Thursday, May 28, 2009

Jon & Kate Plus Eight - a few thoughts.

I've been watching - and I'll admit, reading - a lot about Jon & Kate Plus Eight, along with the rest of the world.

In many ways, it's like watching a car or train wreck happening, and doing nothing about it.

In private, I've expressed frustration with the evangelical church for sitting back and watching this happen to a family that until very recently, the same "church" has been actively promoting as an example of today's Christian parent.

I've wondered out loud if the same churches that invited Jon and Kate to talk about their family and their faith (and helped promote their book) are offering a lifeline to the couple as they struggle in their marriage.

Right or wrong, regardless of choices made, and regardless of their "celebrity" status, this is a family in crisis.

Christians - again, I toss myself into the mix - are good at being there when things go right (or even moderately wrong), but when something like divorce or separation is mentioned, people are often quick to assign blame and even quicker to say, well, they just should have had a deeper faith.

Because the Gosselins live very public lives - and thanks in part to social networking like Facebook and blogs - millions of people are weighing in on their situation.

The comments left on the show's Facebook page and in response to numerous articles are pretty brutal. Somehow the anonymity provided by screen names allows people to leave hateful and hurtful messages. At best, it's like getting passed an anonymous note in junior high. At worst, it's something you would find on a bathroom wall.

Going through a crisis like this in the public arena is heart wrenching. But often, instead of offering comfort and care to people like Jon & Kate, Christians seem to turn their collective backs just when the people hurting need them the most. (Just ask Amy Grant what happens when you "fall from grace"or at least off the "Christian pedestal" - but that is a different story.)

Instead of criticizing Jon & Kate - and reading gossip and speculation - I'd rather spend my time praying for them. Hopefully others, who are within their circle of influence, will reach out and help them in tangible ways.

I keep being reminded of this year's mission trip theme - based around Matthew 25:35-40.

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"

I'm praying that someone will reach out and offer the Gosselins what they need most, during this crisis.

* * * * *
Note: I love the blog, written by Diane Butler Bass, originally published this week on beliefnet.com. I've excepted it below. I think she sums up several things about the plight of an evangelical family in 2009. You can read the entire blog by clicking on the link above.

In Jon and Kate's case, evangelical gender expectations seem to be the root of their troubles: they reversed the parental roles. After a couple of seasons, Jon decided to stay at home and Kate went on the road to promote the show and their books. The choice made Jon increasingly sullen and Kate happier and began to wear at their relationship.

For evangelicals, this is an unusual arrangement that leaves the husband open to charges of "feminization" and the wife of being difficult. The Gosselin's tensions demonstrate how unsuccessfully conservative religious groups have been dealing with gender--and how when a woman like Kate Gosselin breaks with tradition in order to pursue what she loves--even when her business is family and motherhood--she gets both blamed and punished for problems in her relationships.

Kate kept saying, "it is so complex; it is so difficult," unable to stop her tears. In a way, she embodies many evangelical women who struggle between the role of homemaker that their churches assign them and of finding interesting and creative work in the world. Kate, despite all her pretensions to tradition, is actually a very contemporary woman with feminist inclinations--one who is figuring out that her theology is at odds with the way life works out.

She often violates the mores of a nice evangelical mom (which I think is part of the appeal; she is, in many ways, an evangelical fantasy mother). She clearly likes travel, Oprah interviews, and book signings. Staying at home with eight kids can be a drag, so she left her husband with them only to find out that there may have been a girlfriend, too. Success, good children, happy marriage--are they all possible within her theological framework? "I have a lot of anger," she said on Monday's program. I bet.

How dreary it is to watch a relationship implode on national television. In some measure, the failure is theirs. But the conservative evangelical community shares some of that failure, too. The religious world to which Jon and Kate belong never successfully navigated the gender changes of the last three decades, insisting that happiness can still be found in hierarchical roles of male superiority and female submission.

