Sunday, June 30, 2013

Shannon Vannatter

Welcome Shannon Vannatter!

I'm excited to introduce Shannon to my readers. You may want to add her new book to your to-be-read list.

Shannon, we have some things in common other than being Christian authors. You are a stay-at-home mom and a pastor’s wife.

How did you start writing and has your role as pastor’s wife contributed to your writing?

My first published book was written when my husband had answered the call to preach. We’d been married sixteen and a half years and I had that deer caught in the headlights feeling.

So I wrote a book about it, sort of. The tale of a florist in love with a widowed pastor. She overhears people saying she’s trying to step into the pator’s first wife shoes and feels unworthy.

Why do you write Christian romance?

I fell in love with clean romance novels in my teens. Over the years, clean romance became difficult to find. At the same time, I’d had a story in my head since my teens. In my thirties, my work hours changed giving me more time to read. I went to the library to find clean romance and ended up empty handed.

I decided that story in my head could be a book. But as I began writing, my characters started talking to God, so I went with it. Back in 1999, Christian romance was in still in its infancy. I had no idea there was a market for what I was writing. Until the finished the book and went to the library to find out how to get it published.

Over two hundred rejections on 6 books later, that story I wrote back in 1999 will release in November as the fifth book in my rodeo series. It’s a totally different version and originally didn’t have anything to do with rodeos or Texas.

You have a new release coming out in July called Rodeo Regrets. This is part of a series which has already released three other titles. Why rodeo? Where did this idea come from?

When I was fourteen, my dad became the announcer at our very small town rodeo and I worked in the concession stand. So, I knew a little about the sport. Decades later, my husband and I took our son to the Arkansas State Fair. I saw a cowboy to the bone guy wearing his wranglers, hat, and books holding hands with a city girl dressed in a pin-striped suit and suede boots. I wondered how they met and what they had in common. That became book one.

I needed an indoor, year round, weekly rodeo to fit my story. That’s when I found the Fort Worth Stockyards. I also needed a small town close to Fort Worth and Dallas for the setting for my hero’s horse ranch. I found Aubrey known as Horse Country USA. Once the book was contracted, we planned a trip to see family near San Antonio, and made a side trip to Fort Worth and Aubrey for research.

Being a mother and a pastor’s wife, when and where do you write?

During the school year, I write while my son’s at school. My husband spend his days at church or visiting, so I have a quiet house to myself. In the summer, I write in snatches. I start writing when everyone else goes to bed and I stay up until 2:00 am then sleep until 10:00. When I’m on deadline, my son goes to church with my husband. I also get some writing in when my son has a friend over or goes to a friend’s house. When my son is home, I focus on him.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers who want to publish Christian romance?

1.  Read the genre.
2.  Join ACFW.
3.  Read the archives of Seekerville. The blog started six years ago with 13 unpublished                              authors encouraging each other. Over the years, they’ve all gotten published. 13 authors blogging daily about getting published, there’s a lot of wisdom there.
4.  Enter writing contests that offer feedback. Seekerville has monthly contest lists.

What wisdom have you gained the you can pass on?

1.  It gets easier. Trying to get published is so frustrating. Shortly before my first contract, I was at my most frustrated and imagined that when editors saw my name on a submission, it went straight in the trash. But that’s not how it is. Editors are looking, hoping, and dreaming of finding great writers.

It’s a journey. Rejection is part of the process. Getting rejected often means your writing isn’t at publishable level yet. If you keep learning, studying the craft, and find a unique hook for your manuscripts, an editor will eventually notice you.

2.  Once you get published, deadlines can stress you out. But that gets easier too. By the second content edit, I realized I could do this without pulling my hair out. And by the sixth book, I’d hit my stride. I realized I can write a book in four months. I don’t worry about the character journey, spiritual arc, or emotional payload. It just happens naturally.

3.  Be careful what you name your secondary characters and just how quirky they are. They might end up with their own book. I’ve renamed and de-quirked many characters to refine them into hero and heroine material.

