Friday, October 30, 2015

Interview with Author Nadine Brandes on Faith and Books

     I'm thrilled to be interviewing Nadine Brandes today! Nadine is the author of the OUT OF TIME series, a Christian dystopian trilogy ... currently consisting of A Time to Die, and A Time to Speak, which just released the 16th of this month! Believe me, you don't want to miss these amazing books!

Now without further ado, onto the interview! We'll be discussing mainly faith and books! *smiles*

Welcome to my blog, Nadine! So excited to be chatting with you today! :)
What inspired you to have the theme of 'finding/restoring shalom' in your OUT OF TIME series?

Nadine: Great question. When I first got the idea for A Time to Die, I was a part of a campus ministry at my graduate school. The current focus of the weekly bible study was on this idea of shalom - what it means, how we don't understand the depth of the concept, etc. It dug into the original text and definition and ultimately changed the lives of all of us who attended the study. Because that was happening at the same time as my writing, it was only natural that it made its way into the story and has grown while I've grown in my understanding of it. :)

So neat! It's interesting (and great!) how many things in author's lives make in into their books. :)
I know some Christian readers don't like when characters hear God's voice in fictional stories. Why did you choose to have this happen in yours?

Nadine: It's kind of a mixture, actually. I tried to steer clear of Parvin actually hearing His voice, and instead experiencing nudges. She has trouble at times figuring out if she's really "hearing" something, or if she's creating it in her mind. I think this is more realistic to our interaction with God - at least it's that way for me. When I'm praying, God "speaks" to me by prompting Scriptures or words or lessons to my mind that I've heard at church or read in His Word. I wanted to capture that in Parvin's search for what it meant to communicate with God.
     So, in short, I chose for it to happen because I think it's relatable to those of us trying to understand what it looks like to hear Him talk back. I know it's not the same for everyone, but I think there's a universal search for His "voice" and it doesn't necessarily come audibly.

Yes! I personally love how it all takes place in your books. It does feel very real. You see Parvin truly seeking ... and then struggling (just like we do!) But God's power and nearness are also felt!
In A Time to Speak, Parvin desires to draw closer to God. What are some things that you do personally, that you feel bring you closer to God?

Nadine: I make sure that the first thing I do is read His Word in the mornings. It took me YEARS to get in the habit, to learn to push through the "dry spells" (which seem more common than the "close spells".) I've had to train myself to put Him first, and still I stray from that sometimes.
     But the main thing - and this is something I touched upon in A Time to Speak - was that, about two years ago, I started praying that God would help me love Him more. I never used to pray that, because it felt like ... cheating, I guess. But God /wants/ us to love Him more, so in praying for His help in that, I'm ultimately praying for His will in my life. When I started praying that I saw intense changes in my life - deeper understanding of His Word, a deeper love of spending time with Him.
     So that's what I would encourage everyone to do. Ask Him to help you to love more. :)

Awesome answer! I love it! I know I've prayed that prayer ... and desired it ... and I think God truly does honor that and draws us nearer to Him! <3
Do you feel writing is one way that you glorify God and minister to His people?

Nadine: Absolutely! I feel that God created me to write. It's the clearest calling I've ever had and I've known it since the first moment stories started popping into my head.
     Even moreso, once my first book released, I started to see Him using Parvin's story to affect the lives of readers in ways that I never expected. God is working through it, and it's just affirming that I should be writing for Him. :)

That's so wonderful!! God truly does use your stories! I can't wait to see what else you write! ^_^
Favorite genre to read?

Nadine: Aww, thanks! Hmm ... I used to love dystopian, but I'm getting a bit burnt out. Now I'm craving fantasy. All. The. Time. However, I still have a soft spot for virtual reality. ;)
     How's that for a straight answer? :p

We book lovers usually don't give clear answers when it comes to questions about favorites! ;D But that's great! I love fantasy! And dystopian! :)
Who's a more newly published author you enjoy reading by?

Nadine: One I'm going to keep my eye on is Sabaa Tahir - she wrote An Ember in the Ashes. It was brilliant, though a bit more violent than I prefer. However, it was an example to me of fantastic storytelling and worldbuilding. I'm excited to see what she'll come out with next.
     In the Christian market, I just read A Cast of Stones by Patrick Carr and it was incredible. I'm excited to finish that series. And I'm also looking forward to future books from Ashlee Willis. She wrote The Word Changers and I found it quite unique. :)
     That was a tough question! ;)

Hehe. ;D I've heard of An Ember in the Ashes and A Cast of Stones, but haven't read either yet. I agree, The Word Changers is unique! I'm excited to read more by Ashlee too!
What made you decide to write for teens (YA-fiction)?

