Friday, June 24, 2016

Interview on Blog Talk Radio with Christian Communicators Live!

I hope you are all enjoying your summer! I am up to my eye balls in summer camps and a new romantic suspense story.

To be honest, it's been a challenging writing week. I had hit a wall - hard - when a friend of mine shot me an encouraging word about an interview I did on the Christian Communicators Live Blog Talk Radio back in November and it was such a blessing to me. Her timing was perfect and I know God used her to help me keep my eyes on Him and stay focused on what He has me doing.

Later on - same day - I had a chance to sit down with another friend who I consider to be one of the most uplifting people on the planet, and I came away with a renewed sense of purpose and hopefulness about the work God has ordained for me.

It's easy to get caught up in the daily grind and forget the miraculous ways God has intervened in our lives. When that happens, we need to remember what God has done. We need to review His faithfulness and His goodness to us and when we do, we find new strength for a new day.

Last night, I realized that I never shared the interview with you here. So I'm taking care of that today. :) Who knows? Maybe there's something that God can use to inspire you to press on and run your race well.

I had a blast talking with Carolyn Knefely and Vonda Skelton about Covert Justice, my family, stories, my writing process, writing with children in the home, NCIS, and why I love writing romance. It might be fun for those of you who don't know me personally to hear my Southern drawl as I share about God's faithfulness in my publication journey.

And if you're a writer--especially a writer mom--I hope this will be an encouragement to you.

You can click to here to listen to the interview. I'd love to hear what you think.


Click to Tweet
Talking #writing, #publication and why I love romance. Encouragement for the #writermom. http://bit.ly/28S7sZQ #amwriting #romanticsuspense 





Friday, June 17, 2016

A Few Thoughts....The Selah Awards - Part 2 edition

A month ago I shared a few thoughts on being a finalist for the Selah Awards in the Mystery and Suspense category. (You can read that post here).

In that post, I made the following statement…“I am not going to win."

Well…
I was wrong.

To my absolute and complete shock, Covert Justice won the 2016 Selah Award for Mystery/Suspense! 

I’ve had almost a month to think about it, to let it settle in my mind, to stop looking at the plaque on my mantle in stunned disbelief, and I still don’t have the right words to describe how I feel.

I’m a writer. I really should be able to handle this.

All I know is that when my name was called, I temporarily lost all sense of time and space. It was truly like having an out of body experience. I remember fighting back tears. I remember walking up to the stage. I remember smiling at the camera. I remember stumbling back to my seat and people smiling and congratulating me as I passed. I remember sitting down and realizing that I was trembling from head to toe.

Note the glasses and
goofy grin!
I forgot to take off my glasses (which I hate but am currently wearing all the time because of a tenacious eye infection). If I had been required to give a speech it would have been a disaster because in that moment I wasn’t entirely sure what my own name was. I’m pretty sure I looked like some bizarre version of the Joker because there was this weird grin plastered on my face that I couldn’t get control of.

But beyond that, I’m still processing the whys and hows of it all. 

I am so humbled. So stunned. And still wondering if there might have been a judging mistake. :) 

Me with my awesome agent,
Tamela Hancock Murray!
Covert Justice is my first book. I love it. It will always be special and dear, but in the year since it was released I have had so many days when I wondered if this writing thing was just too much to deal with right now. If maybe everyone would be better off if I walked away. (Can you say "Mom guilt"?) 

I have prayed so many times for clarity. Not for a sign, really. Just for peace and confidence that this journey was one I should be on.

Being a finalist and then actually winning an award like the Selah makes it hard not to believe that I’m at least moving in the right direction. 

So fun to have Shana Asaro, a Love
Inspired editor there! 
I know God is up to something with my writing. I have no idea what, but I’m thrilled to be following His lead and I’m excited to see where He takes me next. I'm also terrified! It's quite daunting to be faced with a very clear directive from the Almighty!

I want God to receive all the glory and praise. I want my readers not only to enjoy the stories I write, but to love Him more and to see Him more clearly than they did before. 

This summer, I am waiting to hear about my next book, writing a third, and brainstorming ideas for a new series. I would so appreciate your prayers as I lean hard into the Ultimate Storyteller and seek to craft new stories that will honor Him!




Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Hard Lessons on Envy

I'm so excited to introduce you to my friend Felicia Bridges. Her new book, CzechMatejust released. I got a sneak peek a few weeks ago and it is awesome!! Perfect for the teens (and adults) in your life who love a great story and have a heart for missions.  Here's a little bit about CzechMate...
Nicole Wise loves her new life in Prague almost as much as she loves telling people about Jesus. But when an election upset changes the balance of power in the formerly communist country, Nicole’s outspoken attempts at evangelism lead to her parents’ arrest on espionage charges. Teaming up with Jakub, a handsome, young Romani Czech, who has grown up homeless, Nicole and her little brother, Adam, evade corrupt authorities by hiding out in underground tunnels of the ancient city while hoping to find evidence of their parents’ innocence. Their last resort is to make the proof public in a desperate bid to save them before it’s too late. When Nicole and Adam’s parents are caught in a standoff between political forces that threaten to erupt into a bloody civil war, Nicole finds herself standing alone against an army, faith her only defense.

AGGGH! Doesn't that sound awesome?!

Felicia has such a passion for the Lord and for living her life on mission. Her post (written a couple of weeks ago while the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference was in full swing) spoke to me. Well, it actually hit me between the eyes and stomped on my toes...you've been warned!



******

It’s started already.

Most of my writerly friends are spending this week enjoying a slice of Carolina heaven known as Ridgecrest at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference (BRMCWC). The Facebook posts about packing and preparing started weeks ago and with them, the little green monster crept in.

Facebook itself fed the monster with reminders of years past and the fun, fellowship and worship we enjoyed together.

Before long, I found myself posting things like, “Jealous,” or “Wish I could be there” or emoticons with tears flowing down.


But this morning our pastor had a message just for me – a message I would have missed if I had been at BRMCWC.

It wasn’t the key point of his message, but he made this statement that has echoed in my heart all day: “Envy is based on a doubt of the goodness of God to you.”

It’s a child receiving a cookie and wanting to see his sister’s cookie to be sure she didn’t get something better.

It’s a husband ogling another man’s wife.

It’s an employee with bitterness over their co-worker’s success.

Envy tells us no matter how blessed we are…is there something more? Am I missing out? Is God keeping His very best for someone else?

Ah! And there we have it – the root of the very first sin. Doubting the goodness of God.

When Satan tempted Eve in the garden, this was the lie he used. The lie that tells us that God is withholding His very best or giving it to someone else. It suggests that God’s motivation is not in our best interest.

Now for confession time. The very reason I couldn’t make it to the conference this year is because of God’s magnificent and overwhelming blessings. Over the past year, God has blessed me by guiding me to a publisher (Vinspire Publishing) and an agent (Julie Gwinn, with The Seymour Agency).

By His grace, I signed a contract not only for the book I had finished writing, but for the second book I had barely begun.

By His grace, I was able to finish that second book and meet the deadline.

By His grace, my employer has allowed me to take time off to work on writing. By His grace, I’ve been able to meet deadlines at work that seemed impossible.

By His grace, we celebrated two graduations in a single day – one from graduate school, the first in our family, and the other from college.

By His grace, both of my daughters found their forever love, godly men who honor and treasure them. By this time next month, both will be happily married.

In the midst of all this joy, sorrow and grief, almost guilt, gripped me as God brought to mind so many friends who are grieving. Grieving the death of a child. Grieving a child who has lost their way. Grieving a parent who isn’t there to share special moments.

The disparity between all these blessings in my life and the grief in the lives of people I love brought me to tears.

What if you’re watching others receive blessings while your health is failing, your finances are tapped out, or someone you love is standing on the threshold of meeting Jesus face-to-face?

What if you’re sitting on the sidelines watching your friends’ children graduate, while mourning the loss of your own?

What if you’re watching your friends get married and wondering if your Boaz will every show up?

What if you’re working harder and harder and earning less and less?

Who wouldn’t look longingly at those around them and wonder, why me, Lord?

Joni Eareckson Tada, who lost the use of her arms and legs at age 18 in a diving accident, said, “My weakness, that is, my quadriplegia, is my greatest asset because it forces me into the arms of Christ every single morning when I get up.

