Is it really true? Genre: Biographical Fiction

Biographical Fiction takes a contemporary or historical figure and uses elements of that person’s life to tell a fictional narrative.

An author might choose the genre, biographical fiction, when writing about real experiences in their life or even a fictional account of the full story of their life. This genre isn’t a memoir (but can be written like a memoir with first person narration) because the story also contains elements of fiction.

Sometimes an author uses biographical fiction to avoid hurting others who become characters in their writing. They also may want to take liberty to change the details for dramatic effect.

41O0WxzeQ5L._SX255_BO1,204,203,200_An example of biographical fiction is, I Was Amelia Earhart by Jane Mendelsohn. It’s told in first person as Amelia Earhart, using biographical information known about the pilot.

Blurb from Amazon.com: “In this brilliantly imagined novel, Amelia Earhart tells us what happened after she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared off the coast of New Guinea one glorious, windy day in 1937. And she tells us about herself.

There is her love affair with flying (“The sky is flesh”) . . . .

There are her memories of the past: her childhood desire to become a heroine (“Heroines did what they wanted”) . . . her marriage to G.P. Putnam, who promoted her to fame, but was willing to gamble her life so that the book she was writing about her round-the-world flight would sell out before Christmas.

There is the flight itself — day after magnificent or perilous or exhilarating or terrifying day (“Noonan once said any fool could have seen I was risking my life but not living it”).

And there is, miraculously, an island (“We named it Heaven, as a kind of joke”).

And, most important, there is Noonan . . .

51v-zo8SXkL._AA160_Sylvia Plath’s Bell Jar, originally published under the pen name, Victoria Lucas, is also considered a biographical novel. It was the only novel that she ever published and it’s known to be associated with her own experiences with depression. She published it under a pen name because, according to “The Guardian” and many other sources, she didn’t want to hurt people that she wrote about in the book, namely her mother.

410XvrbROEL._AA160_From Amazon.com (back cover blurb) The Bell Jar chronicles the crack-up of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under — maybe for the last time. Sylvia Plath masterfully draws the reader into Esther’s breakdown with such intensity that Esther’s insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies. Such deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is an extraordinary accomplishment and has made The Bell Jar a haunting American classic. 

One of my own writing goals is to write a series of biographical novels based on historical Christian men and women. I’m working on a biographical novel now about William Wilberforce using lots of research into historical documents.

Following is my excerpt from the beginning of Wilberforce — In, but not of, the World. The characters are real. I only added details to flesh out historical documents.

“Good Heavens Hannah, what have you done to my son?” Billy’s mother turned from his aunt to his uncle and namesake. “And William, have you no regard for the memory of your dear brother? Your aging father? Or me?” She pressed a gloved hand over the knotted bow of her cloak. “You allowed Billy to parley with low class fanatics while I’d fallen victim to a long and most dangerous fever.”

Aunt Hanna’s ashen appearances drew a stark contrast to his mother’s face, as red as the glowing embers in the parlor fireplace. She’d emerged from her illness like a lioness and rendered his aunt and uncle as stiff as the statues of Canterbury Cathedral.

His mother waved an envelope addressed in his handwriting. “It is quite evident that our best laid plans for Billy have gone horribly awry.”

If he’d known his letter would bring Mama to St. James Place, he never would’ve penned it. 

***

Often biographical novels are made into films, like Amazing Grace, which was based on the life of William Wilberforce.

1coverAnd lastly, while my first novel, Crooked Lines, is fiction, some of the scenes in the book were based on on mine and my husband’s life experiences. I’m including an excerpt here from a time–a true story–when my husband, a young seminarian in India, was put into a position to rescue teenagers who had dropped out of school to join a dangerous and radical communist group.

“Raju, where are your brother and his friends?”

“I cannot say.” The child stared at his bare feet.

Sagai knelt in the dirt, grasped Raju’s shoulders and looked him in the eye. “Raju, do you love your brother?”

“Yes, Brother Sagai.”

“Then take me to him.”

The boy folded his hands across his chest and jutted out his chin. Sagai spoke in his kindest voice.

