Category Archives: Interviews

“Interviews with authors who have a heart for writers ”


Interview with Cheri Cowell – You Could Win a Free Book!

Cheri Cowell headshot (Nov 2014)What a joy to have my friend author and speaker Cheri Cowell back with us again today. After meeting at the CLASS Christian Writers Conference in New Mexico years ago, Cheri and I have been friends ever since. She’s written several books, but I’m especially excited about her latest, 365 Devotions for Peace. All it takes is one look at the headlines to know peace can be hard to find in today’s world. I have a feeling I’m not the only one ready to hear more about claiming the peace that’s offered to us.

Don’t forget to leave a comment and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book! Be sure to return next week to see if you’re the winner. Now, let’s get started.

Cheri, thanks for coming back to the Christian Writer’s Den today and sharing your new book with us. When I heard you had written about peace, I just knew I had to have you back, after all, it’s such a timely topic. So, tell us how this book came about.

I tell writers all the time that this business is about relationships and being where writers are–which is at writers’ conferences. I was in a conversation with an editor, just talking about writing, and I mentioned my new blog focus was going to be on the unrest in the country and the search for peace. She said, “Funny you should mention that because I’m looking for someone to write a daily devotional on the subject of peace.” You cannot underestimate the value of relationships in this industry.

So true! I’m sure most of us who’ve been doing this for any length of time have a story of something that came about through a writing relationship. But back to your book. What did you learn about the subject of peace while writing the book?

Like most things biblical, the Christian’s understanding of the subject of peace must be re-aligned with God’s definition and that definition has many facets. God’s definition is only truly understood as it is practiced–365 days a year.

So how did you go about writing 365 devotions on a single topic like peace?Cheri Cowell cover Peace

I am foremost a Bible teacher, so I begin with Scripture. There are 165 direct references to peace in the Bible and an additional 100 tangentially related. Some scriptures gave me the illustration fairly openly, but some I had to rely on inspiration from the Holy Spirit to bring the point to life. Then I followed the format for good devotional writing.

Good devotional writing does have a format. Can you share that format with us?

Sure. I learned this at writers’ conferences. A good devotional has five parts: Scripture, Illustration, Tie-in or application, Take-away, and Prayer. All of this is done in 250-300 words, making devotional writing good practice for writing tight. It forces you to measure every word, and to make good use of transitions so your devotional drives the point easily and smoothly for the reader.

As I mentioned above, 365 Devotions for Peace is not your first book published. Tell us about the others.

I actually began my writing career as an article writer, which gave me a good platform for publication. Incidentally, I still write articles and blogs because I know that writers can reach more people in magazines and online articles than with books. However, I am honored to be the author of four books: Direction: Discernment of the Decisions of Your Life, Parables and Word Pictures in the Following God Bible study series, and Living the Story: Reaching Outside the Church Walls.

Your bio says you’re a sidewalk theologian–what is that?

I like to say that in my writing and speaking you will meet a friend on the sidewalk of life who brings sound biblical answers to your questions of faith. I have a seminary degree from Asbury Seminary, but my real gift is in taking complicated theological issues and applying them to the real questions of faith ordinary people have, sharing those answers in a conversational manner. I hope reading 365 Devotions for Peace is a conversation with your own sidewalk theologian.

Do you have another book in the works?

In June, One Story, One Mission, One God releases, which is an overview of the whole Bible’s story in just 14 weeks. Many of us have only received the Bible in bits and pieces, but I want to show how the Bible is one story with the same mission about the same God from Genesis to Revelation. All of those pieces will fit together better when readers see the whole story from this birds-eye-view. I’ll be blogging about it from my website over the coming months.

Cheri Cowell Parables coverI LOVE the focus of that book! I’ll look forward to seeing it come out as well. Well, out time’s about up, so one last question. If you were to give one piece of writing advice, what would it be?

Can I share two? The first would be to write devotionals and articles so you learn good writing technique (and you reach thousands with your message). And the second piece of advice is on attending writers’ conferences. I never would have been published, either as a regular article writer or with books, if I had not developed the relationships needed to make it in this industry at conferences. It is an investment you must make.

Amen, Cheri! Those are words of advice I share every chance I get. As a matter of fact, I recently realized that every positive step in my writing journey can be traced back to a writer’s conference. Some say they can’t afford to go, but I say you can’t afford NOT to go!

I didn’t have the funds when I first started writing, either, but I made it a priority. I asked for donations to my conference fund for my birthday, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, anniversary, etc. Anything that would normally result in a gift, I asked for the donation instead. I did that for several years in order to be able to attend. It was that important.

Cheri, thank you again for being with us today. I know your words will encourage writers for years to come.

And friends, don’t forget to leave a comment for Cheri and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book. The winner will be announced next week!

Bio: Cheri Cowell, an author, speaker, and sidewalk theologian, is the author of several books including the Bible study Parables and Word Pictures. A graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary, she shares her passion to help others apply biblical principles to the sidewalk issues of life. www.CheriCowell.com

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Delores Liesner

Photography by KHB photography

Photography by KHB photography

What a joy to close out 2015 with a visit from my friend, author Delores Liesner. We met years ago at the CLASS Christian Writers Conference and she’s been hard at work ever since. I love her publication story and her look at contemporary miracles. I hope you’ll be challenged to see the potential, too!

Be sure to leave a comment for Delores and you’ll be in the drawing for a copy of her new book, Be the Miracle.

Welcome, Delores. Let’s get started. I see you consider yourself a storyteller, yet most of your work is non-fiction. Please tell us how that came about.

Fiction was my lifeline growing up – especially if based on a true story. We moved to a new town when I was in high school and the English teacher, desperate to gain more oral reports, had made a rule the year prior that every A-graded book report would advance the student’s final score by one letter grade! Investigative conversations with older students provided a list of her favorites, and I learned how to write to the audience. The Scarlet Letter and short stories by O’Henry among others, quickly garnered 5 “A” book reports (one extra just to be safe) and I could mess around the rest of the year. I loved dramatizing the real stories of my teacher’s preferences, but, certain my life experiences would never be that exciting, I began creating fictional skits and stories for school, my own escape valve, and eventually for my children.

Then I met God, and my life-drama developed new depth. I learned how to study the Bible inductively with the Navigators. I noticed when I shared personal applications in story form, others were leaning forward, interested to hear what happened next, so I saw value to using story in lessons and articles and began getting help and advice toward publishing them.

Where or to whom did you go to learn about publishing, Delores?Delores Liesner Miracle book cover

First, I wrote to a fiction author I admired, and asked how one goes about getting a story or article published. She directed me to Allison Gappa Bottke, who was developing an anthology series God Allows U Turns. Allison accepted a couple of my stories, and encouraged me to attend a seminar led by Marita and Florence Littauer. That conference, including the editor, publisher and radio appointments were life changing, as was the assignment Allison gave me to find stories after nine-one-one. CBN.com accepted a guest blog from one of those interviews and the following day I was on the phone hearing a story from a general at the Pentagon! I knew I could never dream up stuff this exciting and I was hooked. More conferences led me to 2010 where I met more encouragers, including Bruce Wilkinson. He inspired me to combine 31 of my miracle stories into a book.  I left the conference on a high, thinking the book could be out within a year, but the journey had just begun.

