Karen Trotter Elley

My nonfiction story, “The Messenger,” is one of 101 miraculous stories of faith, divine intervention and answered prayers selected from thousands of submissions to be included in the Chicken Soup for the Soul: Touched by an Angel book. Now, that’s a miracle! But it almost didn’t happen because I almost didn’t send my story in.

One might suspect a lack of faith, but my reluctance was born more of a deep desire to avoid yet another rejection. Writers never get used to their work being turned down no matter what positive spin we put on it. Publisher rejections are kind of like getting a speeding ticket. You never quite feel as if you deserve it, but they give it to you anyway and there’s nothing you can do about it.

After I put the finishing touches on “The Messenger,” I pressed the send button and breathed a prayer, asking that my story be well received.

I recall attending a Book and Author Dinner several years ago where I was seated at a table with seven other writers. During the lively conversation that ensued, the topic of rejections came up. Emboldened by a couple of glasses of wine, we decided to conduct a contest to see who had received the worst rejection letter. One guy won hands down with a letter stating, “This rejection is for this manuscript and anything else you may ever write.” Ouch!

I simply didn’t want to go there. Then a friend intervened in the form of a forwarded email containing a Chicken Soup for the Soul request for submissions, a communication I chose to ignore. While still stalled in a state of rejection avoidance, I received another message from a different friend, referring to the Touched by an Angel call for submissions, saying virtually the same thing as my other friend, “Karen, this sounds like you.” It seemed to be a sign. I threw up my hands in surrender. After all, I reminded myself, the Chicken Soup for the Soul books initially struggled to see the light of day, repeatedly rejected by publishers a grand total of 140 times.

In the end, the lure of being a published author and sharing my own angel experience won out over any lingering doubts. After I put the finishing touches on “The Messenger,” I pressed the send button and breathed a prayer, asking that my story be well received.

My friends’ persistence, (or was it my prayer?) paid off and my story made it through to the final round. In mid-September, I held the finished product in my hands—Chicken Soup for the Soul: Touched by an Angel had become a reality—a dream realized.

Up until this point, the process had been all about me, about my story and my acceptance; but on that day, as I opened the book for the first time and leafed through the pages, something shifted within me. Suddenly, I felt a connection and kinship with all the other writers and their miraculous stories, and I had a strong inner-knowing that this book is going to make a profound difference in our collective spiritual lives and those of our readers. I’m grateful to be a contributor to the book and for the guidance I received from my messenger.

Prepare to be awed and inspired by 101 stories from people who have been touched by an angel, including these:

• John and Mary prayed for a highway angel when their motor coach broke down in an isolated area in the desert with no cell phone reception. Their prayers were answered in an unusual way.

• Kimberly’s grandmother and a mysterious adviser acted as her guardian angels, shielding her from harm and unwise decisions.

• A drowning boy rises from the pool with his arm held aloft and his hand clasped around the invisible hand that pulled him up through the water.

• When Linda was in the hospital in unbearable pain, a lady stayed with her, doing all she could to help despite the fact that she shouldn’t have been there in the first place and no one else saw her.

• Catherine’s parents, her doctor and the hospital tried to find the man who showed up on her doorstep one blustery night to save her life. They never found him.

• When a van made a left turn directly in front of Jan’s car, divine intervention was the only explanation for her survival.

In each angelic encounter, the message of hope, peace and love is the common thread binding our hearts and souls as one and reminding us to, “Be calm. Don’t worry; everything is going to be all right. Remember that you’re not alone.”

I know that the encouraging, prophetic words I received from a stranger in Jesup, Georgia in 1988 were not just for me, but for everyone—for now, for always, in all ways—“You are in good hands.”

 

Karen Trotter Elley is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in newspapers and magazines, including the Christian Science Monitor, the Seattle-Post Intelligencer, the Tennessean and the Toledo Blade. For more than 12 years, she was on the staff of BookPage as a production designer and writer. Karen lives in Nashville with her husband Michael. Chicken Soup for the Soul: Touched by an Angel is her first book contribution.

My nonfiction story, “The Messenger,” is one of 101 miraculous stories of faith, divine intervention and answered prayers selected from thousands of submissions to be included in the Chicken Soup for the Soul: Touched by an Angel book. Now, that’s a miracle! But it almost didn’t happen because I almost didn’t send my story in. […]

The signs were favorable for my call to debut author and astrologer Mitchell Scott Lewis at his Manhattan home. Consulting the stars for any matter of events—even a phone interview—is run of the mill for Lewis, who has been a practicing astrologer in New York City for more than 20 years. Well in advance, Lewis successfully predicted the exact top of the housing market, the deterioration of the mortgage business and the 2008 market crash. He has appeared on 20/20 and been quoted in Barron’s, the New York Post and other leading publications.

