Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cozy Christmas Giveaway!

With Christmas just around the corner, we want to send some holiday cheer to you and yours! Wintry nights like this are perfect for curling up with a blanket, something hot and sweet, (preferably in a Christmas mug!) and a good story.  

So we'll be giving away just that -- a pound of Dunkin Donuts coffee, a cute vintage typewriter mug, and a novel -- to four winners who enter the Cozy Christmas Giveaway!

We know you're busy decking the halls and roasting chestnuts, so we're keeping it simple. The giveaway will be open for one week, from today until January 1st, and to enter just comment below and tell us how you and/or your family celebrate Christ for Christmas, and don't forget to include your email address.  And for a bonus entry, just click the "follow" button on the left sidebar to follow our blog! We will randomly choose four winners and post the results on Jan. 2, 2011.

Have a Merry Christmas, and may you experience the rich love of Emmanuel -- God With Us -- this season!

Enter to win one of these novels:

Gun Lake is a thriller by Travis Thrasher, in which the lives of five escaped convicts become interwoven in this suspenseful tale

Pearl in the Sand is a narrative retelling of the biblical story of Rahab by Tessa Afshar

The Last Woman Standing is Tia McCollors' story of two women and one man who learn about reconciliation, second chances, and God's hand in our relationships

Raising Rain by Debbie Fuller Thomas tells the story of '70s child, Rain Rasmussen,who realizes her own self-sufficiency has severed her relationships and hope for a family

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Coming in February!

Tia McCollors introduces her new novel in February, the long-awaited sequel to The Last Woman Standing, in which Shelia Rushmore plays a role. But Steppin' Into the Good Life shifts the spotlight to Sheila as the main character, as she deals with the loss of everything she once thought she wanted.

Shelia Rushmore thought she'd be the last woman standing when it was time to fight for her man. Instead Ace, her boyfriend of two years, chose to reunite with his ex-wife, leaving Shelia emotionally devastated. It's a year later when Sheila is convinced that sneaking into their wedding ceremony will put closure on the gaping hole in her heart. But it's on the back pew of the church where a new relationship begins for Shelia. She can't explain the touch she received from God on that day, but she's determined to be a better woman-a woman of faith. Since high school, Shelia has been chasing her definition of the good life - it's left her with no home, no man, and no money. But now that's she's living life for God, things should get better, right? Shelia learns that living a faith-filled life isn't always easy.

With faith, tough love, and some tough decisions, Shelia realizes that the life she'd been praying for she could have for herself is actually attainable. Being wrapped in God's arms, she decided, was by far the safest place she'd ever been.

Sneak Peek: "Even from the back pew I could sense Ace's love washing over Lynette.  He had never looked at me that way.  The tears fell faster when I wondered if anyone would ever love me that unconditionally..."

TIA MCCOLLORS is a national bestselling author who secured her spot in the publishing industry with the release of her debut novel, Zora’s Cry. She received her B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina. After ten years as a public relations professional, Tia emerged as an inspirational speaker and author of faith-based novels. Her other titles include The Truth About Love and A Heart of Devotion. Tia lives in the Atlanta, Georgia area with her husband and two children. For more information, visit her online at

Friday, December 10, 2010

Happy Friday!

Congratulations to Jessica, who won our Christmas giveaway contest this week and will be receiving her free copy of Putting God Back in the Holidays by Bill and Penny Thrasher. And thank you all for sharing your Christmas reading traditions!

If you're feeling brave, try your hand at Penguin Books' Christmas Classics quiz here, and maybe get inspired to cozy up with a holiday read and some peppermint tea!

We'll be hosting more giveaways as we approach Christmas, so keep checking back! In the meantime, The Blog Guidebook is giving away a beautiful free calendar just in time for the New Year. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Giveaway!

Christmas, in my family, has always been the time of year we read aloud the most.  "Twas the Night Before Christmas..." was (and still is!) traditionally read by my grandfather on Christmas Eve, and we even have a few family favorites that I can recite entire passages from memory!

This week we are giving away a copy of Putting God Back in the Holidays by Bill and Penny Thrasher to one winner who knows their Christmas literature! 

So here's the deal.  Below I have listed 5 opening lines of Christmas stories, and the first person to match the most correct titles with the opening line wins! To enter the contest, comment below with 1) your email address 2) your answers and 3) any Christmas reading traditions your family might have or had growing up.  The contest will close on Friday morning, and I will email the winner directly and post the results here.  Good luck!!
1) "The Herdmans were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world."

2) “'Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,' [she] grumbled, lying on the rug."

3) "One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all."

4) "The gate was packed with weary travelers, most of them standing and huddled along the walls because the meager allotment of plastic chairs had long since been taken." 

5) "Marley was dead, to begin with."

Instead of the joy-filled celebrations that we build up in our minds, the holidays (pick one, any one) can often become stress-filled, money-draining, joy-less days of the year that we just "want to get through." And it is by our own volition that we have refused too many times to allow our holiday celebrations to be the spiritual experience they are meant to be.

This book has been conceived and designed over 30 years as Dr. Bill Thrasher has spoken to thousands of people, helping them realize the spiritual battle that surrounds their celebration of the holidays. Littered with practical thoughts, ideas, experiences, and stories,
Putting God Back in the Holidays will help you and your family celebrate holidays and birthdays with biblical truth in mind.

Friday, December 3, 2010

140 Character Narratives

I am one of those people that has begrudgingly accepted new forms of literature in technology, despite the fact that I belong to digitally literate "Generation Y".  I've resisted and gradually come to peace with the e-book, online newspapers, and Twitter. 

Twitter originally bothered me as a "short-cut" to both creativity and communication, I thought it used words in a utilitarian way more than a literary way.  But since I've learned that Twitter is what you make it: it can either be idle noise, or it can be an exercise of condensed creativity.  It can be either frivolous or meaningful, and you as the writer decide.

One of my favorite projects on Twitter is Creative Nonfiction's "Tiny Truths" contest; a daily competition that challengers tweeters to tell a story in 140 characters of less. Like a Haiku, it displays the twin talent of being both succint and significant. Read the best of Tiny Truths here and tell me what you think!

Here's a teaser!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Speaking of Feasting...

Author Tracy Groot shares a holiday recipe with us today! Have a great Thanksgiving! 

I've always been enchanted by holiday traditions. When I married, I decided to create a tradition of my own. Since Jack's side of the family celebrated Christmas the Saturday before and my side met on Christmas day, I invited anyone who wanted to come for a special Christmas Eve feast.

Jack's parents and Jack's sister, Rita, along with Rita's family, came to the very first Feast. I planned the menu weeks ahead. I scrubbed the house to a spit-shine and happily fretted over endless details incumbent upon a holiday hostess. It was important for that first Feast to go well, and it did. The guests were suitably impressed by the food, and the atmosphere was pleasant and festive.

