WordServe News May 2019

As usual, some great things have been happening this month at WordServe Literary!

On the final post of each month, you’ll find a list of Water Cooler contributors’ recently released books along with a recap of WordServe client news.

New Releases

Congratulations to Angela Hunt, Bill Meyers, and Salem Books for the release of When God Happens: Angels, Miracles, and Heavenly Encounters.

PRAISE FOR THE WHEN GOD HAPPENS SERIES

“Reading When God Happens is like receiving an intravenous dose of hope in a world parched by hopelessness. It will remind you not just to hope for miracles but to expect them.”– Melanie HemryGuideposts magazine writer and author of fifty-four books

“A powerful read.”– Dimas Salaberrios, author of Street God

“True stories like these require those who don’t believe in angels … to explain the unexplainable.”– Cal Thomas, syndicated columnist

A diesel mechanic is smashed under the weight of a logging truck. A child’s inner tube is sucked out of a peaceful stretch of water into a frothing patch of dangerous rapids. A woman searching for peace is met with an icy chill when she begins arranging runestones….

In all these stories, there is one common thread–God’s angels are waiting and ready to powerfully intervene.

If you have ever doubted the presence of angels or questioned whether God is still acting through them, this book will inspire you to look beyond your everyday perceptions. In the follow-up to their 2018 title When God Happens: True Stories of Modern Day Miracles, bestselling authors Angela Hunt and Bill Myers invite you into the miraculous–sharing nineteen true, firsthand testimonies of angelic appearances, perfectly placed protection, and unforeseen interventions that will encourage you in your faith and cause even the most skeptical minds to take a second look.

Hear from a father whose family was saved from back-alley cutthroats by a mysterious Scotsman, a woman whose spiritual battle was inexplicably resolved through a tattooed pickup driver interested in potted plants, and a newlywed home economist whose generosity to an unexpected visitor transformed her life.

If you have ever doubted what angels are, where they come from, or how God is working through them today, we pray these stories will open your eyes to the mighty work that is done when God happens.

Congratulations to Sarah Varland and Love Inspired Suspense for the May 7 release of Alaskan Ambush.

He’ll take down their pursuers…

If she gets them out of the wilderness alive.

Pursued through the wilderness after an ambush that left his partner dead, Anchorage police officer Micah Reed stumbles on his assailants’ other target—backcountry tracker Kate Dawson. His best friend’s sister’s just the person to help him outrun the criminals…and solve his case. But with their pursuers closing in, can they rely on each other’s strength to survive this hazardous chase?

Congratulations to Rick Lawrence and Harvest House on the release of the ebook version of The God Who Fights for You: How He Shows Up in Your Suffering. (paperback releases June 25, 2019)

That Your Faith May Not Fail

Whether you’re facing a major loss, a difficult diagnosis, or the constant stress of everyday life, you might find yourself asking God, “Where are you in this pain?” In those moments, would it help to know that he has not forgotten you—that he is fighting for you in the middle of your pain?

Sometimes it’s not the major disaster that breaks you, but the everyday heartbreaks that wear you down. In The God Who Fights For You, bestselling author Rick Lawrence examines the trials that weigh on you, why God allows them, and what he wants to reveal through them. Journey with Rick and…

  • discover hope and encouragement you can cling to in the middle of your challenges
  • learn about the gracious God who allows your trials—and is always working to help you through them to the other side
  • transform the way you think about suffering as you develop a richer understanding of the Savior’s love for you

When you’re feeling desperate, you don’t have to despair. The God who loves you is walking beside you—working to set you free.

Congratulations Steve “Spice” Spicer with T.L. Heyer for the release of Be Strong: The Making of a Marked Man.

A man’s journey through life is not easy, but the wounds do not tell the whole story. Healing, transformation, and significance can be yours when Jesus is the goal. In Be Strong, the author reveals his own transformation and the birth of an international ministry, Marked Men for Christ. This book will give men of faith the encouragement they need to overcome their past and their wounds to move forward in strength with Jesus at the center. The book also includes a 21-day devotional.

Congratulations to Jason Coombs for the release of Unhooked: How to Help an Addicted Loved One Recover from Brick House Press.

