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Author Chat with Morgan L. Busse on her Ravenwood Saga

Last year, I discovered Morgan as an author when both our novels were finalists in the 2019 Selah Awards for Speculative Fiction. Her Mark of the Raven later took first place (so well-deserved). The Ravenwood Saga has made her my new favorite fantasy author, and today, it is my absolute pleasure to welcome her as a guest to the blog! In this interview, you can catch her heart for writing, for her readers, and for “the Light.”

Q: What prompted you to write this fantasy series?

All of my books start with a scene that I see in my head. For The Ravenwood series, I saw a young woman assassin standing over the bed of young man. I knew he was important, and I could tell she was hesitating to fulfill her mission. So I started asking who was she? How did she get to this point? Who was the young man? Why was he important? Why was there a target on his life? From that scene Selene’s story grew into what it is today: The Ravenwood Saga.

Q: Selene’s dreamwalking ability is such a creative twist on special powers. Did something inspire you to invent her skill, and if so, what was it?

There are a lot of assassin stories out there, so I wanted to make this one different. Then I thought, what if she had some other power? One of my favorite cartoons to watch with my kids is My Little Pony. The job of one of the royal sisters is to watch over the dreams of the other ponies at night. The moment I saw that episode, I knew what Selene’s power was: to walk in dreams. But it had been corrupted, and her story would be her journey to bring her family’s power back to what it was supposed to be: protecting the dreams of people.

Q: Who is your favorite character from the Ravenwood Saga and why?

Ooo, that is a hard one. Of course I love Selene: her struggle with figuring out who she is and if there is anything redeemable about her abilities. I also love Damien’s quiet but fierce love for both his people and eventually Selene. And of course I love Lady Bryren, the leader of the wyvern riders. She’s a firecracker and a fun character to write about!

Q: Selene and Damien have to grow up quickly due to their circumstances and their life or death decision at the end of book one (no spoiler). Why do you think it is important for young adult fiction to present strong, vulnerable characters who must make hard choices?

Becoming an adult means facing hard choices, and the path we choose many times determines the adults we become. I wanted to show through Selene that we always have a choice in who we become, that we are not bound to the choices our family has made. And by choosing to walk away from the wrong choices our family has made can change not only ourselves, but eventually our family, and our world. Damien is an example that there are strong young adults who are selfless leaders.

Q: What do you hope readers will take away from this saga?

Hope and strength. That each step toward the light is worth it. That when we give up ourselves, we save not only ourselves but those around us.

Q: How did you first discover your writing ability, and how have you seen God use it in unexpected ways?

I never wanted to be a writer. I loved reading and that’s it. But my husband continued to encourage me to write. So I finally gave in (he’s quite the persistent cheerleader!). When I write a book, I pray for the person who needs to read it and that God would help me write the message that person needs to hear. And with every book, I get at least one email from someone who needed that story at that time. Last week, there was a young woman who received an advance copy of Cry of the Raven (the last book), and the day she finished the book, her grandmother passed away. One of the themes of Cry of the Raven is dealing with the death of loved ones, and she wrote about how much this book is already helping her with the death of her grandmother.

Q: What advice would you give aspiring young writers?

One: study the craft of writing. Read books, go to the conferences, follow the newsletters of those who teach. Two: write, write, write! You only become good by practicing. A friend of mine once said that most people need to write a million words before they start writing something worth reading. Third: live life. Don’t forget to spend time with your family, go for a walk, enjoy life. The writing is always there, but if you aren’t living, you will have nothing to write about.

Q: Can you hint about what next project you have in the works?

Yes! I’m currently working on a new steampunk series and am already halfway through the first book. The series is currently dubbed The Plague Wars. Here is a quick blurb:

In a world covered in a deadly mist that forces humanity to live in the sky, Cass escapes the purges and survives by her wits until she stumbles onto the airship Daedalus and finds a job as a diver. As a diver, she explores the ruined cities within the mist, searching for treasure and family heirlooms for the rich. But everything changes when a young man hires her to find the very thing that will turn their world upside down: a way to eradicate the mist.

