Monday, March 30, 2015

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Bethany House, 2013

Back Cover:

When Meg Cole's father dies unexpectedly, she's forced to return home to Texas and to Whispering Creek Ranch to take up the reins of his empire. The last thing she has the patience or the sanity to deal with? Her father's Thoroughbred racehorse farm. She gives its manager, Bo Porter, six months to close the place down.

Bo knows he ought to resent the woman who's determined to take from him the only job he ever wanted. But instead of anger, Meg evokes within him a profound desire to protect. The more time he spends with her, the more he longs to overcome every obstacle that separates them and earn her love.

Just when Meg realizes she can no longer deny the depth of her feelings for Bo, their fragile bond is broken by a force from Meg's past. Can their relationship—and their belief that God can work through every circumstance—survive?

Review:

Many years ago, I was sitting in a barbershop with my son, waiting to get him his annual “high and tight” haircut for little league baseball season. The place was very much the stereotypical “man’s” joint, where men gathered to talk about man things—and it was the only place my son would allow me to take him. So we waited. A short while later, a true Texas cowboy walked in, replete in straw Stetson and Wranglers. He joked with the others in the shop, then slanted a look at the barber and asked, “You got time for a cut, Bobby? I been getting it trimmed at the ladies downtown, but I’m needin’ a real cut now.”

At that moment, he seemed to catch sight of me, for he swiped his hat from his head, tipped his chin in my direction and said, “No offense, ma’am.”

Oh. My. I think I managed to whisper, no offense taken, but I’m not sure. I may have giggled. Which leads me to my review…

There were many things about Bo Porter that made me love the character—after all, he’s from Texas and he’s a cowboy—what’s not to love? But scenes like this one certainly sealed the deal:

She didn’t need to put space between them, because Bo himself would see to that. Because of their work relationship, she could count on him to keep things between them honorable and friendly. He had old-fashioned values. He was actually…ethical. (UNDENIABLY YOURS by Becky Wade,
2014
Bethany House, 2013).

Wade did a remarkable job of making all of the charcters in her novel, Undeniably Yours, appealing and fun. This was an entertaining read, and certainly deserving of its prestigious Carol Award.

Review by Elizabeth Ludwig 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

“If you’re really our Messiah,” they said, “if you’re really the Son of God, then save yourself!”

All those who were looking to Jesus to act like a god were disappointed.

Here were two cultures, both saturated with tales of power and renown from their God and gods and an array of heroes. The Red Sea—the Kraken. Samson, Elijah—Hercules and Perseus. Everyone knew that if Jesus were really God, there would be some display of power, and maybe He was saving it for the very end. Right?

Well, he wasn’t yet at the end. But they thought so.

While the scribes and Pharisees railed, it was a criminal and a Roman centurion who paid enough attention to the signs to realize what was happening.

For all the exploits of heroes, and the strong arm of God flexed for the eyes of men, the world had yet to see the strength of God as He gave Himself to die.

This Man, unrecognizable to anyone who didn’t know it was Him, suffering not just with resignation, as the old paintings show Him, but with determination. With passion.

It’s the only way, I’ve decided, He could have endured it. Without begging for mercy. Without screaming and wailing. Without the ranting fury of the criminals beside him.

This Man, suffering in relative silence. With patience. With an unearthly focus.

It was enough to convince one of the criminals, who dared ask Jesus for favor while they were there on the cross.

It was also enough, in combination with a total eclipse of the sun and a serious earthquake, to convince a hardened Roman centurion that Jesus must truly be the Son of God.

I wonder whether it also had convinced Pilate, who though he gave Jesus up for scourging and crucifixion, was piqued enough at the Jews who insisted on it all to have “King of the Jews” written and posted over Jesus’ head. Not “He claimed to be King of the Jews,” as the Pharisees insisted, but the simple declaration.

You know he had to wonder just who he was dealing with.

Here was the one of whom the prophets spoke. The Suffering Servant of Isaiah. Greater than Hercules, mightier than Apollo and Zeus, displaying His strength by His restraint. In not lashing out, not fighting back.

That truly had to be the most awe-inspiring sight in the universe.
44 Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. 45 Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. 46 And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’” Having said this, He breathed His last.
47 So when the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, “Certainly this was a righteous Man!”
48 And the whole crowd who came together to that sight, seeing what had been done, beat their breasts and returned. (Luke 23)
37 And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last.
38 Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15, both NKJV)

This post first appeared 4/13/14.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

How long were you writing before your first publication? How many manuscripts had you written by that time? Have you published any of your early works since? Do you plan to?

