Thursday, March 5, 2015

1) 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?

It took me 13 years to get published. But for 3 of those years, I wasn’t writing, instead I took a break to enjoy time with my 2 sons and my first husband. So technically it was 10 years of writing and submitting. During that time I finished 7 novels and have never gone back and revised them to sell—I thought about it but then realized I had too many new stories waiting to write to go back.

Tweet: Betting on Hope with author, Debra Clopton.


2) Are you a morning person? A night owl? How do you arrange your schedule to allow the most efficient, productive time for writing?

I’m BOTH! I love early morning and am almost always up and working by 6:30. But I love nighttime, too, and usually work past midnight. The truth is, I don’t actually sleep a lot and not by choice always. Five hours is a lot for me—I’ve always had a mind that just doesn’t like to shut down and so I have trouble sleeping. When I’m really hard on a deadline, it’s even harder for me to sleep so you never know what hours I’ll be sitting in my laptop working. 

3) 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?

Most challenging is when your heart is heavy with sorrow for something in my own life or my family’s or friends’ I still have to get up and write. That is really hard to do.


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

Yes, I do read them! I hear a lot of authors talk about not reading them but I can’t seem to help myself J. But I don’t let them get me down if they aren’t what I hoped for—I know everyone has their own opinion. I try really hard to write the best book that I can and I pray as I’m working on the story that God will lead me to write the words that someone needs. If I feel like I’ve done the best of my ability then I’m satisfied that is all I could have done. I can truly say that I’ve been blessed with far more happy reader reviews than unhappy. 


5) If you’re a plotter, have you ever tried pantsing it? If you’re a pantser, have you ever given plotting a try? Can you swing both ways, or are you a confirmed devotee of one of these methods?

I’m a combination of both though I’m heavier on the pantser side. I create a very loose synopsis but never hold myself tightly to the proposed book. I have found that the best most creative aspects of my stories happen as my fingers are on the keys. I see true plotters doing these intricate synopsis and I think that is so cool and their work is amazing, but it would drive me crazy and my books would be far less interesting because it just doesn’t work that way. It is so wonderful how God created each of us uniquely; I find it fascinating. 


6) Does your best writing flow? Or are you most satisfied with the work that you’ve labored over, sweating and groaning?

My writing NEVER flows… is there such a thing? I always, always suffer through a book and always about two thirds of the way through, I am convinced that it is the worst book ever and what was I thinking! My husband ignores me now but I truly believe it when I’m in that spot. It makes me cling to God more and really seek His guidance. I’ve come to accept it as part of my process. In the end if the book makes someone smile then I’m happy. When it truly helps someone in a deeper way, I feel completely humbled and blessed that God led me and was able to use me through my words. And that is why I do what I do.








Debra Clopton is a multi-award winning novelist and has written more than 22 novels. Along with writing, Debra helps her husband teach the youth at their local Cowboy Church. Debra's goal is to shine a light toward God while she entertains readers with her words.

Learn more about Debra on her blog, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Purchase her latest release, Betting on Hope, on Amazon.

 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The timing of this blog is hard. 

To be honest, I’ve avoided this post all week because my heart has been too heavy. Burdened with what I knew was coming…my dear and sweet friend is losing her daughter as I write this. 

She’s twenty. She’s been fighting cancer for the last 3 years. She’s fought a long and hard battle, and God has worked mightily through her as she and her family have chosen to shine glory on God through this entire journey they have been on. 

For me, I walked through my own journey when I lost my first husband 11 years ago. Losing my husband was hard, but I chose, as my friends have, to look at the blessings that God had given me and my two sons during the time instead of blaming God and doubting Him. 

Faith isn’t something that should be lost or doubted during the bad times. For me that solid assurance that God is with me and in control is what gets me through everything I do. Do I get angry sometimes? Yes I do! Do I wish things could be different sometimes? Oh yes indeed I do. But God understands that and knowing this helps me to be real and honest and able to express myself with him. To help me cope, I go to the source of solace and answers -- I go to the Bible. Even more than that, I go to prayer.


This post was supposed to be about how I have overcome something personal with God’s grace. And this is how I do it -- by trusting God. I pray His will be done and I focus on the blessings in He has given me. 

Yes, when I lost my first husband, Wayne, I mourned. I mourned long and hard and I gave myself permission to do so for as long as I needed and not according to anyone else’s timetable or view on how I should mourn. Oddly enough, I received 2 letters in the mail from church friends on how I, as a Christian, should mourn … those letters went directly into the trash! I had to mourn my way and I clung to the knowledge that with God’s help, I would be okay. If you are going through a hardship, I pray you hold on to God and give yourself grace to mourn as you need to mourn, not as someone else deems you should.

