Posted by: Jill Potts Jones | June 23, 2015

From Saul to Paul–the end of an empire and beginning of a mission

empires end“Empire’s End” is a fictional account of Paul’s transformation from persecutor of the Jews to the devoted bondservant of Christ who was later imprisoned and killed because of his faith in the Messiah.  Not as good as “I, Saul”, the latest book by Jerry B. Jenkins still thrills as Jenkins attempts to fill in the gaps (though fictional) of how Saul became Paul and all of the experiences mentioned briefly in Scripture but never elaborated on.

Thanks to Jenkins, Paul’s transformation comes to life on the Damascus Road and we get an exciting view of what might have happened between his meeting with Jesus and his call to be an apostle to the Gentiles.  Even if you know how the story ends, readers will still find themselves mesmerized by the story.  Paul’s life was marked by passion, obsession and violence, but his redemption story and the rest of his life were filled with an intensity and passion for the transformation of others.  Paul had no way of knowing that 2000 years later, people would be turning to God based on his words and testimony.

“Empire’s End” is well with the read, but, in my opinion, it should be read prior to “I, Saul”.   It ends abruptly suggesting a continuation.

Click here to purchase from Amazon.com

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Icon Media Group in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted by: Jill Potts Jones | June 23, 2015

Humor and creativity bundled in one book

doodleCombination joke book and doodle book, the “Laugh Out Loud Pocket Doodles for Girls” book by Rob Elliott will bring hours of entertainment and fun for girls.  This little doodle book for girls is perfect for keeping kids occupied while traveling or whenever they complain of being bored.  Filled with cute, clean jokes and pages and pages of ideas to doodle, girls will enjoy sharing the jokes and their artwork.  Because they get to doodle their own creations, each book will be as different as the girl who draws them.

Rob Elliott has written many joke books for kids, including the “Laugh Out Loud Pocket Doodles for Boys”.

Click here to purchase from Amazon.com

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, as part of their Book Review Blogger Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted by: Jill Potts Jones | June 17, 2015

‘War Room’ Bible Study: Prayer is a Powerful Weapon

war roomWar Room” by Chris Fabry (book publication date August 4, 2015) is a new movie produced by the Kendrick Brothers coming to theaters on August 28, 2015.  Based on Matthew 6:6, “War Room” is a “compelling drama with humor and heart that explores the power of prayer on marriages, parenting, careers, friendships and every area of life”.

The Bible Study (now available from Lifeway) features five movie clips and five challenging scriptural lessons adapted from the movie emphasizing the importance of a personal prayer life.  Miss Clara’s example demonstrates how a consistent prayer life helps prepare us for the hard times and keep us grateful for the good times.

The small group study guide encourages participants to develop their own prayer lives in their private war room.  The movie clips will definitely make your want to see the movie.  With five sessions of the Bible study, there is plenty of time to enjoy the study and prepare to see the movie to conclude the study.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Lifeway in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted by: Jill Potts Jones | June 17, 2015

Think you’ll never measure up? Get ‘Untangled’

UntangledAre you insecure?  Do you seek approval from others?  Do you have unreasonable expectations of yourself?  Are you all tangled up with knots of insecurity and expectations?

In “Untangled”, Carey Scott pinpoints the very issue that keeps us from believing who God says we are–a valuable and treasured child of God.  By craving approval and acceptance from others, we apply the world’s standards to God’s approval.  From the very beginning, men and women have gotten tangled up in the struggle for significance causing us to do things we weren’t called to do as well as things that get us into trouble.  It has also caused us to over commit and bring stress into our life.

Scott offers practical strategies for untying the knots that tangle us up.  The untangling prayers and loosening the knot questions at the end of each chapter are incredibly helpful for identifying the knots that tangle us up and for applying her strategies in our life.

As someone who constantly seeks the approval of others rather than God’s approval, this book is a lifesaver.  If you are in the same situation, I encourage you to read and apply the strategies presented in “Untangled”.

Click here to purchase from Amazon.com

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, as part of their Book Review Blogger Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted by: Jill Potts Jones | June 15, 2015

Great character development, good story line

london tidesLondon Tides by Carla Laureano

Reviewed by Jill P. Jones

Radiant Lit Blog Tours

Genre: Romance

Publisher: David C. Cook

Date: June 1, 2015

Irish photojournalist Grace Brennan travels the world’s war zones documenting the helpless and forgotten. After the death of her friend and colleague, Grace is shaken.

She returns to London hoping to rekindle the spark with the only man she ever loved—Scottish businessman Ian MacDonald. But he gave up his championship rowing career and dreams of Olympic gold years ago for Grace … only for her to choose career over him. Will life’s tides bring them back together … or tear them apart for good this time?

(Reviewer’s Note:  This is the second book in the MacDonald Family Trilogy.  At the publisher’s request, I am reviewing this one first.  My review of Book One, “Five Days in Skye” will be posted on July 15, 2015.)

