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Monday, October 20, 2014


No other explanation for the continuing life of Alan Lester exists, except the grace of God. Grateful for the privilege of a caring family, into which he was born in 1970, and with whom he lived in the small farming town of Ermelo in South Africa, and then in Kempton Park. Military service as an operational Medic followed high school, and then a few years as a paramedic in Johannesburg, the busiest ambulance station in the Southern Hemisphere. After making a profession of faith in Jesus Christ in 1981, Alan experienced a strong work of grace in his heart in 1998, sharply changing the entire direction of his life. Theological studies, focusing specifically on Biblical Counselling occupied the next ten years. He gave seven-and-a-half years to managing a rehabilitation centre for young men, interlaced with street preaching and evangelism. From this experience sprung his first title, Unending Hope for the Exhausted Addict. He has, by the kindness of God, served in several churches in different capacities, and now functions as a founding member, elder and pastor with Dr. Joshua Mack at Living Hope Church, Sunnyside Pretoria. Alan married Charleen in 1993, a 19-year marriage from which he is the father of two deeply loved daughters. His wife Charleen died suddenly in 2012, the subject of his second book, Hurting in Hope.

What five words describe you?
Laid-back, friendly, grateful, convictions, consistent.
What are you working on at the minute? What is it about?
I’m in the process of publishing Hurting in Hope, memoirs how a 19-year married romance came to an end through the sudden death of my wife, Charleen.
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
Kirk Cameron and Danielle Bisutti (from No Greater Love). Wouldn’t that be wonderful!
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why? 
It would have to be Pilgrim’s Progress. John Bunyan’s book has been a powerful source of blessing to me from since childhood, and I have even studied it extensively as an adult, teaching more than 70 hours on it. It was Pilgrim’s Progress that God used to bring my grandfather to salvation, from a life of drunkenness. As far as actually being the author is concerned, if God used me as powerfully as He has used John Bunyan and his Pilgrim’s Progress over the centuries, I too, would consider 12 years in prison a worthwhile hardship. What a remarkable book; the best selling English book next to the Bible, of all time. 
What is the hardest thing about writing?
The hardest thing for me is to find a stretch of time long enough to write uninterrupted in the world I am creating with my words. It takes time to get in, but a second to be pulled out. This is a constant challenge.
Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block? 
I have a couple of remedies that I use when I just can’t write: 
1. I get up and walk away from my work. Take a walk outside, spend some time with other people. Deliberately forget about what I am writing. Come back later.
2. I spend time in prayer, asking God to help me think clearly and understand the logic of my story so that it will grip me.
3. I write something completely different for a while. Even if I don’t intend to publish it.
4. What I have found most invigorating is the practise of opening my Bible to a chapter I am currently studying, get old-fashioned paper and pen, with computer off, and I look closely at the text and begin to write observations. I write everything I am thinking. I think of how the entire context fits together, how verses relate to each other. I think of the who, what, why, where, when, and how of the text. I think of the fallen condition focus of the text and spend time thinking through the redemptive focus. I continually ask questions of the text and write down my answers. In this way, the Word stirs my heart, thrilling it an exciting it. I can’t write quickly enough or contain the joy of how thrilling the Word of God is. This stretches my mind, engages my heart, and before I even realise what is happening, my mind is racing even faster than my pen, and I have forgotten that my mind was stuck in a sluggish mode from which I couldn’t write.
Where would your dream location be for writing? 
I absolutely love the ocean. If I could write in the ideal place, it would be on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast, South Africa, in a house overlooking the sea crashing on the rocks.
When creating characters, are they based on people in your life?
I seldom base characters on people I know. In my current work, because it is a true story, this does not apply, but in my fiction work, I like to imagine my characters and avoid writing them in as people I know. It destroys the sense that I am creating something truly original, mysterious and exciting.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
Yes, I read my reviews. I am encouraged by the kind reviews, yet have a two-stage method of dealing with the negative ones. I read bad reviews and consider what elements of the review are true of my work and to what degree. I do question what would have motivated a person to write a bad review. After I have turned these things over in my head, I learn from them, try to thank the critic for his/her scathing review, and move on. The second thing I do is remember that reviews are highly subjective and personal, and that it really only amounts to a personal opinion. I am just grateful that the majority of reviews are kind and not caustic. I can take negative reviews quite casually, they don’t bother me much.
If you couldn't be a writer, what would you be?
I love to write, but I also love my other major passion, pastoral work. So if I couldn’t be a writer, I would remain in the care of souls. I don’t believe there is a single greater calling or purpose for human life.
What would you tell your younger self that would have helped you in your writing career?
Read a greater variety of books, on a more regular basis. It doesn’t help to cram as much as you can in when it is desperately needed. I would stick to one of the rules I try to apply in these areas, “A little a lot, and not a lot a little.” A consistent diet of good and bad literature forms the mind to think from a mature literary mindset.
Where can we buy your work?
How can we keep up with you? Blog, Facebook, etc......
All my connections are listed in the website above.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