One year I decided to serve prime rib. I investigated many methods of cooking it, and finally decided on the One True Way. With guests about to arrive, I prepared a final herb rub--and noticed a funny smell.

"Is that my roast?" I shrieked.

"Yes," Jack admitted, as if he'd noticed it for a while.

Turned out my prime rib was way past its prime--the meat was foul. Christmas Eve Feast was about to be a complete failure. Maybe my husband expected wails and groans--maybe I did. But many years of celebrating this Christmas Eve Feast taught me one thing: it isn't about food, though the food is nice. It isn't about the atmosphere, though atmosphere is important. It's about people. It will always be about people.

"Stoke up the grill!" I hollered. "Meijers is open for another twenty minutes!"

I flew to the store, grabbed an armload of steaks, and made it home just as the first guests arrived.

It wasn't prime rib, but the most important feature to adorn that table was there--family.

This is special to me for two reasons: It's my son Evan's favorite dessert, and always requested for his birthday "cake," and it came from a dear friend, Amy Strating, whose recipes compile about half of what is in my recipe box.

Whopper Dessert

35 Oreo cookies, crushed

6 T butter or margarine, melted

1 half-gallon vanilla ice cream, softened

1 12 oz. box of Whoppers candy, crushed

reserving 3/4 cup

1 jar of hot fudge topping (I use Mrs. Richardson's), very slightly warmed

1 8 oz. container of Cool Whip, thawed

Combine crushed Oreos and melted butter, and place in the bottom of a 9x13" pan. Mix ice cream with crushed Whoppers until well combined; then spread on Oreo layer. Freeze until firm. Spread with the jar of hot fudge topping, then the Cool Whip, and sprinkle with the reserved crushed Whoppers. Keep frozen until serving.

Taken from Come to Our Table, Moody Publishers, ©Moody Bible Institute, 2007

TRACY GROOT is a part-time writer, the mother of three young boys, and co-owner with her husband Jack of a popular coffee shop and juice bar in Holland, Michigan. The Brother's Keeper is based on her original play Consider It All Joy. Tracy enjoys reading, backpacking, and writing, which she does primarily in her own coffee shop. Visit Tracy at

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Required Reading for Pastors: Should They Be Reading More Than Scripture?

Today I found an interesting post over at The Burnside Writers Collective that called into question the illiteracy of our clergy.  Titled, "Does Your Pastor Read?", the author affirms the importance of literature in connection with faith, and laments the practice of quoting bumper stickers from the pulpit instead of poetry. 

Here's a section from the article with a great quote from a well-read pastor.  To read the rest of the article, visit here

"John Wesley was an old preacher guy who lived a long time ago, back when “online” meant a person’s clothes were drying in the sun.  Wesley thought reading was an important spiritual discipline: “It cannot be that the people should grow in grace unless they give themselves to reading. A reading people will always be a knowing people. ”

Can a pastor who doesn’t read really lead a people? Or is he more like a blind friend with a map? Pretty ineffective at giving clear direction."

What do you think? Does your pastor read or incorporate literature in his sermons? Do you think it's important to integrate stories with spirituality, why or why not?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Vintage Rejection

Check out this vintage rejection slip from the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company (1907-1925), famous for their production of Charlie Chaplin movies.  (Photo originally posted on NPR).  Rejection always hurts, but Essanay seems particularly hard to please! Which "reason for rejection" do you find most amusing, appalling, or surprising?

But to keep you from getting too discouraged, here are a few excerpts from rejection letters of now beloved and classic works,  from publishers who probably still have their foot stuck in their mouths!

Lord of the Flies by William Golding..."an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull."

The Deer Park by Norman Mailer..."This will set publishing back 25 years."

The Diary of Anne Frank..."The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the 'curiosity' level."

On Writings by Anais Nin..."There is no commercial advantage in acquiring her, and, in my opinion, no artistic."

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame..."an irresponsible holiday story."

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sneak Peek for Spring Fiction!

Many of you may know of Wendy Lawton, who makes her living wearing many hats as an award-winning  writer, literary agent, doll designer, and conference speaker. Wendy is the author of the historical fiction series called Daughters of Faith and I'm excited to tell you she is coming out with a new title for this collection this spring!

But first, I'll introduce you to the Daughters of Faith series, primarily for young readers ages ages 8-12.  Each Daughters of Faith book, inspired by historial events and Christian characters, "features a heroine who solves a nearly insurmountable situation. In the process, she discovers or deepens her personal faith in God." And the newest title soon to be released in March, 2011 is Indian Paintbrush: A Story Based on the Life of Young Eliza Spalding Warren.  Congrats Wendy!

Imagine growing up in a new country, far from family or familiar places. When Eliza Spalding Warren's parents crossed the continent as pioneer missionaries in the early 1800's, they broke so much new ground that young Eliza became the first white baby to be born in the Pacific Northwest.

Growing up in the Northwest was no hardship for Eliza who loved the Nez Perce Indians like family. Whether she was playing with the tribal children or fording swollen rivers with her father, Eliza lived a rich and wonderful life in her native surroundings. She even earned the deep respect of the Indians by learning their language. So great was their respect for her that, at ten years old, she served as translator during the massacre at the Whitman Mission where she attended school.

Like the Indian Paintbrush wildflower, Eliza Spalding Warren flourished in the untamed and rugged territory she knew only as "home."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Things You Never Knew About Dickens...

Today is Thursday.

Which means we are MORE than ready for the weekend at this point and almost there, but maybe need a laugh, a shot of caffeine, or a pick-me-up to make it through the next work day.  Which is why I bring you the following video featuring Nick Hornby, the English author of Fever Pitch and other award-winning books, who will enlighten you to a few quirky facts about the publishing world to the music of Ben Folds in partnership with the band Pomplamoose (which means "grapefruit" in French, of course).

You will learn how long it would take to read just the titles of every book ever written, the surprising literary feats of Dickens, and some other random facts, with a little tambourine and xylophone music thrown in for free. Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Ministry of Words

Editor's Note: Today I am pleased to welcome Debbie, who blogs at, as she writes about her ministry of literature with prison inmates.  Thanks Debbie!

It all started when a woman came up to me in church and said, “I heard that you write to military personal in Iraq. Would you write to my nephew? He’s in prison.” I knew little about prisons and inmates, but I didn’t see why not. Before long, I was co-leading a new jail and prison ministry at my church and had become pen pals with Christian inmates from all over the state.

The inmates told me, “All I have is time. Even the jobs they give us don’t take long, so we’re sitting around bored out of our minds.” I love to read, so I asked if they’d like my church’s ministry to send them the books I was done reading. “Yes! Please!” was the eager response.  Some inmates, especially those new in their faith, wanted Bible studies and Christian living books that would strengthen their faith. Others wanted fiction to pass the time.