Is someone you love addicted? Have you found yourself wondering if all of your efforts to “help” or “fix” your loved one are really going the right direction? Addictions to prescription meds, opioids, alcohol and other substances are growing at exponential rates and ripping our families apart. What are the best strategies to help someone in bondage to a substance that drive real results? When Jason Coombs’ mother discovered her son was addicted to drugs and alcohol, she searched everywhere for resources and guidance that would grant her a spark of hope. She researched websites on the topic only to find a mixed bag of mediocre suggestions and an array of conflicting opinions. She was desperate for tools that could drive measurable results. Yet, her seemingly endless search for helpful guidance led her down a rabbit hole with no end in sight. Unhooked is the book, written by her recovered son, now leading his own treatment center, she wishes would have been available back then. This book will give you answers. It will give you hope. It will give you validation. It will give you a path to follow that will ultimately help you, and your addicted loved one recover.

Congratulations to Jared Frederick and Valor Press for the release of Dispatches of D-Day: A People’s History of the Normandy Invasion.

Spring 1944. The world held its breath as the Allies leapt across the English Channel in the largest amphibious operation of the Second World War. The Normandy invasion, legendary in myth and astounding in scope, comes to life as historian Jared Frederick resurrects long-forgotten tales of individual struggle, sacrifice, and community. In a rare form of engaging scholarship, Frederick paints an eloquently moving portrait of the soldiers and civilians dramatically affected by what Dwight Eisenhower called “the great crusade.” Among those personalities were intrepid correspondents who demonstrated the meaningful significance of the free press in wartime. In this sweeping narrative, readers will embark upon a journey between the lines as the powerful saga of D-Day unfolds with insightful interpretation and profoundly enduring lessons.

Called to Forgive: The Charleston Church Shooting, A Victim’s Husband, and the Path to Healing and Peace by Anthony B. Thompson with Denise George, will be released June 4, 2019.

While the murder of his wife devastated Anthony Thompson, he and three other relatives of victims chose to privately and publicly forgive the shooter. Years later, the church and community still struggle to understand the family members’ deliberate choice to forgive the racist murderer. But as Charlestonians have witnessed these incredible acts of forgiveness, something significant has happened to the community–black and white leaders and residents have united, coming together peaceably and even showing acts of selfless love.

This book is the account of Anthony’s wife’s murder, the grief he experienced, and how and why he made the radical choice to forgive the killer. But beyond that, Anthony goes on to teach what forgiveness can and should look like in each of our lives–both personally, in our communities, and even in our nation. After much pain, reflection, and study, Thompson shares how true biblical love and mercy differ from the way these ideas are reflected in our culture.

Be inspired by this remarkable story and discover how the difficult decision to forgive can become the key to radical change.

Contracts

Leslie Leyland Fields signed with NavPress for Tell a Better Story due to release Spring 2020.

Bob Welch with Don Malarkey signed with Regnery for Saving My Enemy which is the World War II story of American Don Malarkey and German Fritz Englebert’s post-war friendship. To be released Spring 2020.

Walt Larimore signed with Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group for a three-book deal to include: Natural Medications for Common Conditions and two books of inspirational stories of Dr. Larimore’s practice in Kissimmee, FL. (Tales of a Country Doctor) to be released in 2020 and 2021.

New Clients

Eileen and Holly Forlenza, Jenny L. Ross, Alice Wisler, Glenn Allen, Richard Kaufman signed with WordServe in May.  Welcome!

What We’re Celebrating

Congratulations to Anthony B. Thompson with Densie George for the starred review in Publisher’s Weekly for Called to Forgive: The Charleston Church Shooting, a Victim’s Husband, and the Path to Healing and Peace. Read the review HERE.

 

 

Check out the Bible Reading Plan on YouVersion Bible App for Amanda Anderson’s upcoming release of her new book, All My Friends Have Issues: Buidling Remarkable Relationships with Imperfect People (Thomas Nelson, July 9, 2019) 

WordServe News August 2017

Exciting things have been happening this month at WordServe Literary!

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of Water Cooler contributors’ recently released books along with a recap of WordServe client news.

New Releases

Jan Drexler’s The Prodigal Son Returns was re-released by Love Inspired as part of a 2-book package along with Emma Miller’s Redeeming Grace. In Drexler’s tale, a criminal’s trail has brought FBI informant Bram Lapp to Ellie Miller’s Indiana community. Now he’s posing as the kind of man he once hoped to be—someone who might be worthy of Ellie. Enjoy these two sweet novels about second chances at an Amish happily-ever-after, now available as a single package!

