Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Higley takes readers back in time 2000 years

An Interview with Tracy L. Higley
Author of The Queen’s Handmaid

Sometimes the loudest voices in our lives are the ones we need to silence the most. In Tracy L. Higley’s latest novel, The Queen’s Handmaid (Thomas Nelson/March 18, 2014/ISBN: 978-1-4016-8684-0/$15.99), the author explores the importance of finding our identity in God and not in the opinions of others — no matter how large of a presence those people are.

This search for true identity is the foundation for The Queen’s Handmaid, a story that will take readers on an adventure through an ancient world and give them a unique understanding of the culture and setting into which Jesus was born. Set in Alexandria, Egypt, in 39 BC, The Queen’s Handmaid connects the history we learn in school with the Bible stories of childhood, giving readers a peek into a lost world. 

Q: The Queen’s Handmaid is set in Egypt, Rome and Jerusalem in 39 B.C. How did you first become interested in this time period?

I find so much of ancient history to be fascinating — and I especially love connecting the world history we learn in school with the Bible stories of childhood. I loved researching this period for a previous book that featured Cleopatra, and it was fun coming back to it, to explore her relationship with Herod the Great.

Q: What kind of historical research did you do in preparation for writing this book? Have you been able to travel to Egypt and/or Jerusalem where the story takes place?

My research is done on a variety of levels, from quick overviews to get story ideas to deep research once I have the period, setting and historical events nailed down. And yes, the best part of my research has been travel! I’ve visited Egypt, Rome and Jerusalem, exploring the sites and getting inspired!

Q: Is it difficult to create the settings in which your characters live, given that the story takes place more than 2000 years ago?

I love creating the settings! One of my favorite parts of writing is being able to take readers on a journey through the sights, smells, sounds, colors and textures of the ancient world.

Q: Can we expect to see biblical characters throughout the pages of this story, and if so, what was it like to bring them to life?

The main biblical character readers will encounter is Herod the Great. We know him from the stories of Jesus’ birth, but for me, getting to peek behind the scenes at palace life and the mind of this man who was both a great leader and a murderous madman was challenging and exciting.

Q: In The Queen’s Handmaid, your heroine is “chosen and marked for this purpose.” Do you feel everyone is marked for a purpose, and how can we determine what that purpose is?

I absolutely believe each of us has a unique calling, a grand adventure planned out for us before the foundation of the world. Staying open to our own hearts and the way God both whispers and shouts His plan to us is so important. In my experience, most people have a sense of their own unique calling, but fear keeps us from it.

Q: Your heroine works hard at what she does, but she doesn’t trust people easily. Are you guarded the way she is or do you find it easier to believe the best in people?

I think I’m probably too trusting, actually. I’ve been blessed with many wonderful relationships, unlike Lydia’s challenges. But I know that for so many people, trusting others does not come easily.

Q: You’ve said the main theme for this novel is that our identity is found in God and not in what others think about us. Is this something you’ve wrestled with, and how do you learn to care less about what people think and more about what God thinks?

This goes back to trust, in my opinion. When we make people too “large” in our lives — allowing them to define who we are — we become focused on achieving and performing to please them. This is Lydia’s challenge, but I think it applies to all of us. We are all trying to gain the love and admiration of others in our lives, to feel good about ourselves. The only way we can escape this self-oriented life and really live our calling is finding acceptance and love in the God who will never fail us. He frees us up to love others well, without arranging our lives to please them.

Q: What are some of the great conflicts your heroine faces that the modern-day woman might relate to most?

For one, I think 2000 years later, it’s still a challenge for women to be comfortable with themselves outside the definitions of husband and family and to find their unique place in the world. Also, unfortunately, fighting against corruption and cruelty never goes out of style! To take a stand against evil for the sake of those we love is part of our calling, whether ancient or modern.

Q: How does your heroine overcome her fear and live a life of courage?

Practice!  No, really — these things don’t come easily, do they? A series of challenges begins to teach Lydia about where true strength comes from, to help her see the gifts she has within herself and the God who can work through her. It’s the hard stuff that teaches, for Lydia and for all of us.

