Friday, December 28, 2007

His Joy

I have two questions for you:

1. Do you ever get grumpy when you're sick?

2. Ever been sick at Christmas?

I spent this Christmas sick with a cold. Ick. You know, headaches, sneezing, coughing. Everyone in the house runs for cover. They eye you like you're "typhoid Mary" when you dare to expel germs from your body. And you think about things like this: every reaction to a cold ---coughing and sneezing and blowing your nose are all ways of EXPELLING germs from your body! Far from your body. Good grief! Not a good way to make friends.

But you know what? I spent a very joyous Christmas, even though I wasn't feeling well. I'm the type to get grumpy (off and on) when I'm sick. But this year, I kept my thoughts reigned in. I got into the Word of God often, sitting quietly in my room during downtimes so I could absorb a nugget to chew on while we spent family time together.

And I had joy.

Jesus was (and is) the Man of Joy. A local author, Sherwood Wirt, wrote a book called Jesus, Man of Joy. It's a great read and one Bruce Marchiano used in his portrayal of Jesus in Visual Bible's Matthew series. Here's the verse which confirms Jesus' joy:

"You love righteousness and hate wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions." (Psalm 45:7, NKJV)

The New Testament verse in Hebrews
1:9 echoes that truth:

"You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions." (Hebrews 1:9, NKJV)

This oil of gladness, what a beautiful concept. Jesus walked in joy. Yes, the Bible also calls Him the Suffering Servant (see Isaiah 53) and the Man of sorrows. But since the Bible says he's anointed with the oil of gladness, we must not overlook His joy. I believe the Isaiah 53 verses were specifically focused on His suffering. He bore all of humanity's sins and of course sorrows. From Gethsemane to the cross, I believe Jesus lived the verses of Isaiah 53:1-10 as the Man of Sorrows.

For the most part, I believe He walked in joy!

“looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2, NKJV)

Joy motivated Him through the cross. You are His joy:

"The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." (Zephaniah 3:17, NKJV)

It may be difficult for us to choose joy in our lives, but if we keep a tight reign on our thoughts and look to Jesus, He will give us joy. It's a joyous thing to watch Him work in your life. I love how He used the Word while we were away for Christmas to speak directly to me.

His example is joy. To be conformed to His image is to walk in joy.

Back Home

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas holiday. We spent ours out of state with family and enjoyed ourselves a lot! We're used to 40s and rainy. We had 65 and sunnnnnny. Yum!

Now, piles of laundry and mail greet me and await my full attention, at least for a while. Then, a manuscript to edit. But first, a bit of blogging now that I'm back on line. It's good to be back.

Annette (and no, this is not a picture of our house. -very big grin-)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Merry Christmas!


Have a wonderful Christmas, everyone. I have a Christmas wish for you: Be well, be thankful (so you can hang onto joy--our next topic when I return to blogging on our topic of being conformed to His image), be blessed and behold Him.

All the best,
Annette

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Humility

Jesus---King of kings, Lord of All and Creator of the Universe left heaven.

We could stop right there. He was glorified and recognized as God in heaven, with no one to abuse Him or misunderstand His mission or scoff. He was worshipped freely and enjoyed the amazing communion of the Godhead. He was enthroned. But he left heaven. It was all part of a deal He and the Father had worked out. A plan to bring salvation—to extend mercy to the masses and grace to whosoever would come. (John 3:16-18)

He humbled Himself to come to earth. That doesn’t mean he started out prideful, but rather He moved from a lofty place to a lowly one---heaven’s throne to one of earth’s stables. Perhaps his throne is made of pure gold in heaven. His bed on earth for that first night? A stack of hay in a feeding trough. He left majesty for the mundane, all so He could rescue the miserable.

I’m convinced human beings cannot manufacture genuine humility by trying. Somewhere there would be pride in the motivation. Jesus walked in pure humility. He knew Who He was. He knew His name would be exalted above all names and that at His name every knee would bow. Yet, he walked in perfect humility. He communed with the Father, brought healing to the hurting and taught in the synagogues. He was a leader, discipling many (beyond the twelve. See Luke 8:1-3). He didn’t walk in pride, though He knew everything. (God is omniscient.)

Jesus is God and He walked in “lowliness.” Amazing. I’ve discovered something. It’s only when we know who we are in God through Christ, discovering whom our Creator made us to be, that we can rest in the truth about our identity. Resting in our identity doesn’t require any airs. We can relax when others are comparing themselves and judging others and being critical. We don’t have to embrace pride as a defense mechanism.

I’m also convinced the only way to be consistently humble, is for the Holy Spirit to work this in us. Our role? Desire to be like Christ. Cooperate as the Lord shows us what in our lives could be keeping us from walking in true humility. We’ll learn what false humility is—a façade meant to impress. We’ll get free from past thought patterns which embraced pride. I’m after God’s embrace, but if I’m gripping pride, God will resist me. I never want to be one whom God resists.

Being conformed to the image of Christ includes humility. During this Christmas season, as we ponder what it meant for Jesus to come to earth as a tiny baby, subjecting himself to poverty, let’s consider what it means for this One who receives worship to do so with pure humility. Let’s behold Him. We’re about to find more than ever: He’s beautiful.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Conformed

This past Sunday as our pastor was preaching about living in victory, he described Jesus’s example of obedience to the Father, of His example of suffering because He really wasn’t a part of this world (in the sense of agreeing with the pervasive sinfulness around Him—around everyone since the fall). As believers we are being conformed to His image.

“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Romans 8:29, NKJV)

We are being conformed to the image of this One who suffered as He obeyed God. This One who communed without interruption in His heart with God. This One who walked in humility and dignity, with compassion and mercy, in meekness and strength. He didn’t have to prove who He was. He simply lived and worked as He saw the Father moving.

How comfortable are you with this idea of being conformed to His image? Does the idea make you squirm, because you envision suffering and a life that is pleasure-less? Do you esteem your priorities higher than God’s for your life? Do you esteem yourself higher than the humble Christ who gave Himself on behalf of the world? I wrestled with some of these questions as I sat in church on Sunday.

I’m going to do a series on this concept of being conformed, but not in the way you might think. Instead of focusing on what we’ll have to do to change, how we’ll have to fight our nature and let God mold us, I’m going to use the principle of “beholding is becoming.” When we behold something we become like it. If, for example, we were to focus on fashion magazines. Soon, we’d be dressing like the models we’ve seen and changing hairstyles and accessories to match new fads.