One inmate was sent some books on how we know the Bible is true from the very first verse. He wrote back expressing his appreciation. About a month later, he wrote again to say that he’d been falsely accused of something and sent to solitary confinement as punishment. He said that because of the books I had sent, he knew the Bible was true. He hadn’t lost his faith. But he’d thought that once he became a Christian, things like this wouldn’t happen. We discussed the reasons why Christians still face conflict and crises, and I pointed out several people in the Bible (like Joseph in Genesis) that were falsely accused and suffered for a while. This inmate is steadily growing stronger in his faith.

Another inmate primarily requests Christian novels. He told me that he doesn’t read the Bible much because it’s "too convicting". However, several times he’s said that through reading literature he realizes that his view of God is sometimes wrong. Reading also fills his time in a positive way, so that he has less time to meditate on resentful or depressed thoughts that often lead to getting in trouble.

I was already thinking about starting a book blog when it occurred to me that becoming a book reviewer would enable me to provide more books to the inmates. I donate the review copies I receive to my church’s ministry, and they’re sent to the prisoners. 

Novels like Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar are popular with the inmates because the characters have realistic problems, difficult pasts, and come to understand and accept God’s forgiveness. I believe that every time we read a story where a character is transformed by truth, a part of us can be transformed right along side them. I can’t wait to see how God will use this novel and others in the inmate’s lives.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A New Way of Storytelling

By: Stephanie S. Smith, Blog Editor

It is no secret that our American culture is visually-oriented; we gravitate towards graphics, the silver screen, special effects and web design.  Our image-driven culture parades clever comics, print ads, and elaborate scenes before our eyes, sometimes moving us to inspiration and sometimes moving us to consumerism. 

But visual art, which marks our postmodern age, is nothing new.  The Church has been a patron of visual art for centuries, as gloriously displayed in the vaulted ceilings of cathedrals, the precision of a gold-tipped pen in illuminated manuscripts, and the story of Scripture as told through colored glass.

Christianity's rich visual tradition is being carried on today in many ways, one of which I recently discovered is The Saint John's Bible, a beautiful, visual rendition of the Scriptures that takes the ancient illuminated manuscript tradition and applies it in a new way. The Smithsonian Magazine calls it, “One of the extraordinary undertakings of our time.”

An Ancient Scribe at Work
To give you an idea of the depth of this artistic work...

The book is actually seven volumes, completely hand-written with world-class calligraphy and illustration, and took over fifteen years in the making.  The seven volumes all together weigh a total of 165 pounds!

Fellow artists Hilary Brand and Adrienne Chaplin say, "If ever art was made to point beyond itself it is the icon." (Art and Soul: Signposts for Christians in the Arts; p. 85).  And perhaps this is the beauty of a visual retelling of the Divine Story as well, as its images guide our hearts to see beyond what it represented on the page, ushering us into the presence of God.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

It All Began With a Picture...

By: Stephanie S. Smith, Fiction Blog Editor

I have a question for all you writers out there: how do your stories begin?

Do they begin inside you, with a striking thought, image, or hope? Do you observe something in the world that makes you want to put in onto paper? Do you imagine your characters to life, or do you see them on the street, at the Farmer's Market, the corner coffee shop?

Many of my favorite authors, it seems, birth their stories like this: a curious image arises in their mind, an image they see and cannot forget, and they write to discover the story behind the image. 

Beloved author C.S. Lewis says that his enchanted world of Narnia began with a picture of a faun carrying an umbrella in a snowy wood.  "This picture had been in my mind since I was sixteen. Then one day, when I was about forty, I said to myself: ‘Let’s try to make a story about it'.”

Kate DiCamillo was lying in bed one morning, her life in a state of depression, when she suddenly saw a magician, joined by an elephant.  The tale of these two characters entwine in what became The Magician's Elephant, a beautiful story about magic, homecoming, and belonging.  

Sue Monk Kidd's award-winning novel, The Secret Life of Bees, began with an image of a girl going to sleep in her room amidst a swarm of hovering bees.  Right now I'm reading Traveling with Pomegranates, the author's memoir which gives the reader the backstory behind the creation of her bee novel. I find myself fascinated with the way Sue Monk Kidd collects the smallest of details and finds a home for them in her book.  Simple things like a pink house she saw in a magazine, a childhood memory of bees that hummed through the walls of her old house, and a story about a black Madonna struck something in her and she wove them into her novel. 

As much as I love reading and writing, fiction has always been the hardest thing for me to write.  Characters do not appear to me in dreams, or start talking to me in the shower, or hover over my bed in the form of elephants.  But I do often see images in real life that I pause over and tuck away, and lately I've decided to brave a short story, weaving in bits and pieces of things that catch my attention and make me curious. 

Here are some of them:

A man sitting on a porch that is covered with windchimes.

The way a book in my hand vibrates with the live music of a cello playing in a bookstore.

A newspaper clipping of an elderly man who was killed by a church steeple as it fell onto his parked car.

A verse in Exodus about the bells the priests of the tabernacle would wear on their robe, so that outsiders could know by the noise whether or not the priest was still alive in the holy presence of God.

An odd menagerie, I know! But if it works for Sue Monk Midd, hopefully I can tell a tale with these details, too.  What works best for you? How do you translate an idea onto the page?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Reaching Lives Through Literature

Good morning readers! I am proud to present to you today a guest post from our friend Kim Ford, who blogs at Window to My World.  Have a great weekend!

“…Muriel told me our life is like a winding path with a deep ditch on either side…One ditch is our full-fisted rebellion. The other is our response to someone else’s rebellion. She told me, ‘The Devil couldn’t care less which ditch we fall into, he just wants us off the road.” (p. 353, Daisy Chain by Mary DeMuth)

The Devil has successfully driven the women of Hosanna Home into the ditch of addiction. Meanwhile, the Lord has drawn me to minister to these women through a very unlikely avenue – Christian Fiction. How can fiction reach out to women bound within the stronghold of life-controlling of drugs, alcohol and other hellish addictions? I’m glad you asked!

More than three years ago I followed my husband’s lead to minister to women in our local rehab facility. I couldn’t fathom what I had to offer these ladies, for they had lived a life so foreign to my own I couldn’t imagine what we could ever have in common. At the same time I began my to volunteer my time, I was exploring the burgeoning world of blogging book reviews. I guess my enthusiasm and excitement spilled over into my conversation and snagged the attention of some of my new acquaintances.

Many of these women hadn’t picked up a book for years on end, and at the time I was crossing their path they were in such a mental fog they couldn’t really comprehend the pleasure I gained from reading so many books. As time passed and their minds cleared some of the ladies approached me and began to ask about the books I was reading. As I began to share some of the stories, I realized that the same pleasure and encouragement I received through these stories could be theirs as well! I began to share some copies of the books I blogged about, and it wasn’t long before I was receiving requests: mysteries, romance, historical fiction, suspense…the world had opened up to these ladies once again, and they were discovering the pleasure of a well-told story!