“Raju, your brother is in trouble. Together we can help him.”

He pointed northward and ran.

Sagai followed down streets and alleys away from the lights of the village. Near a lone mud hut on the edge of town, the boy stopped.

“You’ve got to fight,” came a voice from inside. “Resist the government.” Sagai took a deep breath, made the sign of the cross and offered a prayer, then pushed open the door. 

***

Writing prompt: What experience have you had that would make a good premise for a biographical novel? Or would you prefer to call it fiction to add your own twist to the story…or to protect the identity of the characters based on real life people?

New Year – Joy

I’m bad. I never seek a word from God–a one word theme for the New Year as so many do, but this New Year, God gave me the word anyway. Really put it on my heart.

From Christmas onward, it began…the word “Joy” kept popping up everywhere. In sermons at church, in my readings, in dreams, in songs, in my thoughts…

…even on the battered old cup I drink from every day.

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Photo by Holly Michael

So, I didn’t even make a New Years list of resolutions this year. I have my goals, but I don’t need a list of resolutions. I just need to hold onto JOY.

A new year holds promise and hope. January 1st…and for a few weeks, it’s easy to hold on to joy, promises, goals, dreams.

But…then there is reality. We have to deal in day to day stuff, hardships, issues, struggles. Two weeks after starting that new diet, we fail. (At least I did). A few months in to the new year, we often find ourselves disappointed. Our work is boring. Bills still must be paid. Sickness and illnesses still strike us and our families. Those goals we set are still so far from our reach.

James 1:2-4 says, Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Which I take to mean that Joy is the key to Christian living, even if the circumstances of our lives are far from joyful.

Though, I will admit that a couple years ago, during a Bible study, when we pondered on this Scripture quote, I actually got a little bit angry. Seriously? Who is joyful when everything is coming against them? It’s not reality. Life is hard. But as I pondered on that verse…God spoke to my heart. Be joyful anyway. Trust me.

Philippians 4:4 says, Brethren: Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Baruch 4:36, 5:1-4 says, O Jerusalem, look about thee toward the east, and behold the joy that cometh unto thee from God. Put off, O Jerusalem the garment of thy mourning and affliction, and put on the comeliness of the glory that cometh from God for ever. Cast about thee a double garment of the righteousness which cometh from God; and set a diadem on thine head of the glory of the Everlasting. For God will show thy brightness unto every country under heaven. For thy name shall be called of God for ever The Peace Of Righteousness, and The Glory of God’s Worship.

Fanny Crosby (Mrs. Frances Jane Van Alstyne), a blind poet, wrote thousands of gospel songs including “Blessed Assurance,” “Rescue the Perishing” and “Saved by Grace.” She knew how to hold onto JOY. I’m going to take a cue from her.

Here’s a story about Frannie from, Our Daily Bread (August 12, 2003):

Fanny Crosby lost her sight when she was only 6 weeks old. She lived into her nineties, composing thousands of beloved hymns. On her 92nd birthday she cheerfully said, “If in all the world you can find a happier person than I am, do bring him to me. I should like to shake his hand.”

What enabled Fanny Crosby to experience such joy in the face of what many would term a “tragedy”? At an early age she chose to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4). In fact, Fanny carried out a resolution she made when she was only 8 years old: “How many blessings I enjoy that other people don’t. To weep and sigh because I’m blind, I cannot and I won’t.”

Let’s remember that “the joy of the Lord is [our] strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Let’s also take comfort in the teachings of Jesus, who in John 15:11 said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” When faced with the choice of self-pity or rejoicing, let’s respond with rejoicing.

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photo by Holly Michael

Here’s to a JOY-FUL 2016!

And the writing prompt: Try this…Sit quietly in a comfortable place with a pen and a writing journal or piece of paper. Say the word “JOY” out loud. Now close your eyes. Now say the word “joy” quietly to yourself. Allow the word joy to bounce around your mind. What images come to you? What memories? Open your eyes. Now, get out your writing journal and write down your thoughts!

 

 

 

 

THE BEST GIFT EVER

This month’s topic is “What Christmas Means to Me.”