My first publication was pretty easy. It’s what got me hooked. See, my mom was a writer and I grew up with her publishing stories about me in magazines like Women’s World. So when I wrote about breaking my ribs in high school cheerleading I sent it to American Cheerleader Magazine because I thought that’s what you were supposed to do. Easiest $100 I ever made.

I went to college for journalism and planned to work for a magazine. I ended up starting my family before I finished college, so then I wrote stories for kids. Sold to magazines like Hopscotch and an anthology titled Summer Shorts. But I hadn’t been able to sell a book. The publisher for Summer Shorts wanted to buy a longer version of my short story The Water Fight Professional, but they went out of business. I was back to square one.

That’s when I decided to start writing women’s fiction. I attended the Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference for the first time in 2006 and got my big break with a request for my first full-length manuscript Fake Blond. The publisher ended up rejecting it but because of their interest I was able to get an agent. She sold Love Finds You in Sun Valley, Idaho in 2008.


Then I went through my horrible, awful divorce (see last post) and decided I was never writing romance again. But then I fell in love and realized love changes everything, and now I’m writing romantic suspense and actually just found another publisher for The Water Fight Professional, which has now become the Fun4Hire series.

When working on a manuscript, what do you do when you get stuck?

I read my Bible and ask God for help. He usually answers, but it’s not when I’m expecting it. It’s when I’m jogging or showering or on a road trip or writing absolute garbage because I have a deadline and I know I can go back and clean it up later if I can just make it through to the end. Seriously, I make myself read the Bible and pray before I write because if I don’t, I will end up banging my head on the computer or possibly even writing something that’s not glorifying to Him so I will have to go back and delete it anyway. His inspiration is the best.

What aspect of being a writer is the most challenging for you? Why is this difficult, and what steps have you taken to overcome this hurdle?

This might sound crazy, but if I’m not writing, I can’t sleep at night. Often during the Christmas season I will get a seasonal job to help out with presents, and I will spend my nights staring at the ceiling, physically exhausted but with this creative energy inside my brain that can’t get out. I know if I start writing, I will go into my writing world and neglect all other responsibilities, so I just lay there.

And then we get this paycheck that allows us to totally spoil people during Christmas and go on trips and do all this great stuff, and it feels like writing is a curse. Like life would be so much easier if I could just get a normal job that provided a normal paycheck. But I can’t. And I so appreciate having a husband who understands the necessity for me to be a starving artist. We will actually overcome this hurdle by starting to Christmas shop in June this year.


If you felt the Holy Spirit urging you to quit writing, would you do it?

I did once. For a whole year after my ex-husband’s first affair. I wanted to give 100% to our marriage because family is a higher priority.

So interesting that you ask this question. I usually don’t talk about it. But I’m very thankful that I did stop writing because when my ex ended up leaving me a few years later, I knew I had given our marriage everything I had. And if you read the answer to that last question, you will know how hard not writing is for me.


Do you read your reviews? Have you ever replied to one? Do you find they influence your writing when you work on subsequent books?


I read reviews. I love feedback. I want to either know my words inspired or get an idea of how I can improve. Sometimes reviews are funny like the one that pointed out I had a river running the wrong way, and I’m like, “Oops.” Then there was one that claimed I “awoke love too early,” and I was like, “Heck, yeah. I rock at chemistry.” If you don’t like chemistry, then my romance novels aren’t for you, and I’m okay with that.

I don’t have to please everybody. I just have to be true to the person God created me to be. And I have to remember that He always has more for me.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My ex-husband left me. It’s a horrible, awful story. The kind I thought was only possible on HBO. But the specifics are not what had to be overcome.

Yeah, I had to live in a friend’s basement with my children for a couple months. And yeah, I had to go to the food bank to eat. And yeah, I had to juggle the kids in vacation Bible school during the summer so I could work to support us. And yeah, I had to go to court because I was the one accused of “disturbing the peace” when I went to pick the kids up from their dad’s girlfriend’s house, and she wouldn’t let me take them all even though it was my custody. And yeah, the kids were even interviewed at school by social services because I was accused of neglect.

But God provided. I was never alone. I was never hungry. My misdemeanor charges were dropped.

Those weren’t the things that I had to overcome. Those were just areas where I had to trust God. And he’d provide with a check in the mail from my grandma for a lawyer, or a friend’s husband changing my brake pads, or my very first job in the publishing industry—a job I loved—right before Christmas so I could buy the kids gifts, or flowers on Valentine’s from my former in-laws, or an airline ticket from my aunt and uncle so I could fly down to California and spend time with them on my first holiday without the kids.