Yes, it seems all authors have experienced that reality check.  So Be the Miracle was published this August – almost 5 years from that moment of commitment.  What happened?

Life happened. I was still the guardian for my mother who lived 4 hours away, and that took quite a bit of my time. In the off hours I wrote devotionals, stories for anthologies, magazines and internet to save for a conference where I hoped to gain publishing and marketing information, and prayed a lot. I prayed about which stories to choose, and prayed about meeting the right people to help me navigate the fearsome

Delores and author/speaker Bruce Wilkinson

Delores and author/speaker Bruce Wilkinson

book proposal, and prayed about a publisher. I wrote and rewrote stories in different ways for different markets. I was blessed during that time to receive a call from an editor saying, “We are thinking of adding a column to our magazine and your name came up – would you be interested?”  That experience taught me refining stories for space and attention span, preparing me for the short-story devotional style of my book.

I blogged about the dreaded book proposal and a young friend introduced me to her friend – an experienced published author. As I was preparing my one-sheet for a conference meeting with one publisher, another’s call congratulating me for a contest win led to my contract and contact for an agent.  More amazing God HUGS (Highly Unexpected God-Surprises).

Sounds like faith played an active role in your writing journey. Is that the message your stories carry to the readers?

Delores and husband Ken

Delores and husband Ken

Yes, to activate our faith – putting hands and feet to what we believe, and to live expectantly, knowing that where we go we bring Christ, so we can expect something exciting to happen.

And after reading your book, Be the Miracle, I’m reminded that God is always orchestrating miracles . . . if only we’re focused enough to see them. Thank you for sharing your writing journey and your life of miracles with us. I pray that–as your tagline says–we’ll all be challenged to put our hands and feet to our faith.

And friends, don’t forget to leave a message for Delores and you’ll be in the drawing for a free copy of her book, Be the Miracle. Don’t forget to return next week to see if you’re the winner!

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Thank you for your kind words of sympathy and encouragement in the loss of my dear father-in-love. They gave strength and peace when we needed them. Thank you, too, for your grace as I return to work again and begin the catch-up in January.

Blessings for the new year!

Vonda

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Mary Scro

IMG_1347 smallerWelcome to the Christian Writer’s Den as we learn more about the writing life from author and speaker, Mary Scro…

What fun to introduce Mary Graziano Scro today. Mary and I met years ago when she attended Christian Communicators Conference and she’s been a dear friend ever since! I’m honored to share her writing journey with you today.

Be sure and leave a comment for Mary and you’ll be in the drawing for a free copy of one of her books. Don’t forget to check back next week to see if you’re the winner!

Now let’s get started. First of all, Mary, I’m always interested in hearing how authors got interested in writing.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved to write…and I’ve always loved to read. There’s something about the power of the written word to teach, inspire, and entertain that wakes up the gift God put inside me. When someone reads what I’ve written and it blesses them, well, there’s nothing like it. And the same goes for me when I am inspired by the work of others.

Oh, I know what you mean. I’m so encouraged when readers say my books helped or even entertained them. But we all have writing challenges. What are a few of yours? 

One is trying too hard to “get it perfect” without editing. Many years ago, a manager asked for a one-page management summary of a huge document. A co-worker and I labored over it all day but didn’t have a thing done when the manager came back to check. Instead of being mad, she laughed and said, “You’re trying too hard. You won’t get it right the first time so just get something down on paper, then you can edit.” She nailed it!

Another area is to “write clean”: keep verbs active, don’t use too many words when fewer will do, stay to the point. I’ve had awesome help from my Word Weavers critique group in that area. And I’ve learned helpful edit techniques, such as searching for “ing” words and reading my writing out loud.

One thing I learned: we can always improve our writing…and we need to keep working at that.

Yes, it’s taken me a long time to learn that trying to make my words “pretty” before moving on gets me nowhere! Please share when and why you started blogging.Mary Scro Intentional Fitness cover

My first blog post was in May, 2013. I like the spontaneous nature of blogging – sharing what God is showing me at that moment. At first I wanted to do something so great that many would flock to my blog and I’d be famous overnight. Then I came down to earth and realized we need all the voices we can get on the internet to tell people about our awesome God. He gifted me to write, I need to steward it well and share for Him, not for me.

Along those lines, I used to get discouraged when someone posted something similar to what I just posted. Now I get excited because I realize that I heard God – He is speaking the same message to many so He can reach our different audiences.

I had to laugh when I read that you expected readers would flock to your blog and you’d be famous overnight. Sounds like we have a lot of the same tendencies! Would you tell us a little about your books, and how they came about?

The first book, Intentional Fitness: Working Out Your Salvation, started as a teaching about how to move from the world’s ways to God’s ways to grow in your faith. We grow our faith because a lost world needs Jesus, and they won’t see Him unless He’s strong in us. Our faith doesn’t just grow with time; it takes effort, choice, and obedience. I share parts of my testimony to encourage others that if I can have an awesome life with God, they can too.

The second book, Intentional Warfare: Winning the Daily Spiritual Battles, started as a teaching about spiritual warfare in a class I co-taught at my church. I didn’t know what to teach – God literally fed it to me one week at a time. Then with my co-teacher’s encouragement, I wrote a book about it. Most of the book is about becoming aware of the daily battle that is going on around us, how to fight the right enemy in God’s strength, and how to live a more God-empowered life.

I think I see a theme here with the word “intentional.” Want to share about that?

My passion is to see Christians take responsibility for growing their faith – to talk, act, and live differently than people who don’t know Jesus. We need to be more than good people who do good things, we need to be supernatural people whose God works miracles in and through us. Most of my writing is about obedience and what amazing things God can do in our lives…and conversely, how we give our enemy, the devil, power when we try to go our own way.

Walking with Jesus is not about where we are in our journey, it’s about the direction we’re headed and our willingness to lay down our way for God’s. When we do, oh, what a glorious life!

Mary Scro Intentional Warfare coverAmen, sister! Thank you so much for being with us and sharing your story, Mary. I know your experience will be helpful for writers out there.

Friends, be sure to leave a comment and next week you could win a copy of Mary’s book. Just check back next Tuesday to see if you’re the winner!

Bio: Mary Graziano Scro, a graduate of Christian Communicators Conference, is an inspirational author, speaker, and blogger who intuitively weaves analogies and personal testimony with practical biblical teaching. Whether in person or at the keyboard, Mary loves sharing what God has done in her life to encourage others in their own walks with the Lord. Mary’s books, Intentional Fitness and Intentional Warfare, are available through Vox Dei Publishing Amazon.com, and she has more projects in the works. She lives in Virginia with her husband Don, her parents, two cats, a dog, and occasional rogue bears who raid the bird feeder.

