Monthly Archives: October 2013

Author Interview – Julie Cantrell

I have the sincere pleasure of welcoming another one of my favorite authors, Julie Cantrell. I first discovered her after reading her debut novel, Into the Free. I can’t emphasize enough, how much I loved this book. I fell in love with the characters and story, so when Julie Cantrell came out with a sequel, When Mountains Move, I was excited. These two books are on the top of my list.

Julie Cantrell is such a gifted writer. The characters and story do not reflect her life at all. They are works of fiction and the story is entirely made up from her imagination. I can only dream and aspire to write like her.

Without further ado, Julie Cantrell.

  • When did you decide to become a writer? or When did you discover you were a writer?

Writing has always been my way of processing the world around me. When I was a young girl, I kept a journal. As a teen, I wrote poetry, song lyrics, and short stories. And I’ve always loved to write letters to friends and family across the miles. But when I told my high school teacher that I wanted to be a writer, she quickly nipped that dream in the bud. She told me not to waste my scholarship to study writing, saying that I would be lucky to write greeting cards but that I would never get beyond that. I happen to think writing greeting cards would be a fun job, but she meant it as a criticism. The problem is, I believed her.

I spent the next decade writing only my college assignments, and I never took a writing class. I would walk past the English and Journalism buildings every day and want to sneak into those classes. I ended up studying to become a speech-language pathologist because I am fascinated by language development and communication in all forms. Plus I love to help people. It has been a wonderful career for me. But, I am happy that now, after twenty years, I finally realize that teacher was wrong. I am glad I took the leap and dared to write a novel; and I’m thankful readers are taking a chance on Millie’s story.

  • Which writers inspire you?

I am inspired by the authors who blog with me at Southern Belle View: Beth Webb Hart, Rachel Hauck, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, and Lisa Wingate, as well as dear author friends I’ve met the last two years of my journey. Just a few include Christa Allan, Missy Buchanan, Judy Christie, Lynne Gentry, Kellie Coates Gilbert, Kathy Harris, Ann Hite, River Jordan, Michael Morris, Kathy Patrick, Jolina Petersheim, Karen Spears-Zacharias, Carla Stewart, Michel Stone, and Renea Winchester. I’m also inspired by authors in my local community, (Oxford, MS.) such as Katie Anderson, Ace Atkins, Beth Ann Fennely, Tom Franklin, and Neil White, and by those represented by my agency (WordServe Literary), many of whom join forces to blog at

  • What are your favorite books?

I have WAY too many favorite books to list, but here are a few that surface in my brain at the moment (in no particular order): The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver; Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren; Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand; The Samurai’s Garden, by Gail Tsukiyama; Life of Pi, by Yann Martel; Looking for Alaska, by John Green; I Know This Much Is True, by Wally Lamb; The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini; The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls; Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen; and The Last American Man, by Elizabeth Gilbert.

  • What books help shape you as a writer?

I send a big shout-out to the classic, Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. A friend, Katie Anderson, loaned me her copy of this screenwriting manual. Of course, I’m still learning new things every day…but this book (actually it is one of a set of three) is a wonderful tool that can be used to sculpt a three-act plot structure. While it is written for screenplay writers, it can easily be adapted for a short story, novel, stage play, etc.

  • What is the hardest thing about writing?

Writing. And by that I mean, the actual physical act of sitting down and diving into that fictional world. I have to enter a different mental zone to really get a good scene down on the page, and that’s not always easy in the midst of a hectic life. It’s also difficult to find time to enter that sacred creative space because so much of my day is spent on the other part of the job…emails, social media, interviews, phone calls, mailing books, etc. I fantasize about having an intern someday who could handle some of that “other stuff”…ahhh…the dream.

  • What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?

Insomnia. And a bucket list. And a very strong nudge from Millie, my main character, who gave me her story and insisted it wasn’t mine to keep. (Thank you, Millie!)

  • How did you come up with your characters and story?

Honestly, it really did just come to me. The original spark for the first novel, Into the Free, was a blurb I had read years earlier about a gravesite in Meridian, Mississippi. Kelly Mitchell was buried there in 1915, and her tombstone reads: Kelly Mitchell, Queen of the Gypsies. This fascinated me, and I thought I’d write about the Romany Travelers who roamed through the southeastern segment of the US (and continue to do so today). The Roma ended up being a thread in a larger coming-of-age tale about Millie Reynolds.

  • Where do your ideas come from?

