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!


And the Book Giveaway Winner Is …

Congrats to Sarah K. Butterfield on winning an e-book copy of Laura’s latest release, The Orphan Beach. Thanks to everyone who commented and shared, and a special thanks to Laura again for being our guest on the blog!

Writing with Purpose: An Interview with The Correspondent Evelyn

Some conversations leave you feeling energized, like you just finished chatting with a best friend over coffee and are now ready to continue all the tasks at hand. That’s how my interview at The Correspondent podcast with Evelyn Corral felt.

I would love for you to take a listen to this episode. Whether you’re a writer or pursuing some other calling, you’ll be encouraged to persevere and embrace new beginnings, no matter how small.

Some of my favorite takeaways from our chat include the following:

  • Appreciate closed doors since they might be blessings in disguise.
  • Remember we have to start somewhere, no matter how small.
  • Be faithful to your calling.
  • Struggles are part of pursuing any passion. What can you learn from them?
  • Your little is not too little for God to use.

Which one of these takeaways resonates most with you? Or did a different takeaway stick with you?

Live in abundance and keep pursuing those God-given dreams.

~ Kristen

Whether you’re a writer or pursuing some other calling, be encouraged to persevere and embrace new beginnings, no matter how small. @khogrefeparnell

When Friends Love: 3 Outcomes of Godly Friendships

I’m excited to introduce you to my friend and Bible teacher Sheila Hupp, who is sharing about the power of godly friendship on the blog today. It’s such a neat story how we connected! Pastor Joe Ferreira, my former pastor, now shepherds her church in Connersville, Indiana where I had the privilege to speak last year. Through mutual friends, we’ve had the opportunity to meet online, and I’ve been blessed by the way she presents God’s Word with clarity and simplicity.

As we walk through this year filled with uncertainty, we need godly friends more than ever to come alongside us, and we need to be that kind of friend to others. Be encouraged today by this challenge from Sheila.

Guest post by Sheila Hupp

At the beginning of the year, I started reading the Bible from the beginning in hopes that I would finish all 66 books by the end of December. I have always been intimidated by the Old Testament but once I dug in, I have become a huge fan. What surprised me most of all was how much I love Moses. I have been completely blown away by his humble leadership and the amazing example of his life.

Personally, I admire how Moses felt completely inadequate to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, yet God chose him and used him anyway. Moses was God’s choice for the leader of His people; however, Moses did not lead them alone. As any good leader knows, a strong support system is necessary for success. Moses had a wonderful friend and advisor in his brother Aaron and many other friends who helped him along the way.

Friends Work Together

During the time of reading Exodus, I was inspired by Moses’ reliance on his friends and the success they all achieved from working together.  One instance that melted my heart and made me look at friendship in a new light was when the Amalekites attacked the Israelites (Exodus 17:8-13).

The story begins with Joshua being ordered to round up his soldiers and fight while Moses prepared to go up on a hill the next morning. On that hill during the battle, Moses raised his hands toward heaven, and the Israelites were able to fight and take a stronghold over the Amalekites. As Moses’ arms grew tired and his hands began to drop, the Amalekites grew in power and started to overtake the Israelites.

The beauty of this event is that Moses was not alone on top of that hill. Aaron and Hur joined him and were seeing the same events take place. They saw that when Moses had his hands up in praise to God that the Israelites were strong and dominant. They also saw that as Moses grew tired and his strength began to wane, the enemy had the advantage.

Friends Go to Battle Together

This is when the story gets good. Aaron and Hur did not just sit back and watch their people lose, nor did they stand still while Moses struggled. These two men jumped into action and held up Moses’ hands when he could not any longer. Moses was depleted and his people were suffering. Moses was tired and the battle was being lost. Alone, Moses could not lift his arms in worship to God, but his friends who journeyed up the hill with him were willing and ready to lend their strength during his time of exhaustion.

Each time I read this story, I weep. What an incredible illustration of the need for good, Christ-focused friends. This story makes me seek out friends who will go to battle with and for me, friends who will rush to hold my hands up when I no longer have the strength.

God created us, just like Adam and Eve, to live in fellowship with one another while simultaneously living in worship to Him. When this occurs in the church, our friendships play crucial roles in the growth and depth of our faith. The people we surround ourselves with can either distract us from our faith, or they can run ahead of us toward a deeper faith and a stronger longing for Christ.

