Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What I Read Wednesday: Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo

Cover ImageFrom the Cover:
            When Colton Burpo made it through an emergency appendectomy, his family was overjoyed at his miraculous survival. What they weren’t expecting, though, was the story that emerged in the months that followed—a story as beautiful as it was extraordinary, detailing their little boy’s trip to heaven and back.

            Colton, not yet four years old, told his parents he left his body during the surgery—and authenticated that claim by describing exactly what his parents were doing in another part of the hospital while he was being operated on.  He talked of visiting heaven and relayed stories told to him by people he met there whom he had never met in life, sharing events that happened even before he was born.  He also astonished his parents with descriptions and obscure details about heaven that matched the Bible exactly, though he had not yet learned to read.

            With disarming innocence and the plainspoken boldness of a child, Colton tells of meeting long-departed family members.  He describes Jesus, the angels, how “really, really big” God is, and how much he loves us.  Retold by his father, but using Colton’s uniquely simple words, Heaven is for Real offers a glimpse of the world that awaits us, where, as Colton says, “Nobody is old and nobody wears glasses.”

            Heaven is for Real will forever change the way you think of eternity, offering the chance to see, and believe, like a child.

Andrea’s Take:
            I have a confession. I approached this book with what I considered “healthy skepticism.” I was determined not to be swept away by the drama of an amazing story. At the same time, I would keep my mind and heart open. I’m no Bible scholar, by any means. I am familiar enough with Scripture and secure enough in my own relationship with God to “try the spirits” as the Bible encourages. I intended to do exactly that.

            As I read, I learned something wonderful. The Burpos have no desire whatever to convince anyone of any radical idea about God. It seemed to me that, prior to the experiences recounted in this book, Todd Burpo and his wife would have approached similar stories with the same “healthy skepticism” with which I approached their story (Of course, I could be wrong). 

            When faced with a seemingly unbelievable tale, I ask two questions. Do I have a reason not to believe the person telling the story? And Can I point to anything in the story that I know is wrong (either uninformed or simply untrue)?

When I applied this test to the tale in Heaven is for Real, I found no reason to suspect this man’s honesty. And I found nothing in the story went against my knowledge of the Bible. Some things challenged my opinions, but there was no account I could point to and say, “I know that is wrong because the Bible says otherwise.”

            This story covers comforting things like God’s amazing love for us. It deals with painful things like the loss of loved ones or unborn children. It even touches very briefly on scary things we can’t fully understand about the end of time. Little Colton’s story (though he’s not so little anymore) touches on many issues, big and small, that Christians think about in passing, ponder at length, and spend lifetimes studying an writing books about. Everything he says at least makes sense, and much of it seems to hit the nail right on the head.

            I can’t tell you all the accounts I love in this book because I don’t want to spoil it for you. But I do want to share a short excerpt that deals simply with the admonition “Ask and ye shall receive.”

During that time, Colton had also become obsessed with rainbows….

So when, in the spring of 2004, the most brilliant rainbow we’d ever seen appeared over [our hometown], we called him outside to take a look.

Sonia was the first to see it…. “Hey, you guys, come see this!” she called.

From the kitchen, I crossed the dining room to the front door and was astonished to see a rainbow so bright, so vivid that it looked like an artist’s painting of the Perfect Rainbow. Or a kid with a brand-new box of crayons illustrating his science lesson: ROY G BIV. Every color sharply divided from the next, and the whole arc blazing against a perfectly blue sky.

“Did it rain and I missed it?” I asked Sonja.

She laughed. “I don’t think so.”

Colton was down the hall in the playroom. “Hey, Colton,” I called. “Come out and take a look at this.”

He emerged from the playroom and joined us on the front stoop.

“Look at that rainbow, Colton,” Sonja said. “There definitely should be a big pot of gold at the end of that thing.”

Colton squinted at the colors pouring across the sky.

“Cool,” he said with a nonchalant smile. “I prayed for that yesterday.”

Then he turned on his heel and went back to play.

Sonja and I looked at each other like, What just happened?...

Colton Burpo hadn’t seen a rainbow in a while, so he asked his heavenly Father to send one. Faith like a child. Maybe, Sonja and I thought, we had a lot to learn from our son.