I was so blessed.

What I had to overcome was the judgment toward my ex for not being the one to provide the way he’d promised to. I had to overcome the judgment toward the woman who didn’t stop with my ex-husband but tried to take my kids away, as well.

I just wanted them to finally admit how wrong they were. So I’d point it out to them frequently. And I had some pretty good points. Lots of good Bible verses, too. Most of the Bible verses were things like how “the righteous will bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked.” (Which would also work well on HBO, but never mind that.)

I was right. Right, right, right. And their relationship would never last. Because they were wrong, wrong, wrong.

So I waited. Bided my time until they broke up. Which they did. A few times. But then they got married.

Marriage didn’t make my ex’s sins any more holy. I still wanted him to face justice somehow. When did I get to bathe my feet in their blood as the Bible promised?

Well, there was another verse I was missing. One that hit me in the form of song lyrics at church.

“Mercy triumphs over judgment every time.”

What? I could offer them mercy? Find peace that way rather than waiting for them to wave the white flag?

Could it work? Could I extend an olive branch? Even if they threw it back in my face and consider me a weakling for it?

Yes, because the peace wasn’t about letting them off the hook. The peace was for me. Maybe I could actually want them to make their marriage work. For my ex to learn to be a good husband for his new wife.

I had made the choice to marry him. And if I’d known the consequences for my choice, I’d still do it all again just to have my beautiful children. Who was I to claim to deserve mercy when I wouldn’t even give it?

I’d forgiven over and over throughout the ordeal, but I’d never granted mercy. The kind of mercy that loved with no expectations. The kind of mercy that wanted the best for others even if they didn’t want the best for me. The kind of mercy that didn’t only focus on the past, but forgave all future mistakes, as well.

Wow.

Five years later, I’m still battling for custody, but it’s because I believe that it’s the best thing for the kids not because I want anybody to lose. And by anybody, I’m talking about my ex alone. Because he’s alone again. And I was honestly able to say, “I’m sorry,” when he told me about his second divorce.

Overcoming judgment and granting mercy didn’t change my circumstances. It changed me. And I think that’s what overcoming is really supposed to be about.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Where Legend and History Collide, One Young Woman Will Fight for the Innocent

Bethany House, 2015
Born a baron's daughter, Lady Merry Ellison is now an enemy of the throne after her father's failed assassination attempt upon the king. Bold and uniquely skilled, she is willing to go to any lengths to protect the orphaned children of her former village—a group that becomes known as "The Ghosts of Farthingale Forest." Merry finds her charge more difficult as their growing notoriety brings increasing trouble their way.

Timothy Grey, ninth child of the Baron of Greyham, longs to perform some feat so legendary that he will rise from obscurity and earn a title of his own. When the Ghosts of Farthingale Forest are spotted in Wyndeshire, where he serves as assistant to the local earl, he might have found his chance. But when he comes face-to-face with the leader of the thieves, he's forced to reexamine everything he's known.

REVIEW:

Dina L. Sleiman has written a wonderful, fast-paced tale of adventure in Dauntless, book one in the Valiant Hearts series. The action was intriguing, but gentle enough for its YA target audience. Still, make no mistake—Dauntless was sophisticated and well-written enough for any avid reader.

Review by Elizabeth Ludwig 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Last week I focused on the image of Jesus being led away to His crucifixion. There’s a moment in the film “Man of Steel” where Clark Kent/Kal-El is walking, handcuffed, flanked by guards. It’s laughable—you know he’s only there by his own will.

It struck me how Jesus being led away must have looked much like that to the angels, waiting by just in case He changed His mind.

But He didn’t. He walked the road—stopping just once to tell a group of wailing women not to mourn for Him, but for those who would someday despise their God-given ability to bear and nourish life. This seems an odd aside for someone on His way to die for the redemption of the world.

Then came the actual deed—Jesus being nailed to the cross. Whatever one believes about the shape of the cross, the fact remains, He was fastened to wood by the means of iron spikes.

Unthinkable pain.

Unthinkable means to our salvation.

“If there is any other way We can do this,” He’d begged God the Father, “then please, let it be done.”

What do we think—is there any other way? What of all those people who say God must be a sadist, delighting in the pain of His people, to let them suffer. “It pleased Him to bruise Him,” Scripture says. How in all of heaven and earth can that be the statement of a just and fair God?