Having rejected feminist theology, evangelicals can't really navigate contemporary marriage issues like those facing Jon and Kate. They made celebrities of the Gosselins for being traditionalists, yet that success eroded the very basis of the traditionalism on which their family was based. Now, the woman is criticized for that same success by an increasingly cruel media and tabloid press. I just wonder if all those church people will turn on you next.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Blog Tour: A Closer Look: Susan May Warren & PJ Sugar

Nothing but trouble – Introducing PJ Sugar
By Kaylea Hutson
PJ Sugar would never escape trouble.

With six simple, yet powerful words, Susan May Warren introduces her readers to the newest leading character in the fictitious world of Kellogg, Minn. - PJ Sugar.

A woman with a past, PJ Sugar has spent the last 10 years adrift, not knowing exactly where she fits in her world.

The spiral – which began on the night of her high school senior prom – starts to halt when PJ returns home to take care of her nephew, Davy, while her sister and new brother-in-law go on an exotic honeymoon.

Upon her return to Kellogg, PJ begins to confront the feelings of pain and rejection she has carried with her throughout her young life.

“We’ve all been there rejected, feeling like we don’t fit in, not sure what to do next – wishing we could see the future, or perhaps, correct the past,” Warren explained. “I wanted PJ to be real, relatable and honest.”

That honesty, along with PJ’s struggle with life’s circumstances, provides the foundation for Warren’s new series.

“PJ is that piece of everyone who wants to get it right and doesn’t exactly know how,” Warren said. “She’s a girl led by her hopes and dreams, and her journey is one that I believe everyone can relate to.”

Since driving away from Kellogg in her VW Beetle, life and circumstance has forced PJ to learn a variety of skills.

“I equipped her to become the person we see in [Nothing But Trouble],” Warren said. “It’s a reminder that with God, nothing we do is wasted. Yay!”

Developing a new series
Warren conceived the idea for her PJ Sugar series approximately four years ago, after reading a several Janet Evanovich books featuring Stephanie Plum.

“Although I loved the quirky main character, Stephanie Plum, I didn’t enjoy some of the other, more seedy characters,” Warren explained. “I thought – if only I had a series like this I could read that fit my tastes more – and it occurred to me that maybe I could write one!”

While she admits PJ Sugar ended up being much different from Stephanie Plum, Warren said PJ and Stephanie share at least one characteristic.

“They both share that plucky personality that gets them in over their heads,” she said. “[But I] was able to take PJ a bit deeper, and make the books more about her spiritual journey as well.”

Focusing on a strong, female character
Warren said the “Trouble” books are more than a new series featuring a dominate female character. The books explore how a woman can fit into her world as a new creation in Christ.

“I hope people can see [through PJ’s eyes] that God can use them even if they feel like they don’t fit in,” Warren continued. “[I hope people] understand that God can use them – regardless of who they are, or what they’ve done.”

Nothing But Trouble, the first book in the PJ Sugar series, expands upon the various roles PJ Sugar – and many women – undertake each day.

“As a woman, I wear many hats – mother, wife, Sunday school teacher, writer, speaker, home decorator, etc,” Warren explained. “It occurred to me that most women are the same. We are all trying to juggle our many responsibilities and figure out where we fit in the world.

“I wanted a character who exemplified this struggle – and what how she deals with it.”

Warren admits she has a personal stake in PJ’s development.

“I often say PJ is my alter-ego – the person I’d be without my hubby and four kids,” Warren explained. “I am definitely not perfect, but I have a good God who uses me despite myself. I’m so grateful for that.”

Nothing but relationships
As PJ Sugar discovers her new identity as a Christian, she is also discovering (or renewing) several relationships – including her “old” flame, Boone and a possible new love interest – Jeremy.

“I love Boone and Jeremy – the fight they have over PJ,” Warren said. “PJ can make friends with so many people, as well as take on so many roles. I love PJ’s quick thinking personalities, as well as her mistakes.

“I love the relationships she has with her mother, Davy and Connie, as well as the Russians [Connie’s new, extended family]. Every book I fall in love more with PJ!”

As she develops her relationship with Davy, PJ begins to “rewrite” her relationship with her mother, Elizabeth.