When we behold Jesus, in the many facets that make up His character, we will become like Him. The more we behold Him (through the Word, through prayer, through communion with Him) the more we will become like Him. We will be conformed to His image.

So, let’s cooperate on that Potter’s wheel and entrust ourselves to God’s hands, just like Jesus did.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Christmas Spirit


I'm sooo in the Christmas spirit! I'm always humming a Christmas tune. I want Christmas music playing wherever I'm working. I even downloaded a new background to my cell phone. You have to understand, in seven years of having a cell, this is only the second time. So, what's up?

The snow helped a few days ago. Getting our tree up and the rest of the house decorated made a big difference, too. I want to be surrounded by reminders of the season.

I've been working through one of Beth Moore's studies. (I respect her as a woman of God and as an insightful teacher.) She mentioned that Jesus may very well have been born on December 25th. Stay with me here. To deliver in December, you have to conceive in late March or early April. That would put Mary's conception around Passover. We have a definite biblical account that Jesus died at Passover. Wouldn't it make sense for God the Father to begin this Lamb's life at Passover almost 34 years earlier? Something to think about.

Yes, I'm gearing up to celebrate Jesus. But I'm celebrating along the way. We don't have to wait for a specific day. We celebrate our friends and family on their birthdays, but it's not the only time all year we share a special moment with them. It's not the only time we tell them we love them. As I sang a spontaneous song to Jesus today, I was celebrating Him. He's the greatest gift. He's the best reason to sing.

So, all the practical things--finishing the shopping, planning, mailing gifts. Those things will happen in time. For now, don't mind me. I'm just celebrating my Savior. As I go.

Have a wonderful Christmas season.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Looking for Freebies

It’s snowing. I grew up in Michigan and snow was as normal as sunshine there. Every year, oftentimes blanketing the landscape higher than my head. We made forts; we sledded down hill. It doesn’t snow much here. But today it’s like a winter wonderland. And for the snow to accumulate in Seattle is even rarer. Yet, it layers on the ground outside our windows and makes us want to run out there and be in the center of it all. A great way to start December.

I took my toddler out to watch the flakes fall. The joy and puzzlement on her face. The wonder. Later, she ran from room to room, telling all of us that it was "snowman!" I convinced her it was "snowing." Another priceless gift of the season.

This year, I’m looking for the freebies---not on sales racks, but with my family. Moments I can treasure, when our family is together gearing up to watch a Christmas movie or decorate the tree (which we did last weekend). Little things, priceless moments. Cherished gifts from God.

Have a joyous season.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Love Letters

Surprise!

I love surprises. Especially good news from publishers.

In January, 2007, my novella “Love Letters” released through a new publisher. Since the book was just over 24,000 words, they released it as an ebook—downloadable only.

Then, the other day, they sent an email announcing its release in print! It’s about 109 pages and comes complete with an ISBN number. J

I pulled a bit of real life from my own experience and turned up the tension x 100, threw in some completely fabricated elements and ta-da! A novella!

Here’s a bit about the story:

Randy Ambrose has written scores of love letters to his wife, but she’s never seen them. He’s stressed out with work, trying to make a deadline. Jordan Ambrose wonders why her husband is so distant. She’s searching for a good read when she happens on a box of love letters in her husband’s writing office. They’re written from R to J and she assumes they’re from him. But why hasn’t he ever showed them to her? Randy’s explanation will have to wait, Jordan’s sick with strep throat, which Randy then catches. Their tenth wedding anniversary fast approaches, as does Randy’s deadline for work. He’s got to explain the letters Jordan found. After a lifetime of guarding his heart, can he risk letting Jordan see, through his letters, just exactly how he’s felt all this time?

Come take a peek at reviews from authors like Colleen Reece, Birdie Etchison, Betsy Ann St. Amant, as well as online reviewer Michelle Sutton:

http://www.annetteirby.com/Fiction.html

To purchase, click the above link and then click "Buy now" on that page.

If you get a chance to read it, I’d love to hear what you think!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Guest Author: Cara Putman

During the ACFW conference of 2006, Cara Putman was in for a huge surprise.

As per tradition, some editors will announce first time book contracts for writers who haven't published yet. This time, it was Cara Putman's turn. I'm so pleased to host her today on my blog and feature her book!

"Canteen Dreams" released in October.

Below, she shares an article for writers which will offer a bit of behind the scenes info on her strategies as a historical writer.

Immersing Yourself in History

Three of my first four contracted books involve a step back in time to the days of World War Two. I may have been born in the 70s, but I’ve always held a love for and fascination with the life and times of the 40s, particularly the war years. In many ways, it was completely natural to find my first novel set during that time. And it was a joy to uncover two additional stories from that time period.

But how does someone who was born 30 years after the events weave them into a story in a believable way? Here are a few tricks of the trade I’ve learned.

1) Study the culture and media of the time. I have always LOVED the old black and white movies from the early forties. Bringing Up Baby, It Happened One Night, You Can’t Take It with You, and the Thin Man series are some of my favorite movies of all time. Add in Fred Astaire & Ginger Rodgers, Gene Kelly and Bing Crosby, starlets like Katherine Hepburn and Myrna Loy and you can begin to get a feel for the styles of the time.

Now you have to be careful. Much as I love Audrey Hepburn, I can’t use her in a book from the early 40s…she wasn’t acting yet. So writers have to pay attention to copyrights on movies…Kate Hepburn wore pants in Bringing Up Baby, which released in 1938. By 1943 that was a well-established style that many attributed to her. And that leads me to my next tip…

2) Buy resources that illustrate the styles and vehicles of the time. As I wrote Sandhill Dreams, I realized I needed help describing the different styles in hats and clothing. I turned to Amazon and found a couple great resources. One was Everyday Fashions of the Forties as pictured in Sears Catalog. It’s perfect…Sears stores and catalogs were available throughout Nebraska, the setting for my World War Two series. Now I had the catalog illustrations and descriptions for the styles. It also gave me the details to back up things I knew, like during the war women couldn’t purchase pantyhose, so they drew lines up the back of their legs to mimic hose. But they also had make-up specifically designed to look like hose. Those are the details that make a book and a time period come alive.

3) Interview people who lived during that time – if you can. My time period is the early 1940s, so I interviewed my grandparents and others who lived then. If you plan to write about an earlier time period, then you’ll need to rely on resources like journals, newspapers, and other written accounts. But if you can, take the time to track down those who lived it. One night I had a delightful conversation with a veteran who had traveled through the North Platte Canteen 5 times as a soldier. Each visit was different, and he gladly shared his impressions and memories with me. His stories reinforced those I had found through other resources.

