Author Chat with Laura Thomas on Romantic Suspense and Her Heart for Readers

Laura Thomas is one of my new favorite romantic suspense authors, and once you get to know her, you’ll see why that’s no surprise! She is not only a gifted writer, but also someone whose desire to provide heart-warming encouragement to her readers shines through the pages.

I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did! Also, Laura has graciously offered to give away one e-book copy of her latest release, The Orphan Beach.  To enter, simply leave a comment below or share this post on social media.

Q: How did you first discover your writing ability, and how have you seen God use it in unexpected ways?

I really didn’t know I was a writer until I was in my late-thirties, when my husband discovered I had been harboring a secret writing dream for twenty-five years! He encouraged me to begin by taking some courses with The Institute of Children’s Literature, and I fell in love with writing and realized I needed to pursue the author life.

Of course, it didn’t go the way I expected, with me being content to write stories for young children. No, it seems God had other plans—better plans. He has given me the opportunity to write for children, teens, and adults in multiple genres and continues to open surprise doors along the way! It’s never, ever boring…

Q: What prompted you to first write Christian romantic suspense?

Although I started my writing journey with children’s books and stories, I always enjoyed being able to share non-fiction words with women readers via my blog. It was almost like when you have little kids at home all day and then go for coffee and conversation with adult friends! The initial idea for my first Christian romantic suspense novel, The Glass Bottom Boat, was inspired after a trip to Jamaica where my imagination ran amuck and I had the sudden urge to share a faith-based, nail-biting story for women. I adore reading this genre and was up for the challenge of blending faith, romance, and some page-turning suspense into a novel for grown-ups… even though that “sudden urge” took six long years to come to fruition!

Q: You also write Christian teen fiction and non-fiction as well. Tell us about your other books.

The Tears Trilogy comprises of three Christian teen fiction books for girls: Tears to Dancing, Tears of a Princess, and Tears, Fears, and Fame. Each story of hope delves into relatable issues including friendship, forgiveness, family, and faith—with ample drama, of course!

The Candle Maker is a short middle-grade novel set in Victorian England, where a ten-year-old ragamuffin boy learns to face his fears in order to discover the truth and save a life.

Pearls for the Bride is a non-fiction marriage books for newlyweds and brides-to-be, packed with humorous anecdotes, practical tips, and Biblical principles from the mother-of-the-bride’s point of view.

Q: As writers, we often don’t get to see how our writing influences others. However, sometimes readers do reach out and share with us. What has been the most encouraging feedback you’ve received?

I love hearing from readers! All feedback is encouraging and incredibly useful, but I think one of the most precious emails I received was from a newsletter subscriber who won a copy of Tears of a Princess, one of my teen fiction novels in my monthly giveaway. She offered to forgo her prize as I had to ship it overseas but I was more than happy to pay a little extra. When I heard from her a few weeks later, she had read the book and then passed it on to her pre-teen granddaughter who was battling an eating disorder—the exact topic this book covered. We both agreed it was God’s providence and timing and I’m humbled and excited to think my words might bring hope and healing in some small way to readers anywhere in the world.

Q: Your blog talks about your desire to provide heartwarming encouragement through your writing. How might readers be encouraged through your books? 

“Heartwarming encouragement for your soul” is the lens through which I attempt to write all my books, stories, articles, and devotionals. Even though most of my books are fiction, I believe people ultimately crave hope not only in a good storyline but in real life. As a Christian author, I love to be able to weave faith through my words and particularly in my romantic suspense novels, it’s my desire that readers will find the flawed characters relatable and see how God can work in them and through them in the most breathtaking ways.

Q: Can you hint about what next project you have in the works?

Absolutely. I’m thrilled to be writing the manuscript for my next Christian romantic suspense novel. I can share that it’s a brand-new series and is set in the idyllic English countryside… I’m going back to my roots with this one!

Also, my literary agent is currently working on my picture book, Bonbon the Frenchie: Lost in Paris, and my middle-grade novel, Black Diamonds.

Meet Author Laura Thomas whose Romantic Suspense novels not only entertain, but also provide heartwarming encouragement. @Laura_Thomas_ with @khogrefeparnell

About the Author

A published Christian author, Laura writes heartwarming encouragement for your soul—especially in her romantic suspense, teen fiction, marriage, and children’s books. Laura is a chocoholic mom of three, married to her high school sweetheart. Originally from the UK, they live in Kelowna, B.C. as audacious empty-nesters.

About The Orphan Beach

Life is spiraling out of control for pediatric nurse, Juliet Farr. Heart-broken, grief-stricken, and experiencing a crisis of faith—now she is the prime target for a crazed killer. When her ex-boyfriend, detective Max Bennett, returns to work the case in the Oregon Coast, he knows sharing the truth behind their break-up will destroy any possibility of a second chance together.

A manuscript, a maniac, and a mother’s love propel Juliet’s flight to a beach in Mexico as she desperately pursues hope and healing. Will she ever find freedom from the ache of abandonment? And when a troubled soul chooses Juliet as his perfect victim, can Max prove his love for her by risking his own life? Or will Orphan Beach be the end of their story?

