Tag Archives: Vonda Skelton

Parting Words From The WORD…Grace to Come Back Home, Part 3

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been looking at grace, particularly the concept of finding the grace to come back home. These conversations began after my pastor, Larry Scott, led a sermon series on this very subject. As I’ve mentioned before, the outline points are taken from his sermon, but I’m adding some details and insights I feel the Lord has given me to share. I pray this has been an encouragement for all of us. Click to find The Grace to Come Back Home, Part 1 and The Grace to Come Back Home, Part 2.

Here’s Part 3 of Grace to Come Back Home: There is No Condemnation for Those Who Belong to Christ

Let’s face it, sometimes it’s hard to come back home to the Father. Disappointment, confusion, and/or despair are often reasons for the separation, but they don’t have to continue to keep us separated from Him.

We must remember there can be consequences for leaving God behind: We lose fellowship with the Father and the Body, we lose rewards and joy. Those losses are clear and evident, but do we realize we can cause others to lose as well? When we fall away, we lose our effectiveness as His children, possibly becoming a stumbling block in their own walk with God.

But regardless of how far we fall away, we can be confident in the fact that God’s door will always be open. As Pastor Larry said, God will never reject His children when they come back to Him. Here are some of the reasons. (There are many verses to support these points. I only include a very few.)

1.  Grace is unconditional.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail. Lamentations 3:22 (NIV)

2.  Salvation is not based on performance.

…he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit…. Titus 3:5 (NIV)

3.  Jesus already took the punishment for our sin. Punishment is retribution for the past; discipline is training for the future.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8 (NIV)

4.  Jesus understands our weakness. He’s not waiting to zap us.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:15 (NIV)

 

5.  He doesn’t hold on to grudges. This truth is beautifully demonstrated in Peter’s life. After Peter had so blatantly denied Jesus three times, Jesus’ response to Peter after His resurrection was one of love and forgiveness.

After His resurrection, Jesus reinstated and encouraged Peter in John 21:15-19 by asking him three times, “Peter, do you love me?” In each incidence, Peter replied that yes, he loved Jesus. Jesus’ three responses were: “Feed my lambs.” “Take care of my sheep.” “Feed my sheep.” In other words, Jesus was giving Peter the encouragement he needed to step out in faith again. And as the book of Acts clearly shows us, Peter–the same one who denied Jesus three times–boldly goes forth to preach powerful messages of conviction, forgiveness, and grace through the blood of Jesus Christ.

We started this series with Peter and we end it with him. Peter is you, and he is me. Although he loved the Lord, Peter, a disciple and one of the most intimate of Christ’s friends, not only fell out of fellowship with Jesus, but turned his back on him as well. But praise God, even when Peter was out of fellowship, his relationship with Christ wasn’t over.

And neither is ours. Broken fellowship does not mean broken relationship with Him. His grace never ends.

There have been times in my life when I’ve fallen far from God, but praise Him, I can never fall so far that I can’t find my way to come back home.

All we have to do is turn around, and He’ll be there. Arms outstretched, ready to receive me back into fellowship with Him.

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

Vonda

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Cindy Sproles, Author of Mercy’s Rain

Cindy Sproles headshot 2Wow, wow, wow. Friends, have I got an interview for you! Today’s guest is my long-time friend, author, speaker, and Christian Communicators grad, Cindy Sproles. Cindy and I met years ago at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, and she’s been a dear friend ever since. You may know Cindy as director of Writer’s Advance Boot Camp or through ChristianDevotions.us or Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, but now I introduce her a master storyteller of unforgettable fiction. I’ve never read a book like her new novel, Mercy’s Rain. Never.

There were many important aspects to discuss related to this unusual book, and with having a 5th Tuesday this month, this was the perfect time to do a two-part interview. Be sure to leave a comment for Cindy and you’ll be in the drawing for a copy of Mercy’s Rain. Then return next week for Part 2.  And yes, if you post comments both weeks, you get TWO entries! (Be sure to return April 7 to see if you’re the winner.)

Okay, let’s get started. Welcome Cindy! You have a long career writing and teaching writing. Congratulations on your debut novel! Tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing.

Thanks for having me. I’m a true born and raised mountain girl. Raised in the mountains of East Tennessee. I started writing seriously in my mid-40s. I always knew I wanted to write but I never afforded myself the privilege. I had a family, two jobs . . . there just didn’t seem to be time for frivolous ventures. But God piqued my interest, then called me. I listened, attended my first conference and the rest is history.

I know we didn’t talk about this, Cindy, but I want to include the back cover blurb for Mercy’s Rain so readers can get insight into the overall story. I hope you don’t mind. 

Mercy Roller was raised by a twisted father who wore the collar of a Pastor, and chose to be Jesus, judge, and jury, by his own appointment. Abused, broken and bitter, Mercy lifts the hand that takes the Pastor’s life. In one swift action, she becomes what she despises most about the Pastor. Now she seeks redemption. Can the unconditional love of a mountain preacher and his friends, guide Mercy to find peace?

