Friday, September 28, 2012

Interview: RONIE KENDIG author of TRINITY: MILITARY WAR DOG

A winner of both critical and reader's choice awards, Ronie Kendig writes what she calls "Rapid Fire Fiction," putting military heroes in the cross hairs of action and romance. Her latest novel, Trinity: Military War Dog, is the first in a new series, A Breed Apart. This new series spotlights military war dogs (MWDs), their handlers, and the pulse-pounding, romantic adventure that is the hallmark of Ronie's books.

Raised in a military family, Ronie has a B.A. in psychology and has been married to a military veteran for more than 20 years. After a recent move, the author and her family now live in Virginia.
Serena: First off, I have to ask about your first name, just because I've always wondered. So: long "o" or short? And is it a nickname, or given?
Ronie: Too funny! I actually get this question a lot, much to my surprise. It's pronounced just like "Ronnie," though — only the spelling is confusing. And, yes, it's short for Veronica. My mother's Irish family often called me Roni, but I added the "e" on the end to be a little different (and, apparently, difficult).
Serena: You're a self-proclaimed "Army brat" who married a former military man and now you create romantic stories that happen within the lives of military folks. Did you start writing in this direction because of the "write what you know" mantra?
Ronie: Being an Army brat gave me an insider's view on the constant upheaval in the life of a military family. But it wasn't so much what I knewthat compelled me to write military thrillers (I certainly haven't enlisted, nor have I served in combat), but rather what I love — what I admire and respect about those who do. Out of that deep respect and admiration for our military heroes grew a passionate desire to be a voice to raise awareness of what they go through.
Serena: I love how your website goes along so well with your heroes and heroines. Even your tabs have action-packed names like Base Camp (home) and Dossier (Bio). Growing up, were things in your home life referred to by military lingo? And do you use it with your own family — or save it for the books?
Ronie: Sure, my father had some phrases that were distinct to the military, but it wasn't really until I met my then-future husband that these phrases and terms crept into my dialogue. Brian wanted to be career Army, but God closed that door. He has since become a military history buff and spends countless hours inhaling shows from the Military/History channels. He is a firearms instructor, and I think he finds it a little attractive that I can both shoot a weapon and use the lingo the military would use. Brian is my hero, and when I write something, I try to write it in a way that he would enjoy reading. I work very hard to keep the romance elements from being cliché and cheesy, and anything Brian would roll his eyes at gets plucked from the story.
Serena: What made you decide to form a new series around military war dogs and their handlers?
Ronie: You know, it was a bit funny the way this series came about. A dear friend of mine from the first writing group I ever joined sent me an e-mail about this military war dog, whose handler had been captured. It was an incredible story with the dog performing heroic feats to rescue his handler, including killing her captors and sniffing her out in the prison. I was enthralled! Turned out the story was a hoax. But!! That seedling of an idea blossomed into a compelling series about military working dogs and their handlers. Five months after my publisher bought the series, the Navy SEALs' MWD Cairo hit the news for taking down Bin Laden. Soon, the interest in MWDs hit a fevered pitch, and I knew that I'd struck gold with this concept for my series.
Serena: In Trinity, Heath is a former green beret, an MWD handler who, after suffering a traumatic brain injury during a tour in the Middle East, longs to prove he can still do his old job. When this novel was first taking shape in your mind, were you tempted to allow him to succeed, recover, and return to active duty?
Ronie: Honestly? No. And here's why — I believe that life is never easy on us, and if I want my readers to identify with my characters, I need to keep it believable. Therefore, I am pretty hard on my characters. Rel Mollet of RelzReviewz  has teased me, often saying my characters run from me. Most people, I think, identify with the person who overcomes. We want to see the person who overcomes insurmountable odds and wins the race because we're searching for a glimmer of hope that there is a chance for us to do the same. To me, there's no story in the guy who has it easy and sails through life. The vast majority of readers cannot identify with that. Ican't identify with that.
Serena: Your heroine, Darci, is an intelligence officer. I loved seeing Heath through her eyes: "Heath hopped down from the stage and Trinity with him. The guy's muscles rippled and stretched his shirt taut. Those were things she should notice as part of her job. Because it told her he had the muscle power to take her down. Of course, it shouldn't elicit a traitorous, involuntary reaction from her body, but it did." What's your favorite part of a romance to create: the initial attraction … or that first kiss?
Ronie: Oh, wow. Is this a trick question? (laughs) I guess I'd have to say that while I love nearly every book's first kiss, to me, the favorite part of a romance is ... well, the romance. The initial attraction, whether it becomes obvious right off the bat or grows through time, and I think the reason I like that is because there are so many ways to show attraction (beyond physical attraction), and it's largely dependent on the characters and the situation. My stories tend to complicate things because there are missions in which the characters aren't concerned with "tingles running up their arms" when they touch because the bigger component is surviving — staying alive.
 
That said, in Wolfsbane (my novel that won a Christy Award), my characters hit a breaking point and cross their own boundaries during a mission. So again, it's that attraction, initial or not, that I love writing, finding that chemistry, unique to the characters — the power of love overcoming the odds and barriers — that I find thrilling!
Serena: At the end of your novel you share the story of a real-life military war dog handler and his dog, Max. Did you meet, talk to, or interview any other handlers (or are you planning to) for this series?
Ronie: Oh Serena, I have to tell you this has been one of my favorite parts of researching this series. Yes, I've met several handlers and I'm still being introduced to some. In fact, I've got a call to make to a trainer out in Yuma. I'm so intimidated by these guys, but I'm determined to warrior on and get the most information I can!
I almost feel like I'm cheating — getting to meet the handlers, the dogs, watching them together, learning about them. All for research. Ah, the sacrifice — but someone has to do it, right? Seriously, it's just amazing. They are so impressive. The dogs have this amazing, keen intelligence in their eyes that is undeniable. They do not miss a thing. I've done enough research not to approach them (without permission, that is; but most handlers will tell you not to pet the dogs; they're not pets). MWDs are lethally loyal — to their handlers. To the mission.
The most surprising thing to me is that, generally, I have found the handlers to be very humble. And with research going on regarding using the dogs as therapy dogs for soldiers with PTSD, I cannot help but wonder if the use of the MWDs in theater helps the handlers themselves cope with the situations.
Serena: Of all the romances you've written, what hero/heroine pair is your favorite? Why?
Ronie: You do realize what my heroes/heroines are trained to do, right? And, in light of that, how dangerous it could be for me to answer this question? (laughs) In the Discarded Heroes series, my favorite pair would probably be Griffin "Legend" Riddell and Kazi Faron. Their chemistry wasn't just a physical attraction, but an intellectual one that had a heaping dose of mutual respect and admiration. In the A Breed Apart series, the decision is much tougher, for some reason. But I'd probably say the (upcoming) story with Aspen and Dane (Talon: Combat Tracking Team) is one of the most beautiful stories — at least to me — I have ever written.
Serena: I will certainly be looking forward to that one! If Heath had to describe Darci in three words, what would they be? (And vice versa.)
Ronie: Heath would say Darci is tough, intelligent, beautiful. But direct, honest, and compelling are the three most likely words Darci would use to describe Heath — if she could stop staring at him long enough, that is.
Serena: Oh, yeah. Heath is certainly worth a good long look! (Serena wipes a bit a drool away.) And he has a great relationship with his dog! As a dog lover myself, I think that says a lot about his character and makes him even more attractive. Er, I mean "direct, honest, & compelling." LOL! Heath's affection for Trinity is so real on the page. How many dogs were hugged by the author over the course of writing this book?
Ronie: (laughing) As many as I could. We currently own two dogs — a 12-year-old Golden Retriever named Daisy and an 8-year-old Maltese named Helo (there's one of those military terms you'd asked about) — and the research I put into the A Breed Apart series also gave me a greater appreciation for my own dogs. While Daisy couldn't tear across a training yard for "bitework," she is as fiercely loyal as Trinity. At times, I think the 5-pound Helo thinks he's a Belgian Malinois or German Shepherd — the little menace has no fear!
Serena: You write, you mentor writers, you homeschool … do you sleep? And if you get a free, unscheduled moment, is there a particular activity (besides the perennial favorite nap) or hobby you indulge in to unwind?
Ronie: Life is so insane, but it's full and I'm happy. My favorite activity is painting my house and/or (re)decorating. I love sewing curtains or slipcovers or pillow covers, too. And since we've moved into this incredible home (it borders on being my dream home, honestly), I have plenty of decorating and painting and sewing to be done! Yay!!
Serena: You have a real heart for the "discarded heroes" at home; soldiers and military personnel who, for one reason or another, have been denied the care and/or respect they deserve. Now you've added MWDs to the list of heroes who deserve recognition. Do you ever hear from readers (obviously not the dogs!) who fall into that "discarded hero" category?
Ronie: You know, this is one of the most touching aspects of getting to write about military heroes. I often do hear from veterans and/or active-duty military who tell me about their experiences. And I do not care what I'm doing or where I am, I will stop and listen. Because far too often and for far too many years, they've been overlooked and ignored, told to "act normal" when their "normal" has changed.
 
Once, during an author event in Texas, I was sitting alone at my table, watching as readers raved and cheered over other authors. It was a fun time, and I was happy to be there. Then this woman saw my books, picked up Nightshade and read the back-cover copy, and then tugged her hubby over (he was behind me now and talking with their author-friend at the table next to mine). She said, "You need to read this. It's about anger and PTSD." I could tell that flustered the gentleman, who looked to be in his late 50s or thereabouts. As it turned out, he had been to Vietnam, and like the hero of my first book (Max), he had anger problems that had grown out of PTSD. With a trembling chin, he told me that, just like Max, his anger destroyed his first marriage. With a bit of embarrassment, he admitted it was also what got in the way sometimes with his current marriage. For the next hour, he shared his story with me. And I listened, encouraged him, and gave him a copy of my book in the hope that he would find some encouragement there as well.
That is what writing is all about for me — opening dialogue for and with our military heroes. I am so humbled that I get to do this!
Serena: And you do it so well! If you were stranded on a deserted island with a military hero from one of your novels, which one would you count on to keep you alive and see that you were rescued?
Ronie: I think I'd have to say Canyon "Midas" Metcalfe from Wolfsbanebecause he was a combat medic, and he's very even-keeled. He's not easily ruffled and he's very intelligent and amazing with survival skills. But don't tell Max (from Nightshade) or Legend (from Firethorn) that I didn't pick them, OK?
Serena: My lips are sealed. Besides, I'm perfectly OK with keeping Max on my deserted island (fans self). Or Heath for that matter — especially if he brought Trinity along! Although you're not currently stranded, you did recently make a cross-country move. Shall I assume that, as an "Army brat," you're a pro at this sort of thing?
Ronie: Boy, this move from Texas to Virginia nearly did me in. There were so very many things that went wrong, and some expensive hiccups, but we are finally starting to settle in.
Serena: But now that you're all settled, you can take a well-deserved breather to get caught up on your Dr. Who episodes, right? So just who, might I ask, is your favorite of the Doctors?
Ronie: Hang on — first I need to cue the sound effects from my Tardis cookie jar before I can answer. OK. Favorite Doctor? Hmm, I'd have to say the 10th Doctor, David Tennant, is my favorite. Admittedly, I really struggled when we lost Christopher Eccleston, but Tennant won me over very quickly. I'm still trying to adjust to the 11th Doctor, but I'm enjoying the storylines.
It's also incredibly fascinating to me — and a bit risky, in my mind — for the producers to not only change the Doctor's companions, but to change the Doctor himself through the series. Typically, that kind of shift (the lead character) could end up jettisoning readers or, in this case, viewers; but the producers/directors have managed to keep the stories compelling and intriguing.
Serena: And do you ever think your own writing might stray into sci-fi land?
Ronie: Oh yes. Yes, yes yes. You've made me downright giddy, Serena, with that question. In fact, I have already "strayed." I'm working on a space opera, one I originally wrote in 2005, to revamp her before she meets the public. My agent and I have talked about it and, considering the temperature of the Christian market regarding speculative fiction, especially speculative fiction with a more sci-fi bent, I'll probably put my series out there myself. But yes — I am a huge fan of Kathy Tyers, Stephen Lawhead, Orson Scott Card, Ted Dekker and many others. I also love supernaturals (Shannon Dittemore is amazing!) and dystopians (Veronica Roth is a fave).
Serena: Your list has a lot in common with my "faves" shelf! I can hardly wait to see what happens when "Rapid Fire Fiction" goes space opera! Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know?
Ronie: Reading and researching about our military heroes, both two-legged and four-legged, is one thing. But I strongly encourage readers to put boots to ground on their support. Volunteer through one of the many organizations or efforts, adopt a soldier to send moral support (through organizations like Soldiers' Angels ), or even consider adopting a retired military working dog (check with your local base and kennel master there). They fought so we can have freedom. The least we can do is show our support. The "Ground Support" tab on my website  has more info on how readers can do this.
And last — I love to hear from my readers. I can be found on Facebook and on Twitter  (@roniekendig).

