Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Day Trip: Shipshewana, Indiana

Anne here.
This week we have Suzanne Woods Fisher doing an interview and giveaway running all week. I figured it was only fitting to share my day trip pictures from this weekend since Suzanne writes Amish fiction. I don't write Amish fiction, but when you've been raised Mennonite, had an Amish babysitter, and live in the heart of northern Indiana--it's the place to visit when your sisters-in-law and your Grandma Nancy come to town! We shopped the shops in Shipshewana--"Shipshe" as we call it--until we dropped!

We hit up Lolly's fabric store with all it's vintage quilt supplies. I remember that my grandmother's quilts had similar print styles to many of these!




The vintage treadle sewing machine is similar to my grandmother's Singer.


I loved these rainbow colored woolens that could be used to braid a rug.








After the sops at the Davis Mercantile, we had a good old fashioned buffet style Mennonite meal.
Mashed potatoes, turkey, dressing, salad, and pie!



Now that's a whoopee pie!


Then we headed over to Yoder's Department Store, where they carry every thing imaginable. 



A 36 cup coffee pot!
And even some old crocks, love these.


Maybe someday I could have a cabin with one of these!
If you get to Indiana, head up north and visit the place where dodging road apples is a way of life.

Readers: 
What day trip near your own home towns are your favorites? 
What day trips near you are on on your list to check out?
I was raised with gardening, canning, sewing, & quilting.
What "simple life" skill would like to learn the most?
-------------
Blog post by Anne Love-
Writer of Historical Romance inspired by her family roots. 
Nurse Practitioner by day. 
Wife, mother, writer by night. 
Coffee drinker--any time.
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Monday, August 14, 2017

Interview & Giveaway: Suzanne Woods Fisher

Thank you so much for visiting us today here at the CCC blog! Can you tell us about your latest release and what inspired you to write the story?

The Return is a story of German immigrant families as they settle into the New World of the American colonies…a world that is full of challenges. It’s the conclusion to the ‘Amish Beginnings’ series, in which the first Amish church comes to America on the ship Charming Nancy in 1737. Now, that part is not fiction--it triggered the idea for the entire series!  

Of all your characters in this story, which one did you enjoy writing the most and why?

Something interesting happened as this story developed. A book usually begins the first chapter with the main character. A few chapters in, a secondary character came to life, a young woman named Betsy Zook, and she quietly took center stage. So much so that my editor decided to reshoot the cover so that Betsy was on it! And later, nearing final edits, I added a prequel about Betsy to the story.

Betsy Zook faced a crisis and not only survived it, but emerged stronger, more confident of herself, more dependent on her faith. She had an unrefined faith…until it went through “fire.”

If you could cast your characters in a Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play them?

Love this question! My publisher’s title positioning questionnaire asks for the same information, so I’ve given it thought. I would cast a young Scarlett Johannsen as Betsy Zook, back when Scarlett was more of an ingĂ©nue.  

How did you decide on the setting/location for this novel?

Penn’s Woods (later known as Pennsylvania) was the destination for many Europeans in the 1700s, because of Quaker William Penn’s offer to live peacefully in land tolerant to those with differing religious views. Zoom in the focus. Lancaster County was where Mennonites had settled, so the Amish went north…until they were chased south by border conflicts between the British and the French/Indians. So that’s where most of Book 3 takes place…and if I tell you more, I’ll be giving away the story!

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it and why?

Admittedly, I’m a G-rated author. There’s enough gritty stuff to deal with in life; I don’t need to add to it. Also, I think the world needs more positive, inspiring examples and authors can provide that through storytelling. Finally, it is much more difficult to write with subtle understatement than to write overtly. Think humor. Potty jokes are a cheap laugh. Puns and witty remarks require cleverness.

Moving on from your story, tell us a little about yourself. We’ll help! What literary character is most like you and why?

Hmmm…what literary character is most like me? I don’t know! What an interesting question. As for a little about me…I have one husband, four children, four little grandchildren, play tennis a lot (and I mean a lot), and raise puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. 

What strange writing habits do you have? Like standing on your head while you write with a pen between your teeth?

Strange habits? I have none. Really. I’m shockingly average on the scale of strangeness.

Do you have a writing mentor, or another author who has inspired/encouraged you in some way?

I don’t. I wish I did, but I don’t. And because of that, I try to help other aspiring authors. 

We talk a lot about faith and how it weaves throughout our fiction, here at the blog. How has your faith affected/or not affected your writing?