John 16: 33 Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble but take heart! I have overcome the world.”

I’m a writer who likes exclamation points, and I like that there is one used in this verse. Jesus’s words convey one well, and we can believe what he is telling us…take heart! Whatever you are going through, He has gone before you and HE has overcome the world. Walk with Him, and he’ll take you through the fog you may be in right now from grief or anything else you are going through. That is what He does for me. He knows the path, and I strive to let Him lead me.

He knows yours too. Give it to Him. He can handle it! And with His help so can you!

In my new release, Betting On Hope, my hero and heroine both have issues that they are working through, and each are doing it in their own way. But I love my main character Maggie Hope … she writes her advice column using the experiences she’s had in her own background to try and help others and always with a hopeful heart. I strive in my way to do this through my books. 

My hope is that something in my books will touch someone who needs it, even if it’s just to make you smile. Knowing this is my purpose and striving for that helps me move forward too. I know God’s always going to use even the bad things in my life for good somehow down the road and I like that.



Debra Clopton is a multi-award winning novelist and has written more than 22 novels. Along with writing, Debra helps her husband teach the youth at their local Cowboy Church. Debra's goal is to shine a light toward God while she entertains readers with her words.

Learn more about Debra on her blog, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Purchase Betting on Hope on Amazon.


Monday, March 2, 2015

By Jocelyn Green

River North Publishers, 2015
In Spy of Richmond, one of my main characters is an inmate of Libby Prison and tries to escape. As he is
desperately digging through a dark tunnel with very little oxygen, and making barely any progress, one of my characters tells himself, “This is not a grave, it is rebirth.”

Isn’t this true for whatever we must overcome in our own lives? When we’re in the midst of a trial, we may be isolated, in the dark, and gasping for breath. It might feel like our burial. But with God’s help, that dark place can really be a tunnel to get us to a new place of rebirth.

My own tunnel was very dark. Depression always is.

When I was twenty-two, I was in love with a man who didn’t love me back. I was determined to prove to him, and to myself, that I could live without him. So I hastily took a job as a private English tutor in Vienna, Austria. Yep, I moved to the other side of the world, and nope, I didn’t know German.

I had unwittingly placed myself in the care of a woman who was extremely manipulative, and her promise to let me take German classes was completely reneged. Not knowing the language made me illiterate, dumb, mute, and more isolated than I could have imagined possible.

Isolation breeds depression. I remember vividly the moment when I snapped—my knuckles white on the staircase railing—and I just started crying and couldn’t stop. For days. For weeks. Until a neighbor, who happened to be a missionary from Minnesota, told me that I needed to take care of myself and go home. I was reading the Bible and praying throughout this time. I did not feel that God had abandoned me, and I still trusted Him. It was not a matter of will-power, or of just “being more spiritual” to turn off my tears. My system was just overwhelmed and shutting down. My hair was turning grey. I lost weight until my clothes hung on my shoulders as if from a hanger. So I went home.

Back in America, I was diagnosed with severe depression and put on medication. I moved to Washington, DC, got a great job as an editor for a nonprofit on Capitol Hill, and found a church. Four months later, I decided to stop taking my medication cold-turkey, because I no longer lived in isolation and the triggers for my depression no longer existed.

Fast forward two years.

On July 5, 2003, I married my husband, an officer in the Coast Guard. Two days later, we moved from Washington, DC, to a small town called Homer, Alaska. On our one-month anniversary, he kissed me goodbye and left for a month.

It was a shock on many levels. I went from having a career to being unemployed. From big city to small town. From single to married, and from civilian to military. Rob was gone seven months of our first year of marriage, though not all at once. It was challenging. My worst month was November. The weather was cold, it was dark, and when our driveway was covered in ice, I was all but stranded at home. I had to put chains on my boots to walk to the grocery store. I really had a mental battle going on. I was terrified I would slip back into depression. I had to tell myself it was just one day, just one bad day. Everyone gets them. It doesn’t mean you fall into a tailspin. It’s OK to have a bad day, or two, or three.