You can reach Mary through:

Facebook: Life Is Not A Formula https://www.facebook.com/LifeIsNotAFormula/
Twitter: @marygscro
LinkedIn: Mary Graziano Scro  https://www.linkedin.com/pub/mary-scro/11/600/a4b
Blogs: Life Is Not A Formula (Mary’s website) at www.marygscro.com
Vox Dei Publishing blog at http://www.voxdeipublishing.com/blog
Almost an Author, WARFARE! Column at  http://www.almostanauthor.com/category/support/warfare/

 

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Cindy Patterson

Cindy Patterson headshotHappy 4th Tuesday! I’m excited to share my friend, Cindy Patterson, with you today.

Cindy and I met years ago when I spoke at her church and we’ve kept in touch through the years of writing and taking breaks and writing again. Yes, even though I have a love/hate relationship with technology, right now I’m thankful God allowed us to stay in touch through the demon/angel.

Cindy is not only the author of Broken Butterfly, but she actually wrote several novels through our MoGo7000 Monthly Challenge AND she was our very first winner of the $100 prize in the 2011 MoGo7000 Challenge! As you can see, Cindy is proof that MoGo7000 can help you finish your book. :-)

Be sure to leave a comment for Cindy and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book. Now, let’s get started.

Welcome, Cindy. First of all, I’d love to know what inspired you to write your first book.

You know that point when you reach the end of a really good novel and the depressing feeling that settles over you with an ache making you want more? I had to have that “more,” so I created my own characters, my own story.

In this story, I wanted to give a glimpse of how God can use brokenness and make it whole. I also wanted to share a remarkable love story and to give hope.

We know that writing is one thing, but when did you first consider yourself a writer?

I’m so glad you asked me that question. It was you, Vonda, who first told me I was a writer. You were speaking at my church quite a few years ago and I couldn’t wait to meet you. At the time, I still didn’t feel like a writer, but I headed home with all the tips and resources you gave me and I began this whirlwind of a life and have loved every minute of it. And I know without a doubt, God appointed that brief meeting between you and me.

He sure did! Thank you for letting me know of my small part in your journey. And now, here you are, encouraging and influencing other writers! Speaking of other writers, we’re always interested in knowing who are pantsers and who are plotters. Do you have a specific writing style?

I’m a pantser. No organization whatsoever. I sit down and start pounding at the keys and the words flow like a scene from a movie. Of course, there’s a lot of editing, cutting, and sometimes rearranging to be done after the first draft and even the second, and third. Sometimes I want to try the more organized form of writing to see how that works for me. I may even do that with my next novel. I’m always up for a new challenge.

My three published novels were plotted and it worked well for me. But I’ve just started another novel and for the first time I’m having trouble figuring out the story line. I think I need some inspiration! Do you have something that inspires you while you write?

Music. Reading. The last light of the setting sun filtering through the woods behind my house. Jesus.

I love your title, Broken Butterfly. How is this story special to you?Broken Butterfly Cover (1)

The characters of Broken Butterfly came to me in a very weird dream. I have a lot of those, but this one in particular would not leave me alone until I started their story. It’s hard to pinpoint how this story is special to me without giving too much away, but I will say this, I could not do any of this without God’s help. And in this book in particular, He gave me the twist that brought Broken Butterfly full circle and I remember that moment as if it happened yesterday.

Wow, what a gift that was to you! I have weird dreams, too, but mine have never been insights for a new book! I love your cover, too. Who designed it?

The cover of this book had been in my head for years. I knew I wouldn’t find a pre-made cover that would fit exactly what I was looking for. I needed a young lady, fitting Mallory’s description, who also had a butterfly and dragonfly tattoo visible on her ankle. So, I chose my oldest son’s fiancĂ©, Madison Robinson, to model for me. Her uncle, Mike Parrish, of Tar River Photography, took the picture. The tattoo holds great significance in the story. You’ll have to read to find out why. ;)

Is there a message in this novel that you want readers to grasp?

I want my readers to connect with my characters and to remember them long after they put the book down. The world needs more Faith, Hope, and Love. This is a clean romance that stirs the heart. The reader is at peace seeing Mallory triumph over her struggles and the reader is empowered to overcome his or her own challenges in life.

Also, domestic abuse is a living, breathing reality for many and I wanted to bring that to light, hoping someone feeling trapped would find the courage to escape, and to ultimately find hope in Jesus.

We’re running out of time, but I’d like to know what writing tip you would offer other writers.

Embrace meaningful relationships with other writers. Don’t compare your success to others. God has His specific plan for you in His own perfect time. Encourage each other and promote not only yourself but those around you. And finally, never stop learning.

Wise words, Cindy. Before we go, would you give us a peek into your current project?

I’m currently working with an editor on Chasing Paradise, the prequel to Broken Butterfly.

Thank you for joining us today and sharing your wisdom and insight into writing. And readers, remember to leave a comment for Cindy and you’ll be in the drawing for her book. Be sure to return next week to see if you’re the winner!

Thanks for Tweeting!

MoGo7000 $100 winner Cindy Patterson shares writing advice. Win a #free book! #amwriting #pubtips (Click to Tweet)

Cindy Patterson memeBio: Cindy Patterson lives in North Carolina with her wonderful husband and three amazing children. Her passions include Jesus, homeschooling, writing, and drama ministry. You’ll find her at any given time with her family on a baseball field watching her youngest son play, as her oldest son and husband coach from the sideline. You can also find her watching her daughter dance, tucked away reading, or cooking when she’s not writing. She’s a member of ACFW.

Here’s where you can find Cindy:

www.CindyPattersonBooks.com

www.CindyPattersonWrites.blogspot.com

https://Twitter.com/cpattersonbks

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/10450152.Cindy_Patterson

https://www.facebook.com/Cindy-Patterson-Inspirational-Romance-Author-299906700157616/

Direct Amazon link to Broken Butterfly

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Yvonne Ortega, and Who Won Kathy Carlton Willis’ Book?

Yvonne Ortega headshotWelcome to the Christian Writer’s Den 5th Tuesday as we welcome author and speaker, Yvonne Ortega!

Yvonne and I go way back to 2005 or so when we first met through the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA). In 2011 she attended the NCompass Writing Retreats that Edie Melson and I were leading at the time (before life got so crazy that we had to discontinue it). Then in 2012, she attended Christian Communicators Conference. During that time, she was cranking out books and blog posts, while also providing counseling in many areas of need.

Since then, God has continued to use her in powerful ways to reach those who need to hear the Good News of the love, grace, and mercy of our Lord. She has gone on to get even more training and as you’ll see, is now training others! But one of the things I love the most about Yvonne is her often-stated goal, “To reach millions for Jesus in my lifetime.” Wow. Can you see why I’m excited about sharing her latest book with you?

Be sure to leave a comment for Yvonne and you’ll be in the drawing for a free copy of her latest book, Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward.

So let’s get started! Welcome, Yvonne. First of all, I’d like you to tell my friends a little about yourself.

I’m a small-town gal who enjoys the beach and music—everything from country western to classical music. Mention travel, and I’ll pack my bags right away. I watch comedies and laugh until my sides hurt.

As I’ve already mentioned, you’re a professional speaker and an author. How did you get interested in this line of work and ministry?

