My Next Big Thing

So…here’s the scoop on the long-awaited sequel to Into the Free.

YBarks-300x287ou may have noticed authors posting recently about their Next BigThing. You can read about Carla Stewart’s next big thing by visiting her blog. My answers (below) are all about my upcoming novel, WHEN MOUNTAINS MOVE due to release THIS SEPTEMBER. Enjoy!
What is your working title of your book?

When Mountains Move (Hits shelves this September!)

Where did the idea come from for the book?

This book is the sequel to Into the Free and explores the next phase of Millie’s life. I always felt there was more to Millie’s story than what was shared in the first book, and I’m grateful so many readers have asked for more. I hope folks will enjoy seeing what happens next as Millie strives to create the happy family she never had as a child.

What genre does your book fall under?

It’s considered general fiction, inspirational fiction, Christian fiction, and women’s fiction. Some would call it romantic. It will also appeal to those who enjoy southern literature (since our main characters are southern), as well those who like books about the west (since they leave Mississippi to launch a ranch in the Colorado Rockies during WWII.) Choose your weapon. I don’t focus so much on how it’s boxed (I know that’s important, though). I just hope it’s a human story people like, no matter what they want to call it.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I struggle with this question so much because I never picture any real person when I’m writing my characters. I would love my characters to be depicted by actors who have never been thought of as any other character on a large scale, so they can fully become Millie, Bump, River, etc. without other well-known personality traits blurring that presentation. That said, while watching Les Miserables, I thought Samantha Barks would make a perfect Millie (pictured above). That would be my dream.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
The book will be released September, 2013 by David C Cook, the phenomenal publishing company who produced my debut novel, Into the Free. I am represented by Greg Johnson, literary agent extraordinaire.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Oh goodness. This is a trick question. I really struggled to carve writing time for this sequel. I finally forced myself to focus for five weeks this summer and just get the story down on paper. That meant I had to work through five months of very heavy edits, of course. Believe me…it’s never a good idea to try to write a novel in five weeks. I remember hearing JK Rowling once admit she considered breaking her own arm to delay a deadline. I now understand how she feels. The pressure was intense.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Maybe the Big Stone Gap trilogy by Adriana Trigiani, or the Mitford Series by Jan Karon. Both are character driven series which create a world of believable people and explore the daily struggles and emotions experienced in real life. My characters live more on the gritty side of life though. I aim to show both the brutality and the beauty of this world, because life for a lot of people just isn’t pretty. But in the end, I hope my characters show how to rise above the struggles and never give up hope.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Originally, I wrote my first novel just to see if I could do it. It was on my bucket list, and turning 35 was the trigger for me. I never planned to publish it. But after the story came alive to me, I felt nudged to share it. This book is a continuation of that story, so it was all inspired by a compelling desire to push myself into uncomfortable territory and to grow stronger, braver, and more creative in the process.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Second chances. The mythic West, the Rocky Mountains, a girl trying to overcome her past. Gypsies, cowboys, ranchers. A young couple struggling to make ends meet and to love unconditionally despite many challenges to their new marriage. A journey of growth, as Millie develops deeper faith, a stronger spirit, and the ability to trust. Outlaws, renegades, and secret lovers. This book explores the complicated webs we weave, with secrets and sins, love and loyalty, faith and forgiveness. And hope.


Meet Nashville Music Industry Guru, Kathy Harris

kathy-media2-largeAs I continue to introduce you to talented folks, I am excited for you to meet my friend Kathy Harris. She’s led such an amazing life, the best thing to do is just jump right into an interview so we have room to talk about it all. Enjoy!

Kathy, You have led a fascinating life, working with the Oak Ridge Boys for more than thirty years and building a reputation in the country music industry as a reliable and talented marketing guru. Before we discuss your writing career, tell us a really interesting story from behind-the-scenes in the Nashville music industry. (Something funny or surprising about the music world, etc.)

Entertainers are like the rest of us. They go to the grocery store, shop at Wal-Mart, and take their children to school. In Nashville, you might run into a music star anywhere. Of course, you also might not recognize them because they look different in their “everyday” clothes. (smile)

Nashville is a small community, and almost everyone has a connection to the entertainment industry. You either know someone in the business, have children who go to school with an entertainer’s son or daughter, or do business with entertainers.

As a marketer, what are the two most important things writers need to do to market their books professionally?

It seems that many Christian writers stress over the idea of self-promotion. My best advice is to remember that you’re marketing a product, not yourself. Yes, that may be a fine line, but it helps tremendously if you can separate yourself from your book.

Determine how your book can help readers. Maybe it’s solely for entertainment. Maybe it will inspire them, empower them, or encourage them. Maybe all of the above. Now, figure out how to articulate that in simple words.

You should also be willing to step out of your comfort zone. Even if you’ve never done it before, consider speaking at local churches or civic clubs. Offer to facilitate book club and/or library events. Get out there and meet people! It will bless you while you’re blessing others. God may have called you to do more than just write.

rtm-book-cvrBefore launching a novel, you wrote devotionals and family stories while also ghostwriting biographies. Your debut novel, The Road to Mercy, was inspired by an actual event you experienced as a child. Tell us about that childhood tragedy, and why did you decide to write this story as fiction instead of nonfiction?


The Prologue is based on personal experience. When I was a young girl, I witnessed the aftermath of a plane crash. My dad found the last victim, a small child, only a few hundred feet away from where I stood. I still remember the look on my dad’s face when he told me.

