Women of Faith and Fiction ~ Janell Butler Wojtowicz

Good morning, lovely people! Welcome to another post with Women of Faith and Fiction! I don’t know about you, but I’ve enjoyed learning more about the women behind the books. And this morning we have another great story! Author Janell Butler Wojtowicz is with us. Let’s show Janell some love, shall we?

029Good morning, Janell. Thank you for visiting with us. Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up on an Iowa farm surrounded by corn, soybean and hay in the fields, and cattle and pigs in the farmyard. And lots and lots of cats in the barn. Pigs literally put me through college at the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, Minnesota. Many times when I called Dad for a tuition payment, he’d tell me he’d send it when the next load of pigs went to market.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in written communication, I returned to Iowa where I was a reporter/editor at three small town newspapers for 10 years. I met my husband, Frank, a friend of my family living in Minneapolis, and became a city girl. (By the way, my Polish last name is pronounced “Why-tow-vitch.) Over the next 18 years, I’ve worked in public relations at my alma mater; Leadership Foundations, a nonprofit organization supporting inner-city Christian ministries; and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. My freelance business, A Portrait in Words, offers writing and editing services.

Frank and I live in New Brighton, Minnesota, a pleasant suburb of the Twin Cities. I have two step-sons, a step-daughter-in-law, and three step-granddaughters.

Sounds like a wonderful life, Janell. Thank you for sharing the story about your dad. He sounds like a hard working man who loves his family. Now that I know how to pronounce your name, it isn’t that hard at all! J

This month’s theme is goodness, Janell. Would you please share your thoughts with our readers.

I don’t know about y’all, but I get dismayed, frustrated and even fearful by the news that saturates every second of our lives. I try to tune it out with reading anything but the news, and listen to uplifting Christian music, my favorites being “Even So Come” and “Who Am I?” This month’s blog forced me to look for goodness. And the goodness was easy to find.

My husband and I live in a condo with many seniors. Our neighbors look after each other, whether it’s a welfare check during a power outage or jump-starting a dead car battery. This summer, in prep for the annual underground garage cleaning, one owner took it upon himself to clean the parking spaces of several seniors, for free. He endured heat, humidity and almost no air movement with a smile on his face the entire time.

My mother’s small Iowa community came together to support her pastor’s family whose nine-year-old son endured a year-long series of chemotherapy. It didn’t matter what church people attended or where they lived; all that mattered was the family needed help and encouragement, which was plentiful.

The most outstanding example of goodness I’ve seen recently has been bestowed on my cousin, Denise, who has Multiple Sclerosis. She’s always been an optimistic person whose heart exemplifies goodness. Even as the MS has progressed and Denise endures treatments and physical therapy, she sees the good in life and gives God the praise. Now, she’s experiencing goodness from others who have come by her side through transportation to appointments, storming the gates of heaven with prayer, and now a fund-raising event to help finance leg aids to keep her mobile. All this reassures me that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is goodness.

“I (Paul) myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness …” Romans 15:14

Wow, Janell. Thank you for sharing all that goodness with us this morning. I’m sure there are some who really needs to hear a little good news. Now, for the next part of this interview. We all know, this life is a continual journey of learning, applying, and transforming. Have you ever experienced a season when you found it difficult to do good for others? How did you overcome?

In 2010, I lost my job and threw myself into finding another full-time. The job search became an all-encompassing, all-consuming, energy-depleting, and ultimately, unsuccessful battle that crushed my spirit. But now, almost seven years later, I see how God has scripted what I admit was the worst time in my life.

My job search shifted to freelance work as God shifted my priorities. Freelance gave me the time and practical means to help others, especially my family. Armed with my laptop, smart phone, and a Wi-Fi connection, I can work practically anywhere. When my widowed mother, who lives three hours away, fell and broke her ankle, I was available to help with her in-home care. My husband’s chronic back problems required doctor appointments and procedures. I also nursed him back to health after hip replacement surgery. My step-son and family moved 10 hours away and we were able to help. I remember well the weekend during their relocation when I sat in a St. Louis, MO, hotel lobby with my laptop connected to Wi-Fi working on a project for a client in Minneapolis. All that would not have been possible had I been working full-time. Sure, my income isn’t nearly what it used to be, but I’ve trusted God to provide and, so far He’s come through—God is good!

Woohoo! God is good!  So tell us more about your writing. In what genre do you write and how does your faith influence your writing?

I write contemporary Christian romance. When it comes to fiction, I could never write anything other than the Christian story of redemption and grace. It’s in my spiritual DNA.

Most of my 35-year-career has been in journalism and public relations. The first 10 years were in community journalism. While I was able to interject my faith in columns, for the most part it was secular writing. I then spent 12 years at a Christian college where my job was all about writing faith-based articles and features about students, faculty and alumni. One of my monthly tasks was to write the formal thank you note to donors. Instead of finding it tedious, I relished searching the Bible for nuggets of thankfulness and encouragement for those letters—and there was a gold mine of nuggets!

I dearly missed that faith aspect of writing when I worked in local government. I believe that void is what fed development of “Embracing Hope.” When I started out, it was a Christian love story. When it was finished it was a story of hope—not just the sitting-around-waiting, wishful thinking hope, but the tangible hope found through forgiveness, faith in what seems impossible, and courage in tragedy.

I love stories of hope! Janell, thank you so much for being here with us today. And thank you for sharing your life with us. I hope you write many more stories of hope and forgiveness!

Embracing Hope Blurb
Christian college dean Drew McKinley mourns his dead wife and still wears his wedding ring. He stumbles on a desperate journey to understand God’s motives for her tragic death. Crossing his perilous path is Allison, a graduate student and new employee in the dean’s office. Even as she deals with financial hardships, she recognizes Drew’s unresolved grief from her own loss. Putting up a roadblock is Chris Whitney, the handsome but egotistical student senate president. He carries the secret burden of a dysfunctional family and a below-the-surface temper. The road Drew must navigate is fraught with career upheaval, a reawakening heart, substance and domestic abuse, a violent assault, and the struggle for forgiveness and restoration. Will Drew finish his journey to embrace the hope God offers, the love Allison shares, and the guidance Chris needs, or will he turn his back on all three with catastrophic consequences?

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Women of Faith and Fiction ~ Vikki Kestell

Good morning, friends! Glad you’ve joined us for another edition of Women of Faith and Fiction. This morning we welcome Vikki Kestell.

Vikki’s latest series is a sci-fi/fantasy thriller! So without further ado, please give her a warm welcome.

Thank you for joining us here at CHW, Vikki!  Please tell us a little about yourself.

Thank you for having me today! Well, I wrote my first book in 1988 during a very difficult period in my life. Nothing came of that book, but I have a stack of lovely rejection letters in my files. Then, in 1991, I left my husband of twenty years and moved from Montana to New Mexico to be close to family.

I had to figure out how to support my three children, so I went to work, but I also went back to school. Over the next twelve years, I worked and earned a B.A. in English, professional writing, an M.A. in communication, then a Ph.D. In 2012, almost 25 years later, I published that first book, “A Rose Blooms Twice,” on Kindle. Since then, I’ve added seven books to the series and have written two other series. Isn’t God’s timing amazing? After all that education, I’m now back to doing what I started in 1988: writing full time.

I agree, Vikki. God’s timing is amazing! This month’s theme is Kindness. Please share your thoughts with our readers.

Hmm. I’ve come to think that kindness is more an approach to life than merely an attribute. How we make decisions on a daily (even momentary basis) can include or exclude the needs and feelings of others. Kindness is an ongoing awareness of others and their needs. Kindness is related to humility: I am not better (or less) than anyone else, and my needs are not more important than the needs of others. Following the leading of the Holy Spirit is essential to living a kind life.

Can you imagine what the world would be like if we all followed that line of thought? Now, Vikki, life is a continual journey of learning, applying, and transforming. Have you ever experienced a season when you found it difficult to have kindness toward another? How did you overcome?

Since I am naturally more task-oriented than people-oriented, I can tell you that kindness is hard for me. Being aware of and sensitive to the feelings of others is a battle I’ve fought for decades. But God is good! Spending more time with Jesus—finding and abiding in his heart and his word—is what has changed me.

My life verse is found in 1 Peter 5:6: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” It has taught me that humility is the hallmark of a follower of Jesus, that only when my desires are submitted to him will I be lifted up.

For the record, I think you’re a nice person! 🙂 In what genre do you write and how does your faith influence your writing?

I love a good story, regardless of genre. In the same way that I’m not a one-genre reader, I’m not a one-genre writer. In fact, you could say I’m all over the map!

I have an eight-book historical series (A Prairie Heritage), a follow-on historical series (Girls from the Mountain), a three-book sci-fi/fantasy thriller (Nanostealth), a short story called “The Christian and the Vampire,” and six Bible studies on Christian maturity. See? LOL. I told you I was all over the map!

What will you find in my series, A Prairie Heritage? You will find dauntless, faith-filled immigrants forging new lives on America’s unforgiving plains—and their children challenging the savagery of human trafficking in Denver, circa 1910. Once you arrive at Joy on This Mountain, Book 3 in the series, I promise you will be hooked. I seek to write good, meaty, reads of about 110k words or more. For your readers who are interested in exploring this series, Book 1, A Rose Blooms Twice is free on four major eBook retailers, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and Kobo.

My publishing house is “Faith-Filled Fiction.” What all my novels have in common is that they are redemptive in nature—not merely “clean” fiction or “romance” with a little church or Jesus thrown in. My books focus on the realities of life and how Jesus comes into those realities and transforms my characters. Everything about Jesus brings the dead to life—and that’s what I seek to portray in my writing.

“Everything about Jesus brings the dead to life.” I like that statement! Vikki, thank you for sharing your heart and your writing with us.

Click to Tweet: “Everything about Jesus brings the dead to life.” ~ Vikki Kestell

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Messina: Book 1, The Casa Bella Chronicles ~ Liz Galvano

 

Messina, Book 1 The Casa Bella Chronicles

Messina, Sicily December 28th, 1908.

 

Seventy thousand people never woke up. Of the first sixty days after the catastrophe, it rained forty-five, making rescue extremely hazardous for the doctors, nurses and rescue crews. When all was said and done, the death toll estimate stood at two-hundred thousand people. Some details in regard to the earthquake have been changed to help the flow of this story. The overall account of this tragedy, however, remains intact. This is a fictional tale based on historical events, yet by no means represents all that happened in Messina.

This book is dedicated to the men and women who sacrificed themselves willingly to help during this great tragedy, and to those who were lost that fateful night.

My Thoughts

Encouraged to follow her heart, Lucy James studied hard and became a doctor—a surgeon, in fact—only to be looked upon as inferior in 1908 society. But being ostracized didn’t bother Lucy. She never desired to be a member of the boy’s club. All she ever wanted was to heal the sick and hurting.

When Messina is devastated by an earthquake, Lucy quickly volunteers to help in the makeshift hospital. A fact that raises Dr. Giovanni Castello’s blood pressure. Will he permit her to stay long enough to prove her medical expertise?

Giovanni lives in Messina and chooses to stay and help the people. Working in the horrific conditions, he and the new lady doctor does whatever they can to aid the injured, hungry, and homeless. Giovanni questions Lucy’s presence and safety in Messina’s current condition. He needs men capable of taking care of themselves in a world thrown into chaos, not this woman.

Heart-breaking? Gruesome? Riveting? Yes. Yes. Yes.

Thankfully, Galvano doesn’t leave her characters amid the horrors of devastation but sweeps them to the family home of Giovanni’s ancestors where he and Lucy become better acquainted and find hope for the future. But when they think they’ve found happiness, tragedy strikes again.

Galvano has done an excellent job describing the devastation during this historical event. Her characters are well-rounded and likable. I enjoyed the way she allowed their friendship to evolve through the day-to-day triumphs and heartaches.

I confess, Messina was a pleasant surprise. It’s not your ordinary book. So if your reading time has stalled and you’re looking for an out-of-the-box experience, I recommend Messina.

I was given a copy of this book by the author but not required to write a review.

❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

Liz Galvano AuthorLiz Galvano has been writing since she was a little girl. Her stories combine old style adventure and romance with a dash of humor. She loves family, food, animals, and all things Italian. Liz lives with her husband Jeff, two rambunctious dogs, two entitled cats, and a horse who thinks she’s a princess.

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