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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Weird answer to a prayer… you can call it coincidence if you want.

So I’m looking out the window at the steadily falling snow, and looking at the radar with its blue swath of snow bands inching its way across Michigan, and looking at the ‘Winter Storm Warning’ message across the top of the radar and stubbornly insisting, “I need to go to my office!”

I live twenty minutes away from my office with a north-south expressway between here and there where the usual traffic pattern is 75-80 miles per hour (except those jerks who fly past us ‘slow’ drivers at who-knows-how-fast). The prospect of driving down that highway in this snowstorm didn’t really sound appealing. And yet I kept insisting to myself, “I need to go to my office!”

But first I need to eat. I believe in routines. I always make myself exactly two eggs and sit down in the same spot each morning with my big ol’ set of scriptures and my study manual. I’ve been studying my way through the Old Testament for a long time, and yet still only half way through the manual (story for another day!).

When I pray before my morning meal to bless my food, I usually include the words, “Bless my mind and heart that they will be open to the words of Thy scriptures, that I might be able to apply them to my life, and go into the world this day to be of service in whatever way I’m needed.” (Or some variation of those words)

Today I included the words, “And help me to decide if I should drive to my office today, and if I should let my daughter drive to her school (15 minute drive in the other direction).”

Well… I glance down at the heading for today’s study lesson and it reads: “When Thou Shalt Have Eaten and Be Full; Then Beware.” Uh… coincidence, right?

I fluff it off and keep reading. The section is focusing on Deuteronomy 6:10-15, which according to my lesson manual is trying to teach me that the sad truth is that men forget God in times of peace and prosperity. So I thought, “See! It’s not even talking about road conditions or snowfall or anything like that!” I keep reading.

The words in Deuteronomy 6:14 jump up at me as if written in bold, flashing letters: THOU SHALT NOT GO (it’s actually talking about not going after other Gods because the Lord is a jealous God and wants us to worship only him). But that’s not the message I needed to hear today, is it?

I had prayed to know if I should go to my office, and the scriptures plainly told me, “Thou shalt not go.” I’m thinking, “But… I need to go to my office!” and what should the next verse read? Deuteronomy 6:16 says, “Ye shall not tempt the Lord your God.”

Okay, okay, I’ll stay home today. And I’ll call my daughter’s school and tell them that she won’t be coming to school, either. We will enjoy watching the snowfall from the comfort of our nice, warm home which the Lord has provided.

Answer to a prayer? Or coincidence? You decide. I’m going to think it’s an answer to my prayer. What’s your opinion? –Julie L. Spencer 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Conservation District Administrator by Day, Author by Moonlight

Julie Spencer has a very full life managing the Gratiot Conservation District, writing grant proposals, newsletters, articles, and watershed management plans. In the evenings she goes home and writes stories. She has now published her sixth book with more on the way.

Julie has been writing since she was in junior high, but prior to publishing her first novel, The Cove, her only published work was her master’s thesis, titled GIS Approach to Identifying Areas for Preservation in the Chippewa River Watershed.

The science Julie Spencer embraces so much in her job as the Administrator for the Gratiot Conservation District is a far cry from the rock stars and love stories she writes about in her books.

“I have a lot of stories in my head and characters who talk to me,” Julie said. “Some say I’m crazy, but people still love my books.”

Amazon reviewers agree… for the most part.

“I got my first one-star review after publishing my book, The Man in the Yellow Jaguar. It’s about a 25-year-old woman who falls in love with a man twice her age. The reviewer called it ‘awkward’. Oh well, can’t win ‘em all.”

Julie’s books mostly earn four and five-star reviews and most reviewers seem to love that her stories usually contain a big twist they didn’t see coming. That, Julie says, is the best compliment she can get.

Writing has always been a passion, but Julie didn’t really take it seriously until people starting reading her stories and asking where they could purchase her books. Seeing no local bookstores within an hour drive, Julie made her stories available on Amazon as paperbacks and Kindle versions. She always carries a box of paperbacks in her car in case someone wants a signed copy.

The genre of Julie’s stories is a little unconventional and barely exists. She writes mostly New Adult Clean Contemporary fiction, but has several non-fiction projects in the works.

“Almost all my stories contain some sort of Christian slant, although they don’t fall into the traditional Christian fiction market. I don’t shy away from controversial topics like drug abuse and the sanctity of marital relationships. I write about rock stars touring the world, returned veterans struggling with PTSD, and a youth minister in an inner-city church in Nashville who also happens to play drums in a rock band. I’m a bit of a square peg in a round-hole publishing market.”

None of her fiction writing has anything to do with soil and water conservation. Julie’s education is in geography, environmental analysis, map making, earth science and land use planning. She has a Master’s of Science in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and loves writing grant proposals almost as much as writing stories.

Julie has also been doing some public speaking about her work here in central Michigan. She shared results of the Pine River septic study from last year at the State of the Bay Conference in Bay City in September, serves on an invasive species task force with the Saginaw Bay Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (CISMA), and was chosen to serve on an advisory council for a two year grant project in partnerships with the Great Lakes Commission (GLC), Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), Institute for Water Research (IWR), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Michigan State University.

“How I was selected to be on an advisory council for a project called Researching Effectiveness of Agricultural Programs (REAP), I have no idea. I think it all stems back to the pilot program we conducted over the past four years called the Bad River Watershed Sedimentation Reduction Program funded by GLC. I guess we were successful in our project if they are now implementing it at the regional level. The Great Lakes Basin is a pretty big watershed! I’m honored to have the opportunity to serve.”

What’s Julie’s favorite book? The prequel to her Buxton Peak trilogy, appropriately titled Buxton Peak: The Early Years.

“Most of the Buxton Peak series takes place when my rock stars are adults, but The Early Years starts when my main character, Ian Taylor, is only eight years old. He is identified as a child prodigy who can play any instrument and goes on to start a rock band at the age of fourteen with his three best friends. By the end of the series, they’ve traversed a lot of challenges. A recovering addict, a Mormon rock star, an atheist and an inner-city youth pastor… what could possibly go wrong?”

If you’d like to reach Julie Spencer for Gratiot Conservation District business, her email is Julie.Spencer@macd.org and check out their website at www.GratiotConservationDistrict.org


Want more information about her books, go to www.AuthorJulieSpencer.com or JulieSpencer1998@gmail.com






Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Book Review of Sawdust and Mistletoe by Michelle Pennington


I was hooked on Sawdust and Mistletoe by Michelle Pennington from page one and couldn’t put it down. The main character, Ava has given up on Christmas. As an interior designer she decorates non-stop for months to make her clients’ homes perfect for the holidays, and she’s so sick of Christmas music she won’t even allow the radio on at her job sites.

Her new handyman, Hunter is determined to change her mind, and her heart. It’s not that Ava doesn’t want to date Hunter, she just doesn’t want to date a guy who won’t settle down. She’s naturally afraid to get her heart broken. But their chemistry is so strong they can’t stay away from each other.

Hunter finds ways to ‘work’ himself into her life, asking for her help decorating a dollhouse he’s building for his niece. The dollhouse becomes the smallest, but most important interior design project she’s ever done. It’s also a great distraction from the larger projects that seem to be falling apart around her. Nothing’s worse than watching your hard work destroyed before your eyes, except maybe falling in love with a guy who won’t commit.

It will take a Christmas miracle to pull it all together.

Michelle Pennington is one of my favorite authors. As one of her critique partners, I’ve had the chance to read her stories at various stages of completion. This one was so fun to watch her ‘build’. Pardon the puns, but come on. There’s sawdust and a hunky builder. What do you expect?

Michelle’s characters show heart and passion and determination and I just love them. I’ve been known to call myself President of the Michelle Pennington Fan Club (that’s a thing… right?).

I loved Sawdust and Mistletoe, and highly recommend it.


Other books I love by Michelle Pennington:







Book Review of The Start of Us by Rachel John



This is the second time I’ve tried to write a review of The Start of Us by Rachel John. I will not read Rachel’s book again, I will not read Rachel’s book again, I will not read Rachel’s book again.

Gal darnit Rachel John! Do I look like I have time to read your story twice? Do you know how many people are waiting for me to write book reviews for them? Including you!

All I wanted was a quick refresher on your new book, The Start of Us, before writing your review and now here I am a 3rd of the way into the book, again, because I can't put it down, again! This is all your fault!

Anyway, The Start of Us is a cute romance novel with a lot of heart, flirting, jealously, eating macaroni & cheese, and stepping back to take a back seat when it’s the right thing to do.

Obviously I liked it a lot if I read it twice. Yes, I’ve now finished it twice. My fight right now is to not pick it up again for the third time. I have work to do. No more reading. Seriously. Quit laughing. I can stop…

After reviewing The Start of Us, I had the opportunity to interview Rachel John and ask her a few questions about her writing. Read my interview here.

Other books by Rachel John:





Interview with the Author: Rachel John

After reviewing The Start of Us, I had the opportunity to interview Rachel John and ask her a few questions about her writing. Read my review here.

Rachel, thanks for joining us. Tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing.

I’ve always wanted to be an author. I’ve been writing and reading since childhood, but didn’t get serious about it until about five years ago when I realized Amazon had a publishing platform and everyone was moving to eBooks. My first novel, TheTruth About Running, is an LDS novel about college students and dodging the perfect person because you’re scared. Since then, I’ve written three more contemporary romance novels.

Well, I’ve loved everything I’ve read of yours. How do you come up with your ideas for stories?

Usually the characters come first. I tend to relate to reluctant females with quirky friends and a very patient, but dreamy guy ready to break them out of their shell. I know some authors come up with ideas from dreams they’ve had, but that is so not me, unless you count daydreaming! My dreams tend to be super boring, even when scary and stressful.

I’m one of those authors who turn my dreams into novels. But my daydreams turn into novels as well, so we have that in common. Let’s talk more about your new release, The Start of Us. Tell the readers about it:

This book came from a story idea I’ve had for probably twenty years. When I was younger, I often told myself stories in my head. They’d play out like films and could last me a couple days. (I’m not saying it’s normal, just saying it happened, LOL) Now that I’m a mom, this particular story is a little more meaningful. I always knew the book would be about a loyal roommate and an estranged brother trying to figure out what to do with the child that’s been left in their care, I just didn’t realize how emotional and fulfilling the story would become.

I decided to make it a series, playing around with the theme of ‘A Change in Plans.’

Uh… yeah, so, you’re going to need to tell me more about your series sometime because I loved The Start of Us. For now, give us a Synopsis for the book:

When Corrie Windsor's roommate dies in a car accident, she leaves behind her four-year-old daughter, Ella. Corrie loves the little girl and hopes to adopt her, but instead, she’ll have to stand by while Ella’s uncle steps in to take custody. If things aren’t awkward enough, there’s a chemistry between them that neither wants to acknowledge.

Preston Ford can’t imagine instant parenthood, especially considering he just chickened out of proposing to his girlfriend. However, once he meets Ella, there’s no other choice. The time he spends with her and Corrie solidifies an alliance between the three of them, a plan to give Ella the stability she needs. But reality can sometimes turn the best of plans upside down.

With more than one heart hanging in the balance, how long can their platonic teamwork really last? Romance has never been this complicated.

Swoon. I loved the story. I’ve read it twice! I love your characters, but in your own words, tell the readers about your main characters:

The point of view shifts between Corrie and Preston, two people who want to work together, but also want to protect themselves from heartache. Corrie is very level-headed and calm. Preston tends to say and do the wrong thing under stress. It’s a fun combination.

Which is your favorite minor character and why?

I love to create side characters that can say outrageous things and Shaun is no exception. He’s the funny voice of reason when Preston is being stubborn and Shaun will become the main character in the next book in the series. I’m excited and nervous about that.

Okay, I was wondering about that. Shaun seems like he’s got a cool story to tell. He’s flirtatious and bold, but a loyal friend and I like that. Not to put too much pressure on you, but I’d very much like for you to finish writing Shaun’s story so I can read it! Do you write and read every single day?

If I’m not writing I’m reading. Besides exchanging manuscripts with other writers, I just love to read.

I knew there was a reason we got along so well! I love to read and write, also. When I’m tired from writing all day, I’ll take a few more minutes to read. When you’re ready to exchange manuscripts, I volunteer as tribute!

Anyway, thank you, Rachel for joining us today and for sharing your stories and your writing experience! -Julie L. Spencer

About Rachel John:

Rachel John lives in Arizona with her husband and four crazy kids. When she's not shuttling them to soccer or piano, she loves to read, work on family history, and draw. Rachel thinks the best kinds of books are filled with awkward humor, and enjoys mixing that with sigh-inducing romance.

Follow Rachel John on social media:


Website and/or Blog: http://www.racheljohnwrites.com/





Other Books by Rachel John: