Interview with Dave Jackson, author of Harry Bentley’s Second Chance

Good Monday Morning, reader friends!

Today, we’re featuring an interview with Dave Jackson about his book Harry Bentley’s Second Chance.

Enjoy!


Interview with Dave Jackson about his book, Harry Bentley’s Second Chance:

Alexis: What inspired you to write this story?

Dave: As Neta was writing Where Do I Go, the first book in her House of Hope series, I became intrigued by the doorman in the high rise building where Neta’s main character, Gabby Fairbanks, lived. Harry Bentley was wise and capable of so much more than working as a doorman. But that was all we learned about him in Neta’s novel. I began wondering why he wasn’t running a company or functioning in some professional position? And what about his personal life?

That’s when I began to imagine that he was a retired Chicago cop, who’d been asked to take early retirement by Internal Affairs after he blew the whistle on his corrupt boss. They essentially put him on ice while they investigated his accusations and put together the case. So, he “retired” and got a simple job as a doorman, something that wouldn’t draw attention but would give him something to do with his time.

Of course, we don’t really have any problems with police corruption here in Chicago, right? So, this is all fiction.

Alexis: Who is Harry Bentley and why does he need a second chance?

Dave: Harry’s career as a cop had pretty much decimated his family life. Crazy, unpredictable schedules meant he wasn’t home for his wife or his son, Rodney. Stress contributed to a drinking problem. His wife finally divorced him, and his son continued to get in trouble with the law until Harry lost touch with him for ten years . . . until DCFS contacted Harry, asking him to take in his grandson—a grandson Harry didn’t even know he had.

Threats from his old boss, being accused of assault and kidnapping by his grandson’s crack-head mother, and complications in trying to care for his elderly mother with dementia, left Harry in need of help, the kind of help the brothers in the Bible study he visited said came from God. But if he wanted to be a good father to his grandson, he needed to have God as his father . . . Perhaps he was being given a second chance at both!

Alexis: Was it challenging for you as a White male author to write a character that is an African American male? Why or why not?

Dave: Of course, it was a challenge, but one I richly enjoyed. I am part of a men’s Bible study, not unlike the group Harry finally met, and not unlike the Yada Yada prayer group in Neta’s novels. Over the years, my Bible study has been at least half African American. One was a cop. As I developed the character of Harry Bentley, I had my brothers read the early drafts and correct me in various ways. Over the years, Neta and I have also been privileged to be part of black churches that have enriched our lives immensely. Also, for several years I worked with a street chaplain to gangs and assisted him leading Bible studies in the juvenile detention center. All these experiences helped me become comfortable with and highly respectful of Harry Bentley as he developed. But like I said, there were still times my Bible study brothers said, “No, no, no, Dave. Harry Bentley would never say (or do) that. See, what you don’t understand is . . .”

Alexis: Do you want to see more books like yours that are written by White authors about characters of color, published by the Christian book market? Explain.

Dave: More importantly, I would like to see more authors of color get their stories published! But I would also like white brothers and sisters to put in the time and effort to really get to know people of color well for their own sake. Perhaps then they can create authentic characters of color when they include them in their novels . . . and they should always be included, and not just in stereotypic or peripheral roles.

Alexis: Where is your story about Harry set? Is it a setting that can be found in real-life or is it fictional? Paint a picture of the setting with words.

Dave: All these inter-related novels that grow out of The Yada Yada Prayer Group are set in Chicago. Gabby Fairbanks lived in the Richmond Towers penthouse—before her husband kicked her out—and that’s the building where Harry is the doorman. It’s a real building, the tall, black-glass, high rise on the north end of the outer drive on Chicago’s lake front. The House of Hope shelter is fictional, but located near the Sheridan ‘L’ stop on the Red Line. Any public or major location is real and can be found if you want to take a tour. Ball game scores and the weather are even accurate. Neta and I had fun doing this. For instance, when Harry took Estelle out to dinner at the Dixie Kitchen in Evanston, it looked like this (for real):

“The Dixie Kitchen and Bait Shop fulfilled the ‘bait shop’ half of its name through its funky décor—there were no crawlers on the menu or in an icebox in the corner. But an old wooden fishing boat did hang from the ceiling, “Rent-a-Rod” fishing poles for twenty-five cents leaned in the screened porch, jars of home-canned peaches and tomatoes sat in open cupboards, and bright tin signs for everything from Genuine NeHi Orange Crush to Burma Shave patched the weathered clapboard walls. Mismatched wooden chairs, checkered tablecloths, and Zydeco music made Harry feel like he was in an authentic Southern diner as they sampled complimentary johnnycakes and selected peach-glazed chicken wings and fried green tomatoes for appetizers. Estelle ordered her étouffée and a side of greens while Harry got crawfish fritters with jalapeño jelly and a side of slaw.”

Alexis: How did Harry feel when he was asked to take an early retirement?

Dave: Harry had put in over 20 years on the force, so he qualified for full retirement. But being a cop is a very stressful career, and he was glad for a break. But reporting his boss’s corruption was the primary reason for his retirement. Harry’s sense of civic duty and concern for justice was why he reported Fagan in the first place. Potentially, it was a career-ending move no matter what way the case went. You just don’t “cross the blue line” and think your career will survive. But he couldn’t have lived with himself otherwise.

Alexis: Why is Harry as a doorman still working to build a case against his boss?

Dave: After submitting his evidence, it was up to Internal Affairs to investigate and build a case. But everything became deadly serious when Harry was threatened for his plans to testify… and when his grandson’s welfare was threatened.

Alexis: What are “parallel novels” and how does Harry’s story follow that concept?

Dave: Parallel novels were a completely new concept in Christian fiction when we proposed the idea: two stories taking place in the same timeframe, same neighborhood, involving some of the same characters living through their own dramas and crises but interacting with and affecting one another—just the way it happens in real life. It’s the kind of undertaking that only a tight writing team can accomplish—like Neta and me. Continual coordination is essential. Of course, we had to work out compatible storylines, but a few “moments of intense fellowship” arose over such trivia as what kind of furniture was in the lobby of Richmond Towers where Harry worked and Gabby lived. But we always worked it out.

Alexis: What was the most challenging—and easiest—aspect of writing this story?

Dave: As is often the case for me, when a character is well defined and fully understood—including motives, history, character strengths and weaknesses—then when you put that person in a situation, the story almost begins writing itself because you know how they would respond to each crisis or triumph. When leading writing workshops, I’ve sometimes used this illustration: Imagine that your best friend’s cat just died. You probably have a very good idea how your friend would respond: Cry unconsolably for a day, and then get on with life. Or go into a long depression. Or say, “good riddance; I was tired of that hairball anyway,” etc. You can predict their response because you know their character.

Alexis: What’s the moral of this story?

Dave: To be a father (or a mother) like God, you need to have God as your father.

Alexis: What do you want readers to remember most about this book?

Dave: As the story progresses, and after Harry meets some caring brothers in the Bible study, he begins feel like someone is choreographing his life, not in the sense of forcing him to do or not do anything, but in the sense of providing opportunities for good—to be a father to his grandson, to begin a healthy relationship with Estelle Williams, to develop new, positive friends at the Bible study. Could that be God caring about him and inviting him, he wonders? I hope readers see that possibility in every good gift that comes into their lives.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview! Do you have closing comments to share?

Dave: Neta began including all these new elements about Harry Bentley in her second House of Hope book, Who Do I Talk To? But that, of course, created another timeframe for Harry’s life to progress. He was doing just fine once he had custody of his grandson and was enjoying a second romance with Estelle. He’d connected with God, the Yada Yada brothers, and SouledOut Community Church . . . and then he developed a blind spot right in the center of his vision in his left eye. Was it a brain tumor? A stroke? Diabetes? Or worse . . . was he going blind? Where was God? Why didn’t he answer Harry’s prayers?

So, I had to write Harry Bentley’s Second Sight. Ultimately, he used his police skills as well as his “second sight,” to solve a major crime.

Furthermore, Harry and Estelle became such favorites of many fans that we made them the anchor family when they moved to Beecham Street for the Windy City Neighbors series of five more exciting “parallel novels.” All these novels, and more, can be found at www.daveneta.com.

Thanks so much, Alexis, for this opportunity to share with your marvelous readers.

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor


About the Author:

Dave Jackson and his wife, Neta, are a husband and wife writing team and the authors of more than 120 books that have sold over 2.5 million copies, including their 40-volume Trailblazer Books about Christian heroes for young readers.

Most of their adult novels, including Dave’s Harry Bentley novels and the Windy City Neighbors series (featuring Harry and Estelle Bentley) are set in Chicago where the Jacksons make their home.

However, Dave’s latest novel, Flying Blind, is set in Colombia, South America, and involves a kidnapping by the revolutionary forces of FARC.

Follow Dave on Facebook


About the Book:

HARRY BENTLEY’S SECOND CHANCE “To be a father like God, to have God as his father … perhaps Harry was being given a chance at both.” Retired Chicago cop, Harry Bentley, was lying low.