Nadine: I guess I've always had a heart for them. I think God opened my eyes to be able to see the hardship they really go through and the verbal abuse that comes from our culture just because they're teens. I want to show young adults that I GET it. Even though I'm an adult, I see them and I hear them and I understand to the best of my ability. I want them to feel heard when they read my books, and I want them to feel like there IS a light beyond the darkness in their lives.
     I could go on and on (because I'm VERY passionate), but I think that teens have so much potential to change the world, to live mighty lives, but they're just not hearing much encouragement on that. I want to encourage that and show it with my characters.

So cool! I really enjoyed your #Called2Speak post to teens awhile back! Kind of reminds me of the Harris brothers' book: Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion against Low Expectations.
I noticed that the "romances" in the OUT OF TIME series are very realistic, careful, and sweet - have a depth and meaning to them. Sometimes that's hard to find! Especially in mainstream YA fiction. What inspired you to write this element differently than most?

Nadine: I love that book by the Harris brothers!
     Okay, let's talk romance. ;) When I was growing up, there really wasn't much Christian fantasy or sci-fi for teens. And by "there wasn't much" I mean THERE WAS NOTHING. So I read Christian romances. Romance after romance after romance novel.
     Then I met my husband. And when we became friends, dated, and got married, I realized how unrealistic almost ALL the romance books were that I'd read. They created this picture in my mind of what relationships should look like when they're good and Godly.
     Mine wasn't like that (thank heavens!) My experience was A MILLION TIMES BETTER. And I couldn't help thinking, why didn't books capture THAT aspect of romance? This led me to think long and hard about real relationships, the doubts and questions and struggles. The fact there are rarely love triangles in real life and that "the oblivious-but-stunningly-beautiful-heroine" is also pretty non-existent. Fiction started lying to us, little by little, and then grew into its own fantasy-reality of what relationship looks like.
     So I wanted to get us out of that. And I did it with Parvin. I thought about the awkwardness, the questions, the real experiences that a REAL teenager might have in a situation like Parvin's, and I guess used my soapbox about the topic to pour the words onto the page. ;)
     Sorry for such a long answer. Like I said. Soapbox.

That was a great answer!! :) :) Loved hearing your thoughts on the subject! I agree, and so glad that you're going against the norm with your stories! ^_^
What do you want readers to come away with after reading A Time to Speak?

Nadine: I want them to come away with the realization that God can totally use them no matter how weak or unequipped they might feel. And that God has great things planned for us, even in a darkened world. :)
     My favorite verse to share regarding this book is Jeremiah 1:6-8:

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the Lord said to me,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’;
for to all to whom I send you, you shall go,
and whatever I command you, you shall speak.
8 Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
declares the Lord.”

That's beautiful! <3
It's wonderful to find a dystopian story that has hope and the light of God filling it! Do you think there should be more Christian dystopian novels out there?

Nadine: I definitely do! And I know there are several ... I just haven't read them all yet. *hides* But C J Darlington has Jupiter Winds, and Katie Clark has the ENSLAVED series, and Kerry Nietz (brilliant) has the DARK TRENCH SAGA.

Ooh, I shall have to read all of those! :D
Last question. Do you have plans for a new writing project after you finish the OUT OF TIME trilogy?

Nadine: Oh DO I? Yes, yes, and yes! I have two standalone books up my sleeve and then one very exciting fantasy series that I'm still planning out. I can't WAIT to share tidbits with the world. And those tidbits might just be showing up on my blog around ... February. ;) Now you know.
But here are their genres:

Standalone: An apocalyptic-dual-reality type book (still haven't pegged the genre.)
Standalone: fantasy
Series: fantasy.

That's all you get for now. ;)

EEP! That's SO exciting!! A fantasy series??? <3 <3 Can't wait for February now! ;)
Thanks for your time, Nadine! Wishing you, and all your books, the best! ^_^ God bless!

Nadine: Thank you so much for having me, Shantelle! Shalom! :)

How would you live if you knew the day you’d die?
Parvin Blackwater believes she has wasted her life. At only seventeen, she has one year left according to the Clock by her bedside. In a last-ditch effort to make a difference, she tries to rescue Radicals from the government’s crooked justice system. 
But when the authorities find out about her illegal activity, they cast her through the Wall — her people’s death sentence. What she finds on the other side about the world, about eternity, and about herself changes Parvin forever and might just save her people. But her clock is running out.

What happens when you live longer than you wanted to? 
Parvin Blackwater wanted to die, but now she’s being called to be a leader. The only problem is, no one wants to follow.
The Council uses Jude’s Clock-matching invention to force “new-and-improved” Clocks on the public. Those who can’t afford one are packed into boxcars like cattle and used for the Council’s purposes.
Parvin and Hawke find themselves on a cargo ship of Radicals headed out to sea. What will the Council do to them? And why are people suddenly dying before their Clocks have zeroed-out?

