Vanessa’s Character Picks March 1, 2015

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Why I Created the Character “Preacher”

 

One of the interesting things I’ve found since the release of One Among Men, is the almost universal regard of the 6’8” muscle-bound African-American dude-from-the-hood character nick-named Preacher. Many reviews state how they loved Chris and Samantha, the main characters … but they really loved Preacher. My sister, after having read the manuscript some years ago, actually stopped a man on the street, who looked like Preacher, to tell him about the character. She loved him that much.

Which is really funny, because I created him in response to issues I’d had with her.

Let me tell you about the evolution of this character.

Back when I was a resident director in an all-male dorm, I went through the long and arduous process of sifting through applicants for the next year’s resident assistant staff. At Resident Life, this entailed applications, several interviews, assessments during activities, observations of the applicants in the dorms, and meetings with my boss and my colleagues. Though each applied to work in specific buildings, the other resident directors of the community, and the community director, were part of the process in case we thought certain staff would be better placed in different buildings. You see each building had a “flavor” and would need a different sort of oversight. Out of the three buildings I ran, one was your garden-variety “party” dorm (the one I lived in), one was the Honors dorm (complete with study room), and the last was THE party dorm which boasted a group of guys who streaked (that means without clothing) through the community on a regular basis. I had been told this was a long-standing “tradition” that had been tolerated for decades. The last two buildings (run by my colleagues) included a co-ed dorm and an all-female dorm. The population of each of those dorms matched that of the total of my three—500 residents.

OAM lowres wraparound coverOne applicant for the next year included a very thickly built African-American guy who wore an expression on his face that “meant business” in such a way that he sort of intimidated me. I have no idea what his upbringing was, so I am unaware of whether or not he was actually from the hood. I added that little piece for reasons I’ll explain below.

I knew, from the moment I met this guy, I wanted him as an RA in my biggest party dorm. In fact, he already lived there, and yet it was obvious he was anything BUT a partier. He wanted that dorm as well.

My boss had other ideas. She tended to like kiss-ups and this guy didn’t pucker. Eventually, after much argument on my part, she relented.

Unfortunately, due to a number of things that occurred over that summer, I changed jobs and never had the opportunity to work with him. But I did hear he single-handedly ended the decades-long streaking tradition in his building which I’m sure did not garner favor with his fellow residents. Though my faith at the time was a vague and nebulous shadow of what it is today, I knew the moment I heard that why I’d felt such a strong push to hire him. The Holy Spirit was working in me, even when I didn’t ask Him to. A truly empty-vessel moment—my favorite kind.

This RA was the template from whom Preacher was built.

So what role did my sister play in Preacher’s character? You see, up until a few years ago, my sister and I did not share the same idea of faith. And even though she’d eventually become a Christian, she did not tell me about it, because she thought her faith was different than mine. I guess she didn’t realize I believed in being saved through Grace. Her misunderstanding was not because I’d thumped her on the head with the Bible telling her she was a bad girl. It stemmed mostly from my attempts to live righteously myself. If I tried to tell her anything about it, her ears would close to my preaching.

Yes, I hate sin and if you ask me what I think of it, I will tell you! That doesn’t mean I judge others for falling to temptation. I understand how easy that is because I am weak to it myself. It’s why I need a Savior!

I began writing the character about the time my sister became a Christian. Preacher was cathartic for me because we shared a similar experience—being judged by others who assume we judge them, without stopping to understand our motives. Why did I make Preacher from the hood? Because I wanted him to see the intense effects of sin, and know its destructive power on the people he’s loved. I wanted it to make him so hurt and so angry toward sin that he abhorred it as I do. No, I didn’t come from the hood. But some suburbs share many characteristics. I knew the drug-pushers on my street, and one of my jobs boasted an in-house dealer. I’ve done counseling in drug-riddled communities and saw its destructive forces as well as that of the other choices being made by its residents. My family members and I have been to the funerals.

I hate sin! Preacher and I share that. I will not apologize for hating something that hurts the people I love. Not to mention what my own sin does to me!

That does not mean I judge those who commit it. I’d be spending too much time in the mirror if I did. I am also keenly aware that many in this world do not know the healing power of Christ or understand the wisdom of His Father. I pray one day they will, and hope they will not close their ears forever.

So why do readers love Preacher so much? I think because there is a little bit of Preacher in many of us who are judged for our faith, and yet he holds a conviction we all wish we had. Some misjudge him because of his intensity, but when they take the time to get to know him, they see his love. A bold kind of Love.

However, Preacher is only one part of the Body of Christ. Samantha is another. I don’t think Sam’s work would have been as impactful had she not had Preacher near. Nor do I believe Preacher could have done so much without her. One is not better than the other, only parts of the whole. Just as God made us to be.

