How can I put into words all that I loved about this story (and, to be perfectly honest, every book I’ve read by Lisa Howeler)? These stories always seem to find their way into my hands at the perfect time.
Sometimes, it’s that I’m going through the same thing as a character, like wrestling with guilt or shame. Other times, her books touch on something I’ve gone through in the past and the story and characters manage to shine new light and perspective on my experiences.
Lisa writes real, flawed, and beautiful characters. They are reflections of ourselves and of the people we know, and it’s a source of comfort and encouragement every time I get to spend a little time with them in Spencer Valley. This was a wonderful continuation of the story, and I’m really looking forward to reading book three and any other books to come.
You can find Harvesting Hope, as well as the other books in the Spencer Valley Chronicles, on Amazon.
If you’d like to connect with Lisa, head over to any of these places:
Speaking as a fellow author, it’s so fun and encouraging when we get to connect with the people who have enjoyed our books, so be sure to follow along on Lisa’s writing adventures!
And once you’ve read her books, please leave a review on Goodreads. It will make her day!
Next week, I’ll be sharing my review of The Innkeeper, a fantastic Christmas story (loosely inspired by A Christmas Carol) by Keaton D. Winter. This is a story that I’ll be re-reading year after year, and I’m really looking forward to sharing my review with you!
Speaking of Christmas, I think I might do a post about my favorite books to read at Christmas time!
Water Falling by H.A. Pruitt (cue my to-do list gathering endless amounts of dust until I’m finished)
Hunter by Joanna White (this one has been on my TBR for a long time, and I’m so excited to finally dive into it!)
What about you? What books have you read and loved lately? I’m always looking for recommendations, so please share in the comments!
I recently read the most beautiful story about Robert Louis Stevenson.
One night, when Robert Louis Stevenson was a small boy, his nanny called him to come to bed. Oblivious to her summons, he was staring at something outside his nursery window. The nanny walked over, stood at his shoulder, and inquired patiently, “Robert, what are you looking at?”
The little boy, without taking his eyes away from the window, exclaimed in wonder as he pointed to the lamplighter who was lighting the streetlamps, “Look, Nanny! That man is putting holes in the darkness!”
You and I may not be able to change the world, but surely each of us can put a hole in the darkness!
The Joy of My Heart, Anne Graham Lotz
As soon as I read this story, I started thinking back on all of the remarkable books I’ve read over the last few years by my fellow authors and how much their stories matter.
In Anelthalien and Earth Quaking, H.A. Pruitt invites us into a world that is altogether different, where the characters reflect our own struggles and strengths and unexpectedly remind us that no part of our story can erase the purpose that God has uniquely prepared for us.
Lisa Howeler’s books, like A New Beginning or The Farmer’s Daughter, remind us that grace is real and that the insecurities we feel and the mistakes we make don’t disqualify us from receiving it.
M.H. Elrich’s Daughters of Tamnarae series reassures us that our worth is set in stone and showcases the delight God takes in weaving us into His grand story of love and redemption.
The first book in the Hope on the High Seas series, Free by Careena Campbell, reminds each reader who picks it up that pure faith, though it might be scoffed at, is true strength, and that the more we walk in step with God, the more fully we’ll get to know Him and the hope He offers.
Effie Joe Stock’s books, like Child of the Dragon Prophecy or Aphotic Love, confront the most intense emotions with a courage and boldness that can’t help but inspire her readers. Each page is a reminder that, just like her characters, you are brave enough to experience anger, grief, and pain without being defeated by them.
In Starganauts, C.E. Stone takes readers on a journey through the most crushing grief and uncertainty and displays God’s faithfulness in the midst of it. The whole story is a beautiful reminder that hope is possible even in the most intense battle and that victory and joy are waiting on the other side of it.
There are so many more authors and stories that have inspired me than I have room to share in one post, but I am so grateful for the chance to experience each and every one of these stories.
With every word you type, you are all putting holes in the darkness, reminding us how fragile the night really is when it comes up against God’s radiance.