“You can use astrology for anything,” Lewis says, “and I’ve always wanted to write a mystery. Many of my clients have asked me why I didn’t write an astrology book. The effort that goes into that would be the same as a novel and, quite frankly,” he admits, “the only people that would read it would be astrologers.” Lewis hopes to appeal to a wider audience. “I wanted to fit the astrology into the mystery genre, not to shove it down people’s throats, but to show them what can be done.”

In Murder in the 11th House, the first book in Lewis’ Starlight Detective Agency series, birth chart, street-smart savvy astrology detective David Lowell takes on the investigation of a pro bono murder case to help out his young defense attorney daughter, Melinda.

“I wanted to fit the astrology into the mystery genre."

When asked if he had ever assisted in a murder case investigation, Lewis was at first hesitant to reply. “I’ve been consulted by private families—not by the police—to do some work on a murder case. It was a pretty sordid affair. To tell you the truth, it’s a little bit scary when you’re dealing with murder and you’re not David Lowell with a bulletproof car, a bodyguard and all the money in the world.”

Lewis says he conjured up a wealthy private investigator for a reason. “I got so tired of all those poor schleps, like Rockford—although I love the guy, I wanted someone with power so I could see how he uses it, someone who has money in a society that has been corrupted by it.  All around him is a society that is crumbling . . . hopefully it will pull itself together, but as of now, we’re in a dark time of the history of mankind.”

In Murder in the 11th House, darkness comes in the form of a car bomb explosion in the parking garage of the courthouse that kills Judge Farrah Winston, a beautiful, much loved, paragon of virtue. The accused is Joanna (Johnny) Colbert—a foul-mouthed bartender with a gambling problem and a hair trigger temper.

“In the case of the judge,” Lewis says, “I developed the character first, then fit the astrology to her. With Johnny, her chart came to me first, very quickly, because I wanted certain personality traits. Then I wound up changing it right before publication because the moon was within a few minutes of the sun, which makes it more powerful and brings up the father figure more, an area where Johnny has a big problem.”

The astrology used in the book is researched and authentic. “I’m going to put the charts up on my website so anyone who’s studying astrology can see what I’m talking about. But I’m keeping Lowell’s chart a secret for a reason. I’m giving clues, and at some point, I’ll probably ask my readers what kind of chart they think he has and why.”

As the story progresses, all the evidence—celestial and otherwise—points to Johnny. Determined to find out who killed Judge Farrah even if it turns out to be their client, Lowell meticulously examines the charts of the judge’s clerk, a self-important senior partner in a prestigious law firm, the judge’s sister; a pathologically shy, mousy woman who stands to inherit her dead sibling’s fortune; and even the judge herself. As time grows short, Lowell enlists the aid of his feisty secretary Sarah, a smart cookie with a penchant for expensive shoes, and his trusty sidekick, Mort, an accomplished hacker and sometime psychic.

When someone tries to kill Johnny, Lowell knows he’s on the right track. But there’s a bad moon rising, and they’re all endangered as the action heats up.

Although you may not believe in signs, by the time you reach the end of Lewis’ Murder in the 11th House, you might be wondering if it’s possible to determine the identity of a murderer with a little help from the stars.

In spite of all the darkness he sees around him, Lewis has a well-developed sense of humor that shines through in his quirky characters, resulting in a fun, entertaining, socially insightful and informative read.

 

The signs were favorable for my call to debut author and astrologer Mitchell Scott Lewis at his Manhattan home. Consulting the stars for any matter of events—even a phone interview—is run of the mill for Lewis, who has been a practicing astrologer in New York City for more than 20 years. Well in advance, Lewis […]

Debut author Ruth Reid puts a fresh spin on the growing genre of Amish fiction by adding an angel to the mix. In The Promise of an Angel, the first book in Reid’s new series, Judith Fischer’s five-year-old brother, Samuel, falls from the roof of their barn; then Judith sees a tall, glowing figure kneeling by the critically injured child.

