoken—or written, then spoken. Let them speak life and healing.


A Long Time Comin'
To hear Beatrice Agnew tell it, she entered the world with her mouth tightly shut. Just because she finds out she’s dying doesn’t mean she can’t keep it that way. If any of her children have questions about their daddy and the choices she made after he abandoned them, they’d best take it up with Jesus. There’s no room in Granny B’s house for regrets or hand-holding. Or so she thinks.

Her granddaughter, Evelyn Lester, shows up on Beatrice’s doorstep anyway, burdened with her own secret baggage. Determined to help her Granny B mend fences with her far-flung brood, Evelyn turns her grandmother’s heart and home inside out. Evelyn’s meddling uncovers a tucked-away box of old letters, forcing the two women to wrestle with their past and present pain as they confront the truth Beatrice has worked a lifetime to hide.

About the Author
Robin W. Pearson’s writing sprouts from her Southern roots and her love of her husband and seven children. Both lend authenticity to her debut novel, A Long Time Comin’. After graduating from Wake Forest University, she has corrected grammar up and down the East Coast in her career as an editor and writer that started with Houghton Mifflin Company twenty-five years ago. Since then she has freelanced with magazines, parenting journals, textbooks, and homeschooling resources. Follow her on her blog, Mommy, Concentrated, where she shares her adventures in faith, family, and freelancing.



What a Mentor Can Do For You (Plus an Inside Look at Sunrise Publishing) Guest Post by Lindsay Harrel

What a Mentor Can Do For You (Plus an Inside Look at Sunrise Publishing) Guest Post by Lindsay Harrel
What a Mentor Can Do For You (Plus an Inside Look at Sunrise Publishing) Guest Post by Lindsay Harrel
No matter what career path you’re following, one thing rings true of them all: having a mentor can make all the difference in where you end up.

Whether we’re authors or not (hello to all you non-writing readers out there!), everyone needs support to pursue a passion and career fraught with challenges—and writing is definitely THAT.

One of those challenges is loneliness. We authors spend a lot of time with our rears in the seat talking to characters who talk back—but only in our heads. And while craft books are helpful and online courses can be great, nothing quite takes the place of real-life people who will walk the sometimes-perilous writing road with us.

Sometimes those people are walking alongside you—your critique partners, for example. Other times, you need fellow authors who are willing to take you by the hand and lead you.

Merriam-Webster defines mentor as “a trusted counselor or guide,” so I can’t think of anyone better to help us navigate a path that we haven’t walked before.

I’ve been super blessed to have a handful of mentors who have helped me get to where I am in my publishing journey, and who continue to guide me even after I’ve achieved publication—because though it may sometimes feel like it, being published is not the be-all-end-all. A mentor can help you navigate the way no matter where you are in your journey.

The Benefits of Mentorship


In my opinion, the main benefits of having a mentor in my life have been:


  • The opportunity to see things in a different light: I can get so focused on my own knowledge and way of thinking that I forget other perspectives exist. A trusted mentor can expose me to thinking that’s more advanced and just plain different.
  • Guidance in strengthening my weaknesses: Most of the time, it’s hard to see ourselves—and our writing—objectively. A mentor can help us to find areas of weakness in our craft and suggest edits or ways to improve.
  • Help navigating my career path: Not only have my mentors been pivotal in making me a better writer, but they’ve given advice that has helped to shape the decisions I make. 


What to Look for in a Mentor


Now that we all agree having a mentor can be monumental in our writing careers, what makes a good mentor? For me, there are three main things I have sought in a mentor:

  • A heart for others
  • A passion for what she or he does
  • Up-to-date knowledge on the latest trends and news in the industry


How to Find a Mentor


So how in the world do you go about getting connected with a mentor in the first place? There are a ton of writing groups on Facebook and other social media platforms that are great for connecting with other authors. Also, I’ve met a lot of authors simply by emailing or reaching out after I enjoyed one of their books. (Though I wouldn’t suggest reaching out in order to get something back, but more to invite someone into a friendship!)