He’d blown the whistle on a gang of rogue cops and was awaiting the day when Internal Affairs would call him to testify and help put their leader, Lieutenant Matty Fagan, behind bars. His cover was working as a doorman in a luxury high-rise on Chicago’s lakefront. Then Gabby Fairbanks and her husband moved into the building’s penthouse. She brought home a bag lady, got a job at the Manna House Women’s Shelter, found her life falling apart, and managed to entangle Harry in the whole affair. (Gabby’s story is in Neta Jackson’s parallel novel, WHERE DO I GO?) But there was an upside. Through Gabby, Harry meets the Yada Yada brothers and the classy Estelle Williams and envisions a second chance at romance.

The Yada Yada brothers provide a new circle of friends to replace his old CPD cohorts. But when Harry discovers he has a grandson he didn’t know about, will he find the faith to take on the boy as a “second chance” to be the father he’d failed to be to his own son-even when the boy creates new dangers in Harry’s fight against corruption and may derail his “second chance” at love?

Dave Jackson and his wife, Neta, are the award-winning authors of the 40-volume Trailblazer series. The phenomenal popularity of Neta’s Yada Yada Prayer Group series inspired them to write “parallel” spin-off novels, two stories taking place in the same context … just the way it happens in real life. They live in the Chicago area, where these stories are set.

Purchase link for Harry Bentley’s Second Chance: 

http://www.daveneta.com/books/HarryBentley/HBSC-1.html

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Interview with Neta Jackson, about her book “Where Do I Go?”

Good Monday Morning, reader friends!

Today, we’re talking with Neta Jackson about her book “Where Do I Go?”

Enjoy the author interview!


Interview with Neta Jackson about her book “Where Do I Go?”

(Yada Yada House of Hope Series, Book 1):

Alexis: Did you co-author this book with your husband? Why or why not?

Neta: The Yada Yada House of Hope series is written by me but Dave was very instrumental in brainstorming the idea for the book, reading and editing my chapters. He also helped me with Chicago research, walking around the areas where the story takes place, finding the “tunnel walkway” where Gabby’s husband Phillip was mugged . . . THEN, the rascal, Dave stole one of my secondary characters and made him the primary character in two novels he wrote to parallel the House of Hope series! (More about that later.)

Alexis: Why did you write this book?

Neta: At the end of The Yada Yada Prayer Group series, the prayer group got involved in a women’s shelter, and that situation just begged for more stories! Also, at the time I was volunteering at Breakthrough Urban Ministries women’s shelter in Chicago and I was deeply moved by all the different “stories” of the women there. I wanted readers to get to “know” the kinds of situations where women might end up in a shelter—many of them not so different than us. So the House of Hope series was born. I added a new main character, who met some of the original Yada Yada characters who were volunteering there to give this series continuity to the original series.

Alexis: What is the significance of your story’s title?

Neta: One time I spoke at a women’s conference on the same stage as Dottie Rambo, who wrote the song, “I Go to the Rock.” I loved that song, and realized that the words totally captured what I was trying to convey in the House of Hope series—when you don’t know where to go, when you don’t know who you can lean on, or talk to . . . you go to the Rock. Which is what Gabby Fairbanks had to do when her life fell apart. The words of that song actually became the titles for each of the books in the series!

Here’s the song, sung by Whitney Houston in the movie, The Preacher’s Wife: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOu7bis3We0

Alexis: How is hope found in “the last place you look?”

Neta: Who would have thought that a chance meeting with an elderly “bag lady” would lead to a job at a women’s shelter, which in turn would become a shelter for Gabby Fairbanks when her privileged life and marriage fell apart, which in turn became a place of hope as God turned disaster into an amazing opportunity to bless many others. God can use anything and anybody to bless us—and that goes for each of us as well!

Alexis: Tell us about Gabrielle Fairbanks. What role does she play in this story? Describe her character, hopes, and failures.

Neta: Gabby is a free spirit, a “down home” girl from North Dakota, when she meets a handsome young man on a trip to Paris who “sweeps her off her feet.” But it’s not long till Gabby ends up feeling caged in her marriage, playing second fiddle to a man who is all about succeeding in business with little regard for Gabby’s needs. They move to a penthouse in Chicago, where she feels totally alone, her only “friend” being a helpful older doorman in their building until she meets an odd “bag lady” whom she takes to a local women’s shelter. In spite of her husband’s objections, she applies for a job there as program director, a way to use her gifts and college training. The job energizes her spirit but becomes a thorn in her already stressful marriage.

Alexis: Why is Gabrielle searching for “real purpose” in her life?

Neta: She’s a wife, but only an ornament to her husband’s career. She’s a mother, but even her boys are away at a posh boarding school. She doesn’t feel needed or wanted or useful. She’s dying inside.

Alexis: What is the Manna House Women’s Shelter? Describe its significance.

Neta: Manna House is an emergency women’s shelter that can only house homeless women for 30 days, not meant for long-term housing. But they need a program director to fill the days with helpful and meaningful activities—a role that Gabby has the skills and training to fulfill.

Alexis: How does becoming a program director for the shelter help Gabby?

Neta: Gabby sees an opportunity to fill the emptiness in her life and throws herself into her new job. What she doesn’t expect is how the various staff and volunteers and even the “guests” at the shelter also bring her into a deeper and meaningful relationship with Jesus.

Alexis: What is the most major conflict in this story?

Neta: When her husband Philip gets fed up with his wife’s “new life” apart from his schedule, his needs, his wants, and he kicks her out of their penthouse and his life with nothing! Now she’s the one who is homeless with nowhere to go.

Alexis: What was the most challenging part of this story to write?

Neta: Gabby and Philip’s dysfunctional marriage was challenging for me to portray throughout the book because my own marriage is so different. I have a wonderful, loving, supportive, godly husband, praise God! But I do have close friends who have or had difficult marriages, with whom we have walked through painful times in their lives that I drew on in order to portray the Fairbanks’ marriage.

Alexis: What do you want readers to remember most about this book?

Neta: The answer to the question in the title: When you face challenges in your life, whatever they might be, even if you feel as if your whole life is falling apart, when you don’t know what to do or where to go, you go to the Rock of your salvation, who is Jesus Christ. He is your shelter, your comforter, your friend, your salvation, and He will never, never leave you nor forsake you.

Alexis: If you could step into your story as a licensed counselor, what would you tell Gabrielle to help her make the best decision when her husband gives her an ultimatum?

Neta: Whoa! This is the hardest question of all! (And I’m not a licensed counselor.) I do know that marriage is all about compromise, even making sacrifices for the good of one’s partner . . . but at the same time, I don’t believe a wife’s personhood should be squashed, and God doesn’t bless that either. Verbal abuse is as unacceptable as physical abuse. Sometimes we have to do what we need to do to stay sane, to stay alive—even if it means a separation. You make reasonable compromises if you can. Get counseling together if you can. But if your partner refuses to meet you halfway, you PRAY and ask God to make it clear what you need to do. Stay? Separate? Divorce? Finally, be at peace about your decision.

Alexis: What do you as the author, love the most about this story? Why?

Neta: I love the fact that God sometimes uses the most unlikely people to encourage us, to show us God’s truth, to be the person God uses to make a difference in our life. A doorman? Harry Bentley was there for Gabby, and (in the rest of the series) became a treasured friend. Lucy the bag lady Gabby “saved” her at the beginning of the book, but it was Lucy who “saved” Gabby at the end. I love seeing the surprising ways God works! (This truth permeates the Gospels, both in how Jesus related to “the least of these” and also in His teachings.)

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Neta! Would you like to share closing thoughts?

Neta: Yes! Speaking of Harry Bentley, the doorman . . . my husband decided there was a lot more to Harry’s story that didn’t come out in Where Do I Go? So like I mentioned at the beginning of this interview, he stole that character and wrote two parallel novels with Harry as the main character that parallels the House of Hope novels! Harry became such a beloved character to our readers in Harry Bentley’s Second Chance and Harry Bentley’s Second Sight, that he and his (eventual) wife anchored a whole new series that Dave and I wrote together called: Windy City Neighbors (five novels).

Also, at the end of the House of Hope series (four novels), there are still some questions about what happened to Lucy the bag lady. So Dave and I together wrote a stand-alone novel about her life called Lucy Come Home, starting from her life as a teenager and catching up all the way to where readers meet her in House of Hope—and beyond. Some readers have called Lucy “the best one yet!”

You can check out these House-of-Hope-related novels on our website: www.daveneta.com

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor


About the Book:

Sometimes you find hope in the last place you look.

Gabrielle Fairbanks has nearly lost touch with the carefree, spirited young woman she was when she married her husband sixteen years ago. But when the couple moves to Chicago to accommodate Philip’s ambition, Gabby longs for the chance to find real purpose in her own life.

A chance encounter with a homeless woman suddenly opens a door she never expected. The women of Manna House Women’s Shelter need a Program Director–and she has the right credentials. Gabby’s in her element, feeling God’s call on her life at last, even though Philip doesn’t like the changes he sees in her. But she never anticipated his ultimatum: quit your job at the shelter or risk divorce and losing custody of our sons.

In this moment, Gabby’s entire foundation shifts. She must find refuge, as in the song they sing at Sunday worship: “Where do I go when there’s no one else to turn to . . . I go to the Rock I know that’s able, I go to the Rock.”