Jim and Bill Putman’s Hope for the Prodigal was released by Baker Books. With wisdom that comes from personal experience, Jim and his father, Bill, offer brokenhearted parents and loved ones hope for their prodigals. A prodigal son himself, Jim has also found himself in the role of the prodigal’s father when his own son rejected the faith. This family’s powerful story of restoration, along with solid biblical truths and practical advice, will inspire, motivate, and equip readers to go after their lost sheep with acts of love and service.

Jordyn Redwood released Taken Hostage with Love Inspired Suspense. When neurosurgeon Regan Lockhart’s daughter is kidnapped, the abductors want to make a deal for the little girl’s life. If she wishes to ever see her child again, Regan must hand over the virus she uses in a radical cancer treatment. Can bounty hunter Colby Waterson prevent this from happening–and save his sister in the process?

Amy Sorrells‘ book How Sweet the Sound was re-released by Tyndale. This lyrical novel, set in the Gulf Coast, considers how behind the gentle facade of white pillared porches and acres of cultivated pecan orchards, family secrets can smolder. Redemption, grace, and forgiveness take center stage as old secrets and sins are finally brought to light.

New Contracts 

Cara Whitney signed with Thomas Nelson to publish Unbridled Faith, a devotional based on country living accompanied by color photographs featuring horses and other country images.

Angela Hunt and Bill Myers signed a 3-book deal with Regnery. The first book, God Stories, will be published in 2018.

Barbara Scott signed a 3-book deal with Mountain Brook Ink for The Reluctant Bride series. The three books, Dreams of My Heart, Love of My Heart, and Desires of My Heart, will be published in 2018 and 2019.

Linda Thompson signed a 3-book deal with Mountain Brook Ink. The first of the series, The Plum Blooms in Winter, will publish in January 2019.

Mary Davis signed a 3-book deal with Mountain Brook Ink for her series The Quilting Circle. The first installment will be published in July 2018.

Marjorie Jackson signed with Barbour for the publication of The Devoted Life: A Girl’s Guided Creative Journal. A follow-up to her first book, Devoted, it will publish in late 2018.

Jonathan McKee signed with Barbour for his next book, The Bullying Breakthrough. It will publish in early 2019.

Kara Powell signed a 2-book deal with Baker Books for Unleashed, which will publish in 2020, and a second untitled book to publish the following year.

Bob Welch and Dick Fosbury signed with Skyhorse Publishing for The Wizard of Foz, the never-before-told story of Dick Fosbury, a failed Oregon athlete whose new high-jump style ultimately helped him win a gold medal in the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City and revolutionized the event so completely that no jumpers today use any other style but his.

New Clients

Dr. Donese Worden and Rev. Anthony Thompson joined WordServe Literary this month. Welcome!

What We’re Celebrating

Mandy Harvey, who along with WordServe client Mark Atteberry is the author of Sensing the Rhythm (due out from Howard Sept. 27), made it to the semifinals of America’s Got Talent! The singer-songwriter has been deaf since 2006, yet she has perfect pitch and kept pursuing music via her ability to feel vibrations. Her incredible story is detailed in the book, available for pre-order now.

WordServe News: September 2015

Exciting things have been happening at WordServe Literary!

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of Water Cooler contributors’ books released this month along with a recap of WordServe client news.

New Releases

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Sandra D. Bricker released Be My Valentino with Abingdon Press Fiction.

Book 2 of the Jessie Stanton series, Be My Valentino follows Jessie after the truth about her husband’s double life has been exposed. Struggling to grow her business and manage her feelings for a new love interest, Jessie finds herself in the middle of an intriguing mystery and a relationship that could end in disaster.

 

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Jim Burns & Jeremy Lee released their new book, Pass It On: Building A Legacy of Faith for Your Children through Practical and Memorable Experienceswith David C. Cook.

Parents often experience a “freak out” moment when they realize their children’s view of God will primarily come from what they learn at home. But while the idea of strategically passing down our faith can seem intimidating, the annual “Rites of Passage Experiences” contained in Pass It On make it easy for your family to celebrate milestones from kindergarten through high school graduation.

