Christian Retailing

Close Up: Tricia Lott Williford Print Email
Written by Leslie Santamaria   
Thursday, 16 January 2014 09:47 AM America/New_York

TriciaLottWillifordAndLifeComesBackLATEST PROJECT: And Life Comes Back: A Wife’s Story of Love, Loss, and Hope Reclaimed (9780307731982, $14.99, WaterBrook Press).

When you were suddenly widowed with two small boys at age 31, you wrote and blogged through your grief. How helpful was that to you? In that first year, my writing was helpful because it was a consistent piece of my life. This part of my day that I had claimed before Robb died was now something that still belonged to me when I felt like so very little was left. When there was nothing else I could do, I could write. And it became medicine for my soul. In the years since then, it has been a sacred place to return to since all of those memories have virtually disappeared from my mind. I can’t access that place anymore. If I had not written in those days and in those moments, then that season would be lost completely. I couldn’t go back and rewrite it now. It was raw and true then, and it was only mine to write in that season, in that year.

Did you have any particular readers in mind as you wrote And Life Comes Back? This book tells the story of what happens on the next morning, when the bottom has fallen out of your world, but the sun somehow rises the next day and you must go on. And the days keep coming, one after another, and you must continue. Such crises happen to people all the time: the death of someone they love or a diagnosis, a divorce, unemployment, broken dreams—and the world keeps spinning, the sun keeps shining, and we must each decide what to do next. This isn’t a “widow’s book.” This is a book for anyone who has looked into a mirror and thought with helplessness, “What on earth am I going to do now?”

What were some of the challenges in writing this book? There were three main challenges. The writing process required a lot of remembering: the greatest days of our marriage, the deepest struggles of our broken relationship, the honest journey through crippling depression, and even the details of watching his spirit slip through my fingers while I tried to save his life. My mind connects completely to whatever I am writing about, and sometimes it was very difficult to navigate the back-and-forth between remembering those days and living this one. Also, I couldn’t write the depth of the sadness I had felt because it’s an unspeakable, indescribable place. It’s too dark and too much, and nobody would want to read that book. Once I came to terms with the fact that the book would be lighter than the journey, once I had the freedom to not write to those depths, then I had an easier time telling the story. Third, the nature of writing a memoir is telling one’s own story, but this story belongs to so many people besides me. I scrutinized every word of each sentence to be sure that it honored Robb, portrayed my children safely and honestly, and told the truth the way I remembered it. That’s a lot of filters and calls for a lot of careful editing.

What helped you during the most difficult days following your husband’s death? A friend said to me, “Tricia, let’s set a date six months from now. Until that day, nobody is going to ask anything from you. You have no expectations to meet. Not a single one. Nowhere you have to be, nothing you have to do except take care of yourself and love your children. When that date arrives, then you can decide what you can do. Just know, right now all you need to do is take care of yourself and love your kids.” There was tremendous freedom in that gift. I went to Starbucks every morning, and I immersed myself in the book of Psalms. I read them and wrote them—verses or passages or whole chapters at a time. When I could not think, the psalms gave me words. When I could not pray, the psalms prayed for me. 

Who are “The Tuesdays” and what did they mean to your journey? The Tuesdays are four girlfriends who kept me from falling to pieces. They very truly saved my life. Jenno, Melody, Lisa and Melissa rallied together immediately, creating systems for groceries, housecleaning, childcare and meals. They knew that just because a girl wants to be alone doesn’t mean she should be, so they came to my house every Tuesday night. They brought coffee and dessert, laughter and joy, prayer and support, and they tucked me into bed before they left. Those are my girls. Forever, my girls.

What do you hope readers will gain from reading And Life Comes Back? Very truly, I hope you will find permission to feel however you feel, and especially the freedom to laugh. I hope you will find comfort in the truth and courage in the journey. Just take one more step. Just do the next thing that’s in front of you. Each day is only 24 hours long, and you can do this.

Fiction File February 2014 Print Email
Written by Leslie Santamaria   
Thursday, 16 January 2014 10:12 AM America/New_York

JanetteAndLaurel_OkeASK THE AUTHORS:  Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan

WhereCourageCallsLATEST PROJECT: Where Courage Calls, “When Calls the Heart” series (9780764212314, $14.99, softcover; 9780764212321, $19.99, hardcover; 9780764212338, $17.99, large print; February).