“She finally starts to really hear what her mother has been saying to her all those years ago – because she ends up saying them to Davy,” Warren explained. “It’s sort of that feeling you have when you say something you never thought you would ever say - I call it ‘channeling’ my mother! - and then, suddenly, you are in your mother’s shoes, and you really understand the full picture for the first time. It’s really very freeing!”

Warren said she hopes readers learn at least one key lesson from PJ’s experiences – that God can use them, regardless of who they are, or what they’ve done in the past.

Mixing faith and fiction
Warren weaves faith into her writing for a variety of reasons.

“I believe a true novel tells not only the physical and emotional plots, but should also reveal the spiritual life of the character,” she explained. “We are all spiritual – God made us this way, so there should be a spiritual element to every character’s journey.

“To me, novels should stir the soul and make a reader long for something more – in the case of inspirational fiction – a longing for a relationship with God.”

A look ahead
The next book Double Trouble is set for a January 2010 release. In the book, PJ takes on the identity of another person in order to help Jeremy protect her, and finding herself in way over her head (of course!).

*********** Contest & More ************
Want to win a copy of Nothing But Trouble - I'm hosting a blog contest!
Leave a comment on this blog by Sunday, May 31, along with a funny note about how you "found" trouble (as a student, or adult) and you'll be entered into a random drawing for Susan's scrumptious book.... It's a great read!

Also...you can take part in Susan's Hunt Up Trouble contest!

Hunt up Trouble!
PJ Sugar's first novel - Nothing But Trouble is popping up all over the country! Go Hunting for Trouble, and let me know where you see the book.

Send me (Susan) the Name of the Bookstore where you found it (and the city, please), and we'll put your name in a drawing for a preview copy of The Great Christmas Bowl my Christmas Novella, coming out this fall! (Promo coming soon!) And…send me a PHOTO of you and the book in the bookstore, and we'll add your name 5x!

And you'll also be eligible to win a cool SUGAR Personal SPA BASKET!!

So go....Hunt up Trouble! All the details here http://susanmaywarren.com/contest.html

It's a Blog Tour
Want to read more about PJ Sugar and Susan May Warren? Check out the blog tour by clicking here! Pst...other blogs are hosting book giveaways as well!


Some additional 411 about Susan & PJ Sugar

About the book: PJ Sugar knows three things for sure:
After traveling the country for ten years hoping to shake free from the trail of disaster that’s become her life, she needs a fresh start.

The last person she wants to see when she heads home for her sister’s wedding is Boone—her former flame and the reason she left town.

Her best friend’s husband absolutely did not commit the first murder Kellogg, Minnesota, has seen in more than a decade.

What PJ doesn’t know is that when she starts digging for evidence, she’ll uncover much more than she bargained for—a deadly conspiracy, a knack for investigation, and maybe, just maybe, that fresh start she’s been longing for.

It's not fair to say that trouble happens every time PJ Sugar is around, but it feels that way when she returns to her hometown, looking for a fresh start.

Within a week, her former teacher is murdered and her best friend's husband is arrested as the number-one suspect. Although the police detective investigating the murder--who also happens to be PJ's former flame--is convinced it's an open-and-shut case, PJ's not so sure.

She begins digging for clues in an effort to clear her friend's husband and ends up reigniting old passions, uncovering an international conspiracy, and solving a murder along the way. She also discovers that maybe God can use a woman who never seems to get it right.

Read the first chapter: http://gotsugar.susanmaywarren.com/

About Susan: Susan May Warren is the award-winning author of seventeen novels and novellas with Tyndale, Steeple Hill and Barbour Publishing. Her first book, Happily Ever After won the American Fiction Christian Writers Book of the Year in 2003, and was a 2003 Christy Award finalist. In Sheep’s Clothing, a thriller set in Russia, was a 2006 Christy Award finalist and won the 2006 Inspirational Reader’s Choice award. A former missionary to Russia, Susan May Warren now writes Suspense/Romance and Chick Lit full time from her home in northern Minnesota.

As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Litfuse Publicity Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail


Thursday, May 14, 2009

It's A Sugar Bomb!