As a child, I gathered the neighborhood kids to play school. I was the teacher. Mama took me to the library weekly until I could go on my own. I would get lost in a book and forget to eat if it weren’t for Mama’s dinnertime call. I liked the smell and feel of paper and composition books and wrote stories. At thirteen, I submitted my first letter to the editor of the local newspaper.

After a diagnosis of breast cancer fourteen and a half years ago, I cried out to God through journaling. After lots of rewrites, I wrote my first book, Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer. I had to speak in order to market and publicize the book.

That led me to speaker training, and now I’m a World Class Certified Speaking Coach.

What led you to write your second book?

Prior to breast cancer, I had gone through a domestic violence marriage, divorce, and single parenting. After breast cancer, I had four car accidents in seven years. None were my fault, but I suffered injuries and damage to my car. Six years ago, my only child unexpectedly passed away following surgery. Each crisis forced me to my knees in prayer and to the Bible for answers. God showered me with his love, Yvonne Ortega book cover 2compassion, and faithfulness.

After the divorce, I became a Licensed Professional Counselor and became involved in Women’s Ministry. I met many hurting women who didn’t know they could move from broken to beautiful with God’s help. That’s how my latest book, Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward, came about. Passion drives me to share the message of these life lessons with women worldwide. Hurting people don’t need to give up. They can move forward and lead a productive, joyful life beyond measure.

What words of wisdom do you have for women who want to write about their painful past?

  • Make sure you’re ready to write about your painful past without an emotional, physical, or spiritual collapse. Take your time to heal. Ask God to show you when you can tackle the trauma of your past. He will show you.
  • Have you forgiven those who hurt you? God says in 1 Peter 3:9, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult.” I struggled to forgive my ex-husband. With God’s help, I’m no longer a prisoner of the past. Your readers want to know you aren’t either.
  • Acknowledge your pain and loss and admit you still grieve. I lost my mother before Mother’s Day and my only child three days after in the same year. Their birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Mother’s Day trigger the pain. They’re in heaven, but I can’t call or visit them and can’t send them a card or a gift. They can’t call or visit me, or send me a card or gift either. That hurts.
  • If you present yourself as Wonder Woman, your readers can’t identify with you. And you can’t minister to them. Acknowledge both your strengths and weaknesses.
  • In writing about your painful past, you answer a divine call. You minister to those you write and speak for. Your writing cannot be therapeutic journaling. There is a place for therapeutic journaling, but not for publication. For publication, include application, application, and more application. Have Scriptures, prayers, resources, links, quotations, etc. for the readers. Answer the question, “What’s in it for them?”

Your advice is right on target! Where can readers find your book?

Moving from Broken to Beautiful is available as a paperback and an ebook on Amazon and other online booksellers.

Do you have another book in progress?

I’m thrilled to say I’m halfway through writing a book on forgiveness.

Awesome, Yvonne! I didn’t know that! Thank you for joining us today. I pray God continues to bless you as you bless others.

And readers, don’t forget to leave a comment for Yvonne and you’ll be in the Random.org drawing for a free book. Be sure to return next week to see if you’re the winner.

Yvonne Ortega book cover 1Readers, you can contact Yvonne through:

Her website: www.YvonneOrtega.com

Her blog: On the homepage of her website

Twitter: @yvonneortega1

Facebook: Yvonne Ortega

Facebook Community Page: Yvonne Ortega

To contact Yvonne about a speaking event, please visit her website or contact her directly at yvonne@yvonneortega.com

Bio: Yvonne Ortega is a World Class Certified Speaking Coach, an international speaker, author of Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward and Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer and a contributing author to two anthologies. She has taught at major Christian writing conferences in the USA. Yvonne has been interviewed on radio and TV programs including Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk, the Harvest Show, 100 Huntley Street, and Marnie’s Friends. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor and has taught Precept Bible Studies and in Bible Study Fellowship. Yvonne currently serves on the Advisory Board for Christians in Recovery. She served as the Regional Speaker Trainer of Virginia for more than three years and on the board of Kairos Prison Ministry. Subscribe to her newsletter and free weekly devotion at www.YvonneOrtega.com

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And who won Kathy Carlton Willis’ book, Grin with Grace?Grin-With-Grace_cover

The winner is:

Jean Wilund!

Congratulations, Jean! All you need to do is contact me with your snail mail address and Kathy will get your book right out to you!

And for you who didn’t win, here’s your direct Amazon link to Grin with Grace. I know you want your own copy so you’ll be able to grin through the tough times, too!

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Friends, I don’t know if you noticed, but both of these books are about how to get through those tough times in life. I didn’t plan this, but apparently God did! I hope you find that both of these books encourage you and lift you up through the human lessons and the supernatural love, grace, and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Grace and peace be your in abundance,

Vonda

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Kathy Carlton Willis and Who Won Edie Melson’s Book?

Kathy Carlton Willis ImageIt’s a joy to introduce my friend, Kathy Carlton Willis, to you!

Kathy and I have been friends for many years and have seen many changes in the writing world. But one thing remains constant: The secret to getting your work published is to write well! And that’s exactly what Kathy did with her latest book, Grin with Grace. What a joy to share this new book with you!

Leave a comment for Kathy and you’ll be in the drawing for a free copy of Grin with Grace! Be sure to check back next week to see if you’re the winner. Now, let’s get started!

Welcome, Kathy! Let’s begin by letting you tell my friends a little bit about yourself.

I’m a flawed pastor’s wife on the search for grace. I’ve discovered a lot about God, others and myself along the way. I dote on my Boston Terrier, Jazzy, and love to find the humor in any given situation—even the trials. I’ve laughed. A lot. Grace (and Jazzy) have a lot to do with the ability to grin even when I’d rather groan or grit my teeth.

Will you share how you began your speaking and writing ministry?

I guess we can blame my profusion of words on my Mom. She says I pretty much came out of the womb talking, and soon after she helped me discover our public library. I’ve always been a words girl and started writing when I started writing—and haven’t looked back!

How did you come up with Grin with Grace?

All through my husband’s time in church ministry—over thirty years now—I’ve learned the importance of grinning with grace. So often, when I felt backed into a corner by a not-so-well-meaning church member, I found a way to bite my tongue: I told myself to grin with grace. It became my go-to phrase.

To organize the book, I searched for the word grace in Scripture and combined the results into different categories. I discovered how God blesses us with His grace, and the ways grace impacts our relationships with Him and others. Since life is more bearable with laughter, humorous transparency is woven into the fabric of this study. Hence—Grin with Grace.

I know from my own experience that God often qualifies us as authors by allowing us to gain life experience before we write on the topic. What happened to prepare you for writing Grin with Grace?

While writing this series, I dealt with multiple health issues, surgeries, cancer, and hospitalizations. At the same time, I moved to a different town and dove in to a new church ministry with my husband. Very little in life seemed familiar or comfortable. But God infused grace into each challenge and turned them into opportunities.

What will readers discover in Grin with Grace?Grin-With-Grace_cover

Grace isn’t meant to be hoarded. Once God blesses us with grace, we are then recruited to be instruments of His grace to others. Grin with Grace tells stories of real-life grace and gives suggestions for creating new grace moments for others. Learn how to become a Grace agent.