Judith tries to convince her family that she has spoken with an angel and that her paralyzed brother will one day walk again, but everyone—including Levi Plank, the man she had hoped to marry—thinks she is talking dangerous nonsense. Meanwhile, her younger sister Martha is smitten with Levi and intends to have him for her own. She blames Judith for Samuel’s plight and does all she can to create more trouble for her sister. Soon the angel returns with more messages that test Judith’s faith, alienate her family and threaten her standing in the community. Only the bishop’s son, Andrew Lapp, will listen to Judith. As her faith grows, so do her feelings for Andrew. Will Judith continue to hold to the promise of the angel—even if it means losing all she knows and loves?

The Promise of an Angel takes us inside Judith’s Amish community as Reid writes engagingly about the issues closest to her characters’ hearts—God, family and community.

Debut author Ruth Reid puts a fresh spin on the growing genre of Amish fiction by adding an angel to the mix. In The Promise of an Angel, the first book in Reid’s new series, Judith Fischer’s five-year-old brother, Samuel, falls from the roof of their barn; then Judith sees a tall, glowing figure kneeling […]

It’s spring in Bon Temps, and an urge to clean out her grandmother’s attic leads Sookie to the discovery of some life-changing secrets in Charlaine Harris’ latest Sookie Stackhouse adventure, Dead Reckoning. Lately, due to visits by her fairy kin, Cousin Claude and Great-Uncle Dermot, Sookie has been feeling more and more fae, but she doesn’t have time to dwell on it. Merlotte’s, the bar where she works, is firebombed, and later Sookie is tracked and attacked by hired thugs. It seems her archenemy, the revenge-crazed Sandra Pelt, is once again on the loose.

Meanwhile, her vampire lover Eric and his “child” Pam have decided to go up against their new vampire master Victor, and Sookie gets drawn into a plot that has only one possible outcome—a double dose of death and destruction.

If that isn’t enough for Sookie to deal with, a vampire queen has her eyes on Eric, the right to claim him and the paperwork to prove it. Is Sookie in danger of losing the one thing she values more than her own life?

Readers, prepare to be amused and entertained by Harris’ captivating characters and nonstop action in Dead Reckoning.

It’s spring in Bon Temps, and an urge to clean out her grandmother’s attic leads Sookie to the discovery of some life-changing secrets in Charlaine Harris’ latest Sookie Stackhouse adventure, Dead Reckoning. Lately, due to visits by her fairy kin, Cousin Claude and Great-Uncle Dermot, Sookie has been feeling more and more fae, but she […]

Recently, Karen Kingsbury, the prolific author crowned the queen of Christian fiction by Time magazine, will celebrate the publication of Leaving, the first book in her four-part Bailey Flanigan series.

But she won’t be celebrating alone.

“I created the series because the reader friends asked for it,” Kingsbury says in a phone call from her home in Vancouver.

“Whenever I wrote about the Flanigans, the reader friends wrote back and asked for more Bailey. Then I introduced Cody, a kid with problems, and readers just loved him.” Now, fans will get what they’ve been asking for in a series that will finally complete the Bailey/Cody love story.

In Leaving, 20-year-old Bailey prepares to leave her childhood home in Bloomington, Indiana, headed to audition for a Broadway musical in New York City. But Bailey’s heart is heavy as she leaves for what may be the opportunity of a lifetime. If she gets the coveted role on Broadway, it means leaving family and friends for an extended period of time—and that includes Cody Coleman, the love of her life back home. Cody has suddenly disappeared from Bailey’s life, taking a coaching position in a nearby small town to be closer to his mother, who has been jailed on drug charges. Bailey is always on his mind and in his heart, but Cody doesn’t think he’s good enough for her. Complications arise, as they always do; for Cody, it’s the presence of lovely Cheyenne, the widow of his best friend who was killed in Iraq; for Bailey, it’s the possibility of a whole new life in New York—and a deepening relationship with her handsome movie star friend, Brandon Paul.

Since the Flanigan family is loosely based on Kingsbury’s own family (which includes husband Donald, one daughter and five sons—three of whom are adopted from Haiti), she didn’t have to look far for inspiration.

“It was crazy, because while I was writing scenes in Leaving about Bailey packing up to move to New York, my daughter Kelsey suddenly decided to go to college 1,500 miles away from home. It certainly added an emotional intensity to my research.”

But where does Bailey end and Kelsey begin? “My daughter has the same courage and conviction as Bailey, but God’s plan for her life is still unfolding, and that takes a lot of patience. Kelsey and Bailey are both enrolled in college and interested in musical theater, but Kelsey hasn’t starred in a movie, or been offered a spot on Broadway. And she doesn’t have a Cody or Brandon in her life.” Yet.