To enter for a chance to win an e-book copy of The Orphan Beach, simply leave a comment on this post. You may also retweet my post on Twitter or Facebook. Just be sure to tag me!

Free Preview of The Revisionary – Now Available!

Samples have taken a hit since Covid19 struck. I was in a beauty store over the weekend, and the sales clerk apologized that she could no longer give me a sample to find my perfect shade match but assured me I could return the product if I was dissatisfied.

Naturally, I understood, but samples can be so helpful in letting us determine if something is a good fit for us or not.

That’s why I’m excited to share this news! My publisher has released a special three-chapter sample of The Revisionary, available for free as an e-book! Maybe you’ve never read dystopian before and are curious if you’ll enjoy the genre. Or maybe you are familiar with blockbuster sagas like The Hunger Games and Divergent but are curious how a dystopia could offer hope for the future.

You can download your free preview directly from Amazon as a Kindle e-book, or if you prefer a PDF, you can download that version from my website at the button below.

I hope you’ll enjoy this preview and get a taste of what dystopian fiction filled with hope is all about.

~ Kristen

Download a free preview of THE REVISIONARY and discover dystopian fiction filled with hope for tomorrow. @khogrefeparnell

Why I Love Online Learning (And You Might Too)

We often talk about writing and all things bookish here on the blog, but in light of current events, I feel it is important to share about another “hat” I wear: being an online teacher.

As an English teacher, I am a believer in online education and homeschooling. Although I realize these schooling solutions are not a fit for all students, I personally enjoyed homeschooling as a student and now teaching online as a profession. Even if you’re considering online learning for a season, I want to share the benefits it can offer.

Why study online or at home?

I was homeschooled from first grade through high school. As a result, I had more time to pursue my passion for writing, gain work experience at a young age, and graduate from high school with college courses already completed. (Many in-person schools also offer dual-enrollment options as well.)

Why I loved homeschooling from a student perspective:

  • You can work at your own pace. There are no other students slowing you down and no lecture that’s leaving you behind.
  • Because you work at your pace, you are so much more efficient with your time. When I homeschooled, if I hustled in the morning, I could be done on some days by noon which left room for free time or afternoon jobs.
  • When you do need help, you get one-on-one attention. At the online academy where I teach, students can book individual sessions with their teacher in advance or join an academic support session for immediate help with another English teacher.
  • You have flexibility. If your family wants to take a vacation, you take a vacation.

For over four years, I’ve been teaching English online. From a teacher perspective:

  • Even though I work with more students, I absolutely love that I work with them one-on-one when they need help.
  • The approach allows me to be “hands on” when needed and “hands off” unless necessary. Honestly, no one wants a teacher breathing down his neck. I think this approach definitely results in more personal motivation for the student.
  • I don’t waste time in a commute and in busywork related to maintaining a physical classroom.
  • I also enjoy more flexibility and the comfort (and these days, safety) of working from home.

In light of Covid19, there has never been a better time to be a home learner or teacher. That’s why, in addition to teaching online for an amazing accredited academy, I am excited to be part of a brand new online community, created by author and teacher Victoria Duerstock.

About Study Anything Online

Study Anything Online is a growing course marketplace and homeschool community where students and families can find free resources and reasonably priced courses that meet their needs.

I’m offering two English elective courses, one that helps students navigate the often confusing world of essay writing and a second course that explains correct MLA documentation and format. I’ve taken my experience teaching students these very topics and created some practical, hands-on (and dare I say, fun?) classes on these oh-so-important subjects.

These courses are ideal for 7-12th graders, because regardless of the essay’s level of difficulty, the same basic principles apply. They are also a perfect refresher course for adults who are returning to the classroom themselves or wanting to help their student understand essay writing but haven’t picked up an English textbook in a while.

5 Steps to Essay Writing Success

Have you ever written you heart out for an essay project, only to have it returned with a low score and covered in red ink? If so, you’re not alone. But I have good news for you. Anyone can master these 5 steps to essay writing success. They are a failproof roadmap for virtually any kind of expository essay project.

Learn More


MLA Documentation & Format

Plagiarism. It’s not a four-letter word, but it’s just as naughty. The hard truth is, maybe you didn’t even mean to plagiarize, but ignorance is not an excuse. The good news is that we’re going to unpack everything you need to know to avoid plagiarism, give proper credit to your sources, and do so in a way that presents you as a respectable and honest writer.

Learn more.

Opportunities for life-long learners

I am both a teacher and a life-long leaner. From reading books to taking courses created by respected experts in fields that interest me, I plan to always keep growing as a professional.

Study Anything Online also offers business training courses for the adult leaner. Another great online platform, designed specifically for writers, is Serious Writer Academy, and I offer several writing courses there as well.

The bottom line? Education should work for you, for your family, and for your dreams. Whether that’s in-person, online, or a hybrid approach, I wish you the best this year!

Have you tried online learning, or are you interested in doing so? Please share your experiences and thoughts in the comments!