Friends Share Strength

In January, my 40-year-old husband was diagnosed with stage 4 rectal cancer. We were shocked and heartbroken over this discovery and clung to our faith. Our family and friends rallied around me, my husband Matt, and our three young daughters. They lent us their strength when we were running on empty. They reminded us of the view from the mountaintop while we were living in the valley. We were in a war, and they jumped in to hold up our hands.

To Aaron and Hur, it may not have seemed like holding up Moses’ hands was a big deal. They may have even dismissed their contribution to the victory. But to the warriors at the bottom of the hill engulfed in battle, this small act saved them. This illustration of shared strength resulted in life, not death.

As the people we love encounter hard times, we have a great opportunity to love them through it. Proverbs 17:17 states, “A friend loves at all times” (NKJV). This includes the wonderful mountaintops and the grotesque valleys. We may not be able to solve the issue or make the pain go away, but we can find ways to walk up the hill with them and hold their hands up when they need it.

My prayer for you and for me is that we will be friends who love at all times and raise future generations of believers who fiercely love their people.

Be encouraged by this guest post by Bible teacher Sheila Hupp who challenges us to be the kind of friend who loves at all times. @khogrefeparnell

About Sheila Hupp

Sheila Hupp is a Christian speaker based in Indiana with a passion for encouraging women to view life through a lens of faith.  Sheila guides women of all ages to embrace their past and live their future for God’s glory by allowing Him to make miracles out of messes.

During her presentations, women are empowered to step into the role God created for them and given the biblical resources to support and encourage each woman in her faith.

Sheila is the proud wife to Matt and mama to three girls: Gracie, Mattie, and Emmylou. She and her husband homeschool their children and enjoy spending time together outside with their dog Annie.

Connect with her online at sheilahupp.com


20 Verses When You Need Encouragement

Short on time? Listen to the audio version of this post.

Hello, friends. Has anyone else felt like she can’t catch a break? The last month has had its share of challenges for me, and I know I’m not alone. Today, I want to share some of my go-to Scriptures that speak encouragement to my heart. I hope these verses will be balm on any other soul that is feeling discouraged or dry.

The promises are in no particular order. I encourage you to look them up in your own Bible (I used the New King James version), and consider the rich contexts as well.

#1: Perfect Peace – Isaiah 26:3

You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.

#2: Hope in God – Psalm 42:11

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.

#3: A Very Present Help – Psalm 46:1

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.

#4: I Will Lift Up My Eyes – Psalm 121:1-2

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

#5: I Shall Not Want – Psalm 23:1

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.

#6: Take Refuge – Psalm 91:4

He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.

#7: The Lifter of My Head – Psalm 3:3

But You, O Lord, are a shield for me,
My glory and the One who lifts up my head.

#8: A Spirit of Power – 2 Timothy 1:7

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

#9: Is There Anything Too Hard? – Jeremiah 32:27

“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?”

#10: Mount Up with Wings as Eagles – Isaiah 40:31

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

#11: He Heard Me – Psalm 34:4

I sought the Lord, and He heard me,
And delivered me from all my fears.

#12: Power to the Weak – Isaiah 40:29

He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.

#13: Come to Me – Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

#14: Hope and a Future – Jeremiah 29:11

 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

#15 – His Compassions Fail Not – Lamentations 3:22-24

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”

#16 – Be of Good Cheer – John 16:33

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

#17 – The Peace of God – Philippians 4:6-7

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

#18 – Grace to Help – Hebrews 4:15-16

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

#19 – He Cares for You – I Peter 5:7

… casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

#20 – The Love of God – Romans 8:38-39

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Dear Lord, thank you for your promises which are new every morning. Thank you for your faithful love for us. Even when we can’t see the purpose in the circumstances, we can look to You, knowing You control all things and supremely care for us.

~ Kristen

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When God Seems to Smile

This life is full of highs and lows, isn’t it? One day, we’re smooth sailing, and the next, we’re doctoring scraped knees and disappointed hopes.

As believers, we can’t draw our joy from a perfect set of circumstances but have to find our contentment in a grounding relationship with God that stands firm through life’s sifting sands.

