Thursday, April 24, 2014

Spotlight: Intermission for Reverend G by RJ Thesman

RJ Thesman has done it again. I thoroughly enjoyed The Unraveling of Reverend G and Intermission for Reverend G is just as delightful. 

Reverend G is my hero for growing older. With spunk and determination, she bravely faces the daily challenges and unknowns of Alzheimers. 

This is one series I highly recommend.  

About Intermission for Reverend G
Three months after a fire ripped through Cove Creek Assisted Living Facility, repairs are complete, but even as Reverend G and her cat, Gabriel move back into their apartment, the re­tired pastor realizes life just isn’t the same. She continues to minister to her fellow residents —the widower who reads the same book over and over and the woman who waits by the front door for the family who never arrives. Even Gabriel is back at work, making his rounds and forecasting death. But while Reverend G is able to find the words to conduct a fu­neral service, anticipates the birth of her first grandchild and plans her future with her beloved Chris, she battles her wors­ening Alzheimer’s symptoms — memory loss, paranoia, anger and fear. Now, her worst nightmare seems to be coming true. God hasn’t spoken to her in weeks.
 Has Reverend G lost her
connection with God?

RJ Thesman writes as a daughter whose mother is disappearing into the shadows of Alzheimer’s Disease. Her hope is that caregivers and readers will find hope in the story of Reverend G. 
RJ is a Certified Life Coach, a Biblical Counselor and a Stephen Minister. She works as Program Director for GateWay of Hope, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help hurting women.
RJ lives in the heartland of Kansas with her son and an elderly cat.

An Interview with the author
For my readers who haven’t met Reverend G yet, tell us a bit about her. 
Reverend G is a gutsy little lady who wasn’t afraid to buck the system. She became a woman minister, earned her MDiv and faithfully served her church for many years. Now, she has been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s and dementia. She tries to continue serving God as a resident of assisted living where her greatest fear is that she might forget God. In this second book of the series, she is struggling to make a decision about her love life while following her cat around Cove Creek Assisted Living.

What is your favorite part of her story? 
I like the fact that she constantly surprises me – and my readers. She wears leather pants, hates that vanilla pudding stuff that they serve for snacks and plays Bingo with a vengeance. She likes cheesecake, especially with blueberries, which is also one of my favorite desserts. And no matter what is happening to Reverend G and how scary the Alzheimer’s diagnosis is, she continues to trust that God will somehow take care of her.

A protagonist with Alzheimer’s is an unusual choice. Why did you choose this topic? 
When my father was living in dementia, I often wondered – what is he really thinking about? He can’t tell me, but what is he thinking? Now that my mother has Alzheimer’s, I’m wondering the same thing. Her words are sometimes confused and her memories based on her latest dream, but what is she really thinking inside and just can’t communicate anymore? I wanted to explore that inner world and because of my family’s experiences, I chose the conflict of Alzheimer’s.

What do you hope readers will take away from Reverend G?
One of the things I keep hearing is that my readers appreciate the prayer life of Reverend G – that she just belts out her innermost thoughts and believes God cares about all of them. I want my readers to know that prayer is just talking with God – another facet of the relationship we have with God – that we can share anything with him at any time. And I hope that caregivers will be encouraged by these books and realize that no matter how far into the journey of Alzheimer’s their loved one is, even if their loved ones can’t tell them anymore  – they are still deeply loved.

You are involved in a ministry called Gateway to Hope. Tell us a bit about that. Who might benefit from connecting with this group?
GateWay of Hope is a nonprofit organization that serves only women. Our tagline is: the helping place for hurting women. We offer counseling, groups, coaching and prayer. As the Program Director and Life Coach, I organize all the groups, train the leaders, coach women in many areas, facilitate our SOS program (Starting Over Single) and pray for women who call or come by for services. We help women who have been abused, women who are divorced, women who are stressed and over-committed and women who have suffered a loss of any kind. Basically – all women fit the profile for services at GateWay. I can do coaching via Skype and we are always available by phone to meet the needs of women. Our website is: and the phone # is 913.393.4283.

Is there something I haven’t asked that you would really like my readers to know?
With my research and the experiences of my family, it’s important for all of us to know the life stories of our loved ones. My dad loved music, so within his dementia – I communicated by singing to him. That spark of interest always flickered in his eyes when I sang. My mother’s life story includes her career of nursing, so when we need to make a change in her routine – we remind her that the doctor ordered it. Because of her career, she listens to the doctor. It’s important that we share our life stories with our children and grandchildren so that we can pass on our lives of faith, but it’s also a practical use – for our own futures. Knowing the life story is something I’ve learned and put into practice – not only in my writing, but also in life.