~ Kristen

Why I love online learning (and you might too) by @khogrefeparnell

If I Can Cook with Cast Iron, You Can Too.

Did you or your kids ever watch “The Little Engine that Could” where the train puffed and puffed and told himself, “I think I can, I think I can”? Yes, I did too.

While I’m all for positive vibes, I also believe in giving ourselves and others grace for making mistakes. As an online English teacher, I often tell my students, “It’s okay to make mistakes,” and “Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid not to try at all.” The truth is, there have been many days I needed to give myself that same freedom to make mistakes and learn from them, especially when in the kitchen.

Cooking as a Single

When I was single and living on my own, I mastered the art of not starving. I could make a mean salad and felt pretty confident about my grilled egg, ham, and cheese English muffin sandwiches. Also, I firmly believed mac and cheese constituted a complete meal. (Can I get an Amen?)

I was so busy working, serving at my church, or meeting up with friends that food literally took a back burner.

Cooking as a Newly Wed

As I prepared for my wedding, I started to Pinterest in earnest, searching for “easy meals,” which was code for, “How can I keep my husband happy … and alive?” I had a few tried and true menus, like grilled cheese, spaghetti, my friend Ashley’s taco soup recipe, a chicken bacon ranch Crockpot, and something else I can’t remember at the moment. But clearly, I needed to start paying attention to food, because I didn’t want to be that wife.

Good news. We’re a year and a half into our marriage, and James thinks I’m a decent cook. Side note: He is the nicest human ever. I also encourage him to grill as often as he wants.

Cooking with Cast Iron

When my friend Ashley first told me she had been contracted to write a book on Modern Cast Iron, I celebrated with her out loud but inwardly wondered how on earth I could help support her in this endeavor since cooking with cast iron TERRIFIED me.

The first problem: I didn’t own a piece of cast iron.

The second problem: Ashley and her husband are amazing cooks, and I am not. (I’ve seen them in action a few times.) True, I had managed to recreate her taco soup recipe with smashing success, but that was one taco soup recipe. Even girls like me get “lucky” sometimes.

But more important than my pride was my friendship with Ashley. While researching how to cook pork chops on Pinterest, someone recommended a small cast iron grill pan. It was right around my birthday, so I asked for one, and behold, my wish was granted.

First impression: Dang, this thing is heavy. Second impression: Hey, this isn’t so scary. I successfully cooked pork chops and later asparagus in the grill pan. Everyone survived the experience.

And then my friend Ashley did the kindest thing. Perhaps she suspected my cooking insecurities or my need for a nudge in the right direction, because she gifted me with an enamel Dutch Oven. It was for my birthday, anniversary, and housewarming all wrapped in one, and I literally cried when I received it because she was so thoughtful, and it was so beautiful.

But still the nagging thought: Can I actually cook with cast iron?

Making Homemade Bread

What can be more terrifying and intimidating than making homemade bread? Okay, yes, a T-Rex, but those are extinct.

Still, I knew I had to try this beautiful Dutch Oven gift or appear ungrateful. So I found a Crusty No Knead Dutch Oven Bread Recipe on Pinterest and followed the directions.

Other than not rising as much as I had hoped, it looked like … bread. It even tasted like bread. Hello, I made homemade bread! And James liked it, which is ultimately what matters.

Choosing to Be Brave

None of us likes feeling like a fish out of water. Instead of focusing on the fear of failure, though, let’s focus on the possibilities. Even seasoned fishermen don’t always get things right.

I love the story in Scripture where Peter, the expert fisherman, worked his nets all night and had nothing to show. Nada.

That feeling must have been way worse than my failed zucchini boat lasagna attempt. But I digress.

When Peter and those with him returned to shore, Jesus asked them a simple question, “Children, have you any food?” When they answered in the negative, Jesus then said, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some” (NKJV John 21:5-6). Now what’s so amazing is that this event took place after Jesus’ resurrection, and the preceding verse made clear that the disciples didn’t know it was Jesus Himself who was talking to them.

But there must have been something undeniably special about Him, because Peter and his friends listened and did exactly what He said. And guess what? They cast their nets and couldn’t even pull them back in because they were overloaded with fish! At this point, Peter recognized Jesus for who He is, and, in typical impulsive Peter fashion, jumped overboard to get to Jesus first.

There’s so much more to this story, and I hope you’ll take the time to dig deeper into it, but here’s my takeaway for today: If God gives us a nudge to do something, whether it be learning to be a better cook or befriending the neighbor next door, let’s do it. Let’s plunge right in like Peter!

There’s the chance we’ll bomb dinner or get a door in the face. But just maybe that recipe will become our new favorite or we’ll discover a best friend living next door. Let’s fear failure less and be brave more.

The Bottom Line

Although I’m nowhere near ready to call myself a cook, there’s a healthy rotation of meal options in our home, and even though cooking for company intimidates me, I’m determined to try more … and be content to order pizza the rest of the time. Kidding not kidding.

Seriously, though, I think I can cook with cast iron. I even bought myself a skillet so I can try Ashley’s Peach Dutch Baby recipe. Maybe it will become our next favorite Saturday breakfast tradition.