PUBLISHER: Bethany House (Baker Publishing Group).

(Oke) What motivated you to write prairie romances after 14 years?  I was asked by Michael Landon Jr. and his filming partner, Brian Bird, if I would be interested in writing another series. I first said “no,” then they suggested I co-write. I knew our daughter Laurel was in a space where she was free to pursue writing once again, so [I] asked her if she was interested in the project.

(Oke) How is Where Courage Calls related to When Calls the Heart, the book and Hallmark Channel movie?  The film released in October dealt with two sets of characters. Elizabeth Thatcher, a schoolteacher who went west to teach, and Wynn Delaney of the RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] were the first set. These characters were taken from the novel, When Calls the Heart. The second group, included a younger Elizabeth (Beth) Thatcher, relative of the first Elizabeth, who also chose to be a teacher, and who also went west. Where Courage Calls introduces the reading audience to the new set of characters.

(Oke) What type of character is Beth Thatcher and how does she change?  Beth Thatcher grew up in a wealthy home with two loving parents who rather pampered her. She had been ill as a child, so her mother was very protective of her, which caused her to feel a bit smothered and held back from independence. Leaving her secure home and venturing west to a quite primitive town was a stretch. Beth’s sensitive and caring side developed as she realized how blessed she had been and how needy were some people in her world. She discovered that she could not only cope, [but] she could also reach out to others. She also discovered that these people of little means had much to offer to her. She learned appreciation of persons, apart from status. 

(Oke) What other themes are explored in Where Courage Calls?  When Beth left home, her father sent her off with a Bible verse which he recommended she make a daily part of her life, Phil. 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” He knew Beth had always been told that she was not physically strong. He did not wish her to judge what she was capable of accomplishing because of her perceived weakness. If God gives one a task, a mission, then by faith we can depend on Him to also give the strength and wisdom needed to perform that task. We do not depend upon our own strength, but His. At times, we also need to seek counsel from others before rushing ahead with new ideas. Beth could have caused unintended hurts had she not sought advice from those who knew the people of the community far better than she. In the process, she gained much in down-to-earth wisdom and earned love and acceptance.

(Oke) Are there more titles to come in this series?  That is still pending. We have talked of further novels, but have agreed with Bethany House that we would wait to see if the readership is interested in more about Beth, her adventures and relationships.

(Logan) This is your second collaboration with your mother. How does your partnership work?  For this project, we were able to get together several times to work on the planning and writing, even during family visits. That was a huge benefit. But we also worked together online and spent quite some time on the phone. In an ideal world, Mom would be my neighbor, but we’ve been able to collaborate on this despite the miles.

(Logan) What research did you conduct for writing your first prairie romance?  I grew up on the Alberta prairie. Where Courage Calls is primarily set in a fictitious mountain town southwest of where we lived, an area similar to where we spent many family vacations. Mom had done quite a bit of reading about the Frank slide [a 1903 rock slide] referred to in the novel. Most of my research had more to do with the time period of the novel, which was required to be the early 1920s so that it would follow Aunt Elizabeth’s story [from When Calls the Heart] well, so I delved into the specifics of things like inventions and songs and fashion.

(Logan) Do you have other collaborations planned with your mother? How about writing projects on your own?  There seems to be interest in hearing more about the new Elizabeth Thatcher. I am also working on some homeschool-related materials and another novel.


ONLINE EXTRA: Learn how a devout Muslim became a Christian in Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi (Zondervan). See our online bonus content at


Prodigal daughter aims for stardom in Hollywood Print Email
Written by DeWayne Hamby   
Thursday, 16 January 2014 11:07 AM America/New_York

Christian retail exclusive content for ‘Grace Unplugged’ ponders faith-and-success question

GraceUnpluggedA daughter’s dreams of musical stardom lead her to a faith crossroads in Grace Unplugged, releasing Feb. 11 (031398181712, $24.99, Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions). 

Written and directed by Brad J. Silverman (No Greater Love), the film was produced by Russ Rice, Larry Frenzel (Courageous), Chris Zarpas and Robert Norton and executive-produced by Mark Burg, Larry Mestel and Dan Heffner. 