Theodore Winchester is a member of one of the five powerful families that rule the sky over the mist. Following in his father’s footsteps, he searches for the source of the deadly mist that turns people in the undead and hopes to stop the purges used to control over-population. But what he finds are secrets and ambition, and with each question comes horrifying answers. If he continues his search, not only will he encounter opposition, but perhaps even his own death.

But the mist is rising, and if a remedy isn’t found soon, the entire world will be enveloped in its deadly embrace, turning all of humankind into monsters.

Ready to find your next favorite fantasy series? Meet author Morgan L. Busse who shares about her award-winning Ravenwood Saga.

About the Author

Morgan L. Busse is a writer by day and a mother by night. She writes fantasy and steampunk novels and sometimes dabbles in science fiction. She is the author of the critically acclaimed Follower of the Word series, The Soul Chronicles, and award-winning Ravenwood Saga. When she’s not writing, she loves to play games, take long walks, and dream about her next novel.

About Cry of the Raven, Book 3 in the Ravenwood Saga

Lady Selene Ravenwood has come into her full power as a dreamwalker just as the war with the Dominia Empire begins. Working with the other Great Houses, Selene and Damien use their gifts to secure the borders and save those devastated by the war. But conflict, betrayal, and hatred begin to spread between the Great Houses, destroying their unity as the empire burns a path across their lands. At the same time, Damien Maris starts to lose his ability to raise the waters, leaving the lands vulnerable to the empire’s attacks.

The only one who can unite the houses and restore her husband’s power is Selene Ravenwood. But it will require that she open her heart to those who have hurt her and let go of her past, despite the one who hunts her and will do anything to stop her power.

Will Selene survive? Or is she destined to fall like the dreamwalkers before her?

Single Riders: An Opportunity, Not a Stigma

Recently, James and I visited my cousin on the East Coast of Florida and enjoyed a day at the South Florida Fair. When I was a child, my parents had steered my focus toward the animals and educational aspects at the fair, so James decided I needed an introduction to the midway rides.

We enjoyed over half a dozen rides, but seriously, why do they all have to SPIN?

As we waited in line for the ferris wheel (much more my speed than some other rides), the attendant refused a little girl at the front. She slipped back through the line with her head down.

“He won’t let her go because she’s a single rider,” James said. “Here, why don’t I wait this one out so she can ride with you?” (Yes, my husband really is that nice.)

I spotted the girl as she walked up to a lady in a wheelchair and called out, “Excuse me, would she like to ride with my cousin and me?”

The woman smiled. “That would be wonderful. I can’t go on the ride, and they won’t let her ride alone.”

I waved the girl, who was maybe ten or eleven, back in line next to my cousin and me, and without a word, the attendant let her join us.

Responding to the “No Single Riders” Rule

I did an internet search on the “no single riders rule” at fairs, and honestly, couldn’t find much information about it. My hunch is that people cite it for “safety” reasons, but to that, I would point them to the single rider line at theme parks which seems to be a popular option.

Regardless, I’m not here to advocate against policies that a leadership team decided was in the best interest of guests. What I am suggesting is how each of us can make a difference one person at a time.

  1. See other people. We often get so absorbed in ourselves that we miss what’s going on in the lives of people around us. This ability to see others is something that attracted me to my husband. If we were at an event, he was the first to welcome the newcomer or the person standing by himself. That’s an example I want to follow.
  2. Empathize. There is a point in all our lives when we’re single riders. Whether we’re young adults, single, or newly single due to life circumstances, all of us have been that single rider at some point. Don’t forget what being alone feels like.
  3. Foster community. Whether at a state fair or in any other life setting, invite that single rider to join you.

I was a single rider for a long time and have many amazing friends who still are. My experience is that when you welcome the single rider, they’re going to bless you so much more in return. They have wisdom and experience you need. They can offer a more flexible schedule than you can. They can love others in incredible ways.

