Women of Faith and Fiction ~ Sylvia Stewart

Good morning! I hope cooler temps have come your way and you’re able to snuggle up with your favorite blanket to enjoy a warm cuppa. If not, never fear. If your region skips fall, winter is on the way. 🙂

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Women of Faith and Fiction. This morning I have the pleasure of introducing you to author Sylvia Stewart.

Personal

Sylvia please tell us a little about yourself.

Gail Johnson interviews Sylvia Stewart for Women of Faith and FictionSylvia Stewart grew up in the (then) Belgian Congo. Later, she spent 21 years as an Assemblies of God missionary in Malawi, East Africa, with her husband, Duane. While there, she taught some writing workshops, which are now bearing fruit. She started writing Kondi’s Quest to weave a story for the children of Malawi.

In 1992 Sylvia and Duane were asked to go to Ethiopia to found a Bible College. They spent 11 years there, doing mostly Bible College ministry. Sylvia taught college-level English to students who had never taken a grammar class before.

Since retiring from their mission assignment in 2001, Sylvia has published five books. The Mysteries in Malawi series–Kondi’s Quest, Kondi’s Joy, and Kondi’s Secret tells the story of a Malawian girl who struggles both physically and spiritually.

 She has also written two novellas in her Sweet Romances series:  Seattle Rayne and Montana Skye, which is published in a boxed set of seven Christmas novellas called Wonderland Wishes. Montana Skye will be published separately later in 2018.

Wow! You’ve had an exciting life, Sylvia. Let’s talk about your writing journey. Where did you get the idea for your latest WIP or your current release? And what inspired you to choose the setting of your story?

Professional

Since I lived in Malawi for 21 years, it was an easy choice to write a story set in such a beautiful country that tags itself as “The Warm Heart of Africa.” Kondi’s Quest began as a solo novel for pre-teens, and it took me 24 years to complete it and get it into publishable form. Kondi seemed to want more of her story told, so Kondi’s Joy and Kondi’s Secret followed. Kondi is a fictional character, but she is based on Malawian girls that I knew. Her country and culture is as accurately described as possible to the Malawi that I knew and loved.

Seattle Rayne was also an easy choice. I lived in the Seattle area. Also, the female protagonist was a missionary’s daughter who now lived in the USA trying to make her own way in life—an experience that I had gone through, too.  Montana Skye followed as a sequel.

I can see that you loved your work and time in Malawi. Tell me, what is your favorite thing to do when not writing?

I used to do a lot of handwork – crocheting, needlepoint, knitting, cross-stitch and embroidery. I’ve always enjoyed reading a quality novel or a biography. I enjoy a clean movie, but nowadays they are so difficult to find, so recently I most often pick up a book.

I enjoy crocheting and reading too. Please share a writing quirk—a ‘must have’ or a ‘must do’ to get words down on paper.

I usually keep plodding on through a writing stint, even when things are not to my satisfaction, since I figure I can fix what’s lacking in the re-write. However, once in a while I get completely stuck. Then I find that writing by hand for 20 to 30 minutes will start the story flowing again. I often have a cup of coffee at hand, too.

I agree with writing by hand. My first draft is written by hand. Last question. This year’s theme is First Things First. Setting our priorities is a must if we’re to be about our Father’s business. What advice would you offer someone struggling to spend time with Him? And, how has spending time with Him changed your life?

Inspirational

Spending time with the Lord is essential for a Christian writer. I find that I need to do that first thing in the morning, or other items intrude and I slide through another day without contact with the Lord. I have a Bible reading plan, and enjoy reading through the Bible each year. However, that was a long time in coming to fulfillment. When I was a young mother, it seemed there was no time for anything other than my husband, the children, and housework. I’ve learned to waken early each day in order to spend time with the Lord.

