'Okay, pretty much every time we go on a vacation we argue.
When my children were around seven and three-years-old, they were arguing as we wound around a loopy interstate bridge on I-285 in Atlanta during crazy traffic. One of them was so upset, he actually threw up. My husband and I were at our wits' end with each other, too, at that point. So I made an announcement: We were grounded from traveling for a year!
And we stayed home for the better part of a year.
But then... I sort of missed all that crammed-up together time. I missed the adventure of seeing new things or visiting old friends or reconnecting with family.
I un-grounded us. And we planned another trip!
I can't say that we will ever stop getting on each others' last nerve after a couple of days of being together 24/7, but I do want to commit to trying again. And again. And again!
Isn't that what family is about? Not giving up on each other? Spending time together? Even when it's not all roses and sunshine.
It was on one of those vacations, four years ago, that the idea for The Art of Rivers came to me. We were in St. Simons, Georgia. Soaked in history, it's a quaint seaside town with beautiful moss-covered old oaks. And it has a beach (my happy place)! I highly recommend visiting there if you are in the area. I'm sharing a few pics.
Do you have any fun vacation stories?
PS: My novel Tackling the Fields is discounted to 99 cents today on Amazon if you don't have it already!
Release day eve is always exciting and nerve-racking. As my 7th book releases tomorrow, I am praying it finds its audience and brings healing.
Here's my letter to readers:
In 2017, the year I started this novel, drug overdoses killed over 70,000 people in the United States. More people in our country died that year from this epidemic than those who were killed by guns, car crashes, or HIV/AIDS. Addiction isn’t the plight of any one demographic. Drug addiction and alcoholism are devastating our children, parents, sisters, brothers, cousins, and neighbors. If your life hasn’t been touched by this issue, count yourself blessed.
Addiction is a cunning and dangerous enemy, stealing the lives of medical professionals, teachers, law enforcement officers—any career you could name, along with teenagers and the homeless. There aren’t enough jails or enough funds to incarcerate all these members of our communities. We have to find ways to rehabilitate. In my county, the sheriff’s department is trying innovative ways to help the prisoners who struggle with addiction. Our local lawmakers are grappling with the issue. I don’t have the answers.
There is heartbreak for those who love addicts or alcoholics and are at a loss as to what to do. Al-Anon is a wonderful support group for families who find themselves in this position. I interviewed dear people who battle addiction and those who try to pull people from its deadly grip. Twelve step programs like AA, NA, and Celebrate Recovery can help. If you are struggling with addiction, if you know somebody who is, or if you feel moved by this issue, please be in prayer for addicts, for their loved ones, for the community of people God has raised to support them, and for lawmakers as they contend with the issues. God’s life-changing power is real. He is the One who offers true freedom.
Not everyone gets a happy ending to their addiction story in real life. If that’s your family’s reality, if you’ve lost someone, I’m so sorry for your heartbreak. Know that you are not alone, and our Heavenly Father can bring healing.
There is power, hope, and peace in Him,
Janet W. Ferguson
Let me know if I can pray for you!
Though I have always love to read nonfiction and fiction, writing books has been a wonderful adventure I never expected to take. Meeting sweet readers and fantastic authors has been such a blessing!
I didn’t grow up thinking I wanted to write a novel, but in my 40s, the story idea for Leaving Oxford refused to go away. Some of the first advice I received from a literary agent after I finished that manuscript was to find good critique partners. Through the American Christian Fiction Writers organization (ACFW), I met so many amazing Christian authors, even fan-girling over some like Francine Rivers. I’ve critiqued with many wonderful writers over the years. We helped each other become better writers. I am reminded of the verse in Proverbs: As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
Today, I want to introduce you to two of those Christian authors that I respect so much. I consider them dear friends now. I hope that's okay with you :)
Misty Beller a multi-published, prolific Christian author of sweet historical fiction novels set out West in the 1800s. More than just being a critique partner, Misty has been my guide in all things marketing, advertising, business, and technology. (The tech part drives me crazy!) I’m so thankful for Misty’s expertise! She’s such a sweet and gentle spirit too. Misty has this unique way of reining me in when I leave positive town and venture down a negative path. I need that kind of friend!