Faith infuses my writing like a teabag in hot water. Changes everything!

Because Jaime has some darker elements to her split-time historical and contemporary romantic suspense coming out this year, she likes to ask weird questions. So, if you were responsible to write your own epitaph for your tombstone, what would it say?

Have you ever seen Ruth Bell Graham’s (wife of Billy Graham) tombstone? It says: “Construction has ended. Thank you for your patience.” Oh, I love that epitaph! It says so much about her.
  
Anne is an insatiable romantic with a serious vintage aura in all she writes. Do you have fabulous love story in your family history that you could share with us in a few words? If not, what about your own?

My youngest daughter went to Shenzhen, China to teach in an international school. I was positive she would never repatriate to the United States. (As a family, we’d lived overseas for four years so I understood how exciting the expat life could be.) The very first week, she met a handsome and charming and wonderful young teacher from our state. Two years later, they married, and now live in the same town!

Erica and Gabrielle both write sweet historical romances. How does romance influence your own writing?

I am so bad at romance! I really am. I have to work very hard at weaving in romance. So here’s the funny part: A few years ago, I told my editor I was trying to improve that aspect of my writing. As she read through the manuscript for Christmas at Rose Hill Farm, she called to say, “Whoa! Dial it down! I’m blushing!”

And for some extra fun . . .

If you could pick one superhero to save you from impending doom, who would it be and why?

It’s hard to beat Superman. Humility is rare in a superhero.

If you could guest star in one TV show, what would be and what would your ideal role be?

Great British Baking Show…I would team up with Sue and Mel.

Name one significant heirloom or keepsake you have and why it’s important to you:

In my living room is a photograph of my grandfather (who had been raised Plain and has inspired me in many ways) with Billy Graham and Carl Henry. My grandfather was at Christianity Today, when it first began in the late 1950s.

We’d love you have you share a snippet from your novel to entice us and hook us! J Please share something below:

Here’s the back cover copy (which authors work super hard on!):
Beautiful and winsome, Betsy Zook never questioned her family's rigid expectations, nor those of devoted Hans, but then she never had to. Not until the night when she's taken captive in a surprise Indian raid. During her captivity, Betsy faces brutality and hardship, but also unexpected kindness. She draws strength from native Caleb, who encourages her to find God in all circumstances. She finds herself torn between her pious upbringing and the intense new feelings this compelling man awakens within her. 

Handsome and complex, Hans is greatly anguished by Betsy's captivity and turns to Tessa Bauer for comfort. Eagerly, Tessa responds, overlooking troubling signs of Hans's hunger for revenge. When Betsy is finally restored to the Amish, have things gone too far between Hans and Tessa? 

Inspired by true events, this deeply layered novel gives a glimpse into the tumultuous days of prerevolutionary Pennsylvania through the eyes of two young, determined, and faith-filled women.

Bio: Suzanne Woods Fisher lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Suzanne graduated from Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California, and was a free-lancer writer for magazines while her children were growing up. A former contributing editor to Christian Parenting Today, Suzanne’s work has appeared in many magazines, including Today’s Christian Woman, Worldwide Challenge, and Marriage Partnership.
Her first novel, Copper Star, a World War II love story, was published by a small press (Vintage Inspirations) and received three literary awards. It opened the door to a literary agent, Joyce Hart. The agent knew of Suzanne’s connection to the Plain People—her grandfather was raised Plain—and introduced her to an editor at Revell, a division of Baker Books. Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World was the result of that first conversation. It was an 2010 ECPA Book of the Year finalist…and it is the book Suzanne wants to be buried with.
And that was twenty-five books ago! So it seems things are working out pretty well. 


Thank you so much for hosting me! 

Warmly, Suzanne

www.suzannewoodsfisher.com

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Readers:
We haven't hosted many Amish fiction authors in the past simply because none of us write it and we are more focused on non-Amish historical fiction.

If you are an Amish fiction reader, what intrigues you the most about this genre?
Any guesses how far north of Penn's Woods the Amish migrated for the setting of this story?
Do you suppose it's more nostalgia of faith, or the Amish yesteryear-lifestyle that draws readers and tourists?
-------------
Blog post by Anne Love-
Writer of Historical Romance inspired by her family roots. 
Nurse Practitioner by day. 
Wife, mother, writer by night. 
Coffee drinker--any time.
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Friday, August 11, 2017

Scripture Memory Thought Trails

Erica Here:

Today is my women's Bible study day. We're going through the book of James using the LifeChange Bible study series from NavPress, and I'm really enjoying it.