But every once in a while, God just seems to smile. Please don’t misunderstand me. The Lord is always good, but sometimes, He reminds us of His incredible generosity and the fact that He enjoys giving good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11). It’s like he’s handing us a precious gift or a breath of fresh air. Maybe it’s an answer to prayer. Maybe it’s an impossible dream realized.

In my case, it’s the latter. Last week felt like all the pieces of a 1,000-piece 3D puzzle came together in minutes. Something I’d secretly wished but never dared to think possible … became possible.

Next time, I’m going to share more of the story with you, but right now, I just want us to pause and remember some way (big or small) that God has showered His blessings on us.

I know that sometimes, I stare too hard at life’s problems that I lose sight of God’s mercies at work. Let’s focus this week on those mercies, which start fresh every day.

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.

– Lamentations 3:22-23 (NKJV)

How have you seen God work recently? Please share your encouragement in the comments below. 

~ Kristen

When God Seems to Smile – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

Our Maker’s Metronome

Click, click, click. Beep, beep, beep. That metronome used to drive me crazy as a beginning piano student. If you play piano (or some other instrument), maybe that little device was the bane of your early musical years, too.

Of course, my teacher had my best interests at heart, and thanks to her persistence and the nagging of that metronome, my timing improved. All along, I knew its steady beat was right, but I still resented it.

Am I that way with God’s timing? Are you? We might say we believe His ways are best, but truthfully, we’d rather speed up the tempo. However, when we rush ahead of God, we miss His perfect plan. Two Old Testament characters learned this lesson the hard way.

King Saul forgot his place.

As Israel’s king, Saul enjoyed many privileges and responsibilities. Offering burnt sacrifices was not one of them.

During the second year of his reign, he faced a critical test. Israel’s enemies, the Philistines, gathered to attack. Their numbers were “like the sand on the seashore in multitude” (I Samuel 13:5 ESV). In response, the men of Israel fled and hid themselves.

Although the text doesn’t contain the message, King Saul must have sent for the High Priest Samuel to come sacrifice to the Lord and intercede on their behalf. In reply, Samuel sent word he would be there in seven days (I Sam. 13:8).

Can you imagine the tension building inside Saul? His forces were scattered, and he couldn’t do anything to rally them until Samuel appeared. His panic grew as more men disappeared with each new dawn. At this rate, he wouldn’t have an army left to face the Philistines.

Finally, the day arrived, but Samuel did not. Too impatient to wait any longer, Saul offered the sacrifice himself.

Guess what? The Bible says that “as soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering,” Samuel arrived (I Sam. 13:10 ESV). Saul armed himself with excuses, but the bottom line was that he had disobeyed God. As a result, Samuel declared that God would not establish Saul’s kingdom (I Sam. 13:14).

Do we try to take things that don’t belong to us—or perhaps aren’t God’s design for us right now? Losing our place in a musical piece might leave us embarrassed, but getting out of sync with God’s plan can only bring regret.

Abram and Sarai rushed ahead of God’s plan.

In Scripture, God made a covenant, an unbreakable promise, with a man named Abram.

  • In Genesis 12, God promised to make him “a great nation” (vs. 2) and give the land to his offspring (vs. 7).
  • In Genesis 13, God told him that his descendants would be like “the dust of the earth,” meaning that no one could count them (vs. 16).
  • In Genesis 15, God declared that his children would be as numerous as the stars in the sky (vs. 5).

There was only one problem. Abram and his wife Sarai were old and childless.

Perhaps at first, Abram believed God without question. But ten years passed from the initial promise when he was 75 years old (Genesis 12:4). Maybe he needed to “help God along.”

He wife suggested he have a child with her handmaid. The result of that union was a boy named Ishmael, but he was not to be the son of promise. Instead, God told Abram and Sarai they would have a son named Isaac (Genesis 17:19-21). He changed their names to Abraham and Sarah to underscore His promise that they would be parents of not just one son, but of many nations (Genesis 17:4, 16).

God’s promise came to pass, though not on their timetable. Twenty-five years after the promise in Genesis 12, Sarah bore Isaac to Abraham, now 100 years old (Genesis 21:5).

Although God always keeps His word, we often grow impatient. We think our timing is better—only to complicate our circumstances.

God’s promises endure.

Is there something you’ve been praying about for some time? Does God seem to be saying no or not yet?

