Chautona Havig

Did She Really Marry a Guy She Didn’t Love?

She sat across from me in a restaurant at the Mall of America and listened as I told her about a book I was working on now and then. I’d known her online for a decade or thereabouts, but we’d never met until that visit to Minneapolis for my niece’s wedding.

Maybe the wedding was what prompted me to tell her about it, but when she heard me say, “So this gal gets the idea that marriage is designed to glorify God and love flows from that instead of people marrying because they’re in love and then glorify God with that love.”

“That’s terrible,” she said.

Don’t get me wrong. I expected pushback. It’s a weird idea, you know? Still, after that, every time I started to pull out that book, I got nervous and put it away again.

Last year, it was time to put a stop to that nonsense and finish the book. While my launch team seemed to enjoy it, and a dear friend cheered me all the way, there was still that moment of trepidation when the little book baby had to fly out of the nest of my files and into the big, bad world.  Would people “get it?”

Would they understand that this was one flawed character’s way of living out a Biblical principle rather than one author’s idea of the life every Christian should live?

Can I repeat that as a statement?  Just so there’s no mistake about it?

I did not write this book as my idea of “how things should be done” (read that in a deep, imperious tone).

Instead, I wrote Blessing Bentley as a fictional representation of my heart for marriage.  I wrote it as a reminder that marriage, as with anything in our lives, should glorify God foremost.  It is beautiful, and good, and worth fighting for.

Even when you are so tired that you can’t take your clothes off before getting into the tub.

That’s a thing, folks.  It’s a thing.

The Marriages of Conviction series is just that—novels (read: fictional stories) that feature people who need marriage for some reason and choose to go into it with eyes open and hearts… well, maybe on the fence about the whole thing.

In Blessing Bentley, Bentley needs the financial benefits of marriage, and that need prompts her to dig into the Bible to see what it has to say about the subject.  Do I agree with all her conclusions?  Nope.

Do I respect that she took what she got from Scripture and made a point to live it?  Definitely.

The next book, Tempting Tait, features a romantic at heart who ends up floundering after life throws him a curveball in a game he didn’t sign up to play. When he can’t make it alone, he goes to Bentley and asks her help in finding just that—help.  As in Genesis 2:18 kind of help.

Charming Chloe will feature a man who just broke up with his childhood sweetheart and hears of a single mom in need of a place to go to escape domestic violence. For reasons he can’t fathom, he gets the idea that God wants him to step up (should I continue the ballgame analogy and add, “to the plate”?) and commit his life to serving the Lord through serving Chloe and her son.  Even if he can bring himself to do it, can he convince her he’s not some creep out to make her escape from a bad situation a leap into an even worse one?

The first two Marriages of Conviction books are available on Kindle and in print.  Start with Blessing Bentley. I hope her quirky personality and love of the Lord and His Word bless you as they did me to write them.

Lisa Renee

I’m a mother of seven children. Yes, you read right. It’s crazy I know, and life is full with my children ranging from five to nineteen. But whether you have one child or ten, it’s hard work sometimes, rewarding too, and like marriage, a great character shaping tool.

Occasionally, I get a glimpse of what God goes through when His people turn from his blessing and plan to do their own thing as a free-will being. Standing on the sidelines, waving hands, “Don’t do it!” while they make bad choices. They learn by their mistakes, but it’s not easy, especially with teenagers, to watch the process. Placing each situation at the foot of the cross gives hope that all will work out in the end.

Some of my dear friends have or are experiencing challenges with their teens. I wrote, Acres of Promise dedicated to those mothers.

Let’s call my good friend, alias “Chantelle.” I’ve known her for ten years. She’s one of those people that has an interesting story, to say the least! One major issue sprung from when she was turned off by church leadership and became hesitant to connect and trust churches. Unfortunately, that can cause the sheep to become vulnerable to the wolves more than if they were in the fold.

In Acres of Promise, the majority of the story is from true events. “Chantelle” nearly gets tricked into a relationship with a wolf in sheep’s clothing—saying all the right spiritual lingo but not having the fruit of the spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, and so on.

Aside from finding Mr. Right, as a widow, and now single mother to a defiant teen, she turns to God to get through the tough times. All Chantelle’s will power and parenting techniques just don’t cut it against her son’s strong desire to push the boundaries.

Although, Acres of Promise, sounds like it deals with tough issues, and it does, “Chantelle” is such a fun character, and her humor shines through to create lots of laugh-out-loud moments, entertainment, and encouragement too.

Download the first five chapters for free and not only be entertained but transformed by inspirational Christian Fiction with grit.

Michelle Keener

Where Did This Series Come From?

Mission Hollywood was never supposed to be a series. I wanted to write a Christian romance novel because…well…I love them! I had an idea about a bad boy movie star who bumps into a pastor’s daughter, and all the sparks and drama that would follow. That was it. One story. One and done! But, as I was writing about Ben and Lily, Lily’s big brother Noah kept jumping into the story. He was protective, funny, and a little broken himself. Let’s face it, he’s adorable.

I was only halfway through writing Mission Hollywood when I realized my unfinished novel suddenly had a sequel in the works.

I blame Noah.

Fine, I decided, Noah can have his own story. Once Mission Hollywood was in the hands of my publisher, I started working on Made in Hollywood, which was originally titled Out of the Ashes. And that’s when I ran face first into all the challenges of writing a series. What color was Noah’s hair? What did I say about Lily’s mother? How tall is Evan? I had to be very careful to keep all those details straight. When I was writing Mission Hollywood, there weren’t any rules. I could make things up as I went, change details that didn’t fit, and create a whole new world. With book two, there were rules to follow. And I’m not always great at following rules.