~ ~ ~
            Some might say the idea of God suspending the laws of nature because a little boy wanted to see a rainbow is far-fetched. To that I say, what is far-fetched? That he could do so? Or that he would do so? I believe my God is more than powerful enough to create a rainless rainbow. And I believe he loves each of us enough to do that and more for us if we ask him. (Andrea is stepping down from her soapbox now)

            This book is an excellent reminder to sometimes forget everything I think I understand about the world around me and just let God show me what he wants me to see.

Definitely 5 stars on this one.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What I Watched (?) Wednesday: The Tourist

Yes, this is a bit of a spin on my usual Wednesday post. But I watched this movie a couple of weeks ago, and I loved it. I can't get it out of my head, so now you get to hear about it.

The Tourist starring Johnny Depp: DVD CoverWhat I Loved About This Movie:
Johnny Depp:  I've been a fan since 21 Jump Street (though I confess, he's about the only thing I remember from the show). He's a great actor who has played countless interesting and memorable characters. Think Edward Scissorhands, Ichabod Crane, Sweeney Todd, Jack Sparrow, The Mad Hatter. And we love him in those quirky roles. But when he's not wearing some crazy character get-up...well, let's just say there's a reason this Kentucky native was named People's Sexiest Man Alive...twice (2003 and 2009). And his acting is good too ;) exceptionally so.

Angelina Jolie: She has a very Hepburn-esque quality in this movie. I don't know if it's the wardrobe or the accent, but it's something. Please do not take this comparison lightly. I'm no gushing Angelina fan, in fact I'm not generally a fan at all, so this is saying a lot. She really shines here.

The Twists: There are a couple of big ones. I don't want to spoil it for you, so I won't tell what they are (probably you've all seen it if your going to anyway, but still...), but they're fabulous. I feel like I should have seen them coming, but I didn't. If you did, you're a better guesser than I am.

The Love Story: You know what a sucker I am for romance. This one is sweet, exciting, and surprising.

What I didn't love about it:
Language: It's rated PG-13, so one can expect a little off color language. But there was one occurrence of a word that, in my opinion should only appear in R rated films (and sparingly, at that). Alas the rating people didn't ask me.

Shoot 'em up: Violence. No good spy-type movie is complete without it. There's shooting, stabbing, punching, Oh my! With the focus on action, and not its aftermath, this is not over the top for the rating. It doesn't exceed my personal threshold (which is not high by any means). But I wouldn't want my child to watch it. That makes it worth mentioning.

Rating: 3.5 stars (I'd love to give it 5, but one foul little word packs a lot of punch. The half-point represents the over-all family friendliness factor).

This is not a movie I would recommend for families with young kids, and your standards for adult viewing may be different from mine, as well.

That said, if you like a fast pace, plenty of action, and unexpected twists, The Tourist might be just what the doctor ordered from some late-night sofa snuggling.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Wrapping Up the Bash: We Have Winners!!

Wow! What a week! Deadlines are killer for a super-procrastinator like me. But I got all the interviews posted on time, I kept up pretty well with comments.

And, most importantly I've picked the winners on the day I promised.  More on that later...

Author Stephanie Grace Whitson
Stephanie Grace Whitson
First, I want to thank my amazing authors

Penny Zeller


Anne Mateer
Elizabeth Camden

I'll answer that: Resoundingly Yes! They are lovely, inside and out. This Birthday Bash would have been awfully dull without their participation. I cannot thank them enough. I suppose I'll just have to read all their books and gush profusely about how wonderful they are.

Second, I want to thank my readers. Even with lovely interviews by all these lovely ladies, this event would have fallen flat (in direct proportion to my ego) if the readers hadn't stopped by and left comments and entered giveaways. I started this week with 1,306 hits to this site (approximately 109 pageviews per month). At the time of this typing, I'm sitting at 1,553. Now that's an amazing week!

A special thanks to all who liked my blog enough to follow it. I started the week with 15 Google Friend Connect Followers. Now I have 22. A few of you subscribed by email too (4 I can count off the top of my head). I know I kinda bribed you ;) but I hope you enjoy what you read here. I won't promise it will always be "normal," but it should never be boring.

Now for the moment you've all been waiting for...

Hailee by Penny Zeller: Book CoverThe winner of Hailee by Penny Zeller is...Melissa Jagears

The winner of A Most Unsuitable Match by Stephanie Grace Whitson is...karenk

The winner of The Lady of Bolton Hill by Elizabeth Camden is...Aly Logan

Cover Image
And Finally...The winner of Wings of a Dream by Anne Mateer is...Jen

Congratulations to all the winners, and thanks once again for stopping by to run up my hit counter ;) I think you will all enjoy your prizes. Perhaps you'll pass them on to other lucky readers. Or perhaps they'll find a spot on your keeper shelf 

Since I've just given my copies away, I may have to put them all on my Christmas list.

