How Do They Get So Much Accomplished?

Aside from trying to answer my children on why I have more hair on my chest that I do on top of my head, one of the questions people ask me the most is, “How do you manage to do all that you do?”

While I’m always honored that my conduct is worth asking about, the question has a few inherent flaws. One of those is assuming that I’m faithful to all the things I need to get done. For every one thing someone sees, there are dozens more that need attention. And I carry that reverently, as everything worth doing has a person on the other side of it.

But with regard to the question itself, we need to make sure we break it down more accurately.

Reading It Right

Don’t confuse productivity with capacity and support.

It’s dangerous to compare ourselves to others. But analyzing peoples methods can often be thought-provoking, informative and convicting. So it’s worth investigating when you’re able to rub shoulders with someone whom you admire.

How Much Can You Carry?

It’s important to recognize that some people are born with a higher natural capacity to produce things than others. They have certain gifts and natural dispositions that lend to high output lifestyles. My senior pastor, Kirk Gilchrist, has a natural gift of leadership. I try and emulate it as best I can, but what I have to work for, he has naturally.

You can work toward having a greater natural capacity but, ultimately, capacity has to do with how you’re put together.

The greatest thing you can do to increase your capacity is allow yourself to be stretched. And this isn’t exactly a warm-fuzzy process. It will test the limits of your patience, stamina, stress thresholds, memory and relationships. This doesn’t mean you take on fifty things, just the next thing. This means that you’ll operate within your own natural capacity, not someone else’s, and then look to the next step that makes you uncomfortable, not the next thirty steps.

Who’s On Their Team?

Very often, we see what’s attributed to one person when in reality it was created by many people.

Most people who produce a lot have amazing support systems in place. Movies are great examples of this. The main actor or director usually gets the red carpet treatment. But sit through the credits of the next film you enjoy, and really think through all the faces that go with each of those names.

These key supporters allow producers to offer more than what they’re able to do on their own. This is a quality of leadership, and should not be confused with someone’s natural ability to create or carry something. One of the only reasons I’m able to appear to do all that I do is because of those who’ve partnered with me. Accordingly, it’s become of one of my personal goals to shower them with as much praise and recognition as I can. They deserve it, and so much more.

Be a Voracious Learner

The best that we can do is glean from people’s habits and try to apply them to ourselves where possible.

What time people get up and go to sleep, how they treat their bodies and what feed their spirits, what they’re reading, how often they take breaks, interact with others, deal with stress, they lead their teams, take criticism, delegate, craft, adhere to timelines and engage in the creative process are all examples of things we can learn regardless of our natural capacities or current support structures.

Forget productivity.

Monitor your capacity and honor your supporters.

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How I Use (And Don’t Use) Social Media

Before social media became a thing, we had email chat rooms, brought to you by America Online. I still remember my dad using a “street address and mail box” analogy to help me understand what a URL and @ symbol were, all to the static-laden interlude between hitting “connect” and hearing the famous words of one of my wife’s favorite movies.

(Bet that voice actor wishes he had taken the royalty option instead of the studio fee).

Where I once felt the rush of talking to an AOL user in a chat room, I now freely post text and images of my life before the better part of 2 billion people.

What happened?

Like everything, technology moves forward, which means feasibility, accessibility and integration does too. In short, things just get easier and more interesting.

After a few years of playing with all of the connectivity apps out there, here are the ones I use daily and why.

Instagram

Instagram is my go-to social media app for me. It’s what I like. Promoting family, adventure, music, life. It encapsulates the essence of a picture being worth a thousand words, and shamelessly ignores the trappings that have made Facebook the mess it is today.

Since 65% of humans are visual learners, its a seamless way to capitalize on our natural predisposition. I can scroll through dozens of images in a minute, learning what my friends or favorite retailers are doing, leave a comment if I want, or just double-tap the image (“like”) to let them know I was here.

Posting a picture a day has become a habit I love, because it forces me to look at my day with extreme visual appreciation. It’s helped me be intentional with valuing my contexts, and therefore, it’s made me a more appreciative person. And it’s brought me closer to considering other people’s joys and heartaches. It’s the closest thing I can handle to having God’s timeless and instant access to all of humanity.