 

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Debora Coty  released her companion journal for her popular book Too Loved to Be Lost: Too Loved…a Journal for Women.

Created for women needing the loving assurance of a heavenly Father who forgives and accepts–“quirks, meltdowns, zits, and all”– the journal includes the complete text of Too Loved to Be Lost and offers simple, practical steps to help you revitalize your spirit and your faith.

 

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Sara Davison released The End Begins (Book 1 of The Seven Trilogy) with Ashberry Lane.

After a series of terrorist attacks in 2053, martial law has been declared in Canada and the military has taken over. When a radical Christian group claims responsibility, Christians find their freedoms severely restricted. As a romance blooms between a young Christian woman and an army captain, their uncertain future is threatened by forces far beyond their control.

 

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Jan Drexler released her third Love Inspired Historical, A Home for His Family

Set in the Dakota Territory, the book follows Sarah, a pretty schoolteacher, as she helps a newcomer struggling to raise his orphaned nieces and nephew. Sarah’s. Her childhood as an orphan taught her that opening her heart to love only ends in hurt. Yet helping this ready-made family set up their ranch only makes her long to be a part of it—whatever the risk.

 

9781634091152_p0_v3_s192x300Cheri Fuller released Dangerous Prayer with Barbour Publishing.

Dangerous prayers happen when you turn your all over to God and offer yourself as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). They don’t take you to a comfortable, easy place; they test you, stretch you, and take you where you wouldn’t have chosen. They change not only your life but the lives of other people. In her new book, Cheri illustrates—from Bible times to today—what happens when God’s people pray dangerous prayers.

 

9780825442285_p0_v1_s192x300Kelli Gotthardt released her first book, Unlikely Rebel, with Kregel Publications.

Between the desire to please God, the need to feel valued, and the compulsion to make everyone around them happy, women often find themselves denying their desires. It’s safer to stay in the life of “shoulds,” even if it means being spiritually and emotionally disconnected. But that’s not the abundant life God intends for us! Unlikely Rebel is the story of how Kelly, a pastor’s wife and “good girl,” slowly shed shoulds and shame, learning to love God and love who He created her to be.

 

9780800722357_p0_v2_s192x300Rick Johnson released his latest parenting book with Revell Publishers, 10 Things Great Dads Do.

Every father can be a great dad, and this clear and to-the-point book gives them the tools they need to do it well. Rick Johnson offers helpful strategies to enable dads to help their kids find the humor in life; surround their family with healthy friends and role models; communicate clearly with their children; help their kids develop self-esteem and respect for others; and much more.

 

 

9780764211362_p0_v2_s192x300Peter & Heather Larson along with David & Claudia Arp have released their parenting
book She’s Almost a Teenager with Bethany House.

A guide to meaningful parent-daughter conversations, this book equips parents to connect with their daughters as they move into the teenage years. Offering practical ways to encourage daughters in their faith and talk about the challenges they face in school and with friends, She’s Almost a Teenager is an invaluable tool for moms and dads everywhere.

 

 

9781941720172_p0_v1_s192x300Angela Ruth Strong released her fourth title in the Fun4Hire series, The Pillow Fight Professional with Ashberry Lane.

A middle-grade novel pack with humor, The Pillow Fight Professional follows Joey Michaels as he trains his sister’s friends to hold their own against older siblings. Encouraging values of faith, forgiveness, and friendship, this latest installment from Angela Ruth is one you can’t miss.

 

 

9781400206742_p0_v1_s192x300Bob Welch released 52 Little Lessons from A Christmas Carol with Thomas Nelson
Publishers.

Award-winning author Bob Welch takes readers deeper into the nuances of this classic by Charles Dickens. From the miserliness of Scrooge to the innocence of Tiny Tim, 52 Little Lessons from A Christmas Carol will inspire readers to live for what really matters, not only at Christmas, but all year long.

 

 

New Contracts

Debora Coty signed a contract with Barbour Publishing for the Too Blessed to be Stressed Daily Devotional, due out in 2017.

Jordyn Redwood received a contract offer through Love Inspired’s Blurb to Book contest for her novella The Hangman’s Noose.

Dr. David Stoop and Dr. Jan Stoop have signed a contract with Revell Publishers for their book, Smart Love, due out in Spring, 2017.

