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Friday, October 24, 2014

My Guest Today is Tracy Krauss - Drop in and say hi!

Tracy Krauss is a best-selling and award winning author, playwright, artist and teacher. She is a member of 'American Christian Fiction Writers', 'The Word Guild', and is on the executive of 'Inscribe Christian Writers Fellowship' a Canada wide organization for writers of Christian faith. Originally from a small prairie town, Tracy received her Bachelor's Degree from the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Sask. with majors in Art, and minors in History and English. She teaches High School English, Drama and Art. Apart from her many personal creative pursuits, she also directs an amateur theatre group and leads worship at her local church. She and her husband, an ordained minister with thePAOC, have lived in many remote and unique places in Canada's north, including Churchill Manitoba - the 'polar bear capital of the world', the Yukon, and the NWT. They raised four children and were active advocates of the homeschooling movement for many years. They currently reside in beautiful Tumbler Ridge, BC, known for its waterfalls. 

What five words describe you?
Creative, energetic, tenacious (a nice word for stubborn), passionate, and outgoing.
What are you working on at the minute? What is it about?
I am working on Volume 9 of my NEIGHBORS Series. It is the last in the series and is called 'There Goes the Neighborhood'. It wraps up all the previous story lines and ends with one of the more quirky characters inviting his entire family for a visit. Hopefully this will translate into a second series.
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
I think Bradley Cooper would make a great 'Lester Tibbett' in the series. He is a former rodeo cowboy who has to move to the city to find a job.
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti. It had (and still has) such impact and was a break through novel in regard to spiritual warfare. Also, its a great story.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
Actually, the hardest thing is what happens after it's written.
Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
Write through it. Take control of your muse, not the other way around. I often just skip a problematic scene and come back to it later.
Where would your dream location be for writing?
Anywhere as long as the lighting is good, I have a comfortable chair, and people don't bother me. Seriously, I'm not fussy because when I get in the zone my surroundings melt away anyway.
When creating characters, are they based on people in your life?
Not necessarily, although I have created characters that are a conglomerate or who are based on 'types' that I have come across in my many travels.
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?
I try to keep up with reviews, but I rarely respond. If it is a positive review I may thank the person but I never, ever respond to a negative review. Negative reviews are just part of the business, and in fact, they add credibility to your overall profile. It means I'm not paying someone or only getting my friends to say nice things. Not everyone is going to 'love' me and I am fine with that. Even the most famous authors have negative reviews. I think you have to become thick skinned in this area. If it is a legitimate criticism, then learn from it. If not, just move on.
If you couldn't be a writer, what would you be?
An artist. Wait a minute, I am an artist. I also teach drama, which is kind of my dream job already.
What would you tell your younger self that would have helped you in your
 writing career?
Take a risk sooner, as in submitting work. I was so afraid of rejection that it took me decades to finally submit anything. As it turns out, rejection has been the best teacher I ever had.
Where can we buy your books?
They are at Amazon, B & N, Chapters, etc... all the usual places. Or if you go to my website, I list several options.
How can we keep up with you?
My website has all the links for my FB page, blog, twitter, pinterest, linkedin etc. or people can sign up for my newsletter.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

An Exercise in Serenity

I like to be in control and foolishly try to handle problems all by myself, and end up carrying them around like a stone necklace.  It's only when the necklace get too heavy that I humbly, albeit, reluctantly, take it to the Foot of the Cross. Although the weight is lifted and replaced with serenity, my ego gets in the way and I take it back ... Guess what?  The necklace is heavier the second time around. 

"Letting Go, and Letting God" is difficult for a control freak ...but using the following "Exercise in Serenity" has proven to be quite helpful:


*A box with a slot, lock and key.
*A pen.
*A piece of paper


*On the piece of paper, write down your problems.
*Fold the paper and drop it in the box.
*Throw away the key and
*Say this prayer:

Heavenly Father, with faith and trust I turn these problems over to you.  I believe You and only You hold the key to serenity.  Amen.

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.