4) If you can’t interview people, don’t forget to look for sources that did. I found several invaluable resources in published books, Public television broadcasts, and spending a day with the Fort Robinson Museum curator who had interviewed dozens of veterans when they returned to the Fort. While I couldn’t interview these people, others had.

If you are writing or hope to write a historical novel, take the time to get the details right. Your readers will thank you.

Thank you, Cara, for sharing your insights. Best wishes in your writing!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Fire of His Love


This morning, I came down to my writing office (a bedroom on the ground floor of our home) and prepared to get to work. Piano music floated through the air, sunshine streamed in the window and the only missing element? A candle. So, I chose the ones for the day: Wild Orchid and Island Palm. But the wick in Wild Orchid was too long. Missing scissors, I broke the wick off with my fingers and the stub left behind didn't bode well for actually hosting a flame. I held the lit wand over the wick for a while before it would light. Then--viola!! It came to life, albeit shakily and I waited to see if the flame would grow. Sure enough, it burned for hours before I had to put it out. Now my office smells delicious.

I'm like that in prayer sometimes---not the smelling part , but the warming part. Ever come to God and you're feeling cold or burdened, but you press into his presence and hold on. While you're there, Bible open, prayers on your lips, love in your heart, something happens. The longer you linger in His fiery presence, the warmer you become. Pretty soon, you're lit. Ahhhh... the warmth of His love pours into your heart and you bear light to others.

The trick is to expose yourself to the flame, even when you don't think it'll take. Keep coming back and positioning your heart before His light, the fire of His love. Keep beholding His goodness. He'll manifest Himself to you. He's faithful.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Strong Foundation

It happened again.

My computer made a decision to hibernate, without telling me first. Here I am in the middle of an email to a fellow writer when BAM! I'm staring at a blank screen, save that one little window in the middle: Preparing to Hibernate.

Okay, so it's autumn and some days I'd like to hibernate, too, but come on!

So, I head off to get my cord and return to get some juice into this puppy. I plug in, flip open the top and what do you think is the first thing that happens? A beep followed by a pop-up window that reads: Critical Battery---plug in or else!! (or something like that )

Thanks for such a timely warning.

Ya know what, though? Sometimes we don't get a warning before something unnerving happens. That's why we need a strong foundation. Life's little problems and life's bigger problems are less unsettling if we have a strong foundation. Take a look at what Jesus said:

"But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say? "Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: "He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. "But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great." (Lu 6:46-49 NKJV)

How do you react when something serious comes your way? If we have taken the time to develop a deep relationship with Jesus, the Prince of Peace, we will have peace--even when life tosses a surprise at us. When Jesus speaks peace over your life, He imparts rest and calm to you, because His words bear the power to calm you on the inside. You'll have peace in circumstances that warrant angst. You'll have peace that passes understanding. With a strong foundation in Jesus, you'll have rest in your heart.

I wish you peace.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Free to Sing

Today I drove over one of our many mountain passes here in the northwest. (It's more formidable than the one pictured here. :0) Not a favorite pastime for me. Large trucks vied for position. Wind blew against the side of our van and as I took the turns one after another I focused only on driving.

Just before the road started climbing toward the pass, I'd been singing along with a Christmas CD -- a jazzy collection with amazing harmonies and rhythm (Avalon: Joy). But, somewhere as we climbed and the road grew darker with so many trees flanking the ribbon of highway, I stopped singing.

After the summit, the road winds back down, curving and narrowing once again. I still wasn't singing. Soon, the road evened out and split into more lanes while light broke overhead as we cleared the trees. Whew. Deep breath. A new song played on the CD and I started singing along again. That's when I realized I'd been quiet for a while.

Fear'll do that to you.

Fear will take the song away and silence your voice. Fear robs us of joy and being carefree. I'm still learning how to give over my concerns fully to the Lord. Can anybody out there relate? What key strategies have helped you? My most recent plan is to remember God has mercy on those who fear Him (a good and holy fear, which causes us to draw near to God) and He takes pleasure in those who hope in his mercy, so I can trust Him. I can run to Him.

And in His protective care, I can sing.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Guest Author: Denise Hunter


This is exciting! I just finished Denise Hunter's "Surrender Bay" which released in October, '07. This book is such a good read and though it's fiction, you'll be fed as if you were reading non-fiction. Yes, the work entertains, but it also encourages a fresh revelation of God's unconditional love.

Before I post the interview, I have to share this funny note with you. Denise and I both served on the ACFW's worship team this year, but when I sat down to read "Surrender Bay," I didn't realize she was the same Denise, even though I recognized her picture from her website. I only knew her as Denise at the conferences (she served last year, too). She plays drums on the worship team at her home church and I'm thankful she's sharing her skills with ACFW, both in writing and in music!

Here's the interview:

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get started writing?

I’m a mid-western girl, married to a wonderful man, and I have three terrific boys. When I was a child, my mother took me to the library regularly, and I was introduced to the world of fiction. In my elementary years, I wore out our school library’s Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books, and throughout my middle school years and into high school, I always had my nose in a book. (Still do, just ask my husband.)

In my early twenties, I began to wonder if I could write a novel. I had two of my children at that time, and when my grandfather became very ill, we were told he was going to pass away soon. I visited him in the hospital, and as I watched him lying on the bed, I recalled the many things he had done for Christ during his long life. I knew he’d lived a full life with few regrets, and I wanted to be able to feel that way when my life drew to a close. On my long drive home, I decided I was going to stop wondering if I could write a book and just do it. I wrote my first novels during my childrens’ nap times.

What was your inspiration for writing Surrender Bay?

My earliest vision of the story was simply about best friends who fall in love. The story evolved as it brewed in my head for almost a year and as I brainstormed with my writing buddies (authors Colleen Coble, Diann Hunt, and Kristin Billerbeck). But Surrender Bay truly took on a new dimension when the Westbow staff suggested making the romance in the story a picture of the romance between God and us. The story grew, bit by bit, from there, with lots of brain-wracking, hair-pulling, praying, and re-writing. J

I noticed there is no overt Christianity in the story. Why did you write it as an allegory?

I love the way Jesus told stories. His parables made his listeners think for themselves and draw their own conclusions. In his story of the Prodigal Son, Jesus never said, “Listen folks, the father in the story is God, and the Prodigal Son is you.” The son never had a “come to Jesus” moment, he simply returned to his father and was welcomed home with open arms. Jesus required the listeners to draw the connection for a reason.