Tracie Miles signed a contract with David C. Cook for her next book, I Give Up (2017), and a forthcoming title (2018).

Sarah Varland signed a 3-book deal with Love Inspired for her Treasure Point series, for publication in 2016 and 2017.

 

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What We’re Celebrating!

Sara Davison’s The End Begins received a Top Pick 4 1/2 star review from Romantic Times.

Leslie Haskin’s Between Heaven and Ground Zero made the New York Times bestseller list, at #4 in e-book nonfiction.

Angela Ruth Strong’s The Snowball Fight Professional received recognition for excellent craftsmanship at the OCW Cascade Awards in the Young Adult/Middle Grade category. Congratulations!

Four Lessons From the Speaking Circuit

Behind the back copy

For 20 years now I’ve dragged a suitcase of books from speaking event to speaking event, telling stories, signing books, listening to people in line innocently yammering on while someone else is waiting impatiently to get an autograph.

I’ve spoken from the Statehouse in Boston to a rain-tattered canopy outside a firehall while firefighters let children blast the siren, from hotel ballrooms with nearly 500 people to three people in an assisted-living home, two of whom seemed comatose by the time I’d finished my intro.

Here, then, are four bits of advice about using your speaking engagements to sell books, 19 of which I’ve written, a few of which have actually sold:

Go where you’re wanted.

I’ve spent far too much of my life trying to convince people that they should believe in me and far too little time appreciating those who do. In the last few years, though, I’ve wised up.

Push on the doors, sure. Push hard. But if they don’t open, stop pushing and go find another door that might. Don’t let your pride get in the way. It’s far more fun doing a small-time gig where people appreciate your being there than beating your head on the door of some larger or more prestigious organization or event that never will.

Partner with one person who believes in you in the community where you’re going to speak.

It was a blustery, rainy Friday night, and I had a speaking gig “up river” in a small community. I honestly wondered if anyone other than the woman who’d organized the talk would come.

After the event, I walked out to my car with more than $500 in book sales, a stomach full of homemade pie and an evening of memories with a bunch of warm, wonderful people.

Why? Because that one woman was an “influencer,” someone people along the river respected. An organizer, someone who can bring an event together. An ally, someone who believed in me.

Someone like that can do more to help your event be a success than hundreds of tweets.

Take time to get to know the place where you’re speaking or the organization you’re speaking to.

Whether you’re selling books afterward or not, this is simply the right thing to do. Why do concert crowds go nuts when some well-known performer mentions something about their town? Because people take pride in where they live and appreciate it when others do, too.

It shows respect. It shows you care. It shows that you’re not just “mailing it in.”

In one of my books, 52 Little Lessons from It’s a Wonderful Life, I devote a chapter to a simple remark that one of the heavenly angels says to Clarence Odbody before the “Angel Second Class” is sent to earth to help a desperate George Bailey: “If you’re going to help a man, you want to know something about him, don’t you?”

Take the time to know something about your audience. Don’t just do a couple of Google searches. Talk to your host. Make a few calls. Do some reporting.

Finally, be interesting.

Never have people had so many options with which to spend their time, so many excuses for not leaving their home.

So, if they’re giving up an evening for you, forget the “first, do no harm” edict inaccurately linked to the Hippocratic Oath. (By me in one book!) No, first, do not put people to sleep. Say something that people haven’t heard before. Or say it in a way they haven’t heard before. Tell jokes. Dispense information. Inspire life-changing action.

But, above all, be interesting. I recently went to an author’s event just to see what other writers do. The guy spent the entire evening reading from his book.

Yawn.

That’s the reader’s job. As writers, we should spend our time offering audiences insight that our books do not. Our stories might be the impetus that draws people to our events, but give them something more than a rehash of our book or books.

Besides, if you’re interesting, people are more apt to believe your books will be, too. And there’s no better way to be asked back.

WordServe News: October 2014

Exciting things have been happening at WordServe Literary!

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of Water Cooler contributors’ books releasing in the upcoming month along with a recap of WordServe client news from the current month.

New Releases

Caesar Kalinowski released, with Zondervan publishers, his second book: Small is 9780310517016_p0_v1_s300xBig, Slow is Fast.