I enjoyed Ian and Grace’s story for a little while and then interest waned.  The story became frustrating even knowing that Grace had PTSD and couldn’t help what was happening to her.   Laureano’s character development is excellent with vivid descriptions.  Although it wasn’t the same reading experience as the first book, it is worth reading to get the full history of the MacDonald family.

Carla Laureano is the author of the RITA® award-winning romance Five Days in Skye as well as London Tides and the Celtic fantasy series The Song of Seare (as C. E. Laureano). A graduate of Pepperdine University, she worked as a sales and marketing executive for nearly a decade before leaving corporate life behind to write fiction full-time. She currently lives in Denver with her husband and two sons.

London Tides is available for purchase from Amazon.com

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Radiant Lit, as part of their Book Review Blogger Program, and the publisher, David C. Cook. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

anythingWould you prefer a safe, comfortable life?  Or do you want God to be everything?  When you tell God you will do anything, you surrender your choices and decisions to Him and spark something incredible.  When you promise God anything, you stop chasing superficial things that make you feel good and start living a life that matters.

In her recently updated book, “Anything“, Jennie Allen shares her anything story.  Telling God you will do anything is scary especially when you know what God is capable of and that He often works in ways we don’t expect.  Allen shows how praying the anything prayer can take you on a challenging, but wonderful adventure with God.

Anything” has been re-released with a Bible study included that challenges you and/or your small group to take steps toward submitting to God’s plan for your life and committing to doing anything for Him.  “Anything” will inspire you, challenge you and encourage you to do anything for God.

Click here to purchase from Amazon.com.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Booklook Bloggers, as part of Thomas Nelson‘s Book Review Blogger Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Lazarus BookJoanna Weaver inspired us with “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World”, challenged us with “A Mary Spirit at the Feet of Jesus” and now she encourages us in “Lazarus Awakening”.   Her newest study, a DVD study as well, teaches us that by changing the way we view our relationship with God, we can believe that God truly loves us unconditionally.

Weaver has presented a side of the Lazarus story we may have missed.  Many times we concentrate on the grief of Mary and Martha followed by their joy at his resurrection, but we miss the application that his death and resurrection have for us.  In this updated version, a Bible study and helpful resources have been included and are a valuable and encouraging addition.

Weaver also has a wonderful devotional entitled “At the Feet of Jesus” that incorporates parts of her three books in the Bethany series.

“Lazarus Awakening” is an insightful study that will help you focus on your relationship with God and discover His true love for you in a unique way.  I was amazed at some of the lessons that were sitting right there in Lazarus’ story that I have missed in the past.  Now, each time I read the story of Lazarus’ death and resurrection, I will see things differently and understand more clearly.

Click here to purchase from Amazon.com

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah, as part of the “Lazarus Awakening” DVD Study Launch. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted by: Jill Potts Jones | June 5, 2015

An interview with Mike Dellosso, author of 8 books

mikeMike Dellosso has being writing edgy, suspenseful Christian fiction since his debut novel, Sons of God, in 2005. Each book since then has seen him attract more faithful readers with increasing popularity and each shows how one’s faith can overcome extreme situations. To do this, Mike has used edgy themes of supernatural, horror, even the demonic. With each book Mike writes, you do not know what you are going to get next, but you can be guaranteed that you are going to not just entertained but challenged and encouraged as well.

This interview has been conducted to give existing and new readers the chance to celebrate the release of Mike’s new suspense thriller, Centralia. What better way than to explore the mind of this prolific author and be encouraged to not only check out this new release but investigate his existing, suspenseful novels.

The interview has had contributions by many members of Mike’s support group, The Darlington Society, formed by Mike, of readers of his books, who pray for him, encourage and support him in his times of writing, and promote his books wherever and whenever they can. This group has also evolved into its own cohesive group that supports itself with prayer and encouragement outside of those needs of Mike.

Having said that, let The Darlington Society introduce you to Mike Dellosso! Sit back and be encouraged and uplifted. And don’t forget to check out Centralia!

Thanks for stopping by, Mike! How about we start with you telling us about yourself?

I’m really not a very interesting person. At least I don’t think so. I’m a husband, a father, an employee, a writer. A wannabe artist.

I’m a cancer survivor.

I’m a man, flawed, at times misguided. I’m a dreamer. I’m passionate about few things but I could talk for hours about those things.

I’m an introvert by nature, an extrovert by necessity.

I’m a small town homebody.

I have no hobbies, no burning interests outside my family, my faith, and my writing.

I would say I’m boring.

But what most defines me is that I’m a Christian, a follower of Christ. I’m a sinner saved by amazing grace. I’m a work in progress. I’m unfinished business.

MY OFFICIAL BIO . . .