Regardless, here’s my dare for you: If I can cook with cast iron, you can too. Be brave and willing to try something you’re not good at. You might just discover a new world of possibilities.

If I can cook with cast iron, you can too. @khogrefeparnell

Happy cooking, friends!

~ Kristen

I’m grateful to my friend and gifted author Ashley L. Jones for inviting me to share this post first on her beautiful blog at BigSisterKnows.com. Check out her blog for more encouragement and delicious recipes for your everyday life.


About Ashley’s Book: Modern Cast Iron

In Modern Cast Iron, self-proclaimed cast-iron connoisseur Ashley L. Jones recaptures the ease and joy of cooking with cast-iron cookware. Jones introduces readers to the best brands and types of cast-iron cookware to fulfill any cook’s needs. She offers detailed tips and tricks for rescuing old, rusted pans and keeping them properly seasoned, and she shares recommendations for the best cooking oil for every recipe. With Jones’s help, both experienced and beginner cooks will be able to rival grandma’s cooking. Chock-full of stories from Jones’s own childhood growing up with cast-iron meals, as well as recipe after tantalizing recipe―from breakfast quiche to gluten-free meals and beautiful blueberry cobbler―Modern Cast Iron explores the countless ways that cast iron benefits health and happiness.

Get Your Copy.

My Writing Journey: An Interview by L.C. Helms

I so much enjoy chatting with authors here on the blog, and today, it’s my turn to share! I’m so grateful to my friend and gifted writer L.C. Helms for inviting me to be her “author spotlight” on her beautiful website.

Below is an excerpt of our conversation. For the full interview, visit lchelms.com.

Lori: How old were you when you started writing?

Kristen: I discovered my love for writing when I was nine or ten. My older brother had a creative writing project in school, and he shared it with us and our best friends. We all got excited about his short story and expanded it, each one of us taking turns writing a chapter. Although my brothers and friends eventually lost interest in our pet project, I didn’t and kept writing. I kept those early stories and laugh when I read them because they are so poorly written. But everyone has to start somewhere!

Lori: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer, and what kind of writing do you do?

Kristen: By the end of high school, I had finished my first novel and knew I wanted to be a writer. Thankfully, that novel didn’t see the light of day until after many more revisions, but it later became the first book in my Wings of the Dawn young adult trilogy. In college, I majored in English to grow as a writer and resumed my quest for publication after graduating.

Since then, I’ve published two young adult suspense trilogies (one contemporary suspense and the other speculative/dystopian). I also have an adult Christian romantic suspense novel completed as well as a young adult spiritual growth in the works. Books aside, I blog regularly on my website KristenHogrefeParnell.com where I challenge readers to find faith in everyday adventures.

Lori: What is your favorite kind of writing to read and your favorites from what you’ve written?

Kristen: My favorite fiction books to read are young adult fiction (contemporary or speculative) and Christian romantic suspense. I guess it’s no surprise that both are genres I write! In addition to my published young adult trilogies, I have a new romantic suspense project I am so excited about. I’ve read authors like Dee Henderson, Dani Pettrey, DiAnn Mills, and more for so long that it only seems natural to write in this genre that I love so much. Stephanie Alton with the Blythe Daniel Agency is representing me on this project, and I look forward to the day we find the right publishing home for it.

Choosing a favorite book that I’ve written seems like choosing a favorite child, which a parent should never do! I will say that my latest release, The Reactionary, holds a special place in my heart, because I was able to travel to Italy to do research for it. What an adventure that trip was! My friend Maria and I had several misadventures along the way (including getting lost in a rainstorm on a steep mountain road), but the whirlwind experience is one I will always treasure.

Lori: Has anyone inspired you?

Kristen: We would be here all day if I tried to list all the people who have inspired and impacted my writing career. One person who immediately comes to mind is Bruce Brady. He was a godly mentor through Word Weavers International, and I met him at the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference what feels like a lifetime ago. Though I was new to the conference and a seeming “nobody,” he was so excited to meet me and said he couldn’t wait to read my books. The interest he took in me and the enthusiastic way he believed in my writing was incredibly touching. God took Bruce home after a long fight with cancer, but I will always be grateful to him for believing in me.

@khogrefeparnell: I’m honored to share part of my writing journey today in a special interview with my friend and gifted writer @lchelmsauthor.

Author Chat with Ashley L. Jones on Modern Cast Iron

This author interview is special for so many reasons. I met Ashley during a writer’s conference several years ago, and we formed an instant friendship. She is such a godly friend and gifted writer, and I am so excited for you to learn about her new release, Modern Cast Iron. It’s a guidebook to choosing, using, caring for, and cooking with cast iron.

Q: What prompted you to write Modern Cast Iron?

It was totally a “God thing”! I had been using and researching cast iron for years for the health benefits and nostalgia of it, but it wasn’t until I met the publisher (Red Lightning Books) at a book expo and saw their amazing lineup of books that I thought, “A book about cast iron would really fit here!” In a moment, God gave me the complete idea for the book—and it came out just as He planned!