The description of my blog includes the term, "ramblings of a sleep deprived author", which is true. I do ramble, and I am sleep deprived ... but that's, as they say, how I roll. Most of my sleep deprivation is due to my writing schedule.  It is quiet in the wee hours of the morning and minus interruptions (except for the snoring dogs).  It's the other sleepless times I want to address.

We all have those nights when we lay in bed staring at the ceiling, tossing and turning.  I don't know who came up with the "counting sheep" idea, but that's not a sleep-maker for me.  No matter how many times I try to count, my mind wanders all different directions, and I lose my place. Advice from family and friends is plentiful: Drink warm milk, take a sleeping pill, soak in the tub, turn on some soft music, sip hot tea ... the list goes on and on.

One day while listening to Christian radio, the topic of insomnia came up.  The guest offered his view on the subject, and it touched my heart. I promised myself the next time I fell victim to sleeplessness I would follow his advice, and you know what?  It worked.

I can't remember his exact words so I'll use my own with hopes of doing him justice:

When you find yourself unable to sleep, it's because someone is in immediate need of prayer. Slide out of bed, get on your knees, and pray the "Our Father", "Hail Mary" and "Glory Be", dedicating each one to a soul in need.  You will be amazed at the serenity that will follow, and when you crawl back into bed, your mind and heart will be at peace.

Friday, October 17, 2014


Karen Gass is the author of Morningshine, Morning Glory and the yet-to-be-named Book 3 in the Spring Street Quilter series. She lives in Idaho and has three grown up children and fourteen grandchildren. She is currently attending college online at Southern New Hampshire University, working towards her BA in Creative Writing specializing in Fiction. Besides writing, she loves to sew, knit, and hunt for treasure at thrift stores, yard sales and auctions.  

What five words describe you?

God-lover, creative, funny, passionate, over-achiever

What are you working on at the minute? What is it about?

I am working the third book in a series, the last book which will wrap up all the stories begun in the first, carried through the second and culminating in this book. The series, Spring Street Quilters started life as a short story to go in my website newsletter about ten years ago. It took on a life of it’s own and became a 3-book series. The first book, Morningshine, introduces you to a group of quilters, all with their own sets of problems, joys and some secrets. I see this book as portraying a tapestry that God is weaving together with these women, as prayers are answered across hundreds of miles. It is full of joy, true to life incidents, and some comic elements - along with some things that will bring tears to your eyes. 

Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your 
most recent book?

I think of Carrie as the lead character in the series, Morningshine starts with her. She is an older woman, early fifties but young in heart. I’m going to pick Charlotte Jeffers, who plays Olivia’s (Andie MacDowell) mother on the TV show, Cedar Cove. 

If you could have been the original author of any book, what 
would it have been and why?

Gone With the Wind - hey, why not think big? I would love to be able to write something that grand, that big and enduring. 

What is the hardest thing about writing?

When the ideas suddenly dry up. I’m a big fan of writing down ideas, and keeping lists. Lists of potential topics, lists of words I like, memories, things that my grandchildren say, etc. Now, I’d like to say that these lists are neatly written and categorized in a notebook, but normally they are carried around in my head - which is not a safe place for a list. I have every intention of writing them down and organizing them. Truthfully, some of them are, I just have more to add. 

Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?

For me, I just keep writing. It usually doesn’t have anything to do the current story, it may be even gibberish. Or the same sentence over and over. But this is my idea, which I’m sure is not scientific at all. My brain knows when I sit at the computer with Scrivener open and text on the screen, and fingers going like wildfire it’s time to write. I figure if I keep a consistency going, eventually the familiar actions will break through the block and the story will come to life again. I just have to remember to delete the gibberish.  If that doesn’t work, I walk away from it for a few days to give my mind a rest. I read a favorite book or make myself  a new dress, anything to ‘cleanse’ the mind from the block. 

Where would your dream location be for writing?

Oh definitely in the mountains. With a window in my office that looked out on evergreens, maybe a stream if I’m lucky. I need to be able to open the window for fresh air. 

When creating characters, are they based on people in your life?

Bits and pieces of my characters are based on people I know. Or things I observe other people doing. I’m a great people watcher. And listener. It’s amazing what you can hear standing line at the grocery store - just little bits of conversation that have no context to me. If it seems personal or touchy, I tune out, so as not to eavesdrop. I do that by praying for the people. But just as a regular practice I do watch and listen to people, and try to write those things down too. I’m not always successful. 

Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
Oh yes, I do read my reviews. I can unabashedly say I love to read my reviews, even if they are bad. Thankfully I haven’t had many bad ones, well, now that I think about it, there hasn’t been any bad ones. So happy about that. I do believe that God gives me the words to write, and sometimes it seems as if He takes over completely, my fingers simply typing on their own, I do give Him all the glory for any good reviews. I don’t mean my writing is inspired like the Bible, but I find the more I stay in touch with Him by prayer and reading His word, the better I seem to write. Again, glory goes to Him and not me. I’m simply a willing vessel. 
I do respond to any that ask questions, or seem to need a comment of some kind. I like to keep in touch with my readers, and interact with them. I’m not different from them in any way; just a woman living her life according to His will. 

If you couldn't be a writer, what would you be?

I would be (and am) a dressmaker. I do have a few clients I sew for besides myself and granddaughters. I have studied couture sewing and always want to do everything as perfect as I can. I’ve been sewing since I was 9 yrs old. In my 30s I began a career as a quilt designer and published a quilt book with ten different quilt designs - and a fictional story to go along with it. Then I published a quilt magazine (Cotton Spice) for 3 years, and now I’m the Editor at The Quilt Pattern Magazine.  

What would you tell your younger self that would have helped you in your writing career?

I would made myself study the art of writing earlier. I was raising  three children and managing a household, so I didn’t have a lot of time for writing. But I did have three hours in the afternoon to watch soap operas; that time certainly could have been put to better use. I would tell my younger self to use the time I have more wisely, because once that time is passed - it’s passed. There is no getting more time, there is only this moment. Use it well. 

Where can we buy your books?

Morningshine (Book 1) Kindle book 
                               Paperback book

Morning Glory (Book 2) Kindle book

Sweetland Chapter 6

How can we keep up with you? Blog, Facebook, etc......

Authors Blog:

Thursday, October 16, 2014


I am so pleased to introduce my friend and fellow-author Amber Schamel! Amber writes riveting best-selling stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call "historical fiction at its finest". A homeschool graduate from a family of 12 children, Amber found her calling early in life. First published at age 21, she has continued to hone her craft. Between ministry, family and working in their family businesses, Amber loves to connect with readers. Find her on the Stitches Thru Time blog, or on any of the major social media sites.

Can you tell us about your new release, The Messiah's Sign?

The Messiah's Sign is the second book in the Days of Messiah series. It follows the storyline of Book One, but from the husband's point of view. Here's what it's about: Dreams…they shouldn’t bother him, but when Tyrus’ worst nightmare is vindicated, he has no choice but to face reality. His wife has been unfaithful, and God has punished her with the most feared disease in the land: leprosy. Banishing her to the leper colony, Tyrus struggles to raise their son alone and protect him from a merciless outlaw. But when Malon begins following the teacher from Nazareth, what remains of their business and reputation is at stake. Can Tyrus save his son from the beguiling lies of a false Messiah before he loses the only thing he has left?

The book releases on October 16th, so be sure to add it to your To-Read list on Goodreads!

What sparked this story?

Book one started as a short story, but a lot of people told me I should expand it. I picked up the story and began thinking about what the entire story would be like, and that's when the Lord drew back the curtain to show me not only Aaliyah's story at the leper colony, but also the story of her husband and son. Tyrus—as the heartless husband that banishes Aaliyah to the leper colony—is the villain of book one, so I wanted to show readers his side of the story.

What do you want readers to take away from The Messiah's Sign?

As hard as you try, you will never be sufficient on your own. It takes Christ working in you.  For those that have read volume one, I want them to realize that you cannot hate someone until you de-humanize them. The villain of book one becomes the hero of book two, and we see the motivations behind his 'heartless' acts. In truth, Tyrus was doing the best he could. If we can empathize with people in our lives, it will go a LONG way in keeping the roots of bitterness at bay.

What's your favorite genre in which to read?

The same one I write, Christian Historical. But I recently read a Christian cozy mystery that I enjoyed very much. It was The Jane Austen Encounter by Donna F. Crow. It's the first cozy mystery I've read. I might have found a new genre! Actually, I might have found two...cozy mysteries and Jane Austen based fiction. Lol.

You grew up in a large family, how has that effected your writing?

Obviously growing up in a big family, with a job and a ministry, puts limits on the time I have to spend writing. But honestly, growing up in a big family has benefited me in many, many ways. I have had lots of experience telling stories, I have TONS of story fodder, a lot more people to base characters on, lots of people to observe, emotions to learn from, and on and on. Growing up in a large family has also helped me with public speaking, because it's public speaking every time I ask "please pass the salt."

Do you have a favorite writer?

I really enjoy Susan J. Reinhardt, Max Lucado, Julie Klassen and Francine Rivers.

If you had to come up with a book title to describe your life, 
what would it be?

Wow, that is a great question! I'm going to start using that one too. ;)
It would either be "But for the Grace of God" or "The Only Thing That's Good in Me is Jesus."

What are you working on next?

I am finishing up a really fun series with three other historical authors on the signers of the Declaration of Independence. 

I'm also setting to work on a Christmas story set during the Civil War entitled The Christmas Pardon:  In the aftermath of the Civil War, a young lawyer battles with the U.S. Supreme court. In what seemed to be a Christmas miracle, he had secured a pardon for his friend from Lincoln himself. The army executed the boy anyway. On the fifteenth anniversary of his death, will the lawyer finally clear his friends name and bring justice to his memory?

I'm running a giveaway for a fan to pick the name of my two main characters! You can enter the giveaway here:

To get your copy of The Messiah's Sign, you can use the following links:

Amazon: AMAZON

Kobo: KOBO

Thanks for dropping by Amber! I'm looking forward to the release of The Messiah's Sign and I'm sure it will be a great success!

Note from Amber: Thank you for hosting me! It's been a pleasure. I'd like to invite each of you to join me in celebrating my new release on my Facebook Launch party tonight! We'll have trivia, giveaways, behind the scenes tidbits and TONS of fun. Join us tonight at 6pm mountain time!