As Pastor JD Greear put it, “I would gladly forfeit everything if it means I know God more.”

Do we want more of God as a means to the end of providing for our needs and wants – or is He the end we seek? Is knowing Him worth giving up everything else?

“Jesus is better to us than anything life can give us or that death can take away from us.”

Paul put it this way, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

Whether your life is filled with blessings and busy-ness or turmoil and tragedy, choose today to value God above anything this world has to offer. Resist the enemy who crouches at your door seeking to devour by filling us with discontent over the life that God has purposed for us.

Rather than envy my friends at the conference, I choose to thank God for His blessings, to silence the voice of doubt that suggests I am missing out, and to enjoy the conference vicariously through their posts, tweets, and pictures knowing that God gives to each of us good gifts in perfect season.

*******

Felicia Bridges
Felicia Bridges’ nomadic childhood as an Army BRAT created a passion for missions and travel which energizes her writing. The International Mission Force Series, featuring teenage missionaries around the world, begins with CzechMate, available now. Book two, BoliviaKnight will release in December 2016.
Her blog, www.AdventuresThatInspireAction.wordpress.com, focuses on living on mission wherever life’s adventure leads.

Felicia has a B.A. in Psychology/Human Resources Development from North Carolina State University. Her ten years’ experience as an HR Manager provides for interesting stories and as a Dale Carnegie Course graduate, she is equally comfortable speaking to a stranger or an auditorium full of people.

Catch up with Felicia’s adventures at:
Facebook: Felicia Bowen Bridges – Writer
Twitter: @fbridges272
Pinterest: Felicia Bridges
Instagram: fbridges2





Monday, May 30, 2016

What I Learned in April and May

I missed the April version of this post because…well….you can read about that in a minute. So I’m squeezing two months into one.

Here goes...

Cancer Sucks. This isn’t new information, but it was brought home to our family when my Mom was diagnosed with Stage 3C Ovarian Cancer. In the past few weeks, she’s been through major surgery and two of a planned six chemo treatments and she is A.MAZ.ING. She is totally rocking the “no hair” look and hats may become a permanent part of her style going forward. She’s a fighter and she’s battling this cancer with everything she has. 

Prayer Works. Again, not new information, but sometimes you get slapped between the eyes with prayers that you’d given up on ever being answered and then God does it in His own time and His own way and all you can do is stand back in astonishment and know in the core of your soul that “God did that.” 

I have the World’s Greatest Friends. You may think you do, but, I’m very sorry, because you don’t. (Unless you are in the same circle of friends that I’m in, in which case, you’re as blessed as I am). My friends have performed the friendship equivalent of Cirque du Soleil acts over the past few months. Watching my kiddos, bringing food, calling, emailing, texting, praying . . . They have loved me so well.

I really do love knitting. I don’t do it nearly as often as I would like, but I do enjoy it. I need to spend more time with my knitting needles and a little less with Pinterest or Instagram while I’m watching TV. 

It really is an honor to be nominated. You hear people say that all the time about the Oscars or the Emmys, and I have to admit I’ve often wondered if it is true. Well, it is. When I got the word the Covert Justice had been named a Selah finalist I couldn’t believe it. I never for minute believed I would win it, I was just thrilled to see my name in the same space as my mentor. (See this post for more info).

It’s fabulous to win. I had the closest thing to an out of body experience that I’ve ever had when Covert Justice actually WON the Selah award. I had one of those, “wait, was that MY name” moments and then one of those “I hope I didn’t hear that wrong and am making a huge fool out of myself” moments as I walked back to the stage. If there were bubbles over my head filled with my thoughts all anyone would have seen was, “What?” “Really?” “Did I hear that right?” “I wonder when they’ll realize they tallied the votes wrong?” “Is this really happening?” “I hope I don’t trip” “HOW did this happen?” and “I can’t believe it!” The best thing about the evening was that I didn’t have to make a speech because it would have been a disaster.

Reading outside my usual genre is something I need to do more often. I write romantic suspense and it is my favorite genre to read. I’ve never understood people who only read one genre, but over the years I’ve found my own reading frame narrowing, not by choice but necessity. There are only so many hours in the day! But over the past couple of months I’ve picked up a couple of fantstic books and while I certainly didn’t learn anything about how to better write a suspense novel, I hope the way the authors laid their stories on the page—with unique structures and prose so beautiful I often had to stop and savor the words—will inform my own writing in ways I can’t yet know.

