Friday, July 23, 2010

Win all of our Summer 2010 books!

Now that you've seen all of our Summer 2010 books, here's a chance to win them! Enter to win using this form. Entries must be received by midnight MST August 31, 2010. Good luck to all who enter!

Healer, By Linda Windsor (Chapter One)

The Mailbox, By Marybeth Whalen (Chapter One)

Claim, By Lisa T Bergren (Chapter One)

Priceless, By Tom Davis (Chapter One)

Solitary, By Travis Thrasher (Chapters One and Two)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

This week's featured book is Solitary, by Travis Thrasher.

Be sure to enter the weekly contest to win a free copy of the book, using the form located here. All entries must be received by midnight MST Tuesday, July 20.

Scroll down for author-created playlists, plus a "behind the book" feature from Travis Thrasher!

Solitary, By Travis Thrasher (Chapters One and Two)

Three Recommended Playlists

Solitary Playlist #1 : For the walkman
1. “Oscillate Wildly” by The Smiths
2. “Leave in Silence” by Depeche Mode
3. “Watch Me Bleed” by Tears For Fears
4. “Someone Somewhere in Summertime” by Simple Minds
5. “Invisible Sun” by The Police
6. “Oomingmak” by Cocteau Twins
7. “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” by The Smiths
8. “Thieves Like Us (Instrumental version)” by New Order
9. “Just One Kiss” by The Cure
10. “Souvenir” by Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark
11. “But Not Tonight” by Depeche Mode
12. “Musette and Drums” by Cocteau Twins
13. “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” by The Smiths

Solitary Playlist #2 : For the iPod
1. “Black Mirror” by Arcade Fire
2. “Losing Touch” by The Killers
3. “Houses” by Great Northern
4. “Come Alive” by Foo Fighters
5. “Ghosts” by Ladytron
6. “Until the Night Is Over” by M83
7. “Hearts on Fire” by Cut Copy
8. “Theft, and Wandering Around Lost” by Cocteau Twins
9. “Highway of Endless Dreams” by M83
10. “If You Were Here” by Cary Brothers
11. “Wait for Me” by Moby
12. “Beautiful” by Ruth Ann
13. “Strangers In The Wind” by Cut Copy
14. “2-1” by Imogen Heap
15. “Alice” by Cocteau Twins

Solitary Playlist #3 : For the movie
1. “Be a Good Boy” by Thomas Newman (from the Little Children soundtrack)
2. “Twin Peaks Theme” by Angelo Badalamenti
3. “Eli and Oscar” by Johan Söderqvist (from the Let the Right One In soundtrack)
4. “Any Other Name” by Thomas Newman (from the American Beauty soundtrack)
5. “Oscar In Love” by Johan Söderqvist (from the Let The Right One In soundtrack)
6. “Cool at Heart” by Tangerine Dream (from the Melrose album)
7. “Bruise” by Thomas Newman (from the Flesh and Bone soundtrack)
8. “Town of Austere” by Alexander Malter (from the Fireflies In the Garden soundtrack)
9. “The First Goodbye” by David Helpling and Jon Jenkins (from the Treasure album)
10. “Night Life in Twin Peaks” by Angelo Badalamenti (from the Twin Peaks soundtrack)
11. “Be with You” by James Newton Howard (from The Happening soundtrack)
12. “Leaving Hope” by Nine Inch Nails (from Still album)
13. “The Letter That Never Came” by Thomas Newman (from Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events soundtrack)

Behind the Book: Some Kind of Wonderful

One of the reasons I’m a novelist is because of John Hughes. The director of eighties classics like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Sixteen Candles inspired my love of both film and storytelling. It wasn’t just that he captured moments of the era I grew up in; it was that he captured the soul of a teenager.

Three movies stand out to me: The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, and Some Kind of Wonderful.

As someone who attended four different high schools, I felt like I had four completely different high school experiences. I had different personas for each of the schools I went to. At times I was a jock, a rebel, an outcast, or part of the popular clique. All along I saw myself in John Hughes’s films. The agony of being a teen, the thrill of falling in love, the angst of saying good-bye, and the utter hilarity of being a teenager.

The music and mood of these films helped define my teenage years. My life could have been a John Hughes film. I wanted to be Blane from Pretty in Pink, but really I was Duckie. I spent my fair share of time in detention, yet I wasn’t as cool nor did I have one-liners like John Bender. I was always falling in love and making cassette tapes based on that love. I was that kid with the giant posters of musical groups plastered all over his bedroom walls.

John Hughes died on August 6, 2009, when I was still writing Solitary. I had already pitched this series as part Pretty in Pink and part scary movie. I wanted to detail some of my high school experiences with these books.

I believe the first eighteen years of a person’s life define the remaining ones. I was such a naïve kid when I was in high school, but that’s the beauty of that time. I didn’t know the big, bad world, and in ways, I was fortunate for it.

When I look back at those John Hughes films, there’s a certainly amount of naïveté about them. But there’s also a lot of heart. That’s what teen movies lack today: that passionate, beating heart.

This series is a nod to those years, and to one of the men who helped shape them.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

This week's featured book is Priceless, by Tom Davis.

Be sure to enter the weekly contest to win a free copy of the book, using the form at the bottom of the page! All entries must be received by midnight MST Tuesday, July 13.

Scroll down for discussion questions, plus the author's answers to the discussion questions!
Priceless, By Tom Davis (Chapter One)


Tom Davis' Answers to the Discussion Questions



1. What sorts of emotions did you experience while reading
Priceless?

Many, many emotions, and they were all over the map. This is not the easiest type of book to read (or in my case, write). Don’t get me wrong, books like Priceless must be written and read. It’s not acceptable to say that issues like sex trafficking are too painful, so I should just avoid them. I can assure you it’s much more painful for the girls who are trafficked.

That said, the research was difficult. Quite often, I would have to put books down after reading a few pages. The brutality of this industry is worse than anything you can imagine. Most things I discovered couldn’t even be written in a Christian book.

Pain and heartache stand out as the emotions I felt most. Those emotions then turned into anger, hopefully a righteous anger, which motivated me to do something to make a difference. You can too by the way. (Visit www.SheIsPriceless.com for more details.) I’ve been to Russia almost fifty times and have heard so many stories about what happens to kids when they get out of orphanages. Of course Marina’s story is one of the worst, but it happens to thousands and thousands of children every year. This is an outrage and our voices need be heard on this issue.

As I write this, I’m one month away from taking a trip to Russia and Moldova to visit some of these beautiful girls who have been rescued. The same emotions apply when I sit down with girls like Marina with the addition of one feeling: hope. Hope didn’t exist in the lives of girls caught in this industry; but because someone cared and helped be a part of their freedom, hope has become a reality.