What are some of the events you have planned to go along with your Grin with Grace book? Event planners are welcome to contact me to find out more about these programs: Grace Gal Pal’s Night Out, Grin with Grace Banquet, Tea or Brunch, and the Grin with Grace Retreat.

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

If you’re serious about obtaining the writing goals God’s given you, then you have to act like the CEO of your own company and do the work of writing. If you treat it as a hobbyist, you will get hobby-like results. But when you treat it like a business, the industry will take you seriously. Take the time to do it right the first time rather than getting in a hurry. Ask yourself: “Am I in love with the idea of being a writer, or am I in love with actually writing?”

(Vonda here: Kathy didn’t tell you, so I will. Kathy also has a writers group she coaches called WordGirls. It’s a group customized to the needs of the members, and involves a variety of services: webinars, private Facebook discussion group, one-on-one coaching, critiques, weekend getaways, downloadable tutorials, monthly newsletter and more. Their next event is in Kentucky later in October. Contact Kathy if you’d like to hear more about WordGirls.)

Where can readers find your book?

Grin with Grace is published by AMG Publishing and can be found or requested anywhere books are sold.

So what’s on the horizon? Do you have another book in progress?

The next book in the Grin With…Bible Study Series is Grin with Joy. It’s set to release around March, 2016. I also have a book for speakers that released this year titled Speaker to Speaker: The Essential Speaker’s Companion.

Thank you for being with us today, Kathy. You gave us all a lot to think about and work on.

And friends, don’t forget to leave a comment for Kathy and you’ll be in the drawing for a free copy of her book!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00025]Readers, you can contact Kathy through:
Her website:
www.KathyCarltonWillis.com
Her Grin with Kathy Blog: http://www1.cbn.com/blog-grin-and-grow-with-kathy
Twitter: @KCWComm
Facebook: Kathy Carlton Willis
Facebook Groups: Grin with Kathy and Speaker to Speaker
To contact Kathy, please email her at: kathy@kathycarltonwillis.com

Bio: Kathy Carlton Willis writes and speaks with a balance of funny and faith—whimsy and wisdom. Not many funny girls also have Bible degrees! Kathy’s a pastor’s wife, which gives her plenty of opportunities to grin with grace. She shines the light on issues that hold women back and inspires their own lightbulb moments. Almost a thousand of Kathy’s articles have been published in books, magazines, newspapers and online publications. Kathy’s tagline describes her best: Light & Lively: His Reflection/Her Laughter. Kathy lives with her pastor/husband, Russ, in Rockdale, Texas.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Connections cover

Who won Edie Melson’s book, Connections: Social Media and Networking Techniques for Writers?

And the winner is…

Rene` Diane Aube!

Congratulations, Rene`! Just contact me with your mailing address and your book will be on it’s way!

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Thanks for Tweeting!

Can you grin through the gook of life? Grace can’t be hoarded! #Free book #amwriting @KCWComm via @VondaSkelton http://ow.ly/Sve09 (Click to Tweet)

Happy writing!

Vonda

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Nan Jones

Nan Jones new headshotFriends, it’s a joy to introduce my friend, author, speaker, and Christian Communicators speaker training graduate, Nan Jones, to you. Nan and I met many years ago when she attended one of the writing retreats Edie Melson and I used to lead in the beautiful North Carolina mountains. Since then we’ve watched her grow as a speaker and award-winning writer of The Perils of a Pastor’s Wife. We feel like proud mamas!

Be sure to leave a comment for Nan and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book. Don’t forget to return next week to see if you’re the winner. Now let’s hear from Nan!

Welcome, Nan! Let’s start by letting you tell us a little bit about yourself.

I live in the mountains of North Carolina. My home is a farmhouse built in 1895 with a much loved wrap-around porch, complete with rocking chairs and porch swing. I have three adult children and one grandchild. I served as a pastor’s wife for 31 years—a great honor—but these years of ministry were some of the most painful and difficult in my life, thus my book, The Perils of a Pastor’s Wife. When I’m not writing or preparing messages for my speaking ministry, you’ll find me gardening, crocheting, reading or sharing a cup of coffee with a friend.

Will you share how you began your speaking and writing ministry?

As a child I was an avid reader and have always enjoyed the power of story. I am also an artist. Around age ten, I realized I could put my two passions together and paint with my words. It seemed to ooze out of me. When I was twelve I made a list of my life goals. Writing a book was number one.

Throughout my life writing was a hobby— something I did, not something I was. But a pen and paper was never far from me.

In 1992 we were living in Tulsa, Oklahoma. While attending a ladies’ conference I felt overwhelmed by the Spirit of God. He quietly whispered deep in my spirit, Nan, look at these ladies surrounding you. Even as they lift their hands in praise to Me, many are hurting deep within. You will take My message of love to them. You will teach them of My faithfulness, especially during the struggles of life.Nan Jones Perils book cover

For eighteen years I waited. I used those years to develop my faith, to be available for anything the Lord asked of me albeit teaching Bible studies, leading women’s ministry, writing and sharing devotions … whatever He asked, I did while awaiting the appointed time.

About five years ago my husband and I went through an extensive period of unemployment. It was at that time that my husband encouraged me to pursue my dream of writing and speaking full-time.

As a reader of your blog and book, I can totally confirm that you paint with words. I have to remind myself that coveting your gift of lyrical, beautiful writing is wrong!

What was the impetus of writing this book?

Pastors’ wives often live in silent pain. We have struggles, we experience enormous amounts of rejection, and our hearts are often ripped in two through the lonely fires of ministry. That sounds harsh, I’m sure, but most pastors’ wives will agree with me. My heart’s cry is that the pastor’s wife will realize she is not alone—that someone understands how she feels. I want her to walk away from this book with renewed confidence in her calling, with healing deep in her wounded spirit, and the realization that in her darkest moments God was with her—He is faithful.

Yes He is. Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

The word that comes to mind is diligence. Be diligent in all things and write for an audience of One. Let it be an offering and leave the results up to Him, whether it reaches thousands or just a handful of people. God’s ways are not our ways. In that knowledge I can cease striving, but remain diligent.

Where can readers find your book?

The Perils of a Pastor’s Wife can be purchased on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

So what’s on the horizon? Do you have another book in progress?

Yes, I’m working on another non-fiction piece tentatively called SEEING BEYOND THE VEIL. It’s about learning to look for the evidence of God in our lives. When we’re going through a difficult time, it’s easy to think God has abandoned us, but I’ve learned that during our darkest moments, the Lord is closest—He is drawn to our pain. But we must open our eyes to see Him. I’m also working on a Bible study for small groups by the same title. In addition, I’ve created a Facebook community page with a similar purpose: Seeing Beyond the Veil.

Thank you for joining us today, Nan. I pray God’s continued blessing as you continue to bless others! And readers, don’t forget to leave a message for you. You could win a free book!