Come back tomorrow to see what I thought of the movie The Tourist


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday Song Lyrics: "You Can Have Me" by Sidewalk Prophets

These Simple TruthsSidewalk Prophets: CD CoverLast Sunday I sat in church and listened to my husband preach a moving message on Mark 5.

One line stood out for me in the midst of all the wonderful points he made.

"Faith that moves you to action is faith that God will recognize." 

That line in the sermon brought these song lyrics to my mind...

When did love become unmoving?
When did love become unconsuming?
Forgetting what the world has told me
Father of love, You can have me
You can have me

There is so much more to this song, but I love the chorus. 

Love is the force that drives us to join our lives with another in marriage. It gives a mother strength to place herself in danger to save her child's life. But when did love for God become so shallow that it inspires nothing more than a few hours in church each week?

If I say to God, "You can have me," I must be prepared to act. God didn't redeem us to set us on a shelf and look at us. He wants us to be useful, and he has a use in mind for each of us.

Does your faith move you to action? can have me.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Birthday Bash Day Four: Anne Mateer

This is it. The last day of the Andrea's Take Blog Birthday Bash! With the last day, comes the last giveaway.  And it's a good one.  Anne Mateer's debut novel Wings of a Dream

Click here to read my review of this lovely coming of age romance...I'll wait.

And now that you're back, let's welcome Anne Mateer!

What is something about you that is little known to your readers? 
I am a sports fanatic. I love my Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers, and Dallas Mavericks. I have also been that crazy parent on the sidelines while watching my kids play sports! :)

What was it that made you start writing stories? 
I've been a voracious reader since kindergarden. By late elementary, I learned the joy I received from putting words together to form stories or poems. By the time I actually started writing with an eye toward publication (in my early 30s), I actually had learned things about God and life that I wanted to convey to others. Since I love reading fiction and learn most easily through story, it became natural for my thoughts to come out in story. 

Cover ImageWhat inspired this particular story? 
Wings of a Dream was inspired by my great-grandparents' experience during WWI and the Spanish flu epidemic. I became especially inspired to write it as a novel after my grandmother passed away in January of 2000. 

What scene in Wings of a Dream stands out as your personal favorite? 
I think my personal favorite scene is the possum getting into the house and Rebekah having to deal with it. Not only is it a fun scene, I think it illustrates Rebekah's inner journey through the story. 

What has been the most pleasant surprise about getting your book published? 
The support of my family and friends. I knew they were all happy and excited for me, but they have gone above and beyond kind words. They have bought the book not only for themselves but for others, they have celebrated with and for me, and they have on their own helped spread the news to their own circles of friends and family. I have been frequently brought to tears by their words and actions of support for the book. 

What has been your biggest challenge? 
For me, the biggest challenge is in public appearances. I've done a couple of book signings and a library event, and while they all went well, it is a struggle for me to be "on" in a crowd of strangers. I'm truly an introvert. I prefer small groups. But the Lord is obviously using my weakness to display His strength! I'm grateful for the challenges and the opportunities, but I'm completely exhausted when they are over!

As a debut author, what words of wisdom do you have for those of us trying to break into the writing industry? 
Keep writing. Keep learning. Keep reading. Oh--and get used to a writing schedule of several hours a week even before the contract comes, for many publishing houses will want more than one book and usually want them a year apart. That is much harder to do if you haven't already been used to working at a steady pace each week. 

Can you tell us a little about what is coming up for you?
I have a second book coming out in September of 2012. No official title so far, but I can tell you it is about a girl who is passionate about missions and auto racing--in 1916! After that, we'll see what the Lord has planned!

Anne, I'll be keeping my eyes open for the next book. Thank you so much for sharing and for helping celebrate my "birthday." 


You may now begin commenting to enter the drawing, or (just to get your 2 cents out there). For extra entries you may do any/all of the following

1.  Follow/Subscribe to this blog
2.  Follow Anne's blog, which you'll find here: (I've been there, and I love it.)
3.  Like Anne on Facebook. (I did that too :)

If you choose any extra entries please leave separate comments. I'm doing the random drawing myself, and I'd hate to miss one. The giveaway closes at 11:59 pm on October 16.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
To all the entrants--This is important!

