Stories of faith, life, and love

Category: Contemporary Christian Fiction (Page 1 of 14)

What I’m Reading: Before I Called You Mine

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” Robert Frost

We understand actions have consequences. We teach young children not to touch the hot stove because they will get burned. We show them how to look both ways before crossing the street. We explain that a failure to do so could get them hit by a car. Every day we have choices to make, and intellectually we understand each of those choices will come with a consequence.

I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a writer. I also knew I needed to have a “real” job to pay the bills until I became an award-winning, best-selling author in the Christian market earning a salary that would allow me to live comfortably without any other income. I’m still waiting for that to happen!

Honestly, I could probably spend time writing full-time, if not for one choice my husband and I have made. We sent our children to a Christian school for their education. Some years, we paid tuition for four children at a time. Now, we are down to one. He has another year left, and he wants to finish up at the school where he started.

Our choice to give our children this education brought with it the consequence of me having to work until tuition is paid off. It is a choice I would make again, but it doesn’t mean I don’t wish I could have both my child in Christian school and a full-time writing career. I serve a God who can make it happen, but most times He lets us live with the consequences of our choices. Sometimes it’s about giving us the choice of whether or not we will follow what He has put into our hearts to do.

It’s this kind of decision Lauren Bailey faces in Before I Called You Mine by Nicole Deese. Lauren feels God has called her to adoption. The rules in adopting from China are simple. She can adopt as a single woman, or she can wait until she’s been married for a specific amount of time and adopt as a couple. Since her previous boyfriend ended their relationship, that doesn’t seem like a viable option. She starts the process to adopt as a single woman.

Keeping with her plan to avoid romantic attachment and possible derailing of what she knows God wants her to do is easy, until she meets the sub across the hall. Joshua is everything she ever dreamed of finding in a man, and he’s completely into her. The timing couldn’t be worse.

Lauren is determined to keep on her path to adopt and keep her growing friendship with Joshua. But as they grow closer, she is forced to a hard look at what she’s giving up and what waits for her in return. Being a mother to a child in need has fueled her decisions for so long she’s almost forgotten the time when her heart wanted more. Now that her dream of love has reawakened, Lauren fears whatever decision is made, her heart will break in the process. Only God can make both her dreams come true. But will He? Or will He allow her to live with the consequences of her choice?

Whether you’ve been in Lauren’s shoes or not, you’ll find yourself crying with her in the hard times and hoping with her for God’s best in her life. You’ll cheer her on as she learns some important truths about herself. And you’ll walk away from the story with a greater understanding of the heartaches and joys those who choose adoption face as they become family to those who have none.

Release Day: Relentless Love

This is an exciting day for me. The third and final book in my series releases today! Relentless Love is available on Amazon in ebook and paperback forms.

While I can’t enjoy a physical release party, you’re all invited to my FB live party. The giveaways have already started, but you can do any of the daily challenges between now and June 6th to get in on the fun. Plus, Saturday, June 6th at 1pm I’m hosting a virtual launch party. I’ll do Q & A, read an excerpt, and announce the giveaway winners. You don’t want to miss it!

What I’m Reading: Forever Music

We’ve all seen the saying admonishing us that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing while expecting different results. But I’m also pretty sure we’ve each found ourselves in a situation like that at some point in our lives.

It’s easy to do. And, honestly, it isn’t always as clear cut as the phrase would make us believe. What’ s that other saying? If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.

The funny thing about quotes and quips is that what works great in one situation could bring disaster in another. They’re usually more accurately described as principles, not laws of life. It’s important to recognize the difference.

Just ask Josie Daniels, the main character in Forever Music by Hope Toler Daugherty. When she meets Ches, it’s apparent he’s a successful, driven business type. Josie has been there, done that. Her former boyfriend, BJ, taught her the hyper focused, career driven type is not for her when he broke her heart.

But Ches is more than he first appears. Friendship develops, and Josie quickly realizes keeping her distance is going to be harder than she thought. Her daily monologue includes reminders that she’s traveled that road before, and it led no where good. He’s a lawyer with a girlfriend. There is no room for her in his life as anything more than a friend.