Nan Jones Perils endorsementReaders, you can contact Nan through:
Her website: www.NanJones.com
Her blog: Morning Glory
Twitter: @NanJonesAuthor
Facebook: Nan Trammell Jones
Facebook Community Page: Seeing Beyond the Veil (a place to find the nearness of God when you need Him most)
Pinterest: Nan Jones, Author
To contact Nan about a speaking event or prayer retreat, please visit her website or contact her directly at nan@jubilantlight.com

Bio: Nan Jones is an author/speaker who uses the words of her heart to assist fellow Christians in discovering the Presence of God in their darkest hour. Her devotional blog, Morning Glory, has become a place of community for Christians to find encouragement in God’s Word and comfort in His Presence. She has been published in several anthologies as well as the online inspirational sites Christian Devotions, and Inspire a Fire. Nan has also had the honor of being featured as a guest blogger on several sites. She is thrilled to announce her debut book, The Perils of a Pastor’s Wife released June 30, 2015 by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. When Nan is not writing, she enjoys leading prayer retreats, Bible studies or sharing God’s love as keynote speaker for special events. She is becoming known by her brand: “Even so, I walk in the Presence of the Lord” as she teaches her audience to go beyond the veil to find God’s Presence.

Thanks for Tweeting!

Are you a #pastorswife? Have you struggled with #hurts from the #church? Perils of a Pastor’s Wife is for you! @NanJones knows & understands. (Click to Tweet)

Happy reading and writing!

Vonda

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Amber Massey – From Rider to Writer

Amber Massey Headshot-with-Signature-199x300Hello, Christian Writer’s Den friends! I’m thrilled to have author and horsewoman Amber Massey as my guest today. Amber and I met years ago when our critique group was meeting at the restaurant she and her husband own. She overheard our conversation and before we knew it, we were all writing friends. She ended up sharing some of her writing with us (and we were blown away by her words!), then followed us to the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, and got her first contract!

Amber says the purpose of For the Love of Horses: Everyday Lessons From Life in the Saddle is to share the Gospel with horse lovers from all walks of life. She says, “As I share my story bit by bit, you will consistently see the spiritual truths I’ve learned along the way. You’ll laugh with me, cry and sometimes ask, ‘Why?’ but more than anything, I pray you get to know the heart of Christ better through the work He has done in this book.”

I know you’ll enjoy this interview, so be sure to leave a comment for Amber and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book!

Welcome, Amber! Let’s jump right in and get started. First, I’d love to hear about your history with horses. When did you start riding and when did you get your first horse?

I was that little girl who always wanted a horse, so I rode any chance I got…which was very seldom. In high school I took some lessons and showed a little, but once time for college came around, I was forced drop the reins. At 28 years old and married with a career, I rolled coins until I had enough cash in hand to drive to Tennessee and buy Marquise, my first horse.

I love your book about what you learned from horses. If you didn’t ride, do you think you would haveFor the Love of Horses-Compressed ever started writing?

No way. I’ve never been one to journal or write down my thoughts and feelings, so it wasn’t until God started filling my life with stories and inspiration that the ink hit the paper.

Why did you start writing?

When I was in college, my English professors encouraged me to write and consider it as a profession. At that point in my life I was dead-set on doing something I thought was more glamorous, so I never gave it a second thought. It took a treacherous fall with Marquise at the top of a waterfall for God to convince me His plans were greater than my own.

(Okay, readers, you have to pay attention to the wording of the next two questions!)

How has riding influenced your writing?

Not only did riding inspire my stories, but it also taught me how much joy can come from something that is so hard. I have a lot of stories about rough times Marquise and I have faced, but the joy that I’ve found on the other side of them makes it worth the struggle.

Marquise with his book3How has writing influenced your riding?

Now that I’ve started writing, I’m constantly looking for “horse lessons.” Sometimes I learn something that makes a great story, and sometimes I get a lesson that I dare not share. ;)

How do you stay motivated to ride and to write?

It’s easy to stay motivated to ride. It’s been a passion from the first My Little Pony I held in my tiny hands, but writing–that’s a different story. I love it, but it’s hard. Really hard. However, once I get to a quiet place and get into a zone, the words start pouring out faster than I can type. That experience alone is enough to keep me writing.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Finding the place where I can really lock into my characters and sort out their stories. We are all guilty of being too busy, and getting quiet is almost an impossibility in today’s fast-paced society. I have to be very intentional with my time and limit distractions in order to be productive.

What has writing allowed you to do that you may never have done otherwise?

I never would have had the bravery to share my faith with other horse lovers. If God can use a horse, a trail, and a tack room, He can use anything to show His love, and I’m thrilled He’s letting me be a part of His plan.

Do you have any advice for an aspiring rider or writer?Walking Under Tree-2

For the aspiring rider–find a good trainer or friend who will teach you the art of listening to your horse. So many horse “problems” can be fixed when we take time to understand and respect these magnificent animals.

For the aspiring writer—again, listen to those around you. If you are a gifted writer, or just enjoy putting your thoughts on paper, take time to learn the craft. Don’t discount what your writing may be used for.

I know that a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book For the Love of Horses: Everyday Lessons From Life in the Saddle will be donated to Brown Family Ministries. Who is the Brown Family and how will this money be used?

The Browns have been friends of ours for years, and when they were called into full-time ministry in 2009 as Brown Family Ministries, Inc. (501-c3), we came alongside them as supporters. Mark, Angie, Erin, Meagan, and Caleb travel near and far following the mission statement of BFM which is “Loving People to Christ.” Their musical talent has allowed them to lead worship at conferences for well-known speakers such as Jim Cymbala, Richard Blackaby, and Ken Ham, but true to their Mississippi roots, they haven’t forgotten the guys and girls of the cowboy culture. Their cowboy ministry has allowed them to serve within avenues such as the Professional Bucking Bull Association and most recently the Professional Bulls Riders. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of For the Love of Horses will be donated to BFM to encourage them as they continue to reach the people of the rural culture we love so much.

Press Kit 1Amber, thank you for being with us today and sharing your story of going to Rider to Writer. I know many have been touched by your words.

And friends, be sure to leave a comment for Amber and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book. Don’t forget to check back next week and see if you’re the winner!

Bio: Amber H. Massey is a passionate equestrian and author with an innate gift of storytelling. The clarity of her voice draws readers into her world and is a pleasant surprise for anyone who comes in contact with her personal stories. In her first book For the Love of Horses: Everyday Lessons from Life in the Saddle, Amber shares the spiritual truths she’s learned through loving horses and life on a farm. When Amber isn’t riding or writing, she works alongside her husband, Jeff, in their family-owned restaurant in Greenville, SC. Home is a five-acre farm, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. For more information about Amber and her writing and riding, visit her website at www.AmberHMassey.com or by email at amber (@) amberhmassey (dot) com

Thanks for Tweeting!

From Rider to Writer – For the Love of #Horses – #FreeBook @AmberHMassey via @VondaSkelton (Click to Tweet)

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Aleta You and Kudos & MoGo7000 Totals

Aleta You headshotHello, dear friends! I hope you’re staying cool and comfortable on this hot, hot 2nd Tuesday of July. This heat reminds me of the August I met today’s guest, Aleta You, at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference several years ago. It was miserable outside, but what a great conference week. Aleta and I met when she took my How to Develop a Speaking Ministry to Women continuing class. Today she’s here to share her writing journey and her new book, Biblical Solutions for Daily Living – Developing a Vital and Personal Relationship with God.

