Open Discussion: Vanilla Confessions

Hi, y’all! I am an avid reader and actively seek out diverse fiction yet I am seriously lacking in the life experience department. Growing up in our small rural farming community has a lot of benefits but exposure to cultural diversity is not one of them.

HandsI was taught that we are all the same, regardless of skin color, which is true at the very core of who we are, members of the human race, children of God, residents of the third rock from the sun, yet we are also shaped by our experiences. Although I am still not completely sure why… colorblind doesn’t make it all better.

Fellow Christian fiction enthusiasts, share your thoughts and help a vanilla sister out!

What do you as members of a multicultural community want us backcountry white folks (with little to no exposure to diversity apart from the media) to know?

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Author Interview: Cindy Flores Martinez, featuring “Love’s Second Chance”

Let’s welcome Cindy Flores Martinez to the blog today!

She’s here to talk about her book, Love Second’s Chance.

Read Cindy’s interview below to learn more about her All-American/Latina heritage and discover her passion for portraying Latino-American characters in her stories whose experiences are relatable to the readers regardless of the readers’ race.

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About the book: 

Can two broken hearts find healing together?

Brad McIntyre is much too young to feel so disillusioned with his life as a deputy sheriff. Esperanza De La Cruz has left the only home she has ever known to work at Sweet Grove’s daycare. When someone steals her car, Deputy McIntyre comes to the rescue.

There’s an instant attraction between them, but they’re both broken on the inside. Her father is in prison for intoxicated manslaughter and she’s afraid that Brad won’t want to be with her because of it.

He’s thinking of leaving the only career he’s ever known but pretends that everything is fine. His desperate prayers seem to go unanswered.

When they start spending time together and their feelings for each other begin to grow stronger, things become even more complicated. When the truth comes out, will it pull them apart or will they find a second chance at love and in life together?

Buy the book on Amazon

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About the Author: Cindy Flores Martinez is a USA Today bestselling author. She writes Christian romance. She has an MFA in Creative Writing with an emphasis in Screenwriting. Her debut novel, Mail-Order Groom, started as a screenplay and movie project, which she shopped around Hollywood, New York, and other parts of the world. You can learn more about her at www.cindyfloresmartinez.com.

Follow Cindy: Facebook ~ Twitter

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Interview with Cindy Flores Martinez, author of Love’s Second Chance:

Alexis: Tell us about the First Street Church Romances novella collection. What is it about? How did you get involved? Why did you want to contribute your story to the collection?

Cindy: The First Street Church Romances novella collection is part of Amazon’s fan fiction called Kindle Worlds. The series is based on Melissa’s Storm’s Christian romance series, which includes Love’s Prayer, Love’s Promise, Love’s Prophet, and Love’s Vow. Each of the stories takes place in the fictional town of Sweet Grove, Texas where the First Street Church is an important part of the characters’ lives. I knew Melissa from a boxed set that we were part of together and I found out that she was seeking authors for her Kindle World debut. I reached out to her and became one of twenty authors who were chosen. The Christian romance theme is what interested me in contributing a story.

Alexis: Tell us about your story, Love’s Second Chance. What is it about? What or who inspired you to write it?

Cindy: Love’s Second Chance is about a young woman who moves to Sweet Grove, Texas after landing a job at the daycare there. The day she arrives, someone steals her car and a young deputy sheriff answers the call. They’re attracted to each other and their feelings grow as they spend time together, but they face obstacles that keep them from admitting their feelings for one another. My inspiration came from reading Melissa’s books. Her characters face serious problems in life and find strength and answers through prayer. I had written mostly romantic comedy and wanted to try writing a deeper story like that.

Alexis: Your story’s heroine is Esperanza De La Cruz. She’s a Latina. Which country is she from and how does her heritage affect the way she is portrayed in your story?

Cindy: Esperanza is American with Mexican ancestry. Her character was easy to write because I consider myself the same. The difference between me and her is that I have American Indian ancestry on both of my parents’ sides, so I connect with that ancestry as well. Like me, Esperanza speaks both English and Spanish perfectly, has a college education, and a career, but the Mexican culture has played a big role in her life. Her story reflects the reality of so many Latinos. We grew up as all-American kids who became college-educated adults and we happen to have Mexican parents (or parents from other Latin American countries) who raised us according to their customs.

Alexis: Do you think there is a need for more Latino main characters in fictional stories written for the Christian book market (CBA)? Why or why not?

