Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Author Behind the Story Series - Penny Shane Richards

Greetings from the sunny South! 

It's the second Wednesday of the month. That means it's time for another page in our "Author Behind the Story" series! This marks Interview #4 of the series. I hope everyone has enjoyed this series so far as much as I have. It's fun getting to know new people. It's even more fun getting to know the authors behind the titles I see on Amazon, Facebook, and elsewhere. A book title and cover is great, especially when it's a great cover. But who is the person who wrote the pages in between? That's why we're here! So, when you finish reading this page, you can scroll down and catch the rest of the series!


This month, we welcome - to the blog "Where imagination meets eternity" (drum roll, please...) - Penny Shane Richards!




Give us a quick bio. In fifty words or less, who is Penny Richards? 

Among a few other things, I’ve worked as an interior decorator, store clerk, short-order cook, caterer, B&B owner, and florist’s helper. I love my God, my small town, learning new things, forensics, and anything creative. I believe in all the old-fashioned values of hard work, respecting people and property, fairness and honesty.

Before you ever got a notion of becoming a writer/author, how old were you, and what were you doing in that time of your life?

I was in high school, had always been a voracious reader, wrote poetry and liked to draw.

What educational background do you have?

I finished my first year of high school in Illinois, and then my family moved to Hot Springs, AR, my sophomore year, where I graduated. I had no desire to go to college, plus, back then, mostly the smart/or rich kids went. I had the grades, but I would have hated it. I was extremely shy back in those days. My high school offered something called Diversified Occupation, and you could take several different things for very little money.  I thought I wanted to be a nurse, but my grandmother was horrified and said, “I’ll pay for beauty school if you take that.” I said, “Okay!” LOL So I went to beauty school my junior and senior years in the afternoons and a month in the summer. It’s come in handy through the years.

I also finished a two-year long correspondence course from Chicago School of Interior Decoration when my kiddos were small. Very intense, but I could work at my own pace. I’ve used that a lot through the years, since my husband and I flipped mobile homes and houses before it was the going “thing.”

I’m also a Master Gardener.

Ugh. Gardening. Lawn Work. Landscaping. Those are all four-letter words to me. I know some people love it. They say, "Oh, it's my therapy working in the garden or the yard." After I work in my yard, I need therapy. Physical. Psychological. Spiritual. The gamut. So, my hat's off to you if your a Master Gardener. Now, next question. I'm going to give you a shotgun list of favorites. List your favorite in each category and then tell us in one sentence why it is your favorite:

Favorite Food: Country cooking, though I don’t turn down much of anything.
Favorite Drink: Sweet tea. I may be Northern born, but am a Southerner through and through.
Favorite Song: “Poeme” by Giovanni. It is so beautiful it makes me cry when I hear it.
Favorite Non-Fiction Book (other than your own & besides the Bible): DEVIL IN A WHITE CITY
Favorite Bible Verse: In His favor is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. Psalms 30:5
Favorite Movie: ROB ROY. It is the story of an honorable man and shows what true love is.
Favorite Actor or Actress: Paul Newman
Favorite Novel (other than your own): THE MISTRESS OF THE ART OF DEATH. It’s rich in historical information, has a very different, complicated heroine, mystery and story line.
Favorite Novelist (other than you): Ariana Franklin. Author of the above book.
Favorite Sport: Baseball or golf. I had grandsons who played both.
Favorite Team (Can be any sport, any level): St. Louis Cardinals, baseball
Favorite Subject in School Growing Up: English
Favorite Subject Now: History
Favorite Teacher in School: All of my English teachers.
Favorite Time of the Year: Autumn. I like the colors, and the fact that the earth is getting ready to rest for a time.
Favorite Place to Vacation: A lake somewhere. I’m not a fan of the ocean, hot sun, or rugged, rocky mountains. I like green, and shade and lakes and creeks so clear you can see the bottom.


           
If you had one person you could meet (think outside the Bible here) and could spend as much time as you wanted with that individual, who would it be?  

That’s a hard one. Margaret Thatcher?

If you had one person you could meet (think ONLY Bible characters here) and could spend as much time as you wanted with that individual, who would it be besides Jesus?  

Mary, the mother of Jesus. I’d like to know what He was like as a child.

Besides the usual things authors face, has there been an unusual event that changed your perspective about being an author?

Trying to keep my career going while also helping my husband with his business. We were always self-employed, and I worked side by side with him most of the time. Also, trying to balance my work and family. I didn’t always do the best job with that.

What’s the craziest thing you have ever done?   

