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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?

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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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An Interview with Brenna Simonds of Living Unveiled

Brenna's bookAn interview with the indomitable author, Brenna Kate Simonds! Welcome!

Abby: What is your book title, and when will it be available?

Brenna Kate: Learning to Walk in Freedom: A Journey in Five Steps
It’s been released on Kindle. The paperback release will be in late January.

A: What is one word that sums up this book…Why?

BK: Freedom! What freedom is and how it plays out in the life of a Christian is one of the most misunderstood topics in Christianity. But Jesus died so that we can experience true freedom, and it’s worth taking the time to discern what that might look like in our lives.

A: Is this your first book? If so, what was the inspiration that led you to begin this project? And if you’ve written others, what are they?

BK: This is the first full-length book I’ve written myself. I’ve been involved in a few other projects in the past. I began to compile this book for the ministry I direct and while gathering the material, I felt God saying that this book was for a broader audience. It’s certainly been a labor of love, but I trust God will use it as He sees fit.

A: Who is your intended audience and what do you hope your readers take away from your work?

BK: My intended audience is everyone! One of my biggest fans is not even a Christian. I really think anyone could gain something from Learning to Walk in Freedom. It’s for people whose heart’s cry is telling them that there is more to life than they have experienced thus far.

A: What was the hardest part of writing this story? What brought you the most joy?

BK: One of the more difficult pieces of writing this was sharing my story so publicly. The book is not centered around the details of my story, but I do share it at the end to give readers context. It’s all stuff I have written before and even spoken publicly, but putting it in print for all eternity is a different story! But the same thing has brought me the most joy. I already know from the times I’ve shared both my story and these five freedom steps, this is God’s story and He is using it to impact lives. If I can help one person with my transparency, then it’s all worth it.

A: Who has inspired you most in your writing career? Personally? Professionally?

BK: I was mentored by Mike Olejarz; he also wrote the foreword of Learning to Walk in Freedom. Mike began pouring his life into mine when I attended the campus ministry he directed in Boston. Even beyond our years of serving side by side, Mike has taken an active interest in my development and in me in general! He’s a fantastic man of God, and I pray I can influence as many people in my life as he has. My husband and I find ourselves quoting him on a regular basis!

I have a long list of unofficial mentors, some of whom I’ve met, some I’ve only emailed, and some with whom I’ve never spoken.  I’ll list them in no particular order: Nick Fatato, John Ortberg, Russell Willingham, Gary Thomas, Joyce Meyer, Charles Stanley, Richard Foster, and Bob Hamp.

A: Tell us a little about yourself:

What was your nickname as a child?
Banana Cake! Kind of sounds like Brenna Kate, doesn’t it?

Favorite color?
Burgundy – because it’s so pretty ☺

Preferred writing attire? (Jammies? Yoga pants? Three piece suit?)
I don’t have preferred attire. Whatever I’m wearing at the time is fine, but I have a preferred beverage. Coffee!!! Mostly decaf. I’m high-energy enough as it is.

Tea or coffee?
Coffee! I drink it black. I do try and alternate it with herbal tea.

Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts?
Though I’m originally from New England, I have to say Starbucks. Their coffee is just better. Their food is, too!

Favorite author?
I have to pick one? This is far too difficult a question. But I’ll try. I’d have to say Russell Willingham. His concept of core beliefs is one I’ve shared more than any other concept. It’s why I asked him to read my book and possibly endorse it (if he liked it – which he thankfully did!). I can’t wait to see what else he has to say in future writings. Gary Thomas is a close second. I always give his book Sacred Marriage to newlyweds, and his book Sacred Influence to struggling wives.

Thanks for being with us, Brenna! Best of luck on your book!
If you’d like to purchase Brenna’s book, the e-version is available on Amazon now: Learning to Walk in Freedom: A Journey in Five Steps.

If you want to pre-order a paperback copy of Brenna’s book, you can do that here: Pre-order!

