Friday, January 27, 2012

Special Delivery

This week is for snuggling grandbaby sweetness.

And that is all.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Search is On!

My stellar publisher Tyndale House has an exciting new release.

The Search Committee, the 2010 Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel Contest winner by Tim Owens, is now available. Oh, my! Isn't the cover adorable? What's the story about? Here's the official description:

"A mismatched team of seven hits the road in an Econoline church van on a mission to find a new pastor. They don't agree on much other than the stops at Hardee's for coffee and a biscuit. But they stick to the call, trying to slip undetected into worship services across the Southeast—all in hopes of stealing a preacher for their congregation.

Each member is wrestling to balance their own busy life and personal struggles. And they're trying to keep their issues to themselves. Forced to spend countless hours together, these very different personalities from different generations begin to bond. And their lives are profoundly changed as they love and support each other through the difficulties in each of their lives."

I had the pleasure of meeting Tim at CWG's 2011 Writing for the Soul conference in Denver last February, and he joins us for a chat today.

Tim Owens and Diana Prusik

Tim, I'm so glad you stopped by. Pull up a chair and let's talk about your writing journey. When Jerry B. Jenkins announced that you had won the Operation First Novel contest, what was your initial reaction?

It was like having an out-of-body experience. Thinking back . . . it was just hard for me to appreciate what was happening. I’m just slow like that. It takes a while for things to register. Later that evening in my hotel room, I called my wife, Ruth, back in South Carolina. We both laughed, cried, and just savored it a while before going to bed.

Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim Owens

What an exciting time, and since readers can now enjoy The Search Committee, the excitement continues. In addition to being a novelist, you have a doctorate in environmental engineering and are the co-owner of an environmental engineering firm. What makes an environmental engineer decide to write fiction? (Or what makes an aspiring author decide to become an environmental engineer?)

Ha! That’s a great question. When my engineering friends heard I’d won a fiction contest, they said it was no big deal because most of the technical reports I wrote were fiction. Growing up, I didn’t envision myself as an engineer or a writer. I wanted to go to medical school, but my MCAT scores weren’t high enough, and anyway, I faint at the sight of blood. But I’ve always enjoyed writing, when given the opportunity. My dad and mom were both English majors, I married an English major, and my daughter was an English major. It was bound to rub off a little.

With the launch of your award-winning book, I'd say it certainly did rub off! You obviously have tremendous support from English majors, and you have experience with church leadership as well. How have your personal experiences contributed to your idea for your novel?

I was on a search committee about 20 years ago at a church my wife and I attended in Charlotte, NC. We were aspiring yuppies back then, so I was the young married professional on the committee. The other folks were wonderful, and the book isn’t about them, but the whole process sets up nicely for a book. You have weekly adventures, you get to know the others on the committee very well, and it was a time, for me anyway, when I grew in my faith. And, of course, I grew up in the sticks of eastern North Carolina, so I knew the turf well.

Being a church representative comes with serious responsibilities, but can you share a time when humor ruled the day?

Probably the funniest for me involves my twin boys (identical) one Christmas Eve service. I was elder in charge and “volunteered” them to be the liturgists for the service, reading two separate scripture passages. They were 14 years old at the time and were pretty sore about what I’d done. When it was time for the first scripture passage to be read by my son David, he flat out refused to leave the narthex (the foyer behind closed doors). My wife Ruth, an usher in the narthex with them (I had volunteered her services as well) convinced the other twin, Al, to go up and read David’s passage for him. Al did but he wasn’t prepared and stumbled all through the reading. He came back to the narthex, red-faced embarrassed as only a teenager could be, and ready to fight David. But then he realized it was his turn to read his passage. He made David trade shirts with him and changed right there on the spot. Then he left the narthex, went up to the pulpit, and read his scripture passage perfectly. So everyone at the service thought that both boys had participated when in fact, only one had. Of course, all three were mad at me, but it was pretty funny.

Ha! Now we all know who to call when we need to coerce enlist volunteers. How clever of Al to trade clothes with David.