Josie knows their friendship is good for Ches. He knows it too. But will their friendship survive as their feelings for each other deepen? Will her heart’s refusal to accept the truth that she’s repeating history leave Josie with her newly healing heart shattered once more?

There are no easy answers for Josie and Ches, no matter what wise sayings might indicate. The answers aren’t always easy for us either. That’s why we need to anchor our thoughts and decisions in scripture, pray, and follow God’s leading even when it goes against common thought.

Throughout the story, Josie comes to a deeper understanding of this truth. She learns the answers she seeks aren’t always as black and white as she’d like. Pain does come when we cross lines we shouldn’t, but it can also come when we’re not making bad choices.

Forever Music is a great story with relatable characters that drew me in and kept my attention from the first page. I enjoyed the reminder that although situations may be similar, we need to rely on God’s wisdom instead of our own (or that of bumper sticker wisdom) to make our choices. It won’t make things easy or prevent hurt, but it will mean we can go through those times with grace and peace knowing we’re inside God’s plan for our lives.

What I’m Reading: Secrets Over Sweet Tea

Bread pudding. Five years ago, I would have said those words didn’t belong in the same sentence much less their ingredients in the same recipe.

I love bread. I love pudding. But the concept of pudding made out of bread sounded incredibly mushy and gross. To be honest, it still does. However, the reality of bread pudding is no longer something that causes me to scrunch up my nose in disgust.

One day, I got brave. Though at the time, I may have wondered if it was bravery or stupidity that lead me away from more known desserts like cheesecake and chocolate lava cake.

My husband and I were at an Irish Pub, and I was taking risks and trying new things. It was my birthday, after all. And the restaurant’s limited dessert menu left me with a choice between three items. I found myself requesting the bread pudding, and am I ever glad I did. I could be wrong, but I believe I heard angels singing as I took that warm, comforting first bite. Paired with salted caramel ice cream and filled with the flavors of fall, this dessert was as close to perfection as anything I’m going to find this side of heaven.

My foray into the wonderful world of bread pudding was unexpected but definitely worth it. I love it when something works out differently than I thought but much better than I’d anticipated.

That’s exactly what happened as I read Secrets Over Sweet Tea by Denise Hildreth Jones. I picked up the book on a whim in a used bookstore my husband and I frequent. With all the seriousness going on in our world currently, I wanted a light read, full of humor and good times. The cover was inviting, the author new to me, and the back spoke of a boisterous southern pastor’s wife. It sounded like a perfect little ball of fluff for my weekend.

Scarlett Jo Newberry is as full of life and love as the back promised she would be. Not your typical pastor’s wife, her outgoing, outrageous personality is a turn off to some, but as people warm up to the woman underneath they see what an asset she is to their church and community.

But this story isn’t all fun and games. There’s a lot of heavy stuff in the secrets her congregation tries to hide. From adultery and addiction to divorce and sexual assault, all the characters twined together in the story have a serious, real to life issue they’re trying to keep secret. When truth comes out, the resulting mess is not easily contained.

It would have been easy for Secrets Over Sweet Tea to leave one bogged down with the reality of it all. It would also have been easy for the story to make light of the heavy issues and avoid any talk of repercussions. This story doesn’t go either of those directions.

Real issues are dealt with in truthful, scriptural ways. Discussions around how each person’s decisions affect those around them are realistic and honest. But the story balances the heaviness of the themes with faith and the vibrant personality of Scarlett Jo. The end result is an entertaining, truth filled story that makes you want to go back for seconds.

https://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Over-Sweet-Tea/dp/B00FE3IFB4/

What I’m Reading: A Love So Real

Technological advances have made changed so many life activities.

Don’t like to shop? Order that outfit online. Maybe you’ll even get free delivery.

Have a global pandemic going on? Don’t risk it. Order your groceries online. The employees will even bring your bags to your car.

Have a loved one living thousands of miles away? You don’t have to rely on snail mail that will take days to arrive. An email will reach them instantaneously. And forget having to wait to see them. You have your pick of apps that will let you video chat with them right now.

So many of the capabilities that come with advances in technology are wonderful. They make things easier for us, especially in times like those we’ve been dealing with lately.