I’ve always been a daydreamer, so most of my ideas come from that strange realm of imagination. I also rely on sparks, like the blurb I mentioned regarding Kelly Mitchell’s grave. And from my real-world experiences, although I never write about real people in my life and hope no one ever worries that I’ll put them in a book. People tend to assume I’m writing about myself, especially because I write in first-person, but the works really are fictional, and Millie’s story is not my own.

  • What is your writing process?

I tend to write freestyle, meaning I don’t outline or do anything by following a routine. I write without worrying about edits, and when I come to a space where more research needs to be done or I might need to go back in the story and confirm a detail matches, etc…I just insert *** in that spot and then work out the kinks later. I don’t let those little holes slow me down as I’m writing the story. All of that can be tweaked after the story has roots.

I’m a gardener, so I see the act of building a story much like that of building a garden. Seeds first. Then the roots. Then the stalk. Then the stems. Then the leaves. Then the pruning. Then the blooms. And finally…the fruit. It’s a process that takes time, patience, and a bit of hard work. If you’re afraid of getting dirt under your nails or sweating a bit…writing is not for you.

  • Do you write every day?

If I’m lucky.

  • Do you write full-time or part-time?

I have been teaching English as a Second Language to Kindergarten and First Grade students until this year. Now, I am writing fulltime. It became a little too tricky to juggle teaching, farming, writing, volunteering, and … my top priority … mothering. While I love all the segments of my life, something had to give, and I feel very grateful to have quiet time now to write during the day while my children are at school. I’ve always been one who believed in Family First. Now, I no longer have to work while everyone else sleeps, and I admit…it’s divine.

  • Lastly, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
  1. If you feel called to write, then write. No excuses. Just write.
  2. Don’t worry about what anyone else will think of your work. Write as if no one will ever see it. Write as a gift to yourself, as a tool to stretch your soul, expand your mind, and free your spirit.
  3. If you do decide to venture into publishing, don’t take yourself too seriously. Don’t get caught up worrying about reviews, sales figures, awards, or shelf space. It’s all part of the business of publishing, but your job as an author is to create. When the other stuff begins to steal the joy of the creative process, remember to put things back in perspective and celebrate the gift you were given. Write because it’s who you are and because you can’t NOT write. Write because it makes you happy and brings you peace. And if you are nudged to share the stories you are given, share them to make others happy and to bring them peace. Nothing else matters.

Pilar, thanks so much for inviting me here today. It’s been an honor to chat with you about writing, and I am grateful that you have dared to pull Millie’s story from the shelf and enter her world for a while.

Thank you, Julie. The honor is mine.

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Julie Cantrell has served as editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review and is a recipient of the Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellowship. She is the author of two children’s books as well as Into the Free, whichreceived Christy Awards for Best Debut Novel and Book of the Year 2013 as well as the Mississippi Library Association’s Fiction Award. Cantrell and her family live in Mississippi where they operate Valley House Farm. Her second novel, When Mountains Move, released September 2013.

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Our God Comes by Antioch Live

Audio CD
Number of Discs: 1
Label: Clear Day Worship
Run Time: 72 minutes
Price: $14.99
Purchase: Amazon | iTunes




Antioch Live Worship CD, “Our God Comes”
Debuts at #2 on iTunes

Waco, TX– Antioch Live, the worship band for Antioch Community Church in Waco, Texas, has signed with the new record label Clear Day Worship. As the music arm of Clear Day Media Group based in Waco, Texas, Clear Day Worship and Antioch Live debuted the new album OUR GOD COMES at the World Mandate Conference September 20 and the CD hit #2 on iTunes.

“World Mandate 2013 was the perfect venue for launching this new CD. Everyday people were united by a passion for Jesus with a desire to worship God and change the world. That is what we are about,” states Clear Day Media Group president, David Seibert. “OUR GOD COMES is a passionate and thrilling worship release captured at Antioch Community Church in Waco, TX. We look forward to seeing how God uses this worship music to bless the Church.” continues Seibert.

Antioch is home to a worldwide church planting and worship movement, ministering to the needs of thousands internationally. Antioch Community Church currently has 30 church plants in the United States and another 40 in other parts of the world with more than 30,000 people involved with the movement. Antioch Live’s “Forever Sound” CD released last year was #3 on iTunes.

The worship music and lyrics on OUR GOD COMES expresses the heart cry, prayers and joy of the worship team, songwriters and musicians from Antioch, led by James Mark Gulley. From the opening strains of audience approval, joyous praise and worship floods the listeners’ ears and ageless unchanging truths find a new sound for today! The savvy musical arrangements and gifted song writing flow from “Come” to “Our God Comes”, and the glorious experience is documented from the choruses of “Wonderful Counselor”, “How Much More” and “Savior Forever”.