As a child, Christmas was all about the gifts. Oh, I knew the “true meaning” of Christmas–the celebration of the birth of Jesus–but the anticipation of gifts loomed larger and mightier than anything else. By December 1st I had already made my list.  The gifts were the reason I counted the days…hours…until Christmas morning. Gifts kept me on my best behavior for nearly an entire month.

Christmas mornings, I wasn’t thinking about Jesus as I tore down the flight of stairs, racing my siblings to the Christmas tree. My heart was thrilled with the anticipation of discovering the best gift ever…the one that I put three stars beside on my list.

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photo by MorgueFile

Maybe that’s how most kids are…then and now…but years go by and we mature. Those best gifts of childhood are long broken and have become faint memories.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 1 Corinthians 13:11

Thirty-three years…from the time of Jesus’ birth until His horrific death on a cross…a death intended for the Only One who could take away the sins of the world.

My sin.

Thirty-three years…about time it took me to mature enough to understand the heart, soul, and true meaning of Christmas–Jesus. THE BEST GIFT EVER.

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photo by MorgueFile

Christmas. Christ Mas. Christ Mass. Mass is the liturgical celebration of Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary. Christmas is the celebration of Christ’s Mass.  Simple. Yet Profound. You can’t have Christmas with out Christ.

At Christmas, believers gather to celebrate God’s gift to the world: the long-awaited Savior. But, in pondering on the fullness of our faith, we should also consider His Passion, Death, and Resurrection. The fullness and wholeness of THE BEST GIFT EVER.

Whether it be Christmas or anytime, God is always waiting for us to come home…to repent our sins and finally accept Him into our hearts, embrace Him as our Savior. He wants us to give our lives to Him.

Completely.

When we do that, we gain a deep joy in our spirit…oh so deep in our soul…that fills us with peace that no temporal gift can give. Then, in awe, we see with new eyes. We embrace life with the wonder of a child–and  finally get the BEST GIVE EVER, the True Gift of Christmas.

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photo by MorgueFile

While we are living in this tumultuous world, we may not see the Peace on Earth we hope and pray for, but will will gain peace in our souls. We belong to a God who is truly the Lover of our souls. He wants to give us all of the best gifts life can offer. He is the Best Gift Ever. The tree, lights, wrapped gifts, and the yummy food are only extras, trimmings.

So…what does Christmas means to me? The same thing it did when I was a kid–the hope of getting the BEST GIFT EVER.

This Advent season, I will make my requests known. I will pray, seek, and hope. I will be on my best behavior. Then on Christmas Eve, I will rush to the altar of God and I will receive the BEST GIFT EVER.

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photo by Holly Michael, St. James. Kansas City, MO

And now for the writing prompt:

Kristen pulled the woolen blanket around her shoulders and shivered. The ache in her heart was as void as the space under the pathetic tree she got for half-price from the lot next to the gas station after work…the night before Christmas. Bah. Humbug. That’s what she felt like telling everyone at the end of her shift before the store closed for Christmas. She sighed. After all of the gifts were picked up from layaway, everyone at work went home to their families and loved ones.

She slunk lower on the couch. For months, she’d been praying for that special someone to come into her life by Christmastime.  Why bother praying now?

Pray. God always hears prayers.  A memory from her grandmother returned–Grandma  kneeling beside her bed every night when Mom and Dad died in that horrible accident. “Pray,” she would say. “God always hears prayers.”  

2013-01-28_09-16-34_256She doubted, but out of respect for her beloved grandma, Kristen lowered her head and offered one last heartfelt prayer. Please Lord, I know it’s late, but please don’t let me be alone again this Christmas. Send me someone. 

A strong wind gust rattled the trailer’s windows. She lifted her head. A light panned across the walls. Her heart raced. Who would come at this time of the night? She pulled back the curtain. Could it be? She rubbed her eyes. Was it?

She gasped! There, coming up her steps was…

 

Coffee or Tea? Both! Straight From the Heart of India!