4.  Don’t worry so much about getting an agent. When a publisher’s guidelines say no unagented submissions, you can still send them a query. And you can still pitch to them at large conferences. I know several authors who got an offer and then an agent, including me.

Natalie once dreamed of finding true love. Then Lane Gray broke her heart. After running wild to fill the emptiness inside her, she heads back to her hometown to heal. But when she sees the cowboy she once loved so much, she finds him hard to resist.
Lane Gray is a changed man. The handsome cowboy wants Natalie's forgiveness-and more. Natalie has made plenty of mistakes in her life, but so has Lane. Could falling for each other again be the worst one yet? Or the path to redemption?

Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom and pastor’s wife. Her debut novel won the 2011 Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award. When not writing, she runs circles in the care and feeding of her husband, their son, and church congregation. Home is a central Arkansas zoo with two charcoal gray cats, a chocolate lab, and three dachshunds in weenie dog heaven. If given the chance to clean house or write, she’d rather write. Her goal is to hire Alice from the Brady Bunch.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

God Delights in You

How are your mornings? I am so bad to toss and turn and moan and groan at the thought of emerging from my nice warm bed. But, Tuesday's devotion from Sarah Young's JESUS CALLING gave me a different perspective and attitude to strive for.

In case you have never read any of this little devotional book, you need to know that Young writes the entries as if Jesus is speaking to the reader.

June 25th started this way: "Open your hands and your heart to receive this day as a precious gift from Me. I begin each day with a sunrise, announcing My radiant Presence. By the time you rise from your bed, I have already prepared the way before you. I eagerly await your first conscious thought. I rejoice when you glance My way."

When I read that, all I could do was say: Wow! God has already prepared the way before me for my day before the sunrise even occurs. To think He eagerly awaits for my first thoughts and is happy when my first thoughts are of Him.

Instead of groaning, I should thank Him for all He has prepared and follow His leading.

I know it can be hard to imagine that the God of the universe actually delights in His children. But, the Bible states this very fact.

"The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." Zephaniah 3:17 NIV

Let the words of that scripture sink in. Then, accept the fact that God delights in you and eagerly awaits you to acknowledge His Presence.

Let's allow the sunrise to announce His Presence and turn our thoughts to Him first. I think it might just amaze us how much better our day will turn out.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Tuesday Teaser

Now for another teaser from a recent book I've read called Sandwich, With A Side Of Romance by Krista Phillips.

Maddie pulled her legs up to sit crisscross on the hood, her tennis shoes resting on the shiny black paint. A good move given the stricken look on Reuben's face. "I want you to go back in there and tell them the truth, that you fell asleep and the whole thing was your fault, and then demand they give me my job back."

She moved to Sandwich, Illinois, in search of a new life, but ended up in a giant pickle.

Sandwich represents hope for twenty-year-old Maddie Buckner and Kyle, the eleven-year-old brother Maddie wants to spring out of foster care. Then she loses her new job after less than a day. It’s all Reuben-the-Jerk’s fault, and she’s determined to make him right the wrong. 

He does so, reluctantly, by giving her a job at his restaurant, The Sandwich Emporium. Then crazy things start happening at the restaurant, and Kyle’s foster parents apply to adopt him. To stop it all, Maddie must learn the art of humbling herself and accepting the help God has arranged, risking her heart to Reuben in the process.

And she’d rather eat a million corned-beef on rye sandwiches than do that.

Krista Phillips writes inspirational romantic comedy. She believes a sprinkle of laughter (and a wee bit of chocolate) makes everything a little better! She blogs regularly about life as a wife, mother, follower of Jesus, and mother of a child with a rare congenital heart defect at Her debut novel, "Sandwich, With a Side of Romance," released in September, 2012 from Abingdon Press.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

True Sacrifice Costs

Two weeks ago a verse jumped off the page of my One Year Bible, and I still haven't been able to forget it. I've mulled over its meaning in context and for me. Here's the verse:

"But the king replied to Araunah, 'No, I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.' So David paid him fifty pieces of silver for the threshing floor and the oxen." 2 Samuel 24:24

David had taken a census and had to choose a punishment from the Lord for doing so. He chose a plague which lasted three days and killed 70,000 people throughout the nation. Just as the angel of death was preparing to destroy Jerusalem, God said: "Stop! That is enough!"