To My Single Rider Friends

If you’re a single rider right now, don’t let anyone make you feel that your status is a stigma. It’s an opportunity for you and for others to build community with all the different people who are riding this journey of life. My challenge to you today is to let others tug you into their circles.

Sometimes, it’s easy to develop a loner mentality, but whether we think we can sustain our own island or not, the truth is that we need others.

When I moved away from home to help some friends start their own business, I remember feeling very isolated. Each weekend, I tried church after church, looking for a place that had a young singles ministry. Time and time again, I was rebuffed. “We have a growing young marrieds class,” I was told. (Thanks, not helpful right now.) Or, “Our college ministry is booming.” (That’s great, but I’m not in college anymore.)

Feeling like I didn’t fit in could have made me withdraw, but instead, I became more determined. I did internet searches for a singles Bible study, and sure enough, I found one. It was led by three married couples who loved on us and invested in our lives, while also having a rich singles-led ministry team.

While married couples and families have a responsibility to welcome singles in need of community, single riders also have a responsibility to seek out and embrace relationships with others.

We need each other. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul craved time with his church families. He writes in his epistle to the Romans, “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” (Romans 1:11-12 ESV)

Whether Paul was single or married at one point in his life doesn’t matter. (Scholars disagree.) The point is that Christian community is essential to growing in one’s faith and encouraging one another.

When singles and marrieds both do their part, we’re all better for it.

~ Kristen

If you’re a single rider right now, don’t let anyone make you feel that your status is a stigma. It’s an opportunity for you and for others.

Writer's Block: "Show. Don't Tell."

I’m excited to share the video of our first Writer’s Block of 2020! This creative writing club is designed for young writers, but writers of all ages and experience levels are welcome.

“Show. Don’t Tell.” It’s a critique writers often receive, so how do we “show” and “not tell” in our writing? We’ll talk about how to write vividly using sensory descriptions and avoid some “telling” words that tend to slow down our writing. As always, there’s a writing activity at the end.

Join us on YouTube, and take a moment to comment or share your thoughts on today’s video.

“Show. Don’t Tell.” It’s a common writing critique writers can learn to overcome. #WritersBlock #writingcommunity

Got Goals? Let the Elephant Live.

We’ve heard the saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” People use this expression to refer to tackling goals, a buzz topic this time of year. The idea is that you can’t possibly accomplish them all at once but rather through a series of small, manageable steps.

I’m not saying I disagree. I’ve personally practiced the SMART method, and the whole Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound practice does work.

But eating an elephant can be painful and unpleasant for both us and the elephant. And although the SMART approach gets results, it leaves out the important element of priorities. Someone could argue that prioritization is implied, because after all, we wouldn’t spend time plotting out our approach to a goal if the goal weren’t important. Or would we?

I’m 100% for goals, but not at the expense of people. Perhaps you saw my theme for 2020, and this idea of letting the elephant live is an expansion of being people-focused over goal-focused. For example, I’m on a self-scheduled writing deadline and have a revised blogging schedule and some other writing commitments. I also work a full-time job, set aside intentional quality time with my husband, help manage our home, prioritize church community, practice a consistent fitness approach, and want to build into my existing and new relationships with others.

Let’s suppose I reach the week’s writing word count but must choose between a date night with my husband or writing a blog post for next week. You better believe I’m going on the date night. I’m not going to stuff the daily elephant bite into my mouth at the expense of relationship.

This is why I say, “Let the elephant live.” We can still conquer important goals but in their priority of importance. If today’s daily elephant bite doesn’t happen, there is tomorrow. Everything is not equal in importance.

A Resource for Prioritizing

Stephen R. Covey, author of the best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, discussed what he called “The Urgent Important Matrix.” I’ve created a simplified model here to illustrate the point, but you can review a more detailed version on Franklin Covey’s website.