Having read your book, I’m dying to know how you came up with the idea for Mercy’s Rain.

Funny what goes through your mind at 3 a.m. I had the title for Mercy’s Rain long before I had the story. But one morning I couldn’t sleep so I flipped on the television and got one of the old time, down home, spittin’ and hollerin’ preachers. It made me laugh, but I thought, “Wouldn’t he make a great bad guy?” I turned the channel and landed on a documentary (which to this day I still do not know the title of) but it was on sexual abuse in children under 7 years of age. It broke my heart. The more I thought on it the more I realized the perfect storm had formed. Mercy Roller was born.

You wear so many hats, how do you protect your personal writing time?Cindy Sproles Mercys Rain cover

Sometimes it’s hard. Between the ministry of Christian Devotions, the devotions that pour in, project management for LPC and editing, it gets testy. But I’ve learned, you make the time. And I do. When I write on my own, it’s restful for me. I do wear many hats, and I find myself not always having the sympathy for writers who whine they just don’t have time. If you love to write, and you know that is your calling – and you are serious — you make the time to be obedient and write. Folks make time for everything else. This is no exception. (I’m on my soapbox, aren’t I? Sorry.)

Was the transition from non-fiction to fiction an easy or challenging one for you?

It wasn’t hard, but it was different. I wanted to do fiction right and so I studied the fiction writers I love, Alton Gansky, Steven James, Ann Tatlock, Yvonne Lehman, Nicholas Sparks, DiAnn Mills, Francine Rivers. These folks are masters of the art. I’ve taken their classes at conferences, sucked in everything they taught, and it paid off. It was an adjustment to write fiction. I fell into all the first time fiction writers blunders, but I quickly learned. So it wasn’t hard, but it took practice. I still feel like I need practice. Fiction is a fun place to go to let go of all your inner fears, wild ideas, and imaginary friends. Just put them in a story.

Why did you choose the particular theme in Mercy’s Rain? What do you want your readers to gain from the book?

First off, Mercy’s Rain was not geared to the Christian Market. I wrote it to the secular market. There were a number of things I wanted to accomplish:

1) I wanted to thread the underlying idea of redemption and its availability to everyone. The Christian world’s television evangelists falling to sin and bearing it in a very public manner gave me an easy “in” to the secular market. That market of readers tend to call Christians hypocrites, so why not capitalize on their already established ideas? By their standards, who doesn’t love to hate a preacher?

Cindy Sproles booksigning2) I wanted to address two difficult subjects. The first to the Christian market: Worship your God Almighty, not your preacher. I’ve seen so many congregations crumble because they put their faith in the man, not God. I wanted to address this issue. Let me be clear. I don’t have a vendetta against ministers. I went to Bible College and married a minister. But I do want people to understand that preachers are men . . . men who can be equally as tempted, who can fall to sin, just like everyone else. I also want folks to know that just because they are preachers doesn’t mean they can’t have the same redemption you and I get. It’s a balance. And one that can easily tip either direction.

The other topic was one of child abuse. I was just broken-hearted to watch that documentary that morning and see infants murdered from the cruelty of their abusers. Maybe I could address it with a deep passion through the eyes of my character Mercy Roller. We see and hear about these types of abuse on a daily basis, but we choose to look the other way. I don’t want you to look the other way. I want you to be aware that these horrible things happen and it’s up to us to help find a way to stop it. I’ve had a lot of folks blast me over this subject. “How could someone who calls themselves a Christian be warped enough to write such trash?” My case in point. We don’t want to see this horrible state of affairs.

My husband and I watched a show called In an Instant this week. It was a horrible story of spousal abuse. Half way through the show I was in tears. This stuff REALLY happens. It wasn’t a figment of this poor woman’s imagination. She was nearly killed. So call me warped if you like, but Christian or not, we have to open our eyes to this and become active in working together with authorities, doctors, and support groups, to find legal and appropriate ways to combat abuse to both women and children.

3) Finally, I wanted the world to understand that Christians ask God the same questions – Why do you allow these horrible things to happen? But it is through our deeper relationship with Him that we see God is present in every situation. That’s what sets us apart. Faith, trust in the higher power of Christ. God doesn’t create the sin, but He is ever present, even when we do not see the reasons why. I feel sure God cries at the atrocities some can concoct.

My goodness, Cindy, I can’t imagine how difficult it was to go through the emotion of writing Mercy’s Rain. Thank you for your faithfulness to bring such difficult subjects to the forefront for Christian readers.

Friends, I hope you’ll return next week to see the conclusion of this interview as we see more of the hows and whys Cindy wrote Mercy’s Rain as she did.

AND there’ll be a special gift for everyone who returns next week–you don’t want to miss it!

