Interview with Jen Ludwig Author of 'Embracing Advent: Rediscovering Christmas in the Chaos'

 Oct. 31, 2022

I was privileged to invite Author Jen Ludwig for an interview to discuss her latest book Embracing Advent, and the inspiration behind it. Enjoy!




What's your book about, and what inspired you to write it?

Embracing Advent is a devotional meant to help people slow down and reflect on God's gifts of hope, peace, joy, and love in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

I am a planner – so I love to prepare for Christmas. But, over the years, I found myself caught up in all of the "stuff" that we do to enjoy the holidays – parties, gift buying, and other traditions. While I still LOVE these things, I've found that the best way to soak in the season is to sit at Jesus' feet for a few minutes each day. I hope this book is a tool for other's to be able to do the same!

Who is your target audience, and why do you think this book will appeal to them?

While I hope that anyone would enjoy what Embracing Advent has to offer… My target audience is someone who is looking to spending 5–10 minutes each day reflecting on the Christmas season and preparing to celebrate… so that December 26 doesn't roll around and leave you saying, “What happened? Is Christmas over already?”

What message do you wish to pass across to your readers with this book?

God loves you and – more than wanting you to DO anything – He just wants to spend time with you, renew you, and grow you!

What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?

The hardest thing about writing this book was finding the time to get it done!

As a writer, is there anything you've learned about yourself while writing this book?

LOL. I've learned that the principles I'm encouraging people to engage in… taking time to rest, wait, and pray… are ones that I, too, need to be reminded of!

For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books, and why?  

I read my Bible – and often an accompanying book or devotional – every morning. These HAVE to be paper! There is just something about cuddling up in the same cozy chair with a cup of coffee with paper in my hands that feels very familiar and comfortable.

That said, I love to load up a Kindle when I travel!

What is your niche genre, and if you were to write in a different genre, what would it be?

My niche genre is definitely any and all things Christmas. I actually am also a songwriter, and more than half of what I have written are songs for the holidays.  

If I were to go beyond Christmas (which I am currently working on!), I would still stay in the Christian/spiritual/inspirational genre!

What books and authors have most influenced you?

Number one… The Bible.

In addition to that I love reading Beth Moore, N.T. Wright, Shauna Niequist (I just finished I Guess I Haven't Learned that Yet and LOVED it!), Nancy Guthrie (I really appreciate her devotions), and many others!

Do you have any more books in the works?

Not a full-length book… but I'm currently working on a short devotional.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I sure do! Of course, I LOVE a good review. A friend and fellow author told me that a bad review just means your book is getting outside your circle (and, perhaps, echo chamber), which is a good thing!

Mention 3-5 fast (and/or fun) facts about you that you'd like to share

When I came to college in Southern California, I thought I would only be here for four years, then would return to Northern California. But here I am 32 years later…

I LOVE LOVE LOVE to travel and have lived abroad for several stints.
One of those stints was in South Africa, and I speak just a little bit of Zulu!

How can readers get in touch with or follow you (website, personal blog, social media handle, Goodreads)?

My website is www.jenludwig.com, and you can follow me during the holiday season at @embracingadvent on Instagram!




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Jen Ludwig is a Jesus-follower, worship leader, and songwriter. After attending Pepperdine University and finishing her graduate studies at UCLA, she settled in Southern California, where she currently resides with her husband and two teenagers. Follow Jen during the holiday season on Instagram at @embracingadvent.




Book Review: "Sorry I'm Late, I Didn't Want to Come: An Introvert's Year of Living Dangerously", by Jessica Pan

 Oct. 15, 2022


𝗕𝗢𝗢𝗞 𝗦𝗬𝗡𝗢𝗣𝗦𝗜𝗦
What would happen if a shy introvert lived like a gregarious extrovert for one year? If she knowingly and willingly put herself in perilous social situations that she’d normally avoid at all costs? Writer Jessica Pan intends to find out. With the help of various extrovert mentors, Jessica sets up a series of personal challenges (talk to strangers, perform stand-up comedy, host a dinner party, travel alone, make friends on the road, and much, much worse) to explore whether living like an extrovert can teach her lessons that might improve the quality of her life. Chronicling the author’s hilarious and painful year of misadventures, this book explores what happens when one introvert fights her natural tendencies, takes the plunge, and tries (and sometimes fails) to be a little bit braver.