To let an innocent Man be falsely accused and ridiculed, beaten and whipped to shreds? For that matter, the Man Himself didn’t even really speak in His own defense.

None of it makes sense unless you know and believe that all of it was part of the Grand Plan. Jesus held His tongue—allowed Himself to be led away—let them nail Him to hard, unyielding wood, because He knew it was the only means to win us redemption.

Unthinkable torture.

Unthinkable determination.

Unthinkable love.
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34, NKJV)

Thursday, March 19, 2015





Persephone’s Fugitive

Book Two,  Cayman Islands Trilogy

by

Dianna T. Benson


*** SPOILER ALERT *** Reading Persephone’s Fugitive (including the book blurb) before The Hidden Son (Book One in the Cayman Islands Trilogy) will ruin the ending of The Hidden Son. However, both books are standalones.

When a routine 911 call turns deadly, Paramedic Sara Dyer finds herself held at gunpoint by Jason Keegan, an injured psych-ward patient charged with murder. The situation spirals out of Sara’s control when the confrontation becomes a tense standoff between Keegan and the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.

As Keegan’s hostage, Sara fights to save them both before he blows them up. She realizes his warning to the Cayman police is no empty threat since he’d rather die than spend the rest of his life in a prison cell. Sara soon discovers Keegan is just as determined to survive as she is - provided he can escape Grand Cayman and disappear forever. As she struggles to trust in God’s protection, help from an atheist turns her struggle into a lure away from her faith.

                                             *          *          *          *
Dianna T. Benson is the award-winning and international bestselling author of The Hidden Son and Final Trimester. Persephone’s Fugitive is her third release. An EMT and a HazMat and FEMA Operative since 2005, Dianna authentically implements her medical and rescue experience and knowledge into all her suspense novels. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and their three children. www.diannatbenson.com


                                              *          *          *          *

As with any career, life as a novelist has its thrilling peaks and dark valleys. In dealing with the valleys, self-doubt in myself as a writer often creeps in and I question my career choice. A publishing industry career is notorious for extreme highs and lows – Example: A glowing review on the same day with nothing but a blinking cursor or awful written pages going nowhere.

For me, one of the biggest challenges as an author is bouncing back and forth from the business side of writing to actually writing my fiction. So I’ve learned never to write on the days I have a radio/TV interview, a book signing, a speaking engagement, or any other type of marketing task. Whenever possible, I bunch my marketing together in the same week(s) and take time off writing. When I’m not releasing a new book, thus buried in marketing, then I dig in and focus on writing. Every writer is different and needs to find their way – what works for one writer, won’t work for another.      

Once my first book was released in 2013, the pressure was intense from readers/fans, all the kind reviews, etc. I realized it was imperative to produce the same caliber of book or better the second time. With every book, it’s expected to write just as good a book, if not better. That pressure mixed in and compounded with the stress from the severe medical issues my son, daughter, and husband were battling. However, I forced myself to push through, encouraging myself to write. The tactic backfired on me, causing me to hit writer burnout. I recently recovered from being burnt out by allowing myself time to have fun in life, enjoy reading and watching movies, spending time in nature; basically, I healed from writer burnout by being gentle to myself. My zeal never disappeared – I truly wanted to write, but resistance inside me locked up my creativity and buried my muse. Knowing my love to write is still so strong in spite of all of this, I was determined to fully heal from burnout and never allow myself to reach that point again by knowing the warning signs and refusing to ever ignore them. 

The life of a writer is a lonely one – we spend so much of our time writing about people for people yet we’re all alone. I’ve learned to appreciate the writer’s world by seeing the work force (not working from home) as a place where I’d need to deal with commuting, the negatives of co-workers, pointless rules, rigid daily hours/schedules, office politics, etc. Life is all about how we view it, isn’t it?


Yes, God gave me the gift to story-tell via the written word, but I chose this career, and apparently it chose me back. The statics are mind-boggling – 1% of people who say they want to write actually start writing; 1% of people who start writing actually finish a book; 1% of those people actually submit their manuscript; 1% of the people who submit are ever offered a publishing contract. So I beat those staggering odds and have published three books to date with my fourth scheduled to release next year. If I can achieve that, than I can overcome any challenge as a writer. What about you? What are your challenges as a writer and how do you push through and continue?    


Dianna's latest release, Persephone's Fugitive, is available on Amazon and at Books-A-Million and Barnes and Noble.




      

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