Other posts you might like:

Please Welcome Tammy L. Gray Author of “Mercy’s Fight” to IC Today

Interview of Samantha Hart from “One Among Men”

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headshot1Connie Almony is trained as a mental health therapist and likes to mix a little fun with the serious stuff of life. She was a 2012 semi-finalist in the Genesis Contest for Women’s Fiction and was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Winter 2012 WOW Flash Fiction Contest. She is the author of At the Edge of a Dark Forest, a modern-day re-telling of Beauty and the Beast about a war-vet, amputee struggling with PTSD. Her newest release is One Among Men, about a woman whose job require she live with 500, hard-partying college guys.

You can find Connie on the web at ConnieAlmony.com, writing book reviews for Jesus Freak Hideout, and hosting the following blogs: InfiniteCharacters.com, IndieChristianFictionSearch.Blogspot.com, and LivingtheBodyofChrist.Blogspot.com.

You can also meet her on the following social media outlets:

Twitter

Facebook

Pinterest

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Vanessa’s Character Picks February 24, 2015

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Vanessa’s Character Picks February 22, 2015

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Hope in 2015

Cross

 

 

 

 

The years whizz by at the speed of light, it seems. It’s hard to believe 2015 is upon us. Goodness,  I can remember bringing in the new year way back in 1960 when doo wop and poodle shirts ruled. Then twenty years ago, my mother died on January 1, 1995. And now we’re no longer new comers to Alabama. We’ve lived here a full two years. Time doesn’t march on. It sprints and I can barely keep up.

I got a little nervous when I hung my new 2015 calendar on the wall. This sparked the thought. What will the new year bring? How much longer will God see fit to allow me to live on this earth?

I picked up my Bible and found some mighty encouraging words in Ephesians 3:20-21. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is a work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

That brings me an unspeakable amount of confidence. My God is faithful and He has a plan for the rest of my life —and yours, too. He’s all powerful and will bring victory to His own. What a glorious thought.

 

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Vanessa’s Character Picks February 19, 2015

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Vanessa’s Character Picks February 17, 2015

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Please Welcome Tammy L. Gray, Author of “Mercy’s Fight” to IC Today

As many of you may know, I’ve been on an indie author reading binge and LOVING it. Yes, I still read traditionally published novels, but there is a special place in my heart for the indie novel. They so often tell stories the legacy houses do not touch. These are the stories so common in the souls of readers, though not often voiced and too often hid in the shadows. Stories that need to be shared so each can find healing in them.

Tammy L. Gray is an author who tells these stories and boy am I glad her books were recommended to me. After a week of consuming all four of her novels, I decided to see if I could cajole an interview from her. She agreed!!! She has an interesting story … one only a great God could design. Here it is …

Tammy, let’s jump right into the thick of it. What made you decide to write a book?shatteredRose_FINALcover

I honestly never expected to become a writer, and the way this whole career has played out is none other than God’s mighty hand. When I decided to write my debut novel, Shattered Rose, it came after a very hard weekend for me mentally and emotionally. I was struggling with a sin that I just couldn’t seem to overcome and was broken over it. At the same time, I am an avid reader, and had just hit a wall with the publishing industry in my desire to find good, quality romances that didn’t contain explicit sex. I was so tired of reading about these girls who were broken like I was, but found a guy or sex healed all their hurts. It was a lie.

Amen to that!

So I sat down that Monday after and started writing. And I had two goals. One, I wanted to show the analogy between Christ and sin. How even when we know it’s wrong, we are pulled back in over and over. Second, I wanted to show girls out there that the guys portrayed in all these books will absolutely break your heart. Eight weeks later, I had a novel. I sent it to a few friends and they went crazy over it. Told me I had to keep writing. So, I did.

Wow!

Writing has become more than a one book anthem, like it started. It’s about offering fiction that is culturally relevant and includes messages of hope and healing. I believe fiction can inspire us if the message is authentic, which is what I try to be.

You have definitely accomplished that.

How many books do you have published and where can they be found?

I have self-published my Winsor series, which is three books (Shattered Rose, Shackled Lily, and Splintered Oak). All three are available on Amazon in kindle and print on demand. Shattered Rose is permanently free and can be found at all eBook retailers: iBook, nook, etc.

My newest release, Mercy’s Fight, was traditionally published by Waterfall Press. It can be found online at pretty much all retailers (Amazon, B&N, etc), and I know that Hastings carries it in the stores.

My next book will be released in early June. It’s a fun summer romantic comedy that I’m doing with three other authors, so mark your calendars!

Will do!

