August 29, 2008

Faith & Writing: Cynthia Polansky, author of Remote Control

The Author

Cynthia Polansky is a cross-genre author whose motto is “expect the unexpected.” A professional writer/editor since 1993, she uses her distinctive style to satisfy readers hungry for something different from the ubiquitous romances and mysteries. She is the award-winning author of historical novel (based on a true story) Far Above Rubies, and paranormal “lit for the thinking chick” novel Remote Control. Writing as Cynthia P. Gallagher, she’s penned four nonfiction individual dog-breed books, and is a member of the Dog Writers Association of America. Cynthia’s wide repertory affords her many interesting speaking engagements at schools, libraries, festivals, and civic organizations.

Cynthia lives in Annapolis, Maryland where she is a Writing Center tutor at the U.S. Naval Academy. She is currently at work on a nonfiction book called WHIFF: Human Aroma Through the Ages.

Cynthia can be found all over at the internet by way of her website, blog, MySpace page, and Fictionwise!

The Book

"If the spirit of a loving wife can't control her husband, who can?"

So thinks thirty-something Judith McBride, a Jewish control freak with an unlikely last name. When Judith dies in a medical mishap, she calls on her supernatural status to "rescue" her widowed spouse from the sexy clutches of their gold-digging, thrill-seeking, blonde accountant. But interfering with earthly events is strictly verboten, and the repercussions ripple outward, affecting not only Judith but the lives of her husband and best friend.

Judith's journey from the physical world to the spiritual is peppered with adjustments, choices, and self-discovery, ultimately leading her to the realization that loving sometimes means learning how to let go.

Click cover above to purchase REMOTE CONTROL today!

The Question: How does your faith, your spirituality integrate itself into your writing?

My latest novel, Remote Control, is all about spirituality: the protagonist is a discarnate spirit, the setting is the afterlife, and the plot focuses on improving the soul. I wouldn’t have been capable of writing a book like this without a personal connection to spirituality. The novel allowed me to create “heaven” and “hell” the way I picture them, based on my own Jewish faith and personal beliefs. Judaism focuses on the spiritual achievements during earthly life rather than focusing on the afterlife as a goal. Consequently, there isn’t a lot of scriptural dogma about what happens after we die.

Judaism spells out precisely how we are to approach death, all the way up to burial. After that, we’re kind of on our own. I’ve always been fascinated by different cultural beliefs about death and the soul. In my research for Remote Control, I gobbled up every book I could find on spirituality by authors like James Van Praagh, Dr. Brian Weiss, Sylvia Browne, Dr. Wayne Dyer, and others. From these sources I took information that I found plausible and sensible, and added a dash of imagination to create the spiritual world I hope to find when it’s my turn. At first I wondered if I’d be accused of plagiarism, but I soon realized that the information in those books doesn’t belong solely to their authors; it belongs to all of us.

Like faith, writing is subjective and varying. We’re offered guidelines, but how closely we adhere to them is up to us. It can be limiting or liberating, depending on our view. Our faith is often tested, both in life and in writing. We write because we can; we keep writing because we believe there’s a purpose for it, even if we’re not yet sure what it will be. I think most writers would agree that writing, like faith, is an integral part of our lives and tonic for our souls.

August 22, 2008

Faith & Writing: James A. Jimason, author of Give Me Destiny

The Author

James A. Jimason has a passion to see all people fulfill their God ordained Destiny. From this passion was birth the phrase; “Destiny is calling you. Can you hear it?”™ He is a dynamic Bible teacher and has published four books, with a fifth book coming this fall 2008, entitled “God’s House.” He has a three-year diploma in Ministerial Studies from the Spirit of Faith Bible Institute. He is a devoted husband, a proud father, a son, and most of all – a man of God.

Learn more about James and his work by checking him out @ MYSPACE!

The Book

Give Me Destiny is a powerful book that will change your thinking, thereby changing your course to reach your Destiny. If you want to fulfill the “call” of God upon your life then do not hesitate to get this book! Many people walk aimlessly through life with no real sense of purpose, hoping that life will get better on its own. God has a plan and Destiny for your life, which is not defined by the circumstances of your conception, or the challenges of your childhood. As you read this book, you will find the courage to claim the prize – called Destiny!

