Thursday, May 15, 2008

Virginia Smith here today, with a double drawing! Maybe you'll win!

Will Mayla Strong’s life ever resemble normal? Just as she settles into a great place with God, everything else falls apart. In the course of a single week she loses her job, wrecks any chance at a relationship with Pastor Paul, gets the cold shoulder from her friend Stuart, and learns that Lindsey—the teenage sister of her late friend Alex—needs a place to stay. What good is being a control freak if nobody will do what you tell them?

Taking advantage of her newfound “vacation time,” Mayla flees to her grandmother’s house in Florida. But one by one, her problems follow . . . literally. In this touching sequel to Just As I Am, quirky Mayla Strong comes face-to-face with the responsibilities and joys of friends and family. As she tries to help her loved ones, Mayla begins to realize that God has all the answers—the trick is letting go long enough for Him prove it.

Hi, Virginia, I received your beautiful new book, Sincerely, Mayla, two weeks ago, can't wait to get into it. Now that I'm back from vacation exploring Santa Fe and Albuquerque--and my feet are now as brown as Mayla's on that gorgeous cover, by the way--I'll have time to read her story. I'm delighted to post an interview with you.

Margo, thanks so much for allowing me to be a Guest Blogger here today. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about my newest book.

So, you have ten books under contract? Wow, good for you and God! I don't believe you were published at all, were you, when we all drove through Nashville two years ago, during conference, for the booksigning for Terry Burns and Kathryn Mackel, Randy Ingermanson and all?

When we met 2 years ago (it'll be 3 in September, actually!), I had a book contract but it hadn't be released. And at that conference in Nashville I signed with my agent and pitched what would become my second book to Steeple Hill. Things have snowballed since then. Kind of amazing, isn't it? When God is ready to move, He really moves!

He does! We serve an awesome God! So, tell us about Sincerely, Mayla.

Sincerely, Mayla is my fifth novel, but I actually wrote it several years ago, right after I finished Just As I Am. The main character, Mayla Strong, is so vivid and alive in my mind she just wouldn’t step quietly back into anonymity. The idea for Mayla’s external struggle – convincing Pastor Paul that he has feelings for her – came about during the editing process of Just As I Am.

Wait until I tell my daughter. Her husband's sister is about to be engaged to a Pastor Paul~

Well, in the first draft of that book, Mayla ran to the office of Salliesburg Christian Church for a private counseling session with Pastor Paul. One of my editors said that was inappropriate, so she advised me to place a secretary in the outer office and leave the door cracked open. Which I did.

LOL, wise move.

But I started thinking about the scrutiny a single pastor is subjected to in a conservative church. How can they ever form a lasting relationship with a woman if they’re not allowed to be alone with them? In other words, how can a single pastor ever become a married pastor? And then I thought, “What would Mayla say to that?” That made me laugh – she would be furious to be subjected to such “propriety”! I decided that would make for some funny scenes, and I was right.

But I didn’t want Sincerely, Mayla to be only about a Mayla-style romance. Just As I Am touched on some pretty hot contemporary topics, and I wanted to do the same in Mayla’s second book. I have a heart for crisis pregnancy centers, and in the months before I was ready to start working on Sincerely, Mayla, Focus on the Family began a campaign to purchase an ultrasound machine for every Pregnancy Resource Center in the country.

Wow. That is wonderful.

Yes. Some of the broadcasts really touched me, and I paid a visit to the Salt Lake City PRC. The tour I received during that visit gave me the information I needed to write one of my favorite chapters in Sincerely, Mayla.

Sounds intriguing!

Another thing I wanted to accomplish in Sincerely, Mayla was very personal. I wanted Mayla to face up to an issue I’ve seen crop up in multiple generations in my family: the tendency to manipulate others through martyr-type behavior and guilt dispensing. I’ve been on both the receiving and giving ends of that battle my whole life.

Me, too, from time to time.

But the Lord had been pointing out to me that I could put a stop to manipulating behavior in my own life. I often write from my own experiences – I emphasize the lessons the Lord teaches me by watching them play out in my characters. So that’s what I decided to do with Mayla.

Great. It would be hard not to.

All that sounds like this book is full of “lessons” and themes and messages. Honestly, I didn’t set out to write a book that would teach anybody anything. I never do. I strongly believe that fiction should entertain, not preach, so I hope all of my books are primarily entertaining. But because I am a Christian, and because Mayla is a Christian, elements of God’s grace show up naturally in the story. So if someone wants to learn a thing or two, they can. But mostly, I just hope they like the story!

I’d like to invite everyone to pop over to my website.

To celebrate this week’s blog tour of Sincerely, Mayla, I am giving away a set of Mayla books – Just As I Am and Sincerely, Mayla – to two lucky people on May 19th. I hope you’ll enter the drawing!

Again, Margo, thank you so much for inviting me to be your guest today!

Thank you for coming. Sounds like your books are full of double blessings, entertaining and addressing today's issues~ I can't wait to read them.

God bless.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Lazarus was dead! Are you?

God can use you anyway! A friend just sent me this from The Daily Encourager . (It says "Author unknown." If you know the author, please let me know.)

So, be encouraged:

No Excuses

There are many reasons why God shouldn't have called you.
But don't worry. You're in good company . . .

Moses stuttered.
David's armor didn't fit.
John Mark was rejected by Paul.
Timothy had ulcers.
Hosea's wife was a prostitute.
Amos' only training was in the school of fig-tree pruning.
Jacob was a liar.
David had an affair.
Solomon was too rich.
Abraham was too old.
David was too young.
Peter was afraid of death.
Lazarus was dead.
John was self-righteous.
Naomi was a widow.
Paul was a murderer.
So was Moses.
Jonah ran from God.
Miriam was a gossip.
Gideon and Thomas both doubted.
Jeremiah was depressed and suicidal.
Elijah was burnt out.
John the Baptist was a loudmouth.
Martha was a worry-wart.
Mary was lazy.
Samson had long hair.
Noah got drunk.

Did I mention that Moses had a short fuse?
So did Peter, Paul -- well, lots of folks did.
But God doesn't require a job interview.
He doesn't look at financial gain or loss.
He's not prejudiced or partial,
not judging or grudging,
not sassy or brassy,
not deaf to our cry, not blind to our need.

As much as we try, God's gifts are free.

Satan says, "You're not worthy."
Jesus says, "So what?... I AM."

Satan looks back and sees our mistakes.
God looks back and sees the cross.

He doesn't calculate what you did last month or last year.
It's not even on the record.
Sure. There are lots of reasons why God shouldn't have called us.
But if we are in love with Him,
If we hunger for Him more than our next breath,
He'll use us - in spite of
who we are,
where we've been, or
what we look like.

"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength" Philippians 4:13