An allegory allows us to see the familiar in a fresh and powerful way, and that’s what I hoped to do with Surrender Bay.

What would you like readers to take away from this story?

I hope readers walk away from this story with a fresh view of the way God pursues us. I hope women find comfort in the kind of love He has for them, the kind that never fails, the kind that puts our sins as far as the east is from the west. “He will never leave you nor forsake you”.

Nantucket sounds like a beautiful place to visit. Did you visit there to do research?

Nantucket is a lovely island, a truly unique place. My family went with me for a brief visit so I could do some research as part of our vacation last year. I was so inspired, I sat on the beach and wrote the first pages of the story while my kids and husband frolicked in the water. The quaint town, the history, the cobblestone streets, and the people really make this an ideal setting for novels.

Is Surrender Bay part of a series?

Yes and no. Surrender Bay is the first of four books that will be set on Nantucket, romance novels that will reflect the attributes of God listed in Zephaniah 3:17. The books will feature different characters, though, and stand completely their own. Hopefully, they will necessitate another research trip to Nantucket.

Here's her bio:

Denise lives in Indiana with her husband Kevin and their three sons. In 1996, Denise began her first book, a Christian romance novel, writing while her children napped. Two years later it was published, and she's been writing ever since. Her books often contain a strong romantic element, and her husband Kevin says he provides all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too!

You can find out more by visiting her website: www.DeniseHunterBooks.com
She is also active at www.GirlsWriteOut.blogspot.com

Thanks for visiting us, Denise.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Source

This morning, I noticed my lacy-leafed China Doll tree was looking rather dry. This thing glugs water. My daughter had just watered it extensively the other day. Today, back to desert conditions. I think it's the heat we turn on during our cooler weather. Either way, it needed water.

I turned around to the kitchen bar and found a pitcher half full of water waiting for the next dishwasher load. All that water, so close to the need, and yet the tree was dying of thirst. The dirt was dry and the leaves were less glossy than they need to be. All the poor thing needed was access to the water. I poured the liquid from the pitcher into a smaller container and brought it over to the tree. Glug-glug.

When Jesus died on the cross, the veil in the temple tore from top to bottom, allowing access in the very presence of God. Through Jesus, we have access to the living God. And all we have to do is go to the Source.

Is there anything stopping you? My work can get in the way---household chores, toddler care and writing. So what? No excuses. He is the Source and I need Him. I'm headed in to the holiest place. Are you coming?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Pumpkin Spice

Ever noticed how a fragrance can lighten your mood? Odors can make you wince, but lovely aromas can elicit a sigh.

The other night I hosted our writer's critique group in my home and before they arrived, I lit my pumpkin spice candle. It has an amazing fragrance. We laughed and talked about wafting the smell toward your nose, not just inhaling directly over the glass jar.

I was at the drug store today and picked up tealights with a pine fragrance. Not a personal favorite. But, the cinnamon candles? Yum. Right now one of the cinnamon candles influences the atmosphere in my writing office while I pen this post.

Music does the same thing. My husband and I visited a restaurant one afternoon for lunch and the music was so difficult to endure. Most of the songs took us back to a place in our pasts we'd rather not revisit. But right now, as I write this, I'm listening to piano instrumental music--a favorite of mine for writing. There's almost a visible peace in my room. That day in the pizza place? The music chased us out and darkened our experience.

Music and fragrance make a difference. Try this: the next time you prepare for your quiet time with God, when you grab your Bible, also take a moment to light a fragranced candle and turn on worship music. These elements may just bring a new dynamic to your experience. God created your senses. Enjoy.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Best Gifts

This morning, as I was dressing my toddler, I noticed the radio station we love was playing Christmas music. What a treat! It's Spirit 105.3 out of the Seattle area and since I've already begun drifting into the Christmas spirit, I couldn't help smiling.

There's a thread today on one of the writer's loops I belong to about making personalized gifts. Great ideas were coming through. One of the themes was the advice of letting your loved ones know how much you love them. The more I "grow up" (grin), the more I appreciate the intangible gifts. Knowing I'm loved is near the top of the list. Loving on others is, too.

So, as you plan for the holidays, let yourself muse on the affection you have for your family. Feed those thoughts, rather than any irritations. Family is one of God's best gifts.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Special guest: Jodie Westfall, Photographer

Hey everyone. Because I believe in going after your dreams, and because when I met today's guest I sensed she was right in the midst of the roller coaster ride that is pursuing your dreams, I wanted to feature her here for inspiration. Jodie is a warm and cheerful person and I enjoyed meeting her. She is the official American Christian Fiction Writer's photographer and was on hand at the conference in 2007, taking individual author/editor/agent shots by appointment, as well as candid group shots at will. Welcome, Jodie.

(BTW, the photo of me which now graces my blog was taken by Jodie.) I've sprinkled her work throughout.

How long ago did you discover photography was fun?

I have had a camera in my hand as long as I can remember! I was always the one in school that had pictures to share with everyone. I loved taking pictures and watching the person smile when they flipped through them. And I guess you could say those were my first published photos – the yearbook!

Would you consider yourself an artistic person? And do you enjoy other creative pastimes?

I don’t think I have ever stopped to think about it from that perspective, however, I have began to really listen to what others are saying about my work – and that word “artist” keeps popping up in the conversation.

Unless you consider hanging out with your family as a creative pastime; those are the two loves of my life!

How long did you dream of becoming a professional photographer?

As long as I can remember! I have always wanted to be a photographer, but fear stood in my way! I was afraid it would take me away from my family, that I would work most weeknights and weekends. And then working on strictly commission scared me to death!

What made you decide to go for it?

I reached a point in life – maybe some would call it a mid-life crisis!! My kids were both attending college, my husband had left the corporate world and began pursuing his passion, teaching and coaching kids in school, and I began to really think of what was stopping me from at least trying to seek my passion! And I began to pray and I feel as though I was being obedient, that for some reason, this is where I am supposed to be. And I thought, ok –start with a small goal, buy the camera that would help you and just try to pay for it!

Where is God in your dreams? (in other words, how has He affected your choices and/or encouraged you?)

I felt God nudging me all the way –everything began to fall into place as if all the avenues found me and I wasn’t asking too many questions and the answers fell in my lap! For example, I stopped each and every morning to buy coffee on my way to my “other job.” I would talk about the possibility of starting my business; she would say you just light up when you talk about photography, would you be interested in taking my son’s wedding pictures? I was so surprised, I said SURE! She said the bride’s mom has a photographer, but would you do this for me? I couldn’t resist! Then my web designer was a true God send – she led me every step of the way – she saw my vision and just did a remarkable job to make it all come together.

