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Inspirational Fiction by Dr. Vivi Monroe Congress

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About the Author

Dr. Congress is a Best-Selling, Award-Winning Wordsmith, Literary Advisor, Publisher and creator of C.H.O.C. Lit™ Flavored Books (Christians Having Ordinary Challenges).
She holds a BA in Human Relations, Masters in Theology, Doctor of Ministry degree in Christian Counseling and is a Certified Christian Life Coach.

About the Book

O.C. Byrd is hard-working, handsome and newly married to the woman of his prayers. With his sights firmly set on becoming a Gospel recording artist, his determination is beginning to pay off, earning him a windstorm of recognition at the local level.
But will both his widespread notoriety and his marriage be jeopardized through the accidental discovery of his wife’s former lifestyle?

Want your own autographed copy? Enter the raffle here!

Social Links:

Facebook.com/DocVMC
Twitter.com/DocVMC
Email: littlelightprod@aol.com
Website http://www.DrViviMonroeCongress.com

Buy Links:

Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Conditions-Dr-Vivi-Monroe-Congress/dp/0974802034/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1391037221&sr=8-6&keywords=vivi+monroe+congress
Amazon Author Profile: http://www.amazon.com/Vivi-Monroe-Congress/e/B006RXHOPI/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Sneak Peak

Chapter Ten

“Okay, let’s hit that once more from the top,” directed one very perfection-driven recording engineer. Enoch “Z-man” Zimmerman is, by far, the most on-point dude I know; nothing No Conditionsgets by him—musically speaking—and if his name is attached to it, so is excellence. If I hadn’t known this about him beforehand, I would’ve ended this session an hour ago. Old dude is dipping into my pockets—deep. But, it’s all good. There’s no price tag on quality or knowing that your creative vision is being birthed and we did cover a lot of ground in these last two days. However, I was trying to come in under a budget since I still have to get updated headshots and that, alone, can cost a mint. Needless to say, the budget needs a budget.
From within the encapsulated sound booth, I quickly prepare myself for a retake by clearing my throat and rolling my head to work out neck and shoulder tension. This is the last track we’re recording, also my favorite, and I can’t risk anything getting in the way of my sound. I’ve reworked the lyrics and rearranged the music to Will Downing’s All About You and in a play on words, I decided to use the working title, All About Him, for my CD. Z-man, who was previously in a zone setting the levels on the control panel, gives me his ‘look,’ the one that says, any minute now…waiting on you.
Closing my eyes, I ease into the moment by thinking of the unending blessings God has poured into my life, most recently the love and devotion of a woman who loves Him as much as I do. I give Z-man a thumbs up, our non-verbal cue that I’m ready to record. Through my headphones, I hear the music intro and seconds later, Z-man‘s voice comes through in a word, “Rolling.”
Swaying side to side, I’m feeling it and without forethought, I take ownership of the musical moment and sing, “I’m not a perfect man, I do the best I can…”
Inside of four minutes, Z-man shouts, “Perfect!” and just like that we’re done. Demo complete, mission accomplished. Talk about feeling good … man!
Collecting my sheet music from the copy stand, I give the booth the once-over and scan the small space for other belongings I might have overlooked. As if handling a Ming vase, I carefully place the headphones on the overhead hang. Lord knows the last thing I need now is to have Z-man add something else to my currently swollen studio tab.
“You know, O.C., I believe your voice has gotten much stronger. Not at all like when I first recorded you a few years back. You’ve got a more mature sound.”
Beaming with pride, “Man, a lot has gotten stronger and better with me.” I strike an impressive bodybuilder crab pose, careful not to flash the shiny new article of jewelry that now resides on the ring finger of my left land. We both laugh and post up a high-five on it.
“Oh, I know that look. Had it once upon a time myself,” Z-man reflects. “That’s the look of a man who’s found his better half. Congrats again, man. I wish you the best.” His voice fades as though he’s been a casualty of love. And while his wound may still be fresh, he is no love reject; he’s recovering from the death of his wife earlier this year.
“Thanks, Z,” I respond. Placing a sympathetic hand on his shoulder which serves as a point of contact as well, I whisper a brief prayer for his healing. “That means a lot, man.”
“I miss her, O.C.” his voice slightly cracking, “I miss her a lot.” Z-man’s body slowly slumps in his chair, his eyes misting despite his best efforts to blink back the tears.
Identifying with his pain in the presence of my own joy is a real challenge, but I do my best to console him anyway.
“You and Maggie…watching the two of you was…was…well, inspiring. Y’all were so in sync. I’ve never seen anything like it except for my Mom and Pops, of course.” Although I did my best to encourage Z-man, Goddess is the pro at this kind of thing since she deals with death and sorrow every day for a living.
I watch as a nostalgic smile sweeps across Z-man’s face. I must’ve said something right. Unfolding his grief-tormented body, he sits straight up and releases a fraction of his pain through a loud exhale, “Remember this…if this were your last day on earth, what would you look at more closely, more intensely? What would you appreciate? What would you want to savor? What would really be important to you?” He pauses and appears to be thinking about his next words.