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Review & Giveaway! LOVE STORY by Nichole Nordeman

Several weeks back I headed over to NetGalley in search of a specific novel for review that I hadn't been able to obtain through other sources. While searching for it I happened across the name Nichole Nordeman and... I was immediately intrigued. To find that one of my favorite songwriters had authored a book was a beautiful surprise. But it was nonfiction.

Now I don't have anything against nonfiction. I just don't very often blog about it. So I debated. Could I review a nonfiction book at Edgy Inspirational Romance? And then I thought: what could be edgier--or more inspirational, for that matter--than being wooed over the fabric of time by the Creator of the Universe? So I downloaded the title and began the process of digesting Nichole Nordeman's heartfelt, funny, touching, and tear-inducing Love Story: The Hand that Holds Us from the Garden to the Gates and, somewhere along the way, I rediscovered my own cherished spot within that very gentle, very big Hand.

Here is the book description, as it appears at www.amazon.com:

The best-selling album has inspired a heart-melting book

In Love Story, one of Christian music's most remarkable singer- songwriters brings to the printed page her proven gift for mining the gritty soil of everyday experience and emerging with poignant gems of spiritual insight. Based on the songs of the popular albums, Music Inspired by The Story, Dove Award winner Nichole Nordeman takes us inside some of the pivotal moments of the people of Scripture, revealing a very human side that we've rarely glimpsed. In the process, she offers us startlingly frank glimpses of her own struggles and faith journey, inspiring us to take the hand of the One who walks with us--who has always walked with us--from beginning to end.


I've been a fan of Nichole's music for years. The way she bends poetry and music around vulnerability and truth is astoundingly beautiful. Her book is no less lovely. Penned by a naked hand that isn't reluctant to uncover the pain and humor that can result from being transparent, Nichole gives fresh perspectives on well-known Biblical cast members alongside that of a real, identifiable woman who finds bits of her own journey within the triumph and tragedy of The Story.

Using personal anecdotes and reflection, Nichole draws sweat and blood from each Biblical character's story as well as her own, one moment causing the reader to laugh aloud, the next, to be moved to tears. There isn't a single chapter that could be considered baggage or "filler" -- each one exudes the scent of the profound without losing its accessibility or humanity. And, since each chapter ends with the lyrics to the corresponding song from the album, Music Inspired by The Story, I highly recommend downloading the album and listening to each song as you complete the chapter.

This not a book to sit down and read in one sitting, although it is so engaging that it would  be easy to do just that. Reading this book is like sitting down for a bottomless chai latte with that one, deep friend who really gets the hunger of your heart. Like the chai, the aroma of the prose wafts up from the cup, rich and spicy. Each sip warms you, at once both hot and comforting; yet if you thoughtlessly lift the mug and gulp you could burn your tongue--even your throat. Still, you aren't afraid of the pain that could sear within because you're with someone who is drinking the same drink, sitting at the same table, and trying not to burn her tongue, the same as you. It's that honest. It's that beautiful. It's that real.

I can't encourage you enough to get your hands on this book; to allow yourself to be wooed by the edgiest of all inspirational romancers, the Hand that Holds You. Read it. You won't regret it. In fact, you might find yourself buying more copies simply to gift away, as I just did today for that one, deep friend who, though we rarely see each other, knows the hunger of my heart so well and appreciates a quality chai. (It's on its way, Manon!)

Although this is Nichole Nordeman's first offering as an author, if you haven't discovered Nichole Nordeman as a musical artist, this would be a great time to introduce yourself to her talent. An excellent, but not complete representation of her music is Ultimate Collection, which, for $15.99 on Amazon mp3 download is something of a steal for 24 exceptional songs. But if you are going to read Love Story (and you should!), I highly recommend discovering (or re-discovering) Nichole's lyrical genius by downloading the 2011 Bernie Herms collaboration, Music Inspired by The Story.

If you listen to Christian radio, you've more than likely heard Nichole's duet with Amy Grant, "I'm With You (Ruth & Naomi)", from Music Inspired By The Story, but there is much more to this album. These songs are gems that give a truly fresh view into the hearts and situations of Biblical characters. My personal favorites are "Good (Adam & Eve)", a Matthew West/ Leigh Nash duet that has a beautiful sense of grief and relationship, and  "This Is How Love Wins (Thief)" in which 1990s go-to Christian music artist Steven Curtis Chapman's performance taps into a deeper well of emotion than I've ever heard from this beloved CCM icon. I love this whole album, but the Chris Tomlin performed "Your Heart (David)" has become a prayer of my personal worship time. So... the book is awesome on its own, but having the CD set or album download to augment your reading and worship experience is something I would recommend.

I read this book on Kindle and highlighted the snot out of it, making notes all over the place, (even finding a few that are so beautiful and true that I want to go to Wall Words and have them make custom vinyl quotes for my walls.) But this is one of those cases when my love of Kindle grows a little lukewarm; yes, it's convenient, but when I want to recapture a moment, there's not that "thumbing through" on a device like you can experience in a paper book. Therefore, I am very grateful to Morgan Canclini and Worthy Publishing for providing me with a hard copy. This is one of those rare books that deserves frequent return visits, prime shelf space when not in use, and a fresh flourescent highlighter to be used to mark the beauty and wisdom that shows up in every single chapter. But you, dear reader, can also be thankful to the folks at Worthy: because they not only gave me a copy to keep for myself, but one to give away.

GIVEAWAY!!!
One reader, chosen by random.org, will receive an autographed copy of Nichole Nordeman's LOVE STORY: The Hand that Holds Us from the Garden to the Gates
Contest runs through OCTOBER 10, 2012 and is open to residents of the continental United States only. ***Please note, this is different from our usual giveaway policy, which includes Canada. Sorry, Canadians, but I about went broke sending a package to one of our recent giveaway winners. I love you, I just can't afford the postage right now!*** 
TO ENTER, be willing to be vulnerable.
In the comment form below, please leave: 
1. Your email address in spam free lingo (jane dot doe at jmail dot com)
2. One area in which your heart hungers

Friday, September 21, 2012

Working for the Weekend

I've been working under some crazy, self-imposed deadlines the past few months. But, oh... glory! I met the last "big one" for a while earlier tonight and got that novel sent off to a fresh editor for its second comprehensive edit. Whew! I'm ready for a break!

Boo-yah, baby! It's the weekend! And a weekend I do not have to work through.

Now that's new.

So what have I been working on besides my usual reading and writing about reading? Well, I'm calling it an epic re-imagining of a fairy tale. And, at least at this point, I'm planning to self-publish it Spring 2013.

Why self publish?

Well, there are a lot of reasons. The first of which is: the stigma is dying. Have you seen the awesome self-published stuff by authors like Tamara Leigh and Lisa T. Bergren? Fantastic. These ladies are paving the way with well-written, well-edited novels that simply sing.

Oh, sure, there are some real stinkers still flying out of unready, but hopeful hands and into the e-pubbing (and even self-pubbed print!) world. For those who go straight to e-pub without spending time and money on edits and rewrites, well... self-pubbing is pretty cheap. And vain. And a bad idea. Because editing and rewriting and more editing is... necessary. Especially for a self-publishing author. The problem is, editing and rewriting (with guidance) is EXPENSIVE!!!! (Believe me. I know.) But it's so worth it. So worth it.

(And I'm going to keep telling myself that when we go another year without a family vacation so Mommy can keep playing with her imaginary friends.)

I've lived with different versions of this particular manuscript for nearly seven years. Yes, seven years. I can't believe it's been that long, but it has. Sure, I've written other things in between. I have two other completed novels -- one of which has already been through two rounds of comprehensive professional edits! -- but I've shelved it for the time being in favor of this one... this fairytale that grabbed my heart and wouldn't let go. This one that I was willing to give up the time, money, pride, and a good portion of my sanity to see it become something of excellence.

At least I hope it is becoming something of excellence. But only time, and readers, will tell.

In the meantime, I'm working on cover design, branding, and all those marketing details that will need to fall into place when my baby gets birthed next spring. Because I have to be not only the author, but the publisher, the marketing department, the financial department, and the publicity department. (That old Amy Grant song "Hats" just went through my mind for some reason.)

So what am I doing this weekend?

Right now, the plan is: Rest. Talk to my kids and see if they remember me. Maybe find out if Ellerie still likes to play Candyland. See if my family still recognizes me if I show up in the kitchen with an actual plan for dinner. Clean my house. Or not. Maybe I'll watch a little Warehouse 13 on NetFlix. Or visit Pinterest just because I can. With any luck at all, I'll eat some good quality chocolate. And if the dog lets me? I would dearly love to sleep in.

Cuz next week... I'm back at it. There's another book sitting in my inbox, just back from its FIRST round of comprehensive edits, but... I haven't looked at it yet. And I'm determined not to attack the rewrite until Monday.

At least that's what I'm telling myself right now.

It's good to have a plan. But I'm cool with ditching the whole thing if he opportunity to do something spontaneous without guilt comes along!

So what do you do to unwind when you've finished a season of craziness? I'd love to know.
Image credit: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/photo_4944181_candle-burning-on-two-sides-as-a-metaphor-for-burn-out.html'>anyka / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

It's International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Okay, I have to admit it. This ranks right up there among my favorite holidays.

Weird, I know.

But I couldn't let the day go by without telling y'all about one of my favorite "research" books: The Pirate Primer: Mastering the Language of Swashbucklers and Rogues by George Choundas. This book is awesome. It has chapters on epithets, toasts, proclamations, threats, commands, oaths, questions & replies, and even parts of speech. If you're a fan of pirates, a writer of pirates (like me), a reader of pirates, a watcher of pirate movies, The Dread Pirate Roberts, or just someone who has a thing for Captain Jack Sparrow, you'll get a kick out of this handy reference tool... at least once a year. That's right: September 19th: International Talk Like A Pirate Day.

I've had this book for a few years now and it has come in handy. Once, for instance, my husband (the elementary principal) was asked to dress up like a pirate for a family reading event at his school. Thanks to me owning this book (which he carried around with him all night for quick reference) he was able to stay perfectly in character and come up with some delightful quips that made for fun for all.

Here's a LINK
to the fun Writers Digest interview
with author George Choundas
Well, for all but the math teacher who said, "Why would anyone have a book like that?" (MATH teacher, remember?)

To which my dear hubby replied, "My wife's a writer. And she has a thing for pirates." After a comment like that, I'm sure there were a few rumors flying about the possibility that we might have a costume closet. Which, actually, we do. But not for the purposes that might have been implied in those rumors. We're both community theater people. But that's another story...

Anyway, for you writers out there -- as well as moms, and fans of all things Johnny Depp -- I thought I'd let you in on my secret research book of fun: The Pirate Primer. Get it. Read it. And be prepared to laugh a lot. And to be amazed at the amount of research that went into this thing. Seriously. Every word or phrase has a literary or film reference with characters, authors, page numbers... it's awesome.

So... happy Talk Like a Pirate Day, me hearties! In the words of Benjamin Trigg in Adam Penfeather, Bucaneer, "Let us forthwith toss a pot, twirl a can, and drain a beaker to..." all things pirate! And may yer treasure not include a noose and yer hull be filled with what'ere most moves yer heart.  (Pirate talk taken directly or adapted from The Pirate Primer: Mastering the Language of Swashbucklers and Rogues)

Image credit: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/photo_11567569_pirate-girl-with-scroll-vector-illustration.html'>saranai / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
Image credit for book: http://www.writersdigest.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Z0814-Pirate-Primer.gif

Friday, September 14, 2012

Upcoming Podcast from Kregel Authors Addresses Edgy Issues (September 20th 7pm CENTRAL time)

click here!

Women Redeemed: Addressing the Issues No One Wants to Talk About

September 20th webcast spotlights Kregel’s new line of books that move women toward healing and hope


This fall, Kregel Publications has released new books for women, addressing issues that are often too painful and difficult to discuss. Topics such as miscarriage, abortion and abuse are sadly prevalent in the lives of so many women, but often times women keep silent out of shame, hurt, or grief and find themselves unable to talk to anyone, even among trusted friends and their sisters in Christ. These women are desperately seeking support, understanding and healing, but often don’t know where to turn.

“Kregel Publications has always strived to develop and distribute books that will help individuals grow in their personal relationship with Christ. Most recently, we’ve focused on providing quality resources on topics that are all too common, but very often ignored by both the reader and the church at large,” explains Cat Hoort, Marketing and Publicity Manager for Kregel Publications. “Abuse, abortion, and miscarriage, for example, are common challenges for even the most committed Christian. Yet fear, embarrassment, or a lack of knowledge on these issues has kept people silent far too long.”

In coordination with the launch of their fall releases, Kregel will be hosting a live webcast event on September 20 at 8 PM EDT featuring authors Kim Ketola (Cradle My Heart), Teske Drake (Hope for Today, Promises for Tomorrow),and Dawn Scott Jones (When a Woman You Love Was Abused). The webcast will allow women to come together to share their struggles and fears in order to move toward healing and hope. Women will able to support one another and discuss shared experiences in a non-threatening, open and loving environment.

Here are just a few of the staggering statistics on the topics Ketola, Drake and Jones have written about:

Abortion:
·         It is estimated that 13% of abortions are performed on self-described ‘born again’ or evangelical Christians
·         The Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI) reports that 46% of aborting women identify themselves as Protestant and an additional 27% identify themselves as Catholic. If true, these statistics reveal that more than 70% of all abortions in the United States are performed on Christian women.
·         85% of women say abortions cause mental health issues, including sorry, sadness, guilt, regret, grief, and disappointment

Miscarriage and infant loss:
·         The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences reports that as many as 31 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss
·         An estimated 19% of all the adult population has experienced the death of a child.
·         An in-utero death after 20 weeks is considered a stillbirth.
·         A stillbirth occurs once every twenty minutes.
·         Approximately 26,000 pregnancies end in stillbirth every year.

Abuse:
·         The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that 80 percent of childhood abuse victims later suffer from at least one abuse-induced psychological disorder. It’s proven that the effects of childhood abuse follow women into adulthood.
·         90% of victims know their abuser. Commonly reported abusers are fathers, stepfathers, brothers, uncles, and grandfathers. Other abusers are babysitters, teachers, and neighbors.
·         80% of childhood abuse victims later suffer from at least one abuse-induced psychological disorder. 1/3 of people who are sexually abused become abusers themselves.

“We are seeking to provide safe means for Christian women to be vulnerable with each other, to seek help and guidance from authors and counselors, and to find encouragement from those who have shared similar experiences. Our hope is that the Women Redeemed webcast will become a forum for hurting women as well as for those who can help. Kim, Teske, and Dawn are all survivors and their stories will surely inspire and equip other women to move toward healing and hope,” says Hoort.

To register to join the webcast, click here or visit Kregel’s Facebook page for details.
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If you attend, please come back to this post and leave a comment letting me know what you thought!


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Anxiety & the Writer/Mom

Do you remember that old Bing Crosby song, "Count Blessings Instead of Sheep"? That song was going through my head tonight while I waited for the dryer to finish that load of whites so I could put the dog to bed. (He sleeps in the laundry room. With the dryer on, he's too hot. But my daughter needed a specific outfit for tomorrow, so....)

Even though I've always loved that song, tonight it only added to my dread. So here it is, just past midnight. The dryer just finished, but I'm too exhausted to crawl into bed. I'm recovering from a headcold that seems to have moved in for the season, and looking forward to tomorrow being a very big, very long day into which it would be nice to enter on a full night's sleep.

But I'm a mess.

It's funny to see my cute little signature below, "Serena" and to think about what that name should represent: peace, tranquility, serenity-- and to juxtapose that against what's going on in my gut right now. Because it is the exact opposite. (Of course, that's why my chosen surname is "Chase." I just can't catch the serenity bug long enough or with a firm enough grip to hold onto it for any length of time.)

Ahh, anxiety. My nemesis. It appeared briefly last night, but faded fast. Tonight... I can only hope for a fade.  What brought this on?

Well, I could blame the decongestant. Or my Vitamin D deficiency, since I've forgotten to take my vitamins lately. Or nervousness about upcoming medical tests that will tell me whether the severe acid reflux that's plagued me for the last 6 months is from something internal instead of just a result of letting myself get too fat this close to 40. (Is it pathetic that I'm almost hoping for option A on that one?) I could blame all those things. But there's more to it than that. Welcome to the insanity, the anxiety, that IS the writer's life when that writer is also a mom with kids at home.

This afternoon, I committed to 5 days away from home. Five. Three visiting my cousin, which is a visit long overdue, and two attending a writers conference in her city, using her house as my home base. And, even though I'm incredibly cheap (ask my kids), my writing budget--heck, my ENTIRE budget!-- is tight tight tight due to the costs of quality professional editing on an epic fantasy manuscript. (per word, baby. And you know I'm long-winded.) Just hours past event registration completion and... I'm regretting that commitment like those shoulder pads I held onto for too many years past the 80s.