Mike Dellosso is the author of eight novels of suspense, an adjunct professor of creative writing and popular conference teacher, a husband, and a father. When he’s not lost in a story or working or spending time with his family he enjoys reading and dabbling in pencil sketching. Mike has a master’s degree in theology and serves with his wife in their local church. He is also a colon cancer survivor and healthcare worker. Born in Baltimore, Mike now resides in southern Pennsylvania with his wife and four daughters.

Ok Mike, your Darlington Society members are eager to ask you questions. Here we go:

Peter Younghusband: How much of your imagination and how much of your real life experience are your books based on?

Here’s how I handle the imagination/reality issue. Mostly, the plot, the twists and turns, the suspense and thrills are based in my imagination. The character descriptions are often “based on” people I know or have come in contact with. The internal struggles of the characters are mostly based on reality, my own struggles, issues, failures, and discoveries and partly originated in my imagination. Characters are the most important aspect of any story so I try my hardest to get them right and the way I do that is to draw from my own experiences.

Regina Shortencarrier: I’ve noticed that several of your books that I have read mention actual locations. Do you plan to continue using real locations in your future books?

Yes. For major locations I use actual locations. Some I’ve visited in person, some I’ve only visit vicariously through the web, photos, articles, Google maps, etc. I think it’s important to use actual locations so the reader can have an anchor in reality. It places the story in time and space. That being said, I have used fictional names for small towns, villages, roads, and that sort of thing. However, even my fictional names are actual towns somewhere. I doubt there are any names I could come up with that aren’t already used somewhere.

Terry Conrad: Do you prefer to extensively plot your stories from beginning to end or do you write them as they come to you?

Well, I know where I’m going to start and where I’m going to end. My story ideas usually come to me in the form of a first chapter, an opening scene. I then formulate in my mind a basic plot and figure out what the exciting climax is going to be. Then I start writing and develop the plot on the fly. That being said, I rarely sit down at the computer with no idea where I’m going (though that happens and it’s very frustrating for me). I’m always mulling the story over in my head, plotting a few chapters in advance, so I have a pretty good idea of where I’m going all the time.

Carrie Spilman: Why do you always kill your villains at the end of your books? I’m not asking in any critical way. Just wondering, because it’s a consistent thing. I did want the villain in Darlington Woods to die, but you have a knack for making people like me really feel for the bad guys, and there were a few occasions where I wanted to see the bad dudes live–in jail, of course–but live. I was wondering if that’s just what you do, or if it’s some fuller idea behind it, like how in the story of life–the real story of human history–must and will end with the main villains dead and the good guys living. Is there an eternal slant on it that you are getting across, maybe even in a subconscious way? Perhaps it’s important to you and you’ve given it a lot of thought things having to do with the lead up to eternity beyond this realm?

The choices we make in life have consequences. The villains I create are walking parables of how evil can affect someone and how there is a price to pay for that evil. Sometimes the evil comes from within us, sometimes it’s acted on us . . . but there are always consequences with evil. Villains mostly die because death and eternal death are the ultimate consequence of evil. I want to show that in a very dramatic form, that darkness has no upside, no bright side, no good side. In the end, the Light will always push back the darkness and death’s sting is sharp and sure. Only in the light, through the salvation that is offered so freely by Jesus, does death lose its sting.

Carrie Spilman: I realize the Centralia and A Thousand Sleepless Nights are of a different mood, but in regards to you typical genre, why specifically Horror? Is it to teach on the element of fear verses trust in God?

We live in a dark world where there is evil all around us. “Monsters” do exist. Turn on the news any given night of the week and you’ll see monsters destroying, killing, maiming, and causing all kinds of destruction. As Christians, we do no one any kind of service by turning our faces from that darkness. It’s there and we need to recognize it and confront it with the Truth and the Light. Through my stories I want to show readers that while darkness and evil do exist, they have no real power of the Christian. Ultimately, they are impotent, powerless. I want to show readers that Light will always conquer darkness, that there is Hope in the midst of any trial, no matter how hopeless it may seem. I see my stories as parables of our time and of our souls. I’ve caught some heat for what I write and people sometimes look at me sideways or judge my intentions or motives, but I write what God has put on my heart to write. I think there’s a message that people need to hear there and they are hearing it and listening.

T.W. Johnson: Though the following could seem to some as “gotcha questions”, it isn’t intended to be; nor should it, especially since you’re a believer. Nevertheless, during the past year or so, I’ve become puzzled as to the increasing number of individuals who seem to advocate using actual expletives in Christian Fiction. After having participated in some online discussions, to try and understand the “why” to this unusual trend, the same generic response is given every time–“it makes the stories more REAL”, which also somehow benefits potential, secular readers. So my questions to you, Mike, are simply: (1) What do you think is/was the catalyst of this strange desire to fight for the inclusion of profanity in Christian Fiction? (2) Do you think that this continuing behavior could one day destroy the Christian Fiction market?