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A Conversation with New Author, Heather Letto

Dear Friends,

You’re in for a treat today! Author Heather Letto, is a new friend of mine. We are both represented by the phenomenal, intuitive, Christian agent, Vanessa Grossett. The first book in Heather’s new Impervious series, Lone Wolf, will debut on shelves in May 2014. Today, my lucky readers get an inside look into Heather Letto – the writer.

Please, introduce yourself beneath this post, visit Heather’s website, ask her questions, and by all means, mark your calendars for May so you can be one of the first to get your hands on her book!

Welcome Heather!

You wrote a piece titled “Dream On” on your blog. Tell me about your dreams as a little girl, besides wanting to be a princess. 🙂 Did some of those dreams influence the character development or settings in your stories?

As a little girl, I played ‘pretend’ like nobody’s business, taking my characters to the N-th degree. I was a girl IN the 70’s so when I put on a record, I was Cher. I didn’t play house, I was Fonzi’s wife. While doing flips and cartwheels in my front yard, I was Nadia Comanci. In other words, when I hung out, I weaved myself right into a story. As you can imagine, to date each female protagonist who I’ve created tends to be a quirky, fierce girl who thinks she can take on the world.

When did you start writing or telling stories? Is it something you have always enjoyed doing?

I’ve always been a tale teller. However, my quirkiness didn’t find its proper place on a page until my mid-30’s. Life was a little rough at that time and that’s when I discovered my ability to take ridiculous or tedious moments and cloak then with humor. As I re-created what originally was a headache or heartache I was able to see the silver linings on many a gray clouds.

What motivates you to write? Do you go outside to straighten your thoughts and get inspiration or listen to music or free write? What works for you?

My true inspiration is God, plain and simple. A lot of prayer goes into my writing and I truly feel that when I create, the Holy Spirit is my driving force. I find him in the gym as a pray during a workout, on a nature stroll or even just sitting at my kitchen table.  It doesn’t matter… whenever I call upon Him, He shows up.

Who are your favorite authors or favorite books? Do you read any specific genres most?

I’m a die-hard fan of YA. Veronica Roth, Suzanne Collins and Lauren Oliver are my current A-listers. However, they have to battle with Beth Moore and Pricilla Shirer for my attention. And my favorite up and coming author–Nicole Quigley. (Like Moonlight at Low Tide…a work of art!)

Did you discover or learn anything while writing your book? Something about yourself or your own experiences or even about God?

Oh, always! God is constantly teaching me and pulling me deeper into my faith as I work.

Tell me a little about your family.

I am a blessed, blessed woman! I’m the proud mother of two God-fearing and very successful young men who are just starting to get their paws wet in this wonderful world. I am the wife of an amazingly supportive and fabulously successful software designer husband. I originally was sprung from a very quirky and loving home with a crazy mom & dad, sister & brother who helped form me into the weirdo I am today. P.S.  I love  my cats.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

Because I taught fitness for 20+ years, I have a hard time sitting still. I totally enjoy a hard gym workout, a hike in the woods, a long bike ride, a refreshing swim, paddling a kayak or a few hours on the tennis court. Oh… my newest obsessions is figure skating… and one day I’m gonna be good!  😀

Book Review, Wedded to War

Wedded to War, attains to all standards of excellence for an historical fiction novel. Far beyond whetting my appetite, author, Jocelyn Green, left me practically drooling for the sequel. With very few embellishments she relates an already fascinating story.