For everyone who loves the best-selling Yada Yada Prayer Group novels comes a brand new series sprinkled with familiar faces and places from the Yada Yada world. It’s the perfect novel to start with–or to meet friends from past Yada stories.

Buy Neta’s book on Amazon.


About the Author:

Neta Jackson and her husband Dave are an award-winning husband-and-wife writing team, the authors or coauthors of more than 130 books that have sold over 2.5 million copies.

They are best known for Neta’s Yada Yada Prayer Group series and its sequels, as well as their forty-volume Trailblazer series of historical fiction about great Christian heroes for young readers.

Neta and Dave raised two children as well as a foster daughter and are now enjoying all the “grands”!

The Jacksons are thankful for their multi-cultural church and neighborhood in the Chicago area, which provides the characters and setting for their novels.

Follow Neta and her husband Dave Jackson on social media: 

Website: http://www.daveneta.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/DaveNetaJackson/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DaveNetaJackson

Author Guest Post: Matt Mikalatos

Happy Monday, friends! Today, Matt Mikalatos is sharing why diversity is so important – in life and in fiction. His newest book The Crescent Stone features diverse characters, humor and an intriguing fantasy world.


Diversity – Why We Need Each Other

by Matt Mikalatos

When I first started writing my fantasy novel, The Crescent Stone, I knew a key theme was going to be about privilege and ethnic diversity. My main character, Madeline Oliver, was well-off, white, well-educated, attractive and intelligent . . . privileged in nearly every way you can be in our culture. She did not, however, have great health: she had a terminal lung disease, and even though she was young she was dying.

One of her classmates, Jason Wu, had fewer of the same privileges, but still was doing pretty well for himself. He had a personal tragedy in his recent past that he was working through, and had decided he would only tell the truth no matter what happened. He would, in fact, volunteer the truth when it wasn’t strictly necessary.

In my first few chapters, the plan was to keep Madeline as the main character, and Jason as one of a host of other characters around her in her journey. But it became clear, part of the way through, that we needed Jason’s point of view, too. Madeline by herself wasn’t seeing everything she could.

My editor suggested making Jason and Madeline both point-of-view characters, with alternating chapters, and I agreed to try it. The book came alive in a new way! Here are three things I noticed as I wrote the novel this new way.

  1. Diverse points of view help us to see things we miss.

Early in the novel, Madeline and Jason are walking through a tunnel that leads them into a magical world called the Sunlit Lands. In the first draft, from Madeline’s point of view, we’re told how the tunnel gets increasingly older . . . from concrete to brick to very old brick and eventually to stone walls. When I retold the same moment from Jason’s point of view, he noticed something that Madeline had not: Chinese characters etched into the oldest bricks. Jason stopped to think about something that never occurred to Madeline: who built this place? He stopped and read some of the names etched there, and he talked to Madeline about his own ancestors, who had come to the United States and worked on things like building the railroads. This was something that Madeline missed completely, and I, as her author, didn’t notice until I was writing as Jason. That was a weird feeling!

  1. We learn best in diverse settings.

Madeline and Jason arrive in the Sunlit Lands to discover that the people of the Sunlit Lands are dizzyingly diverse . . . not just the “magical races” of other creatures, but also a variety of ethnicities and nationalities from Earth. Madeline’s roommate is a Syrian Christian, and Jason’s two roommates are Hawaiian and Native American. As Madeline works to unravel the mystery of the Sunlit Lands, each of these people contributes along the way. If it had been (like my favorite fantasies of my youth) all white British kids, they would likely never discover the answer to what is happening in the Sunlit Lands, because it wouldn’t occur to them to ask.

  1. We make better decisions with diverse advisors.

Once Madeline realizes what is happening in the Sunlit Lands, she’s struck with a nearly impossible choice . . . one that requires either enormous sacrifice or the harm of many other people, or possibly both. I don’t want to include any spoilers, but through the relationships and help of the people with her, she’s able to find a third choice . . . a hard decision, still, but something that lets her be true to herself without harming innocents. She wouldn’t have found that path on her own, because she wouldn’t have seen it.

In the “real world” we need each other, too. Our diverse points of view and experiences help us to see the world, to learn better, and to make better decisions.


About the Book

the crescent stoneA girl with a deadly lung disease . . .
A boy with a tragic past . . .
A land where the sun never sets but darkness still creeps in . . .

Madeline Oliver has never wanted for anything, but now she would give anything just to breathe. Jason Wu skates through life on jokes, but when a tragedy leaves him guilt-stricken, he promises to tell only the truth, no matter the price.

When a mysterious stranger name Hanali appears to Madeline and offers to heal her in exchange for one year of service to his people, Madeline and Jason are swept into a strange land where they don’t know the rules and where their decisions carry consequences that reach farther than they could ever guess.

GOODREADS  | AMAZON | B&N

About the Author

matt miklatosMatt Mikalatos writes books (surprise!). In the past, Matt worked as a high school teacher and a comic book clerk, but currently focuses on nonprofit work devoted to helping people love one another despite their differences.

He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife, three daughters, two unicorns, a gryphon, a dragon, and three brine shrimp.

website | Facebook | Twitter

Author Interview: Jaycee Weaver

Welcome to another week of diverse Christian reads here at DBP! Today, we’re kicking things off with an author interview. Jaycee Weaver is the author of Whatever Comes Our Way, the second book in her Everyday Love series.


q&a

Why do you write stories with diverse characters?

Jaycee: The world is a big, beautiful, multi-colored place. Why wouldn’t we want to represent the beautiful tapestry of cultures and peoples in fiction the way they are in reality? At least, that’s how I think.

I’m an overly avid reader, and I firmly believe that fiction readers tend to learn empathy well because they are always putting themselves in other characters’ heads. That makes fiction a perfect vehicle for reaching people’s hearts and showing them that we are all just human beings. While we might have different values or traditions or cultural identities that set us apart from others, ultimately, we are all humans who love and live on the same planet. We are children of the same God, which means we should honor one another and treat each other with love and understanding.

With that, I felt led to set my books in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I live. It’s not a place very well represented among all the big cities and fictional small towns, but it’s a wonderful place that holds my heart. There is absolutely no way I could set stories here without being willing to represent all the different facets of our culture. Hispanics outnumber every other people group here, so it’s just logical to tell stories that involve characters of Hispanic descent. I have always been fascinated by the culture, food, language, and love of family I experience in this state.

Beth: I couldn’t agree more with your thinking! 

Tell us a little bit about your latest series. 

Jaycee: The Everyday Love series is about regular people in everyday situations. I love that I can showcase my city and all of the many things I love about it!

What Could Be, the first in the series, is about a college student named Brynn who is trying to figure out what it really means to follow God’s will. She has all of these massive expectations for herself, some good, some unrealistic, and it isn’t easy for her to let go of the preconceived notions she’s grown up believing. Josh Davis is a single father who has rededicated his life to Christ. He’s drawn to Brynn and her innocence, but the things that pique him also make him second-guess himself. As their friendship develops, they really have to figure out if maybe God has a bigger plan for them than they thought possible.

Whatever Comes Our Way is actually my personal favorite of the two (so far). Gina Hernandez has some fairly deep-rooted issues. She’s a bundle of contradictions sometimes, but she has a heart for taking care of other hurting people. Jaydon Bennett is a reformed pastor’s kid, now a youth pastor himself, who has a painful past of his own. The two immediately share a strong connection, but while they are trying to navigate this new relationship, Jaydon comes across a family in crisis. Their experiences just might make them the perfect people to help do the Lord’s work in their lives.

Beth: Oh, these stories sound like they’re right up my alley!

Describe Gina.

Jaycee: I have to admit, I really adore Gina. She was raised by a single mother whose partying ways put her at risk and led to a whole slew of issues including severe anxiety, a distorted body image, and an overdeveloped sense of personal responsibility. By nature, she’s determined and strong-willed, with a bit of snark and sass, but she’s also a natural caregiver. Her first-generation immigrant grandparents helped raise her early on, and their loving influence is what has helped her get past the damage her mother inflicted unaware.

My heart when writing her story was to really get at the heart of some of the ugly things that happen to people in this fallen world, but how a loving God takes those things and makes something beautiful from them. Gina has to learn to trust, and Jaydon makes it easy. My favorite stories are those that take heavy issues and make them not feel so heavy. I want to be inspired, to reaffirm my undying belief that God will never leave us to deal with things on our own and that we are never too far gone. Ever. So that’s how I tried to write Gina.

Beth: Gina sounds like a great character! 

What do you hope readers will gain from your story?

Jaycee: I think I pretty much summed it up already. My prayer is that readers will finish my books inspired and uplifted, maybe even with a renewed sense of hope for their own lives. I hope readers connect to my characters and think, “Whoa, that’s me. I’m not perfect, I’m not always a ‘good Christian,’ but God still loves me.” I don’t want to write white-washed fiction where everybody is living a perfect faith walk, because the reality is, even Christians struggle with sin and fall short. We need hope that the Lord can still use us and show Himself in our everyday lives because LOVE is what draws us to Him.

Beth: Yes, yes, yes!!! I’m so excited about reading your stories, friend!