Twitter

Twitter used to be my go-to platform (which now auto-populates from my Instagram posts, accounting for 90% of my Twitter activity). Twitter was especially attractive to me as I tired of Facebook’s decay to non-user commercialism and the irrational commentary from people who felt everyone should read their obscure opinions (which added little value to society). Twitter has, in large part, salvaged that, though it’s recent popularity in commenting on TV drama and pop culture is wearing on me (thus why I follow so few people).

The limitation to 140 characters means intelligent humans must be thoughtful about anything we say, and likewise limits the praising or ranting abilities of anyone commenting back. This makes for short, cunning dialog that doesn’t require much time. And even if someone says something unintelligent, they can’t say it for very long.

Facebook

The only thing I use Facebook for anymore is posting links to what you’re reading right now. If I didn’t get thousands of click-throughs every week because of it, I wouldn’t bother. But enough people still faithfully use Facebook to make meaningful connections that I recognize the value of publicizing my work there.

Facebook was a great idea, but between the maintenance it required (friend request management, comments, private messages, and the incessant app-blocking if you don’t want your page to look like a billboard for FarmVille), as well as the presumed familiarity if you’re a public figure, turned me off to the site’s time-sucking irrationality. I once had a Facebook follower get mad at me because I failed to write him when his wife died suddenly. I was genuinely grieved for this poor man, but astonished that Facebook had elevated presumptive intimacy to such extraordinary levels.

Everything Else

While there are plenty of other cool apps out there, most either seem like repeats (Google+ repeating Facebook) or irrelevant (LinkedIn, since I don’t need any more work, and don’t want to be linked anymore than I already am). The only other platform I tend to spend a lot of time cultivating is this one right here: my blog. I’ve made it a point to always respond to every comment.

In the end, my advice is to find one or two platforms that inspire you to be a better person without enticing you to disengage from the world around you, trading reality for life-lived-from-a-screen. Social media is a powerful tool, and it’s uses are only in their infancy, but tools should never trump people.

Live life with your eyes open, looking straight ahead, knowing that the most valuable connections are made with the people right in from of you.

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Make Sure You’re Liked By Who Matters Most

“I like you.”

Those three words sent chills down my 5th grade spine. It made me do crazy things, like circle “yes” on a ruled sheet of notebook paper that read, “Do you like me back?” and pass it through the hands of four friends to a blushing girl.

Being liked is powerful stuff. It makes politicians bend their convictions, and actors turn their heads.

But not being liked is just as powerful. In fact, the desire to be liked by those who don’t like you can be one of life’s most dangerous motivators. The more we try and appease the myriad of voices that sing our praise or ridicule, the more we tend to abandon our primary purposes. We become un-true to ourselves.

When All Eyes Are On You

As a pastor, I have the honor of wading into the arena of theology, and engaging—whether I want to or not—with everyone else’s personal pet doctrines. As a business man, I never run my businesses the way everyone else thinks I should, from employee to patron. And as an artist, I never communicate “it” quite the way everyone else would like me to.

No matter what arena you’re in, if you stand for something, someone’s bound not to like you. And if you have any ounce of humanity, you’ll at least think about how to get them to like you. I know I do.

Being liked isn’t bad; but trying to be liked by everyone is.

Because it’s impossible.

The transient nature of the human opinion is decidedly insecure. I believe it could be one of the sandy foundations Jesus talked about in Matthew 7:26-27:

But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

Who Matters Most?

If being liked is an unavoidable goal of the heart—which anyone who says it isn’t, doesn’t have a heart—make sure you’re liked by the people who matter most.

I want my wife to like me. I want to know what she thinks. Her opinion matters a great deal. A thousand people can tell me I did a good job, but if she disagrees, then I did a poor job; similarly, the masses can say I was terrible, but her one word of affirmation can silence them all.

I want my kids to like me. Not loathe me. It doesn’t mean I don’t make the hard call, but it means that when I do, I do it lovingly. Part of my legacy is making sure their memories of me have integrity—that when they think back on me, they realize I was trying to model as much of the heavenly Father as I could.