Great questions . . . and an interesting topic. I really can’t speak to the motives of why authors decide to include profanity in their stories. I’m sure there are a variety of reasons. I do think there is a push in the Christian market to allow authors to write with more realism. I work with the public every day and hear a lot of profanity, more than I’d like to. It’s out there; it’ real. People really do cuss. And there is a feeling that for art’s sake and for the sake of the fiction mantra “tell the truth” authors should be allowed to portray the world as it really is, Christian or not. I think there are authors who are Christians out there saying, “Hey, why can’t we? We’re only describing the real world.” But I really can’t speak for them. I can speak for myself, though. I chose not to because I don’t think it’s necessary. I know my market and I know my readers don’t want that in there. Yes, writing is an art but it’s also a business and you have to know your customer and not expect your customer to change because you want more freedom. I can tell a great story with a great message and create some very evil characters without the swearing. For me, it’s that simple. Now, do I think this new trend will destroy Christian fiction? No. People who don’t want that just won’t buy those books. The authors may cry foul and rant a little about the closed mindedness of readers but that’s how it is. The market is the market and there needs to be some give and take.

Mike C Eagle Jr: I hope that I am not repeating a question, but I do have one. In your previous books up to “A Thousand Sleepless Nights” the theme’s seemed to be more of a horror type story or “edgy”. Do you write the “edgy” because you feel that is what your readership wants? Do you feel that the “edgy” are going to be better sellers? “A Thousand Sleepless Nights” was a moving human interest story, and “Centralia” is sort of along that same kind. Do you think that human interest stories would reach more readers and many who might be turned off from the “edgy” type?

nights

I wrote “Sleepless Nights” because I had a story to tell. After going through colon cancer I wanted to show what it was really like, what the disease can do to someone. The fears, the emotion behind the whole thing. So I told the emotional side of my own cancer journey through the eyes of a middle-aged woman. I’d like to write more stories like that but right now my publisher is looking for thrillers. I have no idea whether my “edgy” books will become best sellers; I sure hope so! I have lots of stories in my head and what I write is partially dictated by what the publisher wants, by what I’m in the “mood” to write, and by which story I think will resonate most with readers. As for the last question . . . I really don’t know. I think given the right environment either could sell very well. Speculating like that is likely to cause one to go a little bonkers.

Terry Conrad: I read in one of your books when you talked a little about your journey with cancer, you said you thought a lot about death? Do you still think a lot about it? I know I think about it and heaven so much more than I ever thought possible.

A friend of mine who went through cancer ahead of me told me that going through cancer and for a while afterward you think about it every day, almost all day, then you think about it maybe once a day but still every day. Then you’ll catch yourself not thinking about it for a day or two at a time. Then you’ll go long stretches of time without thinking about. I’m still at the think-about-it-every-day stage. Yes, I think about death. I’m not afraid of death, though. I know where I’m going and the dying part doesn’t bother me at all. I’m ready to go home. What bothers me when I think about it is leaving my family, my wife, my daughters. That tears me up. Once you’ve had cancer doctors can tell you all they want that you’re cured or it’s in remission or whatever but you know in the back of your mind that it could resurface at any time. I’ve seen it happen too many times. For that reason, it keeps surfacing in my thoughts. I don’t dwell on it, though, but know it’s there, just under the surface. Ultimately, my future and destiny is in God’s hands. He is sovereign and only he knows the date of any of our deaths. And I like it that way.

Elizabeth Ann Fisher: How have you seen God work through your writings to encourage people to consider Christ or read the bible?

Wow, great question. From the beginning I’ve viewed my writing as a ministry. I gave it to God to be used however He pleased. I’ve been awestruck at times by how He’s used it in the lives of others. I’ve received many, many emails and messages from readers thanking me not so much for the story but for the message within the story. The themes have caused people to examine their own walk with God, reconsider decisions they’ve made or were going to make; the themes have challenged readers and encouraged them and convicted them. Again, I’ve been awestruck so many times at God’s ability to use a story to reach someone. I shouldn’t be, though, should I? God can do anything and use anything and anyone for His glory. Setting the ministry aspect aside, writing is a tough business. There’s not a lot of money to be made for the large majority of authors. And at times that can be discouraging. There have been many times I’ve wanted to throw in the towel, hang up my keyboard and never write again. But every time I feel that I get another email or message from a reader saying how much one of my books meant to him/her. I can’t stop writing. God wants me doing this.

Ian Acheson: Your walk with God is a big part of your life. Tell us a little about how you stay in tune with the Lord.