At that moment the angel of the Lord was at the threshing floor of Araunah, and David saw him. David asked that the innocent people be spared for it was he who had sinned. He is told to build an altar on the threshing floor.

Araunah bows to King David and offers the threshing floor and sacrifice at no cost. This is when David replies with the above quoted verse. David refused to build an altar to God and sacrifice upon it if it meant no cost to him.

What can be learned from this verse? Why had it stood out to me and stayed with me? The more I thought on David's proclamation, the more I understood.

If I am to truly worship God in the way He needs to be worshiped, it should cost me something. What kind of sacrifice doesn't involve giving of something of worth? The very definition of sacrifice is giving something precious to a deity.

Now, I know I am not required to bring oxen or lambs to an altar to sacrifice for my worship. But, what precious somethings do I give up for worship? Pondering that I realized I have to be willing to sacrifice my time, talents, treasures. If worshiping God means I must sacrifice that all too important time, I should do it. Honoring Him may mean I have to give up relationships that aren't God-honoring. I may need to give of my money so my money doesn't control me.

The lesson here for me was not to cheat God out of all He deserves from me. He sacrificed His most precious Son for me. In return I can't give him a sacrifice that costs me nothing. That's like telling Him: "Sorry, You're not worth my time and my all. Maybe another time."

God, help me not to cheapen my worship of You. Let me with David proclaim that I will not bring a sacrifice of worship unless it costs me something. In this way I show that You are worth more than anything I may have to give up.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Not Ashamed of the Gospel

As Christians in the U.S. we tend to not have to stand up for our faith quite as much as we think we do. Yes, there is a degree of persecution from those around us who try to drown out our voice. Though, often we don't voice our convictions about what we believe. We shy away from telling people about Christ.

I had a reminder last Wed. night at church about what other Christians around our world go through. It shamed me. My hubby shared a video clip with those of us in Prayer Meeting.

Take a look. Click on the Testimony below.


As a Christian living in a free country, I take for granted the freedoms I have. I can go to church without worry of being arrested. I can tell others about Christ without facing a gun to my head. The question is: Do I share Christ?

I have to admit - I don't share Him as much as I should or even could.

After viewing this video, I asked myself: Could I proclaim Jesus with a gun to my head? I want to say I would, but I have never faced such an extreme situation. I pray we never have to experience this kind of persecution here. But, I do pray that God would make me bolder and grow my faith so I can say Jesus is more real than anything I will face.

Remember my brothers and sisters in Christ, we are the light for this dark world. Shine your light proudly!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Nature Photography Day

June 15th is Nature Photography Day.

My daughter has really gotten into taking nature photos. Here's some of her work she said I could share with my blog readers.

I don't know about you, but I think God is the ultimate Artist!

How could anyone look at scenes like this and not believe in a Creator God?

Take a moment to look around you at nature. God reveals Himself everywhere. Sometimes we forget to stop and take notice at His use of color and detail.

Then take a look in the mirror and know that God used His awesome creativeness to make you. Go show Him to the world!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Teaser Tuesday

Hey! I got this great idea from Kaye Dacus who in turn got it from Miz B's Blog (


I will choose a random page from a book I am reading and print two teaser sentences, being careful not to include spoilers. Then, I will share book and author information so you can add the book to your "to be read" list.

This sounded like fun. Please feel free to post a teaser and info about a book you are reading in the comments.

Now for my first TEASER:

"What's wrong, Mommy? Faye pulled back a few inches and set her little hands on Pamela's shoulders. "Did you see the bad man too?"