Charlotte Waverly is the fictional imprint of Georgeanna Woolsey, a nurse serving with the Sanitary Commission, the precursor of the Red Cross, during the Civil War. Her story is the opposite of the overdone “rags to riches” tale, and this is what makes the story so compelling. Against all tradition, expectations and social mores, this brave young woman left her aristocratic heritage and dug her hands deeply into soil of America’s battlefields. With filth and blood clinging to the hem of her skirts, she nursed, cleaned, fed and comforted the wounded and dying soldiers of the Union army.

The truths of suffering, courage and dogged determination are enough to craft a rich story. The truths of honor and right triumphing over prejudice and hate is enough to strengthen our hearts. The truth of history and a longing to learn from past mistakes is enough to deepen our resolve to know such stories as that of Georgeanna Woolsey. The knowledge of generations of women who served their way toward equal rights and equal opportunities, is enough to make us thrill as we read the tales of the valiant women who volunteered in the Sanitary Commission. As we read, our hearts quicken with patriotism and pride.

Wedded to War, would be excellent if it were merely a precise retelling of Georgeanna’s adventures as a Civil War nurse. But, couple that with Green’s rich descriptions, a few additional elements of romance and historically accurate, fictional characters to deepen the overall scope of the book, it becomes an unparalleled read.

On a more technical note, Wedded to War, is appropriately paced. Every chapter leaves the reader piqued but satisfied, as if pleasantly full from an exquisite meal, but hungry for dessert.  Green’s descriptions are vivid and complex but not tedious. All of the characters are fully developed. I felt like Mary Poppins, popping in and out of a sidewalk painting so that I could live realistically within the story as if it were happening this very moment.

Maybe this book had a little more to offer me than it might to every reader. As the spouse of a military officer, Green’s portrayal of heroic men and women and their actions in the midst of war, gave me great insight into my husband’s calling, and subsequently my own. Through this book, I was encouraged to honor my husband more than ever, to be incredibly grateful for all that he has done and is willing to do for me, for this country, for freedom.

This is history that must not be forgotten. And I can think of no better way to remember it and to pay tribute to those who paved the roads to the freedom we enjoy today as a country, as women, as individuals, than to read books such as this one.

Book Review, Steppin’ Into the Good Life

For a change of pace, I chose an uncharacteristic genre for me, as my next Moody Publishers book review. Sometimes you just have to stop with the insights, pause the theology, set aside the deep things, rest the from the applications and indulge in some brain candy.

That’s the best way I can describe Tia McCollor’s new book, Steppin’ Into the Good Life. It’s very similar to the Shopoholic books, quite literally, as the protagonist, Sheila, admits and learns to contain her voracious shopping habit. The quality that sets this book apart, however, is the bright thread of faith woven through the story.

Within the first three chapters, Sheila, a new unemployed, recently dumped, down-on-her-luck socialite meets Jesus. The fact that she is secretly attending her ex-boyfriend’s wedding when this happens, sets the theme of the entire tale.

Tension mounts as Sheila’s luck plummets. Through a series poor choices in men, she finds herself discouraged, lonely and in debt. Then Jesus, as He so often does in adversity, quietly, almost invisibly woes her to Himself as the only one who can satisfy her heart’s desire for love.

Now Sheila doesn’t face her obstacles alone. Her new faith leads her to meet Eden, a spunky Christian bookstore owner with her own troubles. Eden mentors her, as much by her own example of faith as by her words. At Eden’s church Sheila also meets Sherry and Anisha, Christian women who surround her with compassion and prayer. Sherry even gets involved on a very practical level, helping Sheila to turn her shopping habit into an entrepreneurial opportunity.