Q: The Queen’s Handmaid falls into the genre of biblical fiction. Some people are leery of this category because it puts the words “biblical” and “fiction” together.  How would you describe the genre, and what encouragement would you give to skeptical readers in hopes that they would give biblical fiction a try?

I could go on here for awhile, but one thing I will say is that we “fictionalize” our Bible stories all the time, for the sake of understanding. Every time we picture the Christmas story with three wise men or even the innkeeper at the door, it’s an expansion of the scant details that are there. When a story expands the Scriptural record without contradicting it, we are immersed in that time and culture in a way that makes the story, and subsequently our faith itself, so much more real.

Q: What do you want readers to walk away with once they turn the last page of The Queen’s Handmaid?

I would hope readers leave with a sense of satisfaction with a story well-told, a broadened understanding of the culture and setting into which Jesus was born and the inspiration to go out and live an adventure of their own!

For more information about Tracy L. Higley and her books, visit tracyhigley.com, become a fan on Facebook (tracyhigley) or follow her on Twitter (@tlhigley).



Tuesday, April 22, 2014

NIGHTLINE’S Dan Harris’ 10% HAPPIER Kindle HDX Giveaway!

10% Happier by Nightline anchor Dan Harris embarks on an unexpected, hilarious, and deeply skeptical odyssey through the strange worlds of spirituality and self-help and discovers a way to get happier that is truly achievable.


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Dan has teamed up with his publisher, Harper Collins, for a Kindle Fire HDX giveaway. 

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire HDX
  • 10% Happier by Dan Harris
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on May 10th. Winner will be announced May 12th on the Litfuse blog. Learn more about the 10% Happier backstory and read an excerpt here.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to stop by the Litfuse blog on May 12th to see if you won.


10Happier

{MORE ABOUT 10% HAPPIER}


10% Happier takes readers on a ride from the outer reaches of neuroscience to the inner sanctum of network news to the bizarre fringes of America’s spiritual scene, and leaves them with a takeaway that could actually change their lives.
After having a nationally televised panic attack on Good Morning America, Dan Harris knew he had to make some changes. A lifelong nonbeliever, he found himself on a bizarre adventure, involving a disgraced pastor, a mysterious self-help guru, and a gaggle of brain scientists. Eventually, Harris realized that the source of his problems was the very thing he always thought was his greatest asset: the incessant, insatiable voice in his head, which had both propelled him through the ranks of a hyper-competitive business and also led him to make the profoundly stupid decisions that provoked his on-air freak-out.
We all have a voice in our head. It’s what has us losing our temper unnecessarily, checking our email compulsively, eating when we’re not hungry, and fixating on the past and the future at the expense of the present. Most of us would assume we’re stuck with this voice – that there’s nothing we can do to rein it in – but Harris stumbled upon an effective way to do just that. It’s a far cry from the miracle cures peddled by the self-help swamis he met; instead, it’s something he always assumed to be either impossible or useless: meditation. After learning about research that suggests meditation can do everything from lower your blood pressure to essentially rewire your brain, Harris took a deep dive into the underreported world of CEOs, scientists, and even marines who are now using it for increased calm, focus, and happiness.
Dan Harris

{MORE ABOUT DAN HARRIS}


Dan Harris is the coanchor of Nightline and the weekend editions of Good Morning America. He regularly reports for 20/20, World News with Diane Sawyer, and the weekday editions of Good Morning America. Before joining ABC News fourteen years ago, he worked for local news outlets in Boston and Maine. He lives with his wife, Bianca, in New York City. This is his first book.
Find out more about Dan here!

Monday, April 21, 2014

CRITICAL CONDITION Kindle HDX Giveaway from Richard Mabry!

Richard Mabry's latest medical suspense, Critical Condition, is receiving high praise. USA TODAY says, "Mabry combines his medical expertise with a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat."


Richard is celebrating the release with a Kindle HDX giveaway!