Drawing for all giveaways this week close at 11:59 pm on Sunday, October 16. I will post winners on Tuesday, October 18.

If I have email addresses for you, I will contact you. If not, you'll have to come back here to find out. If I do not hear from any winner by Sunday, October 23, I will choose a new winner.

Thanks so much for your patience with this newbie. Keep those comments coming!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Birthday Bash Day Three: Elizabeth Camden

Okay Readers, 

After a relatively brief post yesterday (to stave off "feeling funny"), we are diving back in with a splash. Today's author is a new favorite of mine, and I cannot believe I'm giving her book away. I know whoever wins this one is in for a great read. I could go on and on about this book. Instead, please click here to read my review.

Now, without further ado (I love that phrase) Welcome Elizabeth Camden!

What is something about you that is little known to your readers

Well Andrea, I am afraid I am a pretty boring person.  The only thing that is surprising about me is the fact that I write books in my spare time.  Almost no one knows that.  I work as a librarian at a small college library, and because I am notoriously private and paranoid about my writing, I never talk about my books.  So no one knows!  Not my neighbors, my co-workers, no one.  My husband knows, and so do my parents.  My mom let the cat out of the bag at a family event, so my immediate family knows.  Aside from that?  If people know that I write novels, they have not told me!
Let me say here, that they just don't know what they're missing.

What was it that made you start writing stories?

Have you ever fallen in love with an art form so badly that you wanted to go beyond simply enjoying it, and start producing it?  I think this is how most artists, musicians, and writers get lured into their craft, and it was the same for me.  Reading has always been such a significant part of my life that I got to the point I wanted to try producing the kind of novels that had such a major impact on my life.

What inspired this particular story?
One of my favorite romantic plots concerns lovers who are reunited after several years apart, so this was the theme I wanted to start with.  In The Lady of Bolton Hill, Daniel and Clara were quite young when they met and shared one of those intense, immediate bonds that can sometimes flare up between teenagers.  They were separated by Clara’s disapproving father.  The book begins when Clara returns to the United States after more than a decade abroad, and the chemistry between Clara and Daniel immediately blazes back to life.  The problem is they have followed such wildly divergent paths that they don’t know if they can find a way back to each other, even though they both crave it. 

Something that was very important for me is that both my characters be very passionate people, but who are still fiercely intelligent and sensible.  Have you ever read a book where the conflict between the hero and heroine could be solved by a simple honest conversation?  There was no way I was going to let Daniel and Clara off the hook so easily!  Although it is clear they are madly in love, they will be put through the wringer before they can get to a happy ending.  I love a good turbulent story with love, betrayal, heartbreak, all punctuated with periods of soaring joy and utter delight.  That is what I aimed for with The Lady of Bolton Hill.  I’ll be curious to hear from folks if they think I got it in the ballpark.

What scene in The Lady of Bolton Hill stands out as your personal favorite?
Any scene with Bane in it!  For those who haven’t read the book, I needed a villain in the story to make the hero’s life really miserable.  My first impulse was to make the villain one of Daniel’s business rivals, some big, scary guy motivated by greed and filled with malice.  Hint to aspiring writers: Never go with your first impulse!  That first impulse is usually an obvious and boring choice.  I deliberately conjured up the exact opposite of the obvious villain, and came up with Alexander Banebridge.  Bane is a seventeen year old boy, angelically beautiful, with a wicked sense of humor and motivated by the intellectual challenge of committing the crime of the century.     

Bane was immense fun to write about, and judging from my in-box, the readers thought so too.  Probably two of every three letters I get ask for a sequel starring Bane.  I am pretty sure I will be able to deliver that book within the next year or two, but am still keeping my fingers crossed.

Pardon my interruption again. I must say that this is the best news ever! I did some serious happy-dancing when I first read this.
As a debut author, what words of wisdom do you have for those of us trying to break into the writing industry?
I think the key is to find your own, unique voice.  Like most people, when I first started writing I emulated my favorite writers in terms of tone and the feel of the plot.  Those manuscripts didn’t sell, and looking back on them, they deserve to languish in the bottom drawer where they now live.  Not that I regret writing them.  Those were the manuscripts where I was flexing my muscles, trying out styles, and pushing some boundaries.  It was through writing those books that I started to find my own voice, rather than emulating others.