I start off almost every morning reading the chapter in Proverbs that corresponds with the day of the month. I love the proverbs. Such wisdom that I want to live my life by. Then a lot of mornings I’ll read another passage in Scripture and think on it and meditate on it throughout the day. I also love Tony Evans and have several of his sermon series. I’ll listen to them on and off throughout the day as I’m driving around. I also keep an open line of communication with God during the day. I’m always chatting with him in the car as drive or as I walk. It’s like a running conversation. People might think I’m talking to myself (and sometimes I am) but I like to think of it as talking to my Dad.

Ian Acheson: Describe how you & Jen met.

We met on a mission trip to Quebec, Canada. I’d like to say it was love at first sight and that love bloomed on that trip and it did but we stayed friends for a couple years before dating. I think that did us a lot of good, too, getting to know each other as friends before getting more serious. We dated for a few more years then got married. But that trip to Canada is where we connected, where the spark was ignited. That was twenty-two years ago and I still remember so many details from it. Thanks for asking that question . . . brought back some special memories.

Peter Younghusband: You created the group, The Darlington Society. How did this come about? What was your purpose for this group and describe how effective it has been for you and The Tyndale Group.

tdsThe Darlington Society (TDS) grew out of my desire to not travel this writing road alone. I view my writing as a ministry and like any ministry it needs prayer support. TDS was originally started to give readers and inside view of what it was like to be a writer and to get some prayer support for myself. It has grown into so much more than that. The group is awesome. It has grown—we’re almost 90 members strong now—and developed into an entity of its own. I know the folks in the group have touched many lives including my own. They pray for each other, encourage each other. Some deep friendships have been forged through the group. It’s not just about supporting Mike anymore, it’s about the community that has been formed, and I’m just fine with that. The folks are awesome and I thank God for them.

Susan Gibson Snodgrass: Did your faith falter during your cancer and the aftermath? And if it did, how did you get it built back up so that you could carry on with daily life? Also, if it did, how did you keep from feeling like you had maybe failed God?

Yes, certainly my faith faltered at times. There was depression, doubts, fear, all of it.But overall, the journey strengthened my faith. I think when we’re struck with trials of the magnitude of cancer we have a tendency to do one of two things. We run to God or we run away from God. There’s no standing still. I ran to God. I fell into His arms and let my Daddy hold me and carry me. And there are times now, seven years later, that I still struggle with the whole thing and my faith and my trust and my thoughts. But I remember that time that God carried me and it comforts me. Now, I can’t say I ever felt like I had failed God. The Scriptures are full of saints struggling and crying out to God in their pain. David is brutally honest with God. I felt I could do the same thing. I told God exactly how I was feeling. He can take it. He can handle our pain and grief and fear and worry. He wants us to take it to Him in all our weakness and not try to pretend we’re stronger than we are.

Amy Faust Machita: Do you ever find it difficult to be true to your faith when writing suspense stories. Also, how do you feel about writers like Stephen King. I see many Christian fiction writers who are huge fans of his writing and I must confess that I am baffled by this. His writing comes from such a dark place when I would hope that the Christian writer draws his inspiration from a Godly place. I realize that you are often writing about dark subject matter but your writing comes from a Christian point of view. I am not making a judgement call about what people use for inspiration, just wondering how his kind of writing can be an inspiration, and if it is an inspiration to you. I really hope this isn’t too personal. This has just bothered me about some other Christian authors that I really enjoy reading.

Great, great question and one I wrestle with as well. I’ve read Stephen King and consider him one of the masters of suspense/horror writing. He’s good. No, great. Period. There have been books of his that I love and books I’ve hated. Books I’ve read cover to cover and books I’ve set aside for one reason or another. I read him to learn. His handling of the craft of fiction writing is superb and I want to learn to write like that. I don’t condone the content and lately have pulled away from reading his work. I can’t speak for my colleagues but I think most would say the same thing. They read his books because they admire the skill he has to weave stories and create characters. There are some I simply won’t read because of the content. I do have a line I won’t cross; I think most writers and readers do. That line is going to be different for each individual.

Debbie Bish: During the dark times of your life, especially your personal battle with cancer, was there ever a moment in time when you felt you were wrestling with God? Often the darkest battles in a Christians life, when it seems as if we’re hanging between life and death, cause us to know God differently. Has your understanding of God been impacted by your experience?

The times I wrestle with God is when I think I have Him figured out and then He goes and shows me that I really know very, very little about Him. It’s those times when I think I’m “in His will,” when I feel I know His plan, and then he throws me a curve ball. That’s when I wrestle with God. I feel like Jacob saying, “Give me a blessing!” And God keeps holding me off, pushing me back, “Just wait; there’s more I need to teach you.” During the dark times, especially cancer, I may wrestle with the situation but I don’t feel I wrestle with God. I’m too busy just clinging to him for dear life.

Vanessa Y Zahel: Do any of your books haunt you? I know that’s a fairly general, so answer it as generally or as wide as you’d like.