Clear Day Media Group creates products to help people see God clearly and impact the world through Christ-centered content.

The 72-minute, live recording was produced by James Mark Gulley and assistant Owen Wible, recorded by Randy Adams and mastered at Marcussen Mastering in Hollywood, CA by Stephen Marcussen. Featuring songwriters James Mark Gulley, Stephen Gulley, Brandon Seibert, Thomas Wilson and Johanna Six, OUR GOD COMES also features worship leaders James Mark Gulley, Stephen Gulley, Johanna Six and Clare Berlinsky.

The full track listing for OUR GOD COMES is as follows:

  1. God And King
  2. Wonderful Counselor
  3. God Who Saves
  4. How Much More
  5. I Will Raise
  6. …Response
  7. Light Me Up
  8. Awaken Us
  9. One Hundred Three
  10. …Return
  11. Savior Forever
  12. …Selah
  13. Our God Comes


As many of you know (or may not know), I love worship music. So when B&B Media Group asked me to review this cd, I was excited. Especially since I never heard of this band before.

I enjoy discovering new music and this worship cd is a pleasant surprise.

If I was to describe their sound, I would say they are a mix between Hillsong United, and Bethel Live.

My favorite songs are:

Wonderful Counselor

God Who Saves

I Will Raise


Savior Forever


If you love to listen to worship music, I highly recommend Our God Comes. I continue to listen to it over and over again.

In conclusioI would like to thank Rick Roberson of The B&B Media Group for sending me this complimentary cd to review.


Author Interview – Carolyn Weber

Today, I have the distinct pleasure of interviewing one of my favorite authors, Carolyn Weber. I discovered her after reading her first book, a memoir, Surprised by Oxford.

I have a penchant for memoirs, and this one was by far, my favorite.

Carolyn Weber came out with another fabulous book, Holy Is The Day which I reviewed recently.

I’m excited to share my first author interview with you.

When did you know you were a writer?

I don’t think there was a “moment” – although I do remember writing as a child but hiding my work because the teacher didn’t believe me when I tried to write a novel in grade 1. I’ve been an academic writer for some time because of my professorial career, but when I finally wrote my conversion memoir a few years ago (“Surprised by Oxford”), well, that was a turning point, and I’ve enjoyed writing more specifically as a faith walk, and hopefully as a praise since then.

What are your favorite books and why?

All types of books qualify as favorites for me – I don’t have one particular type. Though I do love many of the classics, and not just because I should. I honestly do find something enduring about them, and an appeal to aspects of our deepest humanity. Jane Eyre, The Brothers Karamazov, The Odyssey, Paradise Lost … they are all electric.

When did you decide to write your memoir, Surprised by Oxford?

Once I was tenured, and it was relatively “safer” to write a spiritual memoir in an academic environment. But by then, the story had percolated long enough too – I had promptings for ages from students and friends. So I finally sat down on my sabbatical and wrote it.

Was it your dream to become a professor or become a writer?

It was always my dream to teach, from as far back as I can remember. And I love to study writers, I love to read. Writing now across many genres, and pushing myself as a writer, has felt like “walking through the looking glass,” so to speak. I now know more intimately what the writers I had studied for so long had to actually go through – from the thrill of inspiration to the icy exposure of criticism. 

I enjoyed reading your new book, Holy is the Day? Can you tell us a little bit about how this book came about?

For some time, I had been sitting with the notion of what does it truly mean to be in God’s presence? When I discovered I was pregnant with a surprise baby, and one who potentially faced health problems, the writing process became a sort of prayer process in itself of trusting our God.

You touched a little bit about your leaving teaching? Do you think you will return to teaching English one day? Or do you want to just focus on writing?

I will always be a teacher. I can’t root it out, in spite of me. But for this life season, the writing and the parenting keep me busy enough.

In Surprised by Oxford, it chronicles your life and how you came to know the Lord. Do you find there is a conflict between being a Christian and being a professor?

No conflict exists in the actual teaching itself, or in the reading of books. Those things only facilitate my inner conversation with God, and my outer living of faith. Any serious conflicts, I have found, arise from bureaucracy and the fearful, but that is nothing new.

Do you find Christian writers to be mediocre? If so, why do you think this is the case and how do you think this can be corrected?

