Author/Editor Interview: Brandy Bruce

I’d like to introduce you to Brandy Bruce. Brandy and I went to the same college and interned together in book publishing at Focus on the Family in 2003. She is a special friend of mine and an up-and-coming Young Adult Fiction writer. She recently published her first book Looks Like Love with Westbow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson.

I thought her writing journey would be helpful to those of you interested in publishing/self-publishing, and of course, I wanted you to get to know her and her book. If you have any questions for Brandy, leave them in the comment section below.

Samantha Krieger Interviewing Brandy Bruce:

Samantha: So, tell us what your book Looks Like Love is all about.

Brandy: Looks Like Love is about a twenty-something marketing consultant, Kasey Addison, who’s starting over. After a devastating break-up, everything Kasey thought she knew about love suddenly feels like a lie. So she takes off on a journey to rediscover life and faith and love. Her adventure begins in London while she’s visiting her best friend. When her little whirlwind trip to England is over, she comes home to find herself suddenly on the marketing team for LETA, a growing cosmetics company. When LETA decides to release their very first fragrance, Kasey’s challenged to find out what love looks like and find a way to sell it. Along the way, Kasey learns that love looks like what she least expected

Samantha: What is the main takeaway for readers after reading your book?

Brandy: That love doesn’t always come wrapped in neat little packages. It can be messy; it can be painful; it can be hard. But it’s worth it. And that no matter what we go through in life, God’s love is always available to us.

Samantha: When I read and edited your book, I saw a lot of your preferences in the main character, Kasey Addison (coffee and cheesecake just to name a few!). Was this intentional? Explain a little bit about those similarities.

Brandy: I’m sure some of my personal characteristics come through in Kasey, but it wasn’t intentional. My characters weren’t inspired by real people or anything like that–just small characteristics. For example, I used to know a guy whose eyes either looked blue or green, depending on what he was wearing. I gave that quality to Lincoln. Once, when my dad came home from a trip overseas, he brought me a Toblerone bar of white chocolate. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to make Kasey a white-chocolate lover. Little things like that were inspired by real experiences. But the story as a whole and the characters were all just dreamed up.

Samantha: Talk a little bit about your publishing  journey.

Brandy: I actually wrote Looks Like Love several years ago. Once I finished it, I showed it to an agent (Chip MacGregor) who liked it and signed me as one of his authors. That was a great day. Then came the hard part—selling it. We came really close with a couple of publishers and got some great feedback, but just weren’t able to sell it. Because I’d received such positive feedback from editors I know and respect, I really didn’t want to give up on my book. So I told Chip I wanted to self-publish it, and he was totally supportive. Working in the industry myself, I know how difficult it can be for new people to break into the business. So I self-published with WestBow Press and it’s been a wonderful experience. I had a few authors come alongside me and give me some great endorsements. I had editorial help from fellow editors (like my wonderful friend Samantha!) as I polished my story. So I felt really blessed with all the support and encouragement I received. Now the book is out there and I am thrilled with the final product.

Samantha: What advice would you give to Christian writers/bloggers interested in both traditional publishing and/or self-publishing?

Brandy: I would say “Go for it!” But understand that it’s a tough business to get into and you’ve got options if it seems as though doors are closing for you. Try traditional publishing first. Create a spectacular book proposal and go to writers conferences. Pitch your proposal to agents and take their feedback seriously. Join a critique group. And really think about what your goals in publishing are. Do you want to make a living from writing? Is publishing a book just one goal on a bucket list you have? Are you hoping to be rich and famous and see your name on the New York Times’ best-seller list? Do you just have a story in your head that you love and would like to see in print, regardless of how many copies are sold? Are you doing everything you can to build your platform now (such as blogging and being active online)?

Samantha: So with being active online via Facebook, Twitter, blogging and other forms of social media, do you think it’s easier than ever for writers to build a platform and brand for themselves? How so?

Brandy: I definitely think those outlets are good for building a platform, but it takes work. Lots of time spent online, which can be hard to come by when you’ve already got a busy life. But being an active blogger and making your presence known online can definitely help get your name out there to people who might not otherwise hear of you.

Samantha: And finally, what projects are you working on for the future?

Brandy: Well, as an editor, I’m currently juggling two book projects. That takes a lot of my time. But I’m also working in a little time to write. My sister and I have been working together, co-authoring a fantasy YA (young adult) novel. I’m super excited about it!

Brandy Bruce holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Liberty University. She currently works as a developmental book editor for Focus on the Family. When she’s not chasing after her two-year-old daughter, she spends much of her time reading, editing, working with authors, and trying to keep up with deadlines. She’s the author of the newly released contemporary novel Looks Like Love. Brandy makes her home with her husband and daughter in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Check out the book

The Joy of Being on Mission- Letting God Use You Wherever You Go

On Sunday, God answered a prayer I began praying two years ago for a young woman named *Allison.

Two years ago I was deeply stirred and convicted that I can be salt and light wherever I go: at the grocery store, the park, the mall, Chick-fil-a, wherever… There were people all around me that desperately needed to hear the hope of the gospel. I knew I needed to start being more intentional with people and stop making excuses.

I started thinking about the people in my path on a regular basis and Allison instantly came to mind. She was one of the sitters at our gym’s childcare. I saw her consistently and she had a great affection for my son John. He loved seeing her too. From the moment I met Allison, I got this feeling that she had pain in her life. There was something in her eyes and in the way she carried herself that said it. I felt like God wanted to use me, by his grace, to show her love when I had the opportunity.

On the days I dropped my son off at the gym, I would engage with her by asking about her day and about herself. One day I made banana bread for her and the staff there. I knew simple facts that she had a daughter and lived nearby but that was it. Our time was often cut short with me having to round up the kids.

There were days I got so frustrated because the right timing hadn’t come for me to share Christ with her or invite her to church. But somehow I would always go back to the fact that all I needed to focus on was building a friendship with her and showing Christ’s love. So that’s what I did over a span of two years.

Well about a month ago, I called to set up a childcare appointment and our conversation naturally flowed into me asking if she’d like to come to church with our family. To my amazement, she said she’d love to and we planned to meet in the morning. But morning came and she had to cancel. I was a little upset because I was so excited about it. The next Sunday we had planned to meet again, but her daughter ended up getting sick and my kids got sick too.

I grew discouraged thinking she’d never make it to church with us. I wondered if God really would make it happen. Then out of the blue and not in my timing at all, on our flight home from VA Beach this past Saturday, Allison texted me saying she wanted to join us for church. I was a little doubtful it would happen especially because we weren’t even sure we were going after a long day of traveling, but I trusted the Lord and we planned a time.

I texted her that morning to see if she thought it would work and she was ready to go! We met and she followed us in our van. When we arrived, Jeremiah took the kids and checked them in and I helped her check in her daughter. This was her daughter’s first time to church and she was so excited. When it was time for worship, we got our coffee and seats and the music played. We all stood to sing. I glanced over at Allison and she was blotting her eyes with tissue. She told me midway through how much she loved the songs.

When our young adult pastor, JP, gave the message, I felt like it was one of the best sermons I had ever heard. It was on being a light that shines bright among the darkness and the gospel was clearly presented.

After the service, Allison told me she loved it and wanted to come back next week. Her daughter also loved her class. We went out to lunch after, along with a couple in our community group and Jeremiah’s sister. Amidst the craziness of kids at the table, we learned a little more about her. She felt the freedom to share that she was adopted and her adopted dad died when she was a little girl. Several years ago she was in a very bad relationship, where she was beaten and the man killed the 8 month old baby in her womb.

I had never heard anything so tragic and I was amazed by all that she had gone through and that was only a small part of her story. Allison had experienced tremendous loss. But I was so encouraged that she heard the true gospel and she desired to come back to church. She experienced love from the body of Christ and I believe she knows that Jesus can heal her of all those hurts. I am praying for more opportunities to follow up with her and continue to encourage her toward a relationship with Christ.

As I write this, my eyes fill with tears because God is intervening in Allison’s life. While she may not fully know it yet, I believe it’s clear that he is working. We serve a God who cares deeply for people’s hurts and that they would be reconciled back to Him. We serve a God who wants to use us in every day life as we yield to His Spirit while we’re on mission for Him.

I look forward to seeing what God does with Allison’s life in the future. I’ll be sure to update you.

* name changed to protect privacy

Taking Time to Rest

I don’t feel like the word “rest” has been in my vocabulary for a long time since our precious little girl entered the world four months ago. Rest has been really hard to come by having a newborn and a toddler, but this week I have finally found some.

On Saturday, we flew from Dallas to Virginia Beach to vist my sister Stefanie so she could meet Rebekah for the first time. We’re also here during Jeremiah’s Spring Break from seminary. Flying with children is never easy, but once we got here and settled in on a routine, I have been so refreshed. There’s just something about getting away from what’s familar and from your own home and being in a completely different environment.

A lot of my rest also has to do with the help I’ve had. Even my five year old nephew is able to do small things and my sister and husband have cooked, cleaned, and been an extra hand. We’ve been able to get out at night and shop while the babies are down and have some “me” time. I’ve been able to spice up my wardrobe a little which I’m most excited about.

We have 3 days left of our vacation and I’m just trying to soak every minute up- especially with my sister and her family. My plan is to continue to not think too hard or do too much, but to rest, relax, and listen closely to what God might want to show me away from home.

Well, that’s all for now. Nothing too deep. Since the whole house is napping, I think it’s my turn to hit the couch.

Have you been able to take some kind of break away from the familiar so you can find rest?

Take Heart (He has overcome the world)

My heart has been heavy since hearing about the death of 28-year-old pastor, Clint Dobson, who was killed in his church office last week. It happened about 30 min. away from where I live. Yesterday while I was walking my kids around campus of the seminary my husband attends, I kept thinking about Clint and the brevity of life.

As a believer in Christ living in a fallen world, I’m not guaranteed that good things will happen or that I will live to see the next day. This truth has humbled me and last night I was encouraged by Jesus’ words in John:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world. – John 16:33

Jesus’ body was about to be broken and his blood would be poured out for all the world to see, but he would soon defeat sin and death once and for all. He prepares the disciples ahead of time to take heart. His death and resurrection would change the world so much that they would have to scatter because their very lives would be in danger as followers of Christ.

John MacArthur says, “Through His impending death, He rendered the world’s opposition null and void. While the world continues to attack His people, such attacks fall harmlessly, for Christ’s victory has already accomplished a smashing defeat of the whole evil rebellious system.”

Trials, tribulation, pain and suffering would surely come the disciples’ way, but it would be okay because God had already won. Even though they would be scattered from persecution and other forms of evil, Jesus would be with them. Their hope was that they could persevere and endure until the end.

And this is our same hope today.

Although I wish we could, we can’t escape trouble in our lives and in this world. But we can trust that God has already overcome the world and will continue to overcome it. He isn’t sitting idle on his throne. He will bring justice in his perfect timing.

While my heart still breaks for Clint Dobson and his wife Laura and his family, I have found a peace knowing that he died faithfully serving the Lord and he’s finally where he was created to be, where pain and suffering does not exist.

New Header Design by Tekeme Studios

A few months ago, I had asked you for some feedback on this blog. Your comments were so helpful and encouraging. I was able to find more clarity and direction for what I write in this little space.

Along with your feedback, I was keeping a new header design in mind- a design that would reflect what this blog is about. About a year ago, I heard about Tekeme Studios through a tweet by author Mary DeMuth. I saw samples of their work and was so impressed by their creativity. This past December, I contacted them and began the process of creating a brand new header.

Husband and wife duo, George and Ashley Weis, worked with me to design the header and had me fill out a detailed questionnaire about my passions, what this blog is about, the look and feel I wanted to create, my preferred color schemes and more. I wanted a look that represented growth, life, and faith. I wanted the feel to be warm, inviting, and calm.

A few weeks ago, George (the designer) finished the header. I think he hit the nail on the head and I’m really happy with the end result. If you want a new design for your blog or website, I highly recommend checking out Tekeme Studios and looking into the services they offer.

What You Really Have is Him

As I dragged myself out of bed onto the floor to respond to the cries of my newborn, I knew this particular day would be hard. The morning hours passed by and she continued to fuss and fuss and fuss and my toddler was at my ankles, whining constantly. I felt like being mean because I was so sleep deprived. And my husband was the first to hear all my complaints and how I wish I could hire out a Mommy for the day or go into work for him.

How am I supposed to get through another day? I asked God. How am I supposed to be the godly person I want to be when I’m absolutely spent?

And that’s when His gentle, quiet voice whispered: I am with you. And I started remembering that…

When we are weary and can’t move on, that is when God says He will give us strength and lift up our heads.

When we want to throw in the towel, that is when God wraps us in his steadfast love and renews us.

When we do not feel his presence, that is when God reminds us of the truth that He is here.

Because it is in the times where we feel like we are struggling to survive in a sun-scorched desert, that we start lifting our hands to heaven for help. We have no other choice but to rely on Christ because without him, we would die. However, we cannot be afraid to ask Him (regarding the big and little struggles of life) and tell him our concerns. He is always willing and ready to answer our prayers.

While I have felt sleep deprived again this week and have a sore throat and a cold (along with the rest of my family), I’ve been able to better lean on the truth that He really is with me. He is for me and understands what it’s like to be physically exhausted and what it’s like to struggle.

Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you. – Psalm 55:22

My legs hit the floor again at 4:00 AM this morning so I could care for my son who has a bad cough. While I reached over to give him water and tylenol, I trusted in the fact that a day is coming where I will have rest and that God is using my struggles and the gift of raising my children to teach me a greater dependence upon Him.

Guest Post: Love Changes Everything by Ellie Bakk

This is a guest blog by Ellie Bakk, winner of last week’s contest. It also just so happens that today is her Birthday! Happy Birthday, Ellie! I hope you enjoy her post as much as I did. If you’d like to guest post on this blog, contact me here for guidelines.

When I began to love. I began to cry. True story.

Not that I’ve ever lacked emotion in my life (I’m sure my parents could testify to my adolescent years…represent 14!)…sure, I dealt (okay, deal) with my fair share of emotions. Anger, fear, joy, jealousy, sadness, trust, even love.

Love.

Oh, love…it changed me. It made me cry.

When I met my husband, back when he was not my husband, rather just a rugged, mysterious Alaskan who could’ve passed for The Man From Snowy River every day of the week, and I was, well an 18 year old Texan, who acted like she had it all together, and sort of kind of almost did.

Anyway, way back then, he fell in love fast and was unashamed.

And then there was me…little ole me. I was slow at forming the words with my mouth, even though my heart was ready. Sooooo slooooooow.

“I love you, Ellie.”

“Thanks!”

Is how our dates at the foot of the San Juan Mountains would end for MONTHS. On any given night, we would have just ridden bare back on a horse up the side of a mountain where he would have built a fire out of branches and his bare hands (there was no burning of hands, but you get the picture) and we would have talked and talked under the Colorado stars where he would confess his love…and in the end, all I had to say was “thanks!”

Who does that?

Some freckle-face full of sassiness whose head put a cap on her emotions, that’s who.

Some girl who talked herself out of feeling too much, that’s who.

Okay, me. That’s who.

Over time, though, his romance-esqe novel ways wore me down and my heart’s contents bubbled over (pardon the cheese)…I loved him too.

I knew it, I felt it, and I had to tell him.

And so I did.

Slowly but surely, the permission I gave myself to really love him seeped into my entire being…all of a sudden I felt emotion about so many things so much more deeply.

And that’s where the tears come in. I started to cry…really cry.

Don’t hear me say I was ever stone-cold…Hallmark commercials had always made me teary, the star-spangled banner regularly choked me up and a friend relaying a story of hardship would bring tears to my eyes…but as far as FEELING the tears and letting them fall…that happened only when I really allowed myself to love…and be loved, let’s be honest.

Maybe this doesn’t sound like a very fitting Valentine’s Day post – being about tears and all – but I have definitely experienced that the more I love, the more I cry.

I fell in love with my husband.

I loved him with a capacity I’d never known.

I cried.

I fell in love with my firstborn child.

My capacity to love grew.

I cried harder.

I fell in love with my second born child.

My capacity to love grew even more.

I cried even harder.

Now that I think about it, those aforementioned peeps cry harder than the one above them as well…maybe this elucidates my tears?

No, those aren’t the type of tears I’m talking about.

I’m talking living-life-abundantly-and-really-feeling-it type of tears.

I’m talking well-up-with-pride-because-your-husband-is-gifted-by-God-to-do-great-things type of tears.

I’m talking sweep-the-hair-out-of-your-three-year-old’s-eyes-and-stare-speechless-in-them-when-she-says “I sure love to hold your hand Mama” type of tears.

I’m talking ache-to-the-depths-of-your-soul-for-your-baby-and-the-potential-adversity-she-may-endure type of tears.

I’m talking turn-your-face-to-the-ground-because-the-thought-of-Jesus-loving-you-so-much-and-hanging-on-the-cross-for-you-is-too-much-to-comprehend type of tears.

It’s THOSE types of tears that love brought into my life. It’s the raw emotion that can set me soaring or rip my gut out. It’s love. It’s real. It’s incredible. It’s love.

God’s love, yes…but in so many ways, His changing love manifested itself in a mysterious Alaskan who taught me how to truly love and be loved and let’s face it…how to cry.

Now, excuse me while I go find a tissue.

Ellie is still a freckle-face Jesus follower who is passionate about her Alaskan, two fun loving little girls, people in general, missions, most anything Mac, creating, intercultural studies, the written word, supporting her husband through seminary, and her red guitar. She blogs at thebakkfamily.blogspot.com


Submit a Post: Win a Signed Copy of Lazarus Awakening

Recently, I had dinner with best-selling author Joanna Weaver. You may be familiar with one of her books, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. Joanna was a delight to meet and get to know. Her newest book (brand new in fact) by Waterbrook Press is called Lazarus Awakening. Here’s what it’s about:

You believe that God loves the world… but sometimes you wonder if He truly loves you. For many of us, moving the truth of God’s love from our heads to our hearts is a lifelong process. As we consider our inadequacies or grieve our shattered dreams, we find it difficult to believe that God cares for us personally.

In this life-giving book, Joanna Weaver shows you how to embrace the truth that Jesus loves you apart from anything you accomplish, apart from anything you bring. Just as He called Lazarus forth to new life, Jesus wants to free you to live fully in the light of His love, unbound from the graveclothes of fear, regret, and self-condemnation. Love is calling your name.

I thought it would be fun for us to try a little contest, so here it goes. To win a signed copy of Lazarus Awakening:

  • Write a blog post on how love has changed you by this Friday, Feb. 11 (until midnight)
  • Must be less than 500 words
  • Submit as a Word doc to:  samantha [at] samanthakrieger [dot] [com]  Subject: Love Post
  • The winner’s entry will be published as a guest post on this blog Monday, Feb. 14- Valentine’s Day, in addition to receiving the signed book
  • All other entries will be considered as future guest posts

I can’t wait to see your submissions!

pleasant interruptions

Since Tuesday morning, the roads have been lined with a sheet of ice and a light blanket of snow covers the grass. This morning our power went out and we had to get dressed over candlelight. An hour ago, it went out again for 10 minutes before I could dry my hair.

And I’ve been completely fine with it. But any other week, I probably would be frustrated because I like everything to be planned and not so spontaneous. But I’ve really been able to embrace my present reality, taking a few steps back to rest in the simplicity.

There is nowhere to go but to be with my precious children and visit our neighbors. Our refrigerator is growing bare, but our needs are met. If we really needed something, Jeremiah is at work and could go to Kroger on his way home.

This time of stillness has also brought a little surprise my way. Someone I know who works for WaterBrook/Multnomah Publishers asked if I’d like to have lunch with one of their authors, Joanna Weaver, this week and that it would be on them! Joanna wrote the book Having a Mary Spirit in a Martha World (along with many other books).I’m so humbled and honored by this opportunity and on Thursday I’ll get to meet her.

It’s been really fun watching God pour out such pleasant interruptions to my week. I think he knows I need to hold life a little more loosely and begin to better welcome whatever comes my way.

Well, the gray clouds still hover over the city and it’s as if everyone is still sleeping. I’m going to end this post just in case the power goes out again!

Yes, free indeed: Overcoming Our Deepest Fears

“Get dressed. We’re going to the lake,” my husband Jeremiah says on the other end of the line as he’s driving home from work on Monday. I was already dressed in my workout clothes and I was loving his spontaneity because it had been a hard day at home and I needed some fresh air.

We arrived at the lake an hour before sun set. My toddler John ran through the leaves and down the hills. I pushed Rebekah in the stroller and inhaled the cool breeze. We then walked on the paved trail that led to a long bridge where ducks swam underneath. We parked ourselves there for a while and watched our son in such delight. It was like the world stood still and all that existed was our little family.

Then out of nowhere… a cyclist comes riding across the bridge and before we could even think to hold his hand, John darts out in front of him. I scream: “John!” and the cyclist screams “Whoa, Whoa, Whoa!” and slams on his breaks in a panic, coming to a screeching stop. Not quite understanding, John hurried back to our side and the cyclist rode off.

On our way home, I started crying. Jeremiah was still in shock too. That experience showed me that I have a whole new set of fears I didn’t know I had. God has told us in His Word that He’s not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind. But now what? What does that mean? What does it mean to live by faith, this faith I’ve been called to?

Being responsible…When I was crying, the fears flooding through my mind made God’s word seem stale. Could I trust God to protect John in the future…and me and my family? I mean, shouldn’t I help God out and do what is responsible? My heart wrestled. What seems most responsible is to not return to the lake. It is too dangerous! My insides were being seized by fear, and I was doing everything that I could to muster up some sort of faith that would set me free. I felt compelled to act, but if I did, would I even know what was best? I needed to be free.

Yes, free. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free! Monday taught me that nothing will deflate our spirit faster than fear. Faith in God’s promises gives us the confidence and courage to experience the freedom and joy of the fullness of life. We were created to go to the lake with our family. I was made to watch John sprint down the grassy knoll, laughing with joy as he kicked up the leaves in the air.

Yes, I want that joy that comes with such faith- the faith of a child. John’s life became to me a vivid picture of faith. He lives by faith. Questions about how his needs will be met don’t go through his head. He doesn’t wonder if he will be safe. John’s faith allows him to be free.  John had such delight because he ran freely without inhibitions and fears that would keep him from running. John’s faith doesn’t know such fear. That is why he could laugh and smile when he shuffled his feet through the leaves.

Today, God is helping me to run again. Monday’s experience was tough, but I’m looking forward to going back to the lake again with my family. I haven’t figured it all out, but I know that I’m a weak vessel and I must trust God. There is an “abundance of life” that we were created to enjoy. In fact, I’m learning to enjoy it in a whole new way that I did not know before. Jesus said, “If the Son has set you free, you will be free indeed.” Our faith in Christ is our very freedom. I am free. Yes, I am free, indeed.

* This article was a team effort. Thank you, Jeremiah, for helping me write and edit the story.

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