Where can my readers connect with you?

Where can my readers purchase the Reverend G books?
The Unraveling of Reverend G and  Intermission for Reverend G  
Note: The Unraveling of Reverend G is free on Kindle this week!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Homeschooling on Patriot's Day with Fields of the Fatherless

Come peek inside homeschooling life at my house as I share about Fields of the Fatherless by Elaine Cooper, a book my daughter and I read to supplement our history study

For a treat, today you will also hear my from my daughter and Elaine Cooper, the author of Fields of the Fatherless.  

Fields of the Fatherless is a "living book", real life events creatively woven together in order to inaugurate you into that world. And because today is Patriot's Day, this is a fitting book to highlight. Keep reading to find out why. 

~ ~ ~
About the Book

In the early months of 1775, war is brewing in the American colonies. Although frightened, eighteen-year-old Betsy Russell of Menotomy Village, Massachusetts, wants to be prepared in case of attack by the British troops.

Her father, prosperous farmer Jason, is the fourth generation of Russells on this land—yet their very rights as British Colonials are being stripped away one by one. Will the King of England take the Russells’ land as well?

Tensions are growing here in the countryside west of Boston and the outbreak of battle seems almost a certainty. Jason desperately wants to protect his family—his wife, children and grandchildren—and their future. Betsy makes every attempt to be prepared for the worst.

But not even the American militia could have predicted what was about to occur—right on the Russells’ doorstep. If Betsy loses everything she holds dear, are the rights of all the Colonists endangered?                                       (Based on a true story.) 

~ ~ ~
About the Author

Novelist Elaine Marie Cooper is the author of Fields of the Fatherless and the Deer Run saga (The Road to Deer Run, The Promise of Deer Run and The Legacy of Deer Run.) Her passions are her family, her faith in Christ and the history of the American Revolution, a frequent subject of her historical fiction. She grew up in Massachusetts, the setting for many of her novels.

Elaine is a contributing writer to Fighting Fear, Winning the War at Home by Edie Melson, and I Choose You, a romance Anthology. Her freelance work has appeared in both newspapers and magazines, and she blogs regularly at Colonial Quills as well as on her own website . You can also connect with her on Facebook  and Twitter .

A memoir of Elaine’s daughter, Bethany’s Calendar, will release spring, 2015.

~ ~ ~ 
From the author: On a Historical Note

As I watched the solemn ceremonies on the broadcast news in remembrance of the victims who were killed in the Boston bombings one year ago, I remembered the moment when I first saw that report. I was angry.

Many around the world just knew about the event called the Boston Marathon, which was the occasion for the attack. Since I grew up in the Boston area, I knew the event was far more significant than just a race; it was Patriot’s Day weekend, a memorial of the first battle for American Independence in 1775.

As it happened, the book I’d written about the events of April 19, 1775 was to be released the following October. After the terrible attack at the Boston Marathon, I became more determined than ever to share the story about Patriot’s Day, celebrated every year in Boston.

The events that occurred that April day were the culmination of discontent between the British Parliament and the American colonists. It began when the citizens of Massachusetts stood their ground against King George of England’s military troops (known as the regulars). The highly trained regulars were readying to confiscate gunpowder and arms that had been hidden in Concord, Massachusetts—weapons that the Americans hoped would protect their lands and their lives if they were attacked.

Fortunately for the colonists, American spies in Boston sent out messengers via horseback to warn the towns along the way: “To arms! The regulars are coming” became the battle cry that the colonists had feared. Yet they now firmed their resolve to stand their ground. Their liberties had been stripped away one by one; now it was time to act.

Most historians cite the battles of Concord and Lexington that day. But an even worse battle occurred right in my hometown of Arlington, Massachusetts. At the time, Arlington was known as Menotomy Village. This village stood on the road between Concord and Boston, so when the British troops retreated back to Boston, a terrible battle broke out. In Menotomy Village, there were more soldiers on both sides that were killed that day than in any other town.

As a youngster growing up in Arlington, the old Jason Russell House still stood up the street from where I lived. I walked by it regularly and wondered why it was a historical landmark. What had happened there? It was not until I grew up that I researched that history and then wrote my novel based on that fateful day: Fields of the Fatherless.

I tell the story of Betsy Russell, daughter of Jason. She was a very real person who lived in a terrifying time and endured a horrific battle that occurred right on her doorstep. I wanted to tell the story through the 18-year-old’s eyes, to allow the reader to understand what it truly meant to be a brave patriot for freedom at a time of such danger. The sacrifice she and her family made on the cusp of Revolution should not be forgotten.

On this April 21, please remember their bravery and celebrate Patriot’s Day wherever you live.

You can read a blog I wrote about Patriot’s Day for Colonial Quills HERE .

~ ~ ~
What will kids think of Fields of the Fatherless? 
A discussion with my daughter   

Me: What did you think of this book?
Daughter: It very interesting and fast pace. I liked it.

Me: Would you read other books based on similar time frames by this author even if it wasn’t for school? Why?
Daughter: Yes. Its interesting and I really like this time period.

Me: What did you like best about the story?
Daughter: I related to Betsy. She was scared, but did what she needed to.

Me: What was (one of) your favorite scene(s)?
Daughter: At church everyone describes how they were involved in battle. An old lady captured British soldiers on her own.

Me: What did you learn about the Revolutionary war time period that you didn’t learn in the text book we used?
Daughter: I saw a redcoat opinion/perspective on the war. I never really thought about what they were thinking.

Me: If you could take the war out of the story, would you want to visit this family?
Daughter: Yes. It would be fun. Especially Betsy because she conquered her fear.

Me: Any other thoughts?
Daughter: The story reminds me of something from the Princess Diaries: Bravery is not the absence of fear, but the decision that something else is more important. (paraphrased) 

~ ~ ~
What will parents think? 
My review
Always on the lookout for great books to supplement our curriculum, I was pleasantly surprised when I read Fields of the Fatherless by Elaine Marie Cooper. It is historically and culturally accurate. The emotions portrayed show Betsy both honest and strong. Elaine puts the reader smack dab in the middle of events that forever shape a young woman’s perception of how to live life. 
Whether battling on a national level or in the schoolyards, the truth Betsy finds is as applicable today as it was in the 1700’s. Through Fields of the Fatherless, you will experience events that shaped individual lives as well as our nation. I highly recommend this book.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Video Devotional: His Grace is Enough

The crisis of imperfection is an opportunity to 
lean into God's grace. Click to Tweet

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Spotlight: Jennifer Hallmark

The Book
In college, Mara and her sorority sisters played an ugly game, and Mara was usually the winner. She’d date men she considered geeks, win their confidence, and then she’d dump them publicly. When Mara begins work for a prestigious clothing designer in New York, she gets her comeuppance. Her boyfriend steals her designs and wins a coveted position. He fires her, and she returns in shame to her home in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where life for others has changed for the better.
Mara’s parents, always seemingly one step from a divorce, have rediscovered their love for each other, but more importantly they have placed Christ in the center of that love. The changes Mara sees in their lives cause her to seek Christ. Mara’s heart is pierced by her actions toward the twelve men she’d wronged in college, and she sets out to apologize to each of them. A girl with that many amends to make, though, needs money for travel, and Mara finds more ways to lose a job that she ever thought possible.
Mara stumbles, bumbles, and humbles her way toward employment and toward possible reconciliation with the twelve men she humiliated to find that God truly does look upon the heart, and that He has chosen the heart of one of the men for her to have and to hold.                                                              Get your copy at Amazon

My Review
When I first noticed the book A Dozen Apologies, I thought it was an interesting plot. When I discovered that each hero’s chapter was written by a different author, I was intrigued. I missed the posting of the chapters as readers voted on who would be the “happily-ever-after” hero in the final published version of the book, but I think I rather enjoyed reading it all put together.

Each chapter has a fun twist as you find out what the hero is up to after all the years since Mara saw them last. You never really know how they will treat her when she shows up on their doorstep.

Jennifer Hallmark did an outstanding job with her chapter. In the space of a short chapter, she gave the hero of Chapter 8 depth of character, making for a likeable character. An enjoyable chapter in an enjoyable book. 

The Author
Jennifer Hallmark: writer by nature, artist at heart, and daughter of God by His grace. She loves to read detective fiction from the Golden Age, watch movies like LOTR, and play with her two precious granddaughters. At times, she writes.
Her website is Alabama-Inspired Fiction and she shares a writer’s reference blog, Writing Prompts & Thoughts & Ideas…Oh My! with friends, Christina, John, Ginger, Tammy, Don, and Betty. She and Christina Rich share an encouraging blog for readers called The Most Important Thing.
Jennifer and her husband, Danny, have spent their married life in Alabama and have a basset hound, Max.