I felt like I could have gone either way that year. Even if I hadn’t gone into a clinical depression, I could have become bitter and resentful about the sacrifices I made to tag along with Rob’s career. But, with God’s help, I made a decision. I would not allow myself to isolate. I joined two book clubs, two Bible studies, volunteered at the nursing home, and drove a cancer patient to her medical appointments in Anchorage, five hours north of us. God taught me things through his Word, in light of my new status as a military wife that left me in awe of Him.

God used that year to breed in me a passion for supporting the spiritual lives of other military wives. A few years later, my first book was born: Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives. Fourteen other military wives from all branches of service helped me write that devotional book—and in 2011, a sequel was released: Faith Deployed . . . .Again.

I don’t believe God shoves us into our dark places. But I do believe that He brings us out of them with a greater capacity to live lives that honor Him. As Harrison Caldwell says in Spy of Richmond, it’s not a grave. It is rebirth.

Jocelyn Green is the award-winning author of ten books, including fiction and nonfiction. A former military wife herself, she offers encouragement and hope to military wives worldwide through her Faith Deployed books and The 5 Love Languages Military Edition, which she co-authored with best-selling author Dr. Gary Chapman. Her Heroines Behind the Lines Civil War novels, inspired by real heroines on America’s home front, are marked by their historical integrity and gritty inspiration. Her novel Wedded to War was a Christy Award finalist and the gold medal winner from the Military Writers Society of America. Jocelyn graduated from Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, with a B.A. in English, concentration in writing. She is an active member of the Christian Authors Network, the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, American Christian Fiction Writers, and the Military Writers Society of America. She loves Mexican food, Broadway musicals, Toblerone chocolate bars, the color red, and reading on her patio. Jocelyn lives with her husband Rob and two small children in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Visit her at www.jocelyngreen.com.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

So, give it to us straight, the Pharisees said to Jesus. Are you our Machiach, our Anointed one?

And He said to them, it doesn’t matter if I said yes. You wouldn’t believe me anyway. And it isn’t like you’re going to answer any of my questions, or let me go.

Are You then the Son of God? they asked.

You say that I am, He answered.

And I can just envision the scene—the whole place erupting. See? See? What else do we need to hear. We’ve heard it ourselves from His own mouth.

The audacity of this man, to claim He’s the Son of God!

More like, the audacity of them, to speak this way to One who stood bound before them, the God clothed in flesh, putting up with their dog-and-pony show with a resignation that only underscores how ludicrous it was for them to think they could do anything to Him without His permission.

Back in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus revealed His humanity to His disciples, but here, He’s the Creator in disguise. The One in whom we all live, and move, and have our being, standing there with barely leashed patience as these men questioned and accused him.

And then I think ... the audacity of myself, to question Him. To doubt Him. The God who did not spare His own Son, but offered Him up for us all. To accuse Him, in essence, of not really loving us, of not really having our best interests in mind, or sometimes even of not having a plan at all.

Yes, life spins out of control. Things don’t go the way I would choose. I feel God pressing a promise into my heart, and then everything around me seems to make a lie of that promise. But ... the Son of Man must die ... before the Resurrection can happen.

How dare He claim to be the Son of God?

No. How dare I, because it was my sins that sent Him down this road.

 66 As soon as it was day, the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, came together and led Him into their council, saying, 67 “If You are the Christ, tell us.”
But He said to them, “If I tell you, you will by no means believe. 68 And if I also ask you, you will by no means answer Me or let Me go. 69 Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.”
70 Then they all said, “Are You then the Son of God?”
So He said to them, “You rightly say that I am.”
71 And they said, “What further testimony do we need? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth.” (Luke 22)
looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. (Hebrews 12, all NKJV)

This post first appeared March 6, 2014.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

When God called me to write for the Christian market in 2003, I dove in headfirst. I was on a mission
to learn as much as I could and write as much as possible. I knew it was his call and I never questioned His direction.

Until.

He asked me to stop writing in 2008 after moving me away from many Christian writing friends, an awesome group of Bible study partners, and a faithful critique group.

What? How could that be? I’m serving YOU Lord. I’d written two novels and a novella that had yet to be published. Why would He ask me to quit? That would be giving up. Quitting. I’d be walking away. I couldn’t do that. That’s not what a warrior does. Why would He ask this of me? And why would He take me away from so many Christian friends who were supportive of my writing?

At this point, I had to closely examine my obedience to Him. Sure, I had no problem being obedient when it was something I wanted to do, but now He was asking me to give up the thing I loved. He’d sent me to a very remote area. Another thing I questioned. When I took a job working full time, writing continued to consume my thoughts.

Reluctantly, I laid down the writing. Walked away. Quit. I felt like a loser.