God’s Word provides the encouragement we need to persevere. As we spend time in the Bible, we can identify unchanging truths and apply them to our circumstances.

Let’s look at one of them from Abraham’s story. This man had his share of doubts, but the Lord told him: Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward (Genesis 15:1b NKJV).

I wonder if these words were God’s way of reminding Abraham that greater even than the child of promise was His own presence in Abraham’s life.

Try placing your name in that verse. Say it out loud.

Do not be afraid, ______________. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.

The Lord is our shield and our reward—even while we’re waiting, even if God ultimately says no or reshapes our request.

God’s timing is always perfect.

We would never tell a metronome that it’s timing is wrong and ours is right. We’re aware, sometimes painfully so, that it’s on tempo and we’re not.

If we wouldn’t argue with a mechanized device, why do we argue with God? How often do we tell Him that He needs to answer our prayers … for a friend, a relationship, a growth spurt, a scholarship … NOW?

Even though we may think our timing makes sense, the truth is we can’t see or understand God’s schedule. In the Bible, the book of Isaiah speaks to this very truth:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV).

Let’s stop resenting His timing and learn to conform to it. Our unchanging God has planned the perfect rhythm for our lives, and when we follow it, we can enjoy His best.

~ Kristen

This post first appeared in the Girlz 4 Christ Fall Issue. To read more great content for teens girls, subscribe at girlz4christ.org.

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The Path of Resistance

resistanceLast week, I went biking on a particularly windy day. Starting down the trail, my dirt bike raced along without much effort on my part.

The return home, however, was not such a breeze. With head down, I peddled hard into the wind and made much slower progress. My thighs started to burn.

Resistance brings pressure, sweat, and sometimes pain; I’m not just talking about the kind that comes from biking into the wind.

Life presents us with resistance. In school, we have to work hard and figure out teacher expectations to earn good grades. In our jobs, we might have to deal with unpleasant customers, co-worker conflicts, or project deadlines. Good relationships also don’t come naturally but require honesty and patience to resolve differences.

We writers know all about resistance. Editors may return our queries with polite or critical rejections. We may have a deadline looming, and suddenly, our fingers feel frozen on the keyboard.

Chances are, most of us complain about resistance.

However, let’s take a different approach. If teachers handed out A’s like candy, we would never discover our weaknesses or learn from our mistakes and improve. If editors drew smiley faces on every writer’s proposal, the market would be flooded with half-developed plots and weak characters (books no one wants to read).

Resistance makes us better, stronger. We can’t grow without it.

The need for endurance

In the Bible, the Apostle Paul explained the need for a character trait that knows how to handle resistance. This quality is endurance.  In I Corinthians 9:24-27, he compared the Christian life to an athlete who can win a race only if he exercises self-control and disciplines his body. Resistance training helps the athlete succeed when the race counts.

The truth is, however, that none of us enjoys push-backs and disappointment. To appreciate them, we have to look beyond the moment.

20170130_073655One way to help keep the goal in mind is to remember past finish lines crossed. I’m a visual person, so you’ll see pictures of physical dares I’ve met around my house (usually in the form of adventures with my brother). Recently, I’ve also started keeping a gratitude journal. These entries remind me that God has always been faithful in tough spots in the past, and He’s not going to quit on me (even when I’m tempted to quit on myself).

Starting is easy. Finishing is hard work. But it’s worth it.

The prize before us

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it (I Corinthians 9:24).

As I biked home, I turned my gaze upward. In the sky, birds glided and swooped. The same wind that fought against me allowed them to soar.

When you’re faced with resistance, whether in your spiritual walk or personal life, press on. Set your eyes on the prize. (Make sure you have one picked out before you start!)

The prize I’m running for is to hear my Savior Jesus Christ tell me well done one day:

  • Well done for loving the people in your life, even when they’re hard to love.
  • Well done for being faithful where I place you, even when you’d rather be somewhere else.
  • Well done for listening for my voice, even when I seem silent.
  • Well done for writing the words and stories I’ve given you to tell, even if you never know what impact (if any) they will have.

One day, I pray I’ll hear words like these. Until that day, I say amen to what Paul said in Philippians 3:14.

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

What prize do you have in sight? What well done do you want to hear? 

Today, embrace the resistance. One day, the wind that buffets you may give you wings.

Kristen

 

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