This was VERY scary to me. In 1991, my agent contacted me and said he had a client who had started a mainstream novel about a woman trying to break through the glass ceiling in big business. This man was a world renowned seventy-something scientist/businessman (helped develop the intercontinental ballistic missile, TRW to name a couple of his accomplishments) who wrote non-fiction books related to his work. Would I be interested in working with him since he had no idea how to write fiction? Uh, yeah! At that time, my mainstream novel about horse racing had won the Reader’s Choice Award for Best Single Title. So, we read each other’s work to see if we thought we would be compatible. He flew me to Los Angeles for four days, and we worked together, plotting and working out the kinks.  This was HUGE for me, since I am a fraidy cat when it comes to doing something like that.  I don’t think  I left my room unless it was to have breakfast with him. The work was a true collaboration. He provided all the business/technical/ “insider” type of information to me on cassette tape, and I transcribed what I needed and did the actual writing.
            We spent six months getting about 140 pages and a synopsis ready. It was sent to various houses, but unfortunately our agent got very ill, was out of the office for almost half a year and the agent handling his clients didn’t do us a very good job. Meeting and working with Dr. Simon Ramo (shameless name dropping) was one of the highlights of my career and my life. I could call him at any time and get put right through…unless he was talking to Bush the first which he did every day during the Gulf War. My brush with true fame.

Why do you live where you live? 

I live in a small Arkansas town of less than 300 people and LOVE it! I don’t like cities and traffic and hustle and bustle. I can leave my UPS packages at the local printers to pick up. People know you by name. This place is very supportive and has some wonderful people.

We know “Readers are leaders, and leaders are readers.” Is there a book you’ve read in the past five years or so that has helped you become a better you? If so, which one was it, and how did it affect your life? 

My son gave me a copy of JESUS CALLING by Sarah Young almost five years ago. There is nothing in it that I don’t know as a Christian, but it helps remind me of certain things, and it’s relevant every year, no matter what’s going on in my life. There are days it is so on target that I sometimes think God shuffles the devotionals so I’ll read a certain one just when I need it! I can’t tell you how many I’ve bought the book and given to others.

When you look for a new home, what are the things that are important to you? 

No subdivisions! Trees, trees, trees! A little land is good. I’m not too picky, because I can see the potential in any wreck of a house and love working on them.

When you look for a new car, what are the things that are important to you?

Nothing new. Dave Ramsay made a believer out of me. As long as it looks reasonably okay, has four wheels, air and heat, I’m good to go. I’m not one who is after status in home, car, clothes, etc. I’m just simple, plain old me.

When you are looking for a book to read, what are the things that are important to you?

I like to read almost anything, including non-fiction. I love reading Medieval historical mysteries, and psychological thrillers. I’ll pick up a genre I don’t normally read if it’s recommended.

Are you married? Single? Have kids?

I’m a widow for more than 4 years now. My husband and I were married 50 ½ years. I’m the mother of two boys (both of whom are grandparents now) and one daughter (ditto), grandmother of nine, and great grandmother of 3 ornery, precious little boys, 4, 7 and 9.

I’m sorry for your loss, Penny. I'm sure the Bible has helped you over the years deal with your loss. What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most, and why?

“My grace is sufficient to you.”

This line seemed to be spoken in my mind at a time I was going through a very difficult time. I was having a lot of trouble forgiving someone who had hurt me and mine badly. I cried almost all the time, and didn’t sleep. When I heard those words in my head out of the blue, my world seemed to shift back into place and I was able to forgive and move on.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers about you, or anything we didn’t cover? 

Even after writing and selling more than 40 books, I’m still very insecure about my work and worry that it will fall short.  As a dear friend of mine once said, “the book in my head is never what comes out on the page.”


I like that because I can relate. You always feel like it could be better, too. Well, Penny, it's been a pleasure having you on my blog site. Thank you for taking the time to stop by and give us a picture of the person behind the many titles you have produced so far. Take care, and may God continue to bless your writing!

Dear Reader, if you want to get to know Penny more, you can visit her here:


Twitter: @pennyRwrites

Facebook: Penny Richards, Author, Lilly Long

Until next time, God Bless you, and may you Bless God!

Kevin




Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Author Behind the Story Series - Debra Webb Rogers


How do you like my glasses?
They belong to my granddaughter.
Greetings from the sunny South! Hope everyone is thawing out up north.

It's the second Wednesday of the month. That means it's time for another page in our "Author Behind the Story" series! I hope everyone has enjoyed this series so far as much as I have. It's fun getting to know new people. It's even more fun getting to know the authors behinds the titles I see on Amazon, Facebook, and elsewhere. A book title and cover is great, especially when it's a great cover. But who is the person who wrote the pages in between? That's why we're here! So, when you finish reading this page, I've listed the page linl for our previous authors, in case you missed them! 

This month, we welcome - to the blog "Where imagination meets eternity" (drum roll, please...) - Debra Webb Rogers!

Welcome, Debra! Give us a quick bio. In fifty words or less, who is Debra Webb Rogers? 

I spent the first decades of my adult life working as a professional ballet dancer. I danced with the Birmingham Ballet, The Israel Ballet and the Florida Ballet. When I left the world of performing, I began my current job: teaching dance at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, a public performing arts high school in Jacksonville, Florida. When I’m not writing, my hobbies include genealogy and various artistic endeavors, from tatting to art.