Thanks for Tweeting!

I’m sorry but Twitter and/or ClickToTweet are on the blink this morning, so here’s a Tweet you can copy and paste into Twitter, if you would, please. Thank you!

You’ve never read a novel like Cindy Sproles’ Mercy’s Rain! @CindyDevoted #BookGiveaway @VondaSkelton #MustRead http://bit.ly/1ELi2tB

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Parting Words From The WORD…Grace to Come Back Home, Part 2

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Last week I shared the first part of Grace to Come Back Home, based on a series of sermons my pastor, Larry Scott, has been bringing to our church body. If you missed it, I hope you’ll check out that post first, titled 4 Causes for Falling Away From God. This week we’re looking at the symptoms associated with becoming separated from God.

5 Symptoms of Falling Away From God

Today we’ll take the next step by evaluating our own lives for the symptoms of falling away. Please note that much of the outline is taken from my pastor’s sermon, but most of today’s commentary is taken from my own experiences of life in evangelical churches.

1.  We stop giving. We take the tithe hostage, using it as leverage to try to get our way. We act as if it’s our money, when in truth, it’s all His. 

2.  We stop spiritual disciplines. Have we stopped seeking His face in prayer and studying His Word? Are we avoiding His answers and turning a deaf hear to His voice? If we can avoid Him on an ongoing basis, we are treading on dangerous ground.

3.  We find fault, we complain about everything, and become dissatisfied with the people, places, and things of God. Let’s face it, it’s much easier to point to others as the reasons for our problems than it is to take responsibility for ourselves. A Christian who is on a continuous fault-finding, disgruntling mission is very likely a person who is falling away from God.

4.  We disconnect. We stop spending time together as part of the church body; we resign from roles and ministries; we avoid Sunday School, choir practice, and ministry opportunities.

5.  We leave. We leave the fellowship. We leave the church. We may even be at risk for leaving Christianity. Yes, sometimes God really does take us in a new direction, at a new church. That’s not what we’re talking about here. In the case of falling away from God, leaving the church can actually mean we’re leaving God. Perhaps we left Him behind long ago.

Yes, I’m the first to admit that many of these things can be evidence of a problem at a specific church, rather than evidence of falling away from God. But the difference is in the heart, it’s the motivation. I’ve had friends in churches who have truly felt led to leave the local church for whatever reason, and they’ve gone on to grow in the Lord and work hard for the Kingdom.

But let’s face it, sometimes we’re deceived by the evil one. He leads us to blame the church, the pastor, the leadership, the programs, and everything else related to the church, when in truth, he’s enticing us to run from God.

And then there are other times when these complaints are simply our excuses, providing culturally-acceptable rationale to withhold our money, stop our study, complain, disconnect from the body, and leave the church…when in reality, our motivations, and perhaps our secret sins, are compelling us to leave God behind.

Do you find yourself struggling in one or more of these areas? If I’m honest, I have to admit that sometimes it’s easy to fall into them, completely unaware that Satan is the one holding the reins.

Living the Christian life means we must continually evaluate our hearts and examine our relationships with the Lord. After all, the first step to receiving His grace is knowing who and where we are. The second is reaching out and taking hold of the grace to come back home.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10

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

Vonda

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Writing Opportunities, Contests, & Conferences Just for You, and Who Won Donn Taylor’s Book?

Dollar sign morguefileIt’s the 3rd Tuesday, and time to offer writing opportunities, collected just for you!

Be sure to follow all guidelines carefully and then let us know if it leads to success. We’d love to celebrate with you!

1.  Writer Beware Blog, a publishing industry watchdog group, is looking for guest bloggers. Check out the Writer Beware Guest Blogger Guidelines here.

2.  Back to College is a news and information resource for adult re-entry students pursuing professional development or an advanced degree.

3.  The Atlanta Tribune Magazine–Black Atlanta’s No. 1 resource for information on business and the business lifestyle. Atlanta Tribune’s writer’s guidelines here.

4.  Diabetes Self-Management–Brings you the information you need to control your diabetes and improve your health. Diabetes Self-Management writer’s guidelines here.

5.  HILLERMAN MYSTERY SHORT STORY CONTEST--Submission deadline June 1, 2015. Sponsored by St. Martin’s Press and WORDHARVEST, the Tony Hillerman Prize is awarded annually for the best first mystery set in the Southwest.

6.  Greeting Card guidelines:

7.  ADOPTIVE FAMILIES–Adoptive Families is the leading information resource for families before, during, and after adoption. The award-winning national bimonthly magazine provides independent, authoritative adoption information in an accessible and reader-friendly format. Adoptive Families Writer’s Guidelines here.