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Ema McKinley with Cheryl Ricker released her debut nonfiction, Rush of Heaven. A 9780310338901_p0_v1_s300xtrue accounting of her miraculous healing. Zondervan publishers.

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Tracie Miles of Proverbs 31 Ministries released her second book, Your Life Still 9780764211997_p0_v2_s300xCounts, with Bethany House Publishers.

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Christina M. H. Powell released her debut nonfiction title with IVP,Questioning Your 9780830836789_p0_v2_s300xDoubts.

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Stephanie Reed released her latest Amish fiction novel The Bachelor with Kregel 9780825442162_p0_v1_s300xpublishers.

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Tami Weissert released Off the Pages & Into Your Life with Authentic publishers.781167

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Bob Welch released a devotional with Thomas Nelson: 52 Little Lessons from Les 9781400206667_p0_v1_s300xMiserables.

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Joe Wheeler released the 23rd book in his Christmas in My Heart collection with Pacific Press.

New WordServe Clients

Emmanuel and Veronica Chan signed with Alice Crider.

Judy Joy Jones signed with Greg Johnson.

New Contracts

Steve Addison signed a contract with IVP for his next book Movement Pioneers. Greg Johnson, agent of record.

Dena Dyer signed a contract with Barbour Publishing for a Christmas devotional called “25 Christmas Blessings”. Greg Johnson, agent of record.

Linda Kuhar signed with Leafwood for her nonfiction book tentatively titled Worthy of a Miracle. Alice Crider, agent of record.

Melissa K. Norris signed a contract with Harvest House publishers for a nonfiction book to release next year. Sarah Freese, agent of record.

What We’re Celebrating!!

Julie Cantrell won the ACFW Carol Award in the Historical category for When Mountains Move!

Barbara Stoefen was interviewed by her local news station in Bend, Oregon regarding her debut nonfiction release A Very Fine House. Watch the interview here. 

WordServe News: June 2013

Exciting things have been happening at WordServe Literary!

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of Water Cooler contributors’ books releasing in the upcoming month along with a recap of WordServe client news from the current month.

New Releases

TheBrotherhoodTerry Brennan’s second novel, The Brotherhood Conspiracy, has come out with Kregel.

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Too BlessedDebora Coty had her 2014 Planner based on Too Blessed to Be Stressed released through Barbour.

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QueenofShebaRoberta Kells Dorr (deceased many years ago) had another of her out of print biblical novels released. This one, Queen of Sheba (Moody).

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AHeartDeceivedMichelle Griep has her first novel released through David C. Cook, A Heart Deceived.

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New WordServe Clients

Victor Watts just signed with Sarah Freese. Victor is a great writer, and we look forward to what he will contribute to the WordServe team!

Bill Donahue, leadership and community expert writing nonfiction.

New Contracts

Arnie Cole and Michael Ross signed with Authentic Publishers to write The Worry-Free Family.

Cris Krusen signed with Baker Books to write Buried Treasure: History Makers of the Faith. A look at 12-15 little known people of faith who made an impact in the world, even though they were not known as full time ministers.

Ema McKinley signed a one-book contract with Zondervan for her miracle healing story, Jesus in My Room. Cheryl Ricker is her collaborator.

Lisa Velthouse signed on with Lauren Scruggs to collaborate with her on Believing You’re Beautiful: Choosing to Be Who God Says You Are. Tyndale will publish in 2014.

Bob Welch signed with Thomas Nelson for two books: 52 Life Lessons from Les Miserables, and 52 Life Lessons From A Christmas Carol.

What We’re Celebrating!!

IntotheFreeVery happy, proud, and honored . . . for Julie Cantrell who was awarded two Christy Awards (the Christian awards for the previous year’s novels) at last week’s ICRS convention. She not only won in the “Debut Novel” category, but the Christy’s also added a new category this year: Novel of the Year. And Into the Free, Julie’s first novel, was awarded the best novel in all of Christian publishing for 2012. Wow. A starred review in Pubisher’s Weekly, a New York Time’s bestseller…and now this. Way to go, Julie! It couldn’t happen to a nicer lady.

Jan Drexler’s The Prodigal Son Returns continues to do well. She recently received news that she is a double finalist in the TARA contest. Way to go, Jan!