I believe God has encouraged me in so many ways, by my daughter and husband actually assisting me with photo shoots and that has been one of the highlights – working with my family! My daughter has actually been the second shooter and it is so amazing to work with her at weddings, conferences etc.

And, by the way -- my camera…my small goal…. was paid for within the first year!

What advice do you have for other hopeful photographers? And for fellow dreamers?

I strongly believe that God places the dreams within us and if we would let go and really listen to Him, He will provide the way for us to follow our dreams. So don’t give up, keep pushing forward it is His timing and not ours!

How can people contact you for your work?

That is easy – email, telephone or visit my website and click on the Contact icon.

http://www.jodiewestfallphotography.com

Jodie@jodiewestfallphotography.com

469.360.2017

Thank you for visiting, Jodie. It was a pleasure meeting you at the American Christian Fiction Writer’s conference this year and thank you for the pictures! You are an artist! God bless you in the pursuit of your dreams!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Such Grace!

This verse is quoted below today in the CWO "Daily Snippets" box.

Blessed is the one whom You choose, and cause to come near You. He shall dwell in Your courts; we shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, of Your holy temple. (Psalm 65:4, MKJV)

Our pastor reminded us last night at church that in the Old Testament, God poured out His special attention on a select few: Moses, David, Joseph, Isaiah, etc. But, in the New Covenant, His presence is for "whosoever will." Whoever will pursue Him wholeheartedly will find Him. His sheep hear His voice, and becoming a sheep is a matter of "whosoever will."

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16, NKJV)

Whoever believes... Are you one of the ones who believes? You don't have to be left out. Not this time. You may have felt left out at other times in your life, but not this time. Just say yes to Him.

Last night, during worship, I agreed to do something the Lord had been asking me to do. I prayed and gave Him a "yes," as weak as I felt. Immediately His presence visited me. He's looking for willingness.

Are you willing?

Friday, October 19, 2007

A fun exercise

I just did an encouraging exercise.

Waiting can be hard. I have several writing projects awaiting word from publishers and editors. Meanwhile, I keep working on current projects. But today, I needed a pick-me-up. So I reminded myself of past publications.

Affirmation comes in different shapes. Is there some activity you can do that will encourage you as you keep chasing your dreams in the Lord? Remember past victories? Call a friend and relive good moments? Pray through your anxieties and let God minister hope and peace to you? If you've written down His promises, just re-reading them will help. Whatever it is, the reassurance will go a long way toward catapulting you forward.

Take the time to do it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Zero Hundred Hours

I know very little about military time, but recently I was on a retreat and the digital clock in my room was set to military time. I didn't want to mess with it, so I left it at that setting.

Ever worked through a whole day on military time? Midnight rolls around and what does it look like? 0:00--Foreign, at least to me. Like time has just started over again. Since midnight does officially indicate a new day has begun, seeing 0:00 drove home the truth that each new day ushers in a new set of opportunities and possibilities for positive changes in life.

I know someone who for years hasn't been their optimal weight. But this year decided to make some changes--going to the gym and eating better and what do you know? This person is now down five sizes. Every new day offers a new opportunity for change. Then, it's just a matter of sticking with it. That first step takes you halfway there. You're moving in the right direction.

Also, staring at the 0:00 for several seconds, I was reminded of God's mercies being new every morning.

Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23, NKJV)

So, even if I totally failed yesterday, I can still pick up, start a new day and move forward with hope. God is patiently changing me from the inside out and I'll take his hand again.

Thank God for new days, new starts and new life.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Guest Author: Tricia Goyer

Tricia Goyer has just released a nonfiction book for teens about not just letting life happen to them, but making decisions before they have to make choices. Here’s how she describes her new book: my life, unscripted

Drawing on Biblical principles, My Life, Unscripted guides girls through the tumultuous teen years by teaching them to have a plan of attack before temptation or hardship come.

Tricia's Script: (She uses a fun sort of “script” format for the entire book.)

Looking back at my drama-filled teen years I now wonder ... What was I thinking?

The truth? I wasn't. I lived from day to day on every wave of emotion. Some days excitement and passion partnered up, pattering wildly within my heart.

Other days, depression and anxiety were my silent friends. I lived each day as it came, with no plan for my future, for my relationships, or for my heart.

I lived my life completely unscripted ... and, well, it didn't go well for me. Teen pregnancy and a broken heart were only two consequences. Yet my prayer is that when teen girls are asked Who's Writing Your Life? their answer will be ME ... with the guidance of God, My Director.

Here’s an interview:

Q: Tell me about My Life, Unscripted

Sure! With real-life scripts, screenwriting terms, and timely topics, My Life, Unscripted helps teen girls explore their own inner struggles and outward relationships. It's my hope they'll learn the importance of "scripting" their own responses BEFORE challenging life-situations arise.


By contrasting real-life with TV/movies, it's my hope that teen girls will understand they don't have to get caught up in the drama. They don't have to face situations as they arise, but rather they can think about, pray about, and consider how to face these situations before they hit the big screen of their lives.

Q: Is it true that much of YOUR story shows up in these pages?

Gulp. Yes, I'm afraid so. In fact, I shared parts of my story that I SWORE I'd never tell a soul.

My teenage script (portrayed in the book as Trish Valley) wasn't one I'd suggest my daughter, nor my readers to copy.

Q: Tell me about these scripts.

The introductory script of Trish Valley shows a scene where Trish urges her mom to follow Trish's boyfriend into the McDonald's parking lot so she can "spill her news." The other girl in the car and her boyfriend's response to Trish's pregnancy are unfortunately not fiction. I wrote out the scenes as they would appear in an actual script. I even use all the correct terms and layout.

Q: In addition to teen pregnancy, what are some of the other "scripts"?

Do I have to tell? Well, I guess it's in print now! Let me see: fist fights with a rival, sneaking out of my parents' house, getting caught by my boyfriend kissing his best friend--does that give you an idea? Do I have to go on?

Q: No, you can stop there. But WHY? Why did you decide to share these stories?

First, because I want girls to understand the heartache of unwise decisions. I want them to be able to relate to me, rather than feeling preached at. Also, I wanted to share my stories because many young women have faced the same type of situations, or they know friends who have. And finally because they are great object lessons for the importance of following biblical truth. That is something I did learn!

Q: What does your teenage daughter think about this book?