Speaking of clever, The Search Committee has a very clever tagline: “Sheep need a shepherd . . . some more than others.”

I can't help wondering how that tagline applies to the book's message. What do you hope readers take with them after finishing it?

You know, when I started it, I didn’t have any idea about what the reader might take from the book. I just wanted to get it all down. And then, somewhere in the middle, I began to see that I had an opportunity to deliver a message. Sometimes I worked on it, and sometimes it just came out during the writing. But I absolutely felt the Holy Spirit moving in me more than once as I was typing. It was an intensely emotional process. I feel like the message is that our lives are completely dependent on God’s grace. It doesn’t matter how hard you work, how smart you might be, how much money your parents have or don’t have, or even how many good deeds you’ve chalked up for your fellow man. It is all about God’s grace. That’s all there is.

Amen, Tim! What's that? You hear a knock at the door? Okay. I confess. I invited Jan Stob, Tyndale Senior Acquisitions Editor, to pay a surprise visit.

Come in, Jan. Please have a seat and tell us what you think about Tim's book.

The Search Committee portrays in both really funny and poignant ways how life as part of a church community can change us all for the better. Readers will see themselves or people they know among the seven unlikely characters in this novel.

God uses these seven unlikely people to not only search for a pastor, but to reach out to each other as they struggle with personal issues in their own lives. It is a charming story that shows how the call to love people with personality quirks and life stories different than ours as a way to "sand off" our own rough edges and make us useful for his bigger purposes.

I love that concept! God has a long history of using unlikely people to do His work.

Tim, if God were to write a review of The Search Committee, what do you hope He would say?

I hope he would say, “Good effort; keep going.”

You're nodding, Jan. Is there something you'd like to add before you dash back to Tyndale?

We’re excited to be releasing Tim Owens’s debut novel and look forward to seeing what’s next from this talented author.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Jan. Tim is blessed to have your support.

On that note, what comes next for you, Author Tim Owens?

Well, I’m about halfway through my second novel and hope to finish it soon. My day job is hectic though. I just started a new engineering firm with two colleagues, and we’re scrambling to make it work. So it’s hard to find time and energy to focus on writing but no excuses, right? Gotta learn to work late nights again, like I did with The Search Committee.

With the backing of the Christian Writers Guild and Tyndale House Publishers, The Search Committee is off to an incredible start. It is now available in paperback and e-book forms at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christian Book Distributors, and a host of other online and brick-and-mortar book stores. How might readers connect with you online?

I have a website,, I put together, and it has news/updates and a link to my blog, which I just started recently. Blogging is hard for me, so I haven’t learned to be consistent with the frequency of entries. I have a couple of Facebook pages too--one for the book, one for me as an author, and one for me as a regular person. Ha. I’m not as tech savvy as you would expect an engineer to be, especially in the ways of social media, but I’m learning. When I was in college, we wrote programs for computers by punching holes in cards and then feeding them into this machine that handled them like a money counter. I’ve come a long way.

I remember those computer punch cards, too, but aren't we too young for that? Uh, please don't answer!

With your award-winning book launch, you are on an amazing journey. Is there anything more you’d like to tell us?

Well, I think it’s important to remember what God has done for you. For me, I had a big problem with alcohol in my twenties until I turned 30 years old. Two old men, Charlie and Glenn, angels now back in heaven, rescued me in AA. January 20th will be 23 years since I last had a drink. My life began, again, that day. My wife Ruth, my children, Corinne, Mark, Al and David, all gifts from God. I have many close friends, all gifts from God. Everything I have, everything I’ve done, everything I am, is a gift from God. And that’s my story.

And what an inspirational story it is! My blog friends know a recurring theme here is "Share the Gift." Thank you, Tim, for sharing some of YOUR gifts with us--your talent for writing, your passion for stories, and your love for the Lord.

Readers, now it's YOUR turn! Tim is a busy father, church leader, and environmental engineer who somehow found time to write an award-winning novel. In ways great or small, how do YOU carve out time in your busy day to use the talents God gave you? Do you stay up late? Wake up early? Eliminate distractions? Micromanage every minute of your day? I'll be looking for your answers in the comment section below. Please share your tips for sharing the gift!

Bio: Tim Owens has a doctorate in environmental engineering and is the co-owner of an environmental engineering firm. He also holds three patents, is a Scoutmaster, and participated in disaster relief in Honduras and Mozambique as a water systems engineer. He currently resides in Summerville, South Carolina, with his wife and four children.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Touched by a Centenarian

Harold, a beloved resident in the nursing home where my daughter works, turns 100 today.

Harold was born before the Titanic sailed, before either World War was waged, and before the Great Depression struck. American women could not vote until after his eighth birthday, and the first blog didn't appear until after his eightieth. Imagine how much the world has changed during Harold's 100 years. TVs, microwaves, cell phones, the internet, and more have come into existence--modern inventions large and small that would leave our ancestors awestruck. Oh, my goodness! We now even have remote-controlled, battery-operated candles, a product no one could have dreamed about in 1912, the year of Harold's birth.

And those candles make me pause.

Scripture says, " . . . let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16 NIV). Harold's light shines so that the entire nursing home--staff and residents alike--are uplifted by it.

Which leaves me asking how my light is shining during the years God has granted me.

Am I like a battery-operated candle, turning on and off with the flip of a switch? Do I light up only when it is convenient or when I hope to impress someone with my glow? Am I energized by a limited power source, a worldly one?

Or does a constant, genuine flame burn within me, fueled by eternal light through my Savior's grace?

Birthday candles will blaze for Harold today with wax-melting, heart-warming flames. Does my light shine with such genuine fire? Does it blaze with grace-ignited passion? Does it draw attention to God in such a way that He receives the glory instead of me?

Unlike Harold, most people are not granted a full century of life on earth, but our longevity means little compared to how we shine while we're here. I've never met this centenarian, but his life touches mine today. Will my life touch others? Will yours?

Let's brainstorm together to list simple things we can do today to let our light shine for God. You never know whose life you might touch by commenting below. And feel free to leave birthday wishes for Harold. My daughter will be happy to make sure he sees them. Share the gift!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Wee Are Readers Photo Contest

I love reading. I love photography. I love kids. So I'm excited to offer my Wee Are Readers Photo Contest, which combines all three.

To enter, dust off those old photo albums or grab your camera to get a snapshot of your wee one (your child, grandchild, or great-grandchild) reading a book. Have no such photo? A picture of a younger sibling, niece, or nephew reading a book will do. If the picture includes you reading to this child, that's all the better. If you're blessed enough to have one, a childhood picture of yourself reading would make a charming entry!

Then, click here to email a digital copy to me. Type "Wee Are Readers" in the email subject line. Have more than one picture? Submit more than one entry. Unless you ARE the photographer, no professional portraits are allowed, since they are protected by copyright laws. Deadline for photo submissions is midnight (CST) on Thursday, February 23, 2012.

What's in it for you? A chance to win a $15 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card (winner's choice), a chance for you and/or your sweet wee one(s) to appear on my blog, and a chance to inspire others to read.

Photos will appear in random order in a Wee Are Readers photo parade on my blog on February 24, 2012. I will identify photos using only your first name and last initial and the child's relationship to you. (For example, "Diana P. reading to her daughter," "Diana P.'s son," or "Diana P. as a child"). For safety and privacy, no other identification will appear on my blog.

Each blog subscriber may cast one vote for his or her favorite snapshot beginning Friday, February 24, 2012, and ending at midnight (CST) on Thursday, March 1, 2012. Know folks who want to vote for your photo? Encourage them to subscribe to my blog! Yes, you may vote for your own photo, but remember votes are limited to one per blog subscriber.

The photo with the most qualifying votes wins.

As a certified teacher, I'm proud to synchronize this contest with the National Education Association's Read Across America Day, March 2, which happens to be Dr. Seuss's birthday. I will announce the winner on that day, the day the NEA "calls for every child to be reading in the company of a caring adult."

Share the gift of literacy. Read to a child!