I want to know what my closest friends think, my advisors, my pastors. I covet the “likes” of the wisest people around me. In a world where “like” is a cheap button-click away, I want the hard-won, deeply fought for, dig-deep kind of like that you can’t get from a screen, but you can only get from a look in the eye.

And most of all, I want my God to like me. I want my conduct to so much reflect his, that he notices himself in me.

Like of Love

The danger is that as we cater more to the opinions of people we have no relationship with, we actually suppress the value of the people who we do have relationship with. The very ones we claim we like are the ones we’re conveying deep disinterest toward.

In the end, being liked is merely the precursor to a far more innate emotional need: being loved. And being loved is more powerful than being liked, because real love is not as conditional on what we do, but more, who we are.

Make sure you’re liked by the ones you love the most. Everyone else can afford to be upset.

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The Reality of Raising The Minimum Wage

Here’s what happens when real businesses (not hypothetical ones) face a rising minimum wage, as just happened in the state of New York.

Being a business owner, I sit with four of my restaurant managers in a weekly strategy meeting. We all know our prices are already as low as possible in order to attract a much needed market share (ie, remain competitive), and to serve people in a struggling economy (ie, remain viable). Lower prices too much and there’s no business to do business with.

Which means our margins are tight.

Very tight.

So where do we account for the labor increase to our minimum wage employees? It has to come from somewhere. We don’t just pull it out of thin air like Washington does.

No matter what bureaucrats purport, businesses all make up for labor upticks in the same place: price point.

Which means the very people who got the apparent boost in their wallets are now charged more for the products they were buying before. It’s an endless cycle.

So why do it? Who’s the real winner?

Whoever’s collecting taxes.

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Learn Like You Eat

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[Image from The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers]

Teaching people is a lot like feeding people. Since I’m familiar with the idea of feeding people in our restaurants, the analogy works well.

Some people hate your food. They don’t like it, and won’t have it again. Others didn’t like it before, but they were forced to see you a second time because a friend dragged them in. They actually hate your food so much, they’re prone to throw some back at you. Like a monkey that throws poop. Or a spitting llama.

Other people enjoy your food, and really appreciate being at your establishment. But you’d never know it by the way they talk. Nor do their faces give anything away. They’re a hard read with no kickback. The only reason you know that they like your food at all is that they keep coming back. But even this could be because of neophobia.

The people you really want to see are those that down-right love your food. They walk in with wide eyes, they eat on the edge of their seat, and always ask you for more. If you’re a buffet, they’ll bankrupt you; if you’re a fine dining locale, they’ll bankrupt themselves. And then die of fat cancer. (Hopefully they tell all their friends about you before they die).

•••

I do a considerable amount of teaching. And imparting, demonstrating, coaching, counseling and mentoring. In fact, as a pastor and a geek, I’m in the business of passing on everything I know and everything I do—it’s a prerequisite for the position. And while any one of us in key places of teaching others could be and should be spending long hours perfecting our craft, there’s something to be said for asking our students to perfect their craft.

Of learning.

To me, the “eaters” that are the most frustrating are actually not the first group I listed above. People that hate my instruction are at least being honest with me. As long as we can get past their personal attacks, we usually end up having a decent and civil dialog in which they express they don’t want to hear anything I have to say. And I don’t want to share anything with them (citing the pearls before swine algorithm), so we’re cool.

And the third group is certainly not the segment that frustrates me the most either. Eager learners? Frustrating? Come on. That’s like being upset that the state fair just have you 100 free VIP tickets to see REO Speedwagon with all your friends.

The people that are the most confusing, most disconcerting and most draining are those that you can’t tell if they’re excited to be learning from you or not. They showed up, which is a good thing. But you’re fairly sure they’re thinking about baseball while you’re talking. (Which is great if you happen to be a baseball coach. Not so much if you’re teaching them about marriage, audio mixing or writing technique).

You’re probably going to learn something today. It may be by accident, it may be because you’re paying to be in a class. But either way, the chances are that one person or another will be involved in the educating process, intentionally or not. So try this on for size:

• At least act like you’re interested. If you’re not interested at first, sometimes the acting bit influences your reality, especially when a bad attitude is getting the best of you.