"But this is not even an expensive writers conference, as conferences go!" I argue with my anxiety. "It's quite affordable for a full day and a half of quality instruction." But the arguments aren't as loud as the fear. The fear of having blown my budget, the fear of the trip, the fear of what will happen at home while I'm away for that long (God complex, anyone?), the fear of disappointing my family....

I always get this way when I make a decision to travel somewhere alone. Nix that. I even get this way when going away with my husband. Part of it is because I'm a mom and there is this faithless little fallacy that was born with my girls that tells me that they have these awesome guardian angels (how could they not? I've been praying for these girls since before they were conceived!) and that as long as we're together, we're all safe. But if I'm on my own? Well, maybe my angels aren't as buff as theirs. I don't know. But I know I'm not as wonderful as they are; not nearly so worth a miracle to save as my girls.

(Yes, I know. Someone's got a Jesus Juke ready for me on behalf of that last comment. Don't worry. I'm not dissing the miracle gift of salvation. I own that. It's the everyday stuff I struggle with.)

Sometimes I go so far into this madness of anxiety that I picture all the messed up celebrities who lost their mothers young and never recovered and I think: what if a semi-truck crosses the center line, or I fall asleep at the wheel, or a random bowling ball bounces--yes, bounces--into my path and I die and my girls are left motherless?

I don't think I'm the only one who thinks these things. (Well, maybe the bowling ball one.) Mainly, because the one or two people I've been brave enough to confess this lack of faith to in the past have haltingly admitted to similar battles with their own thoughts. So there are at least three of us out there who profess faith in Christ and yet suffer these anxious thoughts.

And did I mention that the battle is all that rougher if my lone-traveling has anything remotely to do with writing? Well, it is. I think it's because of that little voice in my head (not the Still, Small Voice, the other one. The one that sounds like me when I have PMS and the flu and somebody just insulted a book I love.) That nasty girl whispers how selfish it is to pursue the writing life. How sad it is that the hours I spend with imaginary people, both as a reviewer and an aspiring author, far outweigh those spent in actual quality interaction with the family I supposedly love so much.  Oh, how she mocks. How base is it of me to expend so much time reading and creating stories and researching locations and studying the craft of fiction, she says, when I could be volunteering in my kids' school, or rescuing kittens, or cleaning my house, or feeding my family something that didn't get pulled out of the freezer complete with a long list of preservative chemicals that could put an oncologists' grandkids through college. Oh, I could go on. Like I said: she's mean. And while she may try to douse MY creativity, she's got plenty of her own when it comes to birthing guilt and anxiety in my heart.

What's that? She's suddenly silent?

So now it's 12:30a.m. Acid is burning in my throat as usual, but my gut isn't roiling so much with anxiety as it was just thirty minutes ago. Perhaps confession truly is good for the soul. Perhaps this confession, strange and bloggy as it is, made it past the noise of all-things-cyber and found a passage straight to the throne of God.

Ahh, Comforter. You know my name. And You chase me.
images from www.amazon.com: 
sheep: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/31Sebi-sRaL._SL500_AA300_.jpg
Crosby album: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51AOv60xxAL._SL500_AA280_.jpg
So I'll go to sleep... counting my blessings.

Friday, September 07, 2012

By Request: Creating Great Heroes & Heroines -- Guest Post by author Tamara Leigh

For one of our recent contests, I put in a required-to-enter question that went a little something like this: 
"What sort of non-review subjects would you like to see us post about here at Edgy Inspirational Romance?" 
One of our readers responded that she would like to see some posts on writing. For example: "What makes a great hero or heroine?" To answer, I went right to the source: one of the many awesome and friendly authors I've had the honor of getting to "know" through this blog: Tamara Leigh.  


CREATING GREAT HEROES/HEROINES
by Tamara Leigh, bestselling award-winning author

How do you create great heroes and heroines? Easy. Just borrow the techniques bestselling authors use to make characters stick in such a way that a reader doesn’t want to brush them off when they get to “The End.” That’s it. Happy writing!

Tamara Leigh
Author of The Unveiling and Restless in Carolina



Were you jolted? If not…well, I tried. But if you gave a blink of surprise, let this serve as an example of one way to create characters that keep readers flipping pages. You likely came to this article with the expectation of gaining useful advice. After all, a published author ought to know something about the subject. And yet her article consists of one brief paragraph. However, at the end of it, your insight into the author (read: character) expanded. She stayed in character by sharing advice, but as for that advice…

Regardless of whether or not you were jolted, regardless of what impression was formed of the author, you were taken a layer deeper into her character. Hopefully, it raised questions like: Is she serious? Is she full of herself? Is she a prankster? Is she an airhead…imposter…anti-social? Whatever the questions, she became more human, thereby increasing the chance you would invest time in her. What does that mean? In terms of this article: you went in search of answers. In terms of a novel: you TURNED THE PAGE.

Though I’m mostly an intuitive writer, I’ve learned to analyze my writing over the course of 14 novels contracted by publishers like RandomHouse and HarperCollins. So how do I endeavor to make characters memorable? Mostly, I rely on my own reading experiences. When a character grips me, I ask: Why do I cry when X cries—laugh when X laughs? Why am I anxious when X faces an obstacle? Why does X stay with me even when I put down the story? I also question the rare antagonist that presents as more than a paper doll villain: What makes me sympathize with Y even though Y is a baddy? The answers have given me insight into what makes a character great. In summary, this is what I strive to do when I create characters:

MAKE THEM HUMAN. Even if a heroine is a mature Christian, she won’t always think/act/speak like one. She will make emotional—and bad—choices that the wise author uses to further the plot. In other words, a character should be humanly flawed in order for readers to relate to them in such a way that they become almost real. Note: One reason I didn’t sooner transition from the general market to the inspirational market was because I had difficulty relating to characters in inspirational novels published during the ’90s. Too often, a character’s only apparent flaw was a bad thought or misplaced word. Perhaps that’s why so many readers embraced Francine Rivers’ edgy Redeeming Love. Though I probably shouldn’t admit that the novel wasn’t a “keeper” for me, the author so deeply and believably flawed her heroine that I felt as if she was real. And nothing got in the way of me reading to the end to discover how she could possibly find redemption.