You can check out all of these wonderful stories at the links above! If you have any book recommendations, share them below. I’m always looking for an excuse to add another bookshelf to my library 🙂
I’m so excited to share my interview with C.D. Hulen as we continue to celebrate the recent release of his sci-fi novel, Abort!
Read on to learn more about the inspiration for Abort, C.D. Hulen’s advice for fellow indie authors, and his thoughts on how to include a powerful, faith-based message in novels!
I really enjoyed reading your novel! What inspired the story of Abort?
Thanks so much! Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what inspired me, outside of God of course (as all things work according to His will). This particular story concept came to me almost fully formed, which wasn’t super common for me. I thought it would make a good book, so I wrote down the idea and then promptly forgot about it for about 6 months. But obviously, I found it again, and here we are.
One common pro-life argument that is used to confront abortion is that of comparing unborn children to people in a coma who are going to wake up (both are dependent on others, neither are highly responsive, and both are in their respective states for a limited amount of time, i.e., the person in a coma will wake up and the child will be born). This particular argument was definitely an inspiration. After the initial stages of writing, I drew inspiration from other sources, such as my Christian faith, my Dad’s suggestions, Ray Comfort’s videos on abortion, and Paul Washer’s articulation of the gospel, in order to add more depth to the story.
Throughout the story, Mason wrestles with divided loyalties and the distinction between right and wrong. Was he a difficult character to write? What do you think makes characters like him so compelling?
Definitely one of the most difficult things about writing Mason was keeping the reader from being completely disgusted by him. What he’s trying to do is terrible, and readers generally don’t want to root for that, so it was a struggle to balance the sympathetic aspects of his character without excusing his actions. I think his relatability and understandability help make him compelling. Although the reader hopefully won’t agree with his mission, they can understand why he’s doing it, and can relate to the many trials he faces on the HS10.
Christian sci-fi isn’t a genre that I, personally, hear much about, and it was exciting to read your novel! What about sci-fi do you believe uniquely positions the genre to share a faith-based message?
There’s definitely not much Christian sci-fi in mainstream media—none in film that I’ve seen, and not a ton in literature. But anyway, I think science fiction can be uniquely poised to tackle current issues as well as delve into compelling allegories. The concept of Abort was perfectly setup for a science fiction setting—I didn’t even consider another genre! I also believe that with science fiction you have something that Fantasy can struggle with—a real presentation of the gospel. This can be done in contemporary and historical fiction for sure, but fantasy generally relies heavily on gospel allegories if it wants to approach the Christian theme (Jesus). Science fiction has the privilege of dealing with the real thing.
What are some of the obstacles you’ve faced as a self-published author and what enabled you to overcome them? Do you have any encouragement to offer fellow writers who want to follow that same route?
I think the battle against anonymity has been the hardest. I can learn how to write good prose, design a book cover, and develop compelling characters, but as an author who started with zero platform, it’s been challenging. I think what’s to be learned is that it’s all up to God. If He wants the book to go far, it will. If not, it won’t. I have to hold my dreams loosely, trust His plan, and be faithful. If the marketing of this book has taught me anything it’s that God is in control.
A note of practical advice for writers: keep writing, keep getting feedback, and write again. It’s a long slog sometimes, but the more you do it, the better you get. And if you’re a Christian who is writing fiction, don’t tack your faith onto it. What I mean is that the gospel isn’t an afterthought, so if you’re a Christian and writing a story, don’t force the gospel into it, allow it to permeate the entire thing. Don’t sprinkle the gospel onto your story, soak your story in the gospel. All or nothing. Don’t be afraid to be preachy but tell a good story, make it real, and give it over to God.
Can you share any details with readers about your current or upcoming projects?
Well, I don’t want to share too much, but I’ve always got story ideas in my head. People who’ve followed me for a while know that I’ve wanted to write a musical, as well as refurbish and finish my historical fantasy trilogy. I also have some more Christian sci-fi stories brewing which address the current issues of the woke church and Christless conservatism. All that to say, I’m not sure what I’ll do yet, but whatever it is, I want God to be glorified.
Thank you so much to C.D. Hulen for joining me for this interview!
Welcome to the third week of Author Spotlight Month!
It was such a joy to interview Lisa! Below, she shares more about what inspired her story, A New Beginning, what resting in the Father’s love looks like for her, and what to do when you’re caught in a creative slump.
Lisa Robinson-Howeler is a writer and photographer from Northeastern Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband and two children. She is a former small-town newspaper reporter who decided to write her first novel in 2019. Her fiction focuses on issues of personal failings and triumphs, romance, and personal growth through faith and life lessons. Lisa has had her writing and photography featured in newspapers, magazines, and online nationally and internationally. In addition to being a new novelist, she is a blogger and a homeschooling mother.
What inspired you to write a story that deals with forgiving yourself and finding freedom from your past?
The inspiration for A Story to Tell, the first book I wrote, was my great-grandmother and great-grandfather’s story. A New Beginning is a sequel to A Story to Tell. In other words, A New Beginning was still inspired by my great- grandmother and great-grandfather’s story.
My great-grandmother sort of “ran off” with my great-grandfather around 1910 and got married, but I didn’t really want to write a book based in the early 1900s so I moved the story up to the 1950s and, of course, changed the story slightly. I kept the names of my great-grandparents in a way. Blanche was my great-grandmother’s name, but my great-grandfather was Howard. In the book, the characters are Blanche and Hank.
In real life, Blanche moved away from her hometown to live with Howard about an hour away. They were only married a couple of months when Blanche became pregnant. She returned to her family when my grandfather was about a year old and not long after she divorced my great-grandfather and my grandfather was given my great-grandmother’s maiden name. No one in the family was allowed to talk about my great-grandfather Howard and for much of my life that was still the way it was, even though Howard did make contact with my grandfather to try to make some sort of amends after my great-grandmother passed away.
As I got older, and after hearing this story a few times, I started to wonder what Howard had done that made Blanche leave him and eventually divorce him. I also started to wonder what it had been like for Blanche in the aftermath of it all – if she was able to forgive herself for running away with Howard, for trusting someone that family lore says wasn’t very nice or trustworthy, and then having a child with him. Or was it more of a struggle for her to forgive Howard for whatever he had done? And as she worked through those struggles, did she also wonder if she would ever find happiness, or love, again?
In my books, Howard’s character, Hank, is abusive and an adulterer. In real life, I don’t know that Howard was abusive, but family legend says he was an alcoholic and a womanizer and most likely an adulterer. So, while I pondered Blanche’s life and the role of forgiveness for her, I also began to ponder the fact that my grandfather was eventually able to forgive his father, in a way, by at least talking to him before he died. There were redemption and forgiveness all over the story of my great-grandparents, mixed in with what had to have been a lot of bitterness for betrayal, broken hearts, and rejection.
That same redemption and forgiveness have been peppered throughout my own life as well. These are subjects that have been conquered for me in some ways and are a work in progress in others.
(An aside: While researching for the first book, I also learned that my great-grandfather ran away with his nephew’s wife shortly after divorcing my great-grandmother and that woman abandoned her husband and daughter to be with him. Even more betrayal, yes, but even more opportunity for redemption and forgiveness I hope came for them all before they passed away.)
Shame and regret are weapons that the enemy so often uses against us. What helps you rest in God’s love and forgiveness?
This is a hard one for me in some ways because I don’t always trust in God’s love and forgiveness. Isn’t that awful? I know that I have been taught he forgives us and sees us as his child, no matter what we do, but when I make a mistake, I will dwell on that over and over. There are times I struggle to forgive myself almost more than I struggle to forgive others. I am quicker to make an excuse to understand why someone else acted the way they did than I am to understand why I acted the way I did. If that makes sense.
What helps me remember that Christ loves me as I am, though, is the very fact he died on the cross for me – for us. He died not because I was perfect, but because he is. When God looks at us he doesn’t see our mistakes – he sees Christ. God also sees his child, who he loves, and who he grieves for when he sees us make mistakes.