Q: Why do you think cooking with cast iron is relevant and beneficial for today’s generation?

We’ve been using lightweight aluminum and chemical nonstick pans since their introduction in the 1970s, and now we’re becoming aware of the potential health issues associated with those products. In contrast, cast iron doesn’t leach or off-gas any harmful chemicals or fumes. It only leaches iron, which is something our bodies need anyway.

Plus, I think there’s a “back to basics” movement going on right now where young women are looking to capture the simplicity and wholesomeness of past generations. Cooking in cast iron is a way great way to do that because we’re able to recreate the recipes our grandmothers made and enjoy the nostalgia that comes along with them.

Q: You shared that Modern Cast Iron isn’t a cookbook but a guidebook. Explain what you mean by that.

Most cookbooks these days are filled with hard-and-fast recipes featuring the trendiest ingredients that are only available at specialty grocery stores. It may be fun to watch chefs prepare those meals on TV, but it’s not so fun to shop for them or prepare them on a busy weeknight.

Instead, Modern Cast Iron is a guidebook to all things cast iron, from selecting the best pan for your kitchen to cleaning and seasoning your pan. Of course, the book includes a bunch of recipes—fifty, to be exact—to pique your interest and get you started. However, those recipes are rather simple and can be easily modified to fit your diet and nutritional needs.

Q: What would you tell young adults who don’t feel confident in the kitchen? How could this book help them?

My primary goal in writing this book was to encourage readers to gain confidence in the kitchen by using cast-iron cookware—because that’s how I gained my confidence. If you tend to use your smoke detector as the oven timer, take note of the following ways cast iron can help.

The texture and flavor of many traditional dishes, especially Southern food, can only be recreated if they’re cooked in cast iron. (Ever tried to make cornbread in a glass dish? The texture is all wrong!)

Even if you’re not trying to make Southern food, you’ll appreciate cast iron’s superior heat retention and its ability to heat evenly. This is what allows you to sear a steak to perfection without burning it (so you can give that smoke detector a rest).

Another benefit of cast iron is that you can take it from the stove top to the oven and back again—something other cookware just can’t do. So if you can’t get that steak to cook all the way through on the stove top, you can pop it in the oven for a couple minutes. Voila!

Don’t see your pain point listed here? There are many more advantages of cast iron listed in the book, so be sure to check it out.

Q: Our culture leans toward “fast food” and “instant meals” for quick and easy satisfaction. What problems does this mindset present in the present and in the long run?

Eating out—even if you’re grabbing dinner from the hot bar at the grocery store—can present health issues because that food is usually loaded with salt and preservatives. If you make food at home, you can still suffer from the same health issues if you’re merely heating up prepackaged food. While these are alright in moderation, cooking more wholesome meals at home should be a health goal for all of us.

Devices like instant cookers, pressure cookers, air fryers, and even slow cookers are intended to help us cook faster or at least have dinner ready when we get home. All of these gadgets have their place, but they make it difficult to understand the process of cooking—how foods come together and how to create different textures and layers of flavors. For some of them, you can’t even smell the food cooking!

When I cook with cast iron, I have control over the ingredients and the entire cooking process, and I appreciate the results more—it’s like I’m being more “intentional” in the way I prepare food. And with few exceptions, it doesn’t actually take any longer to cook in cast iron than it does in those other kitchen gadgets.

Q: Do you have a special memory of cooking with your grandma? If so, please share!

My grandmother was always cooking something, usually from scratch. It seemed that she used her hand mixer every night, whether for mashed potatoes or for baking a cake for my grandfather. The sound that mixer made as it bumped around the bowl—vroom, va-va-vroom, varoom—was such a happy sound to me! Every time I get my hand mixer out, it takes me back to her kitchen.

Q: How do you think cast iron cooking will become a legacy for your own family?

Ever since I learned of the health benefits of cooking with cast iron, I’ve challenged myself by asking, “Can I make this in cast iron?” That’s why we use cast iron at nearly every meal. I plan to teach my son Gordon (now 20 months old) to cook on cast iron at an early age because I want him to feel confident in the kitchen, too. I also want him to be conscientious of what he puts in his body so he can make wise decisions when he’s an adult.

Q: How did you first discover your writing ability, and how have you seen God use it in unexpected ways?

I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I never thought it could be a career for me. In 2003, God gave me an idea for a faith-based nonfiction book, Girls with Gusto, which is still looking for a publishing home. However, it wasn’t until I went to my first writers conference in 2015 that I really felt like I had the tools and knowledge to pursue a writing career.

I never intended to write a book about cast-iron cooking, but God is using this book to develop my writing platform and to enable me to reach people I would never have reached otherwise. And what do those people find when they visit my website, BigSisterKnows.com? Lots of articles about God and faith. I pray those help to plant seeds!

Next year, my children’s series, “Big Answers” (Little Lamb Books), debuts with Who is God? I can’t wait to share this one with moms around the world!

Q: Can you hint about what next project you have in the works?