James and GIVE ME DESTINY have been featured @ ICE Business Network, Anointed Soundz Radio, and iRockTalkRadio!

Click cover above to purchase GIVE ME DESTINY today!

The Question: How does your faith, your spirituality integrate itself into your writing?

My faith is the foundation of all my books and therefore automatically influences what I write and establishes the reason I write. My main objective is to influence my readers with sound Biblical principles and insights that will help them achieve their goals and aspirations in life. There is a Destiny with our names on it and it is imperative that we embrace it and fulfill it. The beauty I find in sharing my faith in my writing is knowing that my readers have something real that they can glean from, real circumstances that show how God works things out in everyday life. Not only am I “preaching” the power of Destiny in my writing, I am also living it – everyday. My readers can see my faith by my actions (James 2:18-24) and know that God is real. From my experiences with God and knowledge of the Bible, I have to conclude: “Destiny is calling you. Can you hear it?”™

August 15, 2008

Faith & Writing: Susan McGeown, author of Recipe for Disaster

The Author

Susan McGeown is a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, aunt, uncle (don’t ask), teacher, author … but, most importantly, a “woman after God’s own heart.” She’s been a teacher, a Children’s minister, a deacon, a vacation Bible school coordinator, a preschool director, and a Bible study leader. Living in Bridgewater, New Jersey, with her husband of over fifteen years and their three children, writing stories is just about the best way she can imagine spending her time. Each of Sue’s stories champions those emotions nearest and dearest to her: faith, joy, hope and love.

Sue writes stories about women in all shapes, sizes, ethnicities and situations. “Average Women” who God uses for extraordinary purposes. “Tired Women” who suddenly find the strength and enthusiasm to accomplish great tasks. “Insecure Women” who are placed in unavoidable situations and become phenomenal successes. “Older Women” who realize the timelessness of God’s plan for their lives. “Powerless Women” who discover a personal strength unrivaled by most. “Depressed Women” who discover joy and laughter was closer than they ever dreamed.

Faith Inspired Books: real women in real situations who discover real solutions. Women like you and Sue.

Sue can be found @ several online outlets: her website FAITH INSPIRED BOOKS, her BLOG, and her MYSPACE page!

The Book

Nothing could be worse than being a bride abandoned on her wedding day, right? Wrong. Try factoring in an unplanned pregnancy that shatters what is left of Karly Martin’s dreams to be a missionary. But Karly is a survivor, stronger and braver than she ever thought possible. Giving up her son for adoption and accepting a missionary position with a Navajo mission school gives her the chance to build on the dreams she thought she had had to abandon. Slowly, she begins to heal. Earl Nezbegay sees to all of his responsibilities: caring for his quadriplegic sister, and her eleven year old daughter, and helping out at the Navajo mission school. Keeping busy enough not to think, keeping numb enough not to feel, and keeping distant enough not to interact. It’s not exactly living, but it’s surviving. Recipe for Disaster brings together two very broken people. Neither is looking for love, but then life isn’t always what we plan or expect, is it?

RECIPE FOR DISASTER received 5 OUT OF 5 rating with CLG - Check out Book Bytes Review:

An unplanned pregnancy derails Karly Martin’s dream of becoming a missionary. Grief over the accident that made his sister a quadriplegic has kept Earl Nezbegay in “existing” mode. When life throws them together, the healing of wounds and restoring of love begins. RECIPE FOR DISASTER represents what I love about Christian fiction – real, flawed characters that through faith and love for God "get it together". Love, faith, and tenderness make this a winner!

Click cover above to purchase RECIPE FOR DISASTER today!

The Question: How does your faith, your spirituality integrate itself into your writing?

God, Me and My Stories by Susan McGeown

I am a writer of inspirational women’s fiction: realistic, believable stories that acknowledge the existence of worldly temptations and despairs, while at the same time using Biblical truths as solutions and encouragement for success. My stories tell of life like it is, offer hope that things can be better; and admonish while they inspire.

People often ask me where I get my ideas. The easy answer is that God gives them to me, of course. But the more complicated answer involves explaining how my life is like a giant fishing net that is perpetually gathering material: from life experiences, friends and acquaintances, and Bible study. Some combination, huh? I have a tee shirt that says, BE CAREFUL OR YOU MAY END UP IN MY NEXT NOVEL. How true!