That's interesting. I would never have equated tatting and ballet dancing, So, before you ever got a notion of becoming a writer/author, how old were you, and what were you doing in that time of your life?

I wrote little stories and poems when I was in elementary school! I actually thought about becoming a writer at that time, when a professional writer came to my school and talked about how he wrote books. I was fascinated!


What educational background do you have?

I went to Pompano Beach Senior High School in Florida, and then to Florida State University where I received a B.S. degree in Education. I also performed with their dance department. I chose FSU because of their education program, their dance program, and because it is such a beautiful place.

  
You know Debra, I'm a Gator fan. We have two favorite teams: The Gators and anybody playing FSU. So, to invite you onto my blog is definitely a God thing (J/K). I do think we're gonna get you guys in football in 2017, but I digress. Are you married? Single? Have kids?

I am married (for 22 years) to my wonderful husband Sam. I have an equally wonderful adult stepson, Chris. Sam and I share our home with two cats and one dog.

  
I’m going to give you a shotgun list of favorites. List your favorite in each category and then tell us in one sentence why it is your favorite.

Favorite Food: Anything chocolate
Favorite Drink: A glass of merlot on Friday night
Favorite Song: Ghost in This House by Alison Krauss, and The Dreaming Fields by Trisha Yearwood
Favorite Non-Fiction Book (other than your own & besides the Bible): Books on historical unsolved mysteries – like the Lost Colony of Roanoke.
Favorite Bible Verse: Matthew 6:25-27 (Because I am a worrier!)
Favorite Movie: Somewhere in Time
Favorite Actor or Actress: Christopher Walken
Favorite Novel (other than your own): The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Favorite Novelist (other than you): Terry Kay
Favorite Sport: Ice skating and gymnastics (as an observer, not a participant)
Favorite Team (Can be any sport, any level): Jacksonville Jaguars
Favorite Subject in School Growing Up: Art
Favorite Subject Now: History
Favorite Teacher in School: Victoria Leigh (ballet instructor)
Favorite Time of the Year: Spring
Favorite Place to Vacation: North Carolina Mountains


           
Debra writes under the
pen name Violet Rightmire
If you had one person you could meet (think outside the Bible here) and could spend as much time as you wanted with that individual, who would it be?

I’d like to meet Serge Diaghilev. He wasn’t a dancer or choreographer but he changed the face of ballet in the early 20th century, and influenced many dancers who became famous and went on to pass on his legacy.



If you had one person you could meet (think ONLY Bible characters here) and could spend as much time as you wanted with that individual, who would it be besides Jesus?

I have always wondered about the unnamed woman Jesus forgives for adultery. I’d like to meet her and learn her name, find out more about her, and what her circumstances were. I think she would be a fascinating person to meet.


I heard a comedian say once he thought the reason why the Jewish leaders tossed their stones to the ground when Jesus said what He said ("Let he who has no sin cast the first stone") was because Jesus was writing their girlfriends' names in the dirt. Wouldn't you love to know what He was doodling in the dirt? Okay, besides the usual things authors face, has there been an unusual event that changed your perspective about being an author?

This is an interesting question for this particular moment in my life. Last month my husband almost died of a double pulmonary embolism. But God was with us every step of the way, and I am so thankful for the miracle we received. My husband is home now and recovering well. It makes me remember that everything is in God’s hands and in His time. As far as how this relates to writing, I remind myself about this when my latest manuscript collects rejections.



Ugh. We all know about rejections. Been here. It's simply part of the business. On that sour note, what’s the craziest thing you have ever done?  

Accepting a one-year contract to join the Israel Ballet when I was barely 22 years old. I’d never been out of the United States, didn’t speak the language, and had no idea what I was getting into!

  

Why do you live where you live?
Debra's writing assistants

I live in Jacksonville, Florida, because I accepted a contract to dance with the Florida Ballet. I stayed because I love Jacksonville’s unique combination of big city amenities tucked into a small town atmosphere. I live in a 1923-era cottage in a lovely, walk-able historic district called San Marco.


  
We know “Readers are leaders, and leaders are readers.” Is there a book you’ve read in the past five years or so that has helped you become a better you? If so, which one was it, and how did it affect your life?
           
I read My Name is Maude by Katherine Murray Steele. It is the true story of a young woman who taught in a one-room schoolhouse in a remote mountain community in the 1920s. The author’s matter-of-fact details about the difficulties of everyday life in such a remote location made me think about (and appreciate!) all the things we have today that we take for granted – like indoor plumbing and central heat!

  

When you look for a new home, what are the things that are important to you?
  
A new home must have the right “feel.” It would be an old house with character – floorboards that creak, windows that rattle, angled ceilings, and a potential for secret hiding places. In other words, it would be very much like the house I have now!



When you look for a new car, what are the things that are important to you?

I just purchased my dream car this past summer: a blue Subaru Forester. My husband and I spend lots of time in the North Carolina mountains and an all-wheel drive is a necessity.