The celebration for Susan May Warren's first release in her new PJ Sugar collection, Nothing But Trouble, is about to begin. Join Susan for a month long Sugar Party!



The fun will Kick-off with a SUGAR BOMB on Friday May 15th.

Susan is encouraging everyone to purchase a copy (and maybe a few for friends) of Nothing But Trouble anytime during the day on Friday, May 15.

Every one who purchases a copy of the book will be entered into the contest to win a Sugar Spa Basket. All you need to do is purchase a book at Amazon or CBD (or anywhere else) and then come back here (contest page at www.susanmaywarren.com) and leave Susan a message letting her know where you bought your book.

Easy. And for every additional copies you buy, you'll gain an additional 10 entries into the contest. So just let her know how many copies you bought.


The party will continue all month with a blog tour and chances to win copies of Nothing But Trouble from the blog tourists! View the schedule here!

The Sugar party will conclude in a day of celebration on Friday, June 19 with a day long ONLINE Sugar Bookclub Party. Susan will be giving away prizes, answering questions, hosting a live chat, and generally getting herself into some "Trouble."

(Pst...check back on this blog next week, for a chance to win a copy of Nothing But Trouble and to learn more about Susan!)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Blog Tour: Making Work at Home Work - Interview with Mary M. Byers



Click on the image above to check out the "Making Work at Home Work" Blog Tour!


Meet Mary M. Byers


Writer, speaker, mother, wife – those are but a few of the roles Mary M. Byers juggles every day.

In her newest book, “Making Work at Home Work,” Byers explores how at-home entrepreneurs can develop and hone their business skills, while successfully balancing personal and professional life in a home office.

“I certainly knew I didn’t have all the answers and this gave me a legitimate excuse to talk to others and learn from their experience and suggestions,” Byers said. “I learned that there’s no “right” way to run both a home and a business under one roof.

“I was reminded that flexibility is key. As children grow and their needs change, it’s possible for the business to grow and change too.”

Byers breaks the book down into two sections – “saving your sanity” and “preserving your profit.”

In the first section deals with the personal side of working at home and includes topics like the difference in being “at home” verses “working at home,” handling client crisis and juggling child care issues.

In the second section, she focuses on the business side of working at home, including chapters related to tax issues, equipment, subcontracting, developing a business plan, and saving for retirement.

Scattered throughout her book, Byers introduces readers to 13 different women who run businesses from their home, providing different insights into the topic.

“All are either women I know or women I read about and wanted to get to know,” Byers said. “There were many women I would have liked to profile but there just wasn’t enough space. I do think we had a nice variety of careers represented, however.”

In writing and developing this book, Byers said she has applied many of the lessons to her own life - including the realities of raising children while balancing a career and establishing boundaries between work and home.

“I recognized that my children would only be preschool age for a short time and that I could limit the work I did while they were young,” Byers said. “As they entered school, I expanded my workload and became more willing to travel for speaking engagements.

“But I still limit my work. My daughter will graduate from high school in five years and my son in seven. I don’t want to be so focused on work that I miss precious moments with them. Profit is important, but so are memories.”

Byers said women (or men) working from home need to recognize two things when balancing a home-based business and a family.

“First, know why you are working,” Byers said. “If you’re working for a little extra cash, that’s one thing. But if your family is dependent on your income, that’s another. Knowing your primary reason for working will make it easier to make work-related decisions.”

She said financial-related decisions might evolve, especially as a person’s family grows and changes.

“I started working to help with vacations,” Byers explained. “Now, I’m working to pay for orthodontics, college tuition and retirement.”

The second reason, or thing to know before starting out, she said, is to know how much income is “enough” to meet family needs.

“Setting an income goal makes it easier to determine how many hours you to need to work each week and month,” Byers said. “When I know my income goals are being met, it’s much easier for me to shut my office door and walk away from work at the end of the day.”

Byers said there are several benefits to working at home. She jokes that the “30-second commute” and the ability to work in her pajamas, are her favorite perks.

“I also don’t have to deal with office politics on a daily basis,” she continued.

Byers admits that some businesses are better suited to become home-based careers.