No, not literally and not metaphorically. Once I write a book, it’s done. I put it aside and begin working on the next project. What haunts me is my own critical spirit. I beat myself up sometimes what I could have done differently with the story or how I could have worked harder or differently at promoting it. I’d like to get my books into many more hands and the fact that I haven’t haunts me.

Christine Rhyner: Mike, does your plot develop as you write or do you pretty much have a good idea of where you’re going before starting a new book?

Both. I begin a book knowing where I’m going to start (I have the first chapter all planned out) and where the story will end, the climax. While I’m writing I’m always plotting a couple chapters ahead of myself in my head. I spend a lot of time thinking about the story, the plot, the characters and working ahead in my mind. So I write on the go and plot on the go. Does that make sense? Sometimes it doesn’t to me, either.

Christine Rhyner: What do you do to creatively re-charge your battery?

Good books, good music. There are certain authors who inspire me and certain music that gets me going. When I’m feeling like I need a re-charge, I read or listen to music and that usually does the job. If it doesn’t, that means I need time away from writing. Drawing is a good outlet for me that doesn’t involve writing. I just rarely have the time to do it.

Christine Rhyner: Do you sometimes get caught up in the emotions of your characters to the extent that they perhaps cause you to either re-live or emotionally experience uncomfortable situations/incidents thoughts in your own life?

It’s happened a few times. I’ve gotten so caught up in a character that when something negative happens to him or her in the story I emotionally feel it myself. There’s a moment in DARLINGTON WOODS that I didn’t see coming while I was writing it and when it happened I walked around in a funk for days. I was emotionally rocked by it. As writers we spend so much time in our make-believe world with our make-believe characters that they become almost real to us and we feel what they feel and empathize with them. I think that’s something only writers understand.

Christine Rhyner: What was your most difficult book to write and why?

darlingtonDARLINGTON WOODS. It was the first book I wrote following my battle with cancer and I emptied a lot of my emotional baggage into that story. There is so much symbolism there. It’s my favorite of all my books as well. It’s such a parable for how I was feeling and what I went through. Deep stuff. Very emotional.

Christine Rhyner: What would you say to any who might ask, “Why do you take us through the dark to show us the light?”

We live in a very fallen world and are surrounded by darkness everywhere we turn. To ignore it doesn’t do anyone any good. It’s there; it’s real. We need to acknowledge it for what it is. But there is Light as well. Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world.” He is our Truth, our Light, our Way out of the darkness. He is how we make sense of the darkness. I want to show readers that while there is darkness there isn’t hopelessness. Jesus is our Hope.

Christine Rhyner: Where do you think the suspense genre is headed?

I really have no idea. The market for Christian fiction is ever-changing and almost impossible to predict. It doesn’t mirror the secular market and that can be very confusing for writers at times. I hope the suspense genre is headed to a good place and that more readers catch on to the great writing out there.

Christine Rhyner: How do you find a balance between interesting stuff your characters DO vs. a character’s interesting “interior” life? Do you think one is necessarily more important than the other or about equal?

Well, let’s put it this way. Readers will begin reading a book because of what characters do (the plot) but they continue reading because of who the characters are. Readers want to identify with characters. Not everyone can identify physically with a super soldier doing things that only highly trained soldiers can do. But everyone can identify with a man struggling to find his faith or tortured by his past or wrestling with saving his marriage. It’s the interior of the characters that readers grasp onto and identify with. In my books there is lots of action, intrigue, suspense, but I also try to spend a lot of time developing the characters and bringing them to life.

Christine Rhyner: Where does your cool use of analogy come from? Do you work at it or is it just sort of how your brain works to make your books more vivid?

Really, it’s just sort of how my brain works. Now, that doesn’t mean it always comes easy. I agonize over just the write simile or metaphor sometimes. And sometimes I blow it royally and think, what in the world was I thinking with that? It helps that I have an active imagination and probably see the world a little differently than most people. Some call that “being weird.”

Christine Rhyner: Do you have manuscripts that just sort of petered out at a point and not been published or do you pretty much follow through on a project to publication?

I follow through on a project but that doesn’t mean it always gets published. I’ve two full, complete manuscripts rejected by a publisher and another that I’ve never even proposed to a publisher. Someday I’d like to get them published but for now they are considered practice novels. It happens. I think they’re great stories but it only takes one or two editors to nix a project. That’s the business side of writing.

Christine Rhyner: What do you think is one of a Christian author’s biggest obstacles to a successful writing career?

To be honest, I can’t speak for other writers, only myself. And my biggest obstacle is time. I need to have a full-time job and finding the time to write is very tough sometimes. Or when I have time, finding the energy and inspiration to write is very tough. Finding time has been something that has frustrated me since I started writing ten years ago.

Christine Rhyner: Do you always feel God puts a book in your head & heart to write or do you just sort of say, Okay God, I’ll run with this and You be the wind that moves it in the direction You want?