8.  EARLY AMERICAN LIFE–Since 1970 Early American Life has been the source for information on early American style, decorating, and traditions. In addition, we cover both antiques and reproductions made by crafters working in period styles with traditional tools. We do it with our own style–we aim to entertain as well as educate. We also feature stories on gardening with a focus on early America. A one-page story in Early American Life, such as Worth Seeing, runs about 750 words. A typical feature may run 2,500 words. We would estimate $500 for a first feature from a new writer, more if you are an experienced, skillful writer. If we assign a story to you, we will negotiate the rate before you begin work.

9.  Catholic Digest writer’s guidelines

10. GEMINI FLASH FICTION CONTEST–Deadline March 31, 2015. ENTRY FEE $5. Grand prize: $1,000. Both new and established writers are welcome.

11. Writer’s Digest Writing Competitions

12. Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and BelieversTrust Announce “Beyond the Steeple Award”

Thanks for Tweeting!
Writing opportunities, contests, & conferences from @VondaSkelton #amwriting #pubtip (Click to Tweet)

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Next up: Conferences to help you grow as a writer and/or speaker

Conference Room fdp Pixomar
1.  Weekend with the Writers: March 20-21, 2015, Greenville, SC

2.  Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference: March 25-31, 2015, Felton, CA

3.  Write2Ignite Conference for Writers of Children’s Literature: March 27-28, 2015, Tigerville, SC

4.  Orange County Christian Writers ConferenceApril 24-25, 2015, Santa Ana, CA

5.  Writing Success XXIV: April 25, 2015, Stoneboro, PA

6.  Colorado Christian Writers Conference: May 13-16, 2015, Estes Park, CO

7.  Northwest Christian Writers Renewal: May 15-16, 2015, Redmond, WA

8.  Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference: May 17-21, 2015, Ridgecrest, NC (I’ll be there and would love to see you there!)

9.  Write To Publish: June 3-6, 2015, Wheaton, IL

10. West Virginia Writers Conference: June 12-14, 2015, Ripley, WV

11. St. David’s Christian Writers’ Conference: June 24-28, 2015, Grove City, PA

12. Kentucky Christian Writers Conference: June 25-27, 2015, Elizabethtown, KY

13. Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference: July 29-August 1, 2015, Langhorne, PA

14. Atlanta’s Christian Writing Conference: August 20-22, 2015, Marietta, GA

15. Christian Communicators Conference: Registration opened March 1st and we only have two spots left! Scholarships available, deadline April 1. (I would love to see you there!)

16. American Christian Fiction Writers Conference: September 17-20, 2015, Dallas, TX

17. Breathe Christian Writers Conference: October 9-10, 2015, Grand Rapids, MI

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And who won Donn Taylor’s new book, Lightning on a Quiet Night?

According to Random.org, the winner is…

Tammy Whitehurst!

Congratulations, Tammy. All you need to do it contact me with your snail mail address and Donn will send his book right out to you!

And for those who didn’t win, here’s a direct Amazon link to Donn Taylor’s Lightning on a Quiet Night.

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Well, I think that does it for another episode of Writing Opps, Contests, and Conferences. I hope it helps you find success on your writing and speaking journey!

Write on!

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD…Grace to Come Back Home Part 1

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

I think I’ve already mentioned that my pastor, Larry Scott, is leading us in a study of grace. And although I’ve been studying God’s Word for many years, it’s been an eye-opening experience for me. I’ve been reminded how easily we can become deceived.

Week after week Pastor Larry has taught messages that prick my heart, prompting a weekly self-evaluation. I didn’t like what I saw. Over the next few Fridays I’m going to share a few of those points. Then I ask you to look at your own life and heart, and see if He reveals something unexpected to you.

God’s Amazing Grace—Grace to Come Back Home, Part 1 (Based on Pastor Larry Scott’s messages)

4 Causes of Falling Away From God, from Peter’s experience

1.  Overconfidence in our spiritual lives. As Jesus shared with His disciples that they would betray Him, Peter proclaimed even if all betrayed Him, he would not, even if it meant Peter’s death. (Mark 14:27-31)

Overconfidence in our own ability to resist sin is a set-up for falling hard. The very thing that we feel strong about could be the very thing Satan will use to tear us down and ruin our testimony.

If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. 1 Corinthians 10:12 (NLT)

2.  Spiritual laziness. Jesus asked Peter, James, and John to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, stating that His soul was “…overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Jesus left them, went deeper into the garden, and cried out to the Father for the cup to pass from Him. Luke 22:44 says He prayed so desperately that He sweat drops of blood. Then, as you know, Jesus returned to find them asleep more than once. (Mark 14:32-42)

Jesus cried out on our behalf and sacrificed His life for our sin, and yet, we’re often too lazy to study His Word, fellowship with the Body in worship, and gather for Sunday School. We’re essentially pruning away His desires and grafting in our own.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. Hebrews 12:1 (NLT)

3.  Fear of Disapproval. After Jesus was arrested, Peter—the one who said he would die for Him—followed at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. Later, he even denies knowing Jesus…just as Jesus had proclaimed hours earlier. (Mark 14:54a and 66-72)

We say we will die for Jesus, and yet, we often are quiet and won’t stand up to be counted for Him before His enemies and/or our peers.

Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. Luke 9:26 (NIV)

4.  We want a convenient faith. Peter not only followed the crowd at a distance into the courtyard of the high priest, but once there, he sat with the Roman guards, warming himself by the fire. Yes, Peter may have been cold, but isn’t that a small inconvenience for one who said he would die for Jesus? (Mark 14:54b)

How often to we turn from the proddings or even the commands of Jesus, simply because it isn’t convenient? We’re too tired, too self-centered, too important to reach out to others in ministry. It’s just too inconvenient to do what He’s commanded us to do: To love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV)

So, where do you find yourself when you compare yourself to Peter and consider grace? As I said, I didn’t like what I found. I–like Peter–can think too highly of myself, confident in my ability to resist sin. I’m often lazy and weak in the face of disapproval, submitting to a faith of convenience. My prayer today is that each of us will be truly committed to whatever God calls us to…regardless of the cost. After all, it cost Jesus His very life.

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Please pray for my cousins, Bobby and Zach

I have two very seriously ill cousins who need your prayers. Bobby has an unbelievably large brain tumor and will be starting chemo and radiation next week. Another cousin, Zach, is only in his 30′s and has an aggressive form of early onset Parkinson’s Disease. We need two miracles in our family. Thank you for your prayers.

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

Vonda

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Interview and Book Give-Away with Donn Taylor & We’re Celebrating Kudos!

Donn Taylor portraits 12/7/07First, let me introduce Donn Taylor…

I can’t remember the year, but I’ll never forget the sight. I was at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, walking through the lobby, when I saw Donn and Mildred Taylor for the first time. They walked toward me, holding hands like high school sweethearts. It didn’t take long to realize that I would rarely see them when they weren’t holding hands!. Once I even walked into my classroom to discover Donn at the piano, Mildred listening intently in a chair, eyes closed. They were both enjoying the music and each other. It was beautiful.

I wondered if Gary and I would still be holding hands when we’ve been married that long. So far we are!

So today I’m thrilled to Donn Taylor to you today. You’ll learn about his writing and achievements as you read his interview, but I want to go on record as saying Donn Taylor is truly a gentleman and a scholar. He’s also a mentor, an encourager, and he loves his Mildred and his Lord.

Be sure to leave a comment for Donn and you’ll be in the drawing for next week’s give-away of his book. Now, let’s get started!

Welcome to The Christian Writer’s Den, Donn. Would you first tell us something about your writing journey?Lightning Cover - 300dpi

Thanks for having me! My writing journey followed more twists and turns than a snake on a mountain railroad. In my college years I wrote some fairly good poems and considered a Western novel titled Lightning on a Quiet Night. The Korean War killed that project before it got past the precipitating incident. So the next two decades of Army brought only bare-facts tech writing, and after that came graduate school and the painful switch to bloviated academic writing—and in both situations no time for creative writing. Two decades after grad school I retired from college teaching (English lit) and decided to see if I could write the kind of poetry I enjoyed teaching. That point proved, I returned to the old ambition of publishing a novel. It took longer than I expected to convert from literary thinking to commercial-fiction thinking. That first novel—The Lazarus File—took a couple of years to finish. It was published in 2002, and it’s still selling as an e-book.

Did you ever return to the Western you thought of in college?

Yes and no. After Lazarus, I learned there was a Christian market. So I resurrected the title Lightning on a Quiet Night and its precipitating incident. But I set this novel in Northeast Mississippi soon after WW II. The focus changed to examine a small town too proud of its virtues having to come to grips with its first murder. That theme alone could get pretty dull, but it mostly hovers in the background while the story follows a romance, the sheriff’s search for the murderer, and teenagers playing various pranks. In the process, though, the novel covers a fairly wide variety of Christian experience. Begun earlier, it’s just now published. Thanks to Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas for accepting a novel that combines several genres.

The-Lazarus-File_cover-300x400Describe some of the techniques that make your writing distinctive. How did you learn them?

I learned capsulization the hard way. I wasted a whole day writing a painstaking description of an upper-class Colombian home. The next day I captured it in one sentence: “The Rocas received Mark in a room whose graceful décor spoke equally of solemn tradition and spontaneous laughter.” Since then I try to find the capsule first. From Shakespeare I learned to take the reader quickly from comedy into pathos. From Robert Heinlein and classic movies I learned to lighten suspense with momentary comic elements. Heinlein mentioned, in passing, a zoologist named Tiergarten (German for zoo); in my WIP I mention an oncologist named J. Carson Oma. And some of my minor characters speak in clichés but never get them right: “The grass is greener when you are not straddling the fence.” Well, that’s what I try to do. I guess the readers receive it okay because they haven’t yet thrown tomatoes.