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One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire HDX
  • Critical Condition by Richard Mabry
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on May 11th. Winner will be announced May 13th on Richard's blog.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to stop by Richard's blog on May 13th to see if you won.


CriticalCondition

{MORE ABOUT CRITICAL CONDITION}


Dr. Frasier couldn’t save the gunshot victim on her front lawn. Now she’s fighting for her own life.
It began as a quiet dinner party honoring Dr. Shannon Frasier’s colleague, but became a nightmare when a man was shot on her lawn, reviving emotions from a similar episode a decade ago. Then a midnight call from her sister, Megan, causes Shannon to fear that her sister is on drugs again.
Her “almost-fiancĂ©” Dr. Mark Gilbert’s support only adds to Shannon’s feelings of guilt, since she can’t bring herself to fully commit to him. She turns for help to her pastor-father, only to learn that he’s just been diagnosed with leukemia.
Shannon thought it couldn’t get any worse. Then the late-night, threatening phone calls begin, the rough voice asking, “What did he say before he died?”
With everything around her in a critical state, simply staying alive will require all the resources and focus Shannon has.

Richard Mabry

{MORE ABOUT RICHARD MABRY}


A retired physician, Dr. Richard Mabry is the author of four critically acclaimed novels of medical suspense. His previous works have been finalists for the Carol Award and Romantic Times Reader’s Choice Award, and have won the Selah Award. He is a past Vice-President of American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of the International Thriller Writers. He and his wife live in North Texas.
Find out more about Richard at http://www.rmabry.com/.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The lesson stuck until lunch


This morning, we talked about taming the tongue from James chapter 3. After reigning them in several times, we had a good discussion and sang an appropriately themed song.

They did the chorus right the time before I did the video, but I was so very proud of how well they caught on and how they were actually singing loudly. I'm not a very good videographer in the round though.

For someone, who shall remain nameless, but you all know through my blog, she did well with what she learned in class until she started giving someone (thankfully not me) lots of grief at lunch. You never know what might come out of her mouth. As I have stated before, I'm not a very good teacher. She really was being funny in her teasing and wasn't actually being mean. You kind of had to be there, but she is something else.

My parents, Brian, Paige, Peyton, and the Watsons (that makes 9 of us) had Easter lunch at my parents' house. I prepped pork ribs that Mom put in the oven right before church time. With an extra song and a longer than usual closing prayer, I just knew the house would be smoked up and my ribs would be burned to a crisp. It wasn't the extra 10 minutes as such, but the fact that I wasn't there to check them. However, they were fall off the bone perfect.

The colored deviled eggs (see last night's post) were great as was everything else. We stuffed ourselves putting to shame all the restaurants we usually frequent on Sundays. However, I've probably proven my culinary chops for a while.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Are deviled Easter eggs somewhat sacrilegious?



After breaking for a couple of weeks on painting letters, I finished off a couple more. Still for sell if you are interested! $20 with "Welcome" or your house number.

(Like my shoes?)




Tomorrow, instead of doing our Sunday lunch out at a restaurant, I'm cooking for our crew. I have been bragging about my pork ribs, and I have those all ready to go in the oven at my parents' house in the morning.

I decided to try another Pinterest project (I saw the letters on there), and make dyed deviled eggs to go with the ribs. I didn't want to use vinegar as many recipes suggested because A) I didn't have any and B) I didn't want them to taste or smell like vinegar. Not every pin had vinegar, but it may help them hold color. I didn't think these came out bad. I'm pretty impressed with myself.



The camera on my phone doesn't do great with colors. The purple ones aren't quite so gruesome looking.





Friday, April 18, 2014

This is what happens when people play nice

Since today is Good Friday, and I didn't have to work, I took Dad looking at cars with me. I really wanted to see the color of the Hyundai Santa Fe that I was interested in, though still not absolutely convinced to commit to it. I didn't like the blue. It was no where near what the other dealership told me it would be.

