April 28, 2023

Healing and Breaking Free

Kenneth Nixon, Jr.

As someone who has personally experienced the impact of severe mental illness on a loved one, I am deeply passionate about mental health advocacy and reform. That's why I wrote "Born Into Crisis," a powerful memoir that sheds light on the dire state of the American mental health system and the devastating consequences it has on those who are suffering.

In today's news cycle, mental health has taken center stage as we witness a rise in depression, anxiety, and suicide rates nationwide. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately one in five adults in the U.S. experience mental illness each year, with 50% of all chronic mental illnesses beginning by age 14. These statistics are staggering, and they highlight the urgent need for systemic change.

"Born Into Crisis" is a firsthand account of my journey with my mother and her severe mental illness. It chronicles the challenges we faced as we navigated a broken and underfunded mental health system that failed to offer us the needed support. My mother's illness impacted every aspect of our lives, from our finances to our relationships. It was a constant struggle, and we felt utterly alone.

Unfortunately, our story is not unique. Millions of families nationwide are struggling with mental illness and facing the same systemic obstacles we did. The mental health system is vastly underfunded, with only 6% of U.S. healthcare spending on mental health. This lack of investment has led to a shortage of mental health providers, limited access to treatment, and a lack of resources for struggling families.

I wrote "Born Into Crisis" to raise awareness of the urgent need for systemic change and to call for action. We need to invest in mental health resources and support systems that prioritize early intervention and prevention. We need to ensure that families have access to affordable and effective treatment. We need to work towards destigmatizing mental illness so that people feel comfortable seeking help when they need it.

I hope that readers of "Born Into Crisis" will come away with a greater understanding of the challenges faced by those living with severe mental illness and their families, as well as a renewed sense of urgency to push for meaningful change. We cannot afford to ignore this crisis any longer––we must act now to ensure that everyone has access to the care and support they need to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.

Kenneth Nixon Jr. is a pastor, community organizer, and mental health advocate. He knows firsthand what it means to navigate personal mental health challenges while also navigating a broken system on behalf of a loved one. Kenneth speaks out about the need for reform in the mental health system, and works to improve the lives of those affected by mental illness. He also is the founder of the non-profit justice organization called Justice Now. 

Find out more about him at Follow Kenneth Nixon Jr. on Instagram: Instagram

In his debut memoir, “Born Into Crisis” (Burning Soul Press, May 2, 2023), pastor and community organizer Kenneth Nixon Jr. discusses the necessary steps to healing and breaking free from the cycles of family traumas. Drawing from his own experience with dysfunctional family dynamics, Kenneth uses his story to call attention to the need for systemic change in our mental health system.

The American mental health system is in crisis, and those affected by its shortcomings are drowning without the tools and resources they deserve and need to thrive. In “Born Into Crisis,” Kenneth shares his story of growing up with a mother with severe mental illness and a family stuck in an enduring cycle of trauma. He knows firsthand the impact trauma can have on a person's life. Kenneth not only takes you on a powerful journey through his stories, he provides cogent and practical strategies for creating lasting change in our mental health system. “Born Into Crisis” is more than just a story of resiliency. It's also a call to action.

Born Into Crisis

In his debut memoir, “Born Into Crisis” (Burning Soul Press, May 2, 2023), pastor and community organizer Kenneth Nixon Jr. discusses the necessary steps to healing and breaking free from the cycles of family traumas. Drawing from his own experience with dysfunctional family dynamics, Kenneth uses his story to call attention to the need for systemic change in our mental health system.

The American mental health system is in crisis, and those affected by its shortcomings are drowning without the tools and resources they deserve and need to thrive. In “Born Into Crisis,” Kenneth shares his story of growing up with a mother with severe mental illness and a family stuck in an enduring cycle of trauma. He knows firsthand the impact trauma can have on a person's life. Kenneth not only takes you on a powerful journey through his stories, he provides cogent and practical strategies for creating lasting change in our mental health system. “Born Into Crisis” is more than just a story of resiliency. It's also a call to action.

Kenneth Nixon Jr. is a pastor, community organizer, and mental health advocate. He knows firsthand what it means to navigate personal mental health challenges while also navigating a broken system on behalf of a loved one. Kenneth speaks out about the need for reform in the mental health system, and works to improve the lives of those affected by mental illness. He also is the founder of the non-profit justice organization called Justice Now. 

Find out more about him at Follow Kenneth Nixon Jr. on Instagram: @kenneth_nixonjr

April 26, 2023

How Do You Make Prayer The First Response?

Chris Hodges

Prayer is the lifeblood of the Christian faith--but many followers of Jesus still struggle to make prayer part of their daily lives. In Pray First, bestselling author and pastor Chris Hodges shows us how to make prayer a first response instead of a last resort.

Prayer is the lifeblood of the Christian faith--but many followers of Jesus still struggle to make prayer part of their daily lives. In Pray First, bestselling author and pastor Chris Hodges shows us how to make prayer a first response instead of a last resort.