This month’s topic on Writing Prompts is…Coffee or Tea? How fun! Not only do I enjoy both coffee and tea, I’ve been blessed to have walked through a coffee estate in Tamil Nadu, South India as well as drink Darjeeling Tea in Darjeeling (almost 1500 miles northwest of Tamil Nadu in West Bengal, India–almost to the China border).

First, let’s talk coffee.

My husband’s family owns a small coffee estate in the hill station of Yercaud in Tamil Nadu. He says his mother gave him coffee in his baby bottle!

We’ve visited the family’s coffee estate a few times and have always enjoyed the thrilling ride up to the hill station…a 22 hair pin curve drive up the mountain along narrow roads. “Locals” eye us from the roadside. 🙂

Monkeys on the roadside on the way up to the Yercaud, Tamil Nadu hill station

We even wake up to these fellows peeking in the window! Once, the day after we left Yercaud, the local news reported that a herd of elephants had blocked the road for the entire day. I was both disappointed and glad that we missed that scene.

Below are photos of our visit into the estate, a tropical mountainside paradise…

Road in to the coffee estate. We had to rent a special Jeep to get in. At one point, I got scared and asked to get out and walk.

Road into the coffee estate. We had to rent a special Jeep to get in. At one point, I got scared and asked to get out and walk alongside the slow-moving Jeep. Do you blame me?

Inside the coffee estate on a cliff that overlooks the valley. When the British ruled India, they would come away from hot Madras and relax in these fertile hill stations.

Inside the coffee estate on a cliff that overlooks the valley. When the British ruled India, they would come away from hot Madras (todays Chennai) and relax in these fertile hill stations. Yercaud is filled with lovely churches, monasteries, convents, and spirituality centers. It’s the place where my husband ran miles to and from the church every day to serve at Mass…before school…barefoot.

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Back to coffee…In Yercaud, the Catholic monks also own coffee estates.

Yercaud, Tamil Nadu. The monks own and operate several coffee plantations in Yercaud.

 

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My husband and I on the misty mountain

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Trees with black pepper plants growing up the trunks. Pepper is also grown on the coffee estates, along with oranges, jackfruit and other interesting flora and fauna.

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Coffee plants beyond the rocks

Coffee plants close up

Coffee plants close up

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Coffee!

Leaving the tropical south, let’s go north into Tea Country…

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And a 40 hour drive (about 1,600 mi) away from Tamil Nadu is Darjeeling, tea capital of the world.

And a 45 hour drive (1,557.4 mi) away from Tamil Nadu is Darjeeling, tea capital of the world. My husband and I also visited Darjeeling. Lovely tea gardens.

Lovely tea gardens of Darjeeling.

Here we are drinking Darjeeling Tea in Darjeeling in West Bengal, India.

Here we are drinking Darjeeling Tea in Darjeeling in West Bengal, India.

Driving around Darjeeling, the shops are so close to the road if you wanted to you could grab something off the shelves as you drove by

Driving around Darjeeling, the shops are so close to the road if you wanted, you could pull up and call them drive-throughs. .

Looking our from the tea shop over the city of Darjeeling.

Looking out from the tea shop over the city of Darjeeling.

Did a little shopping, too. Typical shop. We were purchasing shawls for the cooler weather.

Did a little shopping, too. Typical Darjeeling shop. We were purchasing shawls for the cooler weather.

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And then back in warm south India, in Chennai, where (coffee or tea aside) a tender coconut drink is just what you need sometimes.

Thanks for coming along with me to India. It’s such a diverse land. Every trip is unique and amazing! If we here at Writing Prompts have “wine” as a topic, I’ve got a great story about drinking wine on the shores of the roaring magnificent Arabian Ocean under the glow of a full moon. One of my favorite memories!

