Teaching in Taiwan, Modern Slavery, and Annie Douglass Lima!

Annie Douglass LimaToday, on the blog, I’d like to introduce you to Annie Douglass Lima!  I’ve hosted part of her blog tour in the past, and I’d like to just have her talk personally now, so you can meet the amazing and sweet author behind an incredibly original series!

2 Covers & Series Title

Hello, Annie!  What first inspired you to write about slavery and martial arts?

Annie: I’ve had the idea for the Krillonian Chronicles growing in my mind for the last few years.  It started as just a picture of the setting and its culture (with legalized slavery), and the plot and individual characters emerged little by little.  The martial art of cavvara shil didn’t enter my imagination until just before I started drafting The Collar and the Cavvarach.

Me: I’ve read both now, and they’re such a fun look at a totally different earth!  Speaking of earth, how many different places have you lived, and what is your favorite?

Annie: I’ve traveled to 21 different countries and lived in four of them (Kenya, the United States, Indonesia, and Taiwan). There are things I love about all of them, but Kenya, in particular, will always have a special place in my heart, since that’s where I grew up. Right now, though, I’d have to pick Taiwan. My husband and I have lived here for the last ten years, and it’s definitely home.

Me: Wow, that’s so fascinating! What are you currently doing in Taiwan?

Annie: I teach 5th grade in a missionary school called Morrison Academy. It’s a great school in a great location, and I love my job and my students! Oh, and in my free time, I write.

Me: A teacher after my own heart. ❤ So which character in the Krillonian Chronicles is your favorite?

Annie: All my characters are special to me in different ways (every author has to say that, right?).  One that was especially fun to write, though, is not actually even a real character.  Steene is constantly arguing with his conscience over the morality (or lack thereof) of owning a slave.  He imagines his conscience’s exact words as it responds to him, complete with body language.  I enjoyed giving his conscience a little personality of its own.  For example, after one particularly lame argument on Steene’s part, “his conscience rolled its eyes and refused to dignify that with a response.”

Me: Hahaha.  I love Steene.  I’m convinced he’s a male ESFJ, which is super unique in fiction!  😀

Annie: Some of my characters seemed to take matters into their own hands and decide they wanted a different role than the one I had planned for them.  For example, City Watch officer (the equivalent of a police officer) Kalgan Shigo ended up playing a much bigger part in the first book than I had anticipated.  While still a minor character, he is a more important one than he was originally supposed to be, and he plays a different – and much needed – role in Bensin’s life.  I loved watching him take charge and step into the position he wanted!

Me: I’ve got a character, the goofy, sweet, ditzy stepmother in the book I’m writing right now!  😀

Annie: However, my favorite character in this series is definitely Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist.  The struggles he is forced to go through make him stronger, and I admire him for his perseverance and determination to meet his goals no matter what.  He is willing to sacrifice himself for those he cares about, and while his choices aren’t always the wisest, he is committed to doing what he feels is right.  Society is against him, since he’s a slave and has few rights, but that doesn’t stop him.

Me: Bensin’s a loyal, protector ISTJ.  😀  So, as I’m busy Myers-Briggs typing your characters for our audience… what’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said about your books?

Annie: Hmm, good question. I’ve been blessed to be on the receiving end of a lot of encouraging comments, but some of the best have come from my students. I always read at least one of my books to my class every year, and there’s usually someone in each class who will tell me I’m their favorite author or that was the best book they’ve ever read. Another form of (unspoken) compliment is when I catch a student sneakily reading one of my books behind their desk when they should be working on an assignment. (As you can imagine, that puts me in a difficult position, as the teacher and the author sides of me wrestle with how to respond!)

Me: Haha!  I love that!  So how do you think we, as Christians, can safely get more involved to help with modern slavery?

Annie: Prayer is always a powerful weapon. I suggest taking a look at a little devotional book called 30 Days of Prayer to End Sex Slavery by Alana Terry and Precarious Yates. It contains a lot of information to build awareness as well as suggestions for how to pray about this worldwide crisis.

Me: Ooooo, I love books with ways to pray in new ways!

Annie: I contacted Alana Terry, a friend of mine, and asked if she had any additional suggestions for how Christians can help. She has researched and written both fiction and nonfiction on the topic of modern slavery, so I knew she would have ideas. Alana suggests, “look at your budget and decide if any of the goods you regularly consume can be replaced for fair-trade products. Coffee, chocolate, and tea are some of the goods that are most notoriously created from slave labor.” Even if you can’t afford to buy everything fair trade all the time, how about choosing at least one thing to change? For example, maybe you could decide to only buy fair-trade coffee for a year, and encourage your friends and family members to do the same.