Why is it that so many Christians find it difficult to develop a vibrant and exciting prayer life? Even though prayer is foundational to the Christian life, many are intimidated or uncertain about how to talk to God. Prayer feels quaint and old-fashioned to some, sacred and uncomfortable to others. It's not a lack of inspiration--there's plenty of that. And it's not that we don't realize prayer is important--we know it is. So, what's the issue?

Pastor Chris Hodges has spent years studying the prayers of the Bible and the models of prayer that the scriptures provide for Christians. Now, he shares the teachings and methods he's used to successfully help hundreds of thousands of people understand how to spend time in conversation with God--and enjoy every minute.

Pray First will give you the tools you need to:Bring the joy back into your time with God
Take a journey through the prayers of the Bible, which reveal how to make prayer more personal and powerful
Learn about fasting, an often overlooked but powerful discipline that's a vital companion to prayer
Follow proven, biblically grounded methods for making prayer a priority, not an afterthought

Written in the personable, relatable, and always biblically based style that has become Hodges's hallmark, Pray First is a revolutionary how-to manual for anyone seeking a more dynamic, intimate prayer life with God.

Chris Hodges

Chris Hodges, founding and senior pastor of Church of the Highlands, is known for his relevant teaching style and his passion for raising up global leaders to fulfill the Great Commission.Chris co-founded the Association of Related Churches (ARC) ( in 2001, which trains more than 1,000 church planters every year. To date, ARC has planted over 960 churches all across the USA (now averaging over 100 new churches every year).Chris also founded a coaching network called Grow ( specializing in training and resourcing pastors and churches to help them break barriers and reach their growth potential.

Chris’ other books include The Daniel Dilemma, What’s Next?, Out of the Cave, and his newest book, Pray First: The Transformative Power of a Life Built on Prayer.

As Chancellor of Highlands College (, an accredited two-year ministry training college that gives students a chance to receive hands-on ministry training in a healthy, college environment, Chris is committed to placing leaders of character and competence into the harvest field.

Chris also serves on the Board of Directors of EQUIP, a global leadership training organization founded by John Maxwell.

Chris and his wife Tammy have five children and eight grandchildren and live in Birmingham, Alabama, where Church of the Highlands began in 2001.

Connect with Chris on Instagram (@pastorchrishodges)

April 25, 2023

Beyond The Brokenness In Your Life


Shelley Hitz

God has more for you. He is inviting you to go beyond the brokenness in your life.

The Japanese art, Kintsugi, takes broken pottery and repairs it with gold. Instead of discarding it as useless or hiding the damage, they choose to illuminate the repair.

The art of Kintsugi is a powerful picture of how God sees our broken, imperfect lives.

We tend to see our brokenness as our biggest flaws, mistakes, and regrets. But God can use them to create a masterpiece that will then display His glory.

What you see in your life today is not all God has for you. Your broken pieces in God's hands can be restored into something more beautiful than you can imagine.

Just like Kintsugi, where the broken pieces are repaired with gold, God will begin to heal your brokenness and display His glory to the world through your life.

Let’s allow God to shine through our lives as the "gold" that holds everything together.

About the Author

Shelley Hitz is an award-winning and international best-selling author. However, most importantly she is a wife, daughter, sister, friend and follower of Christ. She has been ministering alongside her husband, CJ, since 1998 and her main passion is to share God's truth and the freedom in Christ she has found with others. She does this through her books, websites and speaking engagements.

She is also the owner of where she helps you reach more people with your message via books, marketing, products, and much more. She teaches from personal experience. Shelley has been writing and publishing books since 2008 and has published over 40 books including print, eBook and audio book formats.

Shelley's openness and vulnerability as she shares her own story of hope and healing through her books will inspire and encourage you.

==> Connect with Shelley online at her website,, and click the follow button on her Author Page to be the first to know when she publishes a new book.

April 24, 2023

How Do You Put Your Faith Into Words?

Chris Pepple

How to Put Your Faith into Words...This is a revised edition. When I wrote the first edition, I was in a much different place in life. I was part of an evangelical Christian congregation that taught me to never question my faith. The first edition was based on the idea that I needed to witness to everyone and persuade them to believe like I do. I have since seen how damaging to our communities that perspective can be. I have seen how damaging that belief was to me. When I saw the hurt being caused to myself and others, I returned to the mentors from seminary who showed me how to grow through questioning my traditions and how to redefine my faith beliefs by studying religious material with new insights. I also joined global conversations on how others live out their faith.

This resource encourages people to think about what they believe and why they believe it. Writing your faith means leaving notes, books, letters, or journals that talk about what you believe about faith–what you believe about hope—what you believe about the love and joy we can share with others—what you believe about spirituality and how you define religious terms we often hear—what you believe about forgiveness—and why you believe these things. How did you form your faith beliefs? What traditions were passed on to you that were helpful or harmful? Guided questions are included.