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"Sorry I'm Late" was incredibly funny and enlightening, and I would recommend it to everyone to check out! It's amazing how much I could relate to a lot of what the author said. Here are just a few takeaways I got:

✔️ It's okay to step out of your comfort zone sometimes; you never know what you'll discover about yourself.

✔️ Just like extroverts can learn from introverts' personalities about the power of 'quiet', introverts can also learn from extroverted personalities about the benefits of being a little more expressive, as well as exploring new adventures.

✔️ Don't try to become someone you're not, or change your personality (i.e. from introvert to extrovert); you'll only make yourself more miserable and exhausted. That being said, it's perfectly okay, and highly encouraged, to evolve and grow.

I highly, highly recommend!

ᴍʏ ʀᴀᴛɪɴɢ: 4.5/5
ɢᴇɴʀᴇ/ᴛʜᴇᴍᴇꜱ: Self-help, memoir, humor⁣
ᴍᴀᴛᴜʀɪᴛʏ ʀᴀᴛɪɴɢ: 14+



Interview with Seeley James, Author of 'The Rembrandt Decision: A Pia Sabel Mystery'

 May 30, 2022




I was privileged to invite Author Seeley James for an interview to discuss his latest book The Rembrandt Decision: A Pia Sabel Mystery, and the inspiration behind it. Enjoy!

What's your book about, and what inspired you to write it?

'The Rembrandt Decision: A Pia Sabel Mystery' is a murder mystery with a touch of psychological thriller and references to ancient literature. The murder of a small-town drunk exposes long held secrets and family trauma. Visiting industrialist Pia Sabel quickly determines the town’s police chief will never believe who the murderer is and sets out to show him, clue by clue. The problems her investigation uncovers range from community and family inclusion and adoption to racism and dealing with unintended biases. Her revelations lead to a shocking conclusion not just about whodunit but why. And that brings the story full circle for the reader.

What inspired me to write this (my fourteenth novel) was my adoption history. When I was nineteen, I adopted a three-year-old girl and raised her. (For details, visit http://seelyjames.com/adopted .) We faced many struggles and challenges but overcame a good deal and managed to survive. I wanted to express the challenges of alternatives to nuclear families. The feedback, reviews, and critics tell me I managed to convey a new and interesting look at family, loyalties, race, and blood lines.

Who is your target audience, and why do you think this book will appeal to them?

Because it's primarily a mystery, starting off with a dead body in the classic murder-mystery vein, it has a very wide audience. I sneak in the literary issues of inclusion, family values, unintentional racism, privilege and so on, so as not to scare off the masses.

This book appeals to a wide, general audience because it provokes thought without preaching. It demonstrates small incidents in one person's life that have a large impact on someone else. Fan mail tells me people have discovered tidbits of personal growth buried in different parts. There's something for everyone.

What message do you wish to pass across to your readers with this book?

We are all in this together. The Golden Rule means we respect and help others without reservation.

Regardless of where we come from, who we think we are, who we called Mom, we are all related.

What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?

There was one discussion between two adults who were adopted as children. There are many facets to adoption, many scars, many inherent psychological issues, and writing a dialogue that represented the triumphs and tragedies properly took days.

As a writer, is there anything you've learned about yourself while writing this book?

Great question. I tend to tear myself open to write every book. It's become a form of therapy. In this one, I re-learned something from long ago. When my adopted daughter was in her teens and struggling with abandonment issues, I had a moment of clarity about what empathy really means. In that moment, I knew inside my skin, exactly what it felt like to be her and wonder why my parents weren't there. Writing this brought back that deep sorrow and the common parental desire to make all that pain and anguish go away -- while knowing fixing it is impossible.

For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books, and why?  

Hard cover books are the only books! I love them, the smell, the feel, the weight. BUT, I read ebooks because I can steal ... I mean, I can highlight great passages and export them for later study. For really great books, like "Their Eyes were Watching God", or "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" I buy both.

However, I hike mountains for an hour+ every day, so I listen to audiobooks. Because it isn't a good platform for deep subjects (I space out from time to time), I listen to things like romance novels, or classics like Jane Austen, Arthur Conan Doyle.

What is your niche genre, and if you were to write in a different genre, what would it be?

I have two niches: International Thrillers and Murder Mysteries. The former allows me to spin spy-novel yarns on an emotional rollercoaster about global conspiracies while the latter allows small town exposes about relationships and people in a cerebral engaging context.

I have a dystopian series in the back of my head that I'd like to find time to explore. It's not a total-reboot-of-civilization scenario, though. It fits in that period of time where Climate Change has wrought havoc on civilization but not total destruction. In this scenario, drought and floods have destroyed our ability to support 8 billion people. In the new changed world, only about 2 billion can survive ...

What books and authors have most influenced you?

So many ... hmmm. Ken Follett, Attica Locke, James Patterson, Lee Child, Agatha Christie, SA Cosby, John le Carre for the last century. But more important were the ancients: Shakespeare, Sophocles, Plato, Tacitus.

Do you have any more books in the works?

Absolutely. I'm halfway through Act I of my next book with plans for another after that. I don't have ADD except when I'm thinking about the books I want to write. I'm constantly jotting notes for 2-3 books down the line. (When I get there, the notes are useless as the story has evolved but they are part of the process.)

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

Yes and no. I read some of them and skim most. I glean what I can no matter what the reviewer thought.

Some bad reviews have interesting points. I've stopped writing "gun porn" describing every detail of a weapon that is common in some bestsellers because of a bad review. It wasn't that the person made a good point, but rather that I realized: I don't care for it either, so why bother? That was many books ago and I don't miss it.

Other bad reviews are subjective and so I move on as if walking over a blade of grass. Other bad reviews are funny, "I didn't read it, so I gave it one star." Great, thanks.

One odd experience was a reviewer who thought I was making fun of a certain president and gave me one star, advising others why and that they should avoid my book. About five people commented they were buying it because of his review. There is no end to unintended consequences.

Mention 3-5 fast/fun facts about you that you'd like to share:

1) Because of my teenaged adoption, I now have three children aged 49, 25, and 22. Three grandchildren aged 29, 25, and 18. And two great-grandchildren 9 and 4. Mixed-age, mixed-race, mixed-up, and happy. I think.

2) I'm 66 and hike the Grand Canyon (17 miles, 9,000 vertical feet) several times a year. I hike a nearby mountain every day and challenge anyone under 50 to keep up. (Many do, my speedy days are waaayy behind me.)

3) I wanted to be a Christian writer, but my snarky, cynical sense of humor would get me burned at the stake. (It's true they don't do that anymore, but the crowd at my church are looking for an excuse to make an exception.) So, I afflicted my main character with PTSD-induced schizophrenia: he sees and interacts with Mercury, the down-on-his-luck Roman god. Mercury's morals and ideas don't fit in modern times but allow for hilarious theological discussions and comparisons.

How can readers get in touch with or follow you?

Join my mailing list via https://shop.seeleyjames.com

Or connect on social media:
https://www.facebook.com/SeeleyJamesAuth/
https://www.instagram.com/seeleyjamesauth/




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Seeley James' near-death experiences range from talking a jealous husband into putting the gun down to spinning out on an icy freeway in heavy traffic without touching anything. His resume ranges from washing dishes to global technology management. His personal life ranges from homeless at 17, adopting a 3-year-old at 19, getting married at 37, fathering his last child at 43, hiking the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim at 59, and taking the occasional nap.

His writing career ranges from humble beginnings with short stories in The Battered Suitcase, to being awarded a Medallion from the Book Readers Appreciation Group. Seeley is best known for his Sabel Security series of thrillers featuring athlete and heiress Pia Sabel and her bodyguard, veteran Jacob Stearne. One of them kicks ass and the other talks to the wrong god.

His love of creativity began at an early age, growing up at Frank Lloyd Wright’s School of Architecture in Arizona and Wisconsin. He carried his imagination first into a successful career in sales and marketing, and then to his real love: fiction.


A Season of Disruption - Book Review


BOOK SYNOPSIS

A twist of fate leaves Murna Moreland, a young Jamaican homemaker widowed with five children. Without the means to provide for her family, she makes a seemingly unimaginable choice. She leaves her children in hopes of finding a better life in the United States.

With no mother or father present, fifteen-year-old Hope must courageously guide her four younger siblings as they care for themselves and each other. Each day, the children strive with one goal in mind - quickly joining their mother.

Time passes, and Murna's dream to reunite her family grows bleaks. Unwilling to give up, she conceives and undertakes an unlikely plan. The stakes were high. If her plan failed, she would remain separated from her family or lose the opportunity to give her children a better life.

Read this heartfelt and captivating story of love and determination paying homage to the immigrant experience of generations of Caribbean women and their perseverance to overcome obstacles that often leave families broken and estranged.


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'A Season of Disruption' by Jacqueline P. Walker is an amazing true story of perseverance and a woman's determination to secure a better and more promising future for her family. It was inspiring to read about Murna's resilience as she hustled to make ends meet and provide for her family, especially having unexpectedly lost the patriarch of the family, her husband and her children's father. She did everything within her power, including courageously coming up with a fake return plan to Jamaica so her employer at the time could release her passport. I also really liked how the epilogue gave current updates (as at the time of publication) about each family member.

One thing I would have liked more is a better arrangement of the narration. I would have liked for each chapter to have had at least one pivotal, epiphanic moment or lesson to pull from. It read more like a diary than a memoir or biography, so I think I'd have enjoyed it more if there had been more creativity to the writing style.

Overall it was a really good and inspiring read! Thank you to the author Jacqueline Walker for the gifted copy in exchange for an honest review. I truly enjoyed it!


ᴍʏ ʀᴀᴛɪɴɢ: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5
ɢᴇɴʀᴇ &ᴛʜᴇᴍᴇꜱ: Biography, immigration, family, love
ᴍᴀᴛᴜʀɪᴛʏ ʀᴀᴛɪɴɢ: ALL



Twenty-one Truths About Love - Book Review


Back Cover Summary
This heartfelt story is about the lengths one man will go to and the risks he will take to save his family. But Dan doesn’t just want to save his failing bookstore and his family’s finances:

1. Dan wants to do something special.
2. He’s a man who is tired of feeling ordinary.
3. He’s sick of feeling like a failure.
4. He doesn't want to live in the shadow of his wife’s deceased first husband.

Dan is also an obsessive list maker; his story unfolds entirely in his lists, which are brimming with Dan’s hilarious sense of humor, unique world-view, and deeply personal thoughts. When read in full, his lists paint a picture of a man struggling to be a man, a man who has reached a point where he’s willing to do anything for the love (and soon-to-be new love) of his life.

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This one-of-a-kind book is written entirely in lists, and if that seems confusing, let me explain further. When making a to-do list, we usually use a list format or bullet points. Well, Dan, the narrator, uses How-tos, listicles, and thought fragments to tell his story. The reading experience is quite like no other, and it needs a high level of concentration or else a crucial point may be missed. Here are a few of my favorite lists/thought fragments from the book:

Things I won't ever do
Stare at my phone while my kid is talking to me
Go one day without saying 'I love' you to my child
Force my kid to eat broccoli. Or Yams. F-ing yams.

My shortcomings
I don't have any truly close friends
I would rarely change the sheets on my bed if not for my wife
I procrastinate when it comes to tasks that require the use of the telephone

My takeaways from this book:
👆 Communication is essential, especially amongst spouses. Frequent and honest communication can save a lot of time and money, as well as save marriages.
👆 There is no love purer than a parent's love for their child.
👆 A man with integrity and a big heart will go to any length to protect his family.

'Twenty-one Truths About Love' was such a heartwarming read and I know I'll be reading other books by the author!


ᴍʏ ʀᴀᴛɪɴɢ: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/5
ɢᴇɴʀᴇ &ᴛʜᴇᴍᴇꜱ:  Literary Fiction, Romance
ᴍᴀᴛᴜʀɪᴛʏ ʀᴀᴛɪɴɢ: 16+