Until.

He answered one of my burning questions. Why would You move me away from the large network of Christian friends and writers? His answer: So you can rely solely on ME.

His answer showed me that my focus needed to change. Writing for Him is different than writing from Him. My writing time consisted of plotting and planning every action of my characters and carefully orchestrating their responses to the story action. While I claimed to be writing for God, I had yet to invite God to write with me. I had yet to rely on the Holy Spirit for the story and the characters.

Being away from writing allowed me a bird’s eye view of how I’d gotten caught up in the writing world of chasing publication. The revelation was humbling. It also allowed me the opportunity to rely on Him in situations that revolved around people who weren’t Christians.  

God moved in many ways in my life during that time away from writing. He showed me about trust and true obedience. When I finally accepted, areas of my faith deepened. I learned so much about praying for others, relying on what God says, not other’s interpretation of what God said, and listening to Him minus the veil of my desires.

Years went by and one day I realized, while I missed writing, it didn’t have the stronghold on me that it had before.

In January of 2012, the quiet voice I’d been waiting to hear for 5 long years returned. “It’s time to start writing again.”

Less than a week later, I received an email stating that a publisher was looking for Christmas Stories. The novella I’d written all those years ago was a Christmas story that had been rejected by another publisher. I sent it in. It was accepted a few months later and published that same year. Most of you know nothing in the publication world works that quickly. But this did.

Once I’d truly let go and truly been obedient, things changed—both in me and in my attitude toward writing. Writing wasn’t the all-gripping thing that I needed to work at every waking hour, it wasn’t what defined me as an obedient daughter, and it wasn’t what connected me to friends.
I believe the contract was God’s timing and also His way of showing me, He had this all along. And He still does.

The character in my latest release, THE VIGIL, is learning these same lessons!

Here’s the blurb:


Cheryl Broussard made two vows: She'd never fall for an abusive man, and she'd never return to her Louisiana hometown. But she's learned all too well the lesson of never-say-never. Now, back in Bijou Bayou after fleeing from an abusive boyfriend, Cheryl finds work as a Hospice nurse. While reading a dying patient's Korean War love letters, family secrets shatter Cheryl's beliefs about her family and herself and shed light on the reason she fled her hometown. When the Broussard family secrets are revealed, can Cheryl deal with the truth and accept the blessing of a second chance for relationships with her family, old friends, and with the God she never really knew?


Marian Pellegrin Merritt writes stories that blend her love of the mountains with her deep Southern roots. Her tagline, Where the Bayous Meets the Mountains, grew from both loves. She is the author of, Deep Freeze Christmas, A Cajun Christmas Miracle, and Southern Fried Christmas.
Her latest release, a Women’s Fiction novel, The Vigil, can be purchased at online retailers.

Marian is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Women's Fiction Writers Association.


She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in physical therapy and an accounting certificate from the University of South Alabama. This Louisiana native writes from the Northwest Colorado home she shares with her husband and a very spoiled Labradoodle.

Learn more about Marian on her website and her blog, or connect with her on Facebook, the Facebook Reader's Group, or Twitter.


Thanks for allowing me to share with your readers today on the Borrowed Book Blog!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

There are worse things than being fat.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating being overweight. I’m simply saying that an overweight ego, a heavy judgmental attitude, and a heart plump with hatred on a skinny well-dressed body are far worse things.

I’m realizing that the extra weight I carry is not what defines me. I am more defined by how I treat others—my reflection of Christ to the world. That can happen no matter what size I am, regardless of my hair color, and regardless of whether I’m wearing designer clothing or hanging out in a t-shirt and sweats.

Recently, while traveling overseas, I heard a story of how a young woman visited a shop and asked for a large size. The sales clerk, a small-sized woman, snubbed her nose at the young woman and rudely told her they didn’t carry her size there. I could only imagine the response I would have received in that shop. I’m far larger than the young woman who visited the shop.
But I can’t help thinking, the sales clerk may have looked put together and nice on the outside, inside was a different story. I want people to look beyond my exterior shell and see what’s in my heart. The only way that can happen is if I show them.

I’ve struggled with extra weight for several years. Often times, riding the vicious roller coaster of on-again off-again diets and aggressive exercise regimens to sedentary days. Leaving me feeling confident or defeated. My emotions were dependent on whether I’d been “good” or “bad” with my eating or exercise on any given day.