In addition to studying the Word, we've challenged each other to commit some of the book of James to memory. This week's verses are James 1:1-11. (Well, actually, it's supposed to be 1-10, but my OCD self sees that the paragraph ends at verse 11, so I'm going through 11 because...I can't not...)

As I was working on the new verses for this week (9-11) some thoughts arose.

The verses say: But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; 10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.

Which got me to thinking...In my research for my novels, I often encounter stories of the most prominent, wealthiest people. The Vanderbilts, Astors, Morgans, Hills, Goulds, etc. And we seem to be obsessed these days with very wealthy people. Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, etc. 

Wealthy in this world's goods, without a doubt. But when I read about the Vanderbilts, Astors, Morgans, et. al. do you know what they all have in common?

They're dead. And with each passing year, fewer and fewer people remember who they are. In some cases, I would wager that when you read the list of historically wealthy families above, you might have wondered who the Hills and Goulds were...or maybe even the Astors and Morgans. 

And someday, no one outside of a few historians will know or care about who Gates, Buffett, Bezos, etc. were. 

Because the things of earth are all temporary, corruptible, and eventually consumed. 

James 1:9 says the brother in humble circumstances it to glory in his high position. What position is that? 

The position of Child of God and Brother in Christ. Something eternal and beyond corruption.

James 1:10 says the rich man is to glory in his humiliation. Note this doesn't say he is to glory in being humiliated. It says to glory in his humiliation...in his being made to realize that his wealth has no bearing on his eternity. If he is a Child of God, his salvation is something that happens apart from his wealth or social standing.

I don't know the spiritual condition of those historically wealthy families, the Vanderbilts, Astors, Morgans, and so on. 

I don't know the spiritual condition of the current crop of billionaires, either. 

But I do know, rich or poor, it is the same for every person. There is one way to become a Child of God, and it has nothing to do with money. It has everything to do with Jesus. 

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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

How Pinterest Helps Me Create Characters

Erica here:

Creating characters who feel realistic and well-rounded is a challenge for me. I tend to be a plot-first novelist, and have to think pretty hard about characters and what will make them unique.

I've read books on the subject of character-creation, gone to lectures, and jotted down notes while reading the stories of great fictional characters. All these things are very helpful, but for me, I've found another tool that helps me, too.

Pinterest.

How can Pinterest help me create fictional characters?

1. Character images: When I am starting a new story, I search Pinterest for images to represent my hero and heroine. The first photos are what I think Lady Jamesina Everard and William Crofton, Earl Beckenham look like for my upcoming Regency Novella, Jamie Ever After.

The next pair of photos are what I think Beryl Valentine and Gardiner Kennedy from Win, Place, or Show in the Of Rags and Riches Novella Collection might look like.

Jamie Everard template

William Crofton, Earl Beckenham template


Beryl Valentine template

Gardiner Kennedy template

2. Interests and Collections: Well-rounded characters have wide-ranging interests. This is borne out on Pinterest very well, just by looking at the variety of different interests represented by my own Pinterest boards. People collect things they like. Teapots, Birdhouses, Antique Firearms, Shoes. When creating a character, I try to find something interesting that they like. Some examples from my stories are: Beryl Valentine is all about her horses, riding, showing, loving on them. And William Crofton breeds Gordon setters, beautiful hunting dogs from Scotland.



3. Locations. Where people live says a lot about them, and Pinterest is a great place to find interesting looking houses, rooms, and landscapes in which to place your characters. Examples are: the horse farm of Beryl and Gard's dreams, and the English manor house that William brings Jamie to right after their wedding.



If someone were to look at your Pinterest boards, what might they conclude as to your character? Are you a collector of things? Do you have wide-ranging interests or are your interests confined to a few things? Would they be able to tell your favorite color or design style or preference in books and clothing?

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Monday, August 7, 2017

What's in your TBR Pile?

Erica here:

I just finished reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. A riveting narrative non-fiction story about a murder in Savannah, GA.

The desire to read the book came after I visited Savannah this summer. A town rich in history, with beautiful architecture, museums everywhere, charming squares around which antebellum homes stand in graceful rows...I was fascinated with the city and wished I could spend more time there.


In nearly every shop and museum store, I saw this book for sale, often signed by the author. So, when I got home, I put it in my TBR pile, and I just finished it this past weekend.