Middle School isn’t so bad after all. I cannot begin to tell you how I dreaded making the transition to middle school with our daughter. A new school, new kids, new teachers. So.Much.New. But she has thrived. She loves it so much that we are all dreading the long days of summer ahead. She particularly enjoyed all her Special Olympics activities—especially cheerleading. That little bitty one in the front? That’s my girl.


Chalk Pastels are cool. I heard about chalk pastels on a podcast a few weeks ago and promptly ordered a small set. They are cheap and require nothing more than paper and some baby wipes for cleanup. I saved them for a day when we needed a new activity and my boys LOVED it. They drew apples, pumpkins, clouds, tornadoes, BB8 (from Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and then went wild creating their own masterpieces. I don’t consider myself an artist, but this is something we can do. Definitely worth checking out if you need a rainy day activity with your crew this summer. 

I learned so much more, but this post is already ridiculously long. What did you learn this month?

Grace and peace,

Lynn

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Few Thoughts . . . the Selah Awards edition



Let me welcome you to my first “A Few Thoughts” edition. Some (like today’s entry) will be more serious and thought provoking, but not all! I have future “thoughts” to share with you on everything from the NCIS season finale (sniff) to chocolate. If you enjoy these, please let me know!

Now…

I’d like to share a few thoughts with you today about the Selah Awards.
The Selah Awards are given each year at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. They are awarded to books published during the previous calendar year. Selah Awards are given in nineteen categories.

I had no plans to enter Covert Justice in this or any other contest. My reasons included, “It’s my first book so it doesn’t have a prayer,” and “no one has ever heard of me” and the ever so fun, “I don’t want to waste money entering a contest I have 0% chance of winning.” 

My writing mentors tag teamed me one day and set me straight. They were quite persuasive and their threats logic convinced me that as an author, it is my job to promote my book in every way I can, including entering contests I have 0% chance of winning. ;) (When someone develops a sarcasm font, I’m going to be an early adopter).

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when my phone blew up with the news that Covert Justice was a finalist in the Mystery/Suspense category of the Selah Awards.

Covert Justice
I stared at my phone for quite a while before I actually believed it was true, even though my sources aren’t the kind of people to joke about something like that. Then I started giggling the way someone does who’s received a great shock and isn’t sure if they should laugh, cry, shout “Hallelujah,” or run away until it has all blown over.

Because now I had a problem. 
A big problem.
I don’t like competition. I’m the person who wishes everyone could win. Even in sporting events when I have a strong favorite, I always feel sorry for the losing team. :( 

But now, I have to go to a banquet and someone will read my name, and then in front of about 400 people I will find out whether or not Covert Justice actually won. 

I am not going to win. I am completely okay with that. The other two books in the category, No Place to Hide and Rodeo Rescuer, are both fabulous (yes, I've read them and so should you) and both were written by my friend and writing mentor, Lynette Eason. She is awesome. Seeing my name in the same category as hers makes my stomach turn flips. The phrase “it’s an honor to be nominated” has never made as much sense to me as it does now. 

But in the past few days, I’ve felt this gnawing (and, frankly, highly annoying) sense in my gut that I haven’t handled this well. Oh sure, I made a small announcement on Facebook. I put the “Selah finalist” logo on my blog page, and then I dropped it. 

I don’t like calling attention to myself. I don’t like being in the spotlight. I’ll be glad when it’s all over.

Anyone else seeing a problem here? 

There have been a lot of “I’s” in this post. 

Yes, I wrote the book.

But *I* am not now, nor have I ever been, responsible for it selling, for it reaching anyone’s heart, and most certainly not for it being a Selah finalist. 

When I keep quiet, I’m really only protecting myself and that comes straight from a place of pride.
What I should have been doing is sharing the great news with anyone and everyone who would listen! I should have been recounting the story—the way God impressed on me the idea to enter the Killer Voices contest, the way He enabled me to write more words than I’ve ever written in a few short months, the way He guided me through selling the book, signing with an agent, and all the crazy steps of the revision and editorial process that ultimately led to the book landing on shelves and in people’s homes.