An Interview with Jennifer

Have you always been a writer? I’ve loved writing since I was a child, carrying the dream of being published into my teenage years. Along came a husband and two children and I tucked the dream into a corner for a while. I married a farmer, so we raised chickens and cattle for the next 20 years. In 2006, I decided to take my every-once-in-a-while hobby and make it a career.

What book are you currently reading? I’m always reading several books at once. First time reads at the moment are Ryan’s Father by June Foster and Why Your Weirdness Is Wonderful by Laurie Wallin. I’m also re-reading the Anne of Green Gables series (I’m on book 4) and the Inspector Allyen series by Ngaio Marsh (I’m on book 5). J

What books have influenced your life the most? I love allegories and journey stories! Pilgrim’s Progress, Hind’s Feet on High Places, and more recently, the books by James Rubart.

What is your writing process?  I’m a no-outline writer. So after I answer email and catch up on blogging, I then switch to either working on a new novel or editing. It depends on what’s important on any given day. I haven’t learned how to manage my time yet. It’s a work-in-progress.

Where do you get constructive critiques and feedback? I belong to two local writing groups, but they’re mostly for encouragement. I run my books through a critique group I found through the ACFW and have a friend who freelance edits for me.

What is your book about? A Dozen Apologies is an inspirational romance compilation. At the Catch the Wave Writer’s conference last year, I met Tracy Ruckman and was asked to participate in this Valentine’s Day project. The theme is forgiveness, after being brought to a place of surrender. Mara has made many lives miserable including her own, needs to learn humility, and eventually how to forgive herself.

What do you want readers to take away from your book? That God loves you and He is willing to forgive you, no matter what you’ve done. You just have to humble yourself before Him and accept His grace and mercy.

Thank you for joining us today, Jennifer. And thank you for sharing this story. We all need reminders of God's forgiveness. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

10 Principles for Guarding Intimacy in Marriage Part 11

Today, draws to a conclusion our look at principles found in the 10 commandments which we can apply to guarding intimacy with our spouse. Not legalistic, binding laws, but principles that can guide us in our decisions.

Catch up: part 1part 2part 3part 4part 5part 6part 7, part 8part 9, and part 10

You should not covet... Exodus 20:

For you and me: Don’t want or try to get what everyone else has.

Wanting what someone else owns and working to get stuff like our neighbors shifts our focus to things of lesser value than intimacy.

Trying to do everything our co-workers, friends and people on television do will fill our lives with a cluttered schedule.  

The grass tends to look greener in someone else’s yard and comparing ourselves to those around us can easily build resentment.  

With resentment in our hearts, a cluttered schedule and our focus on what has little value, it shouldn't surprise us when intimacy with our spouse disappears from our marriage.

Putting into practice the greatest commandment of all, “ the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength...” instead of wanting what others have, will find us closer to God. And as we each draw closer to God, we will find ourselves closer to each other and the intimacy we crave.

What do you think? Can the principles behind the 10 commandments help us to set healthy boundaries to guard intimacy in our marriage? Which principle do you need to work on? 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Highlight: Wild Mint Tea by Valerie Comer

She’s rooted deep. He flies free.

Local-foods chef Claire Halford envisions turning Green Acres Farm into an event destination. Weddings prove trickier than she imagined when the first one comes with a ruggedly handsome brother-of-the-bride, who has everything but a fixed address. Oh, and faith in God. 

Noel Kenzie loves the freedom his reforestation company affords him. Why worry about deep stuff like God and commitment when he’s in his prime? Except there’s a woman who might make it worth giving up his wings…and digging in some roots. If he dares.
Get your copy of Wild Mint Tea at Amazon

My Review
There is something to be said for building something from scratch and working for your dream. When you work as a family – even when your family is those you labor with for your dream, you put down roots. Something most people long for. Maybe because it is so widely missing in our culture.

That is a lot of what you’ll find in Wild Mint Tea. Roots served up alongside a lot of good food- your likely to get hungry reading this book, mixed together with a measure of faith and offered with a serving of romance. Oh, yeah, and plenty of Wild Mint Tea. A tasty combination.

If you enjoy a gentle romance, God’s great outdoors and a bit of danger you are sure to enjoy Wild Mint Tea. 

The Author
Valerie Comer’s life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local foods movement as well as their creation-care-centric church. She only hopes her creations enjoy their happily ever afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters.