I am so excited she will have books releasing from her dream publisher, Bethany House, starting in October. In the meantime, she has 19 other novels for you read. Here’s the latest one releasing, and it’s only 99 cents!
Jennifer Rodewald is another Christian author who I love! As soon as I opened her first sub for critiquing, I knew she had an amazing talent. And heart. She pushes me to dig deep into my characters and their emotions. Jennifer doesn’t shy away from tough subjects like alcoholism or marital problems, but she’s versatile. She also writes sweet rom-coms plus dystopian young adult novels as J. Rodes.
Jen has a 99 cent deal on one of her novels too.
I hope you enjoy getting to know Misty and Jennifer!
Speaking of meeting people and making friends... There are only a few more days until The Art of Rivers releases! And I'm biting my nails! I have a couple of events coming up to celebrate the release. Come by if you're in the area:
July 27 Lemuria Books, Jackson, MS at 2 p.m.
August 17 Mississippi Book Festival, Jackson, MS, author alley 9 a.m. until I can't take the heat anymore :)
Have you made friends through reading or writing? I hope so!
I've had a busy spring working as an assistant at the Mississippi Legislature and doing a little traveling with my family, but I finally finished The Art of Rivers! It took me two years (maybe a few tears, lots of prayers, and some hair-pulling, ha!) to write this story, but I'm so hopeful that God will use this book somehow to touch lives and hearts for Him!
I've priced the preorder nice and low at 99 cents! Share about it with a friend who might need some hope!
About the story:
Rivers Sullivan bears both visible and invisible scars—those on her shoulder from a bullet wound and those on her heart from the loss of her fiancé during the same brutal attack. Not even her background as an art therapist can help her regain her faith in humanity. Still, she scrapes together the courage to travel to St. Simons Island to see the beach cottage and art gallery she’s inherited from her fiancé. When she stumbles upon recovering addicts running her gallery, she’s forced to reckon with her own healing.
After the tragic drowning of his cousin, James Cooper Knight spends his days trying to make up for his past mistakes. He not only dedicates his life to addiction counseling, but guilt drives him to the water, searching for others who’ve been caught unaware of the quickly rising tides of St. Simons. When he rescues a peculiar blond woman and her sketch pad from a sandbar, then delivers this same woman to his deceased grandmother’s properties, he knows things are about to get even more complicated.
Tragic circumstances draw Cooper and Rivers closer, but they fight their growing feelings. Though Cooper’s been sober for years, Rivers can’t imagine trusting her heart to someone in recovery, and he knows a relationship with her will only rip his family further apart. Distrust and guilt are only the first roadblocks they must overcome if they take a chance on love.
I hope you enjoy the story! It releases June 30! Preorder here:
Amazon Nook Kobo iBooks
I'm often asked if I always wanted to be an author. I didn't really ever think about becoming one. But I always wrote in a journal. I wrote thoughts, prayers, poems...boring stuff about my life. When I began my fiction journey, I didn't feel I had the time to journal anymore, and those little books fell by the wayside. This fall, when a friend read my early draft of a novel I'd just finished writing, she said something that struck me as true.
She said something like: You know, you're journaling with your fiction.
And it's true. Journaling is a practice that explores thoughts and feelings surrounding the events of your life. It's used for stress relief, therapy, exploration of heavy topics, and even brainstorming. I often spent time talking to God in my journal.
So, yes, I think I do that now with fiction instead. I think one of my greatest fears has been to lose a child, and maybe that made its way into this story.
Here's the reader letter I wrote for the novella Falling for Grace.
This story deals with the incredibly painful grief of losing a child. I know I'm not able to adequately deliver the message of what horror that must be, having never lost a baby whom I had held in my arms. I did lose one through miscarriage, which was an extremely sad time for me--that deep ache of loss and disappointment. In my grief, I often felt isolated, since my husband and I were the only ones who had known this child--other than God. During that experience, I often mourned silently at the sight of fully pregnant women and infants born around when mine would've been, or reaching those sweet milestones. Not that I didn't want others to be joyful and have healthy children, but I wondered what my child would've been like, and those what-ifs ospun through my heart. What if I'd done something differently? Had I lifted something too heavy, worked too hard weeding the flower bed? Was it my fault? I experienced the fear and worry of trying to have another child. Knowing in my heart, even if I did, another child was not a replacement for the baby I'd lost.
Losing a child goes against the natural order of things, breaking pieces of parents' hearts that can't be mended back to the way they were before. But I believe our God can take our sorrows and our tears, capture them, and form those crumbled shards in a new way, though painful, into something precious. We also need each other, friends. Grief support can be another way to climb out of that hollow, broken place. I pray for each of you who might be grieving and want to offer those dashed hopes the promise of the One who binds up the brokenhearted.
The eBook version of Falling for Grace is free on Amazon for five days if you'd like to read it. Amazon link.
Do you journal? If so, what do you like about the process? Can I pray for you today?
How was 2018 for you?
My family and I had both good and bad times, but I’m choosing to focus on the good.
Do y’all like to travel?
My kids and I seem to have inherited the travel bug. My husband wasn’t born with this urge to go on voyages, but we cajoled him into crossing the Atlantic and taking us to Ireland.
He did really well, despite the fact that one night I fell on a bumpy sidewalk in the small Irish town of Dingle, and then we found out that a mini-tornado had knocked a tree onto our house back home in Mississippi.
We were blessed that our neighbors and friends took care of covering the hole in our roof and letting Service Pro inside to dry our home.
Actually, the blessings of our trip were many. We didn’t hate each other at the end of the two weeks! (Sometimes we fuss a little on vacations…) The weather was great! Only one day of rain in Ireland is pretty much a miracle. Everything was beautiful!
If you know me a little, you might guess that my favorite part was seeing their rocky beaches! And yes, I’m planning a novel where my characters will go to Ireland. The heroine might even fall like I did, ha!
What did you do this year? Can I pray about anything for you?
To celebrate the holidays, the Kindle version of my novel Tackling the Fields is free on Amazon right now!
We’re not quite to fall, but it’s not too early to start collecting some holiday reads!
I’ve joined with seven other authors from Inspy Romance to create A Christmas to Remember novella collection. This set of 8 unique novellas releases October 2 only on Amazon or Kindle Unlimited. The stories will be available through the end of 2018, then the collection will disband and the novellas will have to be purchased individually.
I'm super excited about being a part of this group, and I love the cover for Falling for Grace!
Here’s a little about my novella:
Falling for Grace
Grace Logan has taken a lot of tumbles in life, but she works hard to bounce right back. Dreams shattered and hope for reconciliation gone, Grace needs a place where she can pick herself up now that her ex is marrying her former best friend. Her boss’s beach house in Santa Rosa seems like the perfect getaway, but stumbling into the attractive-but-damaged handyman next door isn’t part of the plan.
After losing his infant son—and his marriage—Seth Gibbs is left with smothering grief and guilt. Bad memories make it difficult to find a new normal, so he escapes to his family’s vacation home. Three years later, he’s still in Santa Rosa with no plans to leave.
That is…until Grace falls into his life.
Click to find out more and pre-order A Christmas to Remember on Amazon! https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07H6RH6F1/
I hope you enjoy!
Some of you have read about or heard me share about the reasons I write, but in case you missed it, I've posted them here.
Twenty-six years ago, a car ran a red light and crashed into the vehicle I was a passenger in. At the time, I was pregnant with my daughter. Time seemed to move in slow motion as I watched the car coming toward us.
On impact, we spun around and landed an inch away from a telephone pole in the yard of a fire station. I left in an ambulance, due to neck pain, but my fear was for my unborn child. She’s grown and perfectly fine, but what I didn’t know would stay with me, other than some aggravating neck problems, after that wreck….was anxiety.
I began feeling tremendous anxiety in vehicles. And eventually, I began having panic attacks on the interstate while driving, which was odd because my wreck wasn’t on an interstate. The wreck triggered something in my brain that had to do with the fight or flight mode—an acute stress response.
I’d heard of panic attacks on a news show and thought, That’s silly. Just do whatever it is, and go on with life. But that judgement (like so many I’ve made) came back to bite me.
The issue that I thought was silly became a problem I would deal with for the rest of my life. So far.
I’m an open person. I am what I am. This is it. I share about my problems. I joke with my friends about the fact that if we’re going somewhere requiring us to drive on the interstate, we can take my car, but I’m not going to be the driver. Because I’ve been candid about my anxiety issue, over the years, I’ve met a lot of people who confided that they too had panic attacks, or some suffered from depression, bipolar, or another brain disorder.
I also learned something else that made my heart ache. Not only did these people suffer from a disorder that, in and of itself, was miserable, they also endured shame because of it. They experienced embarrassment because they felt no one would understand--that people would think, like I used to, they should 'just get over it.' People like me before I had suffered my own first panic attack.
I wanted to write a story that showed no matter what the weakness or problem or disorder, we are all still useful to our families, our churches, and our communities. We can be a part of doing good things in God’s kingdom, even while we are still suffering. Sometimes, we just have to accept ourselves and look outside of that issue. Look outside and see how we can be a good friend, a good family member, a listening ear, a volunteer—do a job that we can do. And know that God loves us.
So that’s one strand of how I came to write a book.
The other reason? I was a prodigal. No excuses. I had a good family. They taught me right from wrong and raised me well, took me to church, supported my extracurricular activities. Still—in my late teens, I chose to wander a different path. It was the path culture sold through media and song and books--an alluring path that promised happiness, but one that ended in sadness. No, I didn’t end up in a literal pigpen. I went to college, got a degree, worked at my job, and made friends. I knew and still believed in what was right, but didn’t want to give up control of my life.
Inside, though, the old expression held true. I had a hole in my heart only God could fill.
At twenty-six years old, I hit my knees and begged the Lord to take me back. I was finally willing to go where He led me if only He would have me.
From then on, I heard the prodigal story anew. The parable was more about God than it was about the prodigal. The fact that our loving Father is waiting, watching, and searching us out. And He yearns to have his children back with Him. In Luke 15, Jesus describes a scene like that, where a father is waiting. He runs to his son who has finally turned down the road toward home. The father throws his arms around his long-lost child's neck. He puts a ring on his finger and throws a party to celebrate.
Like our Father does when we come back to Him.
So, I write stories with prodigals as characters because that’s what I know. The messes of our past also don’t eliminate us from being useful in God’s service. Isaiah 61 says God gives beauty for ashes. He can transform the ashes of our pasts into something beautiful if we give Him the chance. If we let Him take over. That was the second message I wanted to share in that first book, Leaving Oxford.
And I want to share that message in all my stories. Otherwise, this writing gig is way too hard for me. Honestly, I'm always surprised when I finish writing a book. If it's good, it has to be God! The mess-ups...all me.
My book Leaving Oxford is temporarily free as an eBook. Do you know someone who needs that message of God's love—the message about His ability to take our messes and make something beautiful? Maybe share the freebie with them?
I also have some Audible codes to share. Tackling the Fields is the latest production by narrator Naomi Karez, and I'll give away five codes to audio readers who comment on this post that you're interested in receiving them. (Void where prohibited.) Here's a sample:
What's coming up? I am currently writing a story that deals with addiction, a painful issue which affects so many families today. I would appreciate your prayers that I follow God's leading as I write.
Finally, how can I pray for you today? Feel free to send me a message on my contact page.
Janet W. Ferguson
Happy Spring! The weather doesn't seem to want to make up its mind whether we're going to be hot or cold, but the flowers are in bloom here in Mississippi anyway!
I'm looking forward to attending the afternoon with Mississippi Authors, Wednesday, April 11, 2018 1:00 - 3:00 PM at the Mendenhall Public Library Community Center. If you're in the area, come visit with us!
Also, if you live near Winona, MS, the Friends of the Winona-Montgomery County Library have invited me to speak and eat April 9th at Moore Memorial Methodist Church Family Life Center. Purchase advance tickets from the library for the luncheon.
A few authors joined together to celebrate spring with free or 99 cent novels, and I'm excited to be a part of the festivities! Find your deals here!
I pray your Easter is meaningful next weekend.
Welcome new subscribers and faithful friends! Thank you for your support!
Narrator Naomi Karez has done a fantastic job narrating--again! If you missed meeting Naomi, read about her here. More about my novel Going Up South (or order it) here.
I'm offering two people who comment below (by 2-24-18) an opportunity for a free Audible code for Going Up South. (Void where prohibited.) I also have one code left to offer for Leaving Oxford. If you haven't read it, yet, or would just like to listen to it, mention that in the comments, too.
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Under the Southern Sun
Janet W. Ferguson