Please note, I am in the process of changing my author name, so you will also see my books listed under Tammy L. Gray.

Tell us about your latest book.

Gray-MercysFight-CV-FT-v1My newest release, Mercy’s Fight, is a lot different than my previous series. First, both my characters are Christians and they are older, 25. While my Winsor series showed the struggle of non-believers, I wanted to also showcase how even the most faithful believers can struggle. Especially when they’ve been victimized in some way.

My hero, Matt Holloway, is a tatted up, former bad boy, who is as Alpha male as they come. He’s strong, confident, and has a heart of gold. He comes from an abusive home, got in trouble as a teen and spent two years in juvie. Yet, he turned his life around and is devoted to helping others heal. His only fear is love. He is terrified that his past will destroy anyone who dares to love him.

Grace is just the opposite. She comes from a life of luxury, where she was adored by both of her parents. Raised in a Christian home, she never really experienced heartbreak until her fiancé of 4 years cheats on her. Determined to find her way, Grace moves to North Carolina, but she is naïve and completely out of her element.

Matt and Grace come together through their mutual love for troubled children, and show that not only do opposites attract, but they can also bring the best out of each other. Matt shows Grace how to be a fighter and Grace shows him how to let go.

Ahhh, the Body of Christ in action. Love it!!!

This story is absolutely my most favorite romance I’ve ever written. The book is centered around 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you; for power is perfected in weakness.”

That it is!

In three words describe your style of writing

Character-driven, Message-driven and Contemporary.

Yep, that sounds about right.

Does your faith affect your writing? How?

Yes! As a pastor’s wife, I’ve seen more masks than I care to count and behind each one is a story. Usually a story of heartbreak, struggle, failure and victory. In Christian circles, we tend to only show people our shiny parts, not the ugly, rusted sin that mars all of us.

My characters epitomize the word, “flawed” which is probably why we can all relate to them. Nothing is more beautiful than when we see a person expose all their challenges and mistakes, and then watch what amazing things God can do with each one of them.

God in His Glory turning our brokenness into gold. Nothing more beautiful!

I consider myself a coming of age writer, exploring deep subjects and struggles in every book, yet keeping the content clean enough to pass on to your teenage daughter. But at the same time, I want to fill the huge gap between mainstream and Christian romance, so I will include issues that a 2015 young adult is dealing with, like sex, identity, alcohol, drugs, peer pressure, etc.

There will also always be an inspirational message in my books because I believe God is at the center of any true healing.

Absolutely!

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Yes! First, I would tell them to take a Margie Lawson class. Then I would tell them to join a writer’s critique group with people who will be constructive in their comments. I wrote my first two books in a vacuum, and while I had friends and family give comments and advice, my writing did not grow. During my third book, I started networking with other authors, and have grown exponentially since.

… And yet your first two books are fantastic reads.

… If they are choosing to self-publish, I would advise to have at least 3-5 books ready before they hit publish. Quantity is key in the indie world.

Great advice. I wish I had known it when I published my first.

… Also, as much it pains the pocket book, you must hire a good copy editor. My biggest mistake was having friends and family edit my first two books. I’m still getting flogged for editing issues. Not worth it!

If they are choosing to go traditional, get thee to a conference. You need to network and meet agents/editors in person. Email queries do not work. Also, a bad agent is worse than no agent at all. DO YOUR HOMEWORK!! This is on the publishing side as well. Don’t just accept any publisher. Make sure they are a good one.

Very wise!!!

I’ve noticed you often write your stories from the point of view of a non-believer or someone who is resistant to the Christian faith. What is it about that POV that draws you to write this way?

I became a believer as an adult, so my college experience was pretty wild and dark. You could say that in a way, I wanted to show the Christian community what they sometimes refuse to see: the mess our children are growing up in. I also find that we tend to judge people less when we see things from their point of view. So introducing Avery, a “good” girl who has no real foundation, was intentional. I wanted to show how the world can swallow up our kids if they are not guarded, how easy it is to find self worth in the world, when they don’t have it rooted in Christ.

I also wanted to show the amazing healing power of God. So often in Christianity, we only talk about what everyone else shouldn’t be doing, and we have this perception of being judgmental, elitist, and disconnected. What we fail to show is how amazing God is in our life. Because to show His glory, we have to first admit we’re flawed and broken.

My hope is that someone can identify with one of my characters and then desire that same peace each of them find on the end of their journey. A peace that is only possible with Christ.

You speak my heart, Tammy!

Your first series was independently published. Tell us why you chose this path.

By default really.

After I finished Shattered Rose, I started the daunting process of looking for literary agents. After a million rejection letters, I spoke to my brother who is a media marking specialist. He is a major fan of self-publishing and encouraged me to move forward and publish my book independently.