Many people dream of writing a book but are held back by the fear of not being good enough. What encouragement would you offer them?
First, don’t look at it as writing a book. Look at as writing a chapter. Then another. Then another. Then another until your story is done and you have a book. It’s such a daunting task when you think you are writing “a whole book.” I shared chapters for my first book on my blog and my readers wanted to know what happened next so I just kept writing the story for them. Before I knew it, I had a book completed. It wasn’t the best book ever written and I’d love to rewrite that first book someday, but it was a book and it was a story I wrote. I knew I wanted to try it again.
I definitely don’t feel good enough, but one thing I’ve reminded myself is that every reader has different tastes, likes, interests so what I’m writing may not be one reader’s “cup of tea” while it will be exactly what another reader enjoys. Plus, I remember the saying “practice makes perfect.” The more I do this whole “writing a book” thing, my hope is I’ll keep getting better. Will I ever be an award-winning author? I don’t know and I’m not worried about that. I’m simply having fun telling stories. The bottom line of this whole writing thing for me is to have fun. I worked for 14 years as a newspaper reporter. It’s what my degree is in. By the end, writing wasn’t fun anymore. I was also a photographer after I left newspapers and tried to make a career of it. It killed my love of photography for a few years. Once I gave up on the idea that I needed to make money from either of those things, I loved them again.
Life is so short. You never know what will happen if you simply sit down and just start writing. My main advice is to not look at writing as a way to make money, but as a way to share what you want to share – whether a story or encouragement or advice. Whatever it is, your goal should be connecting with people more than connecting with a paycheck because it’s never guaranteed you will be paid, or at least paid well, for what you write.
If you find yourself in a creative slump, what helps you get out of it and find inspiration?
Creative slumps happen often to me. For writing slumps, I either read a well-written book or watch a well-made movie. I need a good story to ignite ideas for my own stories. And sometimes I even watch a bad movie or read a not-so-great book to remind me what I don’t want to create.
Sometimes during those slumps, I walk away from whatever piece I’m working on for a while to give my brain some time to detox and recover. Then there are other times I keep writing through the slump. Whatever I’m writing during that time may be awful, but I hope that I will eventually write myself out of the slump.
Talking to people is another way I pull myself out of a slump. I’m a people watcher and there are times something I see or hear in real life will trigger an idea for a future story.
Can readers hope to see another book that focuses on Blanche’s story? Are there any projects that you’re currently working on that you’d like to share with readers?
I do have plans for another book that will be a branch off from Blanche’s story. It is going to be called Related by Blood and will focus on Blanche’s son Jackson and his relationship with his biological father Hank.
I’ve also started a story that will either be a novella or a full-length novel about Lily, who is mentioned in A New Beginning. The book will simply be called Lily and will be a little more challenging to write and read (for some) than some of my books because it will deal with difficult subjects like child abuse, teenage pregnancy, and addiction.
I just published a novella dealing with rekindling the passion in marriage called Rekindle and it is currently available on Amazon and Kindle, as well as through Kindle Unlimited. I hope to have it available through other sellers this winter as I figure out how to offer books places other than Amazon. The book focuses on Liam and Maddie Grant who are in the midst of a divorce when they are forced into quarantine after Liam comes in contact with someone who has a rare virus (yes, I wrote this during the onset of the COVID situation). The book also follows the story of Liam’s brother Matt, a United States Senator, who is also forced into quarantine and begins to think about how much he has neglected his marriage and family to pursue his political career. This book may be the basis for a future series, but I haven’t decided that for sure yet. I’m also in the middle of writing The Farmer’s Daughter, the first in a series. The book should be out sometime in February 2021. It is about Molly Tanner, a 26-year old woman who is still living on her family’s farm but wonders if she should start her own life by leaving the farm and finding out what else is out there in the world for her. While the book does include a romantic element, it also follows the story of the Tanner family, who is fighting to keep their family farm and store from going under during hard economic times.
I can’t wait to read more of Lisa’s books. She is a truly talented writer, and you won’t want to miss any of her novels!