Walking, Hearing Voices

I’ve set my ONE WORD this year as: Walk, and we’ll talk about that much in the coming weeks. It might even be the seed of a new book germinating (very deeply and slowly) in my heart.

At the end of 2013, God brought several new voices into my life. I’d heard the echoes of two of them many times, but only began to recognize their wisdom recently. The other one I’m sharing with you today is a new friend, and in coming weeks you’ll get to “sit” down with Brenna Kate Simonds and get to know her personally.

But, these are the voices of a couple of people I plan to walk with this year.

C.S. Lewis: “You do not have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.”

Rick Warren: “For change to happen in any area of your life, whether it’s financial, vocational, educational, mental, or relational, you have to begin with the physical.

Why? Because your body affects your behavior. Your muscles affect your moods and your motivation. Your physiology can actually affect your psychology.”

Brenna Kate Simonds: Wherever you go, there you are.

Have you ever thought about what this really means? We get so focused on changing our external circumstances that we forget this simple truth: Most external issues flow out of internal issues. So no matter where you go or how much weight you lose, inside you are still you. If we don’t allow God to change the internal, changing the externals will not have the hoped-for result. We will experience the same trials, the same struggles, the same unhelpful thought patterns. We will do the same thing again and again and expect different results.

Obviously, these voices span the ages, but there is wisdom in each. Throughout this year, as you “walk” with me, I will introduce you to many other voices that will influence us to walk in the freedom that Christ purchased for us.

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” Eph. 5:8

Thanksgiving and Praise

Oh My God, 

Thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects, 

my heart admires, adores, loves thee, 

for my little vessel is as full as it can be, 

and I would pour out all that fullness before thee in ceaseless flow. 

When I think upon and converse with thee

ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up, 

ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed, 

ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart, 

crowding into every moment of happiness. 

I bless thee for the soul thou hast created, 

for adorning it, sanctifying it, 

though it is fixed in barren soil; 

for the body thou hast given me, 

for preserving its strength and vigor, 

for providing senses to enjoy delights, 

for the ease and freedom of my limbs, 

for hands, eyes, ears that do thy bidding;

for thy royal bounty providing my daily support, 

for a full table and overflowing cup, 

for appetite, taste, sweetness, 

for social joys of relatives and friends, 

for ability to serve others, 

for a heart that feels sorrows and necessities, 

for a mind to care for my fellow-men, 

for opportunities of spreading happiness around, 

for loved ones in the joys of heaven, 

for my own expectation of seeing thee clearly. 

I love thee above the powers of language to express, 

for what thou art to thy creatures. 

Increase my love, O my God, through time and eternity. 

Taken from: The Valley of Vision

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!  😀

A Look Back at Bodies

Given the nature of Predatory Lies, and heading into the New Year, it seems fitting to analyze the past year’s messages about our bodies. Prepare to be challenged, incensed and finally relieved and encouraged!

“Taylor Swift didn’t Fit” a VS Angel Claims

When we determine our heroes by their sex appeal…Don’t let someone with bad brows tell you about life

A Purpose for Every Body – Can you guess this Olympian’s sport?

Finally, this one will bolster your heart and send you into the New Year with wind beneath your wings. The ever-profound and dearly loved: Ann Voskamp

A Holy Experience

I’m Finally Thin – But…by Rachel Zimmerman

“’You’re never trapped. You have the keys to the prison! But sometimes having a choice is scarier than not having a choice. Sometimes the food prison is cozier than the big, wide world where I could bulge or break out or wrinkle at any moment. The question…is this: what is it worth, to you, letting yourself out of the prison? What matters more than that high? What matters more than thin? What do you want people to remember about the life you lived?

Will you gain weight or lose weight? Yes. Will I gain weight or lose weight? Yup. Will we hate our bodies or love them? Sure. I just hope, for both of us, that we are doing things that matter while we’re looking however we look and feeling however we feel.’

And then she tells me a story…”

You can’t miss this. It sums up the agony and, in fact, the reality of “The Thin Cage”.