The world of Christian Fiction has grown exponentially in the past twenty years. I’ve found several impressively realistic stories from both sides of the addiction nightmare that have blessed me and the women of Hosanna Home. Mary DeMuth’s Defiance Texas Trilogy, Terri Blackstock’s Intervention, and Christa Allan’s Walking on Broken Glass are just a few of the stories that I’ve shared with the ladies.

And while the stories about redemption for those struggling with addiction are very powerful, there are none as moving as the stories within the pages of the Bible itself. When an author is able to draw upon these biblical characters and bring their stories to life, it makes a lasting impact upon the hearts and minds of the reader. Francine River’s story Redeeming Love was already required reading for the women in the program, and I was thrilled when I found another biblically-based story to share with them!

Tessa Afshar’s book, Pearl in the Sand, centers around the life of Rahab, and I was quickly able to draw many parallels between the issues that Rahab wrestled with, and the women with whom I interacted at Hosanna Home. Forgiveness, insecurity, fear and the difficulty of dealing with other’s judgmental attitudes are just a few of the issues that I knew these ladies could relate to, and I was eager to share this story with them all.

There are times when a fictional story can reach into the heart and mind in a way nothing else can. I’ve seen the door of understanding and atonement open wide within the hearts of some of these women because of something that they read in a story. I’ve also witnessed a bridge of communication being built between a recovering addict and someone called to minister to them with nothing but a love of reading with which to draw them together. I’m anxious to see what the Lord has planned for Tessa Afshar’s book and the ladies of Hosanna Home. We will soon begin discussing this story, and I know that my life will be forever blessed by the things I will learn along the way.

P.S.! Moody Publishers helped set Kim up with multiple copies of Pearl in the Sand so she could use the book to minister to these women, and we know there are many other ministries like hers out there! If you work/volunteer at a ministry (or have one in mind) that you think might be blessed by Tessa's novel, please send me an email at telling me about the ministry and requesting a free copy.  Ministry libraries, shelters, mentoring programs, support groups, are all great ideas for reaching lives through literature, so drop me a line with any suggestions!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Story Behind the Novel

Editor's Note: Meet Tricia Goyer! In today's post she talks about her novel, From Dust and Ashes, which Amazon will be giving away digitally from Sept. 20th-Oct. 4th! Starting Sept. 20th, just go right here and download it to your Kindle or ebook reader. Enjoy!

Hi! I'd like to start by introducing myself. My name is Tricia Goyer, and I'm an author of historical fiction books (among other kinds!), including four WWII novels. When I first starting writing, I never even considered writing historical novels (too much research!). I wrote articles, devotionals, and proposals for contemporary novels. And then, something changed all that . . . well, here's the story behind my first historical novel, From Dust and Ashes.

I can clearly remember when my interest was sparked by the liberation events that took place in St. Georgen, Austria during World War II. An Austrian historian had invited me and my friends into her home, serving up tea and bread, meat and cheeses. It was the end of a long day of travel, and I secretly desired a hot shower and a soft bed. But it wasn't long before our host had me intrigued with her true tales of villains, prisoners, and GI heroes.

I sat--eyes wide--as Marta described the twenty-three, American GIs who had stumbled upon the Gusen camps May 5, 1945. I imagined their horror as they witnessed prisoners reduced to skin and bones. Or worse, piles of corpses. But Marta also spoke of other things, such as the first help to enter the camp--a young Nazi wife with her children on tow.

Who was she? I wondered. Obviously, she had not believed in the Nazi persecution. What would it have been like to helplessly witness such horror? How was her life forever changed?

I also imagined those prisoners who were mere days from death. How did they go on after facing such hatred, such loss? Just the night before, on a dinner cruise in Prague, I had sat elbow to elbow with a young Jewish girl and her brother.

"Fifty years ago, they would have been killed," my friend whispered in my ear as we talked and laughed with our new friends. It was then that the horrors of WWII became real, and I knew I would never be the same.

After we left Marta's house that night, I turned to traveling companions--also fiction writers. "Are you going to write about this?" At that moment their "nos" became my "yes."

I went home with much excitement and began researching the events concerning the liberation of Gusen and Mauthausen death camps. But I soon realized no articles or fuzzy, black and white photos could ever take the place of speaking with those who were actually there. So in August 2001, I was invited to attend the 59th reunion of the 11th Armored Division.

In Kalamazoo, Michigan, I spoke to the brave men, now in their 70's and 80's who had liberated the death camps. Their bodies have aged, but in their hearts they are still the same brave, young soldiers who witnessed so much.

As the research progressed, I was also able to visit Austria a second time to participate in the memorial services celebrating liberation so many years prior. And while there, I spoke with others, including a man who was just twelve-years-old in 1945. I was awed as he led me through the streets where former SS houses still stand. And tears formed in my eyes as I stood before the guesthouse of the brave, Nazi wife, now gone.

So fueled by memoirs, oral histories and personal interviews, I began to write. And in my mind, the streets of St. Georgen and the events of 1945 soon became as real as life around me.

On that sunny day in October, my greatest concern had been resting after a long day of travel. It was only later, after months of writing, that I realized God's intentions were far greater. His plan was to have me share a story of liberation. A story inspired by true events . . . and true heroes.

To read some of the true stories behind the novel, go to: and  Also, from Sept. 20th-Oct. 4th, will be giving away this novel digitally for FREE! Starting Sept. 20 search for the title and download it for free to your Kindle.

Tricia Goyer

Friday, September 10, 2010

Talk with Author Tessa Afshar LIVE Today!

TODAY several fiction facebook groups are hosting a facebook tour with Tessa Afshar, author of her debut novel, Pearl in the Sand. Visit the following pages to ask her your questions and read more about the story behind the book! Throughout the day, Tessa will be personally responding to all posts on these pages and there will also be opportunity to win free copies of the book.  Enjoy!

ACFW American Christian Fiction Writers
Urban Christian Fiction Readers
What Kind of Christian Books Do You Like to Read?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Read the First 3 Chapters of Pearl in the Sand for Free!!

Good Morning, Readers!

I have some exciting news: Tessa Afshar's debut novel, Pearl in the Sand, comes out September 1st and you can read the first 3 chapters for free starting then!

Here's what you need to do to take part in this special preview:

1) Go to Tessa's website under the "FREE DOWNLOADS" tab and sign up with your email.  This will also give you access to some other exclusive features from Tessa. 

2) Starting September 1st, you will receive an email with an excerpt from the book! Over the course of a few weeks, you will receive the first 3 chapters of Pearl in the Sand, delivered straight to your inbox.

If you don't know about Tessa's novel yet, read the description below.  Hope you enjoy!!

Can a Canaanite harlot who has made her livelihood by looking desirable to men make a fitting wife for one of the leaders of Israel? Shockingly, the Bible’s answer is yes.

Pearl in the Sand tells Rahab’s untold story. Rahab lives in a wall; her house is built into the defensive walls of the City of Jericho. Other walls surround her as well—walls of fear, rejection, unworthiness.

A woman with a wrecked past; a man of success, of faith …of pride; a marriage only God would conceive! Through the heartaches of a stormy relationship, Rahab and Salmone learn the true source of one another’s worth and find healing in God.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Eat Pray Love: A Critique of the Memoir

By: Stephanie S. Smith, blog editor

Last night my husband and I settled into a movie theatre, surrounding ourselves with middle-aged women, some by themselves, with a friend, or with a whole book club, to watch the film rendition of popular memoir, Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia.

I was skeptical about the movie for the same reasons I am skeptical about the book, but looking forward to a sweeping visual tour of Italy, India, and Indonesia to which the main character travels throughout the story.  I also banked on the fact that Julia Roberts (playing author Liz Gilbert) would show less of the self-focus that made the book distasteful to me.  And it's true, the film omitted much of the self-saturated theme that Liz Gilbert infuses her manuscript with. 

I cracked the cover on this one several months before, loving the concept of insightful living through travel and the introduction where author Elizabeth Gilbert masterfully structures her book around the beautiful overarching metaphor of prayer beads. I ate it up.  But alas, it went downhill from there.  Her writing is impressive and eloquent, her cultural observations are sharp and fascinating, but the personal journey of Gilbert through depression to self-actualization was hard to swallow.

Perhaps the most common critique of Gilbert's book is its obsession with the self.  In and of itself, I do not think it is terribly self-centered to travel as a way of processing and healing, or to write a memoir about it.  I think dedicating your year to the search of God and learning about yourself in the process is actually an admirable quest, but Gilbert blends the self and divinity in a way that I found disturbing.  She allows incredible overlap between God and the self, two separate identities that she views as one. 

Gilbert's idea of God is "an experience of supreme love", which sounds about right, but sounds plain creepy when applied to yourself since you and god are the same being.  To love yourself, forgive yourself, and do what's best for yourself are the primary morals of the book, and God is portrayed as a tool or a resource in the process.  Gilbert's god is so tangled with her inner world that she hears her own voice as divine communication.  There are scenes where Gilbert gives her id a pep talk saying things like, "I will never leave you. I love you." In fact, she has a notebook where she writes two-party dialogue between....who knows? Gilbert writes, "Maybe the voice I am reaching for is God, or maybe it's my guru speaking through me, or maybe it's the angel who was assigned to my case, or maybe it's my Higher Self...." Whatever it is, Gilbert pinpoints its location as "within." She writes, to sum up the fruit of her spiritual experiences, "God dwells within you, as you."

This self-stuck focus reads more like therepy than spirituality.  Not to mention that it dismantles any possibility for relationship, for community, and for intercommunication.  If the Highest Being in the universe resides in your very chest, isolation would be the natural course for everyone.  There would be little need for reaching out; our souls would become ingrown.

By the end of the book, Gilbert has transformed from a depressed, divorced, depleted woman into a self-actualized woman who has not only discovered who she is, recovered from all her losses, and learned to love life again, but she has found a new man as well who she eventually marries.  After all this, she insists, "I was the administrator of my own rescure" and states that it was most likely her Higher Self, her enlightened self who had already made it through all these enriching experiences, who had been the voice of comfort and strength  when she was falling apart.  She would like to take the credit for whatever grace she has been given. 

Probably the reason this strikes me as so conceited and presumptuous is because I so often do this myself, patting myself on the back for something I think I have earned and forgetting to thank God who is the Source of all the goodness in my life.  As Christians, we know we are not able to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.  Grace is essential for living, we are ever in need of rescue, and a dialogue with the Savior can truly save us in a way our self-soothing strategies never could.

What did you think about the book and/or the movie? What flaws did you find in it, and what redemption? I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Interview with Tessa Afshar, author of Pearl in the Sand

What are some of your favorite books?

Jane Eyre is hard to beat; it has everything—intrigue, romance, God, a critique of Christianity gone bad, and Mr. Rochester. Anything by Jane Austen. Most things by Dickens. The Narnia Chronicles; The Lord of the Rings Trilogy; Busman’s Honeymoon; The Princess and Curdie; To Kill a Mocking Bird. O my gosh, I think I’m running out of room; this is tragic. There’s so much more…

What’s your favorite food?

Steak and fries and anything my father makes. But don’t tell my mom; she’ll kill me.

What do you do for fun?

Hang out with close friends. Read. Read while hanging out with close friends. Watch DVDs, especially BBC period pieces. Did you know they cost around $25,000 a minute to produce? One feels obligated to watch just so the money isn’t wasted.

What’s your definition of close friends?

When you go to the bathroom, your stomach isn’t tied in knots in fear that they might hear something. That, and being able to share absolutely everything in your heart and knowing that you’ll be loved and accepted at the end of the conversation no matter what you say.

Did you always want to be a writer or is it a new desire?

I grew up in a culture that reveres poetry and literature. Living in that atmosphere, it was easy to fall in love with books. Enraptured by stories, I found myself writing them from an early age. What can be more fun than making up your own world?

What circumstances led you to write the story of Rahab?

This novel started as a short essay on the walls of Jericho. I was fascinated by the way this symbol of unassailable strength was in the end breached and vanquished. It seemed like such a sign of hope to me: a reminder that what may seem to be an impossible barrier can indeed be conquered with God.

Then during a visit to Florence, I noticed that Ponte Vecchio—the famed bridge straddling the Arno River for almost seven hundred years—had tiny shops built right into its walls. They bulged out of the sides of the bridge like odd-shaped barnacles sticking out of the hull of a ship. Walking over this bridge reminded me of the story of Rahab. The Bible tells us that she lived in the bowels of a wall too. Her house was built right into the defensive walls of Jericho. I wondered what it was like to live in a wall as I crossed Ponte Vecchio. Then I realized that we all know a little something about that. Most of us have to contend with walls in the interior places of our souls. Walls built on foundations of pride, fear, rejection, loss; walls that keep others at bay and shield us from drawing close enough to get hurt again. Suddenly I was hooked. I wanted to write about walls, about living in them, about pulling them down. I wanted to write about Rahab.

Were there any surprises as you started writing the novel?

Originally, I wrote the first three chapters of Pearl in the Sand in the first-person point of view. It wasn’t a deliberate strategy so much as a fortunate mistake! Later I was told that publishing houses preferred a third-person point of view novel from debut novelists and rewrote the POV accordingly. But writing those first chapters from the point of view of Rahab really helped me get into her psyche. As a writer, it is important for me to know my character’s motives; to know her wounds and strengths. To know the lies she believes about herself and the defenses she has erected because of those lies. So those three initial chapters were a perfect way of getting to know Rahab. She became real to me.

What type of research did you have to do in order to write a convincing novel?