 If you’re a member of a writing organization like American Christian Fiction Writers or something similar, there are plenty of resources at your disposal. For example, ACFW has several loops where you can connect with other members across and in certain genres, etc.
What a Mentor Can Do For You (Plus an Inside Look at Sunrise Publishing) Guest Post by Lindsay Harrel
Lindsay Harrel and Susan May Warren

Another such resource is writing conferences, where you can meet authors at all stages of the game—from complete newbies to multi-published winners of writing award after writing award. Take the opportunity to get to know authors who are ahead of you in their writing journey. If you click with anyone, open a dialogue and see if that author might be open to mentorship.

The way I found one of my mentors was originally to pay for her knowledge—in other words, I took a class she was offering. There are so many good courses out there, but Susan May Warren’s My Book Therapy was where I really cut my teeth as an author and learned exactly what I needed to know about how to write a novel.

One of the coolest benefits of having a mentor? For me, Susie has become much more than a mentor. She’s now a friend—and a partner too! Earlier this year, we started Sunrise Publishing, a publishing venture that combines mentorship and partnership between established authors and newer authors.

Sunrise Publishing: Taking Mentorship to the Next Level


Specifically, Sunrise is designed to help launch new or rebooting authors into the readership of an existing author, build the existing fictional world of the lead author, and offer readers a remedy to the story hole they are seeking to fill.

Here’s how it works: Every year Sunrise will choose a lead author in one particular genre. (Susie will be the lead author in year one, so we can work out the kinks!) Once we decide on the kind of stories the lead author is looking for, we put out a request for submissions. (Our first deadline is November 10! You can check out our submission process here.)

What a Mentor Can Do For You (Plus an Inside Look at Sunrise Publishing) Guest Post by Lindsay HarrelOnce the lead author picks the draft authors, they will start working on stories. Over the course of the year, the lead author will mentor the draft authors (with the help of Sunrise) to create six novels.

These novels will be traditionally published (print, ebook, and audio) over the course of the following year on all platforms.

Our main criteria is voice. We are not looking for someone with a platform, but instead, draft authors who are interested in learning, understand the basics of writing, and are willing to work hard. Most of all, we are looking for serious authors who want to launch their careers. (If you’re one such author, see our Writer’s Guidelines for more information.)

I know that whoever gets to work with Susie next year will be so incredibly blessed! Not only will they get a chance to work with someone who exudes all the ideal characteristics of a mentor I mentioned above, but partnering with Sunrise will help them discover their place in the market—and, hopefully, it will remind them they’re not alone in this writing thing after all.

Question for You: Do you have a mentor? If so, how did you connect with him or her? If not, what do you look for in a mentor? And do you have any questions about Sunrise Publishing? I’d love to answer anything you may be curious about! 


Giveaway: Lindsay is offering one of Susan May Warren’s Deep Haven novels (reader’s choice) to a U.S. resident. Choices can be seen here: https://sunrisepublishing.com/upcoming-series/.


Lindsay Harrel is a CBA best-selling novelist and lifelong book nerd who lives in Arizona with her young family and two golden retrievers in serious need of training. With more than 13 years of editing and writing experience, Lindsay now juggles stay-at-home mommyhood with writing novels for HarperCollins Christian Publishing and working as Editorial Director at Sunrise Publishing. She has a passion for not only helping authors improve their stories and find their voice, but also getting messages of hope out into the world. Connect with her at www.LindsayHarrel.com.

What Will Spill Onto Your Page? Journeys of Faith: The Road to Finding God with guest Jennifer L. WrightPersistence in Writing and Learning to Accept Critiques with guest Janice CantoreEmbracing the Marginalized: Writing Characters Who Are Considered Different by guest T.I. LoweOrganization: What Works for MeCommitment Does Evil Have a Place in Christian Fiction?How Healing Happens with Guest Robin W. PearsonWhat a Mentor Can Do For You (Plus an Inside Look at Sunrise Publishing) Guest Post by Lindsay Harrel

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