That experience haunted me for years. I wanted that child to live. And, in my book, he does. Hopefully, “his” story will encourage or edify those who read it.

Because I explored the “what if…,” it had to be told through fiction.

Your story explores the controversial theme of abortion. You’ve said your own journey with infertility has given you a unique perspective about this issue, and your experience with the plane wreck made a tremendous impact on you as a child. Did you intend to write about such a politically-charged theme, and how have readers responded? How do you feel about people who protest abortion clinics and abuse the women whose life situations bring them to those doors? What would you say to people on each end of the issue?

I didn’t intend to write about abortion but the story had a mind of its own. Funny how that happens, isn’t it? I initially set out to write about generational blessings and the impact of one particular life. But, as I explored the “life” theme, the story took a couple of sharp turns.

For me, there are two things that are key to the abortion issue. One is education and the other is love.

We need to help people understand that life begins at conception. Thankfully, science is now helping with that. But we must also remember that behind every unwanted pregnancy is a hurting person, a woman who is desperate to make the right decision, and we need to reach out to her with a loving attitude. The greatest of these is love. (1 Cor. 13:13b)

How does your faith influence your work as a writer, and what do you want people to know about Christian Fiction?

I’ve wanted to write books since I was a young girl, and I pursued that goal through high school and college, graduating with a Communications degree. Then my life took a turn into music. I made several attempts through the years to write a novel, but I could never get beyond the first chapter—until I made the decision to write Christian fiction. Then, the words started to flow. My faith is an important part of what I write. As someone who reads, as well as writes, Christian fiction, I view it as a great way to encourage and edify other Believers.

As a music pro, what song would best serve as the themesong for The Road to Mercy?

That’s an easy one. : )  About six weeks prior to the book release, I was listening to a new CD, Only You, by Contemporary Christian singer-songwriter Karyn Williams. I was rocking along, enjoying the music, when I got to track 10, a song entitled This Is Freedom. The first time I heard it, I knew it was a perfect match for The Road to Mercy.

Through mutual friends, I contacted Karyn and asked her about using it for the book trailer. She agreed! (You can view the trailer and listen to the song here:

And, just for fun, what song best describes you? Or…who is your favorite band, etc.?

It would definitely be a praise song with an up-tempo beat and a few minor chords. I love Contemporary Christian Music—no matter what the style, rock, hip-hop, pop or alternative.

Fill in the blank…If you like to read edgy Christian fiction, you’ll enjoy The Road to Mercy.

Finally, what are you working on now?

I have three books in the works right now… one, a romantic suspense, is finished in first draft form. But my primary goal is to complete my next women’s fiction book, another stand-alone novel.

What fun questions, Julie! Thanks so much for having me here today. I hope you’ll visit my blog,, sometime soon!

2013 – Radical Well-Being

As promised, I’ll continue introducing you to some amazing authors throughout 2013. This week, with all of us focusing on our resolutions and feeling inspired to live healthier, happier lives, I’m excited to feature my friend, Dr. Rita Hancock, who is board-certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation as well as in Pain Management and whose work in the medical field has helped countless patients focus on the mind, body, spirit connection.

radical well being coverResearch increasingly shows a strong connection between our spiritual life, our emotions, and our physical well being. Yet too often our physical conditions are treated without taking our whole lives into account.  In her latest book, Radical Well-being, Rita shows us how the mind, body, and spirit are connected and addresses the factors that can contribute, and even cause, illness, addictions, and chronic pain.

So the first thing I did was ask Rita, Who will benefit from reading this book?

“Many people can benefit from understanding the concepts described in Radical Well-being,” explains Dr. Hancock. “If you suffer from medical conditions like fibromyalgia, migraine headaches, neck or back pain, irritable bowel syndrome, jaw pain, food and drug allergies, depression, anxiety, or unwanted behaviors such as overeating, an eating disorder, overspending, drug abuse or alcoholism, Radical Well-being will show you a biblical, whole-body approach to overcoming your condition.”

If you’re like me, you approach self-help books with skepticism. I’m never one who is easily sold on a guidebook for life. But with nearly twenty years of experience counseling patients from a balanced, mind/body/Holy Spirit perspective, Rita goes beyond the preaching and provides practical nuts-and-bolts advice, including how to:

·           Identify the lies that are manipulating you from a subconscious level

·           Deal with emotional factors that can make your pain seem worse

·           Address addictive behaviors that you want to get rid of

·           Fully accept God’s love and forgiveness on a deep, healing level

According to Dr. Rita Hancock, true freedom and improved health come when deeply-rooted lies are illuminated and replaced with knowledge from the merciful heart of God. “Radical Well-being will help you feel better in all three domains—in your mind, body, and in your spirit,” Rita says. And if you don’t believe her, just ask one of her patients  instead: “I feel like the weight of a skyscraper has been lifted off my shoulders.”

If it’s weight loss you’re after, Dr. Hancock’s previous books include The Eden Diet (Zondervan) and The Eden Diet Workbook, which are about learning to eat in response to physical rather than emotional hunger.

Want to learn more? Visit www.TheEdenDiet.comand

Meet the Gypsies of Spain

Susan-with-lace-cropped-31-222x300I’m excited to introduce you to a new friend of mine, Susan Nadathur, whose debut novel, City of Sorrows, was just released. You’re one of the first to learn about this beautiful new story set in the Gypsy communities of Spain, and this might just be the first interview posted publicly regarding the book.