Who are some of your favorite authors of “diverse reads”?

Jaycee: I’ll be honest. I don’t go into a book specifically hoping it’s “diverse”. I go into it hoping it’s authentic, with characters from lots of different walks of life.

But when I consider authors that come to mind right off the bat who represent diverse characters? Definitely Toni Shiloh, for one. I get so hungry when I read her Maple Run series! Sarah Monzon is another of my favorite writers, as is Chautona Havig. Belle Calhoune is one I haven’t read in a while but used to. Jenn Faulk is one of my most favorite authors because I just love her voice. I know quite a few of her characters have been from Africa and Japan, and she also features several missionary characters. I could easily list another three dozen writers I follow whose books I voraciously devour, but I think I’ll quit here. HAHA!

Beth: We share several favorites! 

What book are you reading right now?

Jaycee: Oh, now that’s so hard to answer, because it will change four times between writing, submitting, publishing, and someone reading this! If you look at my GoodReads profile, it will tell you I’m loving the Once Upon a Laugh collection, still trying to finish the Timeless Love collection (I’m a moody reader with historical), the Yesterday’s Mail collection, but also All the Way to Heaven by Becky Doughty. That’s way more collections than I normally read at once, but so many good ones have been in my TBR pile for entirely too long!

Beth: I can completely relate!  Thanks so much for visiting with us, Jaycee! 

 

about the book

Gina Hernandez is no stranger to hard work. She’s got three jobs to prove it. Trauma in her teens may have left her with severe anxiety and some body image issues, but no one can say she’s not a fighter. Her life has never been easy. It’s what’s made her strong.

Then she meets youth pastor Jaydon Bennett, a gentle giant with a big beard and an even bigger heart—though it does have a few scars. He’s never doubted God could bring him the perfect woman, he just never thought He really would. Until Gina.

When Jaydon encounters a troubled teen whose family is in crisis, he and Gina have to figure out if maybe the painful pasts they’ve been dealing with just might equip them to help this hurting family.

Goodreads | amazon

 

about the author

Jaycee Weaver lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her amazing husband, three daughters, a crazy shih-tzu, and a dwarf rabbit. When she’s not writing, she’s probably in hot pursuit of her 90 million other hobbies or shuttling the kids around.

Jaycee loves to read books in multiple genres, drink too much coffee (honestly, when are they going to make the coffee IV a real thing?!), sing, take landscape and floral photos, sew, cook, bake, and craft just about anything (can we say Pinterest?).

She considers herself a recovering perfectionist and sometimes hot mess. She does her best to live her faith in action, being open, honest, and real and letting God be Lord over the good, the bad, and the ugly even when it’s hard.

website | facebook | twitter | instagram | pinterest

 

Don’t y’all just want to be Gina’s friend and learn all about her story?!
I’d love to meet her grandparents too! Be sure to say hi to Jaycee in the comments.

 

interview by Beth Erin

Interview with Michelle Stimpson about her book “Mama B: A Time to Dance”

Happy Labor Day, reader friends!

This Monday, we have an interview featuring author Michelle Stimpson.

She’s here to talk about her book, Mama B: A Time to Dance.


Interview with Michelle Stimpson about Mama B: A Time to Dance

Alexis: Why is this book called “Mama B: A Time to Dance”?

Michelle: In this book, Mama B, who has never been a dancer due to religious reasons, will consider putting her previous thoughts aside in order to try something new, but dancing is just the beginning.

Alexis: What is the inciting incident in this book?

Michelle: Mama B’s nephew, Derrick, comes knocking on her door, needing a place to stay. He and his wife have separated, and Mama B must decide if she’s willing to take in a marital refugee.

Alexis: Why is “help” almost Mama B’s middle name and how does her helpfulness affect the plot of this fictional story?

Michelle: Mama B is a lot like what I saw in my grandparents. They didn’t have much, but they were always willing to share whatever they had. They always opened their home and had people (mostly from their church) staying with them.

Alexis: Who is Henrietta and what role does she play in this story?

Michelle: In this book, Henrietta serves as a huge antagonist for Mama B. She’s always keeping up a mess but Mama B and the others suspect that there’s something misfiring in Henrietta.

Alexis: Who is Dr. Wilson and what is his significance in this story?

Michelle: Dr. Frank Wilson is the 5-year-younger physician who begins his pursuit of Mama B in this book, but she is not trying to hear it! What’s a 70-something-year-old woman doing falling in love?

Alexis: What is the moral of the story?

Michelle: This one has several messages to convey, most importantly keep an open mind about how God might use you and the people He brings into your life. Even at Mama B’s age, she is still learning new things and new depths of His love.

Alexis: If you could step into your story as a professional counselor, what advice would you give to your main characters? Why?

Michelle: I would tell Derrick and his wife that they need each other more than they know, and to communicate more. They remind me of my husband and I. We are actually celebrating 25 years of marriage this year, but our first years were just a bunch of foolishness. I’d tell them to give it time, give each other space to grow up, forgive often – not just now, always.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Michelle!

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor


About the Book:

Mama B thought her life would return to normal, but when her nephew, Derrick, comes knocking on her door, she has to reconsider. Though she’s not known for housing marital fugitives, she realizes Derrick is looking for more than a place to stay; he needs help finding his way back to God.

Of course, help is almost Mama B’s middle name until Henrietta crosses the line with her accusations about Mama B’s intentions with the recently widowed pastor. Mama B isn’t looking for romance with either the pastor or her suitor, Dr. Wilson—but will love come looking for her?

Fans of the “Miss Julia” series will enjoy this feisty, downhome character!

Buy Michelle’s book on Amazon.


About the Author:

Bestselling author Michelle Stimpson has penned more than thirty Christian fiction books including traditional bestsellerDivas of Damascus Road, Amazon #1 bestseller, Stepping Down, the award-winning Mama B series, and Falling Into Grace, which has been optioned for a made-for-TV movie.

She has also published more than fifty short stories through her educational publishing company, WeGottaRead.com.

Michelle holds an English degree from Jarvis Christian College and a master’s degree in education from the University of Texas at Arlington.

She is a part-time language arts consultant. She also serves in women’s ministry through teaching and publishing. She and her husband have two young adult children, one granddaughter, and one bizarre dog.

Follow Michelle on FacebookTwitter, Website

Interview with Allison K. Garcia about her book “Finding Amor”

Happy Monday, reader friends!

Today, we’re featuring an interview with Allison K. Garcia, author of Finding Amor.


Interview with Allison K. Garcia about her book, Finding Amor:

Alexis: What inspired you to write this book?

Allison: I was inspired by a couple things in 2014…On the news, there was a video of little kids on a bus near an immigration detention center. Outside the bus were a bunch of angry Americans yelling at them and carrying signs. It broke my heart. I thought about how scary it must be for those small children to be surrounded by an angry mob after what was surely a traumatic border crossing. And I began to think how most likely some of those people yelling angrily at the children were also proclaiming to be Christians (as I had heard echoed sentiments in our community), and I wanted to change the narrative. This is the first scene of my book. The other thing that inspired my book was hearing the story from someone at church about how a little boy in the afterschool program came to Christ and subsequently brought many of the other little kids to salvation as well. That touched my heart, and from there my main character, Emanuel, was born.

Alexis: How did you choose your characters?

Allison: I am a pantser, so a lot of times my characters choose me. Haha. But seriously, I had the idea for Emanuel, so logically his mother, Ana, came next. I added a third POV of the afterschool teacher, Lauren, and her husband, Peter, who is a loveable slob. I’m not sure how Carlos, my antagonist, came about but my editor made me turn him into a POV character so you can thank her for that! Mamita is just this sweet little grandma that I pictured, the representation of quintessential unconditional love. Kayli, Mari, and Dwayne are my favorite of Emanuel’s buddies. You’ll see more of them in my second book. Sandra, Ana’s mother, was really fleshed out in editing, and I really love her now. There is a lot under the surface there.

I know I didn’t answer your question, but truthfully, I feel like they chose me, and they keep surprising me! Who knows what will happen in my second and third books? I have a general direction but there are plenty surprises for all of us around the corner.

Alexis: What is the setting for this book? Describe it.

Allison: Lederville, Virginia is a small city I created in the Shenandoah Valley. It has a diverse population and is loosely based off of Harrisonburg, VA, where I live. It has all four seasons, including beautiful fall foliage and occasionally disruptive snowfalls. They have a bus system and Uber. There are suburbs, trailer parks, apartments, and farms. They have thrift stores and international grocery stores, especially Hispanic/Latino, which is a burgeoning population in Lederville. There is a park called North River Park which has open fields and shelters for picnics and parties. Also, there is a nice church called Dove Peak Presbyterian Church next to the Rolling Hills Trailer Park where three of my main characters live. It is a very welcoming church that holds an afterschool program and does Christmas caroling and has a thriving Spanish service.

Alexis: What is Finding Amor about? Share in a few sentences (not the blurb).

Finding Amor is the first part of a larger series, Buscando Home, about a family from El Salvador broken through decades of war, violence, and distance. Finding Amor is the first glimpse into their world – why they are broken, some of what they’ve gone through, and how far they have to go in order to heal and find peace and home together. Finding Amor is about finding the love of family, God, and within ourselves. It also calls people to love both God and their neighbors, the two main tenants of Christianity.