And if you like fiction or nonfiction stories about India, my books are full of scenes from my times and experiences in Incredible India:

1coverCrooked Lines: On the shores of Lake Michigan, Rebecca Meyer seeks escape. Guilt-ridden over her little sister’s death, she sets her heart on India, a symbol of peace. Across the ocean in South India, Sagai Raj leaves his tranquil hill station home and impoverished family to answer a higher calling. Pushing through diverse cultural and religious milieus, he labors toward his goals, while wrong turns and bad choices block Rebecca from hers. Traveling similar paths and bridged across oceans through a priest, the two desire peace and their divine destiny. But vows and blind obedience at all costs must be weighed…and buried memories, unearthed. Crooked Lines, a beautifully crafted debut novel, threads the lives of two determined souls from different continents and cultures. Compelling characters struggle with spirituality through despair and deceptions in search of truth.

Beautiful beach and seaTsunami 2004 – Still Wading Through Waves of Hope – December 26th, 2014 marked the anniversary of the monster waves seen around the world. Is life restored back to normal on the shores of Nagapattinam, South India? Will it ever be? Like a sweeping wave, news of the tsunami fundraiser spread to a national level. Bishop Leo Michael became the ideal vehicle to collect, then ferry aid across the sea. He had lived and worked in the now tsunami devastated region for many years, spoke the native language, and had a counseling degree. TEN days later, trekking into impassable villages and decimated shorelines, the Michaels helped the widows and the orphans and those most affected by the tsunami.  TEN years later, the Michaels returned to the same villages and encountered surprising changes and a life-threatening situation.

Writing prompt: Write a few paragraphs about drinking your favorite beverage in a place in the world you would most like to visit or have visited. What emotions did you feel at the time?

104 (2)Holly Michael has enjoyed a writing career as a journalist, features writer, and a regular ghostwriter for a Guideposts magazine before authoring novels and nonfiction books. Married to Anglican Bishop, Leo Michael, Holly has three grown children; a lovely daughter Betsy and football-playing sons—Jake (NFL) and Nick (University of Louisiana-Lafayette). Kansas City, Missouri is home and she blogs at www.writingstraight.com

Contact her at www.HollyMichael.com or on Facebook @ http://www.facebook.com/AuthorHollyMichael or Twitter: @HollyMichael

 

First and Goal: What Football Taught Me About Never Giving Up By Jake Byrne and Holly Michael

IMG_1177Today, we welcome authors, Jake Byrne and his mom, Holly Michaelon the blog to showcase their latest release, First and Goal: What Football Taught Me About Never Giving Up.

Hello, Jake and Holly! So glad you could join us. First question:

Have you always wanted to be an author?

Jake: Writing a book had been in the back of my mind for a couple of years. As a type 1 diabetic, it took a lot of trial and error to manage the disease and compete in sports. I wanted to share my experiences to encourage others to never give up despite diabetes or other obstacles.

Holly: Of my three kids, I never imagined Jake would be the one who would follow the same path as me. I’m thrilled. My answer is also, yes, I also carried that thought in the back of my mind from my childhood. I loved reading and writing ever since my mom picked me and a Dr. Seuss book up and sat down. My writing career began as soon as I could form words to letters and scribble poems for my parents and siblings. The day I found out I was pregnant with Jake, I started writing letters to him in a hard-bound journal. I gave it to him when he left home to play football for the University of Wisconsin.

I love a mother-son writing team. 🙂

What do you love the most about writing, and what do you like the least?

Jake: The most? The finished project! Seriously, the process was fun, too. I enjoyed combining the anecdotes and stories with Bible verses and football terms. The least? Typing on a keyboard. Not my favorite thing. Thankfully, as a team effort, with my mom as the ghostwriter, we completed the project by deadline.

Holly: And I love to type! Just love how my fingers can fly over those letters when the words flow into my mind, or in this case from Jake’s mind. We were an excellent team on this project. I also love the editing process. What do I like least? I certainly don’t dislike any part of writing. But, for fiction writing, I dread the empty page before I begin a new chapter. I do love writing fiction, but as one who writes both fiction and nonfiction, I think nonfiction is easier for me.

An empty page is a scary thing.

How did you come up with the idea for this devotional?

Jake: During football season with the San Diego Chargers, my mom called and the topic of writing a devotional IMG_7155using football terms came up in the conversation. It sounded like a perfect way to get across a message of encouragement to never give up on dreams no matter what mountains have to be moved.