Remember to leave a comment for Aleta and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book!

So let’s get started, Aleta. What inspired you to write your book Biblical Solutions for Daily Living – Developing a Vital and Personal Relationship with God?

The idea for this book had been floating around in my head for quite some time. Following a painful divorce after 29 years of marriage, writing became a catharsis for me and a way to cope with a difficult emotional period in my life. I had studied the Bible in 1984 and was struck by the practical application that God’s Word has to deal with every challenge in life. For me, writing was a way to practically apply God’s Word in helping me deal with and overcome the pain that I was experiencing.

I love how God redeems the hardships of life by using them to help us grow. Tell us a little about your book and the main points that you would like your readers to come away with.

The main thesis is that whatever challenges you are going through, God’s Word has answers that can bring wholeness to your life. The over arching theme is that we are in a spiritual competition and we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood but “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). In spite of a formidable spiritual enemy, and the challenges in life that we encounter, God has fully equipped us with all that we need to stand and withstand against our spiritual adversary, the Devil.

He certainly does! I know firsthand that the real writing life isn’t as many perceive it to be. What were some of the challenges you faced in writing your book?

One of the biggest challenges I faced was procrastination. Another challenge was self doubt. I had to remind myself that I was in a spiritual competition and that I was battling with the accuser who didn’t want me to write the book.

A third challenge was in sharing some personal experiences in my life. As a former college professor and a senior administrator in higher education, I was used to writing for the academic profession. A colleague, who read earlier drafts of my work, kept on saying that my writing was too “academic.” I had to put more of myself into the examples I gave so that my writing would communicate and touch people’s lives. Exposing my vulnerability and limitations allowed people to relate to a real person whom they could connect with.Aleta You BookCoverImage

You ended up self publishing your book through Create Space. I would love to know more about that process and why you decided to go with an independent publishing company.

I believe a writer has to weigh the pros and cons of going with a commercial publishing company and an independent company such as Create Space. I submitted my manuscript to only four commercial publishing companies and was turned down. Based on other writer’s experiences, that is not a high number of submissions or rejections. In the end, I decided that I wanted to focus on my writing and went with Create Space. I have been very happy with an independent publisher and found their team to be talented, knowledgeable, and professional individuals.

I’m so glad to hear you had a good experience, Aleta. Any final words of advice for an aspiring writer?

Everyone has at least one book residing within them. When God puts an idea on your heart, He expects you to follow through and write about it. You don’t want to be like the man in Mathew 25:25 who was afraid and buried his talent. We want to glorify God through our writing and reconcile men and women back to God’s Word.

Aleta, thank you for being with us today and giving us a peek into your writing experience. And readers, be sure to leave a comment and then return next week to see if you’re the winner of Aleta’s book!

Thanks for Tweeting…Sharing is sweet!

Interview & Book give-away w/Aleta You. Win a #free book! @VondaSkelton #BibleStudy #pubtips (Click to Tweet)

Bio: Dr. Aleta You has been studying the Bible as well as countless philosophers and religious theologians since 1984. Her life’s efforts and spiritual journey have informed her beliefs and now serve as an inspiration and guide to finding the powerful potential of God and His Word, which she shares in Biblical Solutions for Daily Living – Developing a Vital and Personal Relationship with God.

During the past 32 years as an academic in both teaching and in the administration of university education, Dr. You was an Associate Professor and Director of Student Teaching at Incarnate Word College, Assistant Director of the Teacher Preparation Program at Princeton University and was a senior administrator at Rutgers University. After a productive and fulfilling career, Dr. You retired from Rutgers University in July 2013 and moved to Parker, Colorado. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Bradley University, her master’s degree from the University of Hawaii, her PhD from Arizona State University, and did her postdoctoral work at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. You serves as a Bible Household Fellowship Coordinator and continues to  study, research, and teach the Bible. Learn more about Aleta at her website, www.aletayou.com where she posts a monthly blog. She can also be reached at amhyou@gmail.com.

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Kudos to these Christian Writer’s Den friends…

These writers have been hard at work…and we want to celebrate with them!

1.  Margery Warder: My husband and I were able to sponsor a recent “Missional” Christian Writers Retreat in Oklahoma. Several established authors and speakers voluntarily participated to encourage and assist others interested in using writing or speaking as part of their expression of their relationship with Jesus Christ.

2.  Cyn Rogalski (PA): I won the Thistle Award at St. David’s CWC! It’s given for beautiful
writing with a point-less than 250 words! Link to the Facebook post is–
https://www.facebook.com/StDavidsWriters/photos/pb.140153497943.-2207520000.1436317465./10152937518512944/?type=3&theater

3.  Tammy Whitehurst (TX): I run a daily Facebook devotional 5 days a week at TammyWhitehurst.com.
And I am giving God the glory and the praise for a completely booked speaking schedule through April of 2016. I also love working with my new agent, Karen Power! I recently had work published with Standard Publishing in their Fall 2015 Sunday School curriculum as well as their devotionals.

4.  Cheryl Barker (KS): My piece “Propelled by Mother Love” appeared in the Spring 2015 issue
of The Lutheran Digest.

5.  Gail Cartee (SC): My haiku was accepted by haikujournal.org. (Vonda here: Just wanted to let y’all know Gail found that writing opportunity here at The Christian Writer’s Den!)

Congratulations to all our writers for their successes! Be sure to check back next week when I’ll share a brand new collection of writing opportunities for you!

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Will one of these MoGo7000 Qualifiers win $100?

Congratulations to these writers who earned another chance to win $100 at the end of the year!

#6: Susan Baganz – 26,242 words
#7: Tim Suddeth – 9,735 words

Have y’all noticed that these writers have a VERY good chance of winning $100? Don’t be left out! Check out the MoGo7000 Challenge guidelines to see how YOU might be a winner. It’s all free!

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Thanks for Tweeting…Sharing is sweet!

Celebrate w/Christian Writer’s Den successes – Kudos & MoGo7000 @VondaSkelton #amwriting #pubtips (Click to Tweet)

Thank you for joining me today. I hope your time has been encouraging to you as a writer and a lover of Christ!

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Laurie Coombs: Letters From My Father’s Murderer, & Who Won Tammy Blackburn’s Book?

Laurie Coombs Round HeadshotToday is the 5th Tuesday, and that means that I’m free to do whatever I want on the Christian Writer’s Den blog. Well, today I want to introduce you to Laurie Coombs and her new book!

(I know this post is longer than usual, but this is a powerful message for all of us, so I pray you’ll stay with me as we work through this amazing testimony. You won’t be sorry.)

Laurie and I met in August 2014 when she attended the Christian Communicators Conference at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, NC. I immediately fell in love with her contagious smile and engaging manner. Little did I know the horrendous heartache she had been through. And now I’ve asked her to share her journey with you. So sit back, open your heart and hear how–through the power of the Holy Spirit–one young woman changed not only her own heart, but a murderer’s heart as well.

And as always, be sure to leave a comment for our guest and you’ll be in the drawing for a free copy of Laurie’s book.