Alexis: Take us inside Emanuel Martinez’s mind. What was it like to be thrown into an immigration center after he was so close to freedom at the border?

Allison: I think we’ll get a much better idea of this in my next book, but it is a horrible thing. His mother had to leave to make enough money to support him, but he was too small to travel across three countries, so he has waited so long to be with his mother, living in an abusive home environment. The coyote (the person who helps people cross the border) took him on a freight train for faster travel, where he had some traumatic experiences. Just a reminder that from El Salvador to the border is about 2,000 miles, which is the equivalent of traveling from Virginia to Arizona. To travel that far and to be so small, it is impressive. Emanuel is a strong little guy, but the journey took its toll on him. Imagine traveling all the way from east to west coast at eight years old and just as you’re about to see your long-lost mother, you are apprehended and told you may never see her. This is a truth that is happening again and again. People who are just looking for asylum, for a better life for their family, risking their lives for freedom, only to be put into cages. Very upsetting.

Alexis: Did Emanuel travel to the border by himself? I understand that he’s only eight years old. Describe his journey.

Allison: His mother paid for a coyote, someone to cross him. It is a 2,000-mile journey. Often people will take freight trains to make the trip faster. It usually takes a month or more of hiding from immigration officials in the various countries, especially Mexico, where officials are sometimes corrupt and need bribes to let you pass. Also, there is a lot of gang activity near the border and people sometimes get kidnapped. For Emanuel, he took a traumatic freight train ride with the coyote, he traveled for about a month, hiding from officials, and then was captured at the border. More info about his journey will come out in my next book. It is a horrible journey even for adults and thousands of people die trying to cross the border. Emanuel is one of the lucky ones who made it across.

Alexis: In what ways does Finding Amor reflect the current immigration debate, trauma and drama in the USA?

Allison: My main goals for writing Latino Christian fiction are to have Latinos represented in Christian fiction, share God’s word, and show authentic stories of undocumented immigrants so that people can open their hearts and minds and grow in compassion and love and understanding. In showing real stories and explaining the whys and showing the human side to immigration, my hope is that people who have negative views towards immigrants will understand more and realize that we are called to love our neighbors, no matter what their documentation status or skin color or language, etc. I purposefully put a very diverse group of people in the book, because it represents America and also in Revelations is shows Heaven as a place where “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” people are praising God. Also, there are important verses that remind us that we cannot love God if we do not love our neighbor. We cannot love God without loving our neighbor any more than we can love our neighbor without loving God. This is another theme that is represented in Lauren’s story. Seeing her neighbors in a new light and seeing the love they show her, helps her grow to love others and herself more. So, for me, the trauma and drama and debates in the U.S. boil down to a lack of love.

Alexis: Who is Lauren Barrett and what is her significance to this story?

Allison: Lauren is an overweight, churchgoing legal secretary who has trouble saying no, especially to church activities. She gets roped into helping with the afterschool program at church, which is hurtful because she has been dealing with infertility for over a decade. She represents the average churchgoing person who looks fine from the outside but has a lot going on inside, while at the same time finds herself lacking compassion for others and losing perspective on where she is in her life. Her interactions with the Martinez family and the other families in the afterschool program make a drastic impact on the way she views the world.

Alexis: How does Lauren’s family dynamics and a background that made her insecure affect her life as a grown woman? In what ways does her personal history endear her heart to Emanuel?

Allison: Lauren grew up in a very unsupportive family with some emotional abuse that made her more vulnerable towards abusive relationships. In high school, she had an abusive boyfriend, but thankfully, she met Peter, who showed her unconditional love. Even though she has God in her life and Peter, she still has the burden of those early days, and she struggles with that need to please and make people happy and also with loving herself. I think she sees herself in Emanuel a little bit, plus Emanuel just has a good heart and is kind to her right off the bat, which endears him to her.

Alexis: What role does Lauren grow to play in Emanuel’s life?

Allison: It’s a little bit the other way around for this book. Lauren wants to help the kids in the afterschool, but really they are the ones who impact her life. I think that happens a lot with mission work, we want to help and then we get way more back than we ever gave out.

Alexis: What does Emanuel think of Lauren at first and as the story progresses?

Allison: She views her as someone who is sad and has “nerves” like Marta from home. He wants to make her feel better and is kind to her. I think as the story progresses, he sees her as a mentor and friend and someone he can confide in and learn from.

Alexis: What do you want readers to remember most about Finding Amor?

Allison: That everyone has a story. We often judge a book by its cover and as Christians, that’s not okay. We are called to love everyone, unconditionally. I hope that sticks with them.

Alexis: Who is your publisher for Finding Amor? Is it a CBA publisher?

Allison: CreateSpace/Me! I had to go indie because it is very hard to get diverse fiction published traditionally in the Christian market. Plus the undocumented immigration is seen as controversial and they didn’t want to touch it with a 10-foot pole. But God wants me to write it and get it out to the world, so I am thankful for Amazon and all my indie published friends who helped me figure out how to indie publish.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Allison! Would you like to share closing comments?

Allison: Alexis, thank so much for the insightful interview questions. I really challenged me to look at my book in detail. I feel totally prepared for some events I have coming up in September now! Thank you for this opportunity! I hope people pick up a copy and enjoy it!

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor


About the Book:

Escaping a violent and abusive environment, eight-year-old Emanuel Martinez attempts to cross through three countries to be with his mother, Ana, whom he hasn’t seen since he was a baby. When la migra catches him at the border and he’s thrown into an immigration center, his dreams for being a real family start to disappear.

Vowing never to be like her own mother who abandoned her and never looked back, Ana has worked for six years to get her son to the United States, Now Ana has to rely on her distant mother and her alcoholic boyfriend, Carlos, to finally get her son to her side so they can build a life together.

When Lauren Barrett agrees to help with the afterschool program, she soon realizes she’s bitten off more than she can chew. Growing up in an unsupportive home has made her insecure and vulnerable, plus suffering through years of infertility hasn’t helped matters. Yet she longs to do something meaningful with her life and wonders when that opportunity will come along. When a special young boy named Emanuel enters her life, he turns her worldview on its head.

As their lives intersect, will they help each other understand what family and love and home really mean?

Buy Allison’s book on Amazon


About the Author:

Allison K. Garcia is a Licensed Professional Counselor, but she has wanted to be a writer ever since she could hold a pencil.

She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Shenandoah Valley Writers, Virginia Writers Club, and is Municipal Liaison for Shenandoah Valley NaNoWriMo.

Allison’s short story, “At Heart,” was published in the Winter 2013 edition of From the Depths literary magazine, along with her flash fiction. Her work, “You Shall Receive,” was published in GrayHaven Comics’s 2014 All Women’s anthology. Winning an honorary mention in the ACFW Virginia 2015 short story contest, “Just Another Navidad” was published in A bit of Christmas. Allison finaled in the 2016 ACFW Genesis Contest and is a 2018 Eric J. Hoffer Montaigne Medal Finalist for Vivir el Dream, published May 2017. Her highly-anticipated novel, Finding Amor, releases in September 2018.

Latina at heart, Allison has been featured in local newspapers for her connections in the Latino community in Harrisonburg, Virginia. A member of cultural competency committees for work and a participant in several pro-immigrant rallies and other events in her region, she also sings on the worship team and enjoys get-togethers with the hermanos in her church. With the help of her husband, Julio, and their son, Miguel, she has been able to nurture her love for the Latino people.

Follow Allison on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Website

Sign-up for Allison’s Newsletter here.

Interview with Neta Jackson about The Yada Yada Prayer Group (Book #1)

Happy Wednesday, reader friends!

Today, we’re featuring an interview with Neta Jackson about Book #1 in her series, The Yada Yada Prayer Group.


Interview with Neta Jackson about her book, The Yada Yada Prayer Group (Yada Yada Series) Book #1:

NOTE: All of these answers are by Neta, as the YYPG novels were all written by Neta. Future author interviews will include Dave who is her husband and beloved writing partner.

Alexis: What inspired you to write this Yada Yada Series?

Neta: Our church was being very intentional about “racial reconciliation,” so at one point an African American sister and I decided to co-lead a women’s prayer group that was intentionally diverse—and getting to know these amazing women from different backgrounds and different life experiences, who had such deep and solid faith, had such an impact on my life that my husband, Dave, said, “You ought to write a book.” Nope, I said. Can’t. The stuff we share is confidential. He said, “I mean, write a novel, using your prayer group as inspiration, but make it fiction.”

Alexis: Who are the main characters in Book #1 of The Yada Yada Prayer Group? Describe them briefly.

Neta: As the title implies, this novel is about a group, though the POV character is Jodi Baxter—a typical, middle-class, white, “good Christian girl” and third-grade teacher who ends up in a multi-cultural prayer group led by Avis, the African American principal of her school. Avis is mature, gracious, and deeply spiritual, who wisely leads this group of women who are as diverse as a “drawerful of crazy, mixed-up socks”—forcing Jodi to confront her presumptions, prejudices, and ignorance in spite of all her “good intentions,” and to learn how to pray and worship in whole new ways out of her comfort zone.