Cindy: Absolutely! I would love to see more Latino main characters in Christian fiction, as well as more Christian Latino authors. I often see stories that are written by authors who happen to be Latino but the genres aren’t what I want to read. I find myself looking to Christian women as role models and I enjoy reading Christian romance. It’s rare to see a Latino point of view within that mix. If there are other Christian Latino authors out there, please let me know!

Alexis: How did your own experience as a Latina affect the way that you wrote Esperanza’s character?

Cindy: I think the way Esperanza acts and reacts has everything to do with my experience as a Latina. One of my beta readers told me that the first draft of my story had parts that were melodramatic. I didn’t think so because, in the Latino culture, it’s normal to express strong emotions and to look at life in a way that may seem overly dramatic. I mean, some of us were told as children not to go out in the cold without a jacket or else our face would get twisted and stay that way. Talk about dramatic! That’s just one example. Well, the final draft of the story is much calmer than the first, but Esperanza still reacts emotionally when she experiences the problems in her life.

Alexis: In what ways do you hope that Esperanza’s story will impact your readers?

Cindy: My desire is that Esperanza’s story will show others that God is alive and active. He hears the prayers of His people and responds. Things may happen that aren’t fair and that don’t make sense, but He knows why. If you wait on Him and trust in Him, He will lead you to the right place and you will look back and understand why things happened the way they did. Esperanza’s story may be fictional, but the experience of God in her life is very real.

Alexis: Describe Esperanza’s look, personality, and heart. What is her most troublesome character flaw? Explain.

Cindy: Esperanza’s name, Esperanza De La Cruz, means “Hope of the Cross”. Her mother’s name, Milagros, means miracles. I chose those names on purpose to represent the theme of the story, which is the hope of the Cross of Christ. Esperanza is described as young and attractive and her most troublesome character flaw is that she carries guilt and shame over the negative events that have happened in her life, even though she wasn’t to blame. Isn’t that true for many of us?

Alexis: What happened to Esperanza that broke her heart? Is there hope for restoration? Why or why not?

Cindy: Esperanza’s father was arrested for intoxicated manslaughter and sent to prison. He didn’t plan on committing the crime. He had a few alcoholic beverages, drove home and hit and killed a pedestrian. In addition to devastating the victim’s family, it destroyed Esperanza’s perfect life. She suffered the pain of her father being taken away, and as a result of him being gone, her parents lost their home. Esperanza’s boyfriend left her because he couldn’t handle her family problems. She thinks there’s no hope for a better tomorrow, but God doesn’t see it that way.

Alexis: Esperanza works for Sweet Grove’s daycare. Why did you give her a heart for children? What role does her passion play in this story?

Cindy: Esperanza wants to teach kindergarten because she has a desire to affect people’s lives in a positive and lasting way, but she feels that teaching adults would limit her ability to do so. She realizes that teaching children would enable her to make more of an impact on others. Her desire drives her to move to a place she’s never known before and leave her mother in the process. Working at the daycare will enable her to get experience for when she is able to become a teacher.

Alexis: Brad McIntyre is the hero of your story. Describe his looks, personality, and heart. What is his most prominent character flaw? Explain.

Cindy: Brad is young and attractive and he believes that God has given him a calling in life to help others. He has pursued a career in law enforcement after realizing it was part of that greater purpose. His character flaw is that he wishes he can change the whole world and he doesn’t see the positive effect he has on the lives of the people around him. This leads to a sense of disappointment and feelings of being a failure.

Alexis: Describe Brad and Esperanza’s meet-cute. What brings them together? Is there anything that drives them apart? Explain.

Cindy: When Esperanza arrives at Sweet Grove with all of her belongings in her car, she parks in front of the apartment building where she plans to rent an apartment. She enters the building to search for the landlord, and when she returns, someone is driving away in her car. Brad quickly arrives after a witness calls the police. Their meeting isn’t a typical meet-cute because Brad is so focused on doing his job and Esperanza is overcome by the horror of what has happened. When Brad offers to drive her to the First Street Church to see if they can help her, she hesitates. Although they’re attracted to each other, it takes a while for things to become romantic.

Alexis: What’s Brad’s race? How does his heritage affect the way that he deals with people who do not share his same background…or does it not matter to him?

Cindy: Brad is described as having blond hair and blue eyes and he doesn’t fully understand Spanish, but I didn’t emphasize his ancestry. Like Esperanza, he’s all-American, but not Latino like her. He notices her dark hair and dark eyes and that she speaks to her mom in Spanish, and he’s attracted to her wholeheartedly. He helps her without hesitation.