Important/Urgent

(Necessity or Crisis)
Important/Not Urgent

(Effectiveness or Goals)
Urgent/Not Important

(Distractions or Interruptions)
Not Urgent/Not Important

(Time-Wasters)

In other words, we can categorize everything on our to-do list into one of these categories. Getting dinner is a necessity. Writing a blog is a goal. If while I’m writing the blog after dinner, my phone rings, I then have to decide if I take that interruption or remain focused on my own plans.

That’s where the prioritizing comes in. Do I care more about people (the phone call) or my own agenda (the goal)? Each of us has to make her own decision there, but the answer boils down to personal choice. Maybe if I’m on a tight deadline, I let the call go to voicemail. But maybe I’m just working on a “me” project that can wait. Shouldn’t I answer the phone (and let the elephant live)?

What God Asks of Us

When I think about the goals I’d like to accomplish this year, I go back to Micah 6:8. This verse so simply and clearly summarizes God’s expectations of us:

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God? (NKJV)

The verse doesn’t say that the Lord requires we achieve all our goals, be a success, and earn a pat on the back. No, it says to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly. Maybe we do or we don’t get those elephant-sized goals all accomplished, but may we make wise daily choices in how we prioritize the time that God’s given to us.

~ Kristen

May we make wise daily choices in how we prioritize the time that God’s given to us. #priorities #wisdom

Theme for 2020: Love One Another

I remember when I was a little girl, there was a television show called 20/20. Of all the shows I watched, the one episode I remember is the one predicting we’d have flying cars by this year. To my young mind, the year 2020 seemed so far away that I wondered if they were right.

Turns out, they were wrong about the flying cars but right about how technology would revolutionize the way we communicate, work, and play. Coming out of a social media break over the holidays, I can better appreciate that and also realize the need for healthy limits.

Focus for the New Year

So many words came to mind as I was praying about a theme for 2020. I could have chosen the words intentional or priorities, because I genuinely want to keep “the main thing the main thing” this year.

However, more than being focused on goals, I want to focus on loving people. I know that sounds incredibly cliche.

But this verse from I John has been on my heart lately, and it seems so well to capture the desire James and I have for our lives.

“And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” (I John 3:23 NKJV)

I’m so thankful God doesn’t make our salvation and purpose complicated. (Truth be told, we’re the ones who complicate it.) Believe first. Then get busy loving people.

I confess that I’ve often tied my purpose to specific ministries and goals. But God didn’t say, “Get busy being involved,” although being plugged into a church community is a good thing. Instead, He said, “Love people.” I can love people wherever I am or whatever I’m doing.

God knows my desires. He knows better than I do the gifts and unique ways He’s equipped me to serve Him. More than anything, I want the Lord to show me how He wants to use me this year and how I can best love the people who cross my path.

A Hands-Open Approach to Goals

So yes, I still have my goals, but I desire to walk humbly as I approach them. James 4 provides such a wise perspective:

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15 NKJV)

In other words, I want an open-hands approach to goals, not a clenched fist. I want God to shape and change them as He sees best. That’s going to be a challenge for this over-achiever to remember!

This year, I want to be people-focused over goals-focused, with God directing each step.

Will you join me in seeking to love others well in 2020? What desires has God placed on your heart for the new year?

~ Kristen

My 2019 Christmas Letter to You

Ah, my friends, how this year has flown! It has been perhaps the best year of my life, with so many happy moments. Below are some of the highlights and a personal reflection on celebrating what God has done.

January

James and I went on our class ski trip to Beech Mountain for the second year in a row. Last year, we had been dating, and this year, we were engaged. We were also thrilled to celebrate as two of our friends became engaged on the trip!

February

The final book in my Rogues trilogy, The Reactionary, released. This book holds a special place in my heart, because in 2018, my friend Maria and I traveled to Italy to visit some of the settings.