Me: Something so few of us think about.  😦

(Readers, be aware that Alana Terry’s books are very adult in nature and not being officially recommended on this webpage.  Read all of these topics at your own risk!  ❤ )

Thank you so much, Annie!  I love your heart as a teacher, author, and advocate for others!

 

 

Advertisements

Clean Romance, Infertility, and Marriage Advice from Melanie D. Snitker!

MelanieDSnitker2016Melanie D. Snitker is a sweet author friend of mine from Texas.  She writes stories with a heart – an emphasis on a deep love for each character, and a romance to go with it!  I’d like to think that if you enjoy my novels, you’d enjoy hers.  🙂

Melanie has prayed for me, knit baby cutesies for me, and encouraged me at the hardest of times.  I hope all of you can support her worthy books!  Thanks for being you, Melanie!

You can purchase Melanie’s books here on Amazon.com!

Snitker All Books 2

Me: Hi, Melanie! Here at BlondeRJ, we’re all about Myers-Briggs types.  Share about being an ISFJ and what your personality is like. 🙂

Melanie: You know, I’d never thought much about the Myers-Briggs types until I met you, RJ! I find it all fascinating. Like you mentioned, I’m an ISFJ. I’m definitely quiet and very introverted. I get along well with people, and I tend to be a really good listener. If I say I’m going to do something, not only will it get done, but I’ll do my best while I’m working on it. I’m organized, and I rely heavily on lists and my online calendar. One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced ties into my being an introvert: I also tend to worry about what others think. I’m slowly getting better about this as I get older, but it was something that held me back for a long, long time. I think that it will always be something that’s in the back of my mind to a degree. I have to admit I really admire those who can say and do anything and not worry what others will think!

Me: Even we 100% extroverts can be people-pleasers and worry what others think, for sure.  I’ve been LOVING the book When People are Big and God is Small by Edward Welch, and would love to recommend it right now to my readers.  It’s helped me put God in His proper place, and see my need to love others instead of just *need* them.  🙂
Speaking of loving people, you write the sweetest romances ever. What first inspired you to help and write about clean romance for Christians?

Melanie: I enjoyed romance novels as a teen, but didn’t really read much beyond Janette Oke, Dee Henderson, and a few other Christian authors. When I got into high school, I started to browse through some of the other romance novels at the library. I was shocked to find that clean romance was a difficult thing to find. That’s when I decided I would start writing the kind of romance novels I wouldn’t mind my own daughter reading some day.

Me: What a sweet legacy!
How many different places have you lived, and what is your favorite?

Melanie: I’ve lived in Arizona, both in Flagstaff and Phoenix. A lot of people that haven’t been to Flagstaff are surprised to find that it has a lot of mountains, and it can get a fair amount of snow in the winter. I’ve also lived in many different places in Oregon as well as Texas (where I currently reside). My favorite place to live overall is Texas. The people here are incredibly friendly, I like the mild winters, and I love all the wildflowers (bluebonnets, especially) in the spring. My second favorite place would be Oregon, especially in the fall when all the leaves turn. Gorgeous!

Me: I live in the gorgeous pacific northwest as well!  Love it!
Melanie, you were a huge encouragement to me two years ago. Can you tell us about one of the hardships you’ve experienced and how God has used that in your life? ❤

Melanie: I have endometriosis and it has resulted in a lot of infertility issues that I’ve dealt with for a long time. It took two and a half years of tests and a surgery for my endo before we found out our son was on the way. After he was born, we’d hoped that the next baby would be much easier. Four and a half years later (after another surgery and different medications), we were finally able to try one round of IVF. Praise God, one of those sweet embryos burrowed in to stay, and our daughter was born eight months later. There were so many times during this journey when I wondered where God was and why this had to be so hard. But I learned more about patience than I would’ve liked to, and I also learned about God’s perfect timing. There have been many times in the last six years since our daughter was born where I’ve looked back and realized that, even though I didn’t think so at the time, God really did know what He was doing!

Me: I loved your faith when I was going through that hardship myself!  And you have absolutely beautiful kiddos!!  You have absolutely beautiful characters too.  😛 Which character, in all of your books, is your favorite?

Melanie: I’m going to have to go with Lexi (although Lance is a close second). She’s introduced in Finding Peace, the first book the Love’s Compass series. Then she and Lance get their own story in the second book, Finding Hope. She’s my favorite because she goes through a lot in her life with a cancer diagnosis that leads to a complete hysterectomy which saves her life. It also means she’ll never have children of her own. What causes her inability to get pregnant may be very different from what I or many of my friends have experienced with infertility, but many of the emotions are the same. She’s definitely a character that was written straight from my heart.

Me: Awww.  I remember Lexi!  So what’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said about your books?

Melanie: I’ve had several readers thank me for creating quality, clean romance novels that they can read without the guilt, and that they wouldn’t hesitate to let their teen daughters read as well. It’s what I originally set out to do, and even though the road of an author can be a rocky one at times, it’s encouragement like that which reminds me it’s all worth it!

Me: Amen! On a real-life front, how do you think we, as Christians, can learn to love like Christ more in our marriages?

Melanie: I think it’s easy to get caught up in every day life. Things get hectic, the kids always need something, and by the end of the day, it’s easy to feel like we have nothing left to give. But it’s the little things that show Christ’s love in a marriage. Like when my husband is completely exhausted, yet takes the trash out with a smile. Or when I’ve had a rough day and I’m tired, but I bake my husband the cookies he loves because it will brighten his afternoon. The other day, we had a busy afternoon full of cleaning and grocery shopping. I’ll admit, I was a complete grump by dinner and not much fun to be around. Instead of getting upset with me, or even letting my mood change his, my sweet husband made a trip to the store to find something I was looking for, and even brought something else back that made me laugh. Finding ways to put our spouse first, even when it isn’t easy, can give us even a small glimpse of the kind of unconditional love that Christ has for us!

Me: I think your home must be very joyful and warm.  🙂  Thank you, Melanie!

Melanie: Thanks again, RJ!

Writing, Fighting Trafficking, Addison’s Disease, and Kimberly Rae!

This week I’m heading to Realm Makers!  It’s a Christian, speculative fiction, writing convention that is being held, this year, in Reno, Nevada!  I’m taking the five month old, and will be gone from Wednesday – Sunday, so I’d appreciate your prayers!  Prayers for good health, good energy, good fellowship, good learning, and a God-glorifying attitude would be much appreciated.  ❤  Secretly, I’m super nervous!

Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to reach out to other authors who are similar to me – same heart for counseling believers, similar writing style and genre, or a hero of sorts to me. ❤  I’ve been in contact with four ladies who write everything from historical fiction to alternative drama to psychological thrillers to clean romance. It’s my hope that if you like these ladies’ books, you’ll like mine and vice versa!  🙂

Author Headshot

Today, it’s an immense pleasure to introduce you to Kimberly Rae! She wrote my very favorite series of the year – and maybe of all time – the Broken Series!  The story involves members of a church all dealing with abuse, anti-trafficking, and saving women from prostitution.  But the best part is that they are so real and relatable.  They are Every Church, and 5 Shreddedevery Christian should read these books!  ❤

 

I asked Kimberly some questions and she graciously replied!

Me: Here at BlondeRJ, we’re all about Myers-Briggs types.  Do you know your personality type?  If not, are you an extrovert or introvert?  

Kimberly: Through talking to you, RJ, we figured out my type!  I’m an INFJ (explanation here).

People see me as an extrovert but I am actually an introvert. I’m very nervous around strangers and need time by myself to recharge. One odd thing about me is that I enjoy speaking to huge crowds, but get very uncomfortable in small groups.

Me: I adore INFJs!  I’m even raising one.  😉 What first inspired you to help and write about trafficked women and victims?

Kimberly: When I first had to come back to the US, I wanted some way to stay involved but wasn’t sure how. When I started considering writing a novel, I tossed around some ideas but didn’t know quite what to focus on. I was talking with my mom one day and she said, “If 1 Stolen Womanyou could write about anything, what would you write about?” By the end of the day, I think I had three chapters of Stolen Woman written. It was the book I felt I was meant to write – it combined things I care deeply about: fighting trafficking, missions, and women knowing their worth in Christ. Stolen Woman is still my best-selling book out of all of them. I love how God is using it!

Me: I still haven’t read Stolen Woman, and I know I need to remedy that right away!  You said, “Coming back to the US…” How many different places have you lived, and what is your favorite?

Kimberly: I’ve lived in several states in the US, but overseas is Bangladesh, Uganda, Kosovo and rickshawIndonesia. The most interesting by far was Bangladesh. There are over 100 million people in a tiny country about the size of Michigan! It was creative chaos, and their love for bright colors and loud noises and super spicy food just was so fun for me at age twenty-two, fresh out of college and ready to experience the world. I remember being in a rickshaw one day when a riot broke out in the road in front of me, and I thought, “If I knew I was going to live through this, it would be really exciting!” I got to wear beautifulmarket in Thailand shalwar kameez outfits, experience their amazing gift of hospitality, and I even ate cow brains!

Me: That’s amazing!  And you’ve had quite the trials yourself.  ❤  Can you tell us about what illnesses you struggle with on a daily basis and how God has helped your faith through them?

Kimberly: I have Addison’s disease, asthma, hypoglycemia and a rare condition called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. My day is very structured with specific diet requirements, medication, trying to deal with chronic pain, and responding to symptoms, etc. Like 90% of people with chronic illness, I often “don’t look sick,” so have to be careful about not doing too much to try to keep up with healthier people out of a sense of expectation by them or myself. I’ve taken up a beautiful verse from 1 Corinthians 8:12 that says the gift is accepted according to what one has, not according to what one does not have. God has DIGITAL CAMERAlimited me physically, so I am not expected to do what a person with more physical resources can do (just like finances and everything else – God is the provider, and He asks us to give back out of what He has provided, no more, no less).

I used to care very much about doing a lot, and realized I was finding my worth in how much I got done rather than in Christ’s value for me. Now God has taken away my ability to “compete” in that way (we women are pretty bad about competing with each other, aren’t we?) and now He is transforming me (sometimes kicking and screaming, I admit) into a representative of His beautiful truth that our worth is not in what we do or how much we do, but in Him and His love for us. If we can be radiant in that love, and not need to prove ourselves, oh, how we could change the world! We’d stop being so intimidating, so stressed, and so resentful, and instead shine beautiful and strong and at peace. A woman living full of joy and peace is a treasure. I want to be like that.

I won’t lie. Living with disease and health problems and daily pain is hard. Some people tell me that if I just had enough faith, it would all go away. I’ve learned over the years that it takes a lot more faith to trust God when He doesn’t “fix” things as when He does. My need for Him is constant, and living with a body that betrays me keeps my mind on the eternal, which isn’t a bad thing. In every difficulty is a gift—if you look for it, you’ll find it. God is there, offering the peace that passes all understanding, and the joy that is beyond current circumstances. There is purpose in what we go through, and for all I have learned of my God, and all He has taken away and given in replacement, I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone’s.

Well, that wasn’t brief. Sorry! That’s why I’ve got a series of books on living joyfully despite chronic illness—there’s a lot to say!

Me: What a beautiful, beautiful testimony, Kimberly!  And you seem to totally understand human nature and the heart, as evidenced by your writing.  ❤  Speaking of which, I bought the “You’re Sick, They’re Not” book you wrote and look forward to reading it! But, if we’re talking the books I HAVE read, which character in The Broken series is your favorite?

Kimberly: Candy and Jean, but for different reasons. I love Jean because she has so much potential and value inside her, but she doesn’t know it, and I love how she grows and blooms and gets set free. Candy is my favorite because she’s so fun and so real. Her character is actually based on someone I know! To this day, sometimes I’m in church and I imagine her walking down the aisle with all her stuff dropping behind her, and I want to crack up right there during the service. =)

Me: I looooooove Candy.  She’s my favorite too.  She has the most spunk EVER. 😀 What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said about your books?

4 Stolen Series

Kimberly: Can I pick two?

Me: Absolutely!

Kimberly: A lady told me once that her pastor’s wife said Francine Rivers used to be her favorite author, but now I am. Francine Rivers is MY favorite author, so that was huge, huge, huge to me.

Back in the beginning, after Stolen Woman came out, a teenager sent me an email that said, “Your book changed my life.” That has stayed with me and meant so much all these years.

Me: You are WAY better than Francine Rivers, and it’s my blog, so I can say so.  😀 

Last, and definitely not least, how do you think we, as Christians, can safely get more involved to help trafficking/sex/drug victims and prostitutes?

Kimberly: It is a great time to be fighting human trafficking and exploitation! There are over 2,000 groups actively involved around the world. Some of my favorites are:

Rahab’s Rope (Mumbai, India) – www.rahabsrope.com

Women At Risk Int. (worldwide) – www.warinternational.org

Tiny Hands (Nepal) – www.tinyhands.org

There are lots more sites and statistics and ways to get involved on my website. If you go to www.kimberlyrae.com, on the right sidebar you’ll see posts about fighting trafficking internationally, nationally, and even locally. There are so many ways to make a difference. Feel free to use to the “contact” button on the site if you have questions or need ideas – I’d love to help you change the world!

Me: Thank you, thank you, dear Kimberly!