Some of the books I’ve written I’ve felt that God placed there intentionally, others I feel I’ve forced it on Him a little. But in the end, I have lots of story ideas and why I pick the ones I do is a mystery to me. God is sovereign and it seems the stories always work out okay. For every one of my stories, I go back and read them and think, “I can’t believe I wrote that.” That’s a God thing.

Centralia centralia

Carrie Spilman: When I visited Centralia, PA this summer before coming to see you, Mike, my first impression of the place was, “something’s missing.” A lack. An empty space where stuff, buildings, houses, playgrounds, yards, fences should be. Did you ever make it out to Centralia itself, and if so what did you think about it?

I didn’t, no. We live about three hours from the town and we were in the area once as a family but I didn’t want to take my family there. I wasn’t sure about the stability or safety of the place and having a three-year old run around there didn’t seem like a very good idea. I did lots of research, though, and vicariously went there through video, photos, and Google earth. One of the limitations of having a full-time job is the ability to do on-location research. There just isn’t enough time in a day, let alone a week or month, to do everything I’d like to do.

Carrie Spilman: What was the first scene you wrote in Centralia?

The first chapter. That’s always the first scene I write. A lot of times when I get an idea for a book it comes in the form of the first chapter. For me, that’s the most important chapter. It’s the one that will either keep the reader going to shut the whole deal down.

Carrie Spilman: Maybe a cliche question, but what was the inspiration for Centralia? Being a book I have long anticipated, I’d genuinely want to know.

The inspiration was the town itself. The idea for the story began with the setting, this abandoned town, falling apart, a true ghost town with this weird backstory. A town on fire. What a great setting for a suspenseful story. It just seemed so natural that it should be the location for a psychological thriller.

Regarding Darkness Follows darkness

Carrie Spilman: How did you come up with that one, for starters? It’s one of my favorites. Black darkness of demonic possession/control of some sort (that you cannot wrap your mind around, nor is fully or rationally explained, which i appreciate since to explain too much takes the scare out of a plot and makes it less memorable) contrasting nicely with the bight purity of the little girl who trusts in Jesus to save her daddy. What, if any, research did you do to work on that and pull it off? It’s such a different kind of a story the likes of which i had not before encountered.

The story of how the idea for Darkness Follows came about is a little strange and possibly unbelievable but I assure you, it’s real. My uncle gave me a journal and in the journal were writings of a Civil War soldier describing battle scenes, friends lost, his fears and worries. There were maps of towns, troop movements. The odd thing was that the journal was all in my uncle’s handwriting but he couldn’t remember ever writing it. Now, he’s a Civil War junky but he said there are things in the journal that he didn’t even know about. So naturally, this got me thinking and mulling and planning and before I knew it I had a story idea based on that journal. As for research . . . I talked to folks who have had similar dark experiences. I’ve had some of my own, too. I’m careful not to delve too deeply into that realm as I don’t need to be filling my mind with it. But I need to expose it enough so that it feels authentic to the reader. I hope I pulled that off in Darkness Follows.

Darlington Woods

Carrie Spilman: I’ve read this book three times and each time feel like I pull out more of what you was trying to show through the story. I can’t recall off the top of my head since it’s been a while since i read it, but i was trying to make the correlations between your cancer and battle thereof, and the enemies in the story (and the good guys too). Like there are the dogs, the darklings, and Mitchell, and I’m trying to figure out specifically (if it is even applicable) those types mean to you in regards to that cancer battle. I even went so far as to wonder about the skin of the darklings and if there was a connection between how you describe their skin and the decay–as it were–of your body due to the cancer. Especially with where each of the three type bad guys were and what they were. Even the forest itself. How they’d come out in hordes, or only at night. The details. And then likewise, the good guys, the Darlington villagers, the girl and Rob. I feel like I keep reading more and more into the story and i don’t know if I’m just going too far with it, or if you intended the more specific connections to be there, or if looking back on it you see correlations between those things, which you didn’t see beforehand, that mean more to you now that you look back on your writing, and that these further correlations/metaphors were put there perhaps subconsciously. I have had that happen in my writing and I’ve heard of others having that sort of thing happen when they write as well. Hope this wasn’t too convoluted, Mike. I just think about it a lot and wondered about your further input on the matter. I mean, even your book cover has hidden images in it. I’m just saying.

A lot of Darlington Woods is allegorical. There’s a ton of symbolism in that story. But not all of it was intentional. Darlington Woods was the first full-length novel I wrote coming off of a year’s battle with colon cancer. Obviously I had a lot of stuff I needed to get out of me, a lot of pent up creativity that needed to express itself, fears that needed to be embodied, and a victory that needed to be celebrated. But even as I read it over during the revision stage I started noticing a lot of symbolism that I hadn’t intended. It just worked its way in there. I don’t know if it was a subconscious thing on my part or just that fact that you can make just about anything out of something if you look hard enough. But regardless, it’s there. I let the reader interpret the symbolism as he or she wants to. For everyone it’s going to reveal itself a little differently. But to this day, Darlington Woods is my favorite of all my books (well, right up there with Centralia, my latest release) because of that aspect.