JC: Susan, You have a fascinating life. You grew up in a quaint New England community but after graduate school became an ex-Pat and relocated to Spain. There, you fell in love with a man from India, and together, after years of some pretty amazing adventures, you decided to move among the Gypsies of Spain whom you describe as some of the most generous, humble people you’ve ever met. Tell us briefly how you ended up “running away with the Gypsies.”

SN: I often wonder where this journey began. I think God always knew, even though He was not so good about sharing the details with me. But, looking back on my life, the road seems clear. For example, if as a child I had not been bullied, picked on and humiliated, I would not have developed the keen sense of empathy I have for people who are marginalized. And without that compassion, I would not have been profoundly affected by a racist remark targeted at my Indian friend in Spain who was confused for a Gypsy way back when I was a twenty-two-year-old expat living in Seville.

“Gypsies and Moors are not served here,” a Spaniard said before refusing my friend a cup of coffee. That one statement, spat out decades ago in a bar in Seville, became the catalyst for a story of love and loss in the vibrant world of Gypsy Spain—a world I would never have penetrated if I had not felt the sting of isolation, humiliation, and rejection that gave me the unique, unspoken connection to this group of persecuted people.

Several years later, that story finally germinated. I started to write the novel which has become CITY OF SORROWS. But, in order to do justice to the project, I had to return to Spain. And this time, I had to meet and get to know the people whose culture I was writing about. Spanish Gypsies.

The only problem was, I knew that most of the Gypsies in Seville lived in poor, dangerous sectors of the city. My husband knew that too. As well as my pastor. The only way I was going to convince both my husband and pastor that I would be safe in these marginalized areas was by connecting with a Christian church that had ministries in the Gypsy community. Well, to make a long story short, I ended up in a  Pentecostal Gypsy church called Dios Con Nosotros (God with Us), in one of the most sordid sectors of the city (Las Tres Mil Viviendas). And not once did I ever feel unsafe. The congregation embraced me, though kept me at a distance whenever I asked questions about their culture. Too many years of marginalization and oppression had made them wary of foreigners.

But as the weeks went by, and they began to trust me, my experiences began to change. I was invited into homes, into people’s lives. Finally, I was asked to leave the apartment I had rented in Seville and invited to live with Pastor Pepe Serrano and his family in their home on the outskirts of Seville. Once I moved into Pastor Pepe’s home, I no longer had to ask questions. I only had to live as part of a family to understand the people I had been led to write about.

Pepe-Pura-and-Susan-Cropped1-300x242Looking back now, I remember what Pastor Pepe said to me that day I first entered his church.

“God has not brought you here to research your book,” Pastor Pepe said. “He has brought you here to work on you.”

I guess God always knew the plans he had for me. There was a reason I was me.

JC: You are not only fluent in Spanish, you have created a successful business teaching Spanish to medical professionals and have published several books on this topic. It’s clear you have spent your life working to promote cross-cultural understanding. What do you consider the most positive aspect of modern Gypsy life in Spain? What are their struggles?

SN: I think the most positive aspect of modern Gypsy life in Spain right now is the transformation that is occurring because of Spanish Gypsy evangelism. Negative behaviors historically associated with Gypsies, such as vagrancy, theft, violence, revenge and tribal feuding, are being modified and corrected with conversions to Christ.

From “gypping” someone out of their money, to truancy and laziness, to admonishment for being unhygienic, to retaliation and revenge, the standard image of the Spanish Gypsy is cloaked in negative stereotyping. The Gypsy has come to symbolize everything that modern-day, industrialized societies reject as immoral and inefficient. But that image is changing from the only place where change is meaningful – from within.

A remarkable phenomenon is occurring that is changing the face of the Spanish Gypsy: Pentecostal evangelism. As thousands of Gypsies convert to Christ, their slogan has become:


Antes los gitanos iban con cuchillos y quimeras.

Ahora llevamos la Biblia, la palabra verdadera.

Before the Gypsies went with knives and quarrels into battle.

Now we take the Bible, God’s True and Holy Word.

For more on this subject, here’s a link to an article I wrote for EMQ Online titled “Waiting on Dibel: The Growth of Pentecostalism among Spanish Gypsies.”

  • “Waiting on Dibel: The Growth of Pentecostalism among Spanish Gypsies” was originally published in the April 2011 issue of EMQ ( Reprinted with permission. Not to be reproduced or republished without permission.

As far as their struggles, Spanish Gypsies have much to overcome. Poverty is rampant, Work inconsistent (A large number of Spanish Gypsies make their living as itinerant street vendors, a way of life that has been severely affected by the economic crisis that has plagued Spain since 2008). Drugs and crime threaten the world in which many Gypsies live. And attitudes toward education sometimes limit them from exploring options outside of what is familiar to them as a group of people living as part of, while at the same time separated from Spanish culture. And of course, there still exists a subtle level of (sometimes self-imposed) social marginalization from mainstream Spanish society as well as the perpetuation of negative stereotypes. You will still see the beggar sitting in front of a church, or the fortune teller stalking the outside of the Cathedral for unsuspecting foreigners ready to part with their money for a Tarot spread or palm reading. But, the positive news is that change is coming, slowly but surely to the Spanish Gypsies.