I think mediocre writers, like any other profession, exist everywhere. Christian writing can seem particularly beleaguered because there are strains and judgments placed upon it from within the church as well as from without. I know, for instance, that when I went to publish my memoir, some Christian publishers won’t publish profanity, point blank (even if it’s used carefully, not gratuitously). Or they want you to edit out gay people, or drinking. I can understand some concerns but overall this seems ridiculous. Life is where it is lived; Jesus showed us that by his very example among us. But then on the other hand, many secular publishers won’t touch a manuscript which takes Jesus seriously with a ten foot pole. So what is the Christian writer to do? Which God to serve, so to speak? I think this can often stilt or deform even the most well-intentioned writing. If we are each honest and forthright about our own stories before God, then I do believe He will use them where they are most needed.

What are your goals and aspirations as a writer?

I hope to encourage readers in their relationship with God but also let them know it’s okay to ask the big (or little) questions. Our God is not a fragile God. I would like to explore this strength and nuance and presence through many types of genres. The well is bottomless!

Lastly, what advice would you give a novice writer?

Pray. Pray when you pick up the pen, or strike the keyboard. Pray when you write, and edit and slash and cut. Pray when you have gushed out all you have for that day. And pray over the final piece. That what was in you seeking God would find its home in another who also needed it. That your writing would bring peace and praise. And that no other worldly static would interfere with your joy in the word.

Thank you, Carolyn Weber for this wonderful interview. I look forward to reading your next book.

Carolyn Weber is an author, speaker and professor. She has taught literature to undergraduates for 15 years, most recently as associate professor of Romantic Literature at Seattle University. As the Canadian Commonwealth scholar for literature, she completed her M.Phil and Doctoral degrees at Oxford University, and later served as the first female Dean of St. Peter’s College, Oxford.Carolyn lives in London, Ontario Canada with her husband and their 4 children.

Christian Know-It-All’s

Do you know them? Have you come across them too? They’re all over the internet.

Everyone has a blog, or a platform lately. Have you noticed everyone has something to say?

Christians bloggers especially, with their puffed up piety and superiority. They swear they know-it-all.

Courtesy of Creative Commons

I can’t help but detect a hint of arrogance and condescension in their writing. Reminds me of those judgmental Christians you find at Church. You know the ones I’m talking about? The ones who act like they got it all together, who do no wrong and tell you their false opinions of you?

It’s amazing what tone a blog can take, when the bloggers themselves write as if they know-it-all.

I hope to God I don’t ever come across that way here. I do not claim to know-it-all and never will. I am forever learning.

I have had bloggers who are in the “niche” unfollow me on Twitter or Facebook, because of my stance on topics such as homosexuality, gay marriage, pornography, etc. They seem to believe their opinions are worth more than mine and they’re only reserved the special right to speak their minds and write what they believe. Even if I don’t personally agree with it.

Truthfully, I come across and read a lot of things I don’t personally agree with. However, you won’t be find me unfriending or unfollowing them because they believe differently than me.

Yes, there seems to be a certain “acceptable” group, I shall call them, the cyberspace clique. Reminds me of high school. So glad I’m passed all that. Perhaps this is why I don’t care for the term, Tribes, it doesn’t hold a good connotation for me.

One thing I do notice among these peers is they are young. I have nothing against the youth. But to whom I refer, they seem to come across as know-it-all’s. Which quite frankly, they have not fully lived life yet to be giving such assertions.

Mind you, these are “Christians” we are talking about here.

Where is the humility? How are they truly representing Christ in their writing or actions? They act superior, all knowing ones, who will correct others in a heartbeat. They will point blank disagree with you, unfriend you and then write about it on their blogs, hoping you won’t notice.

They are good writers, they are mastering their craft well. Yes, they are accepted and revered in their cyberspace community. They pat each others back, speak sweet nothings to each other and then shun those who don’t believe as they do.

They spout their arrogant and pious pontifications while hiding behind the cloak of religion and doctrinal precipices.

I can understand why Ghandi said, “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” I couldn’t agree with him more. I would add to this, “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christian bloggers.”

Dear readers: This is my platform, where I have the right and freedom to write uncensored, share my thoughts and speak the truth. My prayer recently has been that we go beyond the superficiality of religion, piety and cliques, to representing Christ in action, with love and humility. Even if we don’t agree with each others stance, theology or position. We should be mature enough to treat others how we would want to be treated, even if we don’t agree. We need to remember that we are not know-it-all’s or better than anyone else or superior to one another. Only Christ reserves that right, stature and position, not us. Thank you for reading and God bless you.

The Truth About Sinéad O’Connor

There is a feud in cyberspace between Sinéad O’Connor and Miley Cyrus. Miley revealed that her Wrecking Ball video (which I have not seen, nor care to), was inspired by Sinead’s iconic video of Nothing Compares 2 U.