“It’s much easier to have a home-based business if you don’t have to meet regularly with clients and can do most of your work via phone, fax and e-mail,” she said. “With that said, however, I know several woman who cut hair from home -- but all have equipped a separate room or area of their house for this.”

Byers said it is possible to have a career, work at home and raise a family.

“First, there is more work out there for entrepreneurs than I would have guessed,” she said.

“Second, it’s possible to make a decent living without having to work in a traditional environment.

“Third, it is possible for hard work to pay off and dreams to come true.”

Byers said many of the women she intereviewed for the book agree on one thing – balancing work and a family under the same roof is the toughest part of having a home-based business.

“Many women confided that they feel guilty while they work because it takes them away from their kids and guilty when they are not working because work isn’t getting done,” Byers explained. “I experienced the same tug myself. One of the great things about the book is that I was able to include some clever strategies about achieving better balance, all of which have helped me.”

Years later, after establishing her home-based career, Byers said there is one thing she wished she had known as she started her business.”

“I wish I had know that my business model had sustainability and I’d still be at it 11 years after starting,” Byers admitted. “If I had know that then, I wouldn’t have felt it necessary to say yes to as much as I did early on.”

Another lesson she’s learned throughout the years – back up your electronic data.

“Mozy.com is where I back up all my data files,” Byers said. “It’s inexpensive and I like knowing I can restore my files if I have a disaster.”

For those who already have a home-based business, Byers has one piece of advice.

“How you choose to run your business in the future is more important than how you got started or how you’ve run it in the past,” she said.

For those just setting out on the home-based business route, Byers offers some additional advice.

“I recommend starting it on the side, or as a freelance business, in order to see if the model works before you quit another job or invest tons of money into it,” she said. “Working at home is great but you also have to be self-motivated and highly disciplined. Whether you’re an at-home entrepreneur now or want to be in the future, good luck!”

.....Some Additional Details.....
About the book:
Making Work at Home Work shows moms how to develop an entrepreneurial mind-set without sacrificing their families. It covers important topics such as developing a successful business philosophy, balancing time between work and family, setting realistic goals, and handling the challenges of being both "Mommy" and "CEO" while running a profitable home-based business.

In addition to including her own experiences, author Mary Byers profiles real moms with home-based businesses who offer their hard-won advice.

About Mary: Mary M. Byers successfully juggles both a freelance corporate writing and speaking business and her responsibilities as a wife and mother of two school-aged children. She is the author of The Mother Load: How to Meet Your Own Needs While Caring for Your Family and How to Say No . . . And Live to Tell about It. Visit her website to learn more: www.marybyers.com or her blog www.makingworkathomework.com

Contest: Contest! Win a copy of Making Work at Home Work (or another one of Mary’s books--your choice) AND a $25 Amazon gift certificate (for some WAHM essentials – Day Planner, bubble bath, funky file-folders, toddler DVDs)!

There are three ways to win:
* Leave a comment on this post
* Sign up for Mary’s quarterly newsletter where she offer tips and advice about all facets of a women's life: WAHM, mothering, women's issues. More info here! (http://www.marybyers.com/index.cfm?pID=569)
* Join the Work at Home Blog Ring. More info here. (http://www.makingworkathomework.com/2009/04/new-making-work-at-home-work-blog-ring.html)

Link to buy the book: http://www.amazon.com/Making-Work-Home-Successfully-Business/dp/0800732758?&camp=sprightly-20

Schedule:
Want to find other blogs taking part in the blog tour? Visit this link! http://www.makingworkathomework.com/2009/04/making-work-at-home-work-blog-tour.html

As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Litfuse Publicity Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail

Friday, May 1, 2009

Blog Tour: 300th Post - More than A Novel: A story that makes you think!

It's my 300th post - a milestone of sorts - and to celebrate, I'm reviewing a new book - Enduring Justice - and interviewing the author, Amy Wallace.

So grab a latte, keep reading and enjoy!


Enduring Justice
A painful past
Hanna Kessler’s childhood secret has remained buried for over two decades. But when the dark shadows of her past threaten to destroy those she loves, Hanna must face the summer that changed her life and the man who still haunts her memories.