The joy of writing this series is that I get to keep hanging out with the Shaw family. Lily and Ben, Noah and Hannah, Kate…don’t get me started on Kate…turns out she wants her own book too! Right now, I’m in the middle of revising book 3, and it’s like visiting old friends. They’ve become my fictional family. Does writing a series present unique challenges? Definitely. But I can’t imagine my writing life without these characters.

What do you think? Is there a character in this series you want to see more of?

Rachel Hauck

Last evening while dining with friends, I asked for prayer as we said goodbye.  As we prayed, one friend said, ‘I just feel you’re to lean into Jesus’ peace, power, presence and patience.  The four P’s,’ he said.

It struck me that growing in God often requires trial.  The trick is not to get distracted and discouraged along the way.  There are times when life closes in, and in those moments, none of the P‘s are on my plate.  But I take a deep breath.  Have a moment of clarity.  Exhale a prayer of gratitude.  A soft song of thanksgiving, or one glorifying God because He is good, and I can taste at least one P.

Prayer is the conduit to an encounter with God.  We often want to find another way around but truly, there is nothing more profound and purposeful than sitting at His feet, waiting, listening, just being.

We want life to be easy.  Playful and rollicking, stumbling along into our destiny, being fulfilled by our whims, careers and family.  We want to know God with no more effort than Sunday morning service and a daily devotional.

We must be mindful and intentional.  Plan.  Wants and dreams are just cloud-ideas until we start putting effort into them.  Often we have to fight through old mind sets, hurts, and just plain bad habits.  Others times we need to take a look around for a reality check, realign and go for new dreams and goals.  Some of us need a dream to overcome!

Here’s the good thing.  In God, these things can accelerate.

Or, you can go the self-help way; power through your situation, you know, “just do it” and somehow pull yourself up by your bootstraps.  Eventually you’ll  manage your anger or lust, greed and envy.  Or not!

The four P‘s, along with the super P of prayer awakens our hearts to the bigger picture. It fills in the why’s and the what for’s.  And when you go to the One who loves you and died for you, you’re actually transformed.

Romans 12:1-2 says, ‘We are transformed by the renewing of our minds.”  Not just ‘Hey, I’m going to think differently about a situation.’  But, ‘I’m going to think differently and act differently from the inside out.  I’m going to think with the mind of Christ.

When the battle comes, we transform by renewing our minds.  By believing what God says about us, not what we ‘feel’ or think.  Not what the devil may whisper in our ears.  That’s when we begin to experience God’s Power, His Presence, His Peace and His Patience.”  With each victory, we have a greater understanding of who we are, and who He is.

Know God and experience the journey!

Tabitha Bouldin

When Characters Tell You What to do

Some characters take time to build. They need finesse before they’ll talk to you. But there are a rare few who leap onto the pages with barely a thought. Miss Evelyn is one of the latter. When Mel had a problem, she needed someone to talk to who would shoot straight and not pull any punches. Enter Miss Evelyn.

Let me take you on the roundabout adventure of Miss Evelyn’s creation.

But first, coffee…

I have this problem. It’s a rather nice problem to have.

You see, I love coffee.

To the point that all my characters love coffee.

One of them even owns a coffee shop in a fictional town called Jingle Junction, but we’ll talk about that another day.

I don’t know what I’ll do the day one of them decides they abhor my favorite drink. Probably write them out of the story…I do have that one romantic suspense book I’d love to write.

Since we’re here, and I’m talking about coffee, because coffee and books go together like frosting on a cupcake, I want to tell you a story.

I owe my love of coffee to one person and one person alone. My Granny Pat. For those of you who heard my recent podcast with Chautona on Because Fiction, you’ve had a brief introduction already.

As Inigo Montoya would say, “Let me explain. No. Is too much. Let me sum up.”

On second thought, there’s no summing up Granny Pat.

I’m the youngest of three kids. Granny had a soft spot for the babies. She’d smile so bright it would light up a room when she saw one of the grandkids. She’d smooch her lips and smack a dozen kisses to our cheek before you could blink twice or even think about escape.

Okay, enough backstory. Maybe.

As a rambunctious four-year-old, two things were often on the “Don’t give to Tabitha” list.

Those things: Caffeine and chocolate.

Telling Granny Pat those rules…pointless.

Every now and then, Granny would be our babysitter while Dad finished his shift at the lumberyard and Mom headed in for her third-shift job. She would walk in the door and sing-song “I brought a few things for Tabitha” while swinging a brown paper sack and laughing like a loon. Every. Single. Time.

Inside the sack: Snickers bar and instant coffee.

Granny didn’t believe in coffee makers.

She also didn’t believe kids shouldn’t have chocolate and coffee at 8 p.m.

And the only way she could get me to drink instant coffee was to fill the cup with milk and sugar…a LOT of sugar.

Granny always gave me the same coffee mug. I’m not even sure what they’re called. Earthstone? Stonewear? All I know, Mom had a full set of the stuff. Actually, she still has most of it. Anyway…the cup was brown, with a light brown/golden rim and a chip in the handle. See. Not crazy. Even though Mom had six of those suckers, Granny knew which one I claimed as mine.

She would sit with me at the kitchen table with her own cup, and we’d chat the night away. I remember feeling so grown up, even though my legs couldn’t touch the floor and I’d swing them back and forth while both hands wrapped around the mug to keep it steady. Those suckers are heavy!

In the following years, I would spend hours sitting with her, drinking coffee. Which is exactly what Mel does when a problem she can’t quite work out starts causing her trouble.

I couldn’t leave those memories only for myself. So, I made Granny Pat into a character I hope you’ll all love. Mishaps off the Mainland is a romance, but through the pages, you’ll catch glimpse of my granny through spunky Miss Evelyn. She’s sweet, sassy, and spunky. A real Southern lady who believes good food, a cup of coffee, and a heart-to-heart conversation can solve almost any problem.