This comment prompted a response from Sinéad by way of an open letter to Miley, which I found to be beautiful and caring of her to write in the first place.

I agree wholeheartedly with what Sinéad wrote, minus the curse words, and voiced similar thoughts in a recent post.

Unfortunately, Miley’s response to Sinéad’s letter was by posting derogatory tweets to demean and discredit her. Miley went further as to include Amanda Byrnes’ in this exchange, which honestly, I thought was a low blow.

Sinéad and I are the same age. We grew up in the same era. I love her voice. I identify with her, in the past and now. She has been severely misunderstood. I’ve always admire her courage. She is blunt, forthright and honest, which I can relate to.

I believe the media did awful things to her. When Sinéad wrote to Miley it was out of compassion and life experience. Miley’s response was distasteful. She lacked respect, and even poked fun at her struggle with mental illness.

Miley displayed a lack of sensitivity and maturity, not only by attacking Sinéad, but the entire community of victims who have been abused, suffering from depression and any other form of mental illness.

No one has walked a mile in Sinéad O’Connor’s shoes to know what it’s been like for her. They have tried to make her out as some crazy person, when she’s not. She has the guts to tell it like it is and some powerful people didn’t like it.

These same people manipulated the media to speak out against her and make her look like she was crazy. They knew by discrediting her, this would guarantee that no one would take her seriously or listen to what she had to say anymore.

Sinéad struggled with bi-polar. So what. This doesn’t make her crazy. She or anyone struggling with mental illness shouldn’t be dismissed as not credible. I know many people struggling with this disease who are exceptionally bright and articulate people. One thing has nothing to do with the other.

Furthermore, I believe the music industry provokes mental illness. The lifestyle, lack of sleep, incessant commitments, performances, interviews, drugs, alcohol, so on and so forth can break even the strongest of wills. The kind of pressure these performers are put under is enough to make anyone sick.

This is why Sinéad wrote to Miley. She was trying to convey the truth. She wrote from her heart because she remembers what happened to her in the industry. She wrote from the perspective of  her own personal experience.  She doesn’t want Miley to wind up they she did. Sinéad displayed care, concern and compassion while Miley responded with a slap in the face.

Unfortunately, Miley hurt Sinéad by what she said and posted on Twitter, and now, Sinéad wrote two other letters in response to what Miley callously said and did. What she meant for good, turned ugly and it’s sad.

I can only hope that Miley Cyrus apologizes to Sinéad O’Connor, as she deserves an apology. I pray she apologizes for attacking Sinéad O’Connor and anyone who struggle with mental illness too. Miley had better hope and pray she doesn’t find herself in a similar situation one day.

Mental illness is no joking matter.

Guest Post: Three Reasons Why Christian Writers Write

I have the honor of guest posting at Godly Writers today.

I mention three reasons in this article, but there are many reasons why Christians write.

I would love for you to pop by and join the conversation here.




The Burden of Prayer

I attended a conference over a year ago and was surrounded by all sorts of people pursuing their dreams and passions.

I was stirred and wondered what mine was. I had many throughout my life, but I wanted to pursue the one thing that made my heart beat the hardest.

I concluded it was my love for Jesus. I am passionate about the things of God and prayer.

Courtesy of Creative Commons – Aeron Photography

I post stories on Facebook of things happening here and across the world. I have such a burden for children. Children who are victimized, abused and in unspeakable situations.

My husband told me on Sunday morning, how is my posting or discussing these horrible stories changing anything? He asked me what my point was?

I went into a passionate discourse of my reasons and finally blurted out, because I want people to pray. I want to see a change.

He said, if you want people to pray, then say it, if not, no one is going to understand your purpose for posting these stories and will come up with their own conclusion which may not have anything to do with your true intention.

He’s right. If I don’t give a reason, then no one will understand and they will just dismiss it as my being obsessed with bad news or something.

I am posting these stories, because I am personally burdened and want others to join me in praying for change.

Yes, not everyone is going to feel inclined to or may have enough on their plate to be praying for the tragedies of people they don’t know.

However, there may be others like me who are burdened and called to pray and intercede.

I am posting these stories for them.

I want to see God move in power and change hearts. We do not have the power to change people’s hearts.

If we pray, we can move the heart of God to open the eyes of those who are lost and blind.

Ultimately, God is the only one who can change us and others, and the way He does this is through prayer.

Prayer is powerful.

Do you believe in prayer?  Do you feel burdened to pray?