Of course, getting rejection is no fun.  After a few years of it, I was convinced I was awful and I needed to let go of my irrational dream to publish a novel.  But the thing was, I liked writing.  I liked everything about it and didn’t want to quit, even if no one ever read my work.  That gave me the freedom to be a little more risky in the type of manuscript I submitted to agents.  This was when I finally found my voice and things took off for me…. and it took off fast.  I think it may have been a willingness to critically assess my work and take some strategic risks in stretching the genre that finally bumped me up to the next level. 

If you really like writing, try not to let the rejections get you down, but don’t keep doing the same thing.  Critically assess your work without being defensive.  Take advice, but don’t be afraid to break rules and push boundaries.  Those rejected manuscripts are your proving ground, your practice field for finding your voice.  I am actually very grateful for my experience with rejected manuscripts, because by the time I finally crossed the finish line into the realm of the published, I have arrived with a very distinctive voice that took me years to develop.  I am grateful I did so in private!

What has been your biggest challenge?
Developing a healthy attitude toward rejection!  It took me a while to understand the role it plays in honing a writer.  So be brave.  Play with different styles, settings, maybe even genres.  This is how you will find your voice. 

Can you tell us a little about what is coming up for you?
My next book is another historical called The Rose of Winslow Street, and will start hitting the shelves in late December.  It is set in a peaceful, idyllic village in New England in 1871.  The heroine is an artist who is not particularly happy with her life, and is preparing to “settle.”  Into this peaceful setting comes a brash warrior from Romania, who storms into town with a wealth of mystery, long-buried secrets, and a heart as wide and deep as the Atlantic Ocean.   He is a strong, fearsome man, but pretty quickly he develops a soft-spot for the heroine, which is a huge complication for him.  It is hard to say more without delving into spoiler territory, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

I blog at  Three times a week I write about my thoughts on the romance genre (in novels, movies, real life, etc.)  Since I am a librarian, I also post lots of pictures of mouth-watering libraries.  I hope you’ll swing by for a peek!

Thank you so much, Elizabeth for the interview and for the great news about what I will call "Bane's Book." My fingers are crossed (so are my toes and my eyes!) that it will knock their socks off at Bethany House. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Thanks so very much for helping me celebrate my blog's birthday!

Okay readers, we are now open for entries. Just leave a comment to be entered in the drawing. You can get an extra entry by following my blog or subscribing by email. And another if you subscribe to Elizabeth's blog. I just did.

If you choose any extra entries please leave separate comments. I'm doing the random drawing myself, and I'd hate to miss one. The giveaway closes at 11:59 pm on October 16.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Brief Bible Study: Acts 8:3-4, Only God!

Okay, there's no giveaway here today, but a Wednesday without a post just feels funny. Some of you are saying, "Well you didn't post anything last Wednesday!"

To that, I answer, "That's why I know it feels funny."

So to keep feeling funny at bay, I'm offering a brief (for me) post on this morning's Bible study.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I was reading the lesson for our Thursday night Bible Study at church (Yes, Thursday not Wednesday, and there is a reason for this. Curious? Ask in the comments and I'll explain).

So anyway...We are reading through Acts, aka My Favorite Book in the Entire Bible!

Here are the verses that shouted out to me this morning (the did not merely "speak" to me; it was definitely a shout):

Act 8:3-4 - "As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. Therefore, they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word."

Did you catch that? Therefore.

According to Webster, "therefore" means "because of that" (there are other definitions, click the link to see them, but they're all pretty close to this).

I'm gonna put a little "Andrea Spin" on this verse to modern it up a little. I think I've got the meaning right.

"Saul tormented the church, barging into people's homes, arresting them, and carting them off to prison. Because of that, the disciples who were scattered around the country went every where preaching the Gospel."

Okay, back up the truck here. Saul was arresting Christians, and the rest of the Christians preached the word even more? Look at the context to be even more amazed.  Stephen had just been stoned to death for preaching the Gospel! And still the faithful disciples of Jesus continued preaching the word.

Wouldn't it be safer to lay low until the danger passed? Instinct and human wisdom told them one thing, but they ignored those impulses and pressed on for the cause of Christ.

Let's not forget the "therefore" that started all this talk. These people didn't preach the word in spite of persecution, but according to the Scripture because of it. (For those who take issue with the King James Version, a search of the Unbound Bible website reveals at least two other well respected translations, NASB and ASV, that use the word "therefore.")