Valerie writes Farm Lit where food meets faith, injecting experience laced with humor into her Farm Fresh Romance stories.

Connect with Valerie on her website. Sign up for her newsletter while you're there.  

An Interview with Valerie
Have you always been a writer? If not, what was your previous occupation? How long have you been writing?
I've always dabbled in writing, but didn't know how to learn to craft and finish a story for many years. I didn't have the passion or drive to learn it. Always something shinier to do! But in 2001 I landed a job in a small-town flooring shop and found myself with many empty hours in my day. My bosses were good with me writing at work, so I set myself to learning the craft. I wrote nine novels over the ten years I worked there, gradually learning how to weave story pieces together. (I never said I was a quick learner!) Most of those novels aren't worth rescuing, but two are now published with another coming soon. I'm thinking about self-publishing a few of the others, but they have to wait their turn!

When you're not writing, what do you enjoy doing?  
As a farmer, gardener, foodie, and grandmother, I keep quite busy, especially in the summer and fall. My Farm Fresh Romance novels are set in a life very similar to mine (other than the grandmother part), so it's all research. I love hanging out with my little grandgirls (age four and under). The trampoline is a favorite.

To really take a break, my husband and I love to tow our little holiday trailer up beside a mountain stream when we can get away for a few days in the summer. Nothing is more rejuvenating than a babbling brook, fresh trout in the frying pan, and a Kindle full of books to read.

Tell us about your writing process.  
When I'm playing with a new story idea, I'll start with brainstorming. It doesn't take long before I break out my three-by-four foot whiteboard and begin mindmapping. I love scribbling all over it with bright dry erase pens, finding connections and building characters and plot.

Then I'll snap a few photos of the board, erase it, and start over from a different angle. One of the ways I use the whiteboard is to find my characters' GMCs (goals, motivations, and conflicts). That's half the plot right there.

Once I start writing, I'm in Scrivener with all my notes in the sidebar. Love that program.

Do you have a separate space set up in your home or a favorite place to write/be creative? 
I'm a lover of silence. Thankfully, my house usually accommodates that unless the family is visiting. My west-facing office is tucked under the eaves upstairs. My laptop goes under the window where I can look out across the vegetable garden and pastures to neighboring farms and the mountains beyond. A long table forms an L, and above that are my whiteboard and an equally large inspiration board pinned full of character photos, print-outs, floor plans, calendars, maps, and whatever other visuals might keep me inspired and on track.

What advice, if any, do you have for others aspiring to publish a book of their own/follow their dream? 
Take time to learn the craft. You probably won't be as slow a learner as I was, but don't discount a practice novel or two while you figure out the process. If you don't have any idea how to start (as I didn't in 2001), check out the overview writing course I've created at It comes via email, and it's free!

What motivated you to write on this topic?  
I write Farm Fresh Romance because it's my life and my passion. We live on a 40-acre farm and believe in fresh, local, seasonal food, so we grow a large garden and can and freeze plenty for winter eating. I know a thing or two about romance because I've been married to the same guy for nearly 34 years.

Young people today are far more concerned about where their food comes from than my own generation, in general. When my son and his wife were in university and told their friends they were moving back to the farm after graduation, their friends were jealous. I began thinking about what it would look like to turn a few idealistic city kids loose on a farm, and the Farm Fresh Romance series was conceived.

Do you plan on writing a sequel to this story? Are there other books in the works? 
Wild Mint Tea is the second book in the Farm Fresh Romance series, and I'm currently working on the third book, Sweetened with Honey, which will release in March 2015. It completes the original mandate of the three young women who bought the farm to begin with, but my publisher and I are talking about continuing the series. Nothing final, yet!

I also have a release, Snowflake Tiara, in September with co-author Angela Breidenbach. Angela's novella is historical and mine is contemporary. Both are romances set around a Christmas beauty pageant in Helena, Montana. And yes, my themes of farm, food, and faith are strong in this story as well.

In another genre, I'm independently publishing a romantic fantasy, Majai's Fury, in May.

What do you want readers to take away from your book? 
I hope they'll feel at home at Green Acres Farm, laughing and crying with their newfound friends. I want my stories to linger in their minds. And I'm also hoping they'll be challenged to consider the junction in their lives where food meets faith

Thanks so much for inviting me here, Angela!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

New! Video Devotionals from Me to You.

I have something special and NEW to share with you. 
An encouraging moment on video!