The car salesman there gave me the heebie jeebies, and he started the song and dance I hated. I am not sure if it was his spray tan, the food crumbs on his shirt (he had been eating almonds when we drove up) or what, but something didn't set right. Dad probably thought I was near certifiably insane. The guy went from "no where possible" to "we can get it where you want it" in about 4 minutes after supposedly talking to his manager.

I would not give him my info when he asked. I know they have to track that they actually talk to people, but I told him I didn't want him calling me later, so he couldn't have my name.

We were going to give him a chance, but I told Dad I wanted him to see an actual Jeep Grand Cherokee that I was interested in. We went to the closest dealership (Dallas Dodge), and I found "Honey" (I had to nickname it on my phone app - the name is due to the color).


I finally found a non-pushy salesman, Dad and I felt much more comfortable in the dealership, and I finally found a color inside (tan instead of black like all the others) and out (officially it is Cashmere) that I liked without wondering what anything else looked like. I finally came to terms with what numbers were going to be without being told what a "great deal" it was. Negotiation was smooth.

I didn't have to talk to a sales manager (aka big dog aka big bully), and we liked everyone we worked with, including the finance guy. My young salesman thought I brought my dad to help intimidate, which I didn't, and was pleasantly surprised when he found out that wasn't true. He said we were the most laid back people ever (anyone that knows my dad or I either one doesn't use that word to describe us). 

This was the only car on the lot I looked at there. Dad said he could just tell this was it and that he probably messed me up by looking at a Santa Fe since the Jeep was what I wanted to begin with.

Now, I just have to call off everyone else pursuing me when they call or email.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

My house is being overtaken by birds

The decor at my house tends to go through phases. At one time everything was palm trees -- I still have plenty of that. 
Then, purple seemed to take over. (I can make purple and palm trees work together.) But I did not paint a room purple when I moved.

The latest thing is birds. I have birds in my master bedroom. My bathroom started getting a bird motif after I got the old wallpaper down.

Since my birthday last fall, I started collecting owls for my dining/kitchen area.

And now I found bird material to make my cushions for my purple church bench. I found it last Saturday when I was at Hobby Lobby. I couldn't resist getting it because the colors were what I wanted, even if I didn't know who was going to help me make the cushions at the time. My dad doubts my sewing skills, and while I know exactly how I want to make them, I even have my doubts of sewing this particular tapestry material.

You know me, always with yet another project to do.

After talking to a few people who either thought I could pull it off or didn't want any part of it, the wife of one of the elders at church said that the two of us could take it on together. I'm excited! They are going to look great, but I don't know if I can get the peacock in the center of the cushion. I really like the peacock. I like his toucan, parrot and other friends too. I just wish my camera on my phone held to true colors. But, see how close he matches the vase I already had?

The leaf material is for curtains on the window at the bottom of the stairs.






Wednesday, April 16, 2014

MOM SEEKS GOD Kindle HDX Giveaway & “Moms’ May Day” Facebook Party with @JuliaLRoller

Mom Seeks God by Julia Roller offers a highly relatable story and useful advice to help new moms grow in their faith as they address life changes with grace, patience, and prayer. As readers discover ten essential faith practices, they’ll learn that motherhood itself is a spiritual discipline and can be God’s most effective technique for forming a more Christ-like life.

Julia is celebrating the book's release with a fun giveaway and connecting with moms during a live Facebook author chat.



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  One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle HDX
  • Mom Seeks God by Julia Roller
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on May 1st. Winner will be announced at "Moms' May Day" Facebook Party on May 1st. Connect with Julia for an encouraging discussion on spiritual discipline and finding joy in the middle of motherhood. Win prizes, connect with other moms, and be inspired.

So grab your copy of Mom Seeks God and join Julia on the evening of May 1st for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 1st!