Researching for historical novels can be tricky. Everything from language to customs to food and clothes has to be researched. There are so many things we don’t know about this period. For example, Rahab calls her father “Abba.” The truth is that we have no idea how a Canaanite child would informally address her parents. We have some ideas in terms of other ancient languages with the same root – like “Av” in Ugaritic or “Abba” in Aramaic. So I chose the more familiar Aramaic form, still used by Jewish children in Israel today.

We have literally no archaeological knowledge of Israel’s life during their wanderings. What information we have, comes from the Bible. But we do have archaeological evidence from Canaan and we think we know where Jericho was located. So I obtained information where I could, left it blank where possible, and made up the rest!

Did your background help with the writing of this book?

Having lived in the Middle East for the first thirteen years of my life, I had a first-hand sense of customs and topography, which I tried to weave into the atmosphere of the novel. It’s not that Twentieth Century Iran is the equivalent of life in Canaan at the time of its conquest. But there is an indefinable aura—a character to the region that I think surpasses time and cultural changes. I tired to capture that sense in the mood of the novel. For example, whenever we had guests in my childhood home, we walked them out part way at the end of the visit, and waited at the door until they were gone. Not doing so would have been considered very rude. I worked that custom into the storyline to show a glimpse of the importance of hospitality.

What do you hope your readers will take away from Pearl in the Sand?

Pearl in the Sand recounts the tale of a woman whose world was a mess, whose life was a mess, whose heart was a mess, but in encountering God, she found to her shock that her life was salvageable. More than that—it was valuable. She found that she was lovable.  Having worked in women’s ministries for the past twelve years, I have become mindful that many of us need to hear that message.

God started the most significant part of Rahab’s life by literally pulling down the walls of her home around her. As traumatic as that moment must have been for Rahab, she could not have moved on to the future God had planned for her without it. In a parallel pursuit of healing for her broken soul, Pearl in the Sand portrays a God who just as determinedly set out to ruin the walls surrounding Rahab’s heart. I think women today need to know God as the wooer and pursuer of their hearts. They need to know that sometimes the most glorious breakthroughs of life come through a vector of God-ordained pain. More than anything I hope the reader of this story will come away with a deeper glimpse into her own soul, and a more profound understanding of God the Father. Rahab learned to cling to God in the midst of her sorrows, to believe in Him more than she believed in fear. For me, that is one of the most crucial components of faith: becoming a person who gives God full access to every part of one’s soul, even if that access sometimes hurts because it involves the demolition of one’s defensive walls.

This is your debut novel. What are you thinking for the future?

I am currently researching for a novel set in Persia during the time of Nehemiah. The two central characters are fictional, but Nehemiah and several other biblical characters will play important roles in the story. Like Pearl in the Sand, this is a love story that asks some deeper questions about life. I’ve been having a lot fun working on this novel. I’ll tell you where I am stuck: I haven’t been able to find the perfect names for my central characters: a Jewish girl and a Persian nobleman. The Achaemenid Persians had some really long and hard to pronounce names!

Visit Tessa at or her facebook page

Monday, August 2, 2010

Father to Son: One Father's Journey from Adopting to Adopted

By: Stephanie S. Smith *Here is my review of Hello, I Love You, as originally published on!*

The year I graduated high school my parents decided to follow in the growing evangelical trend of foster care, and for the first time I had “brothers”. DJ and Ozley (as whimsical as the wizard he is named for) quickly settled into our hearts and home which they tore through daily with the little-boy thunder of a pair of tumbleweeds. If need be, we would have adopted them in a heartbeat.

Many families in our circle of friends have adopted: a single mother who adopted a disabled child from Kyrgyzstan, a couple who suffered through a miscarriage and later adopted a boy and a girl from South Korea, a crisis pregnancy of a local teenager that turned into one of the biggest blessings a young couple could ever receive. The church is beginning to tell more and more of such stories. Ministries such as Focus on the Family and Family Life Today are championing the need for Christian adoption, driven by the conviction that to bring an otherwise estranged child into a family is to reenact the gospel. To adopt is to practically live out the metaphor of the new birth we have in Christ in our own homes.

My family desired to open our home as such, but with foster car there is always the inevitable fear of letting go. And that summer, this fear hit me head on in the form of a compact vehicle that plowed into my rear passenger door at 50 mph.

DJ could have been in the care that day, joking with me about how funny it would be to have strawberries for noses. Ozley could have been singing in his car seat, “Oh the Lord is good to me…”; his “oh”s like the Fruit Loops he had for breakfast: small and enthusiastic.

But In God’s great mercy, I drove alone. The impact was a tangle of sounds, airbags, smoke. After it hit, I saw that I was generally unharmed and stumbled shaking out of my car. The other driver was young, she gnawed at the tip of her hair. On my way to a wedding, she said. Late for a wedding, her boyfriend said. Her dress was funeral black.

“Can I ask you something?” She ventured, measuring out her syllables as if they were fragile, “Do you have kids? Because I saw the car seats and I…” She did not finish; I felt ready to punch her if she tried. The airbags began to wilt, and between them I saw it: two car seats, vaulted against the wall of the front seats, forced to the floor by the crunched-in passenger door. Hauntingly and blessedly empty, like the third day tomb. This is when I start to cry, broken by relief.

Reading Hello, I Love You: Adventures in Adoptive Fatherhood, I am reminded of the way a child under your care can make your heart skip hourly through cycles of tremendous love, frustration, defeat, and relief. Author Ted Kluck is a sports aficionado and looks the part, yet even a rock like him couldn’t write this true-life narrative without admitting, “There’s nothing like adoption to make a grown man cry. Repeatedly.”

Hello, I Love You is a story about making a family. In Kluck’s own words, “[It] is the story of two Ukrainian adoptions, told from the perspective of a father who desperately wanted children, who felt called to adopt orphans, but who struggled to enjoy the process.” Ted and his wife, Kristen, navigated through foreign customs and culture shock, the painful reality of infertility, and even a few near-death experiences to bring Tristan home with them. Even to their Christian adoption agency, it was the most turbulent adoption process they had ever seen. Then, a few years later, the Klucks went through it all over again to welcome Dima into their family. Yet in all of this, God’s faithfulness marks every turn, threading the events together with the grace of One who risked everything to adopt His church.

Hello, I Love You is not a theological treatise by any means, but throughout his story Kluck unearths parallels between the Father’s love for His children and his own role as a father in his earthly family. In the midst of Ukrainian water outages, foreign cop encounters, and orphanage waiting rooms, Kluck translates this cosmic concept of adoption into terms any father, mother, son or daughter can understand. The result is a heartwarming story that highlights several spiritual truths about adoption.