Leslie thinks it's great I'm able to connect with other teens. She's heard these stories for a while! She was 11-years-old when we first started volunteering together at a support group for teenage mothers. As I taught the young moms things like nutrition and potty training, Leslie assisted adults in babysitting the toddlers. And while we loved giving and serving, it was the ride home that soon became the most meaningful part. As Leslie sat in the passenger's seat, I could see her mind considering my life as a teen mom, and she started asking questions.

Although it was hard to talk about my past mistakes, I knew this was an ideal opportunity to share real-life truths with my daughter. Each person walking this earth has regrets. Our talks showed me that instead of hiding my past troubles (and hoping my kids didn't find out) sharing my mistakes could actually give my daughter a better understanding to why values and wise decision-making skills are important.

Q: So now you're "having a heart-to-heart" with other teens through this book?

I sure hope that's how they see it! Those first talks with my daughter brought us closer, but I knew not every girl has had someone to offer advice such as: "build a supporting cast of people you can trust" or "consider the character qualities you'd like for a leading man."

Q: Okay, so your book is for teens, but what about the moms out there who feel they have past mistakes they don't want to share?

Well, they could each write a book about their teen years! Ha- just kidding!

But for those moms out there, maybe your teen years were not as drama-filled as mine. Or, if they were, maybe you are fearful of sharing them with your teen. The truth is, teens learn best not with information and knowledge, but rather by hearing life examples and understanding how decisions can affect all parts of our lives. So, time to get brave, Mom. Open your heart and share what worked and what didn't. It just might help your daughter write a better script for herself.