One thing that stands out in Leaving is that two of the characters—Bailey and Ashley Baxter Blake, whose husband is facing health issues—repeatedly, consciously choose to live in the moment. When asked about that choice, Kingsbury says, “In the past, I was vaguely aware of the concept of being fully in the moment, and I might have mentioned it at a women’s seminar or at a conference, but it wasn’t a principle that I had put into daily practice.”

Then in January 2010, her husband Donald had a stroke, followed by successful surgery in March to close a hole in his heart. “After the challenges of last year, I learned to appreciate every moment, and I do my best to savor and enjoy each experience.”

One of her favorite times for making memories is Easter. “When I was growing up,” Kingsbury says, “I had three sisters, so there were always plenty of pretty dresses and the usual Easter eggs, baskets and bunnies—symbols that we associated with the renewal of life.”

Easter was always full of light and hope in Kingsbury’s childhood, especially compared with the somberness of Good Friday. “Even as a young girl, I really grasped the sadness of Jesus on a cross. It always made Easter so much better. The sun always seemed to be shining on Easter morning—a reminder of God’s promise after the darkness.”

These days, one of Kingsbury’s favorite Easter traditions is talking with her husband and children. “Each Easter Sunday, we gather and share about how we’re doing so far in the new year. We talk about what’s going on in each of our lives, our hopes and dreams, and how the Lord is working among us. Always we’re amazed at the miracles of God around us.”

Surely Kingsbury has already fulfilled many of her hopes and dreams. With 54 books (and counting), millions of copies sold worldwide, her name on USA Today and New York Times bestseller lists and honors galore, she has become a mainstay in Christian fiction. And she’s certainly not going anywhere anytime soon. Next in the Bailey Flanigan series is Learning, followed by Longing and Loving.

In Leaving, Kingsbury delivers an entertaining story with memorable characters and a powerful message about the only things that last—faith, love and our connection with God. As she says, “Jesus stays.”

 

Recently, Karen Kingsbury, the prolific author crowned the queen of Christian fiction by Time magazine, will celebrate the publication of Leaving, the first book in her four-part Bailey Flanigan series. But she won’t be celebrating alone. “I created the series because the reader friends asked for it,” Kingsbury says in a phone call from her […]

Much to the delight of his fans, the brilliant, fabulously wealthy, king of cool FBI Agent Aloysius Pendergast is back in action and out for revenge. Pendergast, the brainchild of best-selling coauthors Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, has been the driving force behind 13 previous novels, including Relic, Dance of Death and The Book of the Dead (the only books in the series that the authors recommend reading in sequence).

Their latest book, Fever Dream, is a stand-alone read that exemplifies the authors’ mastery of the suspense genre. The story unfolds as Pendergast and Helen—his much-beloved wife of two years—are relaxing at the end of an African safari. Their peaceful moment is interrupted when Pendergast is summoned to kill a rogue, man-eating lion and Helen—who is a crack shot—goes with him. She is killed during a vicious attack, but an emotionally scarred Pendergast survives the tragedy. Some 12 years later, he discovers that her weapon had deliberately been loaded with blanks. Obviously, his wife had been murdered.

He sets out to find her killer and commandeers his closest ally, NYPD Lt. Vincent D’Agosta, in a search that takes them from Africa to the swamps of Louisiana. Meanwhile Vincent’s love, NYPD Homicide Captain Laura Hayward, is not happy. This isn’t the first time that Pendergast has taken her Vinnie along on a chillingly dangerous ride.

Clues drop and bullets fly as they get ever closer to the elusive truth when Pendergast uncovers Helen’s obsession with artist John James Audubon—and a quest for a missing Audubon painting that proves to be the motive for her death. He can’t help but wonder if he ever really knew his wife.

When deeper, darker secrets are revealed, a disgruntled Captain Hayward is forced into the fray as the killers close in and the action heats up even more as the tale races to its violent conclusion. At the end, though, some questions remain unanswered. Sequel, anyone?

Although the authors live 500 miles apart, their writing is seamless and totally absorbing, the byproduct of a friendship that began around 1985 when the two first met. At the time, Preston worked for the American Museum of Natural History, and Child was an editor, a rising young star in the book-publishing world. They soon became close friends and the rest is history—mixed with heady doses of science and mayhem. Preston & Child fans won’t want to miss Fever Dream.

Much to the delight of his fans, the brilliant, fabulously wealthy, king of cool FBI Agent Aloysius Pendergast is back in action and out for revenge. Pendergast, the brainchild of best-selling coauthors Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, has been the driving force behind 13 previous novels, including Relic, Dance of Death and The Book of […]

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