I love the combination of pathos and comedy. I’m working hard on that in my current WIP. You’re writing for the Christian market, so you need to stay connected with God. How do you do that?

Honestly, I don’t always make it. Mildred, my wife, taught me to set aside a time for prayer and reading scripture, usually before starting any serious work. But off and on during the day I do quick prayers, often for people with problems, and I always conclude with prayer at night. Joanne Hillman’s Listening Prayer: Learning to Hear the Shepherd’s Voice added a new dimension to my prayer life.1964 Mildred & Donn Taylor

Besides your day of salvation, what is the happiest day in your life?

No contest on that. It was the day Mildred and I married (August 21, 1952). We never wanted anything more on this earth than just to be together. John Milton says it best: “The world was all before them, where to choose/ Their place of rest, and Providence their guide . . .”

You always speak of Mildred with such love and respect. A great tip for all of us. So what is the best tip you can give someone just beginning to write fiction?

Two important items. The first is patience: It always takes longer than you think it’s going to. Second, learn the craft: Don’t be too proud to learn basic rules of grammar and punctuation. (I was stubborn, but students sent me to the grammar books so often that I finally learned.)

Thank you, Donn! I know I’m not the only one who enjoyed your insight and stories. And readers, don’t forget to leave a comment, then check back next week to see if you’re the winner!

Thanks for Tweeting!

Author & poet DonnTaylor3 shares tips for writers at VondaSkelton’s Christian Writer’s Den. You could win a free book! (Click to Tweet)

Bio: Donn Taylor led an Infantry rifle platoon in the Korean War, served with Army aviation in Vietnam, and worked with air reconnaissance in Europe and Asia. Afterwards, he completed a PhD degree and taught English literature at two liberal arts colleges. He has published four novels and a book of poetry, and is a frequent speaker at writers’ conferences. He lives near Houston, TX, where he writes fiction, poetry, and essays on current topics. You can find Donn on the Web: www.donntaylor.com (includes contact info) www.facebook.com/donntaylor; www.facebook.com/authordonntaylor; www.twitter.com/donntaylor3.

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celebration - MorguefileAnd now let’s celebrate with these Christian Writer’s Den friends!

Congratulations are in order for some of our writers and speakers.

1.  Cherrilyn Bisbano (RI): Cheryl has two great things to share! First of all, she started a new blog  January 1, 2015. Check out her Pelican Promise blog at http://pelicanpromise.blogspot.com  Also, Cherrilynn gives God the glory for three upcoming speaking engagements. She’ll be at: Cape Cod March 27-28 and at Singing Hills Campground April 24-26 & November 12-15.
2.  Tammy Blackburn (NC): Tammy has a new children’s book. How Do I Know? is a picture book and is available on Amazon. You can find out more about Tammy at her website, www.TammyBlackburn.com.

3.  Azuka Chinonso Igwegbe: Please celebrate with me for the success of my first book
titled, Crushed But Not Destroyed. It’s a book worth reading at this season.

Congratulations, Cherrilynn, Tammy, and Chinonso! And if you didn’t have a new success to share, be sure to come back next week when I’ll have a new collection of writing opportunities and contests for you!

Happy writing!

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD…I Can Do It All By Edie Melson

happy girl free Edie(Thanks to my dear friend, writer and speaker Edie Melson, for stepping in for me today. Knowing my readers, knowing Edie, and knowing myself, I think we all can use this reminder. Thanks, Edie!)

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

This was one of the first Bible verses I ever memorized. It’s a heady verse for someone like me. Someone who loves to say yes for two reasons— the sheer joy of being involved and the fear others wouldn’t like me if I couldn’t perform. It was a dangerous combination. But I truly believed this verse gave me the ability to say yes to everything, and God would provide a way.

Fast forward several years, and the price of saying yes began to take its toll on my mind and body. I no longer lived a life of joy and victory. Instead I was a slave of over commitment. And I finally broke. It wasn’t pretty. Diagnosed with severe depression and several other mental health challenges it took me months to recover.

It was a painful lesson, and one I had to learn to ever be able to move forward. When forced to give up everything, I thought I’d never get to do anything fun again and that everyone would dislike me. (Stupid I know, but it’s really what I believed.) Slowly I began to realize God’s plan didn’t involve me saying yes to every good activity or need within my community.ton of bricks free Edie

I also discovered that when I said yes to something that wasn’t intended for me, I was in the way. I’d taken a task from someone else and denied them the joy of obedience. I’d become a roadblock in the journey God had for them.

I’ve also learned not to equate a need with a call from God. By that I mean just because I see a hole that needs filling it’s not my job to jump in. God has proven perfectly capable of providing for the needs of those around me.