MomSeeksGodcover

{MORE ABOUT MOM SEEKS GOD}


The first months and years of motherhood can be the most challenging and disorienting of your life—and faith. When you’re surrounded by the happy chaos of children, how do you spend quiet time with God if the only quiet time you get is while you sleep? How can you demonstrate a solid spiritual life to your children if you don’t have time to pursue one yourself?
When Julia Roller discovered that her spiritual growth had been stunted by the busyness of life with her toddler, she embarked on a yearlong journey through ten spiritual disciplines: prayer, fellowship, submission, study, simplicity, silence, worship, fasting, service, and celebration. As she focused on each discipline, she discovered practical ways to observe them—even in the chaos of her every day.
Julia Roller

{MORE ABOUT JULIA ROLLER}


Julia Roller is an author and editor. Her books include “Mom Seeks God” (Abingdon Press), “A Year with God” (with Richard J. Foster), “A Year with Aslan,” and “25 Books Every Christian Should Read.” Working with RenovarĂ©, she has also co-authored four spiritual formation guides. She has written study guides for authors such as Desmond Tutu, Richard J. Foster, Henri Nouwen, Jenna Bush, and Rob Bell. Her articles have appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, Street Spirit, Group, Rev.!, and Children’s Ministry. She and her family live in San Diego, California.
Find out more about Julia at http://juliaroller.com.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tracie Peterson celebrates 100 books with an iPad Mini Giveaway & A SENSIBLE ARRANGEMENT Live Webcast Event!

Welcome to the launch of Tracie Peterson's 100th book! 

A Sensible Arrangement launches Tracie's new Texas-based series, Lone Star Brides, that’s sure to please. As a special treat, devoted fans will be able to catch a glimpse of several popular characters from previous series.

Tracie is celebrating by giving away an iPad Mini and hosting a LIVE webcast event on 4/29.


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  One winner will receive:
  • An iPad Mini
  • A Sensible Arrangement by Tracie Peterson
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 29th. Winner will be announced at the A Sensible Arrangement Live Webcast Event on April 29th. Connect with Tracie for an evening of book chat, trivia, laughter, and more! Tracie will also be taking questions from the audience and giving away books, fun prizes, and gift certificates throughout the evening.

So grab your copy of A Sensible Arrangement and join Tracie and friends on the evening of April 29th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today by signing up for a reminder. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 29th!




ASA Peterson

{MORE ABOUT A SENSIBLE ARRANGEMENT}


A Lone Star Brides book.
Marty Dandridge Olson is ready to leave behind the pain of the past.
Answering an advertisement for a “Lone Star bride,” she leaves her Texas ranch and heads to Denver to marry a man she doesn’t know.
Jake Wythe is the man waiting for her.
Burned by love, he marries now simply to satisfy the board of Morgan Bank, which believes a man of his standing in society should be wed. Together Jake and Marty agree they are done with romance and love and will make this nothing more than a marriage of convenience.
When missing money and a collapsing economy threaten his job, Jake’s yearning to return to ranching grows ever stronger, much to Marty’s dismay. But a fondness has grown between them, as well, further complicating matters.
What will happen when their relationship shifts in unexpected ways… and dreams and secrets collide?
Tracie Peterson

{MORE ABOUT TRACIE PETERSON}


Tracie Peterson is the award-winning author of over eighty novels, both historical and contemporary. Her avid research resonates in her stories, as seen in her bestselling Heirs of Montana, and Alaskan Quest series. Tracie and her family make their home in Montana. Visit Tracie’s Web site at www.traciepeterson.com.
Find out more about Tracie at http://www.traciepeterson.com. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Emily T. Wierenga’s A Promise in Pieces reveals how love conquers loss


 God mends the most broken of hearts
Emily T. Wierenga’s A Promise in Pieces reveals how love conquers loss

God has a way of piecing together His promises in ways we would never expect. In her debut novel, A Promise in Pieces (Quilts of Love series from Abingdon Press/April 15, 2014/ISBN: 9781426758850/$13.99), Emily T. Wierenga presents the story of two women who met under the worst of circumstances but were able to turn their grief into healing for those they came into contact with.

After nursing school, Clara Wilson feels the call of freedom pull her away from both her small town and the watchful eye of her strict parents. In the midst of World War II, Clara and her best friend, Eva, see the hurt in the eyes of those who have already lost loved ones in the war. Hoping to save the lives of more soldiers, the two join the Army Nurse Corps and soon find themselves in Normandy.