I’m working on some new children’s books, and I’d really like to find a home for Girls with Gusto. I also have an idea for a powerful nonfiction book that explores the secret lives of the Appalachian people.

Be sure to follow me on BigSisterKnows.com and on social media so you can follow along on these projects. There’s no telling what God will do next!

Author Chat with Ashley L. Jones on Modern Cast Iron with @khogrefeparnell

About the Author

Ashley L. Jones is an author and blogger, but she prefers the title of Big Sister. A firm believer that we all know something worth sharing, she started the blog Big Sister Knows as a way to encourage other young women to live with gusto. Her upcoming releases — Modern Cast Iron (Red Lightning Books, 2020) and the children’s series Big Answers (Little Lamb Books, 2021) — are a continuation of that mission. Ashley lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with her uber-patient hubby and one busy toddler. Find your encouragement and follow Ashley’s journey at BigSisterKnows.com.

About Modern Cast Iron

In Modern Cast Iron, self-proclaimed cast-iron connoisseur Ashley L. Jones recaptures the ease and joy of cooking with cast-iron cookware. Jones introduces readers to the best brands and types of cast-iron cookware to fulfill any cook’s needs. She offers detailed tips and tricks for rescuing old, rusted pans and keeping them properly seasoned, and she shares recommendations for the best cooking oil for every recipe. With Jones’s help, both experienced and beginner cooks will be able to rival grandma’s cooking. Chock-full of stories from Jones’s own childhood growing up with cast-iron meals, as well as recipe after tantalizing recipe―from breakfast quiche to gluten-free meals and beautiful blueberry cobbler―Modern Cast Iron explores the countless ways that cast iron benefits health and happiness.

A comprehensive guide to all things cast iron and home-style cookin’, Modern Cast Iron offers a new way for cooks to spice up the kitchen using all-natural tools and ingredients.

Get your copy.

Upset the World – Giveaway & Review

When I first read the title Upset the World, it immediately grabbed my attention. “Upset” so accurately describes our society these days. I was curious to learn what Tim Ross meant by “upset the world” and how being an “upsetter” could radically change people for good.

His definition provided the starting point: “An upsetter is a person who has been upset by the overwhelming love of Jesus and upsets others” (Ross 12).

Before we can do that, though, we must first allow Jesus Christ to upset our lives. In other words, we need Him not only to save us, but also to make changes. As Ross says, “If you come into a relationship with Jesus Christ but nothing about you changes, then you probably didn’t really meet him” (17). He makes the point that Jesus upset the world so radically that he literally split the calendar before and after Him (20). It is our job to follow His example by rocking the world’s boat with the overwhelming love of God. Ross encourages us to use our testimonies and share how God has personally upset or changed our lives.

Before Ross moves into how we can upset others, He also explains the Holy Spirit’s role and work in our lives (chapter 3-4). He challenges us readers not to become “trapped” with religion but evaluate the heart motivation behind all our actions (chapter 5). Then, we’re ready to “do good” (chapter 6), love life in spite of what happens to us (chapter 7), be willing to disturb the “piece” of people’s lives that doesn’t match God’s will (chapter 8), and get used to upsetting people on a regular basis in obedience to the Holy Spirit (chapters 9-10).

Takeaways

I absolutely love that Ross explains that to upset the world, we’re not supposed to use hate or anger. We are simply to “go out and share the love of Christ in the most relational way possible” (13). He recognizes our current politically- and racially-charged climate and urges readers to take all their passionate feelings and convert them into love for people.

This is such an important point. Too many people think that hate and violence are healthy expressions. Feeling angry about injustice is absolutely justified and understandable, but channeling that anger into violence accomplishes nothing but more hurt. Ross explains this so well:

“We need to take all that passion and hostility toward people and turn it into love for others. You need to love them, because if you don’t love them, then His Kingdom can’t come to them. Let me put it another way: if you’re mad at somebody, you will also be mad at Jesus” (35).

Another point he makes is that we can love people without agreeing with them (48-49), which is also powerful and true. We can hate their sin without hating the person.

That said, a person who gives His life to Christ shouldn’t remain the same. Even though each one of us comes to know Christ just as we are, we can’t stay the way we are once we’ve accepted the gospel invitation. As Ross says, “We want everyone to come, but we don’t want anybody to stay the same” (167). Amen to that!

Review

I highly recommend the book as a whole with one personal caveat. I am a Bible-believing Christian and recognize different preferences in worship and practice. For example, some of my fellow believers and friends are highly conservative while some are pentecostal. I personally think God cares about the heart of our worship more than the means of expression. Ross is much more charismatic than I, which is neither here nor there, but I personally felt uncomfortable with some of his practices, such as attending a presbytery service where his wife supposedly received a “word” that her deceased father was “pleased” with her (101).

Now I certainly believe we can feel God’s pleasure in our lives when we are obeying Him, but from my knowledge of the Bible, receiving affirmations from deceased loved ones is not a Scriptural practice. Again, this is my understanding, and I am not a pastor like Tim Ross. However, this is the reason I’m giving the book a four out of five stars review.

