Blog Tour – Book Review of Martha by Diana Wallis Taylor

In Martha, author Diana Wallis Taylor gives readers a fictional portrayal of one of the women found in the New Testament. Unlike her sister, Mary, Martha is known for being more interested in completing her work than sitting at the feet of Jesus. 

Through story, we’re given an opportunity to view Martha as a whole person instead of someone who just has her priorities out of order. The author does an excellent job of combining her imagination with what was written in the Bible as she weaves the culture and practices of that time into the novel. 

Martha, Mary, and their brother, Lazarus, develop a strong and loyal friendship with Jesus. It’s no wonder their world is shaken when they’re told he’s been crucified. But, having a relationship with Jesus has changed Martha’s life. 

Maybe it was because I’ve heard much of the biblical accounts included in the book since I was a child that I found myself wanting something more—something a little deeper. At times, I felt this book would fit better in a Young Adult (YA) category.

However, before reading this book, I’d never thought of Martha as someone who may have loved and wanted a family of her own. In the story, she’s rejected by the man in the village she hopes to marry, she falls in love with a Roman soldier, and she takes on the responsibility of caring for her siblings after her father dies. Thinking about what she may have experienced gave me a different perspective. Martha questions her purpose in life. What direction is the right one? It’s a question most readers will be able to relate to.

If you enjoy reading biblical fiction, I encourage you to try Martha.

Available June 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.



Diana Wallis Taylor is an inspirational speaker, an award-winning writer, and the author of the novel Journey to the Well. She lives in California.


DISCLOSURE: I was graciously provided a copy of The Search by Revell Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own.

A Mother’s Prayers


If you’re a mother who wonders if God answers prayers for your children, I can testify that He does. It may take hours, days, or years … but God will honor your heartfelt requests. I’ve seen it happen in my own life more than once, and every time it does, I’m humbled.
My two daughters, Brooke and Ana, are 2 ½ years apart in age. When they were wee ones, I prayed over them as they lay curled up in their beds at night. I asked God to watch over them. I still pray for His protection.
As young teens dealing with fluctuating hormones, they fought like most siblings. Sixteen years ago they didn’t have personal cell phones. Many of the arguments were about one getting off the phone so the other one could monopolize it!
I prayed that they’d grow up to become best friends … and you know what? They are. At 27 and 29, they’re still close—even with one now living on the east coast and one living on the west coast.
When their father and I divorced, Ana was a freshman and Brooke was a junior in high school. Since we’d kept our “problems” quiet, both girls were angry and confused. Life could have unraveled even further. They might never have forgiven me, and I could have lost them. But, I trusted the relationships and love we had for each other and a God who loved all three of us. He didn’t let me down. There was healing, and what we have today is even stronger.
Brooke is an actress who has worked hard at her craft. In the entertainment industry, just as it is for writers, it’s difficult to break in. While living in Seattle, she paid her dues and found her place in the theater community here. But two years ago, her husband accepted a job transfer to New York. They were both thrilled, but although NYC is the place to be for actors, it meant starting all over again—sometimes attending more than one audition in a day.  I prayed that opportunities would open up, and God answered. Later this year, she’ll leave on a national tour for eight months playing the oldest daughter in a production of Fiddler on the Roof. God is good!
Most recently God has honored my prayers for Ana.
Through life’s challenges and struggles, instead of turning away from God like she could have, she sought and drew closer to Him.
One of her heart’s desires was to find someone to share her life with, but it seemed the harder she looked, the more she experienced disappointment. Some of the young men who pursued her weren’t the men they presented themselves to be. My heart ached as her hopes rose, only to be hurt again.
I couldn’t fix it for her … I could only offer encouragement and prayer. And I did pray. For God to send the right man for her—someone who would cherish her as she deserved. Someone who was a man of God and who would provide spiritual leadership in the home.
Ana met Shawn through mutual friends at their church. They later realized that they both had signed up to go on a mission trip and spent months training for the adventure. In July, 2010, they traveled with a team to South Africa where they shared their testimonies in churches, played with children, visited homes, and assisted with HIV-Aids testing. Soon after they returned, they admitted to being interested in more than friendship and began spending a lot of time together.
Since then, our families have enjoyed time together. The first time I met Shawn’s mother, we stood in my kitchen observing the couple. It was so obvious that they were meant for each other. His mother shared with me that she had prayed for years for the right woman to come into his life, and as I explained that I, too, had prayed for someone for Ana, we both teared up, knowing that God had answered the prayers of two mothers.
Ana and Shawn recently got engaged. Their families and friends are celebrating with them even before the wedding. We’re convinced that God brought them together.
The waiting and the heartaches have been explained. The past relationships weren’t right. God wanted them to wait until He could provide the best for them.
I look at them, and I know … God honors a mother’s prayer.
Don’t ever stop praying for your children. He hears you … and He’ll answer.
Dawn

Blog Tour – Review of Chasing Sunsets by Eva Marie Everson

Chasing Sunsets by Eva Marie Everson is a contemporary romance in which two people get a second chance at their first love.

Kimberly Tucker, a school teacher and the mother of two young boys, is trying to get on with her life after going through a divorce she didn’t want. She struggles to understand what went wrong in her marriage, but her husband seems to be living it up, dating a variety of women.

When Kimberly must send her boys to stay with their father for five weeks during the summer, her father convinces her to spend time at the family vacation home in Cedar Key. She hasn’t been there in years—not since her mother died. Once there, she doesn’t understand why a childhood friend treats her coldly, but she finds friendship with the warm and wise older woman living next door.