Only God could make that happen. Without the strength of conviction given by the Holy Spirit living in their lives, these disciples would have folded like a card table.

But with that Spirit helping them stand firm, persecuting these Christians was like pouring Miracle Gro on a dandelion. The thing they were trying to get rid of simply spread farther and faster than before.

That brings to mind another verse and a question:

1 Corinthians 3:19a -  "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God."

Could Saul be learning anything through all this?

In the interest of brevity, I'll share more on that at a later date...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Birthday Bash Day Two: Stephanie Grace Whitson

Hello Faithful Readers! I have fun news. My lil' ol' blog passed 1300 page views today. That's not Seekerville caliber or anything, but I feel like it's not too shabby for a year old blog that was sadly neglected for much of that year. And it's all because of you. Thank you all, so very much!

Now on to the reason we all are here: Introducing Stephanie Grace Whitson!

Click here to read my review of A Most Unsuitable Match

Author Stephanie Grace Whitson
What is something about you that is little known to your readers?

That I’m an introvert … and that a few years ago, when I was in my 50s, I took a class to learn to ride a motorcycle, bought one, and like nothing better than riding a few hundred miles … on a whim. 

A few hundred miles? On a whim? You are far braver than I!

What was it that made you start writing stories?

I don’t honestly know. One of my first memories is of my mother reading Pinnochio aloud to me when I was sick as a child. My older siblings used to get a kick out of “teaching the baby” new words. So I’ve been a book-lover and a “word person” for as long as I can remember.  Writing is something that I’ve always done. I loved getting writing assignments in school, loved writing letters home (in the days before computers), loved putting my thoughts down on paper. Story-writing came as a natural outgrowth of learning Nebraska history so that I could home school my children in the subject, being amazed at 19th century women’s perseverance … and then starting to wonder “what if …. ?”

What inspired this particular story?

I’m working on my master’s degree in history. As part of a summer class, I visited the DeSoto Bend Wildlife Refuge in Nebraska, where the cargo from the Bertrand, a steamboat plying the Missouri River in 1869, sank. The cargo included calico fabric, and items belonging to the few women on board. I was immediately fascinated by the idea of women being stranded on the shores of the Missouri River in 1869 (no one perished in that event). As I went looking for answers to the “what was that like?” question, my fascination grew, and from there characters and scenarios emerged.

What scene in A Most Unsuitable Match stands out as your personal favorite?

That’s a very difficult question to answer. I don’t know that I’d say it was my favorite scene, but I had fun putting a curtain rod in Hannah’s hand and then seeing how she and Fannie would handle the intruder’s threat (obviously I knew nothing too horrible was going to happen, so I could enjoy creating that scene). Samuel’s sermon in the saloon was inspired by a real event, and I enjoyed the idea of paying tribute to Brother Van (a beloved missionary from early Montana days) by having Sam follow in his footsteps in that moment.
Hannah is a lovely character. That scene shows her spunk. She's fearless there.  And the sermon scene was remarkable to me because of the reactions from his audience. Both were beautifully written.

Among your body of work, what would you recommend to readers as your favorite novel or your best work?

Walks the Fire will always have a special place in my heart because of the memories associated with writing it and because of the way that Lonnie Hull Dupont nurtured my fledging writing through the process of that first  book. 

Karyn’s Memory Box continues to be a favorite because of my personal fascination with sod house homemaking. 

Sod house, huh? I'll have to check that one out. It sounds fascinating indeed.

From the viewpoint of craft, A Garden in Paris was the most challenging. Thanks to the help of wonderful editor Ann Parrish, I think we did well. It seems that nearly every book teaches me something new, either about myself as a writer or about the way God invades human history. For readers, it truly does depend on what era of history or what setting and/or genre appeals to them, so I don’t think I can answer that part of the question. 
I love the cover on this one. It's beautiful. --------->

Readers who love antiques or quilts or who wax nostalgic about family heirlooms might enjoy knowing that Sarah’s Patchwork, Karyn’s Memory Box, and Nora’s Ribbon of Memories are now available as ebooks. They’ll soon be back in print as paperback, too.

As a multi-published author, what words of wisdom do you have for those of us trying to break into the writing industry?