Next up for me is a biography:


I have recently become a fan of Rugby Union and of the All Blacks, the national rugby team of New Zealand. They have an amazing history, and I have been eager to read more about one of their early captains, Dave Gallaher, a man who not only led them to the most successful international tour in history. They played 35 matches and lost only once while on tour in 1905.

Dave Gallaher, though he was past the age of conscription, signed up to join New Zealand forces in World War One and lost his life at Passchendaele in Belgium during the Third Battle of Ypres. His grave is visited often by Rugby fans and New Zealanders.

New Zealand and Belgium honor Dave Gallaher's memory.
Also on my reading list is the mystery Death in Kenya by M. M. Kaye. Kaye is most famous for writing The Far Pavilions, a sweeping love story set in 19th century India. But she also wrote several mysteries, of which Death in Kenya is one. I've read Death in the Andamans, Death in Zanzibar, and I started Death in Berlin, but put it aside, though I can't remember why.


Death in Kenya is my August choice for the online-book club to which I belong. The Dewey Decimators have read some pretty cool books in recent months, and it was decided that August would be a reader's choice. Since I am on a deadline, I decided rather than The Far Pavilions, which runs to about 1000 pages, I would choose another M. M. Kaye instead. :)


So, what's on your TBR list?



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Friday, August 4, 2017

Book Release #5!

Gabrielle Here:

August 2017 marks the release of my latest Love Inspired Historical, Inherited: Unexpected Family! This is my fifth release and I'm excited this story has finally found its way into the hands of readers. 


Here are some of the reviews for this story on Goodreads.

Wilani Wahl said: "Absolutely positively loved this book. It is well written and I fell in love with the characters, but the Inspirational aspect of this book is phenomenal. God is ready to forgive and we won't hold those confessed sins against us. We need to have the same forgiving spirit. God is a God of compassion and we need to show that compassion to others. I can't wait to read more books by this author. I love her writing style."

Melissa said: "Loved it! Bit by bit, the backstory of the main characters is revealed, and bit by bit you grow in your understanding of their reactions to the world around them. Unlike most romance, serious issues behind a light romance story are at play. Not being from the "right" background and creating a better life - touching on the darker side of developing the frontier and the lack of options for women to make their own way in the world. So far my favorite story by Gabrielle!"

Cathy Daniel said: "I enjoyed this book very much! Jude is one of the better heroes I've ever read in these books! A total dream!"

To celebrate this new release, I'd love to give a copy away to one winner! Just enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win.

Here's a little about the book:

An Unexpected Partnership

After arriving in Minnesota Territory with her sisters to claim their late father's hotel, Elizabeth Bell is shocked to learn her inheritance comes with a handsome co-owner. After too long working for a domineering boss, Elizabeth yearns to be in control—of the hotel and her life. But Jude Allen won't sell his share, and Elizabeth refuses to leave.

Rescuing soiled doves and giving them hotel jobs is Jude's way of redeeming his past. He's counting on rough frontier life driving his new business partner away before she learns the scandalous truth and demands he stop his mission. But he may have underestimated Elizabeth…and the power of love to turn a complication into a bright new beginning.

Your Turn: Have you read a Love Inspired Historical? What era do you enjoy reading about most? 

Gabrielle Meyer lives in central Minnesota on the banks of the Mississippi River with her husband and four children. As an employee of the Minnesota Historical Society, she fell in love with the rich history of her state and enjoys writing fictional stories inspired by real people and events. 

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Guest Author and #Giveaway from Crystal Joy

We're happy to introduce guest author, Crystal Joy today!!! Help us welcome her and stay tuned for a giveaway below!

______________________________________


Thank you so much for visiting us today here at the CCC blog! Can you tell us about your latest release and what inspired you to write the story?

Completely Yours is a collection of fictionalized love stories about real-life couples. The inspiration for the book began years ago at a festival when I met a writer who wrote poems for people. As festivalgoers walked by his stand, he would ask if they wanted a poem, but not just any poem—a poem written about them. After having a brief conversation and getting to know the people, he would write a poem, and then give it to them as a keepsake. I thought it was a fantastic idea! What a great way to connect with readers by creating something special for them.

Keeping that idea in mind, I started writing fictionalized love stories for couples and posting them on my website. In the last couple of years, I’ve met many wonderful couples with such captivating stories, and I wanted to give them more than just a published story on my website. I wanted to give them something they could put on their bookshelves and read to their children and grandchildren.