Once the war is over, Clara must fulfill a dying soldier’s last wish: convey his love to his young widow, Mattie, by delivering his last letter with apologies for the missed life they planned to share. Struggling with her own post-war trauma, Clara doesn’t think she is prepared to handle the grief of this broken family. After meeting Mattie and receiving a baby quilt that will never cuddle the soldier’s hoped-for child, Clara vows to honor the sacrifices that family made.

When Clara returns to her hometown, she settles into life as a midwife. She wraps each newborn in the gifted quilt and later stitches the child’s name into the cloth. As each baby is welcomed by the quilt, Clara begins to wonder whatever happened to Mattie — and if either of them will ever experience love and a family of her own.  Having witnessed so much loss, Clara fears marriage and motherhood most of all. Little does Clara know what God has in store for her or the importance of the quilt in the lives of those it touches. Years later, she will have the opportunity to re-gift the special quilt, carrying even greater significance than when it was first bestowed.

“I connect with Clara, who is a very broken person,” says Wierenga. “She’s a pastor’s daughter who, like me, was disillusioned about religion and desperate to encounter God for herself. I too needed to get away from home in order to realize that God had been there the whole time. My relationship with God was restored upon returning home to care for my mum. I’ve also battled infertility and miscarriage and could relate to Clara’s fear of loss.”

Wierenga hopes in reading A Promises in Pieces that readers will find the courage to love, especially if loss and fear have been standing in their way. “God mends the most broken of hearts and places the lonely in families.”

Readers can join Wierenga and fellow Quilts of Love authors for a live Facebook author chat in July. Watch for details on the Quilts of Love Facebook Page.
  

About the Quilts of Love Series

The premise of the Quilts of Love series is that quilts tell stories of love and loss, hope and faith, tradition and new beginnings. The series focuses on the women who quilted all of these things into their family history. Featuring contemporary and historical romances, as well as Amish fiction, women’s fiction and the occasional light mystery, readers are drawn into the endearing characters and touched by their stories.

A special tradition the Quilts of Love authors have instituted with each release is the donation of a quilt to their chosen charity or individual in need. Emily T. Wierenga will be giving her quilt to Destiny Villages of Hope—an orphanage funded by World Help Organization—which she and her husband are planning to adopt from. World Help is a ministry focused on meeting people’s physical needs by providing humanitarian, medical and education assistance, ensuring access to clean water and attending to their spiritual needs by providing Bibles and establishing churches in as many communities as possible. Wierenga is a blogger for World Help and recently traveled with a team to Rwanda and Uganda.

Keep up with the Quilts of Love series online at: 

About the Author

Emily T. Wierenga is a former editor, ghostwriter, freelance writer and staff journalist. She was a monthly columnist for The Christian Courier and has written for numerous Christian publications including Focus on the Family, In Touch and Today’s Christian Woman. Wierenga is the author of three previously released non-fiction titles: Save My Children: The Story of a Father's Love, Chasing Silhouettes: How to help a Loved One Battling an Eating Disorder, and Mom in the Mirror: Body Image, Beauty and Life After Pregnancy. Her memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I thought to Look, will release July 1, 2014. A Promise in Pieces is her first novel.

In July 2013, Wierenga wrote a letter on her blog to Kate Middleton on the postpartum body. The post went viral, receiving more than half a million views in one week, and was shared by Dove. Currently, Wierenga is a blogger for the World Help Organization

Wierenga speaks at women’s retreats, universities, churches and conferences, about her journey with anorexia nervosa and was one of the keynote speakers at the premiere Christian eating disorders conference, Hungry for Hope 2013. She serves as an Official Ambassador for FINDINGbalance and is a Navigator with the National Eating Disorders Association.

Wierenga is wife to a math-teacher husband and mother and foster mother to four boys. The Wierengas make their home in Neerlandia, Alberta, Canada.

For more information about Emily Wierenga and her books, visit her online home at www.emilywierenga.com. She is also active on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.