“The word” in publishing these days seems to be that it is so difficult to get published. The thing is, that was “the word” back in 1994 when I sent out my first query letters, too. I absolutely expected rejection, and was astounded when that didn’t happen. However, even after 20+ book contracts, I still have to remind myself that “success” does NOT equal “published.” For those of us who love Jesus, success = obedience. Obedience takes on all kinds of shapes, but the truth is that what God is doing in me may have very little to do with whether or not I get published and everything to do with what He is doing in me through the process. I know that seems so easy for me to say because I’ve gotten that contract, but it never gets easier for me when it comes to “remembering the primary purpose.” There is always a new rung of the ladder to climb. Once the publishing contract arrives, there is the wondering if there will ever be another one, and the potential to stress over sales numbers. So, for new writers and old writers and writers in-between, I think the fundamentals remain the same. Work and pray. Repeat. That’s where I was in 1994 before my first contract, and that’s where I remain today. Working, praying … and working and praying. That is simple, but it isn’t easy. Ever. 

Those are certainly wise words, and ones I'll strive to keep in mind as I make my own journey.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Thanks so very much for helping me celebrate my blog's birthday!

Okay readers, the comment section is officially open. 

Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing. You can get an extra entry by following my blog or subscribing by email.

If you choose the extra entry please leave a separate comment. The giveaway closes at 11:59 pm on October 16. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Birthday Bash Day One: Penny Zeller

pennyHello, Wonderful Readers! This morning I'm kicking off the Blog Birthday Bash with our first interview and giveaway.

Please welcome Penny Zeller, author of Hailee.

Hello Andrea, thank you so much for having me as a guest on your blog. It’s great to be here!

What is something about you that is little known to your readers? 

Hmmm. Let’s see…I met my husband through a prank phone call I made when we were both teenagers. J I wrote a humorous post about it here:

Take a minute to click the link and read this story. You won't be sorry you did.

What was it that made you start writing stories? 

I have had a love for writing since I was in second grade and rewrote Bible stories in my own little second grade commentary.J Throughout my school years, I would write stories and “publish” them in homemade cardboard books. In high school, I wrote stories where my friends were the main characters.

Fast forward several years to November of 2000 when I surrendered my writing to the Lord. I quit my fulltime job with a social services governmental agency so I could stay home with my infant daughter. That was the start of my career, beginning with writing magazine articles. Writing is my ministry and my passion and I pray I will glorify Him with each word I write.

Hailee by Penny Zeller: Book CoverWhat inspired this particular story? 

I knew beforehand that I would be writing a third book in this series. Hailee Annigan’s character was inspired by a piece of mail I received regarding orphanages. I knew I wanted to write a story about a girl placed in an orphanage and how she came to find herself in that predicament.

I introduced my main male character, Nate Adams, in the second novel in my series, Kaydie, and was excited to expound on his character and follow his struggles in answering God’s calling on his life.

What scene in Hailee stands out as your personal favorite? 

I have several favorite scenes, so it’s difficult to choose. One that comes to mind is the humorous scene when Hailee first arrives in Pine Haven. She’s looking for Reverend Nate Adams, whom she presumes is an elderly grandfatherly sort of man “graying and crouched over-with a soft-spoken wife and several grown children.”

After stepping off the train, Hailee attempts to locate Reverend Adams when she trips and falls, literally, into a man’s arms. Chastising herself for being so clumsy, Hailee notices that the man who caught her is “extremely handsome, with sandy hair, striking blue eyes, and a gentle smile” who teasingly tells her it’s his job to “prevent the pretty female passengers from tripping and falling.”

Hailee proceeds to ask the man if he could help her find Reverend Adams. That’s when he introduces himself to her as one and the same. It’s quite a humorous scene because Nate has his own preconceived notions of what Hailee would look like – an elderly spinster with thick spectacles and a tweed dress. It’s such a delightful way for Hailee and Nate to be introduced for the first time to each other!

I thought you set the stage well with those preconceived notions. I was actually eager to see their reactions to one another. It was a great scene. 

Among your body of work, what would you recommend to readers as your favorite novel or your best work? 

Wow! This is a great question! I honestly can’t say I have a favorite book I’ve written. My Montana Skies Series (McKenzie, Kaydie & Hailee) is very close to my heart as the Lord gave the series idea to me while I was going through a difficult time recovering from a car accident.

As a multi-published author, what words of wisdom do you have for those of us trying to break into the writing industry? 

When I chat with an unpublished writer, I ask what he/she envisions themselves doing for God’s Kingdom and how can I pray and encourage him/her in that pursuit. One of the most important things to remember in being a writer is that if God has called you to write, He will guide you, one step at a time.