CITYofSORROWSfinaldigitalCOVER-660x1024JC: Because you are a writer, you have documented some of the stories you’ve witnessed during your adventures. Tell us a bit about this project and how your real life influences your fiction.

SN: CITY OF SORROWS (release date December 2012) is the story of a young Spanish Gypsy, Diego Vargas, and his journey from the shackles of grief to the obsession of revenge, to the miracle that is love after loss. Young Diego lives with his family on the Southside of Seville, in what is basically a Gypsy ghetto. Just turned nineteen, he is recently married, madly in love, expecting his first child, and completely unaware that his life is about to come crashing down around him. On a dark road outside the city of Seville, Diego must find the courage to face death, the strength to survive it, and the power to hold onto his humanity while both his mind and his will scream against it.

The seeds for this novel were sown many years ago, when I first lived in Spain. But for a long time, those seeds remained dormant. When I finally sat down to write the book, I was all revved up and ready to whip this story into shape. Just “write what you know,” I thought. Well, yes and no. I had NO idea what I had gotten myself into. Surprise, surprise, sitting down to write a novel actually meant acquiring some new skills. Like characterization, plotting, pacing and so many other things I had simply taken for granted.

After writing what was basically a fictionalized account of my life with my Indian friend in Seville, I soon realized that if I wanted this story be of interest to anyone except my immediate family, I had better start studying the craft, and then, start rewriting. As I went through the process of a second draft, I started seeing some subtle changes. My protagonist, who had some pretty obvious character traits of that Indian friend I had met in Spain, started taking a back seat to his fictional best friend, Diego Vargas. And then it seemed as if Diego wanted to write his own story. When that happened, I convinced a lot of people that I needed to abandon my home for a while and go live with the Gypsies in Seville. There was no way Diego was going to hijack the story without me doing my research.

Many of the scenes in the novel are based on my experiences living among the Gypsies. I have tried to be faithful to the reality of their world without either glamorizing it or condemning it. Like in real life, my novel has both good and bad Gypsies. Good and bad Spaniards. And yes, there is a strong Indian presence offered through one of the supporting characters, Rajiv Kumaran. Rajiv is Diego’s philosophical friend from India, the man who helps him to work his way out of the darkness of despair and into the light. And yes, I admit it, Rajiv does have a strong likeness to that Indian friend from Spain who later became my husband.

JC: Finally, I’m intrigued by your efforts to help young adults cope with bullying by celebrating their differences. You even offer a blogsite for such teens. Tell us about these efforts.

SN: I have always enjoyed young people, especially those who don’t quite “fit in.” I currently volunteer at the local high school in Lajas, Puerto Rico, where I live. I work with the students both individually and in a group setting, where I encourage them to express themselves in writing. Many of these students feel isolated or “different” from their more popular peers. They all have been labeled something, from “Goth” to “Nerd” to other more offensive titles. And up until recently, they have, for the most part, kept silent. I have been working with them to help them find their voices.

The students and I have formed a group called Vox Occulta which translates to “hidden voice.” The students have written poems, stories, and rap songs about their lives, learning about themselves in the process. Many of these stories are posted on my blog

These young people have made a mark on my life. And like the Gypsies, they have influenced my writing. My next novel-in-progress is for young adults. You can’t spend so much time with young people without being influenced by them. They are a wonderful addition to my life.


SUSAN NADATHUR is a widely-traveled writer, teacher, and self-proclaimed “outsider” from Connecticut who lives on-and-off in Spain with an extended family of Gypsies in Seville. A registered nurse with a Masters degree in Spanish, Susan teaches language and cultural diversity workshops to childbirth and healthcare professionals, and has authored several books on Spanish language acquisition and cross-cultural communication. City of Sorrows (Azahar Books, 2012) is her debut novel. She lives with her husband, a philosophical scientist from India, and their daughter in Lajas, Puerto  Rico. Visit the author online at

That Whole ‘Unequally Yoked’ Thing (guest Nancy Rue & Giveaway)

I’m so excited to introduce y’all to one of the coolest authors I know –, the incredible Nancy Rue. I’m honored to be a part of Nancy’s blog hop this week, and I hope you’ll enjoy learning all about this fabulous Harley chick and her newest release, Too Far to Say Far Enough.


What a delight it is to bring my community of “Nudgees” to yours here on Julie’s blog. After endorsing Julie’s book, Into the Free (amazing) and getting to know her a little via email and Facebook, I’m thinking you’re a lot like we are: people who feel nudged by God and need the company of folks who won’t think we’re crazy – or will accept us if they do.

toofartosayenough3D400pxYou are the fourth stop on our hop, and I have to say that “hop” is really too “fluffy” a word for what we’ve been about, which is the asking of the hard-to-deal-with –questions that come with being a Christian. They’re the ones addressed in the trilogy of fiction novels The Reluctant Prophet – and there is probably none more sticky than today’s. Here it is:

What about the whole ‘unequally yoked’ thing? Should you even consider a partner who isn’t where you are spiritually? 

That would be an easy question to answer if the partner under consideration were in the Gomer category – you know, that “bad boy” who oozes sexuality and very little else. Our answer would be like the one we’d give a teenage girl who wanted to “minister to” the hot kid with the juvenile record. Someone told me recently that’s called “Missionary Dating.” I love that!