• Take notes. Copious note takers are the quintessential markers of eager learners. Having a notebook says, “I came prepared, expecting to learn something worth writing down, and because I’ve written it down, I’ll most likely look at it again.” Fewer things tell a teacher that you value their knowledge and experience than taking notes does. (Oh, and be sure to look up occasionally too; nothing makes a teacher curious as to whether or not you’re drawing pictures of ligers than zero eye contact).

• Ask genuine questions about the situation. Not edgy questions, not baited questions and not barbed questions. Ask honest questions that you’re interested to know the answers to. The best teachers are those who love dialog. So resist the urge to sit there stiff and mute, and say something.

• Thank your teacher twice. Once when the lesson—accidental or otherwise—concludes, and a second time a few hours later. I spent a few hours pouring into two different guys yesterday in two different meetings, one on media arts, the other on his life-course. Both guys were thankful for the meetings as they left my office, but by the end of the day, both had sent me a meaningful text message, thanking me for specific aspects of my investment. Guess who’ll be getting follow up meetings with me.

•••

You have learning opportunities all around you. It might be an argument with your wife, where you look eagerly to see if you’re wrong, take a note on something she’s asking you to do, and followthrough with a text later in the day, thanking her for what she revealed in you. It might be a run-in with a boss or a co-worker. Or maybe you’re in school and recognize you’re not on the edge of your seat, and you never even thought about thanking your professor.

It’s your proactive response to these moments that dictates how much you value the wisdom and life experience of others. You just don’t owe it to your teachers, you owe it to yourself. Because it’s you’re own time you’re wasting if you don’t appreciate them.

Eat up,

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Why Teams Always Do Things Better

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There’s an old adage:

Anything worth doing is worth doing well.

I’m pretty sure there’s another one. At least there is for me:

Anything worth doing well is worth doing as a team.

And maybe better still:

Anything you want to do well, you’d better do with a team.

Last night, the team pictured above rallied to put on one heck of a show at Indian River High—the largest campus in our county. The event was one of our youth ministry’s LIFTED events, which mixes music, worship, drama, dance and video to support a Gospel message, concluding with an invitation to accept Jesus.

Here are a few reasons I resist doing things without a team:

They’re Smarter Than I Am

When things go wrong and systems fail, I want to be around people that are smarter than me. Or, at the very least, will look at things with different eyes. This allows problems to be treated with new solutions that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

We had a few unforeseen system integration audio issues during set up last night; work arounds came much faster because ideas were shared quickly and freely. We checked one another’s work and talked through some of the more complex signal paths. Because the teams trust each other and are not threatened, even people not on the audio crew were getting involved and doing their best to serve and troubleshoot.

Humor

When the pressure gets high, you need people around you who can make you laugh. The only other release for pressure tends to be rather destructive: you allow it to mount until you snap. And people or things usually get hurt.

Keeping things fun, even in highly stressful scenarios (and I’d argue especially in highly stressful scenarios) is absolutely critical. Dedicated, hard working people who have a lighter side, and know when to augment situational tension with a bit of levity are crucial for letting teams reset and keep things in perspective.

Humor is also a great way for you as a leader to let your team know you’re not drowning in frustrations when things go wrong. At one moment last night when things were especially difficult, I just decided to start dancing. No music. No beat. Just my moves (which are in themselves hilariously pitiful). It made people laugh and reminded us all to keep the main thing the main thing—our core message: we’re here to share the Good News of Jesus with teens.

Ownership

At the end of the day, saying, “I did all that,” gets rather boring. Not because you’re suffering from a lack of ideas, but because you have no one to share it with.

Doing things together means more people are taking pride in what’s happening. And people that do things together end up building stronger bonds because of the process.

This sense of community not only makes the end product more vivid and colorful, but it’s essential in spreading whatever core message you’re attempting to promote.

•••

Doing things as a team says to history, “We were here. We had something so important to say that we needed many voices to say it with.”

May history never forget us and the future never forsake us.

What are some of the favorite teams you ever worked with? What made them special?