Holly: Yes, he was all in. And with the help of God, Jake moved a lot of mountains to go as far as the NFL with football. And I was super excited after that phone call with Jake. I was only a couple of days away from going to a Christian Writer’s Conference when we talked about the idea. We put our minds together and came up with a one-sheet that I presented to Kim Moore with Harvest House Publishers. Kim let me know right away that she loved it.  And within a short time we were offered a contract.

God works in wonderful ways! 

Do you blog? How often?

Jake: I just started my blog and am not as active as I should be, but am working on it. I’m also working for a Marketing firm as well as trying to get my foundation, Type Won, started. The foundation’s goal is to help support kids with Type 1 diabetes to stay active and healthy. And, I also recently got married. My wife Emma has been a real blessing and helper through all of this, someone who shares my dreams and goals.

Holly: I love Emma. She’s amazing and an answer to prayers for a perfect wife for my son. Jake’s always got big goals and he’s been working hard trying to fit the blogging in with everything else, including busy days surrounding the release of First and Goal. I also blog on my own blog at www.writingstraight.com about faith and family. A lot of Jake’s journey into the NFL was chronicled on that blog. I am also part of a blogging team on a couple of other blogs, including this one!

And we love having you here. ❤ Last question:

What fun fact would you like your readers to know about you?

Jake: I fear clowns and miniature ponies.

Holly: I can understand the clowns. I fear them, too. The miniature ponies…well, maybe Jake fears the ponies because he’s bigger than them and if he rode them he might kill them. Lol. Now he owns a Great Dane dog that’s bigger than a miniature pony. My fun fact: Ever since I was a teenager, whenever I drive alone at night I fear running into a row of aliens standing on the road, holding hands to block my way and abduct me. Ok, Jake, maybe the shetland pony fear isn’t so weird.

Clowns, ponies, and aliens. Sounds like a book in the works to me.

Thanks so much for dropping by, Jake and Holly. If you’d like to win a signed copy of First and Goal – What Football Taught Me About Never Giving Up, please leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win.

First and Goal: What Football Taught Me About Never Giving Up51bkshxQaxL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

Jake Byrne dreamed of playing professional football. He had the size, the talent, the drive…but at age 14, he found out he also had type 1 diabetes.

Still, Jake was determined to reach his goal. And God was determined to guide and empower him all along the way.

Jake’s journey to the NFL is the backdrop for this collection of inspiring devotions based on nearly a hundred football terms. Jake takes you to the weight room, practice field, and even across the goal line. You’ll feel as if you’re lined up next to him, facing a very large defender you’re about to take down. He also includes Scripture and then ties up each story in a way that feels real and encouraging. You’ll discover…

  • what to do when God calls an audible in your life
  • how to respond when God puts you on special teams
  • why prayer is never an incomplete pass

These quick daily readings will help you press through your own difficulties and experience God’s dream for you.

Jake Byrne grew up in Rogers, Arkansas. A type 1 diabetic since the age of fourteen, he has since been proactive combating the disease and mentoring diabetic youth. He played football for the University of Wisconsin as a tight end, and went on to compete in the NFL. Originally an undrafted free agent who signed with the New Orleans Saints in 2012, he has also been a Houston Texan, Kansas City Chief, and San Diego Charger. He and his wife, Emma, live in Dallas. Jake blogs at www.typewon.net.Facebook Page (Type Won): www.facebook.com/typewon1

Twitter: @sugarfreejb82

Instagram: Jakebyrne81

Email: typewonquestions@gmail.com

Holly Michael has enjoyed a writing career as a journalist, features writer, and a regular ghostwriter for Guideposts magazine before authoring novels and nonfiction books. Married to Anglican Bishop, Leo Michael, Holly has three grown children and lives in Kansas City. She blogs at www.writingstraight.com

Contact her at www.HollyMichael.com or on Facebook @ http://www.facebook.com/AuthorHollyMichael  or Twitter: @HollyMichael

In First and Goal – What Football Taught Me About Never Giving Up, Holly Michael joins her NFL player son, Jake Byrne, in this football-themed devotional published by Harvest House, due for release in August 2015.