Amanda “AJ” Michalka (Super 8, The Lovely Bones) stars as Grace, along with James Denton (Desperate Housewives), Kevin Pollak (A Few Good Men), Michael Welch (Joan of Arcadia) and Shawnee Smith (The Secret Life of the American Teenager). 

In the film, Grace has higher hopes than singing in her church praise band. When her father (Denton) is offered a chance to relive his glory days as a pop singer, which he gave up when he became a Christian, Grace decides to take the option and run away to Los Angeles. But, as she climbs the ladder of success, she finds it harder to reconcile her faith with the new choices in her life. 

With music being the key theme, the film also offers appearances from Christian music stars Chris Tomlin, Jamie Grace and American Idol finalist Pia Toscano. Michalka, one half of the duo Aly & AJ, is featured on the film’s soundtrack, along with Tomlin, Grace, Colton Dixon, TobyMac, Josh Wilson and Shawn McDonald. 

“We love Grace Unplugged, an entertaining story of a talented teenager rising in the music industry who gets a chance to achieve her dreams, but realizes in the process the importance of family and her faith,” said Jason Constantine, Lionsgate president of acquisitions and co-productions. “While the story is specific to the world of music, the themes are universal to every family in this inspiring movie.”

When the film was shown in theaters in October, it received an A- from Cinema Score with 62% of viewers indicating interest in the DVD release.

The Christian-retail exclusive DVD release includes more than 40 minutes of additional content, including the featurette “Lights, Camera, Worship,” with a panel discussing whether or not a person has to abandon the faith in order to be successful. Other bonus content includes a “Behind the Music” featurette, bloopers and a making-of documentary. 

Visit or call 800-877-4443 to order Grace Unplugged.

DVD New Releases February 2014 Print Email
Written by DeWayne Hamby   
Thursday, 16 January 2014 11:09 AM America/New_York

UphillBattleBridgestone Media Group releases Uphill Battle ($19.95) on Feb. 3. The 90-minute faith-based drama follows Erica Stratton, a woman recovering from a painful divorce working as an accountant. When she meets Michael, her ability to trust again is tested. The movie received five Doves from the Dove Foundation for ages 12 and up. It stars Shelby Smith, Nathan Petty, Keegan Steele, Aura Kenney and Chris Steele.


LoveologyJohn Mark Comer is featured on the new Zondervan video study Loveology: God. Love. Marriage. Sex. and the Never-Ending Story of Male and Female ($26.99), releasing Feb. 4. Through five sessions, the author speaks about relationships from the Garden of Eden until today, addressing some of the most frequently asked questions on relationships. Comer relates God’s original purpose for marriage and covers topics such as love, sex, romance and singleness. A study guide is also available.  


ActsOfGodStudySuffering is the topic explored in Acts of God Small Group Study, releasing this month from City on a Hill Studio. The cinematic, six-episode series offers insight and hope as Bob Russell, founding pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Ky., relates the story of Joseph to the suffering people experience in life. The study, available for $69.99, includes the DVD, leader’s guide, leader’s DVD tutorial and participant’s guide. A pastor’s DVD kit will also be available March 6 for $19.99.  

New duo City Harbor makes debut on Sparrow Records Print Email
Written by DeWayne Hamby   
Thursday, 16 January 2014 11:15 AM America/New_York

February titles include Gaither Homecoming favorite and popular ‘WOW’ series release

AsSureAsTheSun-EllieHolcombAs Sure As the Sun

Ellie Holcomb

Full Heart Music


Feb. 18

On the heels of a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $108,000 with 1,756 backers, As Sure As the Sun releases Feb. 18. A singer-songwriter with an impressive musical pedigree, Holcomb is married to Drew Holcomb of Drew and the Neighbors and is daughter of legendary producer Brown Bannister, who lent his talents to this project. She makes her own mark with this collection of tender songs of encouragement derived from scriptures. Songs on this full-length debut include the title-track piano ballad, the acoustic pop of “Night Song” and a bouncy take on 1 Cor. 13 in “Love Never Fails.” Holcomb will be a fresh new voice in Christian music comparable to singer-songwriters Sara Groves, Kari Jobe or Joy Williams. To order, contact It’s Good Time at 615-483-9613.