I am an award-winning author and a freelance writer, manuscript consultant, and editor living in Germantown, Tenn. As a published author, my works include Write Away: Writing Guides from an Author and Teacher (2020), Finding Me (2020), Looking, Seeing (2018), Without a Voice (2017), Two Frontiers (2016), Writing Your Faith Journey (2016), Look to See Me: A Collection of Reflections (2006) and Reflections on Suffering: Defining Our Crosses and Letting Go of Pain (2012). My first novel, Two Frontiers, was a 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards Finalist.

I was a long-time writer-at-large for Southern Writers Magazine, interviewing national authors for each issue. My articles have appeared in many other local and national publications, including Delta Magazine.

I speak to writing groups on topics such as self-publishing, how to find your own creative voice and how to break writer's block. Along with speaking to writing groups, I also speak nationally to churches and nonprofit organizations on a variety of motivational and spiritual topics.

For more information visit:

April 21, 2023

Will He Stay?

Brenda Minton

A temporary arrangement…
Or a reason to stay?

Home to care for his ailing father, former minister Matthew Rivers intends to spend his time contemplating his future—until he discovers an infant left in the back of his truck. Handing off responsibility to nurse Parker Smythe, the woman he once rejected, should be easy. But as the baby brings them closer together, will Matthew leave as planned…or open his heart to a new possibility?

Brenda Minton lives in the Ozarks with her husband, three children and a few too many pets. She's a pastor's wife as well as children's ministry worker.

Her hobbies include sitting on the porch drinking coffee and going out to eat with friends.

If you enjoy her Love Inspired Cooper Creek series, you can find Brenda most days drinking coffee and hanging out on facebook.

Check out some more of her books:

April 20, 2023

Love Inspired

Linda Goodnight

Could facing her fears…
Heal her damaged heart?

Physically and emotionally scarred, reclusive cowgirl Monroe Matheson prefers rescue dogs over handsome men. But when Nathan Garrison arrives in town, determined to fix up the guest ranch next door, he needs all the help he can get. Before long, Monroe knows there’s more to this stranger than meets the eye. Can working with a man carrying tragic memories be the key to overcoming Monroe’s wounds—both inside and out?

NY Times and USA Bestseller, Linda Goodnight writes novels to stir the soul as well as to entertain. Her stories of hope through faith in Jesus have won the RITA, the Carol, the Reviewer's Choice, and other industry awards. A small town girl, Linda remains close to her roots, making her home in rural Oklahoma. 

Connect with Linda on Facebook, Twitter, or at

Read other books by Linda Goodnight:

April 19, 2023

Inspired By Real People, Events and Places

Maggie inherited a gift from her time-crossing parents that allows her to live three separate lives in 1861,1941, and 2001. Each night, she goes to sleep in one time period and wakes up in another. Until she turnstwenty-one, when she will have to forfeit two of those lives--and everyone she knows in them--forever.

In 1861, Maggie is the daughter of a senator at the outbreak of the Civil War, navigating a capital full of Southern spies and wounded soldiers. In 1941, she is a navy nurse, grappling with her knowledge of the future when she joins a hospital ship going to Pearl Harbor. And in 2001, she's a brilliant young medical student, fulfilling her dream of becoming a surgeon.

While Maggie has sworn off romance until she makes her final choice, an intriguing man tugs at her heart in each era, only complicating the impossible decision she must make, which looms ever closer. With so much on the line, how can Maggie choose just one life to keep and the rest to lose?

Gabrielle Meyer lives in central Minnesota on the banks of the upper Mississippi River with her husband and four children. As an employee of the Minnesota Historical Society, she fell in love with the rich history of her state and enjoys writing fictional stories inspired by real people, places, and events. You can learn more about Gabrielle and her books at

Find Gabrielle on Facebook at, Pinterest at, Twitter at, Goodreads, and her Website at

Read more from Gabrielle Meyer:

April 18, 2023

Everyone Is an Other :Meet Singer/Songwriter Cindy Morgan

In the rural, backwoods middle school that I attended in the mid-1970s, we looked forward to visits from the Bible Lady. Armed with a flannelgraph board and slide show, she carried her petite frame and Dorothy Hamill haircut with an air of purpose as she swished her A-line dress in various shades of brown into the middle-school gym.

We all loved when the Bible Lady came. Not because any of us were dying to hear her riveting account of David and Goliath one more time, but because it meant that we were spared the drudgery of history, math, science—whatever your poison—for the hour she held us captive (or prisoner, depending how you saw it). We squeezed in, side by side and crisscross-applesauce on the floor, feeling some strange sense of community. Boys picked their noses while girls smoothed their hair and rolled up the cuffs of their new Gloria Vanderbilt jeans. It was an event.