Adoption Requires a Cost

Kluck’s first chapter is aptly titled “The Price of Love”. Not only would adoption cost Ted and Kristen at the bank, but it would also cost them emotionally. The Klucks were broken time and again by phone calls bearing bad news, thorny government procedures, and the strain of procuring a five-figure sum, but most of all by the fear of losing a child. “I feel like Kristin and I have been to hell and back, twice, through all of this,” Kluck writes; and while this comment sounds tongue-in-cheek, the truth is this is exactly what Christ did to secure our heavenly adoption. Galatians 4:4-6 teaches that God’s Son came “to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive adoption as sons.” The cost of the cross culminated in our spiritual adoption, and like the Kluck’s journey to bring home their sons, the cost is far outweighed by the relationship.

Adoption Requires Fatherly Discipline

Ted Kluck is the first to admit that his numerous trips abroad trained him to be a world-class complainer, yet it was his son’s misbehavior that revealed to Kluck his own need for discipline at the hands of His Heavenly Father. “If [Tristan] has been whiny and petulant, I’ve been the same…And God, thankfully, has gotten my attention and forced me into a closer, more sanctified, more joyful relationship with Him as a result.” Scripture affirms this, “The Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes those He accepts as His children” (Hebrews 12:6). The Father’s punishment is not without purpose, rather it is intended for us to “share in His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). And for Kluck, who would not have known the deep faithfulness of God without faith-testing times, this purpose was mercifully achieved.

Adoption Requires New Identity

When the Klucks left the orphanage with little Dima in the stroller, their new son experienced the world outside for the first time. He was spellbound by the city sights, and his delight in buses and street vendors reminded his father of the joy experienced by a person who has been reborn in Christ. No longer bound to a history of abandonment, child illness, and estrangement, Dima now knew love and care from those who called him their own. “As my boys climb on me, smiling and laughing, I’m reminded of the fact that the difficult circumstances in their past…are washed away in light of the new life they have with our family,” Kluck says. Like Tristan and Dima, we have been pulled from darkness and are sensitized to a new world of being in which we are no longer slaves but sons (Galatians 4:7).

The joy of bringing a family together is deep, perhaps because it gives us a glimpse of the glory of the King who went to hell and back to make us His own. Just ask Ted Kluck: “…It was these adoptions, more than any other event or events in our lives, that truly taught us to find our peace, comfort, and identity in Christ.”

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Author Christina Berry's Take on ICRS 2010

Today we welcome Christina Berry, author of The Familiar Stranger, in the following guest post. Congratulations Christina for winning a Christy Awards nomination in the debut novel category, and becoming a finalist for the Carol Awards in the long comtemporary fiction category! Check out her book synopsis at the bottom of this post!

Having never been to ICRS (International Christian Retail Show), I had no idea what to expect in the opening gathering and PaceSetter ceremony. What a treat! Worship led by Jeremy Camp and The Museum, a Q&A with Randy Alcorn, quartets in abundance, and a moving speech by Facing the Giants co-writer and producer, Stephen Kendrick.

A secretive appearance by Mosab Hassan Yousef, author of Son of Hamas, quickened the audience’s collective breath as he shared about being a double agent, seeming to work for the terrorist group Hamas, while really feeding information to the Israeli Shin Bet. As he spoke about turning to Christ, being disinherited, abandoning fortune and status, and fighting US deportation, I was not the only one to feel I was seeing a Saul-to-Paul transformed man. (Yousef has since been granted political asylum.)

With such a historic, important presentation captured at a retail show, it seemed that this was not an ICRS of years past.

How right my feelings were. Out of all the speakers that evening, it is the wisdom uttered by Bob the Tomato that sticks with me most. Okay, perhaps it was Phil Vischer in a Bob-like voice. He painted the picture of conventions in the 90s, money rolling into the Christian market, everyone wanting a piece of the profit, excessive parties (alcohol-free), and wooing of major Hollywood players. And then came Big Ideas Productions bankruptcy and Phil’s soul searching, his decision to return to the roots of teaching children about God’s Word.

Once home, verses from Proverbs (30:7-9, NIV) jumped out at me:

"Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God."

Phil commented, and the audience agreed, that God’s Spirit could clearly be felt in the theater that night. Without the clamor and chaos of parties and starlets, God could be heard more clearly. Business might be conducted with more focus on accomplishing His purposes.

Sure, the show might be smaller, some publishing houses no longer attending, but the feel on the floor was respectful, excited, and anticipatory of what God might do.

Our own lives perhaps mirror ICRS. A smaller gathering. Less money spent. Less business done. Yet perhaps a greater sense of God’s purpose. A calm devotion to following Him. An assurance that despite unprecedented change, the best is still ahead of us.

“Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.” (Eccl. 4:6)

Maybe less really is more.

A mother and foster parent, Christina Berry carves time out of her busy schedule to write about the heart and soul of life. The Familiar Stranger is her first novel. She lives with her family in rural Oregon. You can visit her at .

Craig Littleton's decision to end his marriage would shock his wife, Denise...if she knew what he was up to. When an accident lands Craig in the ICU, badly burned, with fuzzy memories of his own life and plans, Denise rushes to his side, ready to care for him. They embark on a quest to help Craig remember who he is and, in the process, they discover dark secrets. An affair? An emptied bank account? A hidden identity? An illegitimate child? But what will she do when she realizes he's not the man she thought he was? Is this trauma a blessing in disguise, a chance for a fresh start? Or will his secrets destroy the life they built together?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

My Life as a Bookworm

By: Stephanie S. Smith, blog editor

As a work-at-home freelancer, I spend a lot of time haunting bookstores.  Barnes and Noble, the little independent shop on the corner, Borders, the local Christian bookstore with overstuffed chairs, the city library.  And if they serve coffee, all the better.

Last Saturday my husband kidnapped me by taking me to the nearest bookstore and forcing me to pick out a book to buy--which turns out, in my mind, to be an A-rate date.  We browsed the shelves, brought our selections to the cafe where we read on tall bistro stools, and then amused ourselves people-watching.

Random observations of a bookstore...
An elderly man holds up a book so his wife walking up the table can read the cover. With a million dollar grin, he shows it to her: How to Retire in Europe. I am charmed and jealous :)
There seems to be a new trend of "re-writing" old classics, some of which I am sorry to say I cannot take seriously.  Not when Anna Karenina is suddenly a cyborg, or Jo March from Little Women romps through the night as a werewolf. I kid you not: Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters promises "romance, heartbreak, and tentacled mayhem" from its back cover.
Speaking of monsters...vampirism has launched an epidemic in the Young Adult section, with every other book cover featuring a surly-looking, red-lipped youth retreating into shadows.
A few weeks ago I visited Panera to be greeted by a new policy: only 30 minute free wi-fi intervals during their "peak period". Meanwhile, Starbucks is putting out little notices on their tables saying, "We no offer free wi-fi!" Barnes and Noble has now followed suit. Back at Panera this week, the new policy has gone out the window. Thank goodness.
At libraries, people respect the silence.  At bookstores, people talk on their cell phones, laugh loudly, order cappucinnos and even read books aloud sitting in the middle of the stacks. Why is that?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Christy Awards

Last month the Christy Award ceremony took place in St. Louis, where readers and their beloved authors gathered to celebrate high-quality fiction and the minds that created it.  Books are divided into different categories, and can receive a winning award or a nomination. 