Alexis: What role does Brad and Esperanza’s faith in God play in this story?

Cindy: When Brad struggles with his job situation, he calls out to God for help. When Esperanza needs a job, she seeks God’s guidance. Brad isn’t as confident in his faith as Esperanza. He’s confused about his life, but despite it, he waits on Him. No matter what, God remains their only hope.

Alexis: What’s the moral of the story?

Cindy: No matter how hopeless life can seem, God will rescue you if you seek Him with all of your heart. People often quote Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,” but they fail to continue to the part that says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”. A passion for God is the key to moving mountains.

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

Cindy: I want to thank you for letting others know that there are Christian diverse stories available to read. Sometimes our names and ancestries might give others the impression that our stories won’t be relatable to them. The result is that they don’t “hear” the message that God has inspired us to share. By sharing our works, you’ve opened a door that could lead to more lives being touched.

~ Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor ~

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Book Spotlight: Dreams That Won’t Let Go

Happy Wednesday, Reader Friends!

Thanks for stopping by Diversity Between the Pages.

Today, we’re featuring Dreams That Won’t Let Go by Stacy Hawkins Adams. It’s the third novel in her Jubilant Soul Series.

Enjoy!

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About the book:

 Indigo Burns is excited. Her wedding preparations to the man of her dreams are under way, her career as a photographer is a success, and her family seems to be doing better than ever–all except her brother Reuben who nobody has seen in years.

But that’s about to change, because Reuben has decided to move back home to Jubilant, Texas. But Reuben’s hope to find healing with his sisters doesn’t seem to be working. Soon enough their lives intersect in dramatic, sometimes painful, and ultimately healing ways.

This insightful novel by an Essence bestselling author will pull in women readers from the urban market and beyond.

Book purchase links: Amazon ~ B&N ~ CBD

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Author Bio: Stacy Hawkins Adams is an award-winning author, journalist, and writing mentor whose fiction and nonfiction enlightens readers while helping them find confidence in their own stories.

She has penned nine faith-based novels and one devotional book.

She also serves as a parenting columnist for a Virginia-based newspaper and blogs for the Huffington Post on social justice issues.

Stacy lives in Virginia with her family.

Learn more about her at www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com.

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Follow Stacy: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

Author Interview: Stacy Hawkins Adams, featuring “Worth a Thousand Words”

Please extend a warm welcome to a familiar face here on our blog!

Journalist Stacy Hawkins Adams returns to answer my questions about book number two in her Jubilant Soul Series, Worth a Thousand Words.

Enjoy!

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About the book:

 Life has always gone Indigo Burns’s way. She’s smart, pretty, and talented, and she knows exactly what she wants. A photography internship at her hometown’s local newspaper is the next step in her well-laid plans for her future. But her long-term goals are put to the test when her boyfriend Brian proposes–two years before he’s supposed to and in front of all the guests at her college graduation party. Too concerned about his feelings to say no, she heartily agrees, but inside she’s cringing.

Indigo knows in her heart that she’s not prepared to sacrifice her dreams to become Brian’s wife–not before she has achieved any of them. Will she find the answers among family and friends in Jubilant, Texas? Or will the picture-perfect life she dreams of be left behind?

Purchase the book: Amazon ~ B&N ~ CBD

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Author Bio: Stacy Hawkins Adams is an award-winning author, journalist, and writing mentor whose fiction and nonfiction enlightens readers while helping them find confidence in their own stories.

She has penned nine faith-based novels and one devotional book.

She also serves as a parenting columnist for a Virginia-based newspaper and blogs for the Huffington Post on social justice issues.

Stacy lives in Virginia with her family.

Learn more about her at www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com.

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Interview with Stacy Hawkins Adams about her book, Worth a Thousand Words:

Alexis: What was the inspiration behind the title of this book?

Stacy: Worth a Thousand Words is a metaphor for how the truth is worth a thousand words. The main characters in this novel had to choose between living their lives to please others or finding the courage to stand in their own truths.

Alexis: Indigo is a very artsy, unique name for a heroine. How did you imagine her name? What is she like? Describe her personality, passion, career goals and dreams of her heart.

Stacy: I’m always on the hunt for intriguing character names – whether I find them in articles or overhear them in conversations. I don’t quite recall how I discovered this particular name, but when I heard it, I fell in love, and when it was time to create a young character who was vibrant and arts-oriented (via her photography), this name seemed perfect.