But easier isn’t always better, and the downside of technology isn’t always easy to see. Technology has given us instant news, but our feeds are filled with biased or even fake news that isn’t always easy to recognize. Even photographs which used to help confirm facts in a story can no longer be trusted. Great editing software has made it possible to twist the details of a picture until it becomes a work of fiction. A very believable work of fiction.

Then, there’s the social media celebrities. We invite them into our homes. We listen to their stories, accept their views as easily as if they were proven professionals on the subjects they’re discussing, and buy into the latest products they showcase. Their sparkling personalities draw us in, and we begin to think we know them. It’s almost like we’re friends. Even their behind the scenes glimpses into their lives are carefully constructed to project the image that goes along with their brand.

I’d say it takes a scandal to get a real glimpse at the man behind the curtain, but even the scandals can be fabricated. People can say anything they want and another person’s life is ruined without any real proof of wrongdoing.

Technology has opened up so much for us, but it is a double edged sword. I think Arianna “Anna” Carrington, from A Love So Real by Kimberly Rae Jordan, would agree. Anna is growing an empire through use of social media. What started as a hobby has grown into a legitimate business as a social media influencer. She even has her own line of home products available in stores.

Unlike others, Anna prides herself on keeping everything real for her followers. She carefully chooses the products she showcases on social media. She actually does the projects shown in her videos. She has the trust of millions, and she doesn’t take that lightly.

When a mistake leaves her brand open to scrutiny and judgment, Anna leaves LA without a destination in mind. She needs to find answers on how to handle the threatening scandal. She needs time to herself. And she needs hope that everything can work out.

When she passes a sign for New Hope Falls, Anna decides this is the place to find her answers. The quaint town full of friendly people that could be straight out of a Hallmark movie is exactly what Anna needs. As she builds friendships, she manages to avoid the specifics of her situation while still being honest with those she’s beginning to care for.

Eli McNamara may not be savvy about who’s who in social media, but it doesn’t mean he doesn’t have baggage of his own. As Anna’s friendship with him begins to grow into more, the nudge to share his past with her grows stronger. By the time his past pushes its way into his present, it may be too late.

Their different lifestyles are enough to make Anna and Eli rethink their new interest in each other, but their city girl meets country boy issues are child’s play next to the scandals that threaten to drive them apart. Can Eli handle the truth of why Anna left LA? Will he want his past opened up for the world to see? And if he does, can Anna and her career survive the additional drama Eli’s past will create?

A Love So Real puts a new technological twist on the theme of the damage the past can do in the present. I enjoyed the story, but it’s more than a simple romance. It also serves as a great reminder that not everything is as it seems. Wisdom, discernment, and the ability to think critically are necessary in these times to see past the lies of the technological wizard to the man behind the curtain.

https://www.amazon.com/Love-So-Real-Christian-Romance-ebook/dp/B07T58NPDR

On Tour and Free Read

My second book, Grasping Hope, is currently on blog tour with Celebrate Lit. If you’d like to see what others are saying about Grasping Hope, here is a link for the main page of the tour.

While you’re checking out Grasping Hope, I have a special deal to tell you about on the first book in the series, Faith’s Journey. From April 4-8, you can get an eBook copy of Faith’s Journey for free on Amazon. During this time of social distancing and spending more time at home, I hope this gives you a relaxing and encouraging way to use some of your time and helps forget about all the craziness that’s been happening around us for a while.

It’s Becoming Real

In the middle of all the uncertain, unwanted, and unlikable changes going on in our lives at the moment, there is a lot of good we can focus on.

While we may not be able to hang out with out friends, it’s still spring. We can take a walk outside to get some fresh air. We can enjoy the beautiful colors of the flowers and trees that are beginning to bloom. We can have sun on our faces for the first time in what seems like forever.

We live in an age of technology. We can’t sit in the room with our friends, but we can do much better than a simple phone call (though that’s good too). We can video chat with them. In fact, if we want, a whole group can get together and chat together. Maybe you can even work out a way to play games like Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, or Charades using a video chat app.

Technology has even allowed us to have church when we can’t be there in person. It gives an easy way for people who have a need to find the help they need. And it can give us a way to lift other’s spirits during this time if we will determine to spread only what is beneficial or uplifting to others at this time when we need a laugh or smile most.

In the middle of all this change, I’ve gotten a couple pieces of great news. I mentioned the first in a previous post. But I’ll share it again.