Jordyn Redwood’s debut novel, Proof, became a finalist in the Carol Awards in the “Debut Novel” category. Awards will be given at this September’s ACFW in Indianapolis. As we all like to say around here, “Strong work!”

What can we help you celebrate?

Dare To Wander Off Trail

IMG_0550 copyWhen my wife is away at the coast or on a quilt retreat, it’s the go-to movie I watch alone: A River Runs Through It, Robert Redford’s masterpiece of the equally masterful book by Norman Maclean about fathers and sons and fly-fishing — and the deeper things beyond.

As we honor fathers this month (June 16), I do so with the admission that my dad, who died nearly 17 years ago, was not a perfect man. (Nor was I, of course, a perfect son.) While watching River the other night for perhaps the tenth time, however, I finally figured out who my father was: Paul Maclean, the younger brother played by Brad Pitt. Flawed — he dies in a gambling dispute — but, as Paul’s father said of him, “beautiful.” An artist with a fly rod. And despite obvious shortcomings, kind-hearted with a sort of rough-hewn integrity. A lover of family and a despiser of bait fishermen, politicians who ignored the environment, and motorcycle riders who rode illegally on wilderness trails.

When I wrote Cascade Summer: My Adventure on Oregon’s Pacific Crest Trail, my heart kept pulling me toward memories of my father that I felt compelled to include. But my mind kept saying: Don’t go there. It’s too dangerous. It’s too personal. Stay on the main trail, pal. 

I’m glad I listened to my heart and wandered off the trail — figuratively and, as you’ll see in a moment, literally. Writing is an act of courage. And part of courage is being real with readers, being real with ourselves, and being real about our loved ones.

Whenever I want to wimp out about telling something personal, I remind myself that of the 2,000-plus newspaper columns I’ve written, almost without exception the ones eliciting the most reader response have been personal ones that tugged on readers’ emotions. The ones where I got real. The ones where I shared a vulnerability — my regret, for example, of having accepted $1 to play two-square with a kid who had no friends back in elementary school. As an adult he committed suicide, making me wonder how his life might have turned out if people like me had simply said, “Forget the buck. You serve.”

Tom Hallman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter at The Oregonian in Portland, puts it best:  “Feelings are more important than rules … Make the reader feel something. Writers are insecure. Every time we draft a story that includes emotion, we’re crawling out on a limb. Our insecurities tell us to crawl back to safety, but doing so eliminates the story’s heart and soul — what makes the story work. Emotion lives in nearly everyone, though it’s sometimes asleep. The writer must awaken it.”

So, in the end, I’m glad I included the anecdote about wandering off trail, through the forests of the Cascade Mountains ten years after my father’s death, in an attempt to find Comma Lake. As a teenager, I had scoured the woods with my dad, looking for that lake. It appeared on maps but there were no trails to it. And we’d never found it.

But, alone, a decade after he was gone, I did. I wanted to whoop and holler, but it didn’t seem right amid a quiet punctuated only by a few birds and bleached-white trees rubbing against each other in death. On the dried mudflats, I made my way up the comma—a writer literally in his element—toward the lake’s center.

I had thought of bringing something to leave in honor of my father, but he was big on leaving a camp better than you found it, so I nixed that idea. I looked around. A half dozen softball-sized stones lay scattered near me. So, I built him a poor-man’s pyramid. I knew by October, the lake would fill from autumn rains. By November, the monument would be encased in ice and covered in snow. Regardless, it would be my little reminder: we were once here. We found Comma Lake — my father and I.

Sons, I believe, cut wide swaths for their fathers. At church men’s retreats and marriage workshops, I’ve heard men lash out at their fathers, but nevertheless pine for their respect — even after the old man is gone. Indeed, it is a strange dance between fathers and sons. Part of us vows to never be the man he was, part of us feels quietly proud when we realize that, in some ways, we are.

In the final scene of A River Runs Through It, the story’s narrator, Maclean, now an old man, fishes the river and thinks, “I am haunted by waters.”

As men, we are also haunted by our fathers, whose approval seems as important to us now as it did when he watched us catch our first fish. But as writers, we cannot be haunted by the thought of trying to explore such complicated relationships.

As Hallman suggests, if we’re not crawling out on the limb, we’re not writing in the heart spot from which readers are reading. So, if you feel the branch start to bend, don’t panic. You’re where you need to be.