CityHarbor-CityHarborCity Harbor

City Harbor

Sparrow Records (Capitol Christian Distribution)


Feb. 4

Singer-songwriters Molly Reed and Robby Earle team up as the new group City Harbor, releasing its debut project Feb. 4. Prior to the project, the group was introduced to listeners on two recent WOW projects; WOW 2014 and WOW Christmas 2013 Deluxe EditionProduced by Ben Glover (Britt Nicole), David Garcia (Mandisa, TobyMac) and Matt Bronleewee (Jars of Clay, Chris Tomlin), the project includes the tracks “Like I Am,” “I Still Believe” and “Leave It Here.” First single “Come However You Are” was released to Christian radio in December. To order, call 800-877-4443 or visit


OhWhatASavior-ErnieHaaseOh, What a Savior

Ernie Haase & Signature Sound

Gaither Music Group (Capitol Christian)


Feb. 4

Gaither Homecoming staple Ernie Haase & Signature Sound delivers Oh, What a Savior on Feb. 4. Recorded live in Paducah, Ky., the project includes “When the Saints Go Marching In,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,”  and “Noah Found Grace in the Eyes of the Lord.” Also included is a new version of the group’s popular song and title track, “Oh, What a Savior.” Order at 800-877-4443 or through 


WOWGospel2014WOW Gospel 2014

Various artists

Provident Music Group (Provident Distribution)


Feb. 4

The “WOW Gospel” series returns with a 2014 double-disc edition and songs from artists such as Hezekiah Walker, Tye Tribbett and Marvin Sapp. Songs include “Every Praise” by Walker, “Here in Our Praise” by United Tenors, “You Reign” by William Murphy, “The Gift” by Donald Lawrence, “Have Your Way” by Deitrick Haddon, “A Little More Jesus” by Erica Campbell, “Go Get It” by Mary Mary, “Greatest Man” by VaShawn Mitchell, “Our God” by Micah Stampley, “Tell The World” by Lecrae (featuring Mali Music) and “Draw Me Close” by Marvin Winans.  To order, call Provident at 800-333-9000 or visit

Meet the Artist: KUTLESS Print Email
Written by DeWayne Hamby   
Thursday, 16 January 2014 11:19 AM America/New_York

Glory-KutlessGuitarist James Mead of rock band Kutless spoke with Christian Retailing about the group’s Feb. 11 release, Glory ($13.99, BEC Recordings/New Day Christian Distributors), and the history of the group that has sold millions of records of albums such as Believer and The Beginning.


What can you tell us about Glory?  A couple of years ago, we felt the Lord was telling us that we needed to pray, to just seek Him about renewed vision for our band. As we took time out to check our hearts and search our hearts, as the psalmist said, we started to spend a lot of time together praying through, “Lord, what is your vision for our band?” When we started, we felt a clear, direct route from God that we were to be missionary-minded, evangelism-minded, [to help] those who are sent out by the church to share the gospel and to help lead souls to Christ. So we’ve always had this evangelistic drive of the band. Through the years, our music has included very pointedly Christian lyrics, seeking God through hardship. At our shows, we share the message and lead out in worship time. That’s been very important, because that’s how we started. When we started to pray for God to renew our vision, we felt Him strengthen the core of who we are and give us a new thirst to go out and specifically seek this generation. 

The cool thing is when we prayed about the Lord’s vision for this record, we had come off a period of time where we were very busy. We decided to go home and shut down for a while and write together. We’ve always been the band that’s gone back and forth between rock music and worship music. For some reason, we’ve had a problem distinguishing those two. What we really want to be is a rock band that does worship music. I think we have a singular opportunity to be a band like that in the marketplace. I can’t think of many bands that have the opportunity to play on a rock stage with Skillet and the next night be with Michael W. Smith. The past records that we’ve called worship records, we’ve done the standard songs that churches around the country are doing. That’s where this record came from for us. It’s really inspired by the heavenly worship in [the book of] Revelation. When you read through Rev 4-5, see nations of the Earth worshipping before the throne. Nowadays, worship is introspective and sad-sounding. In heaven, it is this electric energy through the throne room of God. It’s all eyes on the Lamb who walks through the door, and lightning and thunder comes from Him. The whole of heaven points and says, “Holy, holy, holy, there He is—oh, wow!” That’s like rock music. Let’s do triumphant, joyful, victorious-sounding rock worship music.

What are some of the key songs on the new album?   For the most part, everyone is familiar with “You Alone,” a single we released in