A racially-motivated killer
As a Crimes Against Children FBI Agent, Michael Parker knows what it means to get knocked down. Difficult cases and broken relationships have plagued his entire year. But when the system fails and a white supremacist is set free, Michael’s drive for retribution eclipses all else.

A life-altering choice
A racist’s well-planned assault forces Hanna and Michael to decide between executing vengeance and pursuing justice. The dividing line between the two is the choice to heal. But when the attack turns personal, is justice enough?


A Review: A Look Inside Enduring Justice
Normally I don’t pick up the third book of a series. It’s kind of like tuning into a television show mid-season, or walking into a movie well after it is in full swing.

So I was a bit skeptical when Enduring Justice, part of the Defenders of Hope series, by Amy Wallace landed on my desk.

Typically, I would bypass the third book of any series, preferring to “back track” and read the books in the order they were written by the author.

But for a variety of reasons, I decided to give Enduring Justice a chance. I found more than a novel as I dived into the pages. Instead I found a book that made me think about some deep issues.

Wallace’s novel centers around two key individuals: Hanna Kessler - a photographer, businesswoman and childhood abuse survivor - and Michael Parker, a FBI agent working within the Crimes Against Children division.

(Note: Earlier books in the series focused on Hanna’s brother, Steven – Ransomed Dreams – and family friend, Clint Rollins – Healing Promises. The three-book series focuses on FBI agents who are part of the Crimes Against Children Unit and the gritty realities they face on a daily basis.)

Enduring Justice concentrates on Hanna’s story. The novel opens with Hanna’s struggle to put life into perspective and with her finally coming to grips with an incident of sexual abuse she experienced before her seventh birthday.

Hanna’s world turns inside out when she learns a current case under investigation by Michael, Steven and Clint, directly links back to her childhood abuser. The revelation leads Hanna to confront her abuser more than 20 years after the fact.

Wallace’s writing moves fast and incorporate the points of view of several characters – including Hanna, Michael and the villains. The book’s primary setting – Washington, D.C., allows Wallace to explore a variety of political themes including a sub-plot that involves a politician and a group which promotes racists ideology.

Through it all, the storyline present in Enduring Justice is gritty, and frankly, a bit raw. It’s definitely not the easiest book to read, which Wallace admits is a deliberate choice. She is unapologetic concerning her choice to write a novel with a deep, disturbing subject.

“I’ve been told my stories aren’t comfortable to read,” Wallace writes in her author’s note. “In some ways, that makes me smile. Because it’s when I’ve been nudged out of my comfort zone that my understanding of God is deepened.

“It’s my heart and prayer not to cause pain or be edgy for edgy’s sake, but to shine a light into the darkness so those who are stumbling there might find home and healing.”

Through these stories, Wallace continues, she hopes to remind people who have found hope and healing to “reach out a hand” to help others who are hurting or in pain.

I’m glad I made an exception to pick up this book. It allowed me to discover a new (to me) author, and a new Christian suspense series. While romance is a sub-plot in the story line, it is not included in an unrealistic way.

While the book wasn’t an easy read, it did provide me with something to think about. It also makes me want to find the earlier books – to see how Wallace developed the Defenders of Hope series through the eyes of Steven and Clint.

Want to find out more about Wallace and her books? Check out her website at www.amywallace.com.

Want to read an excerpt from Enduring Justice, visit http://amywallace.com/pdfs/Enduring_Justice_chs_1_and_2.pdf and download a pdf of the first two chapters.

Additional information about the Defenders of Hope series can be found at http://www.defendersofhope.com.

Want to see what others think about the book? Check out the blog tour.....
http://peek-a-booicu.blogspot.com/2009/04/enduring-justice-blog-tour.html
(Note: You'll want to visit this link to see how you can win ALL three books in the Defenders of Hope series!)

****************
Want to learn more about Amy Wallace? Here's an interview with Amy......

Amy Wallace

Becoming a writer – Amy Wallace’s journey of faith


Amy Wallace likes to joke that she was “shoved” into writing by two people – God and her husband – through a series of incidents.