Also special to February was the second annual Galentine’s Day party held at my place. I love that each year, the group keeps growing. Although we should celebrate our friends all year, having a special day set apart to do just that is tradition I plan to continue.

March

After all those years of waiting and prayer, James and I said “I do” at beautiful Harborside Chapel in Safety Harbor. We could not be more grateful for this practically perfect day and the wonderful family and friends who celebrated with us. You can read about our special day in the post “Wedding Day Joy.”

April

Our honeymoon in St. Lucia was both breathtaking and quite the adventure! You can read about one of our misadventures and a real-life application in the post, “Flat Tire in a Foreign Country …”

May

James and I traveled to Connersville where I spoke at the Women’s Ministry Event for Baptist Temple. It was such a privilege to share with these ladies! We also made a side trip to Chicago so James could introduce me to the Windy City and its deep dish pizza. Yum!

July

Getting to introduce James to one of my favorite childhood places, a family cabin in New Hampshire, was a dream come true! Even better was that my brother and his wife were able to join us on this couples’ trip.

August

James taught me how to lobster, and what an adventure that was! Before this trip, I hadn’t heard of a tickle stick, let alone imagined I’d be using one to help catch lobsters. You can read about my experiences and a life analogy in this post.

October

We traveled to Beech Mountain with friends for our second annual reunion trip! Last year, James proposed here, and no matter how many times we visit, there is always something new to explore and appreciate about this beautiful part of God’s country.

November

James and I consider ourselves abundantly blessed to call so many incredible people our friends. We found some deals on flights and were able to visit friends in New York, Texas, and Colorado. (My friend Maria introduced me to Niagara Falls, which was stunning!)

Christmastime

Maybe your year has had more challenges than cheerful moments. We all have years like that. Even so, Christmas is a time to celebrate what God has done, even with the challenges that come our way. (For example, not pictured were my many falls while skiing, the sinus infection I got on our honeymoon, or the ordeal we experienced in selling a home.)

May I encourage you that even though you may only see the highlights of other people’s lives, all of us are waiting on outstanding prayers to be answered and wondering how God might see fit to do that.

Here’s a personal example. James and I continue to wait on God for an open door regarding a new home. We truly believe this next home will be a way for us to minister and bless others, and so it’s easy to become impatient after months of waiting. However, in the waiting, we are grateful for the home we have and how God can use us right where we are.

Whether you’re heading into this Christmas season with a happy or heavy heart, remember that God loves you and has a perfect plan for your life. Sometimes, that plan is messy or unexpected. That has certainly been the case many times in my life. But as His children, we can have the confidence that His plan for our lives involves hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

Wishing you a blessed Christmas and New Year!

~ Kristen

I’ll be taking a break on the blog until next year. See you then, Lord willing!

Penguin & Moose, a Story the Whole Family Will Enjoy!

This adorable new release by Hannah Hall is the first children’s book I’ve shared about on the blog, but it fits right in with my theme of thinking truthfully and living daringly. This sweet story will not only entertain young readers but also drive home a message readers of all ages need to remember.

We all have dreams, right? We all want to soar in one way or another, and Penguin is no different.

After all, other birds can fly. Why can’t he?

Penguin is determined to remedy this situation and enlists the help of his friend Moose. Together, they try a series of comedic attempts to help Penguin fly.

[Spoiler: They don’t work.]

Discouraged, Penguin trudges home and talks to his dad about his day. His dad offers a fresh perspective on the situation. Without giving away the ending, I’ll just say that Penguin realizes he has something better than the ability to fly.

I love how Hannah Hall incorporates Scripture and a spiritual truth into this engaging children’s story.

Plus, the illustrations are imaginative and bright. Their whimsical nature gives the pages a lighthearted feel that fits Penguin and Moose’s creative attempts to solve Penguin’s problem.

Bottom line: I can’t wait to read this story to my nieces and nephews. Even though this story releases at Christmastime, making it a perfect gift, its message is timeless for any season of the year.

Happy reading!

~ Kristen