Oh, yes, and consider buying your daughter My Life, Unscripted! Hopefully every teen girl can get some take-away to scripting a bright future!

~~~~~~

To read a sample chapter, go to this link: http://triciagoyer.blogspot.com/2007/06/my-life-unscripted.html

Here’s a little more info about Tricia (whom I just had the pleasure of meeting at the American Christian Fiction Writers’ conference in Dallas a couple of weeks ago.

Tricia Goyer has published over 300 articles for national publications such as Today's Christian Woman, Guideposts for Kids, and Focus on the Family, and is the co-author of Meal Time Moments (Focus on the Family). She has led numerous Bible Studies, and her study notes appear in the Women of Faith Study Bible (Zondervan).

She has written seven novels for Moody Publishing: From Dust and Ashes (2003); Night Song (2004), Dawn of a Thousand Nights (2005); Arms of Deliverance (2006); A Valley of Betrayal (2007); A Shadow of Treason (Fall 2007); and A Whisper of Freedom (Spring 2008).

Night Song was awarded American Christian Fiction Writer's 2005 Book of the Year for Best Long Historical. Dawn of a Thousand Nights won the same award in 2006.

Tricia has also written Life Interrupted: The Scoop on Being a Young Mom (Zondervan, 2004), 10 Minutes to Showtime (Thomas Nelson, 2004), and Generation NeXt Parenting (Multnomah, 2006). Life Interrupted was a 2005 Gold Medallion finalist in the Youth Category.

Also, coming out in the next year are: My Life, Unscripted (Thomas Nelson, 2007), Generation NeXt Marriage (Multnomah, Spring 2008), and
3:16-the teen version of the a book by Max Lucado (Thomas Nelson, Spring 2008).

Tricia and her husband John live with their three children in
Kalispell, Montana. Tricia's grandmother also lives with them, and Tricia volunteers mentoring teen moms and leading children's church. Although Tricia doesn't live on a farm, she can hit one with a rock by standing on her back porch and giving it a good throw.

Tricia has two books that will be out soon ...

A Shadow of Treason (Moody Publishing), Fall 2007

Generation NeXt Marriage (Multnomah), January 2008

A very busy woman!

Thank you, Tricia, for stopping by on your busy blog tour. I know this book will help encourage teens to make godly decisions.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Guest Author: Travis Thrasher

I’m excited to host our next author: Travis Thrasher. His first book, “The Promise Remains” is still one of my favorites. Since then, he’s gone on to publish several books with two more releasing next year.

His book “Sky Blue” released this summer and I contacted Travis to see if I could host him here.

One exciting, non-writing development in his life, was the birth of his daughter Kylie Shea, who will be one in November this year. I’m thrilled for him and Sharon.

Here’s our interview:

Hi Travis, I just finished reading “Sky Blue.” You use a creative approach. I haven’t seen this approach before your work. Tell me about that.

I think that every novel I write is handled with a different approach. It’s not that I necessarily try to be different. It’s just that I hate doing the same thing and I hate when authors repeat themselves. I look at ways to try something else “out”. That might be a point of view or time frame or the story itself. Every novel is a chance to do something unique and different. Sky Blue morphed its way into publication, which is one reason I’m so close to the story.

Let’s talk about your history. How long have you been writing? What got you started?

I wanted to be a writer in third grade and I wrote my first novel in ninth grade (it’s still in my closet thankfully!). My third grade teacher encouraged me in my writing and also read from the Narnia Chronicles during lunch. Those two things made me decide that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. I still do.

Who are your favorite Christian authors? and what do you like about their work?

I love Francine Rivers. I know it’s cliché to say that (everybody says that). The thing I respect the most about her is that she writes what she wants to (and feels led to) write. She could do Redeeming Love Parts 2-10 but she won’t. She doesn’t stay in one genre.

I feel that Sigmund Brouwer is a very talented writer—he is very good at the craft of writing fiction.

I like Susan Warren because I feel she continues to grow as an author and has such a great future ahead for her.

What’s next for you in fiction?

I’m trying to write a book in every known genre I can. Okay, that’s a slight joke. But next year, I will have an adventure novel (think Raiders of the Lost Ark) published in spring and a horror novel (think Stephen King) published in the fall. There are lots of stories on the horizon. That is why I made the big leap of faith recently to write fulltime. I will also be selling my books at local gas stations, flea markets, and prisons everywhere (okay, another joke).

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

My hope is that I will still be supporting my family with my writing. I always dreamed of writing novels but I also strangely believed that I would one day have a shelf of published books. This isn’t arrogance. I feel there are many other better writers out there. But I’ve known one thing since third grade—I’ve been writing and my goal was always to be published.

My hope is that I will continue to grow and that one of the books I’m fortunate to publish will be the one. The one that defines me and my career.

What is your biggest dream?

I have many big dreams, but in terms of my writing, the biggest was to become a fulltime writer. Now I’m praying that the dream doesn’t become a nightmare! My biggest dream is to write a book that truly has an impact. And when I say impact, I mean impacting people in lots of different ways.

Okay, let’s talk about “Sky Blue.” You have said this book is a bit autobiographical. In what ways? (Also, how much of Colin is you?)

Only those that won’t get me in trouble! Yes, Colin is very much me in a lot of different ways. It was good to make him an agent because they sometimes can be cast as the bad guys in the publishing world. Having worked in the publishing industry over 13 years made me quite cynical about many things, and I hated this. This is Colin’s journey in rediscovering why he loves writing and publishing. The stuff in his marriage is fiction (except their journey in having a child) but so much of his thoughts and feelings about publishing are mine. That’s the beauty of fiction—some of it is deeply personal, and some is entirely made up.

Describe the journey you’ve made in fiction from “The Promise Remains” to “Sky Blue.”

What a journey it’s been! I had written seven dark, ambitious novels that never made it to publication before sitting down to write a simple, heartfelt love story. That story was the first I got published. There are still probably people who feel like it’s their favorite. Fiction is so subjective. I continued on that track with a deeper book (one of my favorites) entitled The Watermark. But even then there were so many stories I wanted to tell.

I’m fortunate that Sky Blue saw light of day. When all is said and done, it might not be my strongest seller or fan favorite, but at least for me right now it’s the most important work I’ve had published. My next book is entirely plot driven and it’s light (when someone is eaten by piranha and the main character is cracking jokes, you definitely have a lighter tale). I’m very fortunate I’m still being allowed to tell these tales.

“Sky Blue” is published by Moody, a long-time Christian publishing house. Your lead character’s realm as an agent was the general market. Tell us about this crossover strategy. Will Christian authors/agents find themselves somewhere in this story?

There was really no strategy here. I feel this—I’m not a Christian novelist. I am a novelist who happens to be a Christian. I’m not striving to write in the box of Christian fiction. I hate boxes. Look at all the genres I’ve done—obviously I fight being put into a box. With Sky Blue, I wanted to write a story that was somewhat of a metaphor for the Christian faith. I wanted to do it and not be blatant. I feel that I did the best job I could in telling that story. Some of my stories are blatant in their faith content. Right or wrong, I try to do what I feel is best for the story.

As for Christian authors/agents finding themselves in this story, no—of course not. I write fiction. 100 percent fiction! :)

As a Christian writer myself, yet with far less experience, I’m curious about the purpose behind a project (i.e. ministerial value and/or theme, etc.). Explain your purpose in penning “Sky Blue.”

Well, I just told you my thoughts about writing fiction/Christian fiction. Sky Blue has a lot of angst in it, and I don’t necessarily feel that angst is a good thing. I struggle with knowing God’s timing. I did when my wife and I were trying to have a child and couldn’t. I’ve struggled being in the publishing world (the Christian publishing world) and being so confused about faith versus business. My struggles and my faults and my failures all come out in my work. Writing is very cathartic.

I’ve heard many writers call their writing a “ministry.” This term has been abused and I can’t rightfully say that my writing is my ministry. I don’t want to dishonor God in my writing. I want people who would never in a million years pick up a Christian novel to read my work and enjoy it. And find themselves thinking, wondering, asking questions.

Finally, tell us about your experience of becoming a father. How has Kylie changed your life? What about your previous understanding of God’s fathering or heart has changed?

Kylie has changed my life in a million different ways. Wow. The term God the father means so much more to me. I’m humbled that God blessed my wife and I. I love Kylie with a love that scares me, that I cannot fathom. And I know it truly pales in the love God has for me. That knowledge humbles and terrifies me too.

Thanks for visiting and sharing “Sky Blue” with us. God bless you and your family.

Thanks for your interest and your time! TRAVIS

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Just for Michelle

I'm having too much fun now. Here's a photo which includes Michelle Sutton with me in the group of women. We didn't get one with just the two of us, but this is fun.

Just for you, Michelle. :)Pictured here are Michelle Sutton, Trish Perry, Cara Putnam and myself at the ACFW conference banquet.

Michelle hosts the chocolate party at the conference every year and had 10 pounds of chocolate to carry home with her this year. Bummer.

Tamera Alexander


Couldn't help myself. I had to add this picture of me with Tamera Alexander. She recently emailed us a copy of her workshop notes from conference. Thank you, Tamera!!