Indigo is a recent college grad beloved by her family, including her favorite older cousin Rachelle, who is the main character in The Someday List, the first novel in my Jubilant Soul series. She is eager to launch a career as a photographer and see the world, so she is caught off guard when her handsome boyfriend – who her parents consider to be “a good catch” – proposes at her graduation party before she even has a chance to experience independence. While she says yes to the proposal to save face, her heart is screaming something else, and she must decide which path to take.

Alexis: Why would her boyfriend Brian’s proposal interfere with her carefully constructed life plans?

Stacy: In part because she is so young that her plans simply include being excited about the possibilities life could offer. By choosing to follow Brian in following his dream, she might always wonder if she had compromised her own. And truthfully, Indigo has to decide whether the love she feels for Brian is truly deep enough to spend the rest of her life with him, or just convenient and pleasing to her parents.

Alexis: Does Indigo love Brian? It looks like her heart didn’t want to say “yes”.

Stacy: As I mentioned above, she does, but even she is not sure if it’s an enduring, God-ordained love. They make a picture-perfect couple, but beyond the surface, are they really compatible, and meant to help each other flourish in their purpose and dreams? The fact that Indigo seems less than thrilled by the proposal and the impending wedding plans makes her wonder.

Alexis: Why does Indigo fear marriage and settling down with Brian?

Stacy: Because she’s so young. There’s so much to learn about herself and life and her purpose. She doesn’t know how to articulate this, but what she’s feeling is the question of “Is there something more?” And the fact that she’s asking herself this in various ways is her clue that there probably is something more, or at least something different, for her.

Alexis: What were the challenges unique to writing this story?

Stacy: This was a fun book to write because it allowed me to explore the inner thoughts, hopes, and fears of two young adult characters (in their early 20s), at a pivotal time in their lives. The only challenge was trying to tell the story without giving away Brian’s struggles too early and also those of a few other characters. I also sought to write about the issues they were facing in a balanced way so that readers could decide for themselves whose side to take.

Alexis: What were the most rewarding parts of writing this novel?

Stacy: Showing the humanity of all of the characters, even when they made choices that I knew readers might question or find frustrating. My goal was to show their motivation for their choices so that when readers put down the book and considered the choices of people around them, they might begin to extend a little more grace.

Alexis: As a real-life journalist, was it easy for you to write the scenes where Indigo takes pictures with her professional camera? Why or why not?

Stacy: Yes – having worked in newsrooms with great professional photographers was a bonus. I was able to pull from those experiences to make Indigo’s summer job realistic.

Alexis: As an author of color, do you feel like you need to write about characters that look like you and share your experiences? Or do you write stories about characters that are not of color too? Explain.

Stacy: I write about the humanity of all characters because, at the end of the day, we all care about the same things and about people we love. We all want to be safe, happy, loved and fulfilled, and we all can grow from a personal relationship with God. With that in mind, it’s a pleasure to write about characters of color who reflect this, because this is who I am, and many people I know. At the same time, I’ve heard from readers of all backgrounds that they’ve found my stories relatable, and that they were surprised once they started reading how they sometimes forgot that the characters “happened” to be African American.

I don’t take those comments to mean that there’s anything wrong with having characters who are people of color; instead, I believe what they’re saying is that the stories were relevant to them, no matter what the characters looked like. And yes – I often include characters in my books who are not African American, because we live in a multi-cultural world, and this helps the book feel more true-to-life.

I also try to show that true friendship, grace, love, and caring can be more powerful than any surface or cultural differences; we just have to open our hearts and eyes to this and truly see the other person.

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

Stacy: I want readers to remember that trusting the truths in your heart is the best path to take, in every aspect of your life.

Each of the primary characters in this novel experienced a peace beyond understanding when they embraced this reality and stood tall in who they felt called to be and in what they felt led to do. This doesn’t mean it was always easy or that the path was always clear; but because they were honoring what they felt was right, they knew they would be okay. They trusted that God’s hand on their lives was the best roadmap to follow to their joy.

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

Stacy: Thanks for the opportunity to share with your readers about my novel Worth a Thousand Words. I loved writing this book and I hope they will find it inspiring, eye-opening and thought-provoking. I’d love to receive feedback on my social media pages. In the meantime, I wish everyone reading this all my best.

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Connect with Stacy:

Website – www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com

Twitter – www.twitter.com/shadams

Facebook – www.facebook.com/stacyinspires