It’s also wonderful to have other Christian authors to consult with. I belong to Northwest Christian Writers Association which meets once a month. I’m also part of a critique group. If we are unable to meet once a month, we can always contact each other through e-mails for advice. It really helps, on non-productive days, to know that others have experienced the same thing and that you have friends who care about your writing and are praying for you.

This year, I plan to set up a prayer team to cover my writing.

Thank you, Gail, for contacting me and inviting me to be with you. God bless you and anoint you as you write for Him.

Sylvia, thank you so much for joining me today. I enjoyed talking with you, my friend.

Click to Tweet: “Spending time with the Lord is essential for a Christian writer.” Sylvia Stewart on Women of Faith and Fiction @GailJohnson87 @SylviaStewart3 #interview


Sylvia’s Book Links

The Mysteries in Malawi Series

Kondi’s Quest
Kondi’s Joy
Kondi’s Secret

Sweet Romances

Seattle Rayne
Montana Skye


About the Author

Sylvia Stewart grew up in the (then) Belgian Congo. Later, she spent 21 years as an Assemblies of God missionary in Malawi, East Africa, with her husband, Duane. While there, she taught some writing workshops, which are now bearing fruit. She started writing Kondi’s Quest to weave a story for the children of Malawi.

In 1992 Sylvia and Duane were asked to go to Ethiopia to found a Bible College. They spent 11 years there, doing mostly Bible College ministry. Sylvia taught college-level English to students who had never taken a grammar class before.

You can contact Sylvia at these social media sites:

Facebook
Facebook author
Twitter
Website

Lady of a Thousand Treasures ~ Sandra Byrd

I was done striving and trying to earn the approval of others. I, too, must be on the outside who I was on the inside. ~ Eleanor Sheffield, Lady of a Thousand Treasures

Sandra Byrd's Book ImageMiss Eleanor Sheffield is a talented evaluator of antiquities, trained to know the difference between a genuine artifact and a fraud. But with her father’s passing and her uncle’s decline into dementia, the family business is at risk. In the Victorian era, unmarried Eleanor cannot run Sheffield Brothers alone.

The death of a longtime client, Baron Lydney, offers an unexpected complication when Eleanor is appointed the temporary trustee of the baron’s legendary collection. She must choose whether to donate the priceless treasures to a museum or allow them to pass to the baron’s only living son, Harry—the man who broke Eleanor’s heart.

Eleanor distrusts the baron’s motives and her own ability to be unbiased regarding Harry’s future. Harry claims to still love her and Eleanor yearns to believe him, but his mysterious comments and actions fuel her doubts. When she learns an Italian beauty accompanied him on his return to England, her lingering hope for a future with Harry dims.

With the threat of debtor’s prison closing in, Eleanor knows that donating the baron’s collection would win her favor among potential clients, saving Sheffield Brothers. But the more time she spends with Harry, the more her faith in him grows. Might Harry be worthy of his inheritance, and her heart, after all? As pressures mount and time runs out, Eleanor must decide whom she can trust—who in her life is false or true, brass or gold—and what is meant to be treasured.

 

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My Thoughts

In her latest series, Sandra Byrd unveils a veritable feast and bids her reader come and dine Layered with nuggets of truth, intrigue, history, and romance, Lady of a Thousand Treasures is a full-course meal meant to be savored until the last delectable bite.

As an unmarried woman, Eleanor Sheffield knows her place in society but not her worth. She is smart, resilient, and daring. As an evaluator of antiquities, she knows “It is only by testing, or being tested, that we understand whether the substance or the person is as it appears to be or is merely masquerading.”

Sandra Byrd QuoteWhen Eleanor faces her season of tests, she questions her resolve—and her ability to make the right decision. Does she have what it takes? Can she trust her heart or must she listen to her head? As she works through her problems to untangle the web of deceit surrounding Lord Lydney’s treasures, we see her character shine forth as gold.

I loved Eleanor’s resilience, stories, and willingness to help others. Her outlook on life is seen through her response to losing. “Sometimes starting anew is the best way to move forward. Even if it seems like you’ve lost.” See what I mean? She is a heroine I could cheer for as she eliminated the fake to find the treasure. She passed this reader’s test, and she will forever be one of my favorite characters—along with Harry, of course!

“You have your Maker’s design all over you. His mark is stamped in your loyalty. Your kindness. The way you put others before yourself.” Lady of a Thousand Treasures ~ Sandra Byrd

Rich with folklore and mystery, Sandra Byrd did an outstanding job bringing Victorian England to life. Anyone who loves Dickens, Austen, and Brontë will find Lady of a Thousand Treasures a delightful read. I give it 5 stars!

I want to thank Tyndale House Publishers and Sandra Byrd for the complimentary copy of this book for review. I was not required to post a positive review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Click to Tweet: “I was done striving and trying to earn the approval of others. I, too, must be on the outside who I was on the inside.” ~ Eleanor Sheffield, Lady of a Thousand Treasures by Sandra Byrd  @GailJohnson87 #newrelease


headshot-2018Bestselling author Sandra Byrd has published more than fifty books over her editing and writing career. Her traditionally published books include titles by Howard Books, a division of Simon and Schuster, Tyndale House Publishers, WaterBrook Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House, and Bethany House. She’s also an independent author.

Sandra’s series of historically sound Gothic romances launched with the best-selling Mist of Midnight, which earned a coveted Editor’s Choice award from the Historical Novel Society. The second book, Bride of a Distant Isle, has been selected by Romantic Times as a Top Pick. The third in the series, A Lady in Disguise, published in 2017 and was named by the American Library Association’s Booklist as one of the Top Ten Inspirational Fiction books of the year.

Her contemporary adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, was a Christy Award finalist, as was her first historical novel, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. To Die For was also named a Library Journal Best Books Pick for 2011, and The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr was named a Library Journal Best Books Pick for 2012.

Sandra has published dozens of books for kids, tweens, and teens, including the bestselling The One Year Be-Tween You and God Devotions for Girls. She continued her work as a nonfiction author with The One Year Home and Garden Devotions. The One Year Experiencing God’s Love Devotional was named by Called Magazine, the #1 magazine for Christian Women, as among their favorite, must-read books for Fall, 2017.

Sandra is passionate about helping writers develop their talents and their work through content coaching and line editing, and has mentored hundreds of writers. For testimonials about her editing and coaching, please visit novelcoaching.com.

Connect with Sandra through any of these social media platforms:

Website
Facebook
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Twitter
Youtube

Sagging Middles

Once upon a time...Fairy tales often begin with once upon a time, but the tale doesn’t stop there. It can’t. A story ends well if we find the answer to one question…

And then what happened?

Without that question, we have no plot. And there must be a plot. The plot drives the story forward. Right?

But here’s where our story differs from the fiction we read and write. Our stories have sagging middles. And I don’t mean I-quit-doing-my-sit-ups sagging middles. The sagging I refer to is the endless waiting, circuitous wandering middle.

It’s during these middles we, as doers, feel helpless because the forward movement has stopped. There is no action. Or is there?

We fail to comprehend this new plot twist because we’re not the author of our stories. The Master storyteller holds the pen, and He knows the exact pace needed to accomplish the character arc He desires.

Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. James 1:3-4 KJV

Truth: Sometimes we need a sagging middle to move us forward.

The Lord alone knows how to structure our story to bring us to a delightful ending.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13 KJV

He has made the needed provisions for our salvation, and He’s making the necessary revision in our lives. Hence, the sagging middle. Hang in there. We can and will finish strong if we yield to His hand.

Another fact to rejoice over is our Lord never suffers from writer’s block! He has known the end of our stories from the beginning.

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

As writers we understand, only the Author who knows the ending can finish the story. And He alone will finish the story. May we all allow Him to write His story upon our hearts.

Who’s writing your story?

Click to Tweet: Sometimes we need a sagging middle to move us forward.