Covert Justice is not mine. It is His. Any glory or praise Covert Justice receives is also not mine. It is His and His alone.
And I’ve been squelching it out of pride and my own insecurity.

It’s kind of late to do much about it other than send this post out into the world. The awards will be presented tonight and I will be there. I bought new shoes, had a pedicure, and even tried out some new sunless tanner. When I walk into the banquet and people acknowledge Covert Justice, my goal will be to point them to Jesus. To how amazing He is. To how blessed I am to get to have a tiny part in building His Kingdom by writing the stories that He gives me.

I’m not attending so I can soak up the attention and bask in my fifteen minutes of fame.
My prayer, my heart’s desire, is to be a reflection of my Savior. To make His name great and to spread His fame.

I covet your prayers—not that Covert Justice wins—but that God will be glorified.

Click to Tweet: A Few Thoughts on tonight's #SelahAwards2016 at #BRMCWC. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Make the Jump

I’ve been asking God to “Edit At Will” (you can read my last post here) and this week He took out His holy red pen and told me it was high time to MAKE THE JUMP. 

Let me explain.

I love Star Wars. 

I’m not a complete nerd about it. I haven’t read all the books. I don’t know all the backstories. I can’t remember the name of every planet. But I do enjoy the movies and I’ve enjoyed sharing them with our boys. We watched Star Wars: A New Hope a few weeks ago, and one scene jumped out at me in a way I never expected. 

Side note #1 - If you don’t think God can speak to you through ANYTHING, I would like to remind you about a guy named Moses and one burning bush. God can and will use things in your day-to-day life to speak TRUTH into your soul if you’ll pay attention. 

Side note #2 - Don’t worry if you hate this stuff. I promise it will make sense in a minute, even if you’ve never seen the movies. (Although, if you haven’t, can we talk later?)

Anyway, in this scene, our favorite characters are on board the Millennium Falcon (that’s a very fast spaceship for those who don’t know) and they are being chased down by Imperial cruisers (the bad guys). Young Luke Skywalker is questioning why Han Solo (the captain of the Millennium Falcon) isn’t making the jump to light speed. 

You can watch the clip here: 


Ben Kenobi: How long before you make the jump to lightspeed?
Han Solo: It'll take a few moments to get the coordinates from the navicomputer.
Luke Skywalker: [frantic] Are you kidding? At the rate they're gaining—
Han Solo: Traveling through hyperspace ain't like dusting crops, boy! Without precise calculations we could fly right through a star or bounce too close to a supernova and that'd end your trip real quick, wouldn't it?

I’ve been thinking about this clip for days, because you know what else I seem to think isn’t like dusting crops? 
Life.

Sadly, I’ve come to realize this is how I approach much of my life. I’m anticipating making the jump into the unknown and I’m terrified I’ll run into obstacles. To mitigate the danger, I plan—obsessively—and far too often I never make the jump.

Millennium Falcon 
I don’t have the Millennium Falcon’s navicomputer. I have a Bullet Journal and a bunch of colored markers. I have the type of personality that enjoys making lists. I’m the kind of control freak that wants to plan things days/weeks/months in advance and finds great comfort in my plan. 

The problem isn’t with the planning. Planning is smart. We serve a God who came up with the most elaborate and glorious plan ever conceived. I don’t think God is anti-plan.

The problem comes when I keep trying to land on a plan that will help me avoid failure, and until I find the perfect plan, I remain stagnant. Pretty sure God is anti-stagnation.

I’m thinking about moving forward.
I’m dreaming big dreams.
I’m imagining a bright future.

But I’m going nowhere fast.

God did not call me to go nowhere. He didn’t redeem me to live out my life without making an impact for Him. He hasn’t left me here to think about doing things for Him. He actually expects me to DO them. He expects me to use my brain (hello navicomputer) and then he expects me to MAKE THE JUMP.

Maybe I’m the only one, but I don’t think so. My guess is that as you’ve read this you’ve come up with at least one thing, and maybe a whole list of things, you’ve been delaying. 