That said, I am sincerely grateful to have read this book and highly recommend it, especially for those who are seeking a biblical perspective on how to deal with all the hostility and hate in our world. We are to upset people in the nicest way possible: with the overwhelming love of Jesus.

Enter the Giveaway

People need both to hear us tell about God’s love and to see us showing it. Ross provides practical examples and insights on what love-in-action should look like, and that’s why I’m excited to share a copy of the book plus study guide with one of my readers! I truly think these resources will be a blessing to you.

Upset the World by Tim Ross – Giveaway & Review by @khogrefeparnell

To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post or last week’s post. You can share why you think this book would be a help to you or someone you know. You could even just say something like, “I want to learn how to upset the world for Jesus!” I’ll announce the winner on the blog next week.

~ Kristen

Special thanks to the Blog About Blogger Network for hosting this giveaway.

All quotes are taken from: Ross, Tim. Upset the Word. Gateway Press, 2020.


And the Giveaway Winner Is …

Congrats to Nancy on winning our Upset the World giveaway!! Thank you to everyone who participated and shared about the giveaway online.

Another Giveaway Opportunity!

The month of August, I’m hosting a giveaway for a Kindle Fire HD8 to encourage readers to “go places” through reading, even if we’re limited in our travel opportunities due to Covid19.

For more details, read the full post. To enter, click here or the image below.

Win a Kindle Fire! Go Places Giveaway

Last month, I went to Egypt. This month, I’ve got a trip booked to Sudan.

Not in real life. In books.

I confess. My husband James and I very much wanted to travel extensively in real life this year. Our bucket list destination later this fall was going to be Paris. We planned to check off some of the typical places like the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe as well as Monet’s gardens and maybe Versaille. But we also wanted to explore some lesser-known but no-less-breathtaking places like Mont Saint-Michel.

Since currently all Americans are banned from traveling to Europe and new Covid19 cases are soaring, it’s looking less and less likely that we’ll get to make this trip this year. But that’s okay. We’re currently brainstorming possible places we can visit closer to home, which have already included Beech Mountain, the setting for my next novel.

Here’s the good news: Whether we can’t travel because of Covid19 or our budget, we can go anywhere we want through reading. And that’s why I feel this giveaway is so important. Because even if we can’t go there right now, we can still live vicariously through words.

Reading as an adventure

Reading is a life-long adventure that takes you new places and teaches you new things. And the best part is: You choose the destinations and the curriculum.

Reading is a life-long adventure that takes you new places and teaches you new things. And the best part is: You choose the destinations and the curriculum. @khogrefeparnell

Although I enjoy reading nonfiction in several genres, my favorite reading hands-down is fiction. Some people think fiction is a waste of time, because isn’t it all “made up”? Yes and no. Sometimes, settings are fantastic, but they can also be realistic. Although characters are imaginary, they’re often grounded in real life experiences and struggles. In other words, fiction presents real life and reveals truth about people. I’ve learned incredibly valuable life lessons from characters who never actually lived and breathed.

I mentioned “traveling” to Egypt and Sudan earlier. Here’s a sneak preview of my latest read and my upcoming one. I’d encourage you to connect with me on Goodreads where I share about all my latest travels … in fiction.

Where We Belong by Lynn Austin

My takeaway: Our lives don’t always play out the way we imagined, and yet, if we trust God in spite of our disappointments, He will make way for His best (even if it wasn’t our first choice).

Long Walk Home by DiAnn Mills

I can’t wait to start this one! Here’s the first part of the excerpt from Amazon: As an Arab Christian pilot for a relief organization, Paul Farid feels called to bring supplies to his war-torn countrymen in southern Sudan. But with constant attacks from Khartoum’s Islamic government, the villagers have plenty of reasons to distrust Paul, and he wonders if the risks he’s taking are really worth his mission.

A giveaway for you

This month is back-to-school for many, and it certainly doesn’t look anything like school seasons of the past. If you’re a student, yes, you will still have assigned readings, but those shouldn’t be your only readings.

This fact goes for adults as well as teens. I’ve known adults who hated reading because they associated it too strongly with education (or work), but when they discovered the freedom of choosing what they read, everything changed.

Maybe this Kindle Fire will do that for you. Or maybe it will become a gift for someone. Or maybe it will become your car companion. Hello! The Fire’s Immersion Reading feature is better than sliced bread.

How do you enter?

It’s super easy. Click here or the image below. You can enter one way or more than one way for multiple entries.

A few considerations:

  1. You must be over 13 years of age to enter.
  2. You must have a US address. (Sorry to my international friends!)
  3. I’ll pick the winner using my app’s random generator and will notify the winner via email. (The winner’s name may also be posted on this site and/or social media for marketing purposes.)
  4. While this contest may be shared on social media sites such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, this promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or associated with these entities.

The giveaway runs now through August 31, and I’ll announce the winner the first week of September.

What would you do with a Kindle Fire? Where is your next reading destination? Share in the comments!