I love to write stories that involve magnificent transformations, incredible victories, and assurance of happy endings – not because I’m a big fan of fantasies but because I sincerely believe that all things are possible in a life committed to God. Why not have such expectations? My stories are about real life and real situations and how real people react to the complexities of life. I add in faith, sometimes subtly and sometimes in your face, because that’s real life, too. Then, I weave a story around the concept of the choices we all make – good and bad – and how things inevitably work out in the end. Sometimes it’s a Recipe for Disaster and sometimes it indicates A Well Behaved Woman’s Life.

I write realistic fiction, not fantasy.
With God everything is possible.
Matthew 19:26b

My goal each day is to make God smile. No, I haven’t built any wells in remote African villages nor have I donated enough money to build a new hospital wing. While I’m at it I’ll tell you that I hate to cook, am fantastically impatient, and regularly need to examine my priorities because I tend to slip off course … a lot. But I love to teach – both kids and adults - so I do that regularly at my church. I’m organized and committed once I’m on board with something and I serve with a passionate determination to bring success in all I am involved it. I write – a lot. If I don’t write, stories pile up in my head like a backed up drainpipe – which is never a good thing. These are all things that God has given me that others don’t have. I’m not bragging, just stating an obvious fact. (And please note that I haven’t said I’m fantastically good at anyone of these things, I just seem to have some affinity towards them.) As an added plus, these are things that I enjoy doing. God, in His infinite love and generosity, allows me to use my gifts to His glory … and have a good time doing it. How perfect is that?

Through my successes and my failures I am determined to be a woman of faith no matter what anyone says or thinks. (Picture me with my hands on my hips, my chin raised in defiance.) I want it to be my defining feature, the glue that holds all my pieces together. No matter what hat I’m wearing: mother, sister, daughter, author, aunt, teacher, friend, classroom helper, annoyed customer, neighbor, or stranger – I want it to be the first distinctive quality anyone notices. It’s a noble goal but requires constant work.

Our faith is our identity, our life is our resume, and our message is that we are no one else’s but God’s.
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Philippians 1:20-21

Striving to be a woman after God’s own heart puts every aspect of your life into perspective. Your foundation becomes rock solid, your walls of protection become invincible, your lines of communication are assured, and your ceiling is the limitless sky. No one, no thing can hold you back … but yourself.

Can you now see how my spirituality affects my writing? As God is the very essence of who I am, then everything that comes from me should reflect that – especially my stories. I continue to write because God keeps giving me things to write about. I write for the same reason I teach – because I’d like to make a difference in this world. This is the best way I know how … and make God smile in the process.

August 11, 2008

Faith & Writing: Pamela S. Thibodeaux, author of Tempered Joy

The Author

Award-winning author, Pamela S. Thibodeaux is the Co-Founder/President & Treasurer of Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Multi-published in romantic fiction as well as creative non-fiction, her writing has been tagged as, “Inspirational with an Edge!” and reviewed as “steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.”

To learn more about Pamela and her works, you can check out her website, her blog, and her MySpace page!

The Book

All around rodeo cowboy and heir to the Rockin’ H Ranch, Ace Harris is determined not to fall in love. He’s only loved one woman in his life, his mother, and no one can even come close to filling her boots. Lexie Morgan thinks rodeo cowboys have rocks for brains and a death wish for a soul. A broken childhood and the death of her father and best friend leave her doubting and questioning God (despite her years of religious upbringing) and afraid of love. Can two young people who clash from the onset learn to trust in the healing power of God and find love and happiness amidst tragedy and grief?

Click cover above to purchase TEMPERED JOY today!

The Question: How does your faith, your spirituality integrate itself into your writing?

In the beginning, Adam and Eve walked with God and communed with Him on a personal level. That privilege was destroyed when they disobeyed His command not to eat of the tree of life. Jesus died so that, through the power and in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit, we may be reinstated into a right relationship with God, the Father. A relationship in which we can commune with Him on a personal level, the same kind of relationship that Adam and Eve shared with him.