Grasping Hope is a finalist in the Selah awards! The Blue Ridge Christian Writer’s Conference where the awards take place is scheduled for the end of May. I hope and pray this is all over by then, and the conference and awards ceremony will proceed as planned. But if not, it won’t change the honor of being a finalist.

My second piece of good news is about the third book in Katie’s series. A few days ago, I received the final cover! Even having gone through this process twice before, seeing your cover for the first time makes the whole thing seem real. You know in your head the book has a release date. You finished the manuscript. You have the contract. But your first view of the cover elicits a breathless, “This is actually happening.”

And now I get to share my good news with you. I love this cover. As perfect as the first two were, I think this one may be my favorite!

Write Stuff Wednesday with Hope Toler Dougherty

Today’s guest post comes from Hope Toler Dougherty, author of three (soon to be four) contemporary Christian romances. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Hope, and the quote she shares today is very pertinent for the times we live in.

“Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.” Jane Austen

I saw that quotation painted on a bookstore wall in a Utah airport on my way to a mission trip in Montana. My fiction writing journey was in its infancy. My first novel consisted of several chapters in a word document, but I knew it was a love story. At the time, I didn’t admit to reading romance, and while only a handful of people knew I was writing a book, they didn’t know it was a love story.

 Not knowing where God was leading me, I wrote that quotation in my journal. It nudged me toward appreciating love stories. It suggested that everyone has different tastes—horror, science fiction, dystopian, fantasy, and, yes, romance—in reading and in writing.

At my first writing conference, I discovered I needed a tagline (I’m not sure that’s true now because about the only place I use mine is on my business cards.) Remembering Austen’s view, I considered it a bit before writing “Trading guilt and misery for God’s grace and mercy.”

The tagline is a good description of my stories to date. My main characters grow from a place of guilt or discontent or anger or fear and learn to enjoy God’s grace and mercy in new-found freedom of God’s love.

We can also adapt Austen’s quotation to our present age with the uncertainty and ever-changing status of the Coronavirus situation. I’m holding onto God’s peace because I’m sure He’s sovereign. I’m sure He isn’t in Heaven wringing His hands muttering, “Oh, no. What’s going to happen next?” He wasn’t surprised by this world-wide outbreak.

I’m not buying into the panic served up with every update flashing across my phone screen. I’m resting in the peace of my certain salvation.

Let other people dwell in misery and worry. I’ll hold on to God’s peace, and I’ll share it when I get the chance.

Hope’s bio: Hope Toler Dougherty holds a Master’s degree in English and taught at East Carolina University as well as York Technical College. She’s a member of ACFW and  RWA, and her novels are Irish EncounterMars…With Venus Rising, and Rescued Hearts. A native North Carolinian, she and her husband, Kevin, look forward to visits with their two daughters and twin sons. 

Social media links:

http://hopetolerdougherty.com/

https://www.facebook.com/AUTHORHOPETOLERDOUGHERTY/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13941031.Hope_Doughertyhttps://www.pinterest.com/hopetdougherty/https://twitter.com/HopeTDougherty

https://www.instagram.com/hopetolerdougherty/

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=hope+toler+dougherty

Purchasing links;https://www.amazon.com/Irish-Encounter-Hope-Dougherty-ebook/dp/B00XD3NMI8/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=irish+encounter&qid=1585055339&s=digital-text&sr=1-1
https://www.amazon.com/Rescued-Hearts-Hope-Toler-Dougherty-ebook/dp/B074SXJLH4/ref=sr_1_11?dchild=1&keywords=rescued+hearts&qid=1585055383&s=digital-text&sr=1-11

Hope’s new novel, Forever Music, will release in May.  College professor Josie Daniels is good at nurturing. Attorney Ches Windham is good at keeping secrets. When their lives intersect, sparks fly, changing hearts and lives forever.

Full of Character Interview with Neena Gaynor

Today’s Full of Character author is Neena Gaynor.

Neena Gaynor is a former nurse who has spent much of the last decade traveling with her husband, Wade, a former professional baseball player. Throughout the 29 changes of address and the stresses of moving a young family, Neena learned to embrace the peace that only comes from the steady accompaniment of Christ in her heart.