Mirror Imagemirror
Peter Younghusband: You wrote this with a reader who won a mini competition run by yourself. How did you find co-authoring? Would you do it again?
Yes, I wrote it with Aaron Reed, a pastor and someone I call a friend now. Co-authoring worked very well. We gelled nicely in our style and vision for the story. There was never any friction. I’m very happy with the outcome and think the story turned out great. Would I do it again? Maybe. It really depends on the story. I know that’s a vague answer but without a story in mind it’s tough to nail that one down.
Sons of Godsons

Peter Younghusband: Any more consideration to revise this book and republish? There have been plenty of calls for it! Everyone I know would love to see it revised and republished.

Can I give a non-answer and say “maybe someday”? I don’t know. It depends on timing, time, and publisher interest. It is a great story and I know lots of readers enjoyed it but it will take a lot of re-writing to get it to where I’d like to see it and right now I simply don’t have the time.
The Last Hunthunt

Peter Younghusband: Would you consider either a sequel or expanding this novella? That was a great shot of horror and I was scared badly. I wanted more and I am sure others do too!

I’ve thought of writing a full-length novel around this short story but again, time is the limitation (isn’t it always?). I have so many story ideas and storylines to pursue but with a full-time to pay the bills I only have so much time to write, and it’s not enough! I do really like this story, though. I like the creepy factor in it and the fear of the unknown that is so in-your-face.

Rearview (A 7 Hours Novella) rearview

Ian Acheson: How did you all come to do this series which I loved and do you see yourself participating in similar series in the future?

James Wilson approached me with the idea, told me who else he had on board (which was only Travis Thrasher at the time) and wanted to know if I was interested. To be honest, that was my first interaction with James but I’ve admired Travis and his writing for a long time and I thought that anything Travis was willing to be involved in was good for me. It was a blast writing the story and interacting with the other great writers involved in the project. We had a lot of fun and it’s a great series.
Mike can be found at the following places:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/mikedellosso
Twitter: www.twitter.com/mikedellosso
Website: www.mikedellossobooks.com
Closing Comments:

Thanks for the opportunity to answer some great, probing questions. I love interacting with readers and allowing them to peer into my head and see the heart behind the stories I write.
Mike also invites anyone to join The Darlington Society who would like to support Mike in his continuing career as an author and become part of a close knit community of like-minded Dellosso fans and a caring Christian community. For further information, go here:
The Darlington Society

tds

Posted by: Jill Potts Jones | June 1, 2015

“Group Hug”: A Bible Study with no homework

group hug“The No-Homework Women’ Bible Study: Group Hug” is an eight-week study covering a variety of topics designed to stimulate group discussion.  You can evaluate yourself and receive encouragement from others.  It is more of a leader’s guide used to facilitate discussion and encourage others to relate to each other.

There are optional weekly personal challenges that will help you apply what you learn during group discussion.  Since the study varies from week to week, a participant can miss a week without worrying about catching up or missing something.  It can just as easily be used as a monthly study rather than a weekly one and following the school months with a break for the holidays.

The study is more of a devotional and is great for a less intimidating way to experience fellowship.  For those looking for an in-depth study or deep reflections, this study will not satisfy.  However, if you are looking for ways to get those who are hesitant about joining new groups or who are intimidated by detailed study with daily homework, it is great.  There are several available titles and others are coming soon including one on hot topics.  Christine Tate has done an excellent job choosing topics and writing the study.

Click here to purchase from Amazon.com

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from BookCrash, as part of their Book Review Blogger Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Posted by: Jill Potts Jones | May 30, 2015

Things are not what they seem in a town called Centralia

centralia bookPeter Ryan wakes up to discover his wife and daughter missing.  Frantic, he begins searching the house and calling friends who tell him his wife and child died in a car accident he doesn’t remember.   Haunted by memories he can’t explain and piecing together details he barely remembers, Peter is convinced his family is still alive.  His search for the truth leads to danger and a struggle to decipher what’s real and what isn’t.

His journey to Centralia begins when he finds a message from his daughter.  Peter doesn’t know anything about Centralia, but he knows he has to get there by whatever means possible to save a family he isn’t sure is real.

“Centralia” is Mike Dellosso‘s eighth suspense novel.  Dellosso has his own writing style and each novel has a unique spiritual message.  His newest novel is a non-stop adventure into a world where things are not what they seem.  It is a reminder that sometimes what seems real can be very deceiving.  I recommend reading this book only if you enjoy edge-of-your-seat suspense.

Click here to purchase from Amazon.com

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale, as part of their Book Review Blogger Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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