The man of Sheila’s dreams is waiting in the wings. In perfect timing, through means of the body of Christ, God leads her into a brand new, pure, romantic relationship.

As a work of fiction, Steppin’ Into the Good Life, is well done. It is simple, but entertaining. McCollors develops all of the characters thoroughly, the dialogue is unique and witty and the plot is a fresh twist on the over-done, chick-lit romance.

 

Book Review of Son of a Preacherman

There’s no better way to learn and retain history than through a well researched, historical novel. When I finally managed to put down Son of a Preacherman, I knew more about Oklahoma during the 1920s than I had learned in school.

I grew up in Oklahoma, studied state history and still never heard about the Greenwood District, Black Wall Street or the Tulsa race riot. A little research revealed that much of the true story was intentionally overlooked by history books until 1996 when the state legislature commissioned a report to establish the historical record.

Marlene Banks’ book, Son of a Preacherman, is remarkably accurate. The main characters, Billy Ray Maitthias and and Benny Freeman are fictitious, but the circumstances that surround them and the events they participate in are very real.

Banks seems to draw the very real into her fiction as much as she adds some drama to the history. She doesn’t shy away from the racial brutality of the time. Banks includes nearly every conceivable conflict, giving the reader insight into how homosexuality was viewed, how women were treated and how religion played both a positive and negative role in society.

Every element of a good story is included in Son of a Preacherman. Romance steadily blooms between Benny and Billy Ray. No chapter is dominated by cheesy dialogue or passionate scenes. However, following the two lovers through the turmoil provides an excellent balance to the book’s constant suspense.

After the tension of the book, I did find the epilogue almost too conclusive. Banks wraps each character’s situation and seals the book with an implied, “happily ever after.” Given that there is a sequel to Son of a Preacherman, I would have liked to be left with a not-too-steep cliffhanger.

Day Two: Is It Good To Go Beyond The Basics?

In a novel, it’s important to start the story with a “hook,” a a sharp, compelling lead that insists the reader finish the book. In a work of nonfiction, the hook is just as important, but it has to assure the reader that he will get what he came for. In The Good News We Almost ForgotKevin DeYoung delivers the goods, starting with the foreword.

“A catechism is not a man-made add on to the Bible; it’s instruction in good theology derived from the Scriptures.” That’s good to know, because one of my first excuses to avoid the catechism is that I insist on the Bible alone. Who needs additional truth? God’s word is sufficient in itself. DeYoung promises that the Heidelberg Catechism is no more and no less than explanation and affirmation of the Bible.

Early in the book, DeYoung offers a general outline of the Heidelberg Catechism. Suddenly, it’s not such a long, disjointed document; for me it became a simple, cohesive and relatively compact way to digest the essence of the gospel.

The Heidelberg’s 129 questions are divided into 52 Lord’s Days, making it easy to preach from weekly. DeYoung uses each Lord’s Day as the material for a chapter. A brief scan of the table of contents reveals a logical progression: man’s misery, man’s deliverance and man’s response. DeYoung offers a simpler description: guilt, grace, gratitude.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is so rich and infinite, that we can never expect to master it in our humanity. At the same time, the Gospel is so simple that even children can grasp it’s great value and enjoy a personal relationship with the Father who loves them enough to sacrifice His one and only Son. Until DeYoung linked those three short words together: guilt, grace, gratitude, I had never considered how concise the message of redemption is.

Guilt, Grace, Gratitude. They provide a framework not only for the catechism, but for the Bible. In the example of Israel, God firmly establishes man’s guilt and inability to save himself. Through the giving of the Law, depravity is confirmed. Following a 400 year silence, Grace slips quietly into the picture in the form of a baby. Effusive Gratitude spills over the pages of the Epistles as the authors joyfully proclaim the excellencies of God’s salvation.

DeYoung confesses in the introduction that the catechism has been good for his own life and ministry. It narrowed his focus on the gospel. Even in the first 9 Lord’s Days I have found the same thing.