I really was ignorant to what I was doing to be honest, which is why I know God had a plan, because despite all its flaws, the Winsor series did really well, and I found myself with this growing audience.

Now, I have an agent, have traditionally published a book, and am much more knowledgeable about the writing world. And, I can happily say that if I could go back and do it all over, I’d do it the exact same way.

I am a huge fan of indie and consider myself a hybrid author. I look at each book I write and decide what is the best path for publication. Sometimes, it’s traditional, other times it’s indie.

We are so blessed to be in a season where the author really is the master of his/her books.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

I would just like to encourage other authors to stay true to who they are. So often, authors are expected to change themselves or content to fit into this square box of publishing. That is not the case anymore. Indies are a respected part of the market, so if a publisher isn’t ready for you, then go out on your own. You can do it!!

At the same time, a good quality book should be the goal, whether independent or traditional. Take the time to produce your best product. The secret to a long career in this industry: Write good books and keep improving with each one.

Thank you so much for joining us today, Tammy. It has been really informative and a great pleasure to get to know you.

Other posts you might like:

Interview of Samantha Hart, from “One Among Men”

Welcome Jonathan Cohen from Jennifer Slattery’s Newest Release “When Dawn Breaks”

*********TLGray

Tammy L. Gray is the kindle best selling author of the Winsor and Set Apart series. Her mission is to provide clean, culturally relevant romances that incorporate messages of hope and healing.

When not chasing after her three amazing kids, Tammy can be spotted with her head in a book. Writing has given her a platform to combine her passion with her ministry.

Tammy L. Gray has lots of projects going on. For all the latest info, visit her website at http://tlgray.com/

I’d love to hear from all of you! Come join me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/tlgraybooks or twitter @tlgraybooks

If you’d like to read a little on my testimony, follow this link: http://tlgray.com/healing-the-broken/

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Space Holders Be Gone

“But I do want to be like Jesus.” Martha wiped a tear from the corner of her eye. “It’s just so hard.” She switched off the CD player glad that their church still ministered to shut-ins such as her by sharing the pastor’s sermon.

She bowed her head and folded her hands under her chin. “Lord, I’m thankful the stroke was light. In fact, I have much to be thankful for, yet I don’t feel the joy of my salvation as I once did. Why is that? Surely there is something wrong deep in my soul. I yearn for the things of the Holy Spirit. Love, peace, joy, goodness, and all the fruits of the spirit. Cleanse my heart, renew a right spirit within me.”

As Martha prayed, her heart cried out as her stomach would if it were hungry. Her spiritual hunger gnawed at her day after day and she didn’t know why. A knock at her door interrupted her time of searching, and she struggled to her feet to answer it.

Martha was surprised to see her pastor’s smile when she opened the door. “Hello, Pastor Bob.”

“Good afternoon, Martha. I was driving past one street over and felt I should stop here before going home, although I don’t know why.” His eyes seemed to search hers. “Is there anything I can help you with?”

Warmth rushed into Martha’s heart as she recognized God’s hand. “Yes, come in, please.”

She stepped back as Pastor Bob obliged.

“I was just listening to Sunday’s sermon about being more like Jesus and have some questions.”

After the minister was seated and Martha again sat in her chair, she told him of the longings she’d been experiencing since her stroke for more of the joy she used to have. “It’s as if this crippling ole sickness has taken away my peace and left me anxious and troubled. I feel as helpless inside as I do out.”

“You’ve been through quite a hard time being laid up after living such an active life.” Pastor Bob shook his head. “But God is good. He’s given you mobility and speech. Your mind is clear and sharp as always.”

Martha hung her head. “But my spirit isn’t. Joy and peace seem to be a thing of the past.”

The pastor leaned forward his hands clasped with his elbows on his knees. “Are you fearful, Martha? Maybe worried about how your circumstances have changed?”

Heat filled Martha’s cheeks as the truth became apparent, and she nodded.

“God’s spirit will fill every corner of our soul, Martha, but we must not allow fear and worry to take up space, for then there is not room enough in our inner being.” A crease formed between the pastor’s eyebrows as it often did when he became intense with his thoughts. “I’d love to pray with you that you will be able to turn the fear of these physical limitations and the worry about what will happen next over to God. When you banish those space holders from your soul, I firmly believe the Holy Spirit will rush in to again fill every inch of space bringing more joy and peace than you’ve ever experienced before.”

Better Than Gold front blogMartha’s heart leapt with the promise as she bowed her head.

 

Let us not allow spiritual space holders such as fear and worry to push the Holy Spirit from our lives. Matthew 6:33 says: Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

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Vanessa’s Character Picks February 8, 2015

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