Besides Jodi and Avis, the group consists of:

Hoshi—a Japanese grad student at Northwestern University, who has become a Christian and been disinherited by her Shinto parents.

Nonyameko—an African immigrant from South Africa, married to an African-American professor at NU (Hoshi was in one of his classes).

Adele—a blunt African American with her own hair salon, taking care of her mother, who is suffering from dementia.

Chanda—a single mom from Jamaica who wants to win the lottery.

Leslie (aka “Stu”)—a single white social worker, who seems to do everything better than Jodi, making Jodi feel awkward, inept, and jealous.

Florida—a middle-aged black mother, married, plain-speaking, former drug addict and street person who is “five years saved and five years sober!”

Ruth—a childless, middle-aged “Messianic Jew” who has a special place in her heart for Yo-Yo.

Yo-Yo—a white twenty-something ex-con who grew up in foster homes and is now the sole caretaker for her two younger teenage brothers. Yo-Yo isn’t sure about this “Jesus stuff” and doesn’t let any of the prayer group get away with religious clichés.

Delores—a Spanish-speaking trauma nurse originally from Mexico and mother of a loveable tribe of 5 kids, who are often babysat by Edesa.

Edesa—a Spanish-speaking black college student from Honduras.

ALL of these characters are essential to the development of the Yada Yada Prayer Group . . . which originally was going to be only one novel—but I found out you can’t put 12 feisty women in a novel and expect them to stay there! All their stories (past, present, and future) clamored to be told in depth—which is why there are 7 novels in the Yada Yada series!

Alexis: What are some of the obstacles that your characters have to overcome?

Neta: Delores’s teenage son is accidentally shot while taking his younger siblings to the park.

Florida is trying to find her 8-year-old daughter who got “lost” in the foster-care system when she was strung-out on drugs.

Chanda finds a lump in her breast, is terrified because her mother died of breast cancer.

Jodi causes a fatal accident “driving while angry,” doesn’t feel “worthy” to be forgiven—causing Florida to get in her face to help her understand she was never “worthy,” she’s “just a sinner saved by grace,” just like herself and all the rest of the sisters.

(That’s just the beginning—the prayer group faces a LOT more challenges as their stories spill into the next books in the series!)

Alexis: What was the “biggest crisis” of your life that you faced and how did your prayer group help you survive?

Neta: I think you are confusing me (the author) with my POV character, Jodi. It was Jodi that had the “biggest crisis of her life” (the fatal accident she caused) who was helped to survive by the prayer group. (However, for inspiration to write that episode, I drew on a fatal accident my mother was involved in years ago in which a child ran in front of her car, as well as an accident I was involved in, in which my father died of a heart attack. Both events pre-dated my being in my real-life prayer group, but helped me in capturing the emotions Jodi struggled with).

Alexis: What is the moral of this Yada Yada Prayer Group story?

Neta: I think a lot of us are like Jodi Baxter—at least that’s what my readers tell me! (“I’m such a Jodi!”) Growing up in a Christian home as a “good Christian girl” like Jodi, I had unrealistic expectations both for myself and others and had to learn that I too am “just a sinner saved by grace.” That can be a cliché, but the reality of knowing that is the key to accepting God’s forgiveness when we mess up big time—and being able to forgive others.

Alexis: What do you want readers to learn from this book?

Neta: The purpose for writing this novel was to share through fiction that the Body of Christ includes many people who are different from us, and even though stepping outside our “comfort zone” can be challenging, God uses the very people who represent a different part of His Body (in their gifts, life experiences, and cultures) to bless and enrich our lives! Not only that, but we actually need each other. I Corinthians 12:21 says, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you’.” Etc. If we stay in our comfort zone with people just like us, we miss the many ways God wants to enrich and bless our own lives, as well as teach us many things about Himself and others we might not learn any other way.

Alexis: What lesson did you learn while writing this book?

Neta: Lessons—plural!

First, that my husband truly believed I could write this novel. Even though I was a writer for many years, we often did projects together—this was to be the first full-length adult novel I wrote by myself. I was scared. Dave took over the shopping, cooking, laundry, and a bunch of other stuff so I could write it! I never could have done it without his encouragement.

Second, that the Holy Spirit kept dropping ideas and people and experiences into my life while I was writing that God wanted me to share in this novel (so much for best-laid plans!). I learned it was important to listen to the Holy Spirit during any writing project.

Third, I had no idea how God was going to use this novel to touch so many lives. My reader letters are the most amazing gifts God could ever give me, showing me ways God has used The Yada Yada Prayer Group to encourage people to pray believing … to open their eyes to their own presumptions and prejudices, to hunger for new ways to worship God, to be inspired to start a prayer group, to be encouraged during difficult times in their lives. What I learned is that we use the gifts God gives us to the best of our abilities—and then watch as God multiplies them to bless others, just like Jesus did with the five loaves and two fish that the little boy gave him.

Alexis: How important is it to you to show diversity in your stories? Explain.

Neta: Very. But first, it’s important to “live diversity” in my own life. Even though I write fiction, I can’t truly represent the importance of having diverse relationships unless having those relationships are a reality for me. God has used my sisters of color and from other backgrounds and cultures to bless my socks off! I long for my readers to experience that same blessing. And besides, the real world isn’t just “white and middle-class.” If I want to write realistic fiction, I need to include diverse characters who aren’t just incidental, but critical to the story.

Alexis: Would you like to see more books with content like this one published by CBA? Why or why not?

Neta: Absolutely. Primarily because people of color are sadly under-represented in the world of Christian fiction. Why? Because CBA publishers and editors and publishing houses are still staffed mostly by white people! And yet . . . there are very talented authors who are people of color! They are part of the Body of Christ and we need them! (See 1 Corinthians 12 again!) There are so many amazing stories yet to be told coming out of the different cultures and life experiences (including non-white churches) that make up our own cities and towns in our own country.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Neta! Would you like to share closing comments?

Neta: The question I get asked most often is, why did you call this prayer group “Yada Yada”?

What really happened is this: A friend was showing me the meaning of “yadah” from a Hebrew/English lexicon to the Old Testament, which basically means “to sing and give praise to God.” But right there above the word “yadah,” was the word “yada”! To my astonishment, I discovered that the word “yada” appears 944 times in the Hebrew Scriptures, a root word which means “to know and be known intimately.” A good example is Psalm 139, which uses the word “yada” several times to express how intimately God knows us.

I thought, Wow! That would be an amazing name for a prayer group—to know God and be known by God intimately, and to know each other in the same way! And thus, the Yada Yada Prayer Group name for my fictional series was born!

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor


About the Author:

Neta Jackson and her husband Dave are an award-winning husband-and-wife writing team, the authors or coauthors of more than 130 books that have sold over 2.5 million copies.

They are best known for Neta’s Yada Yada Prayer Group series and its sequels, as well as their forty-volume Trailblazer series of historical fiction about great Christian heroes for young readers.

Neta and Dave raised two children as well as a foster daughter and are now enjoying all the “grands”!

The Jacksons are thankful for their multi-cultural church and neighborhood in the Chicago area, which provide the characters and setting for their novels.

Follow Neta and her husband Dave Jackson on social media: 

Website: http://www.daveneta.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/DaveNetaJackson/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DaveNetaJackson


About the Book:

What do an ex-con, a former drug addict, a real estate broker, a college student, and a married mother of two have in common? Nothing, or so I thought.
Who would have imagined that God would make a prayer group as mismatched as ours the closest of friends? I almost didn’t even go to the Chicago Women’s Conference–after all, being thrown together with five hundred strangers wasn’t exactly my “comfort zone.”
But something happened that weekend to make us realize we had to hang together, and the “Yada Yada Prayer Group” was born! When I faced the biggest crisis of my life, God used my newfound Sisters to show me what it means to be just a sinner saved by grace.
Buy the book on Amazon

Author Interview with Michelle Stimpson about Mama B: A Time to Speak

Good Monday Morning, reader friends!

Today, we’re featuring an interview with author Michelle Stimpson about her book, Mama B: A Time to Speak.


Interview with Michelle Stimpson about her book, Mama B: A Time to Speak:

Alexis: What inspired you to write this Mama B series?

Michelle: The Mama B series grows out of my natural love for senior citizens. Somehow, I’ve always been the “baby” amongst my associates. I really appreciate their wisdom and the way they view life. Hanging around with older people (including my grandmother) is a joy for me, so Mama B is a natural tribute.

Alexis: Who is Mama B? Share her backstory and personality, then her motivation.

Michelle: The series starts with Mama B as a 72-year-old widow who’s very active in her church and with her friends. She’s a spunky woman who is still learning more and more about the Lord even as she goes into those sunset years. Her prayer life is consistent and she enjoys things ministering to others. This calling to minister to others often causes inconvenience in her life, as sacrificing for others tends to do. Putting other people’s needs before her own drives her to let people move into her home, but she always has to keep her “self” in check as she mentors in close quarters.

Alexis: Apart from Mama B, who are the main characters in this story, “Mama B: A Time to Speak” (Book #1 in your series)? Briefly describe each one’s personality and motivation.