  
When you are looking for a book to read, what are the things that are important to you?

I look for something different. In fiction I love a story with some mystery, some historical basis, and also a hint of the paranormal. I also love non-fiction books in history, biography, or science genres. Any books I think about long after I finish them are the best! I love being haunted by a book.



What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most, and why?

 John 3:16

  
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers about you, or anything we didn’t cover?

Just as I love being haunted by a book, I hope my novels do the same for my readers.

To find out more, please visit my website: www.debrawebbrogers.com


Thank you, Debra, for taking the time to visit with us! We hope your writing dances to new heights, and we pray your husband continues to recuperate fully.


And may God bless all of you, our readers, as you bless God.

Kevin


PS - If you missed the first two ABTS entries, click below:



   

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

My Author Interview on Kathy Harris's Divine Detour Blog




Had the wonderful opportunity to do an interview with Kathy Harris on her website's blog: Divine Detour.  Click HERE for the interview.

Thank, Kathy!






Monday, February 27, 2017

Conferencing for Christ (An MTL Magazine Blog)




I don’t understand quilters, gardening enthusiasts or salesmen. Making patchwork art, a necessity for colonial winters, doesn’t thrill my soul. Neither does pruning flowers in the sweltering heat of a swamp-like Florida. Forget sales as a career. I’m not wired that way.
Though I don’t understand the excitement about such things, I do understand why they do what they do. It’s something they love.
Read the rest of my article, Conferencing for Christ, at MTL Magazine


Friday, February 24, 2017

A Legacy of Writing (A Seriously Write blog)




It wasn’t too long ago. I was sitting in my office, tapping away at the keyboard, trying to meet a deadline, when the doorbell rang. Our oldest daughter and her family had arrived. An expected visit to drop off our two grandsons so Mom and Dad would go out and remember why they started this whole plan years ago.

I could hear my grandson, Landon, ask my wife, “Where’s Papa?”

“He’s in his office.”

He bebopped in, a big smile on his face. “Hey, Papa.”

“Hey, buddy. Did you come to see me?” I extended my arms for a hug.

“Yep.” He gives me a hug and looks at the computer screen. “Whatchadoin’?”

Wanting to see how the wheels would turn in that over-imaginative head of his, I said, “Papa is writing a book.” (I knew it would spark interest because he’d just started learning how to read, and books were such a new, “cool” thing to him.)

“You’re writing a book?” The look on his face was precious. The wonder in his eyes and the astonishment in his tone said it all.



Read the remainder of the article HERE!





Wednesday, February 8, 2017

"The Author Behind the Story" Series - Buck Storm

Greetings from the Sunny South!

As I stated in my short blog post on January 7, introducing my new blog series, The Author Behind the Story, I wanted to get to know better the authors behind the stories I read or have heard about from someone I know. I also wanted readers to either get a chance to strike up a deeper relationship with these authors or get to know a new author they've never read before. It's all about the relationships here. Ones that will move forward long after the last page is turned.

So, with that little preface, I want to introduce to you to author-and songwriter-Buck Storm!

Buck, Welcome!  Give us a quick bio, will ya? In fifty words or less, who is Buck Storm?

I’m Buck Storm. I grew up in Yuma, Arizona—a son of the Southwest. I’m a touring singer/songwriter and the author of two novels. My wife and I have a happy love story and two wonderful, grown children.           

Before you ever got a notion of becoming a writer/author, how old were you, and what were you doing in that time of your life?

I remember hiding under the covers as a very young kid with a flashlight and a stack of Louis L’Amour novels. I think that’s when I fell in love with story. Later I read everything I could get my hands on. I’ve always loved to write. I think that’s why I began writing songs but the dream of becoming a novelist has always been there. In fact on the application for my first real apartment I lied and said I was a writer. At the time I figured it was more of a small fib since I wrote songs. Oh boy…           

You know what? I play the drums. Self-taught. Can't read a lick of music, drum or otherwise. Play by ear, but I can pick up most things. Have played in two different church praise teams...

Wouldn't it be cool to have a jam session sometime? We could invite our mutual friend, Jim Hart. Hmmm... 

But I digress.

What educational background do you have?

Honestly, I joined a band my sophomore year of high school and barely graduated. In fact, I had to make up a class in summer school to get my diploma. Then I was off to New York to play music. Over the years I did get some college in, including commercial dive school in Santa Barbara, CA. I have to say my real education has come from reading and travel. I’ve been blessed to see a lot of the world.

Are you married? Single? Have kids?

My wife, Michelle, and I have been married for twenty-seven years. She’s my best friend, partner in ministry, and fellow traveler. We have two kids—Ransom (22), and Willow (20). Ransom married a year ago so now we also have Sarah, the best daughter-in-law in the world.

I’m going to give you a shotgun list of favorites. List your favorite in each category and then tell us in one sentence why it is your favorite.