“I accidentally picked up some grown-up fiction at the library while searching for some books for my children,” explained Wallace. “I read that first book and six others by the same author. Then I’d ask my hubby to read them and tell him everything I’d change.”

In response to her enthusiasm - Wallace even developed a story for one of the author’s secondary characters – she found her husband encouraging her to write her own novel.

“My response – ‘no way!’” Wallace said. “But then God gave me a dream about a man on a dangerous quest for answers and an FBI agent with a wounded heart so vivid that I couldn’t forget it.”

She told her husband about the dream – and he immediately helped her quest by setting up an interview with a federal agent he had met.

“I was hooked,” Wallace continued. “By the time I met with the federal agent, I had a decent sketch of a story plot. We met and brainstormed for an hour.

“I left that meeting with a strong plot, characters who breathed and a deep sense that I was doing something God had called me to do.”

Through those initial nudges, Wallace has developed her own style of Christian fiction, which she refers to as “Dark Chocolate Suspense.”

“I love chocolate and suspense and thought they’d make an interesting combo, kinda like a Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup,” Wallace explained. “Dark Chocolate describes my writing - deep and sometimes dark subjects handled in a redemptive way, [or] truth that satisfies.”


Mixing Faith with Romance and Suspense
Wallace likes to integrate suspense, faith and romance into her novels for a variety of reasons.

“Telling stories is as natural as breathing for me,” Wallace said. “Fiction is an amazing vehicle for starting a dialogue with readers and sharing on a deep level.”

Faith, she said is integral to her novels, because Christianity frames her understanding of life.

“It’s who I am, so it naturally flows out onto the page,” Wallace said. “I’m also painfully honest about my own struggles and questions about God, so that works its way into my stories as well.”

She said romance and suspense also help build an exciting story that leaves her, as a reader and writer, satisfied.

“I don’t just want to live through an adventure,” she explained. “I want to learn and grow and share it with someone.”


Defenders of Hope

The genesis of the Defenders of Hope series began, as Wallace watched the Twin Towers fall in New York on Sept. 11, 2001.

“I sat glued to the TV for weeks, watching the firefighters, police officers and FBI help us recover as a nation, help us remember what it means to be an American and what heroes really look like,” Wallace said. “I wanted to do something to give back.

“So my family and I made cookies and cards for firefighters. We took meals to our police precincts. But I didn’t know how to do something like that for the FBI. So when I had a dream about an FBI agent that became a novel, it was my way of giving back to the men and women of the FBI that serve our nation every day.”

Wallace chose to center the series on agents working in the Crimes Against Children Unit – a real unit which strives to keep America’s children safe from child predators. A CACU unit does work out of the Washington, D.C., area. Additional agents are stationed in each of the FBI field offices.

“I’ve had the privilege of talking with a Georgia Crimes Against Children FBI agent and am very thankful for the role these folks play in making the internet and our county safer for children,” Wallace said. “The stories that came together [in the series] all included children, so starting with the dream I had about an FBI agent and a mom searching for answers, the natural agency to focus on was the CACU.”


Real-life fears & personal experience

Wallace said in many ways, she was working through her deepest fears as a mother, as she developed and wrote the Defenders of Hope series.

“I write about crimes against children because too many children are hurt and we as parents and relatives of children can make a difference in their lives,” Wallace said. “One of the things I prayed as I worked was that these novels would help parents watch their kids a little closer and pray a little more.”

Wallace said she relies upon, and integrates her counseling background – she has a bachelor’s degree in counseling and guidance from the University of Louisville - throughout her manuscripts.

“A counseling background comes in handy for understanding what drives humans and their fictional counterparts, as well as being able to show cause and effect for how our past shapes our future,” Wallace said. “What we believe about ourselves and others drives everything we do.

“My heart is not just to show those realities but also to point people into the healing that’s possible. We aren’t doomed by our pasts and we don’t have to continue believing things that aren’t true about ourselves. Not when we can learn, grow, and help others because of the paths we’ve walked.”