It doesn’t take long before she also runs into her first love, handsome Steven Granger, who broke her heart when he left for college and married someone else. Along with a daughter, Steven has a story of his own. Also divorced, he’s returned to Cedar Key to run his father’s business. Happy to see Kimberly again, he begins pursuing her, but still not completely healed of former wounds, she’s not sure she’s ready to open her heart to him again.

Kimberly holds on to the painful belief that she lost two men she loved because she wasn’t good enough for them. While dealing with those untruths, she also discovers some things about the past that shake her world. She struggles with letting go and moving forward, but also begins to understand that she can’t fix or control everything.

I was drawn into the character’s lives from the first page to the last. Kimberly felt like a close friend, and I cheered her on as she learned to trust and began opening herself up to love again. I grew to care for her family, as well as the elderly neighbor next door.

The author gives us an engaging story that is both romantic and hope-filled. It reminds us that although things may not go as we’ve planned, God can still work things out for good.

This is the work I’ve read by Eva Marie Everson, but it won’t be the last. If you enjoy reading contemporary Christian romance, I highly recommend Chasing Sunsets.


Chasing Sunsets is available June 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.




Eva Marie Everson is a speaker, a popular radio personality, and the award-winning author of Things Left Unspoken and This Fine Life. She is coauthor of the Potluck Club series and the Potluck Catering Club series. Eva Marie lives in Florida.


DISCLOSURE: I was graciously provided a copy of The Search by Revell Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own.


The Character Therapist


What is character therapy?

Character therapy is a service Jeannie Campbell does when she uses her professional training and experience as a licensed clinician to evaluate and diagnose fictional characters.

Up until now, Jeannie has been serving writers through her Character Therapy blog. But this month, she’s launched her new website, The Character Therapist, which offers even more help to writers.


Who is Jeannie?

Jeannie the Therapist:
Jeannie Campbell is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFC # 45366) in the state of California. She is Head of Clinical Services for a large non-profit in Humboldt County, and enjoys working mainly with children and parents.

Jeannie graduated summa cum laude from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary with a Masters of Divinity with Specialization in Psychology and Counseling and magna cum laude from the University of Mississippi with a double major in psychology and journalism. She has worked in a crisis pregnancy center, psychiatric hospital, drug rehabilitative program, several non-profits and homeless shelters, a foster family agency, and in private practice.

Jeannie the Writer:
Jeannie has been writing ever since she received a diary for her fifth birthday. She began writing angst-ridden middle-grade novels in junior high, often commandeering the family computer for hours on end. After eight years of higher educational pursuits, she moved onto adult contemporary romance and romantic suspense, frequently using her day job as a therapist to generate lots of fodder for her night job as a writer.

Two of Jeannie’s “therapeutic romance” manuscripts have garnered the high praise of being finalists in the Genesis Contest for unpublished writers, sponsored by the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), of which she is an active member. She writes a popular monthly column for Christian Fiction Online Magazine and has been featured in many other e-zines, newspapers, and blogs.



How can you—a published or aspiring writer—benefit?

1) Write characters more realistically.
Using a search engine to find out information about a mental disorder yields a very different
result than asking a therapist who has treated those same problems in real life. Instead of getting a bunch of stale facts, I can help you breathe life into your characters while taking into consideration your unique story world.


2) Plot more feasibly.
Plotting the external conflict around your character’s internal conflict is essential to create
tension on every page. Understanding the character’s driving goals and motivation in relation to their emotional state will help you figure out what plot points need to occur to maximize the character’s arc to its fullest potential.


3) Avoid clich├ęd or incorrect depictions of mental disorders.
My passion is helping those not afflicted with mental disorders understand those who are. Since one in four adults have a mental disorder, the likelihood of one of your characters having one is pretty high. But you want every nuance to ring true about the character, not feel cardboard cutout or stereotyped. So pick my brain instead of yours to avoid pitfalls of re-writing later.



Elizabeth Mueller
Make an “appointment” with the therapist through the website by filling out an intake form. Submit and she’ll notify you before she posts your character’s free brief assessment on her blog. More in-depth assessments are available for a small fee.

Jeannie also provides other free options on the site, including articles on topics like stereotypes, and a subscription to her newsletter.

Interested?

Check out The Character Therapist at http://www.charactertherapist.com/



A Few Encouraging Words

Have you ever seen a child’s eyes light up when told he’s done a good job? Or when he’s trying to do something for the first time—like tie his shoes, climb a tree, or ride a bike—and his parents say, “Keep going! You can do it!”  

Children need encouragement. But, that need doesn’t fade when little boys and girls grow into adult men and women.

My husband and I watched the new TV show Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition which airs Monday nights on ABC. The show documents amazing makeovers of eight super obese people who set out to safely lose half of their body weight in one year. Each segment shows one person going through the yearlong stages with the help of nutrition expert and trainer, Chris Powell.

The debut followed 21-year-old Rachel, who not only struggled with her weight, but with gaining her family's support in her new lifestyle. At the end of the year, she’d lost around 200 pounds. Amazing!!! Especially when you consider that we complain how difficult it is to lose 5 or 10 pounds.

I don’t believe she could have done it without “encouragement” from her trainer. Someone who kept telling her over and over that she could do it.

Here’s the thing. Everyone needs encouragement now and then. Whether it’s to keep working toward a weight-loss goal, finding a job, learning something new … or just getting through a difficult day.

Giving encouragement costs us nothing but the few seconds it takes to utter the words. But those words can alter a person’s day, perspective, and ability to continue pushing forward. Those words can be affirming and in some instances, even life-changing.

Be alert and always mindful of ways you can encourage people today, tomorrow, and every day. With just a little effort, you can make a difference in someone’s life.

Dawn


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