Many years ago, a young mother discovered Christian fiction. Those books impacted her faith so much she started a book club. She felt that God had used those stories to draw her back to Him. She wanted other people to experience some of what she had through reading those stories and to be able to talk with others about how God was speaking to us.
I didn't join the group for a number of years while I worked at my church because I didn't think I could squeeze in another activity. I also mostly read nonfiction at the time. Little did I know what I was missing.
My friends in the group said there were just certain books I had to read: Francine Rivers' The Mark of the Lion series, Randy Alcorn's Safely Home, Lynn Austin's Gods & Kings series were a few of the titles, and they swooned over some new guy author named Charles Martin.
So I bought or borrowed these titles.
There were some sleepless nights.
There were bleary eyes, blurry vision, tears...
And even bigger shifts in my heart and my opinion of fiction. The realization that there is power in story. Jesus taught with stories...
And I fell in love with Christian fiction.
So I became a faithful member group of the group. We only have a couple of rules. It must be Christian fiction, and you have to have read the book to recommend it.
Fast forward many more years, I had a crazy idea to write my own Christian fiction novel. When I finished, I fearfully asked a few members to read this mass of pages I'd gone to Office Max and printed off and put in a three-ring binder. The ladies were so encouraging. The whole book club ended up reading printed off copies of the very rough rough draft of Leaving Oxford. I cringe now thinking about how amateurish is was. But they cheered me on. While writing Going Up South, I sent a few of the members scenes every day as I wrote them. I really didn't care if they read them at that point, but it kept me accountable to keep working on this crazy idea. They were so patient as I clogged their inboxes with scene after scene. (I know they're thankful I found an author critique group with ACFW by the third book!)
A quote from my 4th book, Blown Together:
There is power in story. Stories change thinking, change lives. There is beauty in words. Words work their way into our hearts and nuzzle us up to greater heights. Words and stories inspire leaders, change societies, and spark revolutions.
I’ll never forget the first essay you wrote. I knew right away I had a writer in my class. You have a God-given gift, dear Elinor. You wield the power of story and the beauty of words. I ask you to continue to hone that gift to bless, inspire, and nurture. Transform lives for the better. Spark a revolution of love for the first Author.
Not only are we book club ladies closer to God through our reading of Christian fiction, we are closer to each other. We are sisters and friends!
I'm so thankful for my Christian fiction book club! Are you in a book club? Tell me about it.
You all have been so kind to support me on my journey over the past year and more!! Thank you!!
I have my last two signings for the year this weekend. Saturday is Brandon Heritage Day, so I'm hanging out with my friends at Bay Window Books in Brandon, Mississippi, from 1-3:00.
Sunday, I'll be at Barnes & Noble in Ridgeland, Mississippi from 1-3:00.
Here are a few pics from the signings since my first book came out in April!! Merry Christmas!
Did you know some butterflies weigh about as much as two rose petals, but they fly thousands of miles? I've heard some even cross over the Gulf of Mexico. How is that possible?
I was blessed to be in Fort Morgan, Alabama, near the end of October where I witnessed the migration of the Gulf Fritillary butterflies.
Also, while we were there, a Blue Angel pilot from a nearby military base roared across the sky in front of us, flipping and spinning with power and strength, leaving a trail of smoke behind him. Another frequent site were the blue heron and pelicans soaring and diving with their huge wings expanded, exhibiting so much grace.
But it was the beauty of the fragile creatures flying over the unusually clear Gulf water that overwhelmed me. That those small wings could carry them so far seemed truly a miracle.
I related most to those fragile wings. Some days I feel so weak and broken under the burdens of this life. It's hard to keep on course. Without the Lord carrying me in the harsh winds of pain and disappointment, I'd surely give up.
Some of you are facing that disappointment and loss this year. The holiday celebrations have started, but you're dealing with grief, addiction, cancer or some other disease, unemployment, a broken heart, or another difficult situation. It's just plain hard right now for whatever reason.