I’m thrilled to have Completely Yours in print and e-book, so that friends, family, and romance readers can enjoy these special memories forever. I hope these love stories touch your heart as much as they did mine.


Of all your characters in this story, which one did you enjoy writing the most and why?

I really enjoyed getting inside Meghan O’Brien’s head to write her story, “Fighting For Us.” When I interviewed her, she was comfortable sharing the doubts and fears she had while she was separated from her husband. As a writer, I appreciate her raw honesty because a lot of women can relate to her. During the separation, she wonders: Does Tom love me anymore? Can we rebuild our marriage? Is the relationship worth fighting for? Even if you’ve never been separated from your spouse, these are very real worries that plague wives. I’m so glad Meghan was willing to put herself out there.


If you could cast your characters in a Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play them?

Since I answered the previous question about Meghan and Tom, I’ll stick with this couple to answer this question, too. I asked Meghan who she would pick, and she chose Chip and Joanna Gaines. Tom is always the life of the party and Meghan is really sweet.

Speaking of Chip and Joanna Gaines, I’d love to feature them in a future Love Story Collection. Their banter would be so much fun to write!  

How did you decide on the setting/location for this novel?

The settings in Completely Yours are based wherever the couples’ stories take place. Many of the stories are set in Iowa—mainly because I live in Iowa and some of the stories are based on couples I know. A few stories take place in Florida and Colorado, and one scene takes place in England.

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it and why?

I would never write erotica romance. I enjoy writing about the butterflies in your stomach or the first sweet kisses—nothing that would make my mom blush. However, I once received an anonymous email from a couple who wanted their story featured in a collection. Their story was sensual and detailed. After I read the email, I just stared at my computer, and my mouth dropped open. I don’t think this couple read my website too carefully. Needless to say, their story will not appear in a future book!

Moving on from your story, tell us a little about yourself. We’ll help! What literary character is most like you and why?

Hermione Granger from Harry Potter. She can be sweet at times, but she also knows when to speak her mind. I haven’t always been this way, but I’m getting better at speaking my mind if I know it will be helpful. Hermione also loves school and learning. If I could be a life-long student without any debt, I would totally do it! And lastly, she’s passionate and dedicated—nothing gets in the way of what she wants. I feel that way with writing. I’m always striving to be the best author I can be.

What strange writing habits do you have? Like standing on your head while you write with a pen between your teeth?

I’ll start off with the not-so-weird one—I often write with a cup of Chai tea or coffee on the table. It feels very “writer-ish” to have a mug sitting by my computer. I also write better when I’m chewing gum. I used to grind my teeth together while I was writing, so chewing gum prevents me from degrading my teeth. The weirdest writing habit I have is my sock fetish. When I’m working from home, I must have socks on. My favorite socks are tall and thick. I have no idea where this fetish came from—no one else in my family enjoys wearing socks like I do.


Do you have a writing mentor, or another author who has inspired/encouraged you in some way?

This might be clichĂ© for a romance author, but Nicholas Sparks inspires me. He’s the only romance author who gets away with publishing novels that don’t always end happily. I respect him for taking a chance and going against the grain.


We talk a lot about faith and how it weaves throughout our fiction, here at the blog. How has your faith affected/or not affected your writing?

I resigned from my teaching position because I knew God was calling me to purse a writing career. I loved my job as an 8th Grade Language Arts teacher. The students were fun and quirky, and I worked with an amazing staff. But God kept pushing me in another direction, and I knew I had to follow. It was really scary leaving a secure, well-paying job to pursue a career that wouldn’t make any money at first. I know I’m doing what I was called to do because every day when I sit down at my computer, I feel a sense of peaceful contentment wash over me. 


Because Jaime has some darker elements to her split-time historical and contemporary romantic suspense coming out this year, she likes to ask weird questions. So, if you were responsible to write your own epitaph for your tombstone, what would it say?

Loving wife and mother.


Anne is an insatiable romantic with a serious vintage aura in all she writes. Do you have fabulous love story in your family history that you could share with us in a few words? If not, what about your own?

Readers always ask if my love story is in a collection. The answer is “No, not yet.” But here is a glimpse: We met during a Greek Philanthropy at the University of Iowa. His fraternity organized an event to raise money for children with disabilities called “Pi Kapture the Flag.” I’m not very athletic, so I stood on the sidelines for most of the game, cheering on the girls in my sorority. A tall, handsome guy walked over to me and struck up a conversation. It was then that I learned he was a cheerleader for the University of Iowa. I had never met a male cheerleader in person, so I remember feeling shocked. My husband says I looked like I was in awe of him … funny how men and women remember things differently … Despite my initial shock, I was intrigued by him and I wanted to get to know him better. We dated for five years before we got married. Now, we have a three-year-old son and a one-year-old daughter. Our life is very hectic with two little ones only seventeen months apart, but we love being parents. I’m so glad I have a career that allows me to at stay home with them. I get the best of both worlds!