Michelle: In this book, readers will meet Mama B’s friends, including Libbie, who walks with Mama B regularly for exercise. She and Libbie, who is also her prayer partner, face life with hope and spiritual wisdom. Mama B’s friend, Ophelia, is a bit more hot-headed and doesn’t bite her tongue. Henrietta, a woman on the Mother’s Board and Mama B’s church, is usually at odds with Mama B about how things should run at the church.

Mama B’s major dilemma in this first series is a conflict at her church, Mt. Zion, in Peasner, TX. Pastor Phillips is caring for his ailing wife. The interim pastor has some pretty revolutionizing ideas about what the church should be doing, and Mama B finally has enough of the foolishness. He has to speak up for what she believes is right, especially as she believes that the newfangled ideas are negatively impacting her granddaughter (Nikki) and great-grandson (Cameron) who have landed on bad times and come to live with her.

Alexis: How important is church and faith in God to your characters in this story? Why?

Michelle: Mama B’s story, her life, revolves around her faith. She’s not a perfect character by any means, but she’s growing. I think what makes her so likeable is the fact that even at her age, she’s still learning and willing to admit when she’s wrong. She doesn’t have it “all together”, but she’s on a journey that draws her closer and closer to Christ throughout the book.

Alexis: In what ways do church and faith helps your characters to survive and cope with the curveballs of life?

Michelle: The funny thing about Mama B is that her faith actually causes the curveballs. She can’t sit by and watch people do things that she believes (with biblical basis) are detrimental to themselves and the body of Christ. With love and pure intentions, even though she might be imperfect in her delivery, Mama B is compelled to speak.

Alexis: Why is Mama B convinced that it is “A Time to Speak”? How does her voice help?

Michelle: When Mama B sees that her granddaughter thinks God is a sugar daddy and her great-grandson thinks God is a genie, Mama B has to speak up, especially in Pastor Phillips’ absence. This church, Mt. Zion, was partially built by her late husband. Mama B owes it to her God, her community, and her family to bring a word of wisdom, even at the risk of coming across like the stereotypical old lady who is resistant to change in the church. Even if they won’t all listen to her, she has to speak her peace.

Alexis: Would you like to see more books like yours that feature diverse characters, published by CBA? Why or why not?

Michelle: I would love to see this, but I’m not holding my breath. Those of us who are publishing independently are quickly finding our audience and writing the books we know readers want.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Michelle! Would you like to share closing comments?

Michelle: I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to share Mama B with the world! This book started a wonderful relationship with a whole new group of readers for me. I didn’t intend on writing so many Mama B books, but the first book got us on a roll and, six years later, we’re still at it! I hope your readers will enjoy her!

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor.


About the Book:

The good folks at Mt. Zion Baptist are doing their best to keep the church flowing smoothly while Pastor Phillips takes time off to be with his wife in her final days. Beatrice “Mama B” Jackson even opens her home so that the women’s groups can continue to meet faithfully after some “rascal” stole the copper from the church’s air conditioning unit. With her semi-estranged granddaughter and great-grandson staying in the guest room, Mama B soon has a full house.

When the interim preacher and his wife start touting messages that don’t line up with the Bible, Mama B wonders how and if she can intervene without causing strife in the congregation or discouraging the young couple.

But Mama B can only take so much of this foolishness. Soon enough, Mama B will realize that there is much more at stake than she or anyone else at Mt. Zion ever imagined. And it’s time to speak.

Mama B – A Time to Speak is full of godly wisdom and humor that will make you take a deep breath after that last page and smile from the inside out. Fans of the classic “Miss Julia” will enjoy Mama B to the fullest!

Buy this book on Amazon or B&N


About the Author:

Bestselling author Michelle Stimpson has penned more than thirty Christian fiction books including traditional bestsellerDivas of Damascus Road, Amazon #1 bestseller, Stepping Down, the award-winning Mama B series, and Falling Into Grace, which has been optioned for a made-for-TV movie.

She has also published more than fifty short stories through her educational publishing company, WeGottaRead.com.

Michelle holds an English degree from Jarvis Christian College and a master’s degree in education from the University of Texas at Arlington.

She is a part-time language arts consultant. She also serves in women’s ministry through teaching and publishing. She and her husband have two young adult children, one granddaughter, and one bizarre dog. Visit her online at www.MichelleStimpson.com.

Follow Michelle on FacebookTwitter, Website

Interview with Tyora Moody about her book “Relentless Heart”

Good Monday Morning, reader friends!

Today, we’re featuring Tyora Moody’s book Relentless Heart.

Read our interview with this amazing author below.


Interview with Tyora Moody about her book, Relentless Heart:

Alexis: What inspired you to write this book?

Tyora: When I started to outline the Reed Family Series a few years ago, I felt led with this series to start with the middle sister, Jo, in the first book, Broken Heart and then the youngest sister, Toni, in Troubled Heart.

In Relentless Heart, readers meet Asia Reed, the oldest sibling. The story revolves around her desire to find her ex-boyfriend’s murderer.

Alexis: Tell us about your story’s heroine Asia Reed. What is her motivation, passion, and mission in life?

Tyora: All three sisters have pretty strong personalities, but Asia is probably the most opinionated and loves her role as the oldest sister. She also is the most complex sister.

Asia has a passion to win, which she does in the courtroom as a prosecutor. She does have lingering doubts about her ambitions now that she’s drawing closer to forty and her desire to be married and have children consume her.

Alexis: Why is Asia relentless about not losing a case? What drives her to excel?

Tyora: Asia is definitely the classic overachiever. She grew up in a family where her father put away the bad guys as a cop and later as the police chief. It’s ingrained in her to fight for justice for victims.

Alexis: Why is Asia fighting a losing battle in the faith department?

Tyora: Asia has been bent on winning but in Relentless Heart, she runs into a wall with an investigation. The death of a young man at the hands of a police officer really hits home to her. She is also starting to experience signs of weariness at the constant revolving door of prosecuting criminals.

Asia’s mother, Vanessa, is constantly encouraging Asia to make sure she’s not running on empty by leaving God out of her life. Asia is definitely one to work weekends and let cases consume her life, which has also resulted in the burnout.

Alexis: Asia is turning 40 years old, never married and has not had children. How is this situation affecting her career and outlook on life?

Tyora: Asia’s biological clock has been ticking in her ears for a while, but she’s also been pretty busy with her career. Something about turning 40 is making her wonder if all of her “wins” in the courtroom have been really worth it. During this time her younger sister Jo is having her second child and her youngest sister Toni is engaged to be married. These changing dynamics in her close-knit family are also making Asia take a second look at her life.

Alexis: What is the name of Asia’s former boyfriend, a prominent defense attorney who was gunned down in his office? Describe the connection he had with Asia. Did they have a good relationship? How did Asia cope with his death?

Tyora: Adam Locklear is a prominent defense attorney in Charlotte. Asia really wasn’t interested in having a relationship, but she found out that she and Adam had a lot in common. Their relationship started out being a really good fit until Asia caught Adam cheating on her.

She’s never really recovered from the relationship and has enjoyed her revenge in the courtroom. Adam has never been able to win a case against her.

Asia’s lingering feelings for Adam along with her doubts about her life’s direction cause her to take Adam’s death hard. It also didn’t help that she was on her way to see Adam and she comes across the horrific crime scene.

Alexis: What is it about her ex-boyfriend’s death that jolts Asia into action, determined to hunt down his killer and fight for justice?

Tyora: Adam was a “bad boy,” but Asia knew he had a good side. She realized in the last conversation with him that he may have had something to share with her…this information may have resulted in his death.

Alexis: Who is Adam Locklear and what role does he play in this story?

Tyora: If you have the money and you’re in trouble, Adam Locklear is the defense attorney in Charlotte to hire. His clientele consists of criminals and some very shady people with loads of money. Adam’s conscience causes him to reach out to Asia. If Adam suddenly gains a conscience, then Asia knows what he has to tell her is serious.

Alexis: Describe your story’s hero Isaac Coleman. What’s he like?

Tyora: Detective Isaac Coleman is new to homicide. He recently was promoted to detective. He’s a single father raising a teenage daughter. He’s a “cool cucumber,” taking his new role in stride despite some obstacles with his new partner. Being new, he has attention for details. He also has his eyes on Asia!

Alexis: How do Isaac and Asia cross paths and how do they help each other?

Tyora: Isaac is assigned to investigate Adam Locklear’s murder. He takes Asia’s statement. He knows who she is and is kind of in awe of her. The Reed Family is well-known in law enforcement. Asia is a prosecutor, but she’s determined to stick her nose in Isaac’s investigation. He understands her need to know what happened. Both of them start becoming drawn to each for reasons beyond the investigation.

Alexis: Is there hope for a happily ever after for Asia or will she stay a single lady forever?

Tyora: Nothing is impossible with God! That’s advice I share with my real-life single family members and friends. Hopefully, when readers check out Relentless Heart, they will be enamored with Asia’s interest in Detective Coleman.

Alexis: What will it take for a man to woo and win Asia’s heart?