Through the years I’ve come to accept that my weight does not define WHO I am. Neither does my hairstyle or hair color, the clothes or the brand of shoe I wear or the purse I carry on my shoulder. Some of those are accessories that may reflect my taste, but they don’t define me as a daughter of the king. I’ve also come to accept that I can’t manage a lifestyle change unless I rely on Him to bring it about in me. I can’t reflect His character and shine if I’m too busy worrying about how I look and what clothes I’m wearing. While, I feel better if I’m dressed well, it’s important that my heart is well dressed with compassion, love, forgiveness, and non-judgment.

I still struggle with losing weight and with help from the Lord, I’m making small incremental daily changes. I’ve accepted that I can’t change overnight, but I can change.

Cheryl, the character, in my latest release, The Vigil, is forced to accept truths that push her to change.

The book blurb:

Cheryl Broussard made two vows: She'd never fall for an abusive man, and she'd never return to her Louisiana hometown. But she's learned all too well the lesson of never-say-never. Now, back in Bijou Bayou after fleeing from an abusive boyfriend, Cheryl finds work as a Hospice nurse. While reading a dying patient's Korean War love letters, family secrets shatter Cheryl's beliefs about her family and herself and shed light on the reason she fled her hometown. When the Broussard family secrets are revealed, can Cheryl deal with the truth and accept the blessing of a second chance for relationships with her family, old friends, and with the God she never really knew?


Marian Pellegrin Merritt writes stories that blend her love of the mountains with her deep Southern roots. Her tagline, Where the Bayous Meets the Mountains, grew from both loves. She is the author of, Deep Freeze Christmas, A Cajun Christmas Miracle, and Southern Fried Christmas.
Her latest release, a Women’s Fiction novel, The Vigil, can be purchased at online retailers.

Marian is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Women's Fiction Writers Association.
She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in physical therapy and an accounting certificate from the University of South Alabama. This Louisiana native writes from the Northwest Colorado home she shares with her husband and a very spoiled Labradoodle.

Learn more about Marian on her website and her blog, or connect with her on Facebook, the Facebook Reader's Group, or Twitter.





Thanks for allowing me to share with your readers today on the Borrowed Book Blog!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Jesus was human as well as divine. We know this.

But was He really human?

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2, NKJV)

This next passage of Philippians dovetails nicely with the onset of Lent. The great mystery of the Incarnation: God coming down to become one of us, to experience humanity, then to die for humanity. I wrote last year about the humanness of Jesus, but this week, I find myself freshly astonished.

Someone said that Christians tend to think Jesus was not really human ... that He was only pretending to be human. Guilty as charged! Too often I mentally dismiss the element of peril within the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, fasting and then being tempted. After all, He was God, He couldn't really have fallen, in that situation.

Could He?

Someone else commented, however, that temptation by its very nature means the person being tempted actually entertained the notion of doing what’s presented to him. Could Jesus actually have considered turning those stones to bread? Leaping off the pinnacle of the temple to prove His godhood? We might never know.

We do see His utter humanness in the garden of Gethesemane, where He cries out to God to spare Him the experience of the Cross if any other way can be made to accomplish our salvation. (As my pastor said last year, He was God and all glory belonged to Him anyway, so it wasn’t like He had do this.) But this struck me all over again, in Jesus’ chiding of the disciples for sleeping when He’d asked them to watch and pray. We don’t tend to think of Jesus as needing prayer ... but bound in deep dread over what He was about to face—because He had to absolutely know the kind of pain that crucifixion would involve—He was stressed to the point of hemorrhaging through His skin. He’d asked these men, the three who were closest to Him than any others in His earthly walk, to stay by His side while He wrestled through the dread. And then to find, three times, that they just fell asleep ...

Was He only asking for moral support?  Scripture suggests that at least part of His concern was for the dicsiples, especially Peter, to pray for their own strength in the coming trial. But we can hear it in His voice ... Guys! I needed you ... maybe I never did before but I did now ... and you let me down.

How many times have I felt that exact thing over the past few years? That at my point of greatest need, some of those I considered my closest friends failed to be there for me?

To suddenly see that my glorious, beautiful Redeemer did as well, comforts me like nothing else.

Wow, He really was as fully human as He is God.

And He was the perfect Savior to sympathize with our own weakness.

41 And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” 43 Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. 44 And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22, NKJV)
32 Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. 34 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.”
35 He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. 36 And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.
37 Then He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
39 Again He went away and prayed, and spoke the same words. 40 And when He returned, He found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him.
41 Then He came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough! The hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.” (Mark 14, NKJV)

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