Now I’m living a much more balanced and joyful life. I’m still not perfect, there are days I just can’t say no. But He’s shown me that the things He’s given me weigh no more than a feather, no matter how labor intensive. But when I pick up a job or a burden on my own, no matter how small the time commitment, it weighs on me like a ton of bricks. That in itself makes me wary about saying yes without hearing from God.

To sum it all up:

I’ve learned that I really can do it all…as long as I’m not trying to do everything. @EdieMelson #blessed (Click to Tweet)

Today I encourage you to look at the balance in your life. Do you need to lay something down that’s intended for someone else? Are you crying out for rest because you’re carrying a load not meant for you? There is rest and peace, all you have to do is let go.

Edie Melson headshot-MaryBio: Edie Melson—author, editor, and blogger—is a leading professional within the writing industry, as well as a popular inspirational speaker and mentor. She writes for military families and veterans. Her first book is Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home When Your Soldier Leaves for Battle. Her second, While My Soldier Serves: Prayers for Those with Loved Ones in the Military debuts on May 12 2015. She’s also the military family blogger for Guideposts at While They Serve.

Her popular blog for writers, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month, and she’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. She’s the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy, the Social Media Director for Southern Writers Magazine, as well as the Senior Editor for NovelRocket.com. Connect on Twitter and Facebook.

 

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CC Registration Opened March 1 & We’re Already Half Full, Call-Outs & Book Winner

christian-communicators-promo-cove-2015Registration is Now Open for The Christian Communicators Conference for Speakers–And We’re Filling Up Fast!

Ladies, if you feel called to speak, you don’t want to miss the Christian Communicators Conference at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Carolyn Knefely and I would love to see you there!

At a Christian Communicators Conference, less truly is more…

By limiting the conference to about 30 ladies, you receive more!

  • You won’t be surrounded by hundreds of women . . . but you’ll be embraced by thirty who will become lifelong friends
  • You won’t experience long lines for dinner . . . but you’ll have long conversations over dessert
  • You won’t need change for vending machines . . . but shared stories at afternoon tea can change your life

Come and learn in a small, intimate setting . . .
then go out and change a great big world

Check out the Christian Communicators Conference registration details here. But don’t delay, with only 30 spots, we fill up quickly!

Thanks for Tweeting!

Christian Communicators #Speaking #Training is filling up fast! Aug 26-30. $ help deadline April 1. http://bit.ly/1EGCqxl (Click to Tweet)

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Call-Out for Kudos…I Want to Brag on You!

It’s really simple, but I do ask that you contact me with the info in this format and order ONLY:

**Your name
**Your state in two-letter abbreviation
**Link to your website or blog
**Your good news
**Link to your good news, if online (online bookstore, online article, etc)

I can’t wait for us to celebrate with you!

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mogo7000 logoCall for MoGo7000 Totals

If you wrote at least 7000 new words on a book project in February, you can receive an entry in the drawing for the 2015 MoGo7000 $100 cash prize! It’s open to everyone who qualifies.

To report your February results, please leave a comment below with your total new words written in February. (Please do not send your totals by email or through the Contact page. Totals must be left as a comment here by next Monday). 

If you missed out on last year’s money-winning writing challenge, don’t worry, the 2015 challenge is underway! Here are the MoGo7000 Challenge rules. All you have to do is write at least 7000 NEW words on a book project in any month and you’ll receive an entry into the end-of-the-year drawing for $100.

Each month that you qualify with 7000 new words, your name goes in the “hat” for the drawing. Reach the goal one month and you’ll have one entry. Meet it 11 months and you’ll have 11 entries!

So what are you waiting for? Get started now and you could have $100 this time next year. And it doesn’t cost you a cent.

Thanks for Tweeting!

Writing a book? You could win $100 in the MoGo7000 Writing Challenge! @VondaSkelton Christian Writer’s Den #amwriting http://bit.ly/18Hw6cJ (Click to Tweet)

Cynthia Simmons WWO cover

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And Who Won Cynthia Simmons’ Book?

According to Random.org, the winner is…

Judith Robl!

Congratulations, Judith! All you need to do is contact me with your mailing address and Cynthia will get her book right out to you!

And I know there are lots of you out there who also want to read Cynthia’s book, so here is a direct Amazon link to Cynthia Simmons’ Women Who Overcame.

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Thank you for joining me for a new month at The Christian Writer’s Den. I appreciate you and your friendship as we strive to write words others need to read and hear.

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

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD…Need Joy, Peace, and Hope?