I know, and you probably know, that God is big enough to handle this mess, this pain, but if you'd like additional prayers, send me a message or leave a comment here if it's not a private concern, I'd be honored to say a prayer for your situation.
These verses from Isaiah 61 comfort me.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion--
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
Thank you for your support this year.
Blessings in Him to you and your family,
My parents kept a secret from their children until their fiftieth anniversary!
I thought my three-and-a-half-week engagement after six months of dating was short…until my aunt let it slip about my parents at the fiftieth anniversary party. She said something like, “We all thought James was crazy marrying someone he barely knew.”
Heads turned and mouths fell open. “Say what?” We needed to have the full story right away.
It was 1944 and World War II had center stage. My twenty-six year-old father was in the army and on a train when he met my mother. She was a nineteen-year-old nurse cadet.
The ride must have been a long one, and the chemistry strong, because they wrote letters afterward, then my father took his first leave to go visit her. He met her mother in Alabama and then took her to meet his mother in Hickory Flat, Mississippi. Then they married on that same trip! We have what we believe to be those letters, now that they’ve passed on.
Sometimes when I’m writing fiction, I wonder if a storyline is believable or not. Pretty much every time, I’m reminded that real life is indeed stranger than fiction.
It’s fun to hear about people meeting in all kind of crazy ways, how they came together and stayed together.
My parents’ short courtship, if you can really call it that, resulted in a marriage that lasted from 1944 until 2012 when they parted in death.
My own twenty-fifth wedding anniversary is this month, and I'm so thankful!
Do you have or know of an interesting engagement story?
My college roommate has made her career at Disney for almost three decades. She loves the company and definitely knows the parks. Here are her ten favorites things about Disney World.
An Insider's Top 10 to Disney World
My niece recently took me with her and her two sweet boys to Disney World. Let me tell you, she's a Disney expert on seeing and doing as much as you can! (And yes, we were so thankful the hurricane didn't do much damage while we were there.) Here are her ten tips as an avid fan.
Top 10 Tips from an Avid Disney World Fan
My little tips:
Wear comfy shoes and sunscreen, always ride It's a Small World, see the bats, the aquarium, and the Lion King show at The Animal Kingdom, eat a lot at Epcot, and smile!
What are your tips or favorites at Disney?
P.S. Book 4, Blown Together, is out now! I'll be signing at Bay Window Books in Brandon, Ms, November 10 from 5-7 and at the Candy Cane Market in Brandon, MS, November 12 from 9-4. Come say hello!
I've been in my editing cave, and I think I'll survive! Maybe. I'm praying to have this book ready for the October 15th release date! Like I've said, this was my favorite book to write. But I do have a weird sense of humor. (There's that hairless cat named Mr. Darcy in the story.) If you read the ebooks, the preorder should show up on all the channels soon. I will have paperbacks at the usual wonderful bookstores here in Mississippi, and the other larger bookstores online.
Local store that carry my books:
Bay Window Books, Brandon, MS
Lemuria, Jackson, MS
Square Books, Oxford, MS
Jitters, Laurel, MS
The Bookmart, Starkville, MS
Sage, Starkville, MS
Reed's, Tupelo, MS
Online stores: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million
You can preorder the Ebook now for $2.99 here.
Southern Hearts Series ~ Book 4
When love storms in…
Wealth manager Sam Conrad is accustomed to his domineering father ordering him around, especially at the bank where they both work. But when his father demands that Sam manage the inheritance of his bossy ex-fiancée, Sam has finally had enough. He leaves in search of a new life, and attorney Big Roy Bosarge from Mobile, Alabama, agrees to mentor Sam on his quest for direction. Sam didn’t expect to be thrown together with Big Roy’s eccentric and opinionated daughter.
Storm damage forces lonely romance writer Elinor Bosarge and her hairless cat, Mr. Darcy, out of her Fort Morgan Beach cottage. She plans to take refuge in the boathouse on her parents’ estate, but finds the place already occupied by one of her father’s “projects.” She’s shocked her father would allow another young man onto the property after his last mentee robbed her family and broke her heart. And from the moment she meets Sam Conrad, they disagree about everything from her cat to how to best renovate a local nursing home.
Between her mother’s health issues and the hurricane brewing in the Gulf, Elinor feels like her life is being ripped apart. It doesn’t help that she’s falling for the man she’s determined not to trust. Sam finds himself drawn to Elinor, wanting to help her and this new family he’s grown to love. But can he overcome the barrier she’s built to keep him out? When the storm rages and the two of them are blown together, can Elinor find the faith to open her heart again?
My son makes me nervous. He's just not as careful as his mother would like him to be.
Yes, I need to chill sometimes, and I've tried, but that little bit of tension remains. Like when we went marsh fishing with friends in the Chalmette-Hopedale, Louisiana area. On the outskirts of New Orleans, the land is flat and low, and it was virtually swamped and destroyed during Katrina. That's the reason for the trailer on really tall stilts that we stayed in, also the enormous levy system with huge gates--they look as though built to keep out giants.
The marsh itself is a very unique place, both beautiful and dangerous.
When our friends took us on their boat for the first time, I quickly realized I'd rather just relax on the balcony overlooking the marsh and read a book. The reason?
There's a small lip along the edge of the boat, and of course, that was where my son (who was about fifteen at the time) chose to stand and fish.
(You can see the edge of the boat in this picture of my friend Dawn holding her trophy fish.)
I could just picture him falling into that murky water....all sorts of sea creatures waiting for him...
My husband and son fished with them a few times out there on the marsh, brought home some delicious redfish. But on one occasion, my fears proved to be legitimate. The motor surged, and my son fell in.
They say he came out of the water and back into the boat about as fast as--or maybe even faster than--he went in.
I feel like there's a short spiritual lesson in that little fishing story...not to stand on the edge of danger or sin. In my younger years, I failed to heed that advice, and I fell into deep waters and some bad situations.
So, if you do happen to get too close to the edge and end up in that murky situation or sin, try to scramble back into the safety of God's arms as quickly as possible.
P.S. If you go fishing, bring me some fish!
Upcoming Book Signing Events:
Lemuria, Jackson, Saturday August 13 1:00
Mississippi Book Festival Saturday August 20 9-6:30
Reed's Gum Tree Bookstore, Tupelo, Tuesday August 23 12:00
Book 3, Tackling the Fields releases August 13 on most platforms
Book 4, Blown Together, set in Mobile, Alabama will release this fall.
Book 3 of the Southern Hearts Series, Tackling the Fields, will likely release early so that it will be available at the Lemuria Signing, August 13th, and the Mississippi Book Festival in August. I must warn you, though, that this is a story I didn’t want to write, but felt called to tackle. The loss of the dream, the loss of innocence, and life’s other unfair struggles can challenge our faith—can make us captive to fear and disappointment.
The sensitive topics in this story seemed particularly sad, but relevant in our society. Trust me, I didn’t prefer to research acquaintance/date rape or human trafficking, but both are going on all too often in communities both small and large. There are a number of organizations set up to help victims of these crimes if you feel a calling to help.
Also, the story is about football. In the South, we love football. In writing this book, I’m not trying to make a statement for or against the sport. My husband and son loved playing the game. After my son suffered a torn ACL, torn shoulder labrum, and four surgeries, he could no longer participate in the game he loved. He mourned the loss of the brotherhood of his team. I saw the popular pastime differently from his eyes. For young men, I believe it is a bond between friends for a common goal. Though the character in this book is totally fictional, I’m dedicating this book to my son, Luke.
Some who read this story may have had something terrible that happened in their past or may know someone who has. God is able to set free the captives, set you free from the bonds that hold you. My prayer is that you find comfort in that truth.
I promise that book 4 will be lighter. For example, there's a hairless cat named Mr. Darcy.
I'm on a blog tour that offers prizes this week.
($50 Amazon gift card, $25 Amazon gift card, signed copy of books...)
The winner may as well be you. Enter here if you want.
Just scroll down until you see me.
I'll also be in Starkville, Laurel, and Mendenhall in the next week or two, and I don't know many people in those places. If you live nearby, come say hello, or if you know someone who lives nearby, ask them to come say hello. :)
Jul 16, 2016 11:00 AM Starkville, MS Book Mart
Jul 18, 2016 5:00 PM MENDENHALL, MS Mendenhall Public Library
Jul 23, 2016
2:00 PM Laurel, MS Jitters Coffeehouse and Bookstore
Aug 13, 2016
1:00 PM Jackson, Mississippi Lemuria Books
Aug 20, 2016
JACKSON, MS Mississippi Book Festival
As my second book releases next week, I wanted to celebrate real life mission trips. The characters in Going Up South travel to Honduras in the novel and have their own funny adventures, but here are some of my friends' amusing mission trip experiences.
1. Guatemala~ There was rooster given by a patient to pay the dentist. Somehow the rooster ended up being placed in the nurses’ hotel room. Once caught and removed, the thing crowed all night outside our windows.
Lisa Cantrell and Roy Kellum
2. Honduras~ The whole congregation and the mission group went down to the beach for a baptism. There was a young man swimming. We didn't think anything of it and commenced with the baptism and afterward sang some songs, fellowshipped. When we were leaving, we noticed the pile of clothes. Apparently this guy thought he had a secluded section where he could take off his clothes and go for a swim. He stood sheepishly about 50 yards from shore waiting for us to leave.
o3. Haiti~ Picture several women standing more or less in a row fighting to hold this chunky little sweet Haitian baby. In the end, as the women were called away to help with everything from medical situations to finding where someone put some paint supplies, the one left holding the baby was a 225lb 6' tall bearded guy who happens to love babies (that would be me).
4. Guatemala~ We were told we would drive for 3 hours, stop for dinner, and drive 3 more hours until we reached the rural city of Poptún. We got on the bus with people we didn’t know, road for about 3 hours. We stopped for dinner. We got back on the bus… for about 8 more hours. At one point, we stopped at quarantine roadblock. We were already sketched out… but you’re telling us to get off of this uncomfortable, old school bus stand in the dark and let some strong men in military uniforms carrying large guns come look for fruit? Well yes, I did think that we were about to be lined up to get shot, but we got out anyway. We made it through (they didn’t see the bananas we had… awkward).
5. Honduras~ The youngest guy on our team, Hall, had the unique talent of coming up with the most outrageous an random stories right on the spot. We enjoyed his wild tales every evening while we rocked in hammocks to wind down.
What's your mission trip experience? Or would you like to go on one?
First, thank you for all your support and kind words! I never would've published without your encouragement.
I'm nervous and excited to have my first book signings scheduled. If you're in the area and want to drop in, that would awesome!
Here's the schedule so far.
Jun 4, 2016
2:00 PM Ridgeland, MS Barnes & Noble
June 25, 2016
1-3 PM Brandon, MS Bay Window Books
Jul 16, 2016
11:00 AM Starkville, MS Book Mart
Jul 18, 2016
5:00 PM MENDENHALL, MS Mendenhall Public Library
Aug 20, 2016
9:00 AM JACKSON, MS Mississippi Book Festival Book Signing
Book 2 in the Southern Hearts Series, Going Up South, releases June 15th. If you like the Kindle version, it can be pre-ordered for a lower price on Amazon now.
(A few of you have asked about Lemuria in Jackson carrying Leaving Oxford. They have agreed and should have signed copies in about a week!)
Under the Southern Sun
Janet W. Ferguson