Look for other guest authors to visit soon.

Annette

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Visiting my Agent's Blog

Terry Burns of Hartline Literary Agency has invited me over to his blog for a visit. The post is up. So head over and find a pic of us at the awards banquet at the 2007 ACFW conference and a little blurb about the writing side of my life. Check it out at http://www.terryburns.net/ (musings archive) (link: http://terryburns.net/Cowboy_Musings.htm)

He's going to feature his clients one by one, a great way to learn about other writers in the business of writing, pitching, waiting and hoping.

Monday, September 24, 2007

ACFW Conference 2007

I've been busy through September preparing for conference. Last week, I spent 5 days in Dallas with 500 other Christian writers, agents and editors. We just got back last night. What a fantastic time! Dawn Kinzer (local writing buddy and crit partner), Gail Sattler (Canadian writer friend) and Ocieanna Fleiss (also a local crit partner) were my traveling companions. Check out the pics below.

I can't tell you how wonderful it was to sing between these great ladies during worship. What fun! Dawn Kinzer and Cynthia Ruchti are singers and writers with hearts for God. Cynthia also led the choir. I joined in, though without much practice. Didn't matter that we could only squeeze a couple of practices in. The Lord blessed our efforts with the kiss of His Spirit and those who listened as we sang on Sunday morning approached us afterward with positive feedback. Also, Cynthia won the "Member Service" award for her volunteer efforts. Wahoo!

Dawn Kinzer, myself and Ocieanna Fleiss (my local crit buddies). We have so much fun together, critiquing, laughing and getting each other's feedback on our work. Since we're all writers, but in different genres (with some overlap) we can help bring a fresh perspective from a writer who understands the techniques of crafting a good story.

Myself with Gail Sattler and Dawn Kinzer. Gail is from BC, Canada. She's a playful person. I love teasing her about her "hey" and "gerahje" (garage). All of us Pacific Northwesterners were in for another culture shock, though, hearing the Texans call us "y'all" and the plural "all, y'all." I love accents. I started to blend my speech patterns a little too well before we left. :)

DiAnn Mills recently (September 11th) appeared as a guest on my blog. Here we are at conference. Such a blessing to meet this gracious author face to face.




I love Susan May Warren's work! She led a bunch of workshops and late night chats during conference (how-tos on writing dialogue and layering heroes). As we were on our way out, I stopped to suggest she teach a romance track next year. So we chatted with Cara Putnam (board member) and we'll see. Here's hoping. She has a lot of wisdom about writing Christian romance and writing in general. Our name badges have the picture from her next Noble series book "Taming Rafe." What a great title, huh? It's a cowboy story--romance, a touch of suspense and romance and western themes. Did I mention romance? Can't wait 'til January, 08. Susie ran around during conference putting these Rafe stickers on whomever she could find.

Here's Rachel--
Rachel Hauck leads worship at conference. She is so great. I love her bridal understanding of Jesus' love for His people. I love that she has operated in the Harp and Bowl model of worship (International House of Prayer in Kansas City). We have a Harp and Bowl worship and prayer time every Friday night of conference from 8-9 p.m. Such a blessing to be a part of the worship team and participate in the prophetic songs of that night.

Okay, there's some fun stuff. I have more pics but I should probably get to making dinner for the fam.

Hugs to you and thanks to God for treasured moments.

Annette

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Guest Author: DiAnn Mills

I'm pleased to welcome back DiAnn Mills for a visit regarding her new book "When the Nile Runs Red."

The back cover copy:

Paul Farid was once a member of the royal family who openly persecuted any Sudanese who failed to practice Islam. Now he’s a Christian who puts his life on the line to aid the persecuted Sudanese. His wife, Larson, is a doctor committed to giving her life for peace.

Colonel Ben Alier has fought for twenty-one years against the government’s mandates to control the oil, religion, slavery, and politics of Sudan. He neither trusts nor rests any hope in the newly formed government.

Ben's health deteriorates while Larson finds out she is going to have a baby. Their worlds collide, and as the relational tensions escalate so does the physical danger.

Her proceeds from the book will go to help the Sudanese people.

Here's an interview with DiAnn around this newest project:

What inspired you to write this novel?

I had previously written a nonfiction book about the Lost Boys of Sudan – Lost Boy No More. From that research, I wrote the novel When the Lion Roars, but the story would not let me go.

Through numerous interviews and extensive reading, I grew to love and admire the courageous Sudanese people and was burdened by their incredible needs. I had to bring them back in When the Nile Runs Red.

Why Sudan?

This country went through nearly two decades of civil war strife. In 1983, the northern government launched a holy war against the south. This grew out of the views of the Islamic north against the mostly Christian black African south. The war had three aspects: religion, politics, and oil. The atrocities committed against the southern people are too many to list, but the war was fought in the south through genocide.

How did you conduct your research?

I grabbed my backpack and sun screen and traveled to Juba, Sudan, the southern capital. There I stayed at a Christian compound and met with southern Sudanese from all walks of life: refugees, political leaders, and church leaders. I talked to as many people as I could, snapped pictures, and listened to what was being said.

Regarding your trip to Sudan, what touched you the most?

The incredible faith. I could look into a Sudanese’s eyes and see the pain of persecution and the hope of Jesus. Here, we say we love Jesus while we live in our huge homes, drive our fancy cars, are well-fed, are not hunted down for our faith, or are concerned about medical care. The Sudanese understand that all they have and need is Jesus.

Can you give us a brief description of your characters?

Paul Farid was once a Muslim who actively persecuted the southern people, but now he’s a Christian who flies dangerous missions into war-torn areas to deliver food and medical supplies.

Dr. Larson Kerr Farid risks her life to bring healing to the Sudanese. Just like her husband Paul, her life is often in danger. But there is a problem between her and Paul with no easy solution.

Colonel Ben Alier has been fighting and leading the southern army of Sudan for nearly two decades. Often referred to as a warlord, Ben fights his own demons.

The three are friends, an unlikely friendship forged by their love for Sudan.

How do you build your plots?

Always out of character with two simple words: what-if? John Gardner said to create the best possible characters and allow the worst possible things to happen to them. That says it all. It’s easy to coat our darlings with easy trials and struggles, but the hard stuff, the struggles that define the character are what has to happen. I’m a huge fan of Donald Maass and wouldn’t consider writing a paragraph without using techniques found in his books Writing the Breakout Novel and Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook.

What are you goals for this novel?

To increase awareness about the situation in Sudan and to share my passion for the Sudanese people through a compelling story.

The proceeds for this novel go back to aid the Sudanese.

What do you hope the readers will gain?

To lose themselves in the novel. That’s every writer’s goal. But I also want the reader to sense a call to action and support the Sudanese cause.

What is your next project?

I’m currently writing a romantic suspense series with a working series title of “Behind the Sunglasses”.

How can readers learn more about what you are doing?

Check out my website at www.diannmills.com. I have sections about Sudan, and for readers, and writers. Those signing up for my newsletter get to download a chapter of an upcoming release.

Aside from your passion for writing, what else are you doing?

Speaking to groups about the situation in Sudan.

Teaching at writer’s conferences.

Conducting Fiction Mentoring Clinics. These are small groups who work closely together for three work-filled days to develop their craft.

A little more about DiAnn Mills:

Award-winning author, DiAnn Mills, launched her career in 1998 with the publication of her first book. Currently she has over forty books in print and has sold more than a million copies.

DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope and Love, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a mentor for Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writer’s Guild.

She lives in sunny Houston, Texas, the home of heat, humidity, and Harleys. In fact she’d own a Harley, but her legs are too short. DiAnn and her husband have four adult sons and are active members of Metropolitan Baptist Church.

Thank you, DiAnn, for visiting. God bless.

Friday, September 7, 2007

No Dream Dissin'!

Okay, I have no idea if I spelled that correctly, but you get what I mean.

I'm a dreamer. You can scroll down the past several blogs and somewhere back there I've written about dreaming big. You'll find me talking about dreams in devotionals, too. Or as a motto. I can't help it. For some reason (probably a whole lotta grace) God has chosen to show up when I start dreaming.

Like tonight. Tonight I sat down with my husband in a store and browsed. I've been wanting to browse for this specific thing for A LONG TIME. And finally, it's looking like it may just happen. Won't say what it is, but suffice it to say our evening was special, just sitting there dreaming.

I think the world comes down to two kinds of people---those who dream and those who don't. I'm a dreamer. I try not to let realism cancel hope. I believe God has inspired my dreams and many of them, He has made come true. Still others, I wait for Him to fulfill as I keep pressing close to Him.

I believe God entrusts dream fulfillment with us when He knows He can trust us not to turn that thing into an idol. I've gotta keep that in mind. He's got good plans. And as I watch those dreams on the horizon come into focus, I know I can pray for the grace to keep Him first while I enjoy the smile I know He wears when I turn to Him with so much joy----the joy of a dream fulfilled.