Maybe it’s a ministry you need to jump into. Maybe it’s a story you need to write. Maybe it’s a business you need to start. Maybe it’s a class you need to take. Maybe it’s a neighbor you need to talk to. Maybe it’s more about your health or your diet because you know you can’t serve effectively when you can’t even walk up a flight of stairs without gasping for air. 

I don’t know what yours is. 

I know what mine is, well, are. 
I know I’ve done more than enough planning to avoid the major catastrophes. I’m not in any danger of bouncing too close to a supernova and you probably aren’t either. 

Jumping may take us out of our comfort zone.
At this point, the jump may mean things get hard. It may take me out of my comfort zone. It may make me sweat (literally and figuratively). Jumping now will probably mean hitting a few bumps, scraping some knees, and probably being embarrassed at least a time or two. 

But the alternative is unacceptable. I’d rather risk the jump now than find myself blown out of the sky before I ever have a chance to see what God has out there for me in the “hyperspace” of His will for my life.

Anyone want to make the jump with me? 

Proverbs 16:9 - The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

Click to Tweet - Is it time to Make the Jump? Lessons on faith from Star Wars!  

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Edit At Will

For the past several years, I’ve been writing a monthly post for my dear friend Edie Melson’s amazing blog, The Write Conversation. I send it to her a few days in advance (ok, sometimes one day in advance) and I always include these words in my email …
Edit At Will.

I don’t want to publish junk. I certainly don’t want to publish junk on her blog. I’m writing for her, and if she doesn’t like it or has any suggestions to make it better I want to hear them. 

She’s never sent anything back for a rewrite, but she does reformat the work to make it visually appealing on her site. She adds gorgeous photos and when she’s done with it the finished product is polished and (I hope) represents her well.

That’s why I say “edit at will.” I’m not writing these posts for my audience. I’m writing them for hers, and as such I want her to be pleased and feel like the words reflect her mission.

I was thinking about those three little words the other day in a different context.

I was thinking that those three little words—edit at will—should be my prayer.

Every day. Every schedule. Every event. Every (gulp) plan.
Lord, please, edit at will.
Change whatever needs to be changed.
Polish my life until it shines.
Help me be a beautiful and true reflection of You.

But it’s so hard.
It’s a sad truth, but it’s easier for me to give my friend free rein over my words than it is for me to give the God of the Universe free rein over my life. 

The first day I prayed that? Oh yeah, you guessed it. My day ran off the rails before 8AM. By lunchtime I was staggering around like an outmatched fighter desperate to hear the bell. And I had hours and hours to go. When I remembered my prayer from  the morning, I started laughing. Not in a “ha-ha that’s funny” way. It was more of a deranged, one step away from a full-blown panic attack kind of way.

Really, Lord? Because if this is what I’m going to get when I pray this way— 

But then I thought about it a little more.

That crazy day? It would have gone that way regardless of my prayer. The difference came when it dawned on me what was happening (several hours later than it should have). I was able (slowly) to regain some perspective.
Was this ridiculous day going wrong? Or, maybe, was it going exactly right?
Was it falling apart, or was it falling into place?

It looked nothing like what I’d been expecting, but I’m not God. I couldn’t predict the day. He could. He knew before it happened. He was already there in the crazy and upheaval. He wasn’t surprised at all. He was ready to help me, to redirect my path in a way that would bring Him the most glory. 

I still don’t know why the day went nuts. I do know that when I looked back at my calendar for the week I discovered something very interesting. The things that didn’t get done that day that went upside down? They all got done later in the week. The only negative repercussions were my own issues with not being able to say, “I got everything done today.” 

I’m trying to pray this more often. Some days go off without a hitch. Most don’t. But when the wacky Wednesdays hit on a Thursday, I’m hearing that still small voice in my soul whispering, “We talked about this. Remember?” 

I wish I could tell you that I’m now cool, calm, and collected all day long no matter how the day goes. I’m not there yet. (Just ask my kids).

But I’m asking God not only to edit my day, but to edit me as well. To illuminate the darkness in me, the fears, the desperate need to control everything. To eliminate the junk and reformat me into someone that represents Him well and makes Him look good. To help me live my life in a way that makes others want to know Him.

Most of all, I’m asking Him to help me remember that my life is not my own. I’m not here to fulfill my own purposes, but His. 

So I ask again . . . Father, edit at will.