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Books, Books, Books **UPDATED**

     Time to share some more fantastic book covers ... from authors Janette Oke, Mary Weber, Dina L. Sleiman, Melanie Dickerson, Karen Witemeyer, Sarah Sundin, and more! ^_^ 

(And someday I'll stop fooling around and get back to writing and editing, so I can give you all an update on that!!)

*Ahem* Take a look at these lovelies, and then comment and tell me which ones you are most looking forward to reading! (Or have read already).

Where Hope Prevails [RETURN TO THE CANADIAN WEST #3] by Janette Oke & Laurel Oke Logan

Purchase HERE

Courageous [VALIANT HEARTS #3] by Dina L. Sleiman

Purchase HERE

A Heart Most Certain [TEAVILLE MORAL SOCIETY #1] by Melissa Jagears

Purchase HERE

Chasing Shadows [RISING SHADOWS #2] by Ashley Townsend

Purchase HERE

No Other Will Do by Karen Witemeyer

Purchase HERE

Deny [BLADES OF ACKTAR #2] by Tricia Mingerink

Purchase HERE

While You're Awake by Amber Stokes

Purchase HERE

The Beautiful Pretender [MEDIEVAL FAIRY TALE ROMANCE #3] by Melanie Dickerson

Purchase HERE

The Sound of Emeralds [STEADFAST LOVE #3] by Rachelle Rea

Purchase HERE

Valor [REALMS OF THE INFINITE #4] by R.J. Larson

Purchase HERE

Lily of the Valley [HYMNS OF THE WEST #4] by Faith Blum

Purchase HERE

Siren's Song [STORM SIREN #3] by Mary Weber

Purchase HERE

Anchor in the Storm [WAVES OF FREEDOM #2] by Sarah Sundin

Purchase HERE

Sisi: Empress on Her Own by Allison Pataki

Purchase HERE

From this Moment by Elizabeth Camden

Purchase HERE

The Thorn Keeper [PENNED IN TIME #2] by Pepper D. Basham

Purchase HERE

Friday, October 23, 2015

Condemnation. Sarcasm. Pride. ... Where Does the Christian Fit In? #Called2Speak

     As part of being in the lovely Nadine Brandes's launch team for her latest Christian dystopian release (October 16th), A Time to Speak [OUT OF TIME #2], I am speaking out about an issue that has been heavy on my heart lately.

Condemnation. Sarcasm. Pride. Three things that I've been noticing are becoming popular in the "Christian" culture.

Condemnation. I see a lot of condemnation flowing around me.  Lately, I see "Christians" (and I use this term lightly because lots of different people claim to be Christians these days), harshly refusing other people's claims of faith; saying there's absolutely no way. They're a fake. A liar. Definitely not truly saved.
  I've seen Christians one hundred percent condemn proclaimed Christian singers, from Erica Campbell to Lauren Diagle; basically saying their songs are from Satan and Not. Of. God. Period.
    I've heard Christians accuse the writings of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien (both fellow Christians), calling their books demonic through and through.
  And then there's the harsh way we Christians condemn non-believers, who don't understand the righteous way we strive to live because they don't know about the awesome Love that changed us ...

Sarcasm. People put a lot of stock into the ability to be witty and sarcastic. Christians too. 

I can't tell you how many times I've seen a "witty" review from a Christian, sarcastically tearing apart some author's heart (book). 
    And daily, I see non-believers, "liberals", and other such people slammed by my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. I mean, that sarcasm is dripping from every word. Underneath, I hear quite clearly the point the sarcastic writer is bring across: "You're stupid. You idiot. Brainless. Scum."

Which brings me to the final thing: Pride. Because while they're silently screaming the above statement at their subject, it seems they're self-acclaiming themselves: "I'm cool. I got it together. I know more than you. I'm better than you."

(Um ... pride much???)

I just cringe. Seriously, it hurts. And I know I'm guilty of this stuff too! But we shouldn't be! Oh, we should know better than the act like that! Since when are Christians supposed to be condemning, sarcastic, and prideful?
     I get the whole witty thing. I enjoy dry humor too. Sarcasm can be fun. But not when it causes someone else pain. Not if you're doing it out of pride - because you think you got it together; to make yourself look better. Not if you're using it to make someone look stupid (I don't care how wrong the person is!). To hurt someone.

"And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." 
Mark 12:31

"Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." 
Matthew 7:12

"And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." 
1 Corinthians 13:13

I know our culture celebrates pride ... but we're following Christ, not going with the flow. I know there's a lot of people in the world misjudging, pushing down, and saying hurtful things about Christians and what we stand for, but that doesn't give us any right to strut around like we're "better than thou", while spouting the same nastiness right back at them. 