~ Kristen

Win a Kindle Fire! Go Places Giveaway by @khogrefeparnell

And the Giveaway Winner Is …

Congrats to Amanda Whitley on winning our Go Places Giveaway!! Thank you to everyone who participated and shared about the giveaway online.

Author Chat with Hope Bolinger on her Modern-Day Daniel Series

You all are in for a treat today! Hope Bolinger is a literary agent and multi-published YA novelist who has accomplished so much in such a short amount of time. She’s an inspiration for young writers (and “young at heart” writers too), and today, she shares about her latest release in her modern-day Daniel series.

Q: What prompted you to write a contemporary fiction series on Daniel?

It all started in a college class. We were going over the Old Testament in a semester, and during the unit on Daniel, the teacher said, “Daniel and his friends would’ve been 14 or 15 when they were taken into the Babylonian captivity.” That always struck me. I’d thought of them as being 20 or 30. But these teens are standing strong in their cultural identity and are thriving. I wanted to see what that looked like now.

Q: Danny and his friends deal with serious drama and trouble from the schools they attend. Did any of your own experiences shape some of their situations?

Legally, I’m not sure how much I can spill on this, but in short, yes. One of the schools I attended, which shall remain nameless, contributed a great deal of content in the book. It’s so funny because when I talked with high schoolers on the book, they asked, “Legally, how is this possible?” And I said, “Actually, a great deal of what goes down happened on some level in my own experience.” All three books in the trilogy have a kernel of truth in what I experienced at said school.

Q: Who is your favorite character in this series and why?

Oh, Hannah. She’s basically Tumblr and Hot Topic meets Christianity. She never minces words and is everything I wish I could be if I didn’t have a filter.

Q: What do you hope readers will take away from this series?

I hope they walk away with some form of a discussion. This series tackles relevant topics from cyberbullying to school shootings to mental health. I know I don’t go easy on readers in this series, but teens deal with this stuff every day. If we don’t talk about the problem, the problems will never get fixed.

Q: What advice would you give aspiring young writers?

So many things I could put in this answer! The most obvious is, obviously, don’t give up. You’ll be surprised just how many steps it takes from writing that first draft to getting it in front of readers.

And second, learn everything you can about publishing. I started querying at 17 years old, only having written books for a year, and I did NOT know what I was getting myself into. It takes a lot of time, a lot of practice, and a lot of learning.

Q: In addition to Den, releasing this week, you have another book scheduled to release next year. What can you tell us about it?

Yes, ma’am! So I have a superhero chat-fiction “Dear Hero” releasing with INtense Publications this September 2020. It follows the story of a Hero and Villain as they meet on a Nemesis-pairing app. Basically Tinder for heroes and villains. They fight, but they don’t expect to fall in love.

The sequel for that is projected to come out in April of 2021, and if the publisher gives the green light, the final book in the Blaze trilogy should release in August of 2021.

Meet Hope Bolinger, a multi-published novelist and literary agent whose Modern-Day Daniel series challenges young adults to confront the lions in their own lives.

About the Author

Hope Bolinger is a literary agent and multi-published YA novelist (Blaze, Den, and Dear Hero). When she isn’t busy racking up 60+ bylines, she loves to connect with readers at hopebolinger.com

About DEN: If You Don’t Want to Die, Don’t Sleep with Lions

Danny Belte barely survived his sophomore year at King’s Academy, having to deal with horrible initiation practices, stomach-churning cafeteria food, and the constant threat of arson.

His junior year doesn’t start off much better. Facing a series of mysterious suicide attempts that begin on day one–and a disturbing pattern that appears to connect them–Danny has a feeling something far more sinister is at play. He tries to narrow down a list of suspects as those closest to him disappear, one by one.

Can he protect his friends from a possible murderer on the loose? Or will he find himself trapped in a fate worse than a lions’ den?


Stay Connected

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When you join, you’ll receive a free copy of Kristen’s novella, A Cord of Three Strands, the prequel to her award-winning novel, The Revisionary. 

The Rogues Trilogy Book Sale! Christmas in July Keeps Getting Better.

Christmas in July keeps getting better! Earlier this week, I shared about the multi-author giveaway I’m taking part in. Now, I’m excited to announce that my entire Rogues trilogy is on sale for $.99 each on Kindle.

Maybe I’m guilty of overusing the word excited, but go ahead, just ask my husband how excited I get about deals. After our last visit to Khols and my semi-gloating on the 80% markdowns I’d snagged, James laughed and said, “You’re practically making money!”

Thank you. My point exactly.

Well, I’m not making money on this sale, and that’s fine by me. As an author and avid reader, I enjoy finding book deals and the chance to try new-to-me authors. When I have the opportunity to be on the giving end, that makes me just as happy.

Where can you grab your copies?

Just skip over to Amazon, and you can find all my books there. And if you come to love my characters and their adventures as much as I do, I’d be grateful if you’d take the time to leave a review.

Happy reading and happy Christmas in July!

~ Kristen

Happy Christmas in July Book Sale! Get The Rogues trilogy on Kindle for $.99 each, now through July 30. @khogrefeparnell