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Local Author Self-Publishes New Novel

PRESS RELEASE:
For release on Tuesday, September 10th.
For additional information or interview, contact Rebekah Berthet or Candy Shaw: (315) 788-0825

WATERTOWN, NY - Christopher Hopper signs a copy of The Sky Riders for fans at The Vault in New Life Christian Church

WATERTOWN, NY – Christopher Hopper signs a fans book at The Vault in New Life Christian Church. Photo by Joseph Gilchrist.

Local Author Self-Publishes New Novel

CLAYTON, NY – What do vintage airships, giant birds, floating cloud cities and steam-powered engines all have in common? If you guessed local author Christopher Hopper’s new steampunk epic, then you’d be spot on. The Sky Riders, Hopper’s seventh novel to date, hits digital and physical bookshelves today via Amazon.

“This is really exciting for me,” says Hopper, a resident of the Town of Clayton. “From right here in the 1000 Islands, I get to publish my novels worldwide, all because technology has made it easier to reach fans.”

Formerly with traditional legacy publishers like Thomas Nelson Inc. and Tsaba House Inc., Hopper is one of the growing body of writers who’ve jumped ship to self-publish. Bowker Identifier Services reports that there are over 235,000 self-published titles now for sale, a 287% growth surge since 2006. And with entities like Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace—both Amazon companies—self-publishing for digital and print has become more accessible, and more lucrative. Bookstats reported that 2012 sales figures of ebooks hit $3.04 billion, which gives Hopper even more reason to be excited.

“Where you’d only make between 8-15% with a legacy publisher,” says Hopper, “my lowest royalty bracket with self-publishing is 30%, and my highest is 70%.”

While some ask Hopper about the readers he’s missing out on by abandoning the traditional publishing route, he’s quick to correct them. “I was missing huge amounts of readers with traditional publishing, as they were mainly targeting book stores. Today, I have instant distribution to millions of Kindle and Nook readers, and sales up are up over 300% from my legacy publishing days. The bottom line is that I’m reaching more readers with less work than ever before.”

Thinking of self-publishing your own title? Not so fast. “It’s a lot of work,” admits Hopper. “But outsourcing exterior and interior design, for example, as well as shopping for editing services, can help people where they might be weak.”

If you’re still wondering just how to self-publish through something like Amazon, Hopper has an answer for that too. He published his Handbook to Publishing Your Novel ebook last December.

From where Hopper sits atop his floating cloud cities in his fictional world, the future is bright for readers and authors alike, and the return is anything but make believe.

The Sky Riders is available locally at The Vault in New Life Christian Church, as well as online at http://www.christopherhopper.com. •

New Zealand or Bust!

2013-09-05 New Zealand DialAFlight

Christopher sez: No, I’m not going to New Zealand. At least not yet. She is on my top three “favorite countries I have not yet been to but desperately want to see before I go home to be with Jesus” list.

(Others on that list include Australia, Japan, and Fiji).

But one of my guests has written a piece on travel to New Zealand.

I know I have a number of faithful readers in New Zealand, and I’m curious to know in the comments section if you can corroborate these locations, and perhaps give other notable places to visit. (Im making my own list, so they better be good!).

• • •

New Zealand’s Great Outdoors: Experience the wonders of God’s creations in Kiwi country

The great outdoors isn’t just trees and birds and animals and earth. It also serves as one of the strongest evidences of God’s grace. Many Christians feel a strong link to God’s presence when interacting with the great outdoors. Pope John Paul II was an avid outdoorsman, often going on numerous hiking, skiing, and kayaking trips as part of his ministry. His successor, Pope Benedict XVI, exhorted parents to show their children the wonders of God in nature. If you want to do the same, there’s no better place to visit than New Zealand.

With its wide, rolling vistas and breathtaking sights, New Zealand has long been a favorite haven for those enamored with the great outdoors and is a popular destination on Dial A Flight. Here are a few things that the entire family can enjoy on a visit to Kiwi country.