As a born-again believer, I have that same kind of relationship with God. He is very real to me. I walk with Him, I talk with Him, I get angry and shout at Him, but above all, I LOVE Him and I do my best to honor and respect Him for Who He is, while maintaining a realistic and personal relationship with Him.

I believe that people everywhere need and want to hear more of His truths wherever they can glean them. They want to know a God who is personal and who cares about them, not some great entity in the sky only out to judge and condemn. They are hungry for practical (and real) Christian values, not some ‘holier than thou’ rules, regulations and doctrines that are impossible to believe and impossible to live up to. No matter how hard we try or how well we pretend, No One is perfect. We all fall from grace. We all need a continual washing in the Blood. If we didn’t, then Jesus’ sacrifice would be for naught.

All of this integrates itself into my writing as I try and portray God as personal and as real to my characters as He is to me. I do the very best I can to portray my characters as genuine people...people who get angry or carried away by passion, but still manage to maintain their convictions. People who respect God, His Word, and His commandments enough to do what’s right no matter how difficult that may be. And when they fail, they repent and receive the forgiveness He offers through the shed Blood of Jesus and are reinstated into a right relationship with the Father.

The deepest desire of my heart is to glorify God and to get His message of faith, trust and forgiveness to a hurting world. My hope is that all of my stories will touch the lives of everyone who reads them and - in some way - bring them a truer knowledge of God and urge them into a closer walk with Him.

August 8, 2008

Faith & Writing: Niambi Davis, author of From Dusk to Dawn

The Author

Niambi Davis was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and raised on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. She and her family lived for many years in Washington, DC and for three and a half years, made the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago their home. She has written for Bronze Thrills, True Confessions, and Black Romance magazines. Niambi indulged her passion for sailing and travel by serving as publicist for the Black Boaters Summit and as a member of the National Association of Black Travel Writers. Presently, Niambi writes for Travel Lady Magazine. Her first digital novella was published in January 2008 by Arrow Publications, LLC. Aside from writing and travel, Niambi is an avid reader of historical fiction, and deeply involved in tracing the history of both branches of her family tree. Her day job is running the business of Sand & Silk/Soleful Strut, where she produces private label products for hair and skincare companies as well as her own line of handcrafted soaps, creams, and scrubs.

INDULGE yourself in more of Niambi by checking out her website, her blog, and her MySpace page!

The Book

Taliban wanna-be! Bible-thumping Crusader! Is this any way to begin a love affair? In the case of Ayo and Bilal, the answer is a resounding yes! After the dust from religious and familial wars has settled, the 42 year old widow and 32 year old appraiser fall deeply in love, until an unexpected diagnosis convinces Ayo that loving Bilal means letting him go. But has she underestimated the man who, in spite of a tragedy of his own, vows never to let her go?

Click cover above to purchase FROM DUSK TO DAWN today!

The Question: How does your faith, your spirituality integrate itself into your writing?

I was a child when I first heard the word ecumenical. Once a year, the local AME, Episcopal, Catholic, and United Methodist congregations of our small town gathered together to praise the Lord. It was the only Sunday of the year when religion trumped race. When I looked up the word in our giant, ornate dictionary, I read that as well as “pertaining to the whole Christian Church,” ecumenical was also defined as general and universal. The Latin word oecumenicus struck a chord, translated as “belonging to the whole inhabited world.” That got me to thinking – what about the other religions of the inhabited world? What made them different? But more important, at least to me, were their similarities. Later in life, it was only natural that I chose a spiritual rather than religious approach to life.

But I do believe, without question, that all roads lead to the ultimate peace we all are seeking. In my first novel, the “hero” is Muslim. And in telling his story, I hoped to strip away the stereotype of Muslims as wild-eyed, sword-wielding fanatics and Islam as an inherently intolerant, oppressive, and violent religion. Instead, Bilal was strong, tender and talented, a man, so fully steeped in his own faith that the need to criticize or convert was nonexistent. So stay tuned - in my next story a few Christians, a couple of Hindus or a Bhuddist or two may show up. Rest assured that at least one of them will live up to the best of their beliefs.