The purpose of the Christy Awards, according to their website, is to:

"Nurture and encourage creativity and quality in the writing and publishing of fiction written from a Christian worldview.

Bring a new awareness of the breadth and depth of fiction choices available, helping to broaden the readership.

Provide opportunity to recognize novelists whose work may not have reached bestseller status."
Here's a peek at where Moody Fiction has showed up in the Christy Awards:
2010 Christy Awards
Christina Berry, author of The Familiar Stranger, received a nomation for the "First Book" category
Craig Littleton's decision to end his marriage would shock his wife, Denise...if she knew what he was up to. When an accident lands Craig in the ICU, badly burned, with fuzzy memories of his own life and plans, Denise rushes to his side, ready to care for him. They embark on a quest to help Craig remember who he is and, in the process, they discover dark secrets. An affair? An emptied bank account? A hidden identity? An illegitimate child? But what will she do when she realizes he's not the man she thought he was? Is this trauma a blessing in disguise, a chance for a fresh start? Or will his secrets destroy the life they built together? 
2009 Christy Awards
Cathy Gohlke, author of I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires, won the award for the "Young Adult" category
Robert Glover, who first appeared in the Christy Award-winning William Henry is a Fine Name, is now seventeen years old and the Civil War has begun. When Robert’s father leaves to help the Union, Robert reluctantly promises not to enlist until he turns eighteen. But soon his cousin Emily asks him in a letter to help his estranged, ailing mother, as well as Emily’s father Albert, who has been wounded and imprisoned at Fort Delaware. In his attempt to help Albert, Robert unwittingly becomes a pawn of a Confederate escape plan. Angry and ashamed, he works his way south to his mother and Emily, only to discover that his mother has become mentally unstable. But time is short as Sherman’s march of destruction through the Carolinas promises to bring Union troops directly to their door. As Robert leads the group toward safety, the bonds between Emily and himself are strengthened. Robert must come to terms with his mother and his own responsibilities before God.

2008 Christy Awards 
Lisa McKay, author of My Hands Came Away Red, received a nomination for her book in the "Suspense" category
Cori signs up for a mission trip to Indonesia during the summer after her senior year of high school. Inspired by happy visions of building churches and seeing beautiful beaches, she gladly escapes her complicated love life back home. Six weeks into the trip, a conflict that has been simmering for years flames to deadly life on the nearby island of Ambon. Before they can leave, Cori and her teammates find themselves caught up in the destructive wave of violence washing over the Christian and Muslim villages in the area. Within days the church they helped build is a smoldering pile of ashes, its pastor and many of the villagers are dead, and the six teenagers are forced to flee into the hazardous refuge of the jungle with only the pastor's son to guide them.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Hollow: An Unpolished Tale

By: Stephanie S. Smith, blog editor

As for now and the foreseeable future, I will never tire of memoirs.  People tell their own stories best, and I cherish the opportunity to peek into their lives and learn from their experiences.  Hello, I Love You was a great memoir about an adoption story, I am currently reading Mary Karr's The Liar's Club (Penguin Books,1995), and I can't wait to start reading this one...

 Twenty nine years, 7 months, 14 days and the battle still rages…

Jena Morrow has an eating disorder. It can kill her. Jena Morrow has a Savior. He came to give her abundant life.

This is not a polished tale of victory but an honest, true story of fragility. Hollow recounts Jena’s daily struggle with anorexia and the God who is able and willing to reach down into the dirt. A central theme of Hollow is the surrender of control to Jesus Christ. His Word is interwoven throughout the story as rebuttals to the lies that besiege those engaged in any addiction.

In addition to her point of view, Jena includes those of her friends, family, and former therapists providing an undercurrent of hope.
Written in an easy conversational voice, Hollow will resonate with those in the midst of a struggle and those who stand beside them.

Click here to read an excerpt!

Jena Morrow chronicles her journey with an eating disorder in her debut book, Hollow (May 2010). She studied music education at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, and currently makes her home in Crest Hill, Illinois with her son. For more information, visit

Friday, July 2, 2010

Giveaway Winners!

I just want to thank everyone who posted on the giveaway contest for Hello, I Love You. I am encouraged to hear the stories of those who are in the process of adoption, have adopted, rejoice in their adopted status because of their Heavenly Father...truly thank you for sharing! It is a rich spiritual concept as well and check back here on the blog soon for my own review of this memoir.

Now for the winners!

1) Christi
2) Ashley
3) EJ
4) Kristen

Thank you all again! Check back this summer for more giveaways!

Stephanie S. Smith
Moody Publishers

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hello, I Love You Giveaway!

Hello Readers! Today and tomorrow the Moody Fiction Blog is hosting a giveaway for the June release Hello, I Love You: Adventures in Adoptive Fatherhood by Ted Kluck! Comment below with your email address for your chance to win 1 of 4 free copies! Winners will be chosen and posted Friday on the blog and emailed for their mailing address. Good luck!

When the Future of Your Family is at the Mercy of Strangers...

There is perhaps no feeling lonelier than that of being a stranger in a strange land -- an experience many adoptive parents know well. Touching down in a crowded airport, with tens of thousands of dollars in cash strapped around your waist, to pay people you've never met for a baby you've never seen . . . . You might have prayed for months, even years, about that moment, but it still often feels like the foreign country is a region God has forgotten, and that He has sent you there in vain.

For the young Christian couple, perhaps the only feeling more paralyzing and lonely than the one just described is that of infertility. There are pregnancy announcements nearly every week in the church bulletin, and not wanting to "rain on your friends' parade," you suffer and grieve together in silence.

Hello, I Love You tells one couple's story dealing with these feelings of loneliness, as well as the long-time fulfillment that can come from adopting internationally. Through narrative and letters written to each of his children-to-be, Ted Kluck takes readers through the many phases, decisions, and experiences that adoptive couples make.

From trekking across the globe with piles for cash, to airport con-men, electrocution, and Ukrainian cops on the doorstep with guns, it's all part of the wild ride that is international adoption. But so is God's faithfulness taking new forms each day through the love of friends, the support of family, the comfort of Scripture, and the fellowship of a new church family in a foreign land. And so is the joy of meeting two boys who will soon become part of your family -- the sensation of walking down narrow hallways through dark orphanages to say "hello" to your children for the first time.

TED KLUCK is co-author of Why We're Not Emergent and author of Facing Tyson, 15 Stories, Paper Tiger and Game Time. His award-winning writing has also appeared in ESPN Magazine, Sports Spectrum Magazine and on's Page 2. An avid sports fan, he has played professional indoor football, coached high school football, trained as a professional wrestler, served as a missionary, and has also taught writing courses at the college level. He currently lives in Michigan with his wife and two sons.
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