But in the cafeteria, there was a totally different kind of event going on. My friend Tracy, one of the kindest classmates a girl could hope for in the midst of the mean-girl middle-school years, always sat in the cafeteria.

She and her family were devout Jehovah’s Witnesses. Though I’m not sure what harm the Bible Lady could have posed to Tracy, her parents decided she should sit it out. And so Tracy, along with other kids who were opposed to Bible stories in public school, those who were the children of Buddhists, Muslims, agnostics, or atheists, as well as kids who simply had no stomach for a packed gym of middle schoolers who hadn’t yet nailed the daily application of deodorant, sat in metal chairs painted in primary colors, doing homework and being “the other.”

When the Bible Lady released us, the gym doors opened right into the cafeteria. This meant that every person had to walk past these “others” as we left our Christian assembly and passed judgment on the cafeteria outcasts.

I remember asking Tracy if it bothered her to be left out of the school assembly. She said no, but I’m not sure I bought it. No one wants to be an “other.” There are so many ways we can feel relegated to the O category.

I remember wearing the thrift-store clothes my mother brought home, feeling embarrassed that I never fit in with the popular girls, who were always turned out in the latest fashions. I saw their looks of pity at my outdated jeans. I imagined how happy they all must be with their thin legs and perfectly fitted jeans, while I asked God, “Why did you give me these thighs?” (That was before Meghan Trainor came along.)

A particularly surprising example of “othering” that I recently heard of concerned the daughter of a good friend of mine. She’s a high-school freshman who is, as the kids say, ten out of ten. Smart, talented athlete, great singer, gorgeous face, hair, skin, perfect figure, and one of the kindest and most thoughtful people you’ll ever meet. Yet she is often shunned and unwelcome in conversations, ride shares, and parties. Why? Her God-given beauty is what makes her an “other.” Her classmates exclude her from the playing field and make her feel less than, in order to soothe their own insecurities. Feelings of inadequacy can cause us to do terrible things.

When I started writing this, my mind went straight to middle school, even though there is a lot of road between me and those years. Why? Maybe those awkward years are the motherland of “othering.” We didn’t learn better back then, so we dragged all of that mess right into our grown-up lives.

When we compare ourselves so brutally to others, we never feel good enough. Are we so uncomfortable encountering people who don’t speak, look, live, or believe the way we do that we feel some sort of comfort in assuming our way of doing things must be the right way? Maybe we could all take a lesson from Ted Lasso and just accept people as they are. The great irony is that we are always the most interesting when we’re being ourselves. God bless the Bible Lady. Don’t you think she, too, felt like an “other”?

Years ago, I read that Fred Rogers used to carry a note in his pocket with a quote he heard from a social worker. It read, “There isn’t anyone you can’t love, once you know their story.” In a world like that, no one would be an “other.” That's something to shoot for in this world where it seems that everyone is.

Singer/songwriter Cindy Morgan
is a two-time Grammy nominee, a thirteen-time Dove winner, and a recipient of the prestigious Songwriter of the Year trophy. An East Tennessee native, her evocative melodies and lyrics have mined the depths of life and love both in her own recording and through songwriting for noteworthy artists around the globe, including Vince Gill, India.Arie, Rascal Flatts, Amy Grant, Sandra McCracken, and Glen Campbell. Cindy is the author of two works of adult nonfiction—the memoir How Could I Ask for More: Stories of Blessings, Battles and Beauty (Worthy Inspired, 2015) and Barefoot on Barbed Wire: A Journey Out of Fear into Freedom (Harvest House Publishers, 2001)—and of the children’s picture book Dance Me, Daddy (ZonderKidz, 2009).

The Year of Jubilee is her debut novel. Cindy is a cocreator of the charitable Hymns for Hunger Tour, which has raised awareness and resources for hunger relief organizations across the globe. Cindy has two daughters and splits her time between a small town near Nashville and Holly Springs, North Carolina, with her husband, Jonathan.

 For more information visit

Helpful links:

Cindy’s website

Her Facebook

Her Twitter

Her Instagram

To order The Year of Jubilee


April 17, 2023

For The Baby's Sake


Uplifting story~faith, forgiveness and hope.

For the baby’s sake, she’ll tolerate anything
Even his exasperating—and handsome—uncle

Adorable baby Micah melts Sienna King’s heart instantly. Too bad he’s related to the most insufferable man Sienna knows. Joel Armstrong has temporary custody of his sweet nephew—and no clue what he’s doing. Sienna has free time…and a yearning to be a mother. It could be a perfect match. But what happens when they both start wanting a long-term ever after?

Zoey Marie Jackson loves writing sweet romances. She is almost never without a book and reads across genres. Originally from Jamaica, West Indies, she has earned degrees from New York University, SUNY at Stony Brook, Teachers College Columbia University and Argosy University and has been an educator for over 20 years. Zoey loves interacting with her readers.

You can connect with her at

Check out Zoey Marie Jackson's book:

April 14, 2023

Michael Connelly's Most Gripping Work Yet!

Michael Connelly is the bestselling author of more than thirty novels and one work of nonfiction. With over eighty million copies of his books sold worldwide and translated into forty-five foreign languages, he is one of the most successful writers working today.

 A former newspaper reporter who worked the crime beat at the Los Angeles Times and the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, Connelly has won numerous awards for his journalism and his fiction.

His very first novel, The Black Echo, won the prestigious Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for Best First Novel in 1992. In 2002, Clint Eastwood directed and starred in the movie adaptation of Connelly's 1998 novel, Blood Work. In March 2011, the movie adaptation of his #1 bestselling novel, The Lincoln Lawyer, hit theaters worldwide starring Matthew McConaughey as Mickey Haller. His most recent New York Times bestsellers include Desert Star (2022), The Dark Hours (2021), The Law Of Innocence (2020), Fair Warning (2020), and The Night Fire (2019). Michael is the executive producer of Bosch and Bosch: Legacy, Amazon Studios original drama series based on his bestselling character Harry Bosch, starring Titus Welliver and streaming on Amazon Prime/Amazon Freevee. He is the executive producer of The Lincoln Lawyer, streaming on Netflix, starring Manuel Garcia-Rulfo. He is also the executive producer of the documentary films, "Sound Of Redemption: The Frank Morgan Story' and 'Tales Of the American.' He spends his time in California and Florida.

LAPD detective Renée Ballard and Harry Bosch team up to hunt the brutal killer who is Bosch’s “white whale”—a man responsible for the murder of an entire family.

A year has passed since LAPD detective Renée Ballard quit the force in the face of misogyny, demoralization, and endless red tape. But after the chief of police himself tells her she can write her own ticket within the department, Ballard takes back her badge, leaving “the Late Show” to rebuild and lead the cold case unit at the elite Robbery-Homicide Division.

For years, Harry Bosch has been working a case that haunts him—the murder of an entire family by a psychopath who still walks free. Ballard makes Bosch an offer: come volunteer as an investigator in her new Open-Unsolved Unit, and he can pursue his “white whale” with the resources of the LAPD behind him.

First priority for Ballard is to clear the unsolved rape and murder of a sixteen-year-old girl. The decades-old case is essential to the councilman who supported re-forming the unit, and who could shutter it again—the victim was his sister. When Ballard gets a “cold hit” connecting the killing to a similar crime, proving that a serial predator has been at work in the city for years, the political pressure has never been higher. To keep momentum going, she has to pull Bosch off his own investigation, the case that is the consummation of his lifelong mission.

The two must put aside old resentments and new tensions to run to ground not one but two dangerous killers who have operated with brash impunity. 

In what may be his most gripping and profoundly moving book yet, Michael Connelly shows once again why he has been dubbed “one of the greatest crime writers of all time” (Ryan Steck, Crimereads).

April 13, 2023

Sweet Historical Romance

Jody Hedlund is the best-selling author of over forty books and is the winner of numerous awards. She writes sweet historical romances with plenty of sizzle. 

Find out more at

With danger drawing ever closer, their only hope of saving their futures lies in each other.

Jody Hedulund's new book:

As a midwife, Catherine Remington is successful in bringing new life into the world, but she's failed one too many times in finding true love. When she's accused of a murder she didn't commit, she's forced to flee to Colorado to honor a patient's dying wish by delivering a newborn infant to his father.

The repentant prodigal Dylan McQuaid is finally back in Fairplay. As sheriff, he's doing his best to prove to the town he's a changed man and worthy of their trust. When a woman shows up with an infant son he didn't know he had, Dylan is left with only complicated choices on what to do next.

Having grown attached to Dylan's son, Catherine doesn't want to part ways with the infant, but what she doesn't bargain for is how easily she'll fall for the charming sheriff, or how quickly the past will catch up with her and put their love and lives in danger.

April 12, 2023

Writing Character-Driven Fiction


ERIN BARTELS writes character-driven fiction for curious people. Her readers know to expect that each of her novels will tell a unique story about fallible characters so fully realized that it's hard to believe they are not real people. Whether urban, rural, or somewhere in between, her settings come alive with carefully crafted details that engage all the senses and transport the reader to a singular time and place. And her themes of reckoning with the past, improving the present, and looking with hope to the future leave her readers with a sense of peace and possibility.

Erin is the award-winning author of WE HOPE FOR BETTER THINGS, THE WORDS BETWEEN US, ALL THAT WE CARRIED, THE GIRL WHO COULD BREATHE UNDER WATER, and EVERYTHING IS JUST BEGINNING. A two-time Christy finalist and winner of two 2020 WFWA Star Awards and the 2020 Michigan Notable Book Award, Erin has been a publishing professional for more than twenty years. She lives in the capital city of a state that is 40% water, nestled somewhere between angry protesters on the Capitol lawn and couch-burning, beer-ponging frat boys at Michigan State University. And yet, she claims it is rather peaceful.

You can find her online at, on Facebook @ErinBartelsAuthor, and on Instagram @erinbartelswrites.

Erin Bartels' new book:

An Immersive Story of Music, Struggle, and Starting Over from an Award-Winning Author

Michael Sullivan is a talented lyricist and a decent guitarist, but since he was kicked out of his band (and his apartment), he's not sure he'll ever get a record deal. Living with his loser uncle in a beat-up trailer and working a dead-end job, Michael has little reason to hope for a better future. Until the invitation for a swanky New Year's Eve party shows up in the mailbox. It's for his uncle, with whom he shares his name, but his uncle is going out of town . . .

On the effervescent night of December 31, 1989--as the Berlin Wall is coming down, the Soviet Union is inching toward democracy, and anything seems possible--Michael will cross paths with the accomplished and enigmatic young heir to a fading musical dynasty, forever altering both of their futures.

Award-winning novelist Erin Bartels enchants with this story of two lonely souls who have exactly what the other one needs--if they could simply turn their focus from what is ending to what is just beginning.

April 11, 2023

What is The Secret?

Steven James

The man who knows all our secrets has a secret of his own

When Travis Brock, a high-level Pentagon redactor with an eidetic memory, finds a clue to solving the tragic arson that took his wife from him, he risks everything to find the truth—and chances losing himself in the process.

With a terror attack looming on the horizon and a pair of assassins on his tail, Brock drops off the grid and joins forces with a disavowed Homeland Security operative. Together they race to stop the attack before Brock is neutralized by the people he trusts the most.

From critically acclaimed, bestselling novelist Steven James comes a smart, wire-tight, and emotionally resonant thriller that asks just how far across the line we might go to see justice carried out.

Steven James is a national bestselling novelist whose award-winning, pulse-pounding thrillers continue to gain wide critical acclaim and a growing fan base.

His novel, SYNAPSE, a near-future thriller, was a finalist at the International Book Awards in the Science Fiction category.

Suspense Magazine, who named Steven’s book EVERY WICKED MAN one of their “Best Books of 2018,” says that he “sets the new standard in suspense writing.” Publishers Weekly calls him a “master storyteller at the peak of his game,” and RT Book Reviews promises that “the nail-biting suspense will rivet you.”

Steven deftly weaves intense stories of psychological suspense with deep philosophical insights. As critically-acclaimed novelist Ann Tatlock put it, “Steven James gives us a captivating look at the fine line between good and evil in the human heart.”

Equipped with a unique Master’s Degree in Storytelling, he has taught writing and storytelling on four continents over the past two decades and has spoken more than two thousand times at events spanning the globe. His short fiction has appeared in more than eighty different publications, including Writer’s Digest and the New York Times.

Steven’s groundbreaking books on the art of fiction writing, STORY TRUMPS STRUCTURE and TROUBLESHOOTING YOUR NOVEL, have both won Storytelling World Awards. Widely recognized for his story-crafting expertise, he teaches regularly as a Master Class instructor at ThrillerFest, North America’s premier training event for suspense writers.

In his podcast The Story Blender, he interviews leading storytellers in film, print, and web. Listen now on

When Steven isn’t writing or speaking, you’ll find him trail running, playing basketball, or drinking dark roast coffee near his home in the Appalachian Highlands of Eastern Tennessee.

April 10, 2023

You Are Your Own Best Asset

Rachel Anne Ridge

The polished women on the speaking panel looked so professional and accomplished that I immediately felt intimidated. I’d been invited to be part of an event that celebrated women’s achievements, and though I’d put together what I hoped would be an appropriate outfit, I was already regretting my shoe choice. Then, as the emcee began reading the other panelists’ impressive bios one by one, I knew I was out of my league. My confidence unraveled on the spot. My thoughts began to swirl:

I don’t belong here.

I feel so dumb.

I should never have said yes to this.

Before I could find an escape hatch, I heard my name and lackluster bio being read to the audience, and I instantly felt like a donkey surrounded by thoroughbreds. Shabby, slow, laughable, unworthy. What could I possibly bring to this discussion? My successes were as a creative artist and writer, not as a mover and shaker, like these women leaders. My road to get here was difficult and filled with setbacks—an embarrassing, hard-scrabble journey that never really seemed all that noteworthy. My assets were few.

I had no art degree credentials.

No legacy wealth to support my dreams.

No business background suitable for my creative endeavors.

I wished I’d beefed up my bio a bit more so at least I’d feel like I belonged.

That’s when I remembered my two rescue donkeys at home, and how their simple characteristics had been my inspiration as I worked through challenges along the way. Donkeys, after all, aren’t built for a racetrack. They aren’t made for endless competitions in which gold medals are awarded to the lucky, shiny few. Donkeys are made for mountain trails and hidden gold mines, their sturdy hooves and tenacious grit able to bring them to a different kind of wealth altogether.

At that moment I realized: If you feel like a donkey, then simply embrace being a donkey!

I looked at the faces of the people in the audience and knew that they, too, had heard the gold-star biographies and were probably comparing them with their own shaggy stories.

The truth is, we are all doing our best to hide the struggles and the rock-strewn paths we’ve had to traverse in order to get where we are. We all try to position our stories in the best possible light and hope no one asks too many questions or pokes any holes in the accounts. We are tempted to embellish our bios. Somewhere along the way we’ve bought into the narrative that everyone else has talent enough for a smooth ride to success, while ours alone was a meandering shabby donkey of a ride, limping along and barely making it to the finish line. At times, if we’re honest, all of us feel like donkeys in a world that celebrates racehorses.

We forget to see the amazing fortitude and courage that it took to navigate the rocky terrain and unmarked path to where we are today, the very things that will carry us forward into the future we are dreaming of.

When my turn to speak finally came, I had regained my sense of confidence. Turns out, you don’t need an Ivy League résumé to impact the world. My story brought me back to those donkeys and the power of a simple metaphor to spark imagination. You see, the journey to any meaningful success in life requires the kind of assets—donkey assets—you already have. Resilience, resourcefulness, nimbleness, humility, a bit of charm, and yep, a stubborn streak to stick with it when things get hard.

Those donkeys in my pasture, Flash and Henry, are indeed the perfect emblem for creating a more fulfilling life, a better mindset, and success that lasts. They embody the ethic of serving and thriving in tough times. By harnessing the power of my own inner donkey, I had found the strength, determination, excitement, and even that stubbornness to achieve the kind of life I’d always wanted . . . and I know now that others can do it too.

I call it the Donkey Principle: When you embrace your inner donkey, you will find and flourish in the meaningful work you were created to do.

That hard-scrabble path? Rather than feeling ashamed of it, spend time mining your story for clues to your interests, passions, and motivations. Often, the difficulties you’ve faced in life can become catalysts for creating meaningful ways to serve others and find fulfillment. And the way you always seem to finish last? Perhaps there are lessons you’ve learned along the way that you never could have learned if you’d raced past them in the first place.

You are perfectly qualified for, and capable of, the work you’re called to do. Exploring your story and seeing your “donkey characteristics” as gifts are the first steps toward finding your purpose and creating success on your terms. No Ivy League degree required.

The truth is this: Life isn’t a racetrack that’s built only for the fastest thoroughbreds competing for some elusive prize. Not at all! Instead, life—your life—is a gold mine that’s filled with treasures just waiting to be unearthed. Precious gold is available to those who are in it for the long haul.

You are your own best asset for finding and doing the meaningful work you were created to do.

Rachel Anne Ridge
is an author, illustrator, speaker, and creativity coach in Texas. Aided by a stray donkey who arrived on her doorstep and never left, Rachel boot-strapped herart and design business through the Great Recession, all while raising a family and honing her story-telling gift. As an author and speaker, she delights audiences with humor and insight; as a creative coach she helps clients discover their passions, find their creative niches, and launch whole-hearted businesses. Mom to three adult children, and two rescue donkeys. Nana to five.

Find her online at

April 5, 2023

Author Gives Back Helping Children

Rebecca Yarros 
is a Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author of over fifteen novels, and is always ready to bring on the emotions. She's also the recipient of the Colorado Romance Writer’s Award of Excellence for Eyes Turned Skyward from her Flight and Glory series.

She loves military heroes and has been blissfully married to hers for eighteen years. She’s the mother of six children, ranging from kindergarten to law school, and is currently surviving the teenage years with two of her four hockey-playing sons. When she’s not writing, you can find her at the hockey rink or sneaking in some guitar time. She lives in Colorado with her family, their stubborn English bulldogs, feisty chinchilla, and Maine Coon kitten who rules them all. Having fostered then adopted their youngest daughter, Rebecca is passionate about helping children in the foster system through her nonprofit, One October.

Visit her website at for more!

Told in alternating timelines, THE THINGS WE LEAVE UNFINISHED examines the risks we take for love, the scars too deep to heal, and the endings we can’t bring ourselves to see coming.

Twenty-eight-year-old Georgia Stanton has to start over after she gave up almost everything in a brutal divorce—the New York house, the friends, and her pride. Now back home at her late great-grandmother’s estate in Colorado, she finds herself face-to-face with Noah Harrison, the bestselling author of a million books where the cover is always people nearly kissing. He’s just as arrogant in person as in interviews, and she’ll be darned if the good-looking writer of love stories thinks he’s the one to finish her grandmother’s final novel…even if the publisher swears he’s the perfect fit.

Noah is at the pinnacle of his career. With book and movie deals galore, there isn’t much the “golden boy” of modern fiction hasn’t accomplished. But he can’t walk away from what might be the best book of the century—the one his idol, Scarlett Stanton, left unfinished. Coming up with a fitting ending for the legendary author is one thing, but dealing with her beautiful, stubborn, cynical great-granddaughter, Georgia, is quite another.

But as they read Scarlett’s words in both the manuscript and her box of letters, they start to realize why Scarlett never finished the book—it’s based on her real-life romance with a World War II pilot, and the ending isn’t a happy one. Georgia knows all too well that love never works out, and while the chemistry and connection between her and Noah is undeniable, she’s as determined as ever to learn from her great-grandmother’s mistakes—even if it means destroying Noah’s career.

April 4, 2023

Do Your Goodest

Rachel Anne Ridge

Stop trying to live your best life.

Sounds counterintuitive, right? Of course, you should try to live your best life!

Or should you?

We are always being urged to “Live Your BEST Life Now.” You need to have the best job, drive the best car, have the best things, maintain the best body. Live every moment in the best way possible.

It’s fabulous! It’s the BEST!

But honestly? It’s exhausting.

Listen, being the best is overrated.

So, what if you went for something else entirely?

You see, in your quest to be best, it’s easy to forget how to simply be good.

Once, as a discouraged mother of teenagers, I sat alone in my bedroom wiping away tears. Conflict over something important I’d forgotten to do made me retreat behind my door as I berated myself for failing yet again. Absentmindedly, I opened a dresser drawer and found an old diary, long abandoned. As I leafed through the pages, I stopped at one entry and tears began to fall once more, but this time for an entirely different reason. A few scrawled lines recounted a moment from years before when I pulled a red wagon with my then two-year-old son to the park. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and the little blond boy sat in the wagon as we rattled down the sidewalk. Suddenly his tiny voice piped up. “Mommy, you’re da goodest mom I evah seen.”

His words stopped me in my tracks.

Goodest mom.

Reading those words from so long ago I realized I’d been trying so hard to be the best mom ever, that I’d forgotten the importance of simply being a goodest one. I didn’t have to try to control every situation. I didn’t have to strive to be perfect. I could let go of all that and lean in to the goodness of my family, in all its flaws and failures. I was free to embrace my mistakes and learn from them, rather than beat myself up over making them in the first place.

We all spend an inordinate amount of time vying to compete on the racetrack of career and personal advancement. We pretend to be slick and shiny, built for speed and fame—all the while knowing deep inside that this is not who we really are. Pretending only gives us a false sense of belonging. When we finally embrace our true donkey-selves, we begin to belong on our own terms.

Brené Brown puts it this way: “True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”

The truest thing about you is that you are worthy of all the love, all the dancing, all the

belonging, and all the goodness this world has to offer.

You are enough

You see, only one person can be the best at something. Their moment of glory is fleeting, and then someone else stands ready to take their place at the top.

But good? Oh, good never goes away. It never goes out of style. No one can ever take away that crown.

This world needs the good you have to offer.

Be a good friend.

Be a good neighbor.

Be a good parent.

Be a good son.

Be a good daughter.

Be a good worker.

Be a good leader.

Being good means that you look out for the needs of others. You find ways to inspire kindness and joy. You bring light and life everywhere you go.

This proved true for a man named Tom Shadyac, who was living “his best life” in Hollywood, successfully directing films such as Ace Ventura and The Nutty Professor. However, a bicycle accident in 2007 compounded a sense he’d had for some time that life as he lived it was empty. So, he decided to trade in his fame and fortune for a mobile home and a bike . . . and a commitment to share what he had with others. He is living his goodest (and happiest) life, enjoying a creative career while helping people along the way. Tom has discovered the secret of leaving space for generosity and kindness.

These days, good is underrated. Good is actually better than best.

Good leaves room for falling down, for the unexpected, for grace. It understands that some of life’s most priceless gifts are wrapped in ordinary packages. It gives permission for being kind to yourself and to others.

Don’t let your desire to be the best rob you of the goodness that’s all around you or take away your ability to do good in the moment.

Stop trying to live your best life.

Live your goodest life instead.

Dig Deeper

· Why not make a list of ways to let go of perfectionism and the need to “be the best,” and ask yourself, “Why not try it?”

· What would a “goodest” life look like for you?

· When will you do one simple “good thing” for someone? Write down the first ideas that come to mind.

Adapted from The Donkey Principle: The Secret to Long-Haul Living in a Racehorse World by Rachel Anne Ridge,

(Releasing from Tyndale House Publishers in April 2023.)

About the Author

Rachel Anne Ridge is an author, professional artist, and motivational speaker. Her books Flash: The Homeless Donkey Who Taught Me about Life, Faith, and Second Chances and Walking with Henry have delighted readers with their entertaining tales and poignant lessons. A certified life coach, Rachel works with individuals and organizations to discover their creative gold through hands-on workshops, retreats, and coaching. Rachel is a mom to three adult children, and Nana to five grandchildren.

Learn more at