Favorite Food: Mexican. Always reminds me of home.
Favorite Drink: Whiskey. Not often but hey, you asked!
Favorite Song: At the moment “Feelin’ Good Again” by Robert Earl Keene but that could change in the next five minutes.
Favorite Non-Fiction Book (other than your own & besides the Bible): Have to say two here: “No Compromise” (the Keith Green story) and “Abandoned to God” (biography of Oswald Chambers). Both deeply impacted my life!
Favorite Bible Verse: Psalm 46. It reminds of who He is and who I’m not.
Favorite Movie: Toss up between Field of Dreams and A Room With a View. Both brilliant!
Favorite Actor or Actress: John Wayne. Because he’s John Wayne. 
Favorite Novel (other than your own): Way too many to list. I’m a junkie—dangerous at yard sales.
Favorite Novelist (other than you): Larry McMurtry. At least at the moment.
Favorite Sport: Baseball. Are there others?
Favorite Team (Can be any sport, any level): The Dodgers. I still watch the 1988 World Series on Youtube.
Favorite Subject in School Growing Up: Literature. Because it seemed like the opposite of math.
Favorite Subject Now: Literature. Because it seems like the opposite of math. 
Favorite Teacher in School: Mrs. Kaufen. 7th grade was a hard time of life. She was tough and stable.
Favorite Time of the Year: Winter. As long as I’m in Hawaii—if not, then Summer.
Favorite Place to Vacation: Kauai. But the world is my back yard!


If you had one person you could meet (think outside the Bible here) and could spend as much time as you wanted with that individual, who would it be?
           
Maybe Louis L’Amour. He really lived, and he wrote about it. I think old Louis would be endlessly entertaining to talk to.

If you had one person you could meet (think ONLY Bible characters here) and could spend as much time as you wanted with that individual, who would it be besides Jesus?

Barnabas. I think he would have a lot to say that we don’t see in the scriptures. Besides, who doesn’t need a little encouragement?

Besides the usual things authors face, has there been an unusual event that changed your perspective about being an author?

Hard but honest answer; We had a very bad experience with a church and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through. Not only for myself but because it effected the whole family. The good part is it really focused my intent to write. I’m not sure my first novel would have happened without that pain. 

What’s the craziest thing you have ever done?

My life has been a series of crazy/stupid. Two that immediately come to mind are standing on the wall of my fishing boat in a storm when we thought we were going over (so scared I couldn’t feel my legs). And struggling to keep my mind clear 210’ under water on a dive job off the Pacific coast (probably shouldn’t have made it back from that one!). But God has plans for us that reach beyond our bad decisions. Thank you, Lord!           

Why do you live where you live?

We live outside Coeur d’Alene in Northern Idaho. I love rural—never been a city guy. We wanted to be somewhere our kids could throw rocks and have horses. We’re certainly not a video game family. Northern Idaho is pure beauty.

We've looked at property in that neck of the woods before. It does look pretty. We always say we're going to move from Florida someday. On good days, it's a beach on the east coast or the mountains of North Carolina. On bad days, we look at Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. :-) But enough about me. 

We know “Readers are leaders, and leaders are readers.” Is there a book you’ve read in the past five years or so that has helped you become a better you? If so, which one was it, and how did it affect your life?

PURCHASE HEREI love, “The Quotable Tozer”. I think of A.W. Tozer as the poet-theologian. He inspires me constantly.

When you look for a new home, what are the things that are important to you?

First—filled with family. We live in an old farmhouse built in 1908. I love it and probably wouldn’t trade it. Wouldn’t mind a view of a lake though.

When you look for a new car, what are the things that are important to you? 

When I was a kid a wise old bass player told me a car was a simple device to get your amp from gig to gig. I think he was right. If I had a gazillion dollars I’d probably still drive an old pickup.

When you are looking for a book to read, what are the things that are important to you?

I really like a wide range of things. An interesting cover certainly helps. I love great authors—Hemingway, Steinbeck, O’Henry, etc. all for different reasons but I like modern fiction too. I guess I’m just looking for well-told stories. I can say I’d probably never pick up a book with a romance couple or on the front. I also generally steer clear of Amish and vampires (and don’t even get me started on Amish vampires).

What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most, and why?

John 3:16. Can’t live without it.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers about you, or anything we didn’t cover?

Well, I’m home today writing this after a short road-trip of concert dates. The sun is shining and God is in control. I’m content. He’s good to me and I want to return the favor. I need to be genuine. I always strive for my writing to be a byproduct of my faith. It’s often very easy to get that backwards. True art should reflect who we are, not who we want to be perceived as. I want to be His man. One thing I’ve learned as I get older and dumber—I was a genius when I was eighteen—I’m certainly don’t need to wait for fame or sales to make me happy. Life is good. I have everything I need—I have Him. I know I have a lot to learn and, hopefully, some more pages to fill. I have a long way to go but I have an eternal and faithful traveling companion and I plan to enjoy every inch of the trail.

Fair winds!  


Buck, it's been a pleasure having you here and getting to know you. Our prayers are with you, your wife, and your family. May God help you find time to write and play music for Him! And stay warm!!

If you wish to connect with Buck, you can find him @ www.buckstorm.com.

May God bless you all, and may you bless God!

Kevin

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Memories Spend Better than Money (A More To Life Magazine Article - Money Column)





"If only Hallmark had followed historical tradition when they began mass-producing paper cards in 1913. We might have a different outlook on February 14 today.


Despite the pagan festivals and sainthood of three men named Valentinius, we like to romanticize the holiday here in the 20th century with cards, candy, dinner and um…well, love. That’s if you’re married or dating, of course. If you’re single and have no significant other at this time of year, then the holiday is not-so-lovingly referred to as Singles Awareness Day, or SAD.

Could it be the holiday has ballooned into the commercial endeavor it is today because the focus is all wrong? If your “go-to, last minute” heartfelt affection materializes as a box of chocolates, a bouquet of flowers from your favorite vendor, a card with a sappy saying and dinner at an upscale restaurant, then may I say it?
You’ve fallen prey to the hype.
You are part of the $20 billion problem.2 Don’t fret, though. We’ve all played a role in the billion-dollar proliferation that is Valentine’s Day. We’re all guilty. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Click here to see the rest of the story!





Friday, January 27, 2017

Words That "Transcendicate" Culture (A Seriously Write Blog)



Hands, Words, Meaning, Fingers


My wife and I were watching our favorite movie over the holidays,  A Christmas Carol, starring George C. Scott. As I munched on popcorn, I was struck in a new, unique way by the phrase, “Bah! Humbug!” I know. It’s an old phrase. Been around since…well, 1843, right? When Charles Dickens wrote the story?

Actually, yes and no...

To read more, click HERE!





Wednesday, January 11, 2017

THE AUTHOR BEHIND THE STORY SERIES: Kristin Neva


Greetings from the Sunny South!

As I stated in my short blog post on January 7, introducing my new blog series, The Author Behind the Story, I wanted to get to know better the authors behind the stories I read or heard about from someone I know. I also wanted readers to either get a chance to strike up a deeper relationship with these authors or get to know a new author they've never read before. It's all about the relationships here. Ones that will move forward long after the last page is turned.

So, with that little preface, I want to introduce to you to author Kristin Neva!

Welcome, Kristin! To get us started, give us a quick glimpse, in fifty words or less, of who is Kristin Neva?

I am a mother, caregiver, speaker, and author. My husband, Todd, and I wrote a memoir called Heavy, Finding Meaning after a Terminal Diagnosis. He and I have a blogging and speaking ministry focused on finding meaning in the midst of suffering. Between running my kids to various activities and caring for my quadriplegic husband, I write small-town, inspirational fiction. My first novel Snow Country was published in December 2016, and the second novel in the Copper Island series, Copper Country, will be published June 2017.

Before you ever got a notion of becoming a writer/author, how old were you, and what were you doing in that time of your life?

Starting the fourth decade of my life, I was living in Racine, Wisconsin, with my husband and baby daughter. I was a bit stir crazy, having shifted from full-time ministry work to being a stay-at-home mom. I needed a creative outlet, something to keep my brain growing. I started taking writing classes at our local community arts center and wrote some short pieces. I’ve always been a reader, and I’ve kept a journal since I was 12. I even took extra English classes in college just for the pure joy of it, so writing was a natural fit for me. 

What educational background do you have?



I graduated from Moody Bible College with a degree in Youth Ministry. When I went on a college tour and visited Moody as a seventeen-year-old, I knew it was the college for me. I loved the excitement of the city, and I wanted to make a difference in the world. As a college student, I got involved in inner-city ministry to teens. I went on to coordinate a tutoring program and help lead a youth group in Milwaukee, WI.


So, you already stated you are wife and mother. How many children do you have, and what are their ages?

I have two children. My daughter, Sara, is ten and my son, Isaac, is seven.


I’m going to give you a shotgun list of favorites. List your favorite in each category and then tell us why it is your favorite.

Favorite Food: Fresh-picked Upper Michigan blueberries.
Favorite Drink: I’m a new coffee drinker. I had never liked coffee, until our pastor changed the church coffee over to a high quality, micro-roast brand. I took a sip, loved it, and realized I had only tried bad coffee.
Favorite Song: Our God is a Great Big God. I play the guitar and lead music for kids at church. They love this one, and I love watching them do the motions.
Favorite Non-Fiction Book (other than your own & besides the Bible): Story Trumps Structure, Steven James. I didn’t know how to apply much of the writing advice I had heard until I read James’ book. He cuts to the essence of what makes a story work.
Favorite Bible Verse: John 11:35 “Jesus wept.” I love that this verse embodies the incarnation. As I live with my husband’s terminal illness, I find comfort in Jesus having experienced suffering and the same emotions that we experience. 
Favorite Movie: I like the classics like The Sound of Music and Bringing up Baby. I just introduced my kids to Bringing up Baby, and it has been fun to find occasions to quote the movie with them in our daily life.
Favorite Actor or Actress: Again, I love Julie Andrews as Maria. I have grand visions of myself running through fields with my guitar—though I think Julie Andrews probably didn’t have a guitar in her case in the scene when she was running. It’s awkward to run with a guitar, which I know well because I’m frequently running into the church on Sundays to be on time to lead music for the kids.
Favorite Novel (other than your own, of course): Any of Jan Karon’s novels that are set in Mitford.
Favorite Novelist (other than you, of course): Jan Karon. She created the charming world of Mitford with a lovable characters like Father Tim and Cynthia. They are my friends, and I delight in the details of their life.
Favorite Sport: Hockey. Up here in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, we embrace winter and with it, hockey.  
Favorite Team (Can be any sport, any level): The Michigan Tech Huskies—our local college hockey team. 
Favorite Subject in School Growing Up: English.
Favorite Subject Now: English
Favorite Teacher in School: Mr. Smith—he was—of course—my high school English teacher.
Favorite Time of the Year: Summer. I love living in a place where we have four distinct seasons, although I admit by March, when we have many weeks of winter left, I am weary of the snow. Summer is all the more glorious after a long winter and a cold spring.
Favorite Place to Vacation: Vacations are too difficult today, given my husband’s complete quadriplegia. I don’t like to leave home. We have all the equipment necessary to make life manageable right here at home. But in our pre-ALS days, I loved our escapes to warm winter destinations. California. Florida. The white sands of Siesta Key.

If you had one person you could meet (think outside the Bible for this question) and could spend as much time as you wanted with that individual, who would it be?

I would have a glass of raspberry cordial with Lucy Maud Montgomery, the author of the Anne books. Montgomery was not a stranger to suffering and she wrote to escape the hardships of real life. I think we’d connect, maybe even be kindred spirits.

Funny you should mention Anne of Green Gables. I lived in a house full of "women" (a wife and three daughters). It was Chick-flick central for years. And I have to say, some of them weren't that bad, and the Anne movies were some of the best, IMHO. I guess I should read the books sometime, huh? 

If you had one person you could meet (think ONLY Bible characters for this question) and could spend as much time as you wanted with that individual, who would it be besides Jesus?

Peter. I love Peter because he was so gung-ho about following Christ, then he failed so miserably, but yet he was reinstated. Even with all his failings he was “the rock” upon which Jesus would build the church. 

Besides the usual things authors face, has there been an unusual event that changed your perspective about being an author?

Just over six years ago, my husband was diagnosed with ALS, a degenerative neuromuscular disease that results in complete paralysis and eventually death, usually within 3 to 5 years. Todd was just shy of his 40th year, and I was in my early 30s. We had a four-year-old daughter and a nine-month-old son. Todd had a good job, and we lived in a 1925 bungalow, which we were renovating room by room.

Life didn’t change much right after the diagnosis, except our dreams died. Career advancement. Family vacations. Reaching old age together. We just hoped he’d live long enough for our children to remember him.

I read a number of books at the time about suffering, but most were written by people who had made it through the hard times and reflected on the ordeal with perspective that I wasn’t able to find at the time. I couldn’t relate to them, because I didn’t think it was possible to come out of the miry pit.

Todd and I began to blog (NevaStory.com), and then our blogs turned into a memoir, Heavy. We dealt with the raw emotions of the first year after a terminal diagnosis when there doesn’t seem to be any hope. The book has received positive feedback from people who feel that we’re with them in their suffering.

And now that my husband is disabled and it’s impractical for me to work outside the home due to his need for 24-hour care, I’ve turned to writing what I love to read—small-town fiction. I explore life issues and spiritual themes with quirky characters on Copper Island. Todd is my chief editor, and I bounce ideas off of him. It’s good for our marriage. Grief needs action. Writing’s a way we’ve been able to build something good from the life we’ve been given.
  
What’s the craziest thing you have ever done?

This won’t shock my fellow Finns, but it does surprise others. Growing up, on New Year’s Eve, my dad would fire up the sauna and then break a hole through the ice in our pond with his backhoe. We’d warm up, and then jump in the freezing pond. Again and again.
  
That is crazy. I've never understood the Polar Bear Plunges people do for sport. I think even polar bears only jump in when they need to eat, right?

Why do you live where you live?

After Todd was diagnosed with ALS, he said, “We need to move by your parents. We cannot do this alone.” He had known a family friend with ALS, and he knew it takes much support from friends and family. We moved from Racine, Wisconsin, to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where I was raised. We purchased a few acres on the side of my parents’ property, and then built a house where the old barn used to sit.