North Island
For a truly authentic New Zealand experience, rent a campervan and embark on a North Island road trip. Kids and adult film fans alike will appreciate the drive through the real-life versions of Hobbiton and Mordor, two of the most prominent locations in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. You also get to see a wide variety of New Zealand’s many different landscapes from lush, green rainforests and rolling farmlands to towering mountains and volcanic fields. The journey starts in Auckland and ends at Wellington, the nation’s capital.

South Island
Don’t ditch your campervan just yet. New Zealand’s South Island is where the real outdoor adventure starts. You can head to Queenstown and find out why it’s called the Adventure Capital of the World. You can go on a quick boat ride to spot giant sperm whales or make a beeline for the Otago Peninsula to spend a day with fur seals, sea lions, and, if you’re lucky, royal albatrosses. Lake Wanaka also offers a myriad of water activities including kayaking, swimming, and fishing. Practically everywhere you go in the South Island is an outdoor adventure waiting to happen, with every sight a clear sign of the Creator’s majesty and love.

• • •

Christopher sez: OK, readers, chime in. If you live in or have visited New Zealand, what are some of your favorite places?

Happy travels!

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Make Your City Rejoice

2013-06-25 HEADER

Have you ever been excited to realize that you’re living something out in real life that you saw modeled in scripture?

My friend, Senior Pastor and business partner, Kirk Gilchrist, texted me this article early this morning:

Watertown-Fort Drum Ranks as 5th Best Micropolitan Area Based on Economic Strength

After reading the headline alone, something stirred in my spirit. I got really excited, and I immediately thought of this scripture:

When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy. @Proverbs 11:10

It’s Biblical that cities flourish. God instilled this dynamic as a holy charge when he first released Adam and Eve into the earth. And Jesus continued the pattern by commanding us to “occupy” until he returns.

It’s not enough for the Christian to simply roll over and suffer through dark periods. Built into our spiritual DNA from Christ is a divine drive to better that which we’re placed around. We have a Kingdom-call to promote prosperity, not from a “prosperity Gospel,” but a Gospel which causes things to prosper.

This is one reason I find so little time for entertaining Christians who constantly speak ill of the place they live, of the government above them, or the job they’ve been given. Because I have no time for it in myself. It’s carnal, reflecting my inferior human nature, not God’s divine nature.

At New Life, we’ve gone to great lengths to change how we speak about our region and one another. Our staff was addressed years ago about sarcasm and its dangers. From that poignant meeting, we all decided to stop talking about the weather; it’s pointless. We also decided to encourage one another constantly, and curb the careless barbs that point to physical attributes, behavior’s or past mistakes in jest. We’re still a lot of fun, we’re just not ugly anymore. And I would argue we’re more fun now since we’re more safe than we’ve ever been.

I still remember the day Kirk came back to the office and told me he responded to the Lord by pulling his car over and walking into a corn field.

“I started prophesying over the corn field,” he said.

“You did?” I asked, smiling. “What’d you prophesy?”

“I just started declaring life over the corn field. That I saw fruitful businesses there. That I saw lots of new jobs and housing and resources for our the people of our county.”

Today, that corn field is the Target Plaza of Watertown, which includes Target, Panera Bread, Old Navy, PetCo, Bed Bath and Beyond, as well as a brand new multi-story apartment complex.

Granted, we’re very clear in our church that “naming and claiming it” is a very first-world, Americanized view of declarative theology. But it does not dismiss the fact that God causes us to use our words carefully and speak life over situations and contexts currently in dysfunction.

I think the very next line in Proverbs sums it up elegantly:

Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed. @Proverbs 11:11

Decide with your mouth which side you’ll be on today; people will thank you for it. (Yeah, there’s a scripture for that too).

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NOVEL: Ties That Bind

ties that bind
So proud of author C. J. Darlington (Twitter / Website) on the release of her latest novel with Mountainview Books entitled Ties That Bind. C. J. is a fabulous example of a young writer who is bright, works incredibly hard, and has immersed herself in the world of writing. She has built a great rapport with other writers through being a good communicator and a faithful reader; such people are true students of what it takes to make a career out of authoring good stories, and I’m thrilled for the work she’s doing.

Get your copy today!

Paperback on Amazon
Kindle on Amazon
Nook on Barnes & Noble

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