Try as you may, Christian, you can’t out grow the gospel. And if for a moment you think you have reached beyond the basics, I challenge you to pick up this book. Sparks get smaller, cooler and extinguish as they float past their birthing flame. Lay low and close the coals, let the fire of your faith revive as you discover The Good News You Almost Forgot. 

Wagon Driver

I wrote this little fiction story for a contest based on the one-word prompt “employment.” To all my stay-at-home-mom friends and especially to my own mother – Thank You!

Bethany laid her head down on her desk. She felt the flame of tears seeping toward the corners of her eyes. “I can’t cry, I won’t cry,” her daily mantra marched through her head. “I’m doing the right thing.”

Just as she gained composure, Conner appeared before her, hauling his little red wagon.

“Conner! How many times have I told you not to bring that inside?” her tone raised in frustration, her voice cracked too,  belying her near brush with tears. Muddy tread lined her white berber carpet from the garage to the school room where her desk was. One more menial job to add to her pathetic to-do list. No pay, no commendation, no recognition, just endless days of the same: muddy shoes, nightmares, temper tantrums, breakfast followed by lunch followed by dinner and a stack, make that stacks of dishes.

Yesterday, she had met the new neighbors on their tiny cul-de-sac of rental homes in suburban Virginia. “What do you do?” It was always the first thing anyone asked. They meant, “What is your employment?”

She imagined they were mentally comparing their paycheck to hers. “I work at home.”

“Oh? What is your business.” Bethany tried to be glib when she endured this conversation. “It doesn’t pay very well,” she would always smile. “I’m a stay at home mom.” She willed herself not to say, “I’m just a stay at home mom.”

“Oh.” No one ever knew where to go from there. Usually, she offered them a way out, returning the question and asking about their occupation. It never failed, “I’m a pediatrician,” “a teacher,” “a lawyer,” “an accountant.”

“Mom!” Conner was still parked at her feet, his wagon shedding clods of dirt. “Can you take me for a ride?” Bethany realized she was staring a hole into space as she replayed yesterday’s scenario.

“Take the wagon outside. Then come help me clean up the mess you’ve made. After that we’ll see about going for a ride.” Her throat squeezed even as she stretched a smile across her face for Conner’s sake.

It took a full half hour to remove the muddy tracks from the carpet. The whole time thoughts of how many more valuable, wage-worthy things she could be doing traipsed across her mind.

What do you do?

“Well, today I spent half an hour scrubbing the carpet.” She might not know law, or be a teacher, but she could tell you how to remove blood stains from white socks. She might not own a pair of pumps, but she could find the best generic deals anywhere.

Finally, Bethany bundled Connor against March’s chill. As she lifted his

dough-boy, four-year-old into the wagon, she felt the ache in her throat relax slightly. She held him to her chest of an extra second and let her chin rest on his straw colored curls.

Before she had gotten pregnant, Bethany could run a 3:45 marathon. She had been proud of her athletic ability. More than once, a complete stranger had touched her upper arm and marveled at her toned triceps. Short skirts had made her feel a little smug, knowing that few women had such shapely thighs.

Now? Tedious wagon walks were her most strenuous exercise. Rising early enough to have 30 minutes to herself before Connor woke was the only reason she was tired – no more long runs. Bethany locked the front door and picked up the wagon handle.

“Mom?”

“What, Connor?”

“I have to pee.”

Pants zipped, shoes re-tied and perched once again on his royal, red throne, Connor rode happily for three blocks.

Bethany knew better than to push her luck. Anything longer than 40 minutes and they ran up against hunger pains, multiple bathroom breaks or nap time. They rolled up to the front porch and parked the wagon, outside.

“Thanks, Mom,” Connor clambered over the side of the wagon, not waiting for help. “Wait out here, I’ll be right back!” Still roiling in her own thoughts, Bethany didn’t argue but sat down on the stoop.

She began to worry when Connor was gone for a full 10 minutes. Finally, she heard the screen door creak behind her.

“Here, Mom,” Connor stuffed $200 of wadded Monopoly money in her hand. “You’re a great wagon-puller!”