Erica and Gabrielle both write sweet historical romances. How does romance influence your own writing?

I like to refer to my writing as Deep Rooted Romance. Between the Love Story Collection series and my upcoming sweet romance novels, all of them include deep issues. In the Love Story Collections, all of the couples face internal struggles with their relationships. They wonder if they are loveable or if their relationships are worth the fight. In my romance novels, the characters must learn to forgive themselves and others in order to fully love with all their hearts. Romance is such a big part of my writing, and I want it to be as realistic as possible, which means my characters deal with deep, difficult issues of the heart.

And for some extra fun . . .

If you could pick one superhero to save you from impending doom, who would it be and why?

I’ll be honest—I had to search for a list of superheroes to answer this question. But now that I have a list in front of me, I would definitely pick Thor. Why? He’s one good-looking hunk!

If you could guest star in one TV show, what would be and what would your ideal role be?

This might not count as being a guest star, but ever since I was a little girl, my mom and I have been obsessed with the reality TV show, Big Brother. My mom even tried out for the show one year. She dressed up in a one-piece swimming suit and played a song on her accordion. It was hilarious, and I’m still disappointed she wasn’t chosen for the show. I would love to be on the show, too, if I didn’t have to be away from my husband and kids for that long. Maybe one day!

Name one significant heirloom or keepsake you have and why it’s important to you:

When we started dating, my husband kept a memory box of our time together. It included movie tickets, anniversary cards, athletic event tickets, and letters we wrote to one another. We still have the box and we both add to it now. It’ll be fun to look at it in the future!

We’d love you have you share a snippet from your novel to entice us and hook us! J Please share something below:

Stephenie Thomas stood in front of the youth group, her hands shaking as she held the monologue in front of her. Over the rim of the paper, twenty eyes stared in her direction.
Heat flamed beneath her cheeks. How had Tony Liston talked her into this? He was the youth ministry intern now, so when he’d asked her to play Ruth, she couldn’t tell him no.
Get it together, Steph. Everyone’s waiting for you. Squaring her shoulders, she looked down at the paper and started reading. All of her prepared words tumbled out of her mouth. By the time she was done a few minutes later, she expelled a relieved breath. Thank God it was over.
The youth group clapped, and she sat back down at a table near the back of the small room. Dawn took her place on the makeshift stage, reading the Queen Esther monologue with confident eloquence.
Steph crossed her arms. Too bad Tony hadn’t asked her to play Queen Esther. At least she could’ve felt better about being the beautiful queen compared to the young widow. Tony obviously thought Dawn was better suited to be the beautiful one. Dawn did look like Barbie. Not that it really mattered—it wasn’t like she cared what the pastor’s son thought about her.
Dawn finished her monologue and the youth group clapped wildly. Steph sunk down further in her seat. Maybe she should’ve practiced more.
Tony stood and addressed the group. “That was a lot of fun. Let’s wrap up with a prayer. Does anyone have any prayer requests?” He listened as several people raised their hands, asking for prayers regarding sick grandparents, grades, and rocky relationships with parents. When no one else raised a hand, he bowed his head and led the group in prayer.
Steph closed her eyes and tried to focus on Tony’s slow, calming tone instead of all the negative thoughts eating away at her confidence. He had the perfect pastor’s voice—he knew just when to raise his voice excitedly and when to sound serious, making each word resonate deep within you. It made his lessons engaging and his prayers meaningful. Any church would be lucky to have him as a pastor one day.
“Amen.”
Steph opened her eyes as Tony raised his head. His gaze met hers across the room. He weaved through the chairs in the room, stopping in front of her. A proud smile spread across his face. “That was really good, Steph.”
“Yeah right.” She folded the paper in half, running her thumb along the crease. “You’re just saying that because you asked me to read one of the monologues.”
“That’s not true. I thought you conveyed Ruth perfectly.”
She glanced up from the folded paper. “Really?”
“Yes.” He sat down next to her, crossing a leg over his knee. “Can I tell you something?”
“What?”
“Ruth is one of my favorite women in the Bible.”


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