2. What surprised you most about the story? About the characters?

Some of these characters are kids I know, or once knew, so I try to put myself in their situations. What would I do if I were booted out of the only home I knew at fifteen to face a cruel world? How would I respond to a kind lady who offered me a job making more money than I could ever imagine? The answers to those questions drove the book. You and I would make many of the same decisions these characters did.

What surprised me most about the story? Sensing God’s broken heart for these scenes as they passed each page and understanding that redemption is found no matter how deep the pit. It seemed like I was always asking the question, “How does God feel about this?”

3. Stuart decides early on to help Katya with her mission. What was your initial reaction to this decision? Why would this have been an easy decision for Stuart? Why might it have been difficult? What is our responsibility when we encounter evil in the world?

Well, if you knew Katya in person, you’d help with her mission too. She’s quite compelling! Katya’s character is taken from a real person who happens to be the national director for Children’s HopeChest in Russia. In fact, if you go to the book’s Web site, www.SheIsPriceless.com, you’ll find a video interview with Katya.

Stuart is me, in a sense. In fact, he’s everyone who has a heart to rescue the oppressed and see the captive set free. I don’t know that he could have made any other decision. What was he going to do? Let those girls go back to be tortured and abused when he had the power to rescue them? No way. Not me, not Stuart. This is more than being a cavalier, John Wayne type of character in a story. It’s what the kingdom of God is all about. When we have the power to do good or overcome evil and refuse, we’ve missed the point of following Jesus.

There’s a quote that’s had a huge impact on me regarding this issue, as well as issues of apathy that creep up in the lives of Christians: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” —Edmund Burke To me, that says it all.

4. In what ways were the characters of Father Alexander and Sister Irina symbols in this story? What did they represent in the spiritual realm?

There’s a definite play on the idea of the sacred and the profane throughout the book. One reason is because it can be the sad reality of life. We all live in this tension, and we have to choose how to overcome evil with good. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are making those choices by what we do or don’t do. From a spiritual perspective, it is the cosmic battle between good and evil. I’m a firm believer in this as was C. S. Lewis, who said, “Every square inch of this cosmos is at every moment claimed by Satan and counter-claimed by God.”

There is a battle going on that we can’t see with our physical eyes. It’s a battle for the souls of men, the innocence of little girls who come out of orphanages, for millions of people to have adequate food and water and for God’s people to rise up and engage themselves in the world and their communities. Those evil forces are responsible for turning men into the animals they become. They are also the same evil forces that keep us apathetic toward others who suffer. I think this is clearly expressed in Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters. In this allegory of spiritual realities, the Devil is briefing his demon nephew Wormwood on tempting people. The Devil tells him the objective is not to make people wicked but to make them indifferent. He says, “I the devil will always see to it that there are bad people. Your job, my dear Wormwood, is to provide me with people who do not care.”

5. Why (or how) is Sister Irina essentially “protected” against the evil of the bad men in this story?

Sister Irina is “untouchable.” This is playing on a physical and spiritual reality. Mr. M represents a very powerful man on earth who utilizes his power to see that nobody harms the Sister, lest serious repercussions come screaming down on their head. But this is also a spiritual reality. God takes care of His own. He provides serious heavenly protection to his sons and daughters who do the work of His kingdom on earth. Evil can scare us, tempt us, and lead us astray, but Jesus came to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). This issue of sexual slavery is certainly a work of the Devil, and it can be destroyed. That’s why God sent His Son. But it takes the people of God understanding this truth, believing it, and implementing it.

6. Who or what was the nameless woman who kept appearing to Stuart, beginning with the conversation on the street after he meets with Sergei and Ivan? What is her purpose in the story?

This wraithlike figure represents evil itself. She’s in the background pulling the strings so to speak, influencing the hearts of people and causing calamity everywhere she goes. She showed up in the worst of scenes intentionally. It was my way of bringing this cosmic battle to life. Of course none of us know exactly how this works, but we do have some indications in Scripture of the reality of the battle. Daniel 10 and Ephesians 6 provide good examples.

Stuart is the force of light in these scenes. Whether he knows it or not, because of who Christ is in him, he has more power than the forces of evil. By stepping out for justice and through prayer and faith, Stuart can make a difference and defeat these powers of wickedness. This is why it’s so important in the book that he keeps moving, keeps invading the enemy’s territory. Stuart understands this truth: “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). This is our hope.

7. What is your reaction to the subterfuge Stuart had to participate in to free the girls? Is this a case of “the end justifies the means”? Explain.

No doubt. This is how it works in real life many times. The people who actually rescue girls from the sex industry are constantly going undercover. This is a corrupt, seedy business. You have to fight fire with fire so to speak. Some people would disagree with this, but a legitimate response is for them to get out on the front lines and stop talking about it. These issues put a burr in my saddle. The people who complain and criticize the most do so from the comfort of their living rooms. That’s just not right. “Apathy is the glove into which evil slips its hand.” —Bodie Thoene

8. What horrified you most about Marina’s plight? In what ways does her escape from the slave trade inspire you? In what way does her story inspire you to take action?

This is a difficult issue for me to swallow, period. When I think about the horror and injustice of it all, it’s overwhelming. This is certainly an area where I wish God would intervene and put an end to the sex trade once and for all. Some things we will never know this side of eternity. But we must fight evil in every place we find it. I feel like David in the Psalms when he says, “How long, O God, will the adversary revile, and the enemy spurn Your name forever? Why do You withdraw Your hand, even Your right hand? From within Your bosom, destroy them!” (Psalm 74:10–11).

Marina’s escape inspires me because when a girl like her is rescued, she is brought from death to life. It’s a true resurrection story. As far as the kingdom of God is concerned, this is extremely important business. It’s at the core of what Jesus said He came to do in Isaiah 61:1–2: “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn.” This is our privilege as sons and daughters of the Most High God. We get to do this! There isn’t anything we could give our lives to that would matter more.

9. What roles does art play in the story?

In this story art represents the beauty inside of each and every child. Children have incredible talents and abilities. They are capable of doing amazing things like painting, writing, or becoming a great leader. It doesn’t matter if they are an orphan locked away in some rat hole of an orphanage or a little girl kidnapped and forced to be a sex slave. God created each child with purpose. He knew them before they were born, He knitted them in their mothers’ wombs, He loves and cares for them; they are His sons and daughters, just like you and I.

I think this is important to understand because many people look at orphans as the trash of society, cursed, or good for nothing except to be thieves or prostitutes. These are common views orphans face when they get out of an orphanage. This is a lie the enemy spreads in the minds of people, because it furthers his ability to subject them to cruelty and torture. The truth is that God loves them and has created them to be special. They just need help. This is why James says, “Pure and undefiled religion is caring for widows and orphans in their distress” (see James 1:27).

10. Why do you think Father Alexander related so closely with the icon and character of St. George the Dragonslayer? Based on what the novel reveals about St. George, how might Father Alexander have misread St. George’s story?

Father Alexander didn’t misread the story of St. George; he perverted it. This is what men and women do who follow darkness. They take something beautiful and pure, like the human body, and they twist and pervert it. He saw the story of St. George and was inspired by it like anyone should be. What could be more courageous than a hero on a horse rescuing a damsel in distress and killing the dragon who enslaves her? There’s something inside each one of us that longs to see that happen. We were created to be people who stand in the gap for the innocent who are suffering and rescue them.

I’m thoroughly convinced that if every person who followed Christ would intervene in situations of injustice and do something to change the life of one person, we would solve the biggest problems that plague our world. Children wouldn’t starve to death every day due to malnutrition, people wouldn’t die from drinking dirty water, there would be no orphans because they would all be adopted into Christian homes, and there would be no children in the sex-trade industry.

11. We don’t get to see Whitney’s reaction to Stuart’s dangerous adventure. How might she have responded to his decisions?

Stuart purposely kept the reality of the situation from Whitney. This wasn’t deception on his part; it was protection. If she knew what was really going on, the anxiety would have driven her crazy. Stuart is in a real dilemma at this juncture in his life. On one hand he wants to go home, live in a perfect world, and love on his wife and child. But he’s not in a perfect world. His eyes have been opened to something, and he can’t just sit around and pretend like these injustices don’t exist.

For me, Stuart is a combination of what we all want to be: courageous and filled with faith. He knows he can’t rescue these girls by himself. He needs God’s power and protection over his life to make anything happen. But his faith is fueled because he knows how important these children are to God. God longs for them to be rescued, and Stuart knows that God will help in this process—he’s not alone.

12. Vlad is portrayed as a man with a shady past, a past that is not that different from the men he ends up fighting against. What turned him away from the dark side? What does this tell us about God’s transformative power?

This is the story of redemption. “All of us like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). Vlad has done some things in his life that would make most of us cringe, but even in that state, God loves him and desires to see him repent and be set free. There is even hope for Father Alexander if he would ask for it.

I think this is what makes Vlad such a warm character. What makes him so likable is the fact that he’s been to the dark places, he’s seen the other side, and it didn’t satisfy him. He recognized the lie he was caught in and chose something different. He’s one of my favorites!

Discussion Questions for "Priceless"

Use these questions to spark discussion in your reading group. Want to know the author’s thoughts on these questions? Check the other blog posts here.

1. What sorts of emotions did you experience while reading Priceless?

2. What surprised you most about the story? About the characters?

3. Stuart decides early on to help Katya with her mission. What was your initial reaction to this decision? Why would this have been an easy decision for Stuart? Why might it have been difficult? What is our responsibility when we encounter evil in the world?

4. In what ways were the characters of Father Alexander and Sister Irina symbols in this story? What did they represent in the spiritual realm?

5. Why (or how) is Sister Irina essentially “protected” against the evil of the bad men in this story?

6. Who or what was the nameless woman who kept appearing to Stuart, beginning with the conversation on the street after he meets with Sergei and Ivan? What is her purpose in the story?

7. What is your reaction to the subterfuge Stuart had to participate in to free the girls? Is this a case of “the end justifies the means”? Explain.

8. What horrified you most about Marina’s plight? In what ways does her escape from the slave trade inspire you? In what way does her story inspire you to take action?

9. What roles does art play in the story?

10. Why do you think Father Alexander related so closely with the icon and character of St. George the Dragonslayer? Based on what the novel reveals about St. George, how might Father Alexander have misread St. George’s story?

11. We don’t get to see Whitney’s reaction to Stuart’s dangerous adventure. How might she have responded to his decisions?

12. Vlad is portrayed as a man with a shady past, a past that is not that different from the men he ends up fighting against. What turned him away from the dark side? What does this tell us about God’s transformative power?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hurry!




Today is the last day to enter "The Perfect Summer Read" contest! You have until midnight MST - good luck to all who enter!

Use the form at the very bottom of the page, or click here to enter! The grand prize includes:
  • Beach bag
  • Beach towel
  • Stainless steel water bottle
  • Red flip-flops
  • Flip-flop key chain
  • Framed picture of the "Kindred Spirit" mailbox
  • Copies of: Healer, by Linda Windsor, The Mailbox, by Marybeth Whalen, Priceless, by Tom Davis, and Claim, by Lisa T. Bergren.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Mailbox, By Marybeth Whalen (Chapter One)
Take a look at this week's featured book:
The Mailbox, by Marybeth Whalen!

Scroll down for a chat with the author, as well as discussion questions for the book. Also, be sure to enter the weekly contest for a chance to win this book, and to also be entered to win our GRAND PRIZE for the month of June!

Enter the contest here.

Thanks to all who entered last week - the winner has already been notified. Keep entering!

An Interview with Marybeth Whalen



Q: How much of this novel is actually true?

A: The assumption is that a first novel is going to be autobiographical, but in this case it’s not true. While there might be brief references within the novel to things that happened to me or feelings I have had—especially as a mom, friend, wife, etc.—the overall story and situation is completely made up. But the setting … that’s entirely true. There really is a Sunset Beach, North Carolina, and it’s my most favorite place in the world. So it makes sense that I would set my first novel there. I have been visiting the mailbox for years and believe that it is a special place. A place where, as the photographer Lindsey meets says in the book, God hears you better.

Another true aspect about the novel is that I did first visit Sunset Beach, like Lindsey, at fifteen years old in 1985 (telling my age). I have very vivid memories of that trip to this day, which is how I was able to recall the details, the music, etc., of that time. In the acknowledgments, I thanked an old friend of mine, Holly, who took me with her on that trip. I also named the character of Holly after her as a little tribute. She couldn’t have known then that that trip sparked a lifelong love of Sunset Beach for me. When we left that year, I vowed I would come back when I was a grown-up. And I do go back every summer. I also named the characters of Uncle Bob, Aunt Frances, and cousins Bobby and Stephanie after my real aunt, uncle, and cousins, as it is their beach house we stay in every summer. That was my way of giving them a little shout-out.

Q: So the mailbox is real? Do you know who the Kindred Spirit is?

A: Yes, the mailbox is real, but I don’t know who the Kindred Spirit is. No one does. That’s part of the mystery and folklore of the mailbox. If you are ever in North Carolina, I highly recommend a visit.

Q: You have said that the book changed quite a bit from the original to the version we see. How so?

A: In the original, there was a letter to the Kindred Spirit for every year from 1985 to 2004. My editor didn’t feel we needed a letter for every year—that the letters were slowing down the flow of the story, which was true. So we left a few in so that the reader would know that Lindsey was writing letters every year, but not get mired down in every detail of every year as I originally planned. I think we have a happy medium now, a better mix between narrative and the glimpses into Lindsey’s past via the letters.

Also, in the original, Holly died. That seems so weird now because she became so much a part of the story, helping Lindsey process what’s happening to her like good friends do. The story of Holly’s death was told through the letters, so when we pulled those out, we had to figure out what that did to the storyline. I ended up adding her back and I am so glad I did! Oh, and in the very first manuscript, Lindsey’s name was Lucy, but I quickly discerned that she was so not a Lucy. Lindsey suits her much better!

Q: Did you experience a powerful summer romance like Lindsey and Campbell’s that you drew from for this story?

A: No. I had a few summer romances, but none that were enduring like you see in this story. Regardless of whether we’ve had a great summer love, I think it’s a notion that resonates with all women: this idea that we are unforgettable, that we are worth pursuing at all costs. God puts that in our hearts because ultimately He is the great Pursuer, the One who never forgets us. I liked that in this story, Lindsey discovers that about Him first, then finds it in Campbell. She was never forgotten. None of us are.

Q: You deal with a tough subject in this book: a Christian woman in the midst of a divorce and rebuilding her life. What made you decide to focus on this?

A: Honestly, it’s just how the story came to me. I didn’t really think about the aspect of her being divorced until I was well into the first draft and a friend of mine had pretty much the exact same thing happen to her that was happening to Lindsey. What was so interesting is that I went back and read what I had written from Lindsey’s point of view and it was nearly verbatim what I heard my friend saying. I knew then I was on the right track of tapping into the feelings and emotions of what Lindsey was going through in a way that would ring true. We have had so many friends go through this; I know there are women everywhere facing what Lindsey faced. And I often think, But by the grace of God, go I.

Q: You dedicated this book to a friend, Ariel Allison Lawhon, saying that this book wouldn’t exist without her. Why is that?

A: For most of my life I have had story ideas pop into my head. I would see something happen and think, What if …? So when I met Ariel, I was chewing on this idea for The Mailbox, and had been for some time. At that point she was trying to find a publisher for her novel, eye of the god, and she really encouraged me to try writing fiction. I was so nervous about it—I didn’t know if I had the stick-to-itiveness to actually finish a novel. With her continued encouragement, I kept putting words down—though I knew next to nothing about what I was doing. Finally I got about sixty thousand words in and quit. I had written myself into a corner and couldn’t get out. So I closed that file and moved on to other projects. A few months later I received this random email from Ariel encouraging me not to quit and begging me to just finish it. She said, “No one writes sixty thousand words and quits. You have to finish this book.” So I did. If she hadn’t persisted, I am convinced the book would still be sitting in a forgotten file with sixty thousand words written. So that (and her continued friendship and listening to my rambling on a daily basis) earns her a dedication for this book. I also dedicated it to my husband, who puts up with a whole lot when I am writing and deserves a dedication too!

Q: Now that you have written one novel, do you think you will write more novels?

A: Yes, I plan to write more novels. I keep a running list of ideas and add to it often, so I hope that list will keep me going for quite some time. I am working on a new novel that comes out next year and is totally different from The Mailbox. One thing I have learned through this experience is, I will always have more to learn about the craft of writing. I will continue to learn for the rest of my career as a novelist, and my hope is my work will reflect what I am learning with each successive book. That’s the plan at least.

Discussion Questions for :The Mailbox"

1. Lindsey is recently divorced. If you have been through a divorce and have kids, do you sympathize with her feelings as a newly single mom? If not, did seeing her character struggle affect how you view divorced women?

2. Lindsey struggles with her role as a mom, especially in light of the new dynamic of her family and her daughter’s transformation into a preteen. Campbell struggles with staying connected to his daughter from a distance. They each make efforts to connect with their children. Why do their efforts work or not work? Are they doing all they can as parents? Why is God’s grace so important to both of them?

3. At the beginning of the story, Campbell discovers his daughter has passed out at work. His mind goes down paths of worry even though he tries not to be irrational. Have you ever experienced that happening? How did you control your tendency to worry?

4. Lindsey’s daughter, Anna, says to her, “If Dad loves me like you say, he wouldn’t hurt me like this. I don’t think that he really loves any of us. I think that he loves himself and doing what he wants is all that matters now. But that’s not what real love is. If he loved me, he wouldn’t make me feel this bad. ’Cause when you love someone, you care about how they feel too.” Why is this true of Grant, and what does it say about his character?

5. What are some of the things Lindsey learns to appreciate about her new life as a single mom while she is at the beach? How do these little realizations affect her perspective and influence her
actions?

6. Ellie shocks Campbell by telling him that he can take Nikki with him to Sunset Beach. Why does she allow him to? Is Campbell prepared to be a father to a teenage girl with issues? Does he think he is? Does Ellie?

7. Both Holly and Grant’s mother, Jane, encourage Lindsey to move on with her life. Do you think that encouragement has something to do with Lindsey’s decision to take Minerva up on her offer to walk by Campbell’s house? If you were Lindsey, would you have done what Minerva suggested?

8. Running is a great outlet for Lindsey. How does it help her heal? Is there a physical activity or hobby that helps you like that? If not, are you inspired to find one?

9. All Lindsey wanted her whole life was a hands-on, involved mom. How do you think that lack affects her mothering?

10. Lindsey and Campbell leave the crowded restaurant and end up at the pier. Why do you think they both agreed to do that?

11. The photographer Lindsey meets at the mailbox plays a role in both her and Campbell’s lives. Do you believe God puts people in our lives to accomplish His purposes? Have you ever had an encounter that could have been orchestrated only by God?

12. What do the red shoes symbolize to Campbell? What does it mean to him when Nikki decides to wear the flip-flops he buys her?

13. How would you describe Campbell’s journey as a father? As a child of God?

14. How would you describe Lindsey’s spiritual journey? What does she learn about herself by the end of the book?

15. Would you have been able to trust Campbell after you found the letters? Would you have been able to forgive him? Why does Lindsey?

16. Why does Lindsey make Grant leave? Was she right to do so? Did he deserve a second chance? Why, or why not?

17. Holly prays for Lindsey to see Grant and Campbell for who they really are. Was her prayer answered?

18. What do you think happens between Lindsey and her mom after the wedding? Was Lindsey right to stay and deal with her situation with Grant and Campbell, or should she have gone to her mother’s bedside?

19. Forgiveness and second chances are big themes in this story. The saying goes that unforgiveness is like eating poison while waiting for the other person to die. To whom do you need to ask forgiveness and a second chance? To whom do you need to offer your forgiveness?

20. Do you know who the Kindred Spirit is whom we see in the beginning and ending of the book? At what point in the story did you figure out her identity?

Monday, June 14, 2010


Take a look at this week's featured book:
Claim, by Lisa T. Bergren!

Scroll down for a chat with the author, as well as discussion questions for the book. Also, be sure to enter the weekly contest for a chance to win this book, and to also be entered to win our GRAND PRIZE for the month of June!

Enter the contest here.

Thanks to all who entered last week - the winner has already been notified. Keep entering!

A Chat with Lisa T. Bergren


Q: How did it feel to wrap up this series?

A: Very gratifying. These characters have gone through so much, I was eager to see them through to a sense of peace. I got all teary with Nic and Moira in several scenes, which is always a good thing. If I’m moved, hopefully my readers will be too. But then, these days, I cry during commercials and Extreme Home Makeover. I swear that by the time I’m sixty, I’ll just have to be tucking a handkerchief in my bra like my granny used to.…

Q: Odessa and Bryce really take a backseat in this novel. Why did you not write more about them?

A: In my first draft, they actually had a stronger presence in the first third of the book. But their scenes felt flat against all that was happening for Moira and Nic. I decided that in my mind, they were really on a good track now—that the focus really had to be on getting my two prodigals back home. And I think there was more than enough to take in between those two troublemakers, don’t you? Odessa and Bryce are present—just more of the “supporting cast members” at this point. And Odessa became my personification of “home” for both Nic and Moira, so I thought it appropriate that she was a bit more in the background.…

Q: What motivated you to write about prodigals?

A: I think we’re all prodigals, in some fashion. After college, I had my own prodigal experience, during which I was actually bartending on Sundays instead of doing anything that my God would be proud of. I grew deeply depressed, had a come-to-Jesus experience, and left for the Holy Land. Literally. I went from bartending to Jerusalem, to visit my cousin who was studying the life journeys of Paul. After a few weeks in Israel and Egypt, I returned home—physically and spiritually. And went to work in an industry that had helped call me home— Christian music and books.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: I’m about to dive into a teen time-travel series, which will take me back to a time period I love—medieval Italy. Or perhaps Renaissance Italy. I haven’t quite decided on the year. But I was moved by the passion I saw among teen girls reading the Twilight series, and since I have a teen and tween, I wanted to write something for them. I long for them to read about heroines they can emulate—and heroes that would die trying to save them (not battling against the desire to take their lives as the vampire heroes do in Twilight). So this River of Time series is my attempt to cover those bases.

Q: What about on the home front?

A: We’re currently considering a year away as a family. We’re passionate about travel and after I finish the River of Time series, I’m scheduled to begin a series based on characters taking the Grand Tour of Europe. We’re wondering if we should take our own Grand Tour … we’ll see! Lots of unanswered questions on that front, but we’re leaning pretty hard in that direction. It’s exciting to dream about, even if it never comes to fruition.

Q: Anything else you want to say to readers? Where can they find out more about you?

A: The best places are my Web sites: www.LisaTawnBergren.com and www.TheWorldIsCalling.com. I really appreciate my readers and love to hear from them. They can email me at Lisa@bergrencreativegroup.com. I also have eNewsletters on both sites that people can subscribe to, that will give you the lowdown each month. Lastly, I’m on Facebook and Twitter as @LisaTBergren and @TheWorldCalls. Connect with me via any of those portals—I’ll look forward to it!

Discussion Questions for "Claim"

1. It takes Nic a long time to come around to God’s way of thinking. What do you think were the most important factors for him?

2. Moira suffers from scars, outward and inward. Which do you think are worse? Why?

3. Moira and Nic are both drawn to their old ways and places where they once found comfort. Have you ever done the same? Discuss why we’re drawn to our old ways, even if we know a
new way is better.

4. How were Moira and Nic’s “prodigal stories” different? And how were they the same?

5. Wealth comes and goes in this series. Both prodigals (Nic and Moira) spend all they inherit, then gain it back in two very different (and sometimes excruciating!) ways. Discuss this factor in their lives—and how it impacts you in your life too.

6. What do you think was the pivotal change moment for Nic?

7. What is it about Sabine that helps Nic get over the threshold to happiness and love?

8. What role did Everett play in doing the same?

9. What was the most moving scene in this book for you? Why?

10. Do you believe that God is calling each of us “home”? What does that look like? Is it internal or external?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010



This week's featured book is Healer, by Linda Windsor.

Scroll down for a glossary of Arthurian characters, as well as an "About the Author" feature. Also, be sure to enter the weekly contest, for a chance to win this book, and to also be entered to win our GRAND PRIZE for the month of June!

Enter the contest here.


Monday, June 7, 2010

Arthurian Characters

Most scholars agree that Arthur, Guinevere, and Merlin were titles shared by various personas throughout the late fifth and sixth centuries. These are the late sixth-century characters. Because of inconsistent dating, multiple persons sharing the same titles and/or names, and place names as well as texts recorded in at least six languages, I again quote Nenius: “I’ve made a heap of all I could find.”

* historically documented individuals


*Arthur—Prince of Dalraida, Dux Bellorum (Duke of War) or Pendragon/High King of Britain, although he held no land of his own. He is a king of landed kings, their battle leader. A Pendragon at this time can have no kingdom of his own to avoid conflict of interest. Hence, Gwenhyfar is rightful queen of her lands, Prince Arthur’s through marriage. Arthur is the historic son of Aedan of Dalraida/Scotland, descended from royal Irish of the Davidic blood- line preserved by the marriage of Zedekiah’s daughter Tamar to the Milesian king of Ireland Eoghan in 587 BC. Ironically the Milesians are descended from the bloodline of Zarah, the “Red Hand” twin of Pharez (David and Jesus’ ancestor) in the book of Genesis. Thus the breach of Judah prophesied in Isaiah was mended by this marriage of very distant cousins.


*Aedan of Dalraida—Arthur’s father, Aedan, was Pendragon of Britain for a short time and prince of Manau Gododdin by his mother’s Pictish blood (like Arthur was prince of Dalraida because of his marriage to Gwenhyfar). When Aedan’s father, the king ofDalraida, died, Aedan became king of the more powerful kingdom, and he abandoned Manau Gododdin. For that abandonment, he is oft referred to as Uther Pendragon, uther meaning “the terrible.” He sent his son Arthur to take his place as Pendragon and Manau’s protector.


Angus—the Lance of Lothian. Although this Dalraida Arthur had no Lancelot as his predecessor did, Angus is the appointed king of Stirlingshire and protector of his Pictish Queen Gwenhyfar and her land of Strighlagh. Like his ancestral namesake Lancelot, his land of Berwick in Lothian now belongs to Cennalot, who is defeated by Arthur. (See Cennalot and Brude.) Angus is Arthur’s head of artillery. It is thought he was raised at the Grail Castle and was about ten or so years younger than his lady Gwenhyfar. Scholar/researcher Norma Lorre Goodrich suggests he may have been a fraternal twin to Modred or Metcault. In that case it would explain Lance not knowing who he really was until he came of age, as women who bore twins were usually executed. The second child was thought to be spawn of the Devil. Naturally Morgause would have hidden the twins’ birth by casting one out, only to have him rescued by her sister, the Lady of the Lake, or Vivianne Del Acqs. This scenario happened as well in many of the saints’ lives, such as St. Kentigern. Their mothers were condemned to death for consorting with the Devil and begetting a second child. Yet miraculously these women lived and the cast-off child became a saint.


*Brude/Bridei—see Cennalot/Cennalath/Lot of Lothian.


*Cennalot/Cennalath/Lot of Lothian—Arthur’s uncle by marriage to Morgause. This king of eastern Pictland and the Orkneys was all that stood between his Pictish cousin Brude reigning over all of Pictland. Was it coincidence that Arthur, whose younger brother, Gairtnat, married Brude’s daughter and became king of the Picts at Brude’s death, decided to take out this Cennalot while Brude looked the other way? Add that to the fact that Cennalot was rubbing elbows with the Saxons and looking greedily at Manau Gododdin, and it was just a matter of time before either Brude or Arthur got rid of him.


*Dupric, Bishop of Llandalf—wants to start a monastery on land where Brother Martin lives (a historical bishop who may also be Merlin Emrys per Norma Goodrich).


Gawain—son of Cennalot/Cennalath and Morgause, brother to Modred/Metcault, and cousin to Arthur; Arthur’s right-hand man on the battlefield and much older than Angus/Lancelot.


*Gwendoleu—kingdom between Strathclyde and Rheged invaded by Riderch of Alclyd/Strathclyde.


Gwenhyfar/Guinevere—High Queen of Britain. This particular Gwen’s Pictish name is Anora. She is of apostolic line and a high priestess in the Celtic Church. She is buried in Fife. Her marriage brought under Arthur the lands of Stirlingshire, or Strighlagh. Her offspring are its heirs, as the Pictish rule is inherited from the mother’s side. There were two abductions of the Gwenhyfars. In one she was rescued. In the other she slept, meaning she died (allegedly from snakebite), precipitating the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty. Both in Gwenhyfar’s abduction and in that of Sleeping Beauty, thorns surrounded the castle, thorns being as common a defense in those days as moats were. Also note the similarities of names, even if the definitions are different—Anora (grace), Aurora (dawn).


*Merlin Emrys of Powys—a Christian druidic-educated bishop of the Celtic Church, protoscientist, advisor to the king, prophet after the Old Testament prophets, and possibly a Grail King or Joseph. Emrys is of the Irish Davidic/Romano-British bloodline as son of Ambrosius Aurelius and uncle to Aedan, Arthur’s father. Merlin Emrys retired as advisor during Arthur’s later reign, per- haps to pursue his beloved science or perhaps as the Grail King. In either case he would not have condoned Arthur’s leaning toward the Roman Church’s agenda. Later the Roman Church and Irish Celtic Church priests would convert the Saxons to Christianity, but the British Celtic Church suffered too much at pagan hands to offer the good news to their pagan invaders. (See Dupric, Myrddyn, and Ninian.)


*Myrddyn (also known as Merlin Sylvester or Merlin Wilt, meaning “wild”)—a pagan druidic bard of Gwendoleu, often confused with Arthur’s Merlin. (See Merlin Emrys of Powys.)


*Riderch Haol of Alcut or Alclyd in Strathclyde—historic Coeling king. His relationship with Arthur, Urien, and the other kings of the North was tenuous. Arthur punished him for invading Gwendoleu to avenge his ambitious brother’s death. Yet he rode later on with Arthur, his father, Aedan of Dalraida, Urien, Gwendoleu, the deposed Morcant Bulc of Bryneich (now Saxon Bernicia), and others against the Picts and Saxons in the Battle of Camlan.


*Vivianne Del Acqs—sister to Ygerna and Morgause of Lothian, she is Arthur’s aunt and Lady of the Lake. Vivianne is a high priest- ess and tutor at the Grail Castle. It’s thought that she raised both Gwenhyfar and Angus/Lance of Lothian, all direct descendants of the Arimathean priestly lines.


*Ygerna—Arthur’s mother and a direct descendant of Joseph of Arimathea, was matched as a widow of a British duke and High Queen of the Celtic Church to Aedan of Dalraida by Merlin Emrys to produce an heir with both royal and priestly bloodlines. It is thought her castle was at Caerlaverock.

About the Author: Linda Windsor

With an estimated million books in print, Linda Windsor is an award-winning author of sixteen secular historical and contemporary romances and thirteen romantic comedies and historical fiction for the inspirational market. Her switch to inspirational fiction in 1999 was more like Jonah going to Ninevah than a flash of enlightenment. Linda claims God pushed her, kicking and screaming all the way. In retrospect the author can see how God prepared her for His writing in her early publishing years and then claimed not just her music but also her writing when she was ready. At that point He brushed away all her reservations regarding inspirational fiction, and she took the leap of faith. Windsor has never looked back.

While all of Linda’s inspirational novels have been recognized with awards and rave reviews in both the ABA and CBA markets, she is most blessed by the 2002 Christy finalist award for Riona and the numerous National Readers Choice Awards for Best Inspirational that her historicals and contemporaries have won. Riona actually astonished everyone when it won against the worldly competition in the RWA Laurel Wreath’s Best Foreign Historical Category.
To Linda’s delight, Maire, Book One of the Fires of Gleannmara Irish Celtic series, was rereleased by Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers with a gorgeous new warrior queen cover in 2009.

Christy finalist Riona will be rereleased with its heroine on an all- new cover in summer 2010. Another of her novels, For Pete’s Sake, Book Two in the Piper Cove Chronicles, is winner of the 2009 National Reader’s Choice Award—Best Inspirational, the Golden Quill Award—Best Inspirational, the Best Book of 2008 Award—Inspirational (Long & Short Reviews), and Best Book of the Year—Inspirational (Romance Reviews Today). For Pete’s Sake also finaled in the Colorado RWA 2009 Award of Excellence and the Southern Magic RWA Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence.

Linda’s research for the early Celtic Gleannmara series resulted in a personal mission dear to her heart: to provide Christians with an effective witness to reach their New Age and unbelieving family and friends. Her goal continues with Healer of The Brides of Alba series, which reveals early church history, much of which has been lost or neglected due to intentional and/or inadvertent error by its chroniclers. This knowledge of early church history enabled Linda to reach her daughter, who became involved in Wicca after being stalked and assaulted in college and blaming the God of her childhood faith—a witness that continues to others at medieval fair signings or wherever these books take Windsor.

Windsor is convinced that, had her daughter known the struggle and witness of the early Christians beyond the apostles’ time and before Christianity earned a black name in the Crusades and Inquisition, she could not have been swayed from her early faith. Nor would Linda herself have been lured away from her faith in Christ in college by a liberal agenda.

Linda’s testimony that Christ is her Druid (Master/Teacher) opens wary hearts wounded by harsh Christian condemnation. Through her witness, admitted Wiccans and pagans have become intrigued by the tidbits of history and tradition pointing to the how and why druids accepted Him. She not only sells these non-believers copies of her books, but she also outsells the occult titles surrounding her inspirational ones.

When Linda isn’t writing in the restored eighteenth-century home that she and her late husband restored, she’s busy speaking and/or playing music for writing workshops, faith seminars, libraries, and civic and church groups. She and her husband were professional musicians and singers in their country and old rock-and-roll band, Homespun. She also plays organ for her little country church in the wildwood. Presently she’s trying to work in some painting, wallpa- pering, and other house projects that are begging to be done. That is, when she’s not Red-Hatting or, better yet, playing mom-mom to her grandchildren—her favorite role in life.

Visit Linda Windsor at her Web site: www.LindaWindsor.com

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Perfect Summer Read!


We have a special contest up for the month of June! Each week, use the new form (at the very bottom of the page, or click here) to enter to win the weekly featured book, PLUS be entered to win the grand prize at the end of the month! The grand prize includes:
  • Beach bag
  • Beach towel
  • Stainless steel water bottle
  • Red flip-flops
  • Flip-flop key chain
  • Framed picture of the "Kindred Spirit" mailbox
  • Copies of: Healer, by Linda Windsor, The Mailbox, by Marybeth Whalen, Priceless, by Tom Davis, and Claim, by Lisa T. Bergren.
Good luck to all who enter!


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

This week we're featuring Sing, by Lisa T. Bergren. Make sure to scroll down for an interview with the author, and discussion questions for the book.

Enter to win a free book by filling out the form on the right, or leaving a comment below. All entries must be received by May 2nd, midnight MST. Good luck!

An Interview with Lisa T. Bergren



Q. This is mainly Moira’s book, but you also focused on Odessa’s growth and relationship in this novel. Why’d you think that was important?

A. Moira seems to steal every scene she’s in (Nic too!). But I wanted to show how Odessa, now physically healthy, still has some emotional growth ahead of her—like we all do. We’re all continually evolving, learning, changing.

Q. Is that why you were so tough on these characters in this book?

A. I think it’s easy to be a Christian when things are good. You show what your faith is made of—and possibly discover new depths—when you encounter the bad. Or you walk away. I was glad to see these three getting closer to God, but Nic obviously has a ways to go.

Q. You talk about the characters as if they have minds of their own.

A. [Laughing.] They do! That’s the fun of fiction. I have one idea, but then a certain spin occurs and casts them in a different direction, and I discover new things with them as if I’m riding along, observing. I always start with a rough outline, knowing some key things that will happen, and the ending I’d like to see, but I leave it to the characters to take it from there. When I’m invested in the scene, feeling it as if I’m in their skin, sensing their emotions and mind-set, the plot often turns.

Q. Why the title?

A. We often sing contemporary songs at church that make me think—phrases like “I will sing in the troubled times” and “praise You in the storm”—a pretty big challenge for most people. But learning how to do that makes the good, easy times even sweeter, and the rough times somehow bearable. It’s so important that we all find that deep assurance that God is with us, regardless of what is happening in our lives, good or bad. And when we do, the only proper response is to sing praises in His name. There’s a reason that heaven will be full of singing. They already understand what we’re still trying to get, down here.

Q. We’re in 1880s Colorado. It surprised me when we got to the conquistador gold—what inspired that?

A. The third novel I ever wrote was a romance called Treasure, in which the heroine was seeking Spanish gold as a nautical archaeologist. I think if I’d had half the chance, I would’ve loved the opportunity to be a treasure hunter myself. Indiana Jones and all that, you know. Childhood fantasies. So I always note treasure-ish things I come across, and I read about an actual legend of lost conquistador explorers, who left behind a bounty of gold when they got separated from the rest of their troops in the Sangre de Cristos. Reportedly, two lost hikers came across the cave in a snowstorm twenty years ago, marked it when the storm ended, intending to come back, but could never find it again. They spent years of weekends searching for that cave. Isn’t that fantastic novel fodder? Love stuff like that.

Q. What can we expect in Claim, the third book in this series?

A. Resolution is always nice, though I don’t like things tied up in perfect little bows. Life isn’t like that. But I’m striving to leave my readers satisfied and hopeful, right along with the St. Clairs. I think love is the key for all three. That’s all I’m telling ya. You’ll have to read the big conclusion for yourself.

Discussion Questions for "Sing"

1. Do you think that God answers our pleas at times with thoughts we don’t recognize as guidance? Why, or why not? Have you experienced this?

2. Consider how you might have felt toward Reid, were you a character in this novel? Is it ever right or justified to wish pain, or even death, upon another? Why, or why not?

3. Scripture encourages us to sing God’s praise, every day, regardless of circumstance. Do you think we must praise Him, even when things are bad? Why or why not? How do you tend to
react when faced by adversity?

4. What lessons do you feel Odessa and Bryce were learning in their marriage?

5. Have you experienced division in your marriage? Have you ever thought you were on the brink of separation or divorce? If so, what brought you back together?

6. What should someone do when faced with the temptations Odessa and Robert faced? Do you feel it was right or wrong for Odessa not to tell her husband of his brother’s advances? Why?

7. All three siblings are seeking something. What do you think each one really is hungering for?

8. Manuel told Nic of his need for God—has anyone ever done the same with you? What was that like? And if not, how would you respond if someone spoke so plainly to you about your faith?

9. Moira imagines her mother in the room with her, time and time again. Why is that? Who do you think her mother represents?

10. Why do you think Moira fell in love with Gavin? What impact will her scars have on her future?

Friday, April 16, 2010

We're featuring Heading Home, by Renee Riva, on the blog this week! Make sure to enter with the form on the right by Thursday, April 22nd at midnight MST.

Fifty Pets You (Hope) To Meet in Heaven

Here are fifty pets that author Renee Riva hopes to meet in Heaven - which pets do you want to see again in Heaven?

Childhood:
Tinkerbelle, the cat
A gazillion pollywogs
Goldie the goldfish, who died on Easter and did not rise, as I prayed
during Easter Mass
Bony and Claude, the turtles
Chumley, the collie-shepherd (aka Sailor’s mascot)
Luigi, the other collie-shepherd
Mouse rescued from Dorie’s cat, who lived in my tree fort in a Tarzan
lunch pail
Abigail, the albino hamster living in secret in my closet
Pugsly, the hamster I had Dorie give me for my birthday
Moonie, my Clydesdale draft horse
Maynard, the cat who had five kittens (who we thought was a boy
till then)
Rudy, the hamster who I ran away with because my mom said he had
to live in the garage
Stray kitten found on our family trip to Hawaii
After leaving home:
The Kid, rescue dog from visiting the dog pound
Sandy, rescue dog from visiting the dog pound
Loser, rescue cat from visiting the pound
Alfie, rescue dog from visiting the dog pound
Birdie, rescue dog from visiting the dog pound
Misha, the mouse
Peanut Butter, the hamster
Jelly, the hamster
Teddy Bear, the hamster
On the farm:
Peach, the half-blind chicken
Butterscotch, the friendly chicken
Elvis, the banty chicken
Mr. and Mrs. White (ducks)
Mama, banty hen who raised a dozen turkey babies
Millie, the cat
Max, the cat
Twig, the stray cat found in a tree
Fred, the cat
Bear, the Great White Pyrenees
Jesse, the other Great White Pyrenees
Curley, the cow
Duke, the horse
Bargain, the rat
Kitty, the stray
Bailey, the abandoned chow with five puppies
Max, pound puppy
Baby Bear, the European black bear hamster
Tiny Tim, the itty-bitty baby dwarf hamster
Frosty, the Chinese dwarf hamster with the one-hundred-seventyfive-
dollar vet bill
Buster, the baby turtle

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Real Enemy, by Kathy Herman



We're giving away another book on Kindle! For the next week, click here to be able to get The Real Enemy, by Kathy Herman, absolutely free on your Kindle. Enjoy!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Scroll down for discussion questions for The Right Call, by Kathy Herman.

Fill out the form on the right, or leave a comment, to enter for a chance to win a free copy of this week's featured book! Entries must be received by midnight MST, March 21st.

Discussion Questions for "The Right Call"

1. In your own words, explain what you think 2 Peter 2:19b means: “A man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.” Stedman’s gambling and Trent’s smoking were strongholds that were easy to spot, but would you have thought of Richard’s and Ralph’s stubborn pride as something that they had become slaves to? Have you ever been involved in or been the victim of an ongoing feud that greatly affected your life? Was it satisfactorily resolved or is it still in progress? Were there deep wounds to be dealt with? Did you feel led to intervene? If so, was that a difficult position to be in?

2. As Christians, we are called to be peacemakers. What is the difference between a peacekeeper and a peacemaker? Which role do you think is easier? Which of the two best describes Ethan’s role in his uncles’ feud? Had you been in Ethan’s place, what would you have done differently?

3. Do you think addictions are sins or sicknesses—or is it possible to make a distinction between the two? If a person is trapped in the cycle of addiction, should that person be absolved from taking responsibility for his or her actions? Did Stedman know right from wrong? Was he capable of choosing better? Why do you think he didn’t? If a person came to you with an addiction problem, what advice would you give him or her?

4. Do you think Stedman became addicted to gambling merely because he had a weakness for gambling, or were there other factors that might have contributed to his gambling obsession? How do you think a person becomes addicted to something? Do you think there might be fewer addiction problems if more people turned to God and allowed Him to fill their emptiness instead of depending on something else? If emptiness is the culprit that leads us down the path to addiction, how can we fill up with the right things? What are the right things?

5. Are you now or have you ever been guilty of any other excesses, such as overeating, overworking, overspending—overindulgence of any kind? Do you find that the longer you allow the bad habit to go unchecked, the harder it is to get back on track? Do you think this is true merely because it’s hard to break a bad habit—or is there something about trying to stop by sheer willpower that intensifies the battle? In your experience, how effective has it been for you to try to control the excesses in your life in your own strength?

6. Can you name some activities in our modern world that have become addictive for many people (for example, surfing the web, shopping online, texting)? Do you think that many loving and charitable actions are pushed aside because of such “web” addictions? If everyone cut one hour a week from these self-absorbing activities and did something nice for someone else, do you think it would dramatically affect our world?

7. Why do you think humans tend to do things in excess? It is said that self-control is a virtue, but true self-control is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. How capable do you think we are of controlling our carnal nature? Does that ability seem affected by how much we want something? For example, some of us can stay away from potato chips but can’t stop eating chocolate until it’s all gone. Others can say no to chocolate but can’t stop eating potato chips until the entire bag has been devoured. When we say we “can’t stop,” what do you think we’re really saying? Why is it so hard to say no to our appetites? What do you have a weakness for? At what point should a weakness be considered sinful? Is there anything we truly “can’t stop” doing?

8. Are children slaves to the flesh or is the behavior learned? Is it ever too early to teach our children to practice selfcontrol? Why do you think self-control is something we must practice? Did you like Ethan’s advice to Emily on how to quit eavesdropping (chapter 39), or would you have given her different advice? Would Ethan’s advice apply to any number of bad habits?

9. Do you think living in a culture of instant gratification has made us almost oblivious to what we are or aren’t dependent on? Is it possible that we think we’re totally dependent on God, when the truth is we’re not being denied anything, so our dependence isn’t being tested? Is there any food, object, or activity that if it were taken from you would leave you feeling empty? Be honest.

10. How inclined do you think we would be to engage in excess if we took seriously 1 Corinthians 6:20, which says, “You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body”? Are there areas of your life that don’t measure up to this admonition?

11. If you could meet one of the characters, who would it be? What would you say to him or her? Was there an idea, thought, or principle you took away from this story?