MAKE THEM QUIRKY/UNIQUE. When I write romantic comedy, I give my heroine quirky traits and habits to make her stand out. In Stealing Adda, my once-upon-a-time nail biter heroine is obsessed with her fingernails and always up for a new coat of polish. When I write historical romance, I imbue my heroine with unique traits and habits. In The Unveiling, Annyn Bretanne is a woman so bent on revenge that she is more familiar with the sword than sewing—a no-no in the 12th century. Regardless of what quirk or unique trait you give a character, make sure the reader experiences instances of it throughout the story.

MAKE THEM CONSISTENT. Regardless of the personality you establish for a character based on genetics, background, experiences, etc., it’s usually best to do so gradually, allowing readers the thrill of piecing together characters scene by scene. Once the core personality is established, be consistent. For example, the “strong silent type” who becomes the “weak blubbering type” further on down the road isn’t likely to fly—unless, of course, he has wings (aka transformation). In which case, read on.

MAKE TRANSFORMATION BELIEVABLE. Change is good—and usually desired—but nothing tempts me more to pitch a book across the room (or should I say “remove it from my reading device”?) than a character who becomes an entirely different person without warning or reason. If a heroine consistently avoids conflict, she—and you as the author—can lose credibility if she suddenly jumps into the fray. Over the course of the story, there must be signs of transformation, even if only in Hansel-and-Gretel-sized crumbs. Thus, even if a reader doesn’t clearly see the change coming, reflection should allow her to connect the dots (crumbs) and experience an “I didn’t see that coming, but it makes sense” moment.

That’s all there is to creating characters who aspire to be great. Just kidding. As stated, I’m an intuitive writer but, hopefully, some of what works for me will work for you. Happy writing (and this time I mean it)!




Tamara Leigh lives near Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and sons, a Doberman that bares its teeth not only to threaten the UPS man but to smile, and a Shih Tzu with a Napoleon complex and something of an eating disorder.



Great advice, Tamara! Thanks so much for coming to visit with us today and for sharing some helpful tips with all the aspiring authors out there!

Image credits: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/photo_11015065_closeup-portrait-of-frustrated-young-woman-over-white-background.html'>logos / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
Image credit: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/photo_13786398_blackboard--welcome.html'>mariok / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

My Book Boyfriend: GARR WULFRITH from Tamara Leigh's THE UNVEILING

Welcome, Ladies, to another installment of that ever-popular meme, My Book Boyfriend. This week's heart candy comes to us from Medieval times and the worthy pen of author Tamara Leigh.

My Book Boyfriend is an original meme,
created by Missie at The Unread Reader.
Missie is getting help with the hosting this fall
from My Keeper Shelf's Lesley. For info on how to
feature this meme on your blog, got to THIS POST 
Tamara's new novel, THE UNVEILING is the first in a new medieval series called Age of Faith. It features as protagonist a young woman named Annyn Bretanne who lives for revenge. And her dagger has the name BARON GARR WULFRITH carved on it. So, of course, I'm featuring the drool-worthy Garr here today.

Here are the Top Ten Reasons 
why Garr Wulfrith stole my book-boy-luvin' heart:

1. Lord Wulfrith is a knight. ('nuff said?)

2. He trains young men to become knights, and they (mostly) adore him, so he's got that whole teacher-vibe thing going on. This includes numbered lessons, consisting mainly of one-liners, with different lessons for different squires, yet he manages to remember which squire received which lesson in which order. So, yes, he's got a sharp mind.

3. Plus, he's big, broad, muscled, and lean, which, even if he wasn't so sharp, he'd be pretty enough to crush on.

4. He's young, but has prematurely silver hair. Now that caught my attention. Silver hair?! And that, my dears, is when he had me at "hello." Want to see what I mean? Check out THIS PHOTO LINK of Richard Gere. Take that fluffy silver mane, and then add a little hardness, a little toughness, a little *fans self* "Yes, please!" as seen in THIS PHOTO LINK of actor Paul Walker, and you have a good representation of what I think BARON GARR WULFRITH might look like. (When you've finished drooling, come on back.)

5. He can ride a horse standing up.

6. He's a master of weapons and a novice with wooing, but not with, ahem, certain aspects of physicality.

7. He's been taught to be a chauvinist by his father, but he's good and respectful to his mama, so there's hope.

8. He's morally driven... within the scope of the times. So, yes. He's an edgy hero for inspirational romance. He's benefited from the ministrations of women of "the profession", so he's not, ahem, pure (nor does he apologize for it, really.) But our Garr looks upon the marriage bed differently. Chauvinistically and a tad elitist differently, yes. But he's a moral guy for his times, just differently, due to those times. And, remember: he loves his mama. So there's hope for Garr to become Mr. Woo-me-baby if just the right, tough, weapons-friendly & noble-born girl (like Annyn) captures his heart. (Although he would never assume to marry for any other reasons than to beget an heir, as counselled by his father.)

9. Garr's a good kisser. An excellent kisser, actually.(My fan hand is getting a mite tired.) And he's willing to cut his own arm to make sure that the sheet that hangs out the window after the wedding night gets the message across to those who might threaten his woman. (Remember: medieval.)

And finally, 10. Lord Wulfrith is the master of multiple keeps and castles. (I've always wanted a vacation home.)

Here's the blurb about the book from amazon.com:

12TH CENTURY ENGLAND: TWO MEN VIE FOR THE THRONE: KING STEPHEN THE USURPER AND YOUNG DUKE HENRY THE RIGHTFUL HEIR. AMID CIVIL AND PRIVATE WARS, ALLIANCES ARE FORGED, LOYALTIES ARE BETRAYED, FAMILIES ARE DIVIDED, AND MARRIAGES ARE MADE.

For four years, Lady Annyn Bretanne has trained at arms with one end in mind—to avenge her brother’s murder as God has not deemed it worthy to do. Disguised as a squire, she sets off to exact revenge on a man known only by his surname, Wulfrith. But when she holds his fate in her hands, her will wavers and her heart whispers that her enemy may not be an enemy after all.