Welcome to the Christian Writer’s Den, Laurie. Let’s start with this question: Why did you want to write Letters from My Father’s Murderer, which details such a tragic and painful part of your life?

To be honest, I didn’t initially want to write this book. I wanted to share my story, but I knew that writing it in a book would require me to bare all. I knew I’d have to share difficult things, and I didn’t want to. But greater than my resistance was my desire to see people experience freedom and redemption and healing as I had. I wanted God to be glorified for what He had done in and through my life.

I knew God was calling me to write this book. And I knew God well enough to know that if I answered that call I’d most assuredly see lives change as a result of the message He has given me. God allowed me to see that good could come out of the ashes of my past. That I could play a small part in the grand story He has been unfolding since the beginning of time. That I could participate in what He’s doing in the here and now, for the good of many. And so, I chose to say yes, and of course, I’m now completely on board.Laurie Coombs book cover

Tell us about the significance of the few interactions you had with your father just prior to his murder.

About one month before my dad died, he said, “Laurie, when I die, I want people to remember me for who I am. I don’t want anyone turning me into something I’m not.” The comment sort of stunned me at first. It came out of absolutely nowhere. My dad continued to tell me that people only want to talk about the good parts of a person after they die. “But that’s not who they really are,” he said. “There are good parts and bad parts to every one of us.”

For many years, I didn’t understand why my dad had said that to me––obviously, neither one of us knew he was going to die––but as I began to write this book, his words came to mind, and I knew, without a doubt, that God had him speak those words to me, over a decade before I needed them, to give me the freedom to share my story however God may lead.

You’re very honest in the book about the mistakes your father made and how that affected your teen years and even your choice to reject the faith you had been raised in. Was that difficult for you to do?

Absolutely. I had to do a lot of thinking and praying about how to write what God wanted me to write. But ultimately, I knew God was calling me to truth. My dad was an amazing man. A wonderful father. I really was a daddy’s girl. But he wasn’t perfect. And neither am I. It’s my hope that I conveyed my imperfections throughout the book as well.

Laurie Coombs Not-My-Plan-269x404Almost immediately after learning about your father’s death, you say the hate for his killer began to fill your heart. How did that hatred affect you?

My hatred affected just about everything I thought and did at first. Anger consumed me. But then after several months, I chose to lay aside my anger and my grief. I knew my dad wouldn’t have wanted me to live like that, and so I deliberately chose to put the whole terrible thing behind me and move on.

I didn’t see the affects of anger on the surface after that, and I honestly thought I had worked through it, but in reality, I had simply buried it. For years, that anger festered in my heart and turned into bitterness without me even knowing it until the day God brought it to my attention nine years after the murder.

You began to build a lovely life with your family in the years following the trial, and appeared very strong. What happened that finally brought you to the point where you turned to the Lord?

I fell apart. God presented me with something I couldn’t fix. Anxiety and depression finally brought me to my knees, and for the first time in my life, I couldn’t fix myself. I couldn’t pull myself up by my bootstraps, so to speak, as I had many times before. I had fallen into such an incredibly dark place, and I was scared. I tried everything the world tells you to do, but nothing worked. So as a last resort, I found my way to church.

My family and I willingly walked through those church doors with an incredible sense of desperation. God was truly my last hope, but even though I desperately wanted Him to be the answer, I was highly skeptical that He would be. The concept of God speaking to man was so foreign to me, but having that pastor preach a message to my inner thoughts got my attention. It was enough to draw me back the next week and the week after that and the one after that, but each time, I fully expected the God-thing to be a fluke. But it wasn’t. Over and over again, God showed Himself to me in many ways, and I was given the proof that I needed to believe.

What made you decide to begin corresponding with your father’s killer? What did you hope would Laurie Coombs Would-I-obeycome from it?

God had freed me from the anxiety and depression after coming to Jesus, but then He began to show me that I was irritable pretty much all the time. He showed me that the root of my irritability was anger, which had ultimately turned into bitterness.

I prayed, asking God to remove the bitterness in my heart, and that’s when I heard His gentle whisper tell me, “It’s time to forgive.” But then He took it a step further with “Love your enemy.” God’s call to forgive and love my enemy resulted in the my correspondence with the man who murdered my dad. Initially, I wasn’t sure what would come out of our interaction, but I did know where God was taking me. I knew He was leading me toward forgiveness and healing. I didn’t know what that journey would look like, but I knew wherever I ended up would be a good place.

And you were finally able to forgive. Tell us about that.

Forgiveness came when I least expected it. My correspondence with the man had gotten heated. He was blame-shifting and justifying, and I was obviously not okay with that. All I wanted to do was rebuke him, and I almost did, but instead, God said to me, “Laurie, leave him to me. Now forgive.” And I did. But it wasn’t of me. God called me and enabled me to give that which I had already been given: grace and love and forgiveness.

After I forgave, God brought him to his knees. All the blame-shifting, all the justification stopped. He began taking complete responsibility for what he had done, and he was repentant. And ever since that time, I have witnessed this man share the gospel of Jesus Christ subtly, yet powerfully, with his fellow inmates. Lives are changing in there. He truly is living to the glory of God in that prison.

Laurie Coombs book signingWhat a powerful testimony! So what is at the heart of the message?

Hope is at the heart of my message. God truly has worked all things for good in my life. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” The first part of Genesis 50:20 says, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” God brings good out of evil. Love out of hate. Peace out of despair. I believe it is His desire to do this for every one of us. You see, our pain won’t be wasted. We don’t have to sit in it. If we bring our pain, past and present, to God, He will redeem it.

Yes, He will. Thank you for being with us today, Laurie. But before we go, I want to tell our readers that your story was blessed to be part of Billy Graham’s latest film and evangelistic tool, Heaven. Friends, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch.

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Don’t forget to leave a comment for Laurie and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book. Be sure to return next week to see if you’re the winner!

Bio: Laurie Coombs is a passionate writer and speaker on the issues of forgiveness, redemption, and the hope found in Jesus. She is the author of Letters from My Father’s Murderer: A Journey of Forgiveness, an incredible true story of grace, mercy, and the redemptive power of God. Her story was featured in Billy Graham’s film, Heaven. Laurie is a graduate of Christian Communicators Conference and a featured writer and blogger for iBelieve.com and Crosswalk.com. Laurie and her husband, Travis, make their home in Nevada along with their two daughters, Ella and Avery. Be sure to visit LaurieCoombs.org or connect with Laurie on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Thanks for Tweeting…Sharing is sweet…

Letters From My Father’s Murderer: A Journey of #Forgiveness – #FreeBook @LaurieCoombs via @VondaSkelton http://bit.ly/1U1tfOM (Click to Tweet)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Tammy Blackburn book cover

Who won Tammy Blackburn’s children’s book, How Do I Know?

And Random.org says the winner is…

Julie Garmon!

Congratulations, Julie! Simply contact me with your snail mail address and Tammy will get your book right out to you!

And for those who didn’t win…I know you want a copy for the little ones in your life, so here’s a direct Amazon link to How Do I Know?

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Well, that does it for another 5th Tuesday here at the Christian Writer’s Den. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! So now, go write the words He gives YOU to write!

Vonda

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