Scratch the letter of each religion and underneath the spirit is the same – the call for faith in God and good; the need for compassion; the requirement to share what we have with those who have less, and that most golden of rules - to treat others as we wish to be treated. No matter where or on what day we worship, we’re all looking to the light of God.

August 1, 2008

Faith & Writing: Beth Fehlbaum, author of Courage in Patience

The Author

Beth Fehlbaum, an experienced English teacher, drew on her experiences as a teacher and as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse to craft the fictional story of a teen girl's first foray into recovery from sexual abuse. She wrote Courage in Patience to give hope to anyone who has to face their greatest fears and find out what they're made of.

You can learn more about Beth and her work through her primary website and blog and through MySpace!

The Book

After six years of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse from her stepfather, 15-year-old Ashley finally finds the courage to reveal the painful details of her experiences with her mother, who refuses to acknowledge the problem and turns her back on her daughter. After confiding in her teacher—the only adult whom Ashley can trust—she is removed from her home and sent to live with her father and his second wife, Beverly, an English teacher. Nurtured by Beverly, an extraordinarily positive influence in her life, Ashley and a summer school class of troubled teens learn to face their fears and discover who they really are.

Click cover to order COURAGE IN PATIENCE today!

The Question: How does your faith, your spirituality integrate itself into your writing?

I strongly believe that religion should not be used as a tool to tear people down. I think that belief comes through in my debut novel, Courage in Patience, a story of hope for those who have endured abuse.

Courage in Patience's protagonist is a fifteen-year-old girl named Ashley Nicole Asher. Ashley is removed from her mother's home because her stepfather is suspected of sexually abusing her. But even before she is removed from her home, she experiences what becomes for her a crystallizing moment that colors forever her perception of fundamentalist churches. This happens when her classmates who, while not really friends, pretty-much ignored her, change into born-again "zombies" who are intensely interested in whether or not Ashley is "saved."

I based Ashley's discomfort from this situation on something I experienced myself, when I was in seventh grade. A church in our town held a "pizza party"-- but it was really a revival. Overnight, people I considered my friends, changed. I suppose, in their eyes, they had changed for the better. But for me, it was an isolating experience. Suddenly, my friends turned their backs on me, because they had found the "right" way, and they had the little brochures with the prayer in the back, to prove it.

Although I attended church, suddenly I was "not good enough" for my friends, only because my particular branch of the Protestant Tree did not use the word "saved"; it did not baptize by immersion; and it did not consider its way of believing to be the ONLY way to Heaven.

In my writing, I do not try to convert anyone to my way of thinking. However, I do think it's important to reach out to kids who, like me in seventh grade, find that because of their friends having some childish understanding of what God is all about, they are suddenly on the "outs", in spite of having done nothing wrong. To those kids, I would say, hang in there. You're not alone. And, truly, I think that God probably hangs His head in shame, when people hurt others in His name.

Here's an excerpt from Chapter One of Courage in Patience, a story of hope for those who have endured abuse. The voice of the narrator is fifteen-year-old Ashley Asher. By the way, Chapter One may be read in its entirety. Just click here to go to my blogspot page. Chapter One is posted there.

© 2008 Beth Fehlbaum, Courage in Patience, a story of hope for those who have endured abuse

When I was in seventh grade, a local church began to evangelize by passing out flyers announcing "pizza parties" on Friday evenings. I had already become suspicious of other people's motives for being nice to me, so I wondered why strangers would want to feed me pizza. What I found out was that the "parties" were really revivals, and the idea of a man yelling hellfire and brimstone stuff at me was more than I could take.

Believe it or not, we were members of the Methodist church. It was, in fact, one of the few places I felt safe and loved. People did not really know us; they had no idea what we were like at home, but they accepted our masks. Charlie was head of the landscaping committee, and my mom was a lay leader, a member who helped lead the congregation. I'm sure the people who told me how lucky I was to have such wonderful parents would be shocked to know the dirty little secret of Charlie's nighttime activities.

I think the reason I felt so loved at church was that the minister told me that God IS Love. God didn't create ugliness in the world. God was not a punishing god. God was there to hold you up when you thought you couldn't take anymore. The God I knew didn't list conditions for His loving me.