Tyora: Asia needs to trust the man in her life. Adam broke that trust and Asia never really recovered. She’s a strong, independent professional and being disappointed by a man only led her to be more consumed with her independence. She needs a man who respects who she is and has her back especially during the really difficult cases.

Alexis: If you could step into your story as a professional counselor, what advice would you give to Asia? Why?

Tyora: I would tell Asia that work should not be her life. She really has a counselor in her mom, but most people are stubborn about listening to mom’s advice. I would encourage her to take on other interests outside the courtroom that allow her to relax and leave her cases behind.

Alexis: Would you like to see CBA publish more stories featuring main characters of color like Asia who are strong and passionate about career and life? Why or why not?

Tyora: It would be great to see the CBA publish more stories featuring main characters of color. If CBA ever wanted to really get into the business of publishing books with main characters of color, they need to understand the various cultures that read the books. African American readers don’t mind switching to secular to Christian on their reading list. Some edginess to Christian Fiction is accepted.

I had the opportunity to be published traditionally with Urban Christian for four books. The advance was great for marketing funds and it was definitely great to work with multiple editors. I’m a graphic designer so I always didn’t necessarily care for my covers. I don’t miss the tight deadlines.

In all honesty, since independent publishing has matured it will be hard to really convince some authors to give up some of the control they have with their own work. The Holy Spirit remains my main editor and my readers accept my books regardless of the publisher.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Tyora! Do you have closing comments?

Tyora: Thank you for having me. I appreciate the opportunity to introduce your readers to Relentless Heart and the Reed Family series. I hope to return the series in the future and write the brothers’ stories.

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor.


About the Book:

Assistant District Attorney Asia Reed is relentless about not losing a case. But she’s fighting a losing battle in the faith department. Now approaching forty, never married and with no children, a growing sense of unease has made her weary about her career and life.

When a former boyfriend and prominent defense attorney is gunned down in his office, Asia is jolted into action, determined to find out who’s responsible. Only hours before his death, Adam Locklear insists they meet about information she needs to know. Did Locklear’s death have anything to do with what he wanted share?

Detective Isaac Coleman seems to think so. Will Asia’s persistence put her in the path of a killer?

Buy this book on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

~*~

About the Author:

Tyora Moody is the author of Soul-Searching Suspense books which include the Reed Family SeriesEugeena Patterson MysteriesSerena Manchester Series, and the Victory Gospel Series.  She is also the author of The Literary Entrepreneur Series, editor for the Stepping Into Victory Compilations and Aspiring Love Short Stories Compilations under her company, Tymm Publishing LLC.

As a literary-focused entrepreneur, she has assisted countless authors with developing an online presence via her design and marketing company, Tywebbin Creations LLC. Popular services include book covers, book formatting, and book trailers.

To contact Tyora about book club discussions or for book marketing workshops, visit her online at TyoraMoody.com.

Follow Tyora: Amazon ~ Facebook ~ Goodreads ~Instagram ~ Twitter

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Interview with Tyora Moody about her book “Lemon Filled Disaster”

Happy Monday, reader friends!

Join me in welcoming Tyora Moody to the blog.

She’s here to talk about her book, Lemon Filled Disaster.


Interview with Tyora Moody about her book Lemon Filled Disaster:

Alexis: What inspired you to write this book?

Tyora: Lemon Filled Disaster has been on my mind for a few years. It’s book three in the Eugeena Patterson Mysteries. I pick back-up a year later after the second book in the series, Oven Baked Secrets. My readers have also been asking me on social media about the main character. So, the readers’ interest encouraged me to jump back into writing the next amateur sleuth adventure for Ms. Eugeena.

Alexis: There are a lot of published stories about weddings and mysteries. What makes your story unique?

Tyora: For your readers who are not familiar with Eugeena Patterson, she is an African American retired school teacher. Becoming an amateur sleuth during her retirement years was definitely not on Ms. Eugeena’s mind. She is the mother of three and grandmother to five.

In Lemon Filled Disaster, Eugeena is excited about her middle son, a long-time bachelor marrying the love of his life. Eugeena is so enthusiastic about the union, that she helps the couple out as a wedding planner. It’s during her wedding errands that she finds out her future daughter-in-law has a secret. Carmen has an ex-husband that she has never mentioned. The untimely death of this ex-spouse threatens to place the future wedding in jeopardy.

Alexis: Who are your main characters and what role do they play in this story?

Tyora: Eugeena Patterson is the main character. She has a budding romance with her next-door neighbor, Amos Jones, who happens to be a retired detective. The other main characters are Ms. Eugeena’s son, Dr. Cedric Patterson and his fiancee, Dr. Carmen Alpine. There are a host of other members of the family, neighbors and church members.

Alexis: What is the main motivation of your story’s hero and heroine?

Tyora: Ms. Eugeena loves her children and her desire is to see them happy. She also has gotten to know her future daughter-in-law and where another mother may have told her son to run the other way, Ms. Eugeena sees the good in people. She also very determined to find justice.

Alexis: Which one of your characters was the most fun to create? Why?

Tyora: Ms. Eugeena and Amos Jones are my favorite characters. They are unusual because not a lot of writers try to tackle romance with people over sixty. Ms. Eugeena is a sassy go-getter and Amos is always going to back her up and make sure she doesn’t fall into too much trouble. They are quite the team.

Alexis: Was there anything about the writing of this story that challenged you?

Tyora: It’s been about three years since I wrote the last book in this series. I took a break to write another series. It took some time to know exactly where the story would go because I had fans asking me when would Ms. Eugeena and Amos get married. I felt really strongly with both of them being widows that they still needed time.

Alexis: What is the significance of your story’s creative title?

Tyora: This series has some pretty interesting titles. The first book is Deep Fried Trouble. Ms. Eugeena has Diabetes II so I combined her desire to change her eating habits and lifestyle along with her newfound hobby as an amateur sleuth. It’s been fun coming up with these titles and the book covers.

Alexis: What role does your main characters’ faith in God play in this story?

Tyora: God is an essential part of Ms. Eugeena’s life. I always let readers know that this is a Cozy Mystery series under the Christian Fiction genre. Ms. Eugeena has no issues with hitting her knees and having a little talk with Jesus. He’s her anchor especially in recent years with her becoming a widow and going through a health crisis.

Alexis: What makes this book more of a mystery than a contemporary romance?

Tyora: The Eugeena Patterson Mysteries are cozy mysteries. Readers who enjoy romance may enjoy the growing relationship between the baby boomers, Eugeena and Amos. I’ve been really tickled by readers who are rooting for this older couple.

Alexis: Did race matter when you imagined your characters? Why or why not?

Tyora: I have always been a fan of suspense and mystery. I enjoy authors like Colleen Coble, Christy Barritt, Terri Blackstock, and Brandilyn Collins. One of the reasons why I was inspired to write ten years ago was because I rarely picked up a mystery or suspense book that had main characters of color. I felt in my spirit that God was leading me to write the kind of books that I wanted to read. It’s been an awesome journey because many of my readers are not fans of reading mysteries, but they been won over my Ms. Eugeena’s stories.

Alexis: Would you like to see more stories about characters of color? Explain.

Tyora: I think if you’re seeking romance or women’s fiction, there are a lot more books to select from than there was ten years ago. I would still love to see other writers pursue characters of color for mysteries, suspense, and thrillers. When I first started writing, I had other authors tried to steer me to writing romance and women’s fiction, but I felt really strongly towards writing mysteries. I’m glad I stuck to writing because my books win over a new mystery lover one at a time.

Alexis: What do you want readers to remember most about this book?

Tyora: I would love for readers to pick up Lemon Filled Disaster and become a fan of Ms. Eugeena’s quest to solve the mystery.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Ty! Do you have closing comments?

Tyora: Thank you for having me and letting me introduce the latest book in the Eugeena Patterson Mysteries to your readers.

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor.


About the Book:

Retiree Eugeena Patterson has picked up some new activities which include volunteering at an afterschool program and helping her future daughter-in-law plan a wedding. Eugeena is more than thrilled to see her son, Dr. Cedric Patterson, a longtime bachelor soon wed his girlfriend, Carmen Alpine.

During wedding planning errands, Eugeena notices a man is tailing her and Carmen.  When the man confronts Carmen this makes Eugeena’s enthusiasm wane and suspicions rise.

Later when that man is found dead, Carmen becomes a suspect. As Eugeena begins to investigate Carmen’s past, she’s wondering if this wedding will ever happen.

Buy this book on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.


About the Author:

Tyora Moody is the author of Soul-Searching Suspense books which include the Reed Family SeriesEugeena Patterson MysteriesSerena Manchester Series, and the Victory Gospel Series.  She is also the author of The Literary Entrepreneur Series, editor for the Stepping Into Victory Compilations and Aspiring Love Short Stories Compilations under her company, Tymm Publishing LLC.

As a literary-focused entrepreneur, she has assisted countless authors with developing an online presence via her design and marketing company, Tywebbin Creations LLC. Popular services include book covers, book formatting, and book trailers.

To contact Tyora about book club discussions or for book marketing workshops, visit her online at TyoraMoody.com.

Follow Tyora: Amazon ~ Facebook ~ Goodreads ~Instagram ~ Twitter

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