This teaser is from Creston Mapes' recent release, FEAR HAS A NAME. Here's some more info for you:

When his family’s home is broken
into, journalist Jack Crittendon believes it is a one-time invasion.
But through a series of haunting circumstances, he begins to fear
there is a stalker endangering his wife and two young daughters.
His home life in upheaval, Jack threatens to buy a gun and throws
himself into his work, investigating the story of a depressed pastor
who disappeared with intentions of taking his own life. With his
family’s safety on the line, Jack begins to discover that there are
secrets—with painful, deadly implications—even behind “Christian”
As he begins to unravel the mystery, his courage and faith are
shaken. What if he can’t protect his family? What if he doesn’t make it
through alive? Jack must find the faith to trust a God who allows inconceivable trials, and the
courage to guard his family with danger exploding at every turn.

Creston Mapes is the author of Fear Has a Name, Nobody, Dark Star, and Full Tilt. A journalist, copywriter, and editor, he works from his home-office in Atlanta for some of the nation’s top media companies, Christian ministries, and nationally-recognized corporations. His early years as a reporter inspire many of his novels.
Creston studied journalism at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, and began his writing career 30 years ago. He has fond memories of his boyhood in Bath, Ohio, where he became enchanted with his future wife, Patty, way back in the fourth grade. His father, Bernie, owned and operated The Weathervane Furniture Shop in town. The whole family lived right upstairs in the century-old house known as “The Shop.”

Don't miss adding this book to your "to be read" list!

How about you? What are you reading? Give us a teaser in the comments.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Why I Write, Read, and Seek Christian Fiction

Have you ever had God drop something in your lap you weren't quite expecting? This has happened to me recently. I am now an acquisitions editor for Prism Book Group.

According to my writer-friend, Brooke, I shouldn't be so surprised. She has been telling me for a long time that I have God's editor "stamp" on me. Of course, she has had to endure my tenacious edits on several occasions - bless her.

I think it all comes back to the title of this post. I have a desire to write, read, and now seek Christian fiction. Why?

Several years ago I realized that this Christian life isn't just something I do, but someone I am. That means that I am to be Christ-like in every area of my life. This determination meant that I had to watch what I put into my body as much as what goes out. I'm not talking about diet and food here. I'm talking about what I read and watch.

My pastor/hubby has always said: "Garbage in; garbage out." If I fill my mind with bad language and worldly stuff, that's what will emit from my mouth and actions.

Also, if I'm going to invest several hours of my time reading, I would like to think that I would gain more than just entertainment for my time.

My desire is to write, read, and now acquire Christian fiction that leaves me with a lesson to ponder or encouragement in living my life. I think this is the power of Christian fiction.

When I received reviews for my first published book, THE BLESSING SEER, I was thrilled to see that readers had felt challenged or had their faith boosted through reading it.

Recently, I finished reading a Christian fiction which encouraged trusting God in every situation. I'm still pondering its lessons.

Christian fiction that makes you ponder it long after you turn that last page - that's what I want to acquire, read, and write. Something that makes a difference for Christ.

Check out Prism Book Group here:
You'll find me listed on the Submissions page.
They also have a blog you might want to check out.

Stay tuned to what God is doing in my life. And, stay tuned-in to what God wants for your life. Amen - let it be so.

Catch another blog hop and an interview about Teena Stewart's work in progress here:

Monday, June 3, 2013

Cancer Survivors Day

June 2nd was officially Cancer Survivors Day, but I celebrate it everyday because of my mama.

My mother has had two bouts with breast cancer, two mastectomies, and one round of chemotherapy. I am so thankful she is a survivor.

But, she is so much more than just a survivor. She is constantly in motion volunteering through Mission of Hope (a ministry that serves people in need in Appalachia), at church, and any of a number of other projects she gets into. She is a reminder to me that since you are still here on earth, you should serve others through Christ.

I remember when she was going through the first breast cancer, her motto was: "To live is Christ; to die is gain." This is to mean - if I'm alive, then I show Christ. If I die, then I gain seeing Him face-to-face. Not a bad motto to live by.

Thanks Mom for living your faith out loud no matter what. I hope some of that rubbed off on me.

Here's my mom, Nana, with my daughter. Thank You, God, for giving me a faithful Christian Mom.

Are there cancer survivors in your family or among your friends?  Don't forget to thank God for them. And, if you want to share their names, leave a comment.