Enduring Justice
As the third book in the Defenders of Hope series, Wallace said Enduring Justice went through four fully researched outlines before she and her editor found a storyline that worked.

“It took a lot of prayer and a lot of research to move forward,” Wallace said. “But comments from youth I’ve taught and readers about how they’ve experienced what Hanna experienced let me know this was a story that needed to be told.”

Wallace said a lot of her personal experience – especially the feelings of shame and hiding - found its way onto the pages, as part of Hanna’s story.

“It took five years for me to talk about being raped, and even then I felt so much shame and imagined blame that I still didn’t share my experience with many people at all,” Wallace continued. “From others, I knew that was a common thread among women who’ve been abused.

“All of that went into making Hanna come alive. I pray Hanna serves as a strengthening reminder that others can find the hope and healing she does in Enduring Justice.”

Through it all, Wallace hopes that people look beyond Enduring Justice’s exciting story, to find a deeper meaning.

“I pray that … readers will look deeper into what they believe about God, themselves and others, what forgiveness really looks like, and that they’ll also wrestle with the truth that God is good even when life isn’t,” Wallace explained. “In addition, I pray that these stories will put flesh on the struggle with forgiveness, the lies we believe and how healing is a choice.

“[I also hope] through the characters’ examples, readers will come to experience a deeper sense of God love and the power of His healing.”


What’s next for Wallace
Wallace jokes after three novels, it’s time to give Steven, Gracie, Clint, Sara, Michael and Hanna, a time of peace and rest.

“I’m at various stages with three other suspense projects and excited about sharing more stories that showcase hope and healing and wrestling with deep truth,” she said.


Who is Amy Wallace
Wallace said she wears numerous hats including those of a wife, homeschool mom, writer, speaker, president of a local ACFW writer’s group, co-leader of a young writer’s club and even a “chocoholic.”

“I love writing stories, teaching teenagers, scrapbooking, playing basketball and hiking with my family,” Wallace said. “The beach is my all-time favorite place to be. Chocolate is my favorite food. I collect teddy bears, tons of books and dust on my furniture.

“But getting to the heart of who I am can be summed up in a few short words. I’m a daughter of the King learning to live and love with laughter.”

Wallace said she finds encouragement through readers’ comments on her Dark Chocolate Suspense site – www.amywallace.com.

“It’s a huge encouragement to know God has used one of the Defenders of Hope books to touch hearts and change lives,” Wallace said. “So please stop by the Dark Chocolate Suspense site (www.amywallace.com) and leave me a note! You’ll be giving me a very sweet treat.”


**********************************
Additional information

Want to learn more about the Crimes Against Children Unit, a division of the FBI? Visit http://www.fbi.gov/hq/cid/cac/crimesmain.htm

Don't forget...
About the Defenders of Hope series: Visit www.DefendersofHope.com

Buy the book: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1601420145

Excerpt: http://www.amywallace.com/ej_chapter.html

About Amy:
Amy Wallace is a freelance writer and self-confessed chocoholic. She is a graduate of the Gwinnett County Citizens Police Academy and serves as the liaison for the training division of the county police department. Amy is the author of Ransomed Dreams, the first book in the Defenders of Hope series, and a contributing author of several books including God Answers Moms’ Prayers, and God Allows U-Turns for Teens. She lives with her husband and three daughters in Georgia.

Contest:
Enter to win all THREE BOOKS in the DOH series by signing up for Amy’s Dark Chocolate Suspense Newsletter and then leave a comment on this blog tour post (http://peek-a-booicu.blogspot.com/2009/04/enduring-justice-blog-tour.html). It’s chock full of insider info on the writing world, a thought-provoking devotion, and easy but yummy recipes. If you already subscribe to the newsletter, just leave a comment saying so on the blog tour post! The winner will be chosen at random on 5/8/09. Two runner's up will also be chosen to win a copy of Enduring Justice.

Schedule for blog tour: http://peek-a-booicu.blogspot.com/2009/04/enduring-justice-blog-tour.html

As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Litfuse Publicity Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...