Baron Wulfrith, renowned trainer of knights, allows no women within his walls for the distraction they breed. What he never expects is that the impetuous young man sent to train under him is a woman who seeks his death—nor that her unveiling will test his faith and distract the warrior from his purpose.


Now that you've met Garr,
head on over to check out
My Keeper Shelf
and see what other book boyfriends
are being featured on the meme today!
 
Tamara Leigh is self-publishing the Age of Faith series and I encourage you to go buy the book, not only to support one of my favorite go-to-for-a-sure-winner authors in this endeavor, but because it's an EXCELLENT, five-star read (more in-depth review to come!)and is totally the sort of thing we LOVE to feature here at EDGY INSPIRATIONAL ROMANCE! Besides, you really should meet my book boyfriend, Garr (and Annyn, I suppose...sigh.) for yourself! Here's a link to purchase at Amazon. At this time, The Unveiling is only available for Kindle, but you can get an app for other devices.

I'd love to hear what you think!

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Guest Post by Author Cathy Gohlke

It is my pleasure to welcome inspirational fiction author Cathy Gohlke to the blog today. Cathy's new book, Band of Sisters, takes one of today's most troubling topics, human trafficking, and puts it in a historical setting. Here's the blurb, from amazon.com:
Maureen O’Reilly and her younger sister flee Ireland in hope of claiming the life promised to their father over twenty years before. After surviving the rigors of Ellis Island, Maureen learns that their benefactor, Colonel Wakefield, has died. His family, refusing to own his Civil War debt, casts her out. Alone, impoverished, and in danger of deportation, Maureen connives to obtain employment in a prominent department store. But she soon discovers that the elegant facade hides a secret that threatens every vulnerable woman in the city.
Despite her family’s disapproval, Olivia Wakefield determines to honor her father’s debt but can’t find Maureen. Unexpected help comes from a local businessman, whom Olivia begins to see as more than an ally, even as she fears the secrets he’s hiding. As women begin disappearing from the store, Olivia rallies influential ladies in her circle to help Maureen take a stand against injustice and fight for the lives of their growing band of sisters. But can either woman open her heart to divine leading or the love it might bring?
Please give a hearty EIR welcome to our guest today: Cathy Gohlke

Today’s Issues Through Historical Fiction 
by Cathy Gohlke, author of Band of Sisters

Today’s hot button topics shoot across the screen in living color, but look surprisingly like rewinds of old black and white movies— repetitions of past issues retold in this new century, in new settings, with new casts of characters.

So often I wonder, Are we reinventing the wheel? Shouldn’t we have learned by now? And yet we’re trekking round that same mountain (whatever the issue) because we’ve never quite reached the Promised Land. In all that time we’ve surely learned something through history—if only what doesn’t work.

But in an age when studying history is not at the top of to-do lists how do we know what hasn’t worked? And if we haven’t gleaned knowledge or understanding from the past, aren’t we destined to keep circling the mountain?

It was that question that jumpstarted my passion for exploring current needs and modern-day issues in the light of history.

“There is nothing new under the sun” is more truth than cliché. By looking at today’s problems through the lens of the past, we gain new perspective and glean lessons already learned.

Historical fiction provides a safe, non-threatening distance from which to explore the explosive questions of current events. Having the advantage of a bird’s eye view of a similar conflict played out on distant shores, we see the big picture. With greater perspective we can portray an issue’s divergent viewpoints. We see what never worked, what sometimes worked, and can take an educated guess at what might have worked had parts of the scenario or application played out differently. Elimination is a big part of the process of moving forward.

Consider this: We might not immediately know what to do when we pass a woman with a black eye in our grocery store. We might realize a moment too late that someone of another race or creed has been snubbed or excluded in our midst.

But every one of us would enter adamantly, passionately into a discussion on the inhumanity of Pre-Civil War slavery. We’d not hesitate to express our view of the hate-filled prejudice played out during the civil rights movement, or the horrors of Hitler’s concentration camps. We’ve counted those costs. We stand and review those scenarios from a distance.

Historical fiction allows us to create a less personal portrayal of conflicts, to form a framework in which we can discuss tough issues. They are stories of people “long ago and far away,” no matter that a similar issue is playing through our evening news—an issue we may embrace just as passionately.

It’s the same when we read a biography in which the hero or heroine face seemingly insurmountable obstacles. As we read how they overcame those problems we’re inspired, given hope, and led to believe that we can overcome our current life challenges, too—which may be separated by centuries, but play out in a surprisingly similar vein. We appreciate and are enriched by the perspective created by time and distance.

That is my hope for readers as they absorb Band of Sisters, a story set in NYC, 1910-1911. Two Irish immigrant sisters are drawn, unwittingly, into a web of human trafficking, beginning at Ellis Island. A group of committed churchwomen want to help, but are hindered by lack of information, social moors, and not knowing where to begin. So, they ask, “What would Jesus do in a need so desperate?”

We who know the Lord know that He gave us answers—to these and so many other horrific, pressing challenges—in the way He lived and through the stories and the principles of the stories He told. I used His answers to address questions of human trafficking, immigration and poverty in 1911.

The questions, dangers, drama and trauma of human trafficking are just as true, just as real today as those portrayed in the book—only, unbelievably, heartbreakingly, more pervasive. We can use the same solutions in addressing the crisis today, adapting the characters’ reasoning and actions to our times.

I believe the wrappings of historical fiction make those hard truths easier for readers to grasp.

As Christian writers and readers we have a wide field, a golden opportunity to raise controversial questions and point to the One with answers. Historical fiction is one means, one uniquely useful framework to portray and explore solutions to the explosive issues of our time.
Author Cathy Gohlke

Cathy Gohlke has worked as a school librarian, a drama director for adults and young people, and as a director of children’s and education ministries. Her dreams of detective work, spying, and archeological digs are now accomplished through writing research.

For more information on Cathy and her books, please visit her website. Readers can also connect with Cathy on Facebook.

Thanks for joining us at EIR today, Cathy!

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