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

 

Joy, peace, and hope. Three words that can sometimes feel elusive and unattainable. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

I love reading Paul’s letter to the church at Rome. In Romans, he taught about salvation, grace, righteousness, and how to relate to one another as Christians. I’ve read through and studied this book many times through the years. But today, as I was reading in Romans, I read this verse and saw some things I’d never noticed before.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 (NIV)

Here are the new insights I found today:

  1. Paul’s not asking that we’d simply be filled with joy and peace, but that we’d be filled with ALL joy and peace. Every bit of it.
  2. When and how do we get all this joy and peace? As we’re trusting in Him. Not when we’re working hard enough or giving enough money or doing enough for others, but AS we trust in Him.
  3. And when we trust in Him, we not only get ALL joy and peace, but we also get so much hope that it’s overflowing!
  4. That hope comes by the power of the Holy Spirit. Again, not because of any works we’ve done, but only because we’re given it by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Joy and peace…all. Hope…overflowing.

And I receive them AS…not before or after or when, but as…I trust in Him.

I’m trusting Him today for joy, peace, and hope in your life and mine.

Vonda

 

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Interview and Book Give-Away with Cynthia L. Simmons

Cynthia Simmons headshotHappy 4th Tuesday! I’m thrilled to introduce my friend, author and speaker Cynthia L. Simmons, to you. We met years ago at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. Cynthia is not a newbie to writing. As the writer of articles, devotions, and interviews for regional and national periodicals and devotionals, author of Women Who Overcame, and writing instructor, she has a lot to offer all of us!

Today we’re talking about her book, Women Who Overcame. Be sure to leave a comment for Cynthia and you’ll be in the drawing for a free copy of her book!

Welcome to the Christian Writer’s Den, Cynthia. Thanks for joining us today. Let’s start with a question all writers love to talk about: Why did you start writing?

I’m a homeschool mother with five kids. My youngest suffers from multiple disabilites. Learning to teach a disabled child and juggle a busy family brought lots of stress. When I got discouraged, God brought along stories from history to encourage me. Finally the Lord kept calling my attention to the verses in 2 Corinthians chapter one. The writer, the apostle Paul, told us that “the God of all comfort…comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” I began writing in order to give away the encouragement God gave me.

How did you get interested in history?

Years ago I visited the Smithsonian and went through an exhibit on how women impacted politics. Usually history revolves around men, so the material aroused my curiosity. I started to read biographies of the presidents’ wives. From there I purchased diaries and letters written by women in various time periods.

That sounds very interesting, but I’m curious: Why would a modern day woman want to read your book?

Even though these women lived years ago, they had the same feelings and struggles we have today. In fact, at times I found myself crying while immersed in a letter or diary. In addition, Women Who Overcame contains believers and unbelievers. I wanted women to see the contrast. I believe they’ll agree with me that walking by faith is the best way to live.

When I first started reading your book, I have to admit I was surprised that there were both Christians and non-Christians in it. Why do you say faith in Christ improves the lives of women?

First, women who trust in God don’t have to rely on their cunning. The apostle Peter said we have a ‘living hope.’ Our Savior is alive and making intercession for us. When hard times come, the Spirit intercedes for us to the Father. I think as women read my book, they’ll see these truths illustrated in the stories of women who believed.Cynthia Simmons WWO cover

You’re right–that’s exactly what happened as I read it! So, I’m curious: What is historical in these stories and what is fiction?

Each of these women actually lived, but when you study historical women, you find gaps in the story. Women stayed in the background while men had center stage. Even prominent women left behind few personal writings. I filled in the missing data with my imagination. In fact, I could have called this book creative nonfiction, since it’s as accurate as I could make it.

What is your current project? I’m working on a study guide for Women Who Overcame for churches to use in their women’s groups. It will be a twelve week Bible study and will have daily assignments. The student will be immersed in Scripture as they seek the answers to various issues raised in the stories.

That sounds like a great companion to your book, Cynthia. I hope to see it published soon, too! Thank you for being with us and sharing a little about your journey

And readers, be sure to leave a comment if you’d like a chance to win a free copy. Don’t forget to check back next week to see if you won!

Thanks for Tweeting!

#Women Who Overcame – Interview & Free Book w/ @CynthiaLSimmons via @VondaSkelton #amwriting http://bit.ly/1DOIgfk (Click to Tweet)

Bio: Cynthia L. Simmons and her husband, Ray, have five children and reside in Atlanta. She taught for over twenty-five years as a homeschool mother and Bible teacher. Her writing appeared in CAG publications, NATHHAN NEWS, Chattanooga Regional Historical Magazine, Georgia Right to Life Newsletter, Chattanooga Times Free Press, Catholic Exchange, ECLA magazine, Christian Devotions.us, and BookFun Magazine.  Active in Christian Authors Guild (CAG), she conducts writing workshops and has served as president, vice president, and conference director.  “Cyndi” has a heart for encouraging women in today’s crazy, upside-down world. She loves history and peppers her speaking and teaching with fascinating vignettes from the past. Her first book, Struggles and Triumphs, was nominated for 2008 Georgia Author of the year.  She hosts Heart of the Matter Radio for women seeking the elegance of God’s wisdom.  To listen to her broadcasts, visit her website: www.clsimmons.com

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