I’m thankful daily for the decision to move here. My mother is a saint who helps keep me sane, helping run the kids around town, taking them for nights now and then, and giving my husband massages and range of motion nearly every night. My father had been very supportive, too, until his untimely passing last March, and I’ve also lost other local relatives over the last few years. Aren’t all deaths untimely? Though death is certain and inevitable, it always feel wrong. Our souls long to be in heaven.

But even with the passing of so many family, we’re still surrounded by many friends in this community where neighbors help neighbors. We have a few volunteers who take shifts some nights to help turn Todd so that I can sleep. The climate is harsh here — averaging over 200 inches of snow per year — but hearts are soft.
  
We know “Readers are leaders, and leaders are readers.” Is there a book you’ve read in the past five years or so that has helped you become a better you? If so, which one was it, and how did it affect your life?

Philip Yancey’s Disappointment with God. Yancey reflects on the questions I have as I experience on-going grief and sleep-deprivation as a caregiver for my husband: Is God unfair? Is God silent? Is God hidden? Yancey is one of the few authors I have come across who resonates with me as he explores this subject with depth and thoughtfulness in multiple books. I touch on similar themes in both my non-fiction and fictional works.        

 When you look for a new home, what are the things that are important to you?

Todd and I designed our home to meet his needs. He was still walking at the time, but we knew a day would come when he’d be in a wheelchair. We have an attached garage, something that is surprisingly not common in the Upper Peninsula, but absolutely necessary to load and unload him from our accessible van. Our house is built on grade with in-floor radiant heat, so his toes stay warm in the winter. He has a roll-in shower, and tracks are mounted on the ceilings for an electric hoist to transfer him.

Our house is located on the Keweenaw Peninsula, which juts out into Lake Superior and is cut-off from the mainland by a canal. Cold winter winds blow across the lake and pick up moisture, depositing a couple inches of lake effect snow nearly every day from the middle of December until the end of February. Every house must be designed to account for snow removal and prevailing winds. Garage doors must be placed on the gable ends, and roof trusses must be designed to hold over 120 pounds per square foot of snow load.
  
When you look for a new car, what are the things that are important to you?

In the Keweenaw, four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive is a big plus, but the most important thing for us is accessibility. My husband is in a wheelchair, so our vehicle must have a ramp to load him. I do have an all-wheel-drive Toyota Sienna that I use to run errands, but when Todd is with us, we need to take his accessible van. With snow tires, it does all right as long as the snow isn’t too deep.
  
When you are looking for a book to read, what are the things that are important to you?

I’m a voracious reader. I enjoy small-town fiction and read just about anything of that genre that comes into our library. I like books with strong character development, and that’s what I want to write. The characters should be my friends, and I should care about what happens to them.

 What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most, and why?

It’s a verse from Romans 8 that one of my characters quotes in Snow Country: “Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?” Sometimes my life feels like an Upper Michigan winter—spiritually, emotionally, and physically—and I feel like spring will never come. But just as our two hundred plus inches of snow will eventually melt and we’ll enter a glorious summer, I have hope in Christ, hope that one day there will be an end to all the suffering we experience here.   
  
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers about you, or anything we didn’t cover?

My husband and I are Finnish-Americans—third-generation Americans, yet we retain a slice of Finnish culture that is prevalent in the region where I live and write about.

The old Finns called this place Kuparisaari, Copper Island, and it was the favorite destination for Finnish immigrants from 1870 through the early 1920s. Many Finns escaped abject poverty for the promise of fortune to work in underground mines that supplied 90% of the country’s copper.

Since Finns once made up 20% of the population in the Copper Country, they had a noticeable impact on the local culture. My fifth-grade daughter told us the other day that her teacher asked for a show of hands of who has a sauna—every hand was raised. The streets in town are named in both English and Finnish. Many families retain Finnish names for their favorite dishes.

The mines have long since closed. Once glimmering shaft houses are now rusted, empty shells or tourist attractions. Sandstone walls of roofless buildings enclose mini birch groves. A dredger from a reclamation plant is pulled up off the shores of Torch Lake, listing lifelessly to its side. And the Portage Lake lift Bridge, built in 1959, carries snowmobile traffic on its lower deck that has been stripped of its railroad tracks.

These remnants are proud reminders of the past golden years—or shall I say copper years. Though incomes are low and the housing stock is old, it would be inaccurate to describe the area as economically depressed. People choose to live here, in spite of the harsh climate and low wages. Copper Island has a natural beauty that nourishes its residents.

In my writing, I attempt to capture the essence of the culture, climate, and creation. The region almost becomes a character in itself. So much is already been written about Italians in Brooklyn, or the Irish in Boston. I hope to introduce the world to the Finns in the Keweenaw.


Kristin, it's been a pleasure having you here and getting to know you. Our prayers are with you, your husband, and your family. May God help you find time to write for Him! And stay warm!!

If you wish to connect with Kristin further, you can visit her @ www.kristinneva.com or read about her journey with her husband @ www.NevaStory.com.

May God bless you all, and may you bless God!

Kevin



























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