"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." 
Romans 12:21

And the bottom line is, God hates pride.

"Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; Though they join forces, none will go unpunished." 
Proverbs 16:5

"The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way 
And the perverse mouth I hate." 
Proverbs 8:13

And no, I'm not for "do whatever you wanna do", "there's no right and wrong", "don't judge me". But there's a difference between judging and condemning. You can look at someone and think: "Well, their fruits don't seem to be lining up with what they're claiming to believe. So ... I'm not sure." Or: "I, personally, am not going to promote this song because I feel some of the themes are a little off track." Or: "I believe God is King and the Bible is His true Word, so yes, I believe that lust, adultery, fornication, and the homosexual lifestyle are sinful."
    But calling a Christian's song or book Satanic?? Insisting someone you don't even know personally is "not saved"? Those are harsh and final condemnations! Only God sees the heart. We can "judge" to a certain extent by examining the "fruit of the tree", but often we condemn when we don't have the right.

"For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 
1 Samuel 16:7

"You will know them by their fruits." 
Matthew 7:16

"Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness." 
Galations 6:1

"Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you." 
Ephesians 4:29-32

"And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh." 
Jude 22-23

Notice the words 'love', 'good', 'gentleness', 'grace', 'tenderhearted', 'forgiving', 'kind', 'compassion'.
     We can stand up and speak out against sin WITHOUT sarcastic, prideful, and hateful comments. We can choose not to listen to popular Christian songs without condemning the artist. We can say we're uncomfortable with certain Christian material without calling it outright demonic property. We can even honestly review a book without "witty", mean remarks and throwing our opinion around like it's solid truth.

Fellow Christ followers, I think it's time to embrace Love. Like, true, deep, sacrificial, real, selfless, Christ-like love. Jesus wasn't recklessly bashing people, or spouting off sarcastic comments because it made him feel good about himself; or acting like everyone was stupid and below him. No. He was firm, real, holy, and judging (He can see the heart, after all). But He also extended grace to sinners. Showed mercy to the ones who hated and persecuted Him. Forgave those who let him down. He did not condemn the woman caught in adultery. First, He showed her His love. Then He told her Truth (go and sin no more). He knew every vile act of every human being, yet He gave up his very life so that they might have a chance at true and beautiful life.

So stop condemning people to hell when you can't see what's in their heart. Stop sarcastically beating someone down (even if you're speaking truth). Stop pridefully strutting about; we are made whole and clean because of HIM, not ourselves! 

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbalAnd though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed updoes not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truthbears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away." 
1 Corinthians 13:1-8

As one of singer Toby Mac's songs is titled, SPEAK LIFE! Let's not add to the hurt, darkness, and devastation that's already rampant in the world. Let us strive to show the love of the Almighty God we claim to follow.

"Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.
Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men." 
Romans 12: 9-18


Check out the books that inspired this speaking out! In A Time to Speak by Nadine Brandes, Parvin Blackwater must learn to obey God's calling and speak out against the injustices of her culture.

What happens when you live longer than you wanted to?
Parvin Blackwater wanted to die, but now she’s being called to be a leader. The only problem is, no one wants to follow.
The Council uses Jude’s Clock-matching invention to force “new-and-improved” Clocks on the public. Those who can’t afford one are packed into boxcars like cattle and used for the Council’s purposes.
Parvin and Hawke find themselves on a cargo ship of Radicals headed out to sea. What will the Council do to them? And why are people suddenly dying before their Clocks have zeroed-out?
Book Two in the OUT OF TIME series by Nadine Brandes.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Blog Hop Links
9.28.15 – Gretchen Engel
9.30.15 – Nadine Brandes
10.01.15 – Jason Joyner
10.05.15 – Gretchen Engel (part 2)
10.06.15 – Tricia Mingerink
10.08.15 – Gretchen Engel (Scriblerians)
10.09.15 – Emilie Hendryx
10.11.15 – Janeen Ippolito
10.12.15 – Zachary D Totah
10.14.15 – Brittany Valentine
10.15.15 – Andrew Swearingen
10.17.15 – Megan Besing
10.19.15 – Angel Roman
10.20.15 – Charles Franklin
10.21.15 – Lisa Godfrees
10.23.15 – Shantelle Hannu
10.27.15 – Natalie Walters
10.29.15 – The Artist Librarian
11.02.15 – Rosalie Valentine
11.17.15 – Amanda Fender

(Pictures found on Pinterest or used by permission of Nadine Brandes)
(All Scripture taken from the New King James Version (NKJV) Bible. Underlining and large wording mine.)