I didn't have any close friends, but when my classmates came back to school on the Monday after the "Give Your Heart to Jesus and Have a Slice of Pepperoni" thing, they carried Bibles, pamphlets, and holier-than-thou attitudes toward anyone who wasn't there.

"Have you been saved, Ashley?" Korey Hendrix asked as he slid into his seat to my right in first period math class.

"I … think so. I mean, we don't use that word in my church, but I've been baptized," I said, as I finished writing my heading on my paper.

"And how were you baptized? Did'ja go under water?" Korey never even acknowledged that I took up space in the row next to his, unless he wanted to borrow a piece of paper or have me pass a note to Sherry Brown, who he was going out with. Why was he so interested in me now?

I had a bad feeling about this. "No, the minister put some water on my head."

"Did you pray this prayer?" Mary Hood chimed in from two seats behind me. She recited what amounted to: "Jesus, I know I'm a horrible person and I don't deserve Your love, but the wretched piece of crap that I am humbly asks for You to lower Your standards enough to allow me to be called one of Your children. In Your name, I pray. Amen."

Of course I replied that I hadn't said a prayer like that, even though I had never known any belief but Christianity. I was a "cradle Christian." But apparently not the right kind.

"You're supposed to pray this prayer and cry a lot. It's how you know the Devil has been washed out of your soul," said Korey, turning to the back page of his pamphlet.

"If you didn't cry, how can you really know you've been saved, Ashley?" I jumped when she spoke; I didn't realize that Cynthia Morris was standing to my left, looking down at me.

There were so many more happy and peaceful born-again zombies surrounding me at school, I began to wonder if they were right. Maybe God was punishing me for being the wrong kind of Christian, by allowing me to be spied on, groped, pulled at … you get the idea. I thought, "If I can get some of what they've got, I'll have some of their peace too." And maybe God would smite Charlie, or at least make him leave me alone.

I never went to one of the pizza parties, but I did start riding my bike down to the Christian bookstore in my neighborhood. It was one of those bookstores that put books about Catholicism and Buddhism in the "cult" section. I spent hours poring over the literature, to the strange looks of the clerks. I mean, how many twelve- and thirteen-year-old girls spent time in the self-help section of their store? I couldn't afford the hardcover books they had on "how to bring happiness to your home," but I did buy little soft-cover gems like The Jesus Person's Pocket Book of Promises. In it, I found over one hundred numbered promises Jesus had made to me, most of them regurgitations of the prayer my newly blessed friends had cited as The Way, written from Jesus' point of view, which only people who attended pizza party revivals, certain churches, and were baptized the "right" way were privy to.

I was in so much pain and so angry all the time, I figured I would try anything once, or twice … or countless times. Maybe I was so fundamentally flawed, I wasn't even doing Christianity right. The thing was, I couldn't cry. I prayed that damn prayer so many times on my knees beside my bed, like it said to do. Then I'd wait for the uplifted, "saved" feeling that would happen when the Holy Spirit filled my body and soul, but it never came. Maybe I was such a worthless person even God had turned His back on me. I became angrier then, and curious about the nature of evil. How did bad people come into the power they had?

I biked to the library and checked out a book on Adolph Hitler, the baddest of the bad that I could think of. Why did people listen to him? How did a person who was so evil become so powerful? I wanted to know.

When my mother saw the book on my desk in my bedroom, she snatched it up and insisted that I take it back immediately. "I will not have that man in my house!" she railed. "He was a tyrant and an evil person!"

"Yeah, I know, Mom, that's why I want to figure out why people listened to him."

"No! Get that book out of my house!" she flung open the front door and let me know that if I didn't take the book back to the library immediately, she would throw it into the street.

You know, it almost makes me laugh. My mother's high sensitivity to the presence of evil in a bunch of pages bound together with glue and a cover, coexisting with her complete refusal to acknowledge the real Satan sleeping next to her each night (when he wasn't trying to pull me out of my covers, that is). It's freakin' surreal. I could laugh at how clueless she is, if it weren't so painful.

As Charlie's pursuits and mental games became more intense, the survivalist within me really started to emerge. Or the terrified coward. It's pretty much a toss-up. Like Hitler and my stepfather living at one point on the same planet, there is a tough, take-no-prisoners survivor—and a pathetic wimp—living together inside of me.