God calls us all to do different things for His Kingdom. If He has called you to write, seek His guidance. Never give up, even when you feel like it or when someone has unkindly criticized you. Seek to please and honor Him in whatever you write, whether it is for the secular or the inspirational market; whether it be fiction, nonfiction, poetry, song lyrics, or a screenplay. Find a mentor and be open to ideas and suggestions from one who’s “been there, done that.” Join forces with other Christian writers. After all, we are all working for the same Boss.

I give more tips for writers, including sticking with writing and how to prepare for a writer’s conference here:

Do you have a book trailer for Hailee? 

Yes, I do. J And I love the music the producer chose for my Hailee book trailer! It can be seen here:

Where can readers find you on the web? 

I love to connect with my readers at - (Facebook) where I include “Just-for-fun Friday chats and much more!

Thank you again, Andrea, for having me as your guest. Thank you also for all you have done to help me promote Hailee. I appreciate you!

Thank you so much, Penny, for joining Andrea's Take for our Birthday Bash! It's been wonderful having you.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Penny is such a sweet lady.  She has agreed to provide a bookplate, personalized to whomever wins this giveaway.

Thanks so much, Penny!


Leave a comment in the comment section to be entered in the drawing. You can get up to two extra entries by doing the following:

Follow my Blog


Like Penny's Facebook page (the link is above).

If you choose the extra entries please leave a separate comment for each entry. The giveaway closes at 11:59 pm on October 16. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Two Big Announcements

Big Announcement #1: Sunday Song Lyrics
I'm debuting a new feature today. I already give you my take on novels I've read (almost) every week. I occasionally post my take on Bible passages. So I figure, why not give you my take on the songs I love as well.

The title has a double meaning. The feature will be posted on Sunday, obviously. But most importantly, the songs are what I call "Sunday Songs," great songs that have touched my heart because they glorify God. And isn't that what Sunday is all about?

So, without further ado...Sunday Song Lyrics

This is the Stuff  
Performed by Francesca Battistelli

I lost my keys in the great unknown
And call me please 'Cuz I can't find my phone

This is the stuff that drives me crazy
This is the stuff that's getting to me lately
In the middle of my little mess
I forget how big I'm blessed
This is the stuff that gets under my skin
But I gotta trust You know exactly what You're doing
It might not be what I would choose
But this is the stuff You use

Andrea's Take
The first two lines convinced me that this is my theme song. The chorus reminds me that God uses every little thing to bring me closer to him, as long as I am willing.

My four year old loves it too and can sing every word.

Big Announcement #2: The Birthday Bash

Today is my birthday! Okay it's not my birthday, but it is my blog's birthday. One year ago today, I wrote my first blog post. See That Post Here

In honor of this auspicious occasion, I'm giving away free stuff.

I alluded to some giveaways in a couple of posts during September. Well, this is it. This week I'm giving away my copy of each book I reviewed in the month of September in the order in which I reviewed them.

MondayHailee by Penny Zeller

TuesdayA Most Unsuitable Match by Stephanie Grace Whitson

(I'm skipping Wednesday because that's the usual "What I Read" day, and I don't want to cause any confusion by featuring a book I'm not giving away. And because I have only four books to give away).

ThursdayThe Lady of Bolton Hill by Elizabeth Camden

FridayWings of a Dream by Anne Mateer

Each day I will post an interview with the featured author. These ladies have been very gracious, agreeing to participate on short notice (since I've thrown this thing together at nearly the last minute).

A comment will get you in a drawing. Following my blog will be an optional entry each day. Some of the authors will have pages to "follow" or "like" or newsletters you can subscribe to for even more entries. Drawings will be open until Sunday, October 16, and winners will be announced one day next week.

It's gonna be a blast!

Before you leave today, check out my beautiful "Blog Birthday Bash" button. It was designed by my very best friend, and first ever follower of Andrea's Take, Melissa Jagears. Didn't she do a lovely job? Feel free to grab that bonnie button and post it on your own blog or website.

Okay, that's all for now. Come back bright and early Monday morning for my interview with Penny Zeller.

(Psst...Penny has offered to include a bookplate personalized to the lucky winner of her book. Isn't that lovely? I think so.)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

This is just a test...

I'm trying to link my blog to my Facebook wall.

This is just to see if it worked.

/crosses fingers/

Please, God.