Today, Neena is ecstatic to be back in her old Kentucky home, beekeeping, writing, and being Mom. But first, let’s get to know Neena a little more from her interview.

What character from the books you’ve read has impacted you more than all the others?

Atticus Finch. The rational, principled lawyer and father from To Kill a Mockingbird models virtue. He’s a steadfast example of prudence, humility, and charity—a fictional example worthy of our aspiration.

It’s been a long time since I last read that one. I may have to check it out again. What character you created was the easiest to write? The hardest?

The Bird and the Bees is written from a first-person point of view, so having a main character that was a female nurse from Appalachia wasn’t a stretch for me. Going into Larkin’s wounds, exposing what made her calloused to love and grace, proved to be more difficult. The hardest character to write was probably Larkin’s aunt, Aster. She was also the most fun. Aster also struggles with a past, one that has left her tight-lipped, antsy, and with a hint of humor.

The past does have a way of influencing who we are in the future. And isn’t it interesting how a past can move a person one direction while it may move others in a completely different way? We see that all the time, even in scripture. Scripture is full of real people who had character to spare. Which one do you most relate to or enjoy reading about?

Right now, I’m trying to relate more to Mary of Bethany. She’s the one who anointed Jesus with expensive perfume. Those who witnessed this were appalled at her actions, but Jesus praised her. “She has done a beautiful thing to me,” Jesus said. “She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body to prepare for my burial,” (Mark 14:6-8).

Those words, “she did what she could,” takes the weight of the world off of our shoulders. As a writer, sometimes we wonder if what we are doing is significant. We worry if typing words on a screen and imagining fictional scenarios is worth the effort or time. If we do it FOR HIM, then I believe He would praise us too. So, whether it is in the writing, the mothering, the beekeeping, or even in how I respond to others, I’m striving to do what I can… for Christ.

I don’t believe I’ve ever heard her story with that particular focus before, but that’s a powerful statement for all of us to strive for.

Do you plan your characters and their backstories before you begin writing or are you as surprised by them as your readers?

More than a backstory, I had a forward story in mind. I knew the place where I wanted the wounded nurse to get in her relationships with her family, friends, the world, and Jesus. Navigating the path with some glances in the rearview mirror was just a part of the journey.

If someone wrote a movie about you, who would you like to play your character? Why?

Audrey Hepburn. She’d add some elegance and style to this Kentucky girl.

If you could only read from one genre for the rest of your life, which one would you choose (and it can’t be the genre you write in)?

Religious Nonfiction. I love learning about our faith and being inspired by other’s testimonies.

It’s amazing how one person’s journey put into writing can touch so many lives.

What is your go-to snack and drink combination when you’re writing?

It’s coffee. With more coffee. Hot and black. I blame (thank) my mother.

I want to thank Neena for joining me today. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to learn a little more about her and her writing. Stay connected with Neena through the following social media links.

www.wordslikehoney.com

www.facebook.com/neenagaynor/

www.instagram.com/neenagaynor/

You can check out and preorder Neena’s book, The Birds and the Bees, at the link below. And don’t forget, the book releases on April 1st!

A Lot Happening

Congratulations!

First, I want to congratulate Rita Klundt on winning the e-book giveaway from my interview with C. Kevin Thompson. Enjoy the book and happy reading!

What Are You Reading?

If you haven’t checked out the Once Upon A Page YouTube channel, you should. For the month of March we decided to build off the idea of NaNoWriMo by switching it up and making it about reading. We issued a challenge for the month, and we’re sharing what we’ve read in the comments. There isn’t a prize for completing our nanoREmo, but we bet you’ll be a more relaxed, happier person if you do! Who wouldn’t be if they spent more time reading? Here’s a link to our video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDUDXWrlL_E&t=2s

So Excited!

The 2020 Selah Writing Competition finalists were announced last week. And guess who is a finalist in the Women’s Contemporary category. That’s right. Grasping Hope is one of six books competing for first place in the category. The winner will be announced at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in May. I can’t wait to find out if Grasping Hope will take the prize! But even if it doesn’t, being a finalist is amazing too!

What I’m Reading

You know those videos I was telling you about? Check out the comments to find out what I’ve been reading, and then come back here for my next post. I’ll share my review of the trilogy.

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