But it isn’t an easy one to answer in a situation like the one protagonist Allison Chamberlain finds herself in. The man she struggles not to fall in love with is “Chief,” a Harley-riding attorney with more integrity than any three of your average men put together  and a heart bigger than the engine of his Road King and a life that looks so much like the one Jesus led it’s uncanny. Except that he isn’t an official Christian.

In fact, Chief tells Allison early on that he respects her faith but he can’t go there. And then he keeps acting like Jesus. In time he comes around to believing in God again, but as he says to Allison, he isn’t ready to go into the pond (you have to read Unexpected Dismounts to understand that). Then he goes on acting even more like Jesus. How is Allison not to continue to fall more deeply in love with him?

When a proposal is imminent, Allison turns desperately to her mentor, Hank D’Angelo, with this very question: “Do I go ahead and marry him if I’m not totally sure we’re on the same spiritual page?”

Hank could have pointed Allison to Paul. He was, after all, wonderful at bringing people into the body and showing them how to make a life in Christ as easy as possible on themselves. But instead she does what she usually does and what Jesus so often does. She asks another question: “Have you talked to him about it?”

If we’re insistent that an equal yoke has to consist of two people who can pinpoint the day and time they gave their lives to Christ and have been faithful churchgoers and tithers ever since, then that question does us no good. I know some amazing couples who have that kind of yoked-ness and it’s beautiful.

I, however, don’t.

My husband was raised in the Roman Catholic Church and was quite devout as a young boy, until the day his mother was dropping him off at parochial school and he looked at the kids going into the school at the Presbyterian Church next door and asked his mom, “So if what I’m being taught is true, all those kids are going to hell?” When she couldn’t quite answer that, he knew that Catholicism wasn’t for him. He never gave up God, though. When we met and fell in love, I was captured not only by his wit and warmth and overall cuteness, but by the way he lived out his values. I saw God in his soul and I married him.

I have always gone to church and there have been marvelous seasons in our life together when we’ve been involved in a particular church together. We’ve taught Sunday school as a team, been youth group advisors more than once, gone on missions trips as team leaders. Most of our lasting relationships with other people have come out of our church experiences. Several years ago, however, when the church we were part of became toxic and the members turned on each other, my husband said, “Y’know, I think I’m done with the church. I’ll support you in whatever you want to do but I can’t do it anymore.”

I didn’t insist that we find a church together. I found one and I’m happy there. More than happy. I miss him sitting next to me, though. Of course I wish he were. There are in fact things I don’t participate in because he’s not. And at times I wondered, “Is he still talking to God? Is he okay spiritually?”

After I wrote Hank’s words, “Have you talked to HIM about it?”, I thought, well., um, no, I actually haven’t.

So I did. His answers are between the two of us, but what they showed me is that this question goes beyond who we’re “yoked” to and into our assessments of who’s Christian and who’s not, something we touched on a couple of posts ago.

Why do we make these assessments and judgments about how Christian is Christian enough without getting to know the people in question?

What are the signs we absolutely have to see in order to know, okay, that’s a Christian? Do those signs keep us from having a conversation that could tell us so much more?

And is it up to us to see those signs before we can say, “Oh, yeah. Definitely a believer.”

Absolutely we have to know that if marriage is part of the equation. But these questions of an “is this okay?” nature go far deeper than what’s “legal” for Christians. Allison and Chief’s situation raises more than the issue of being unequally yoked. It asks each one of us: what does a Christian look like to God? Now there’s a question I could hop to.

I believe those of you hoping to win prizes might need this quote from Too Far to Say Far Enough.
I believe those of you hoping to win prizes might need this quote from Too Far to Say Far Enough.

Nancy Rue is the author of over 100 books for adults and teens, including Healing Waters, which was a 2009 Women of Faith Novel of the Year, and The Reluctant Prophet which received a Christy award in 2011. Nancy travels extensively-at times on the back of a Harley Davidson-speaking and teaching to groups of `tween girls and their moms and mentoring aspiring Christian authors. She lives on a lake in Tennessee with her Harley-ridin’ husband Jim and their two yellow labs (without whom writing would be difficult.)

Now what you have probably been waiting for…winning books!  Nancy’s publisher, David C. Cook, is giving away:

  • Reluctant Prophet series (3 books) to 10 winners
  • PLUS 10 copies of Reluctant Prophet to each winner’s recipient of choice

Nancy will personally sign each book as well as include a letter with Reluctant Prophet to your person of choice.  Visit here for the Rafflecopter entry form and official rules.

If you are joining the hop mid-way through and not sure where to go, here are all the stops for each day.  That way you are able to maximize your entries into the giveaway, as well as capture Nancy’s heart as she wrote this series:

Monday: Nancy Rue, The Nudge “What Hank Says . . . About Leaving the Pew”
Tuesday: Mocha With Linda “Will the “Real” Christians Please Stand Up?”
Wednesday: Jen Hatmaker “When the Nudge Drives a Wedge”
Thursday: Julie Cantrell “That Whole ‘Unequally Yoked’ Thing
Friday: Far From Perfect MaMMa “Is It Worth Having a Record?”

If you would like to connect with Nancy, she can be found here:

facebook (adult fans):
facebook (for teen fans):
In addition to Nancy’s blog, The Nudge, (for her adult audience), she also has a blog for teens (In Real Life) and for tweens (Tween You and Me)

How to Help Storm Victims

Today I am thankful for people who reach out to help those in need after major catastrophes like Hurricane Sandy. I’m a Mississippi girl who spent my entire childhood in Louisiana, so while we in the South were lucky to escape Sandy’s wrath this week, we certainly understand the trauma people experience during such an event.
I’m happy to learn Writers and Readers Reach Out 2012 is recognizing the need to support those closest to home (in addition to sponsoring Make Way Partners). If you’re wondering how you can “reach out” to those who have lost their homes or loved ones from Sandy’s surge, CNN offers a list of ways to help, including links to Charity evaluators like Guidestar and Charity Navigator.
Thanks for all you do to make the world a better place.

Writers and Readers Reach Out 2012

Welcome to November – a month of gratitude and giving. This year, we are partnering with other authors by participating in Writers and Readers Reach Out 2012. The recipient of this year’s efforts will be Make Way Partners, an organization that works with individuals, churches, and other community action groups to help prevent and combat the evil of human trafficking and all forms of modern-day oppression.

If you’ll take the time to read just a few of the real-life stories on Kimberly’s blog of women and children who Make Way Partners has rescued from slavery, and for whom they provide long-term care, I believe you’ll want to participate in this beautiful journey of restoration.

Eight years ago, Kimberly L. Smith began chartering small mission planes to fly her into the war zone of Sudan where U.S. sanctions and Islamic regimes rendered thousands of orphans “unadoptable.” Providing food and opening a first-grade school, MWP partnered with an indigenous leader to rescue and care for these most vulnerable orphans.

Year-by-year, they’ve added a new grade to their school. Now, graduating eighth grade, the orphans of MWP have more education than many current leaders of their nation.

It is time to build a high school, making it possible for a generation of educated leaders to stop the cycle of violence and slavery. Read about a few of these amazing students and the complete high school proposal here:

I’m excited about the opportunity for us to join this effort and hope you’ll consider offering support as well. Just imagine…if we all pitch in, even a little bit, we could enable these children to attend high school. The trickle down effects of that opportunity are endless.

I encourage you to visit the website for Make Way Partners and learn about the many ways you can offer support.

For tracking purposes, if you choose to answer the field that asks where you learned about Make Way Partners, you can copy and paste the following label: WritersandReaders, Julie Cantrell (author)

Everyone can be of incredible assistance by using the power of social media to spread the news of this drive. When twittering or pinning this drive please use hashtags #WritersandReaders2012 or #WR2012. (My twitter handle is @JulieCantrell)

Authors and Bloggers: It’s not too late to join this effort. If you’d like to participate please comment below and contact with your blog site, Facebook page, website address, or any other acknowledgement you would like to use.

This year, let’s give others the chance to access safety, education, and spiritual/emotional/physical support even in the darkest corners of our world.

Thanks kindly!


Adoption: What Do Adopted Children Really Think of It?

My friend, Catherine West, has recently published an emotional and personal novel titled Hidden in the Heart. In it, she taps into the complexities of the adoption journey, giving us a new perspective on those most affected by the experience — the children.
I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know Cathy, one of the many talented authors working within the Christian realm of the publishing industry today.
Fill in the blank: If you like to read ______, then you’ll like my book, Hidden in the Heart.
Karen Kingsbury, Deborah Raney, Susan Meissner – I love to write romantic family/saga type stories filled with angst and humor and most of all, a healthy dose of healing and restoration.
Cathy, you were adopted as a child. What do you most want people to know about adoption?
I believe adoption is a wonderful thing, however, I don’t believe it’s the fairytale a lot of people think it is. You bring home a relinquished baby from the hospital or from halfway around the world, and don’t get me wrong, this is a GOOD thing. That child is going to have many advantages they might not have had growing up, and most of all, get to be raised in a loving home with parents who can provide for their needs.
BUT…the growing trend within the Christian church of international adoption is something I’m watching with interest. Not that I don’t agree with it or applaud those families who are following the call they believe God has given them, I’m just fearful that many of these kids may grow up with a ton of unanswered questions and not know how to handle it.
The side to adoption that is often not explored is the long-term effect on the adopted child. Not knowing where you came from or who your birth parents are can have, and most likely will have, a profound impact on that child. If this is not dealt with sensitively, being adopted can turn into something negative.
When I was younger, I always felt guilty for wanting to know where I came from. I didn’t feel like I could ask questions. I was afraid of hurting my parents. In the end, I hurt myself for pretending I really didn’t care, didn’t want to know. When I eventually gave in and decided to search, I opened a Pandora’s Box and was blindsided by feelings so soul-deep I barely knew what to do with them, and hadn’t been aware they existed.
All this to say, I am all for adoption, but it is a sensitive subject and needs to be treated as such.
What do you want people to know about Christianity and your understanding of real faith?
Um, well of course I want people to know that all Christians are perfect, we never make mistakes, ever. We’re too holy for that.
Not. Seriously – Real faith is a journey. Real faith is understanding this, knowing we’re not perfect, accepting that we’re never going to be, and quit trying to pretend we are. Real faith to me, in one word, is this – authenticity. Be the real deal. We don’t have time for anything less.
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned from your publishing journey?
I’m not sure I’ve really been surprised by anything thus far – maybe a few reader reactions to some of the things in my last novel, Yesterday’s Tomorrow. I don’t exactly write sweet romance, so there were a few raised eyebrows. Too early to say whether I might shock anyone with Hidden in the Heart. I hope not. Or maybe I hope I do. I don’t know.
Sometimes I think it’s too easy to sanitize our writing, to ignore the hard stuff, step around the mud puddles instead of jumping through them. I guess I like to think of it this way – if I never get dirty, I’ll never experience the joy of getting cleaned up by God. It surprises me that some people are still offended by this train of thought.
Do you have more works planned for the future?
New works – yep, I’m always working on something new! My agent currently has two books that she’s shopping, so hopefully they will land on the right desk at some point. If that happens then I’m guessing I’ll be in edit mode again, but for now I’m taking a bit of a break and doing some research on the next book I want to write, which takes place on a winery in Sonoma, CA. Yes, I do think I need to do first hand research for that.
Catherine West is an award-winning author who writes stories of hope and
healing from her island home in Bermuda. Learn more about Catherine by visiting her website and following her blog: Http://

How to Start Following Your Writing Dreams TODAY!

Today, the WordServe Water Cooler, is hosting a blog parade. Twenty WordServe authors will share our personal “How We Did It” stories in hopes of encouraging YOU to follow your dreams.

We are represented by WordServe Literary Agency and encourage you to check out their website.

So, as we were discussing this parade, one of my writer friends teased me that I should tell readers how I went from being a nobody to a “New York Times and USA TODAY Bestselling Author” overnight. (Insert blinking marquis lights. Imagine me in Hollywood. And, while you’re at it, please make me skinny….and, what the heck, add Johnny Depp.)

Well, after reminding my sweet friend that I’m still a nobody, (and that “my Johnny” has no idea I exist), I assured her the bestseller status didn’t exactly happen overnight. And secondly, if you ask me who I am, I won’t throw a crass title at you.

So let’s talk about TODAY, and how YOU will put aside every excuse and sit down to write the next bestselling novel. Here’s how.

  1. Read to Learn.  Avid readers make the best writers, so whip out that dusty old library card and immerse yourself in literature. Make reading a big part of your life, and learn from the masters. I’m always reading about seven books at a time. I leave them all around the house, in my car, in my purse, etc. Minute to spare? Story to snare.
  2. Develop a Goal. I suggest you keep it simple: write a novel. Don’t worry about a specific market, agent, publisher, word count, genre, etc. Just tap into your creative energy, finish that first draft, and then worry about the details. At least that’s what worked for me.
  3. Set a Timeline. What’s a realistic timeline for you to finish your manuscript? Set daily goals, weekly goals, and monthly goals. Some people write outlines, others wing it. Some aim for a certain number of words a day until they reach the end, others edit as they go. (Tip: Most adult novels range from 80,000 – 100,000 words.) I gave myself three months to write a novel (first draft). It can be done.
  4. Keep a Steady Pace. The only way I was going to meet my three-month deadline was by forcing myself to put writing first. For three months, I wrote between 3 AM and 5 AM, sometimes pushing it to 6 if I was on a roll. Then, we started our busy day. Short on sleep? Yes. But it was the most beautiful personal experience I’ve ever had, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. There’s something sacred about those silent still hours pre-dawn. Find your “sweet spot” and commit those hours to putting ink to page.
  5. Snip and Clip. There is no such thing as a perfect first draft. In fact, there’s no such thing as a perfect draft at all, even after extensive edits, so take your time and edit your manuscript until it’s at least as close to perfect as it can be. Ask trusted peers to trade critiques, or join a critique group within ACFW or RWA. Study the craft until you understand the ins and outs of plot structure, pacing, character development, voice, etc. You don’t have to follow all the rules…but you should at least understand them. You may even want to hire a professional editor, just be sure to check references and don’t pay a fortune.

So now you’ve written that book. Congratulations! You are a true literary artist, and your creativity is a tremendous accomplishment. You’ve already met your goal!!! Don’t forget that…too many people get caught up with needing to reach the next milestone, and the next, and the next, never really celebrating the process. Find your joy.

Now for Part Two…the business side of the journey. (The part we don’t like.)

  1. Share the Story. Once you have a strong, well-edited manuscript, begin researching literary agents. Look at your favorite books and find out who represents those authors/titles. Research Publishers Weekly for action in the publishing world, and keep an eye on agents who represent key titles within your genre/market. Also subscribe to Chuck Sambuchino’s blog with Writer’s Digest.
  2. Query Agents. Make a wish list with your dream agent entered as Number One. Start at the top and query three agents at a time, following each of their specific guidelines (varies for every agency).  Keep track of responses using a spreadsheet, and if you cross one off your list, move on to another until an agent takes the bait. Here’s a free downloadable spreadsheet from Michael Seese.
  3. Plan a Proper Proposal. If agents become interested in your idea, they will ask for your manuscript. Be ready to send them a polished draft. No excuses. Many will then request a proposal (some have specific templates they will provide). Be sure to take your time with the proposal and make it SHINE. Insider’s Tip: Don’t overlook the marketing segment…many agents say this is the most important part of the proposal. Here’s what Rachelle Gardner has to say about writing the perfect proposal.
  4. Sign that Contract. Once you sign an agent to represent your work, sit back and let your agent pitch the book to editors. An experienced agent has built relationships with editors and will keep you updated on the progress of your manuscript as it moves through the various channels.  Soon, you’ll be signing a publishing contract and that’s where the REAL WORK begins.  (Steve Laube’s blog is an excellent resource for contract questions.)
  5. Hold on Tight! The publishing journey is a unique adventure, one that some folks enjoy more than others. I’m reminded of the roller coaster rides at our favorite theme park, warning riders of all the reasons they should get out of line now before it’s too late. If you watch the exit gate, you’ll see riders with a full range of reactions to the experience. There will always be an excuse, a person questioning your choices, a reason to do anything BUT what you dare to do. But I stood in that line and I took that ride. Like a teenager running from the cart, I’m here to say – “That was awesome! I’m getting in line again!” This time I hope you’ll come with me.

Comment on this post for a chance to win a signed copy of my debut novel, Into the Free. And while you’re at it…you might as well skadoodle on over to my facebook page for updates, fun contests, and behind-the-scenes confessions about my life as a bestselling author (aka overworked, sleep-deprived, mother/teacher/farmer/literacy advocate/spaz).

Best of luck with your writing journey, and if you are friends with Johnny…please tell him I’m ready to talk screenplays.

Meet the CBA’s Newest Star – Katie Ganshert!

I met Katie Ganshert through an online writer’s support group with WordServe Literary Agency. We hit it off right away, and I have thoroughly enjoyed having her share this journey with me as our debut novels both hit shelves this spring.

Katie’s first novel, Wildflowers from Winter, will release May 8th, but YOU CAN GET A FREE COPY BEFORE IT EVEN HITS SHELVES (see below for details).  I had the privilege of getting an advanced copy of the book and thought many of you who enjoy inspirational reads might enjoy Katie’s work as well.  Her book is a work of Christian fiction and is published by WaterBrook Press.

JC: Let’s start by discussing your journey as a debut novelist. Tell us a bit about how this story first came to be and share a quick glimpse of your experience in finding an agent and a publisher.

KG: When I was up nursing my son in the wee hours of the morning, the voice of a twelve year old girl came into my head and refused to leave. So I sat down at the computer and I wrote this prologue. I had no story to go with it. At the same time, I’d been toying with the idea of telling a story that explored the bonds of friendship. So I decided to squish the ideas together and Wildflowers from Winter was born.

This was the book that landed me an agent and a publisher. Before Wildflowers, I’d written two other novels. When I wrote this one, I knew it was different. I knew it was better. So I signed up for the ACFW conference in 2009 and pitched it to my dream agent, Rachelle Gardner, and the senior editor at Waterbrook/Multnomah. Two months later, Rachelle called to offer me representation. A year after that, my book made it through pub board and Waterbrook/Multnomah offered me a two book deal.

JC: You begin the book with a prologue written in first-person narrative, but then you switch to third person. Throughout the novel, first-person segments are peppered in, bringing the reader back and forth across time and space. How did you decide to use this unique technique and did you find it challenging? Are there other books you used as models as you experimented with this method?

KG: I have a brilliant editor, Shannon Marchese. The original version had a first person prologue and the rest of the story was told in third person. Shannon thought the prologue felt orphaned. So she encouraged me to write six or seven more first person scenes and intersperse them throughout the novel. I loved her suggestion. And I loved writing these scenes. The end result was a novel with a lot more depth and texture than the original version.

JC: Your main character, while likeable, is a bit stubborn, and she tends to make things harder on herself than they need to be (like many of us). She has a difficult relationship with her mother, in particular. I’m fascinated by mother-daughter relationships and am convinced they are one of the most important of all human relationships. What led you to write about this mother-daughter duo, and what did you learn from examining the relationship from Bethany’s point of view.

KG: I’m also fascinated with mother-daughter relationships (one of the many, many reasons why I was so captivated with your story, Julie!).

Bethany’s ashamed of her mother. She sees her mom as weak. Yet as the author, I knew things about Ruth that Bethany didn’t. It made me realize how easy it is to judge others, especially when that other person is our mom. It’s so easy to be critical of our parents. We forget that they had lives before we were born, with goals and dreams and disappointments and failures. 

JC: Readers often assume a novel is based on real events in the author’s life. What, if anything, in this book was drawn from your real life?

KG: The back story of Robin and Bethany’s friendship is inspired by real life events. I had a best friend growing up  and like Bethany and Robin, we lost touch in college. Our lives went separate ways. I remember wondering if anything could bring us back together again. It’s a question that helped me with the plot of Wildflowers. So that aspect of the novel is definitely entrenched in real-life experience.

JC: What are you working on for the future and when can fans expect more of your work?

KG: Right now, I’m working on revisions for book 2, Wishing on Willows, which releases March 19, 2013. This is Robin’s story. Readers will get to see a lot of familiar places and familiar faces.

JC: Finally, what advice do you have for folks who are interested in writing a novel?

KG: Ecclesiastes 7:8 comes to mind: Finishing is better than starting…

There are so many people out there who want to write a novel, but very few follow through and finish. So my advice would be to find an idea you’re passionate about. A story you would love to read.

Then sit down and make yourself write every day until it’s finished. When it’s done, read some craft books and start editing.

If you want to be published, find another story that stirs in your heart and start the process over. Read a lot. Write a lot. And persevere.


JC: Thanks so much for taking time to share your thoughts with us. I’m sure everyone will enjoy getting to know you as much as I have. 

ONE LUCKY COMMENTER will win a free copy of Wildflowers from Winter. It’s as easy as this:

  1. Leave a reply to let Katie know you want to win a free copy of Wildflowers from Winter.
  2. One winner will be randomly selected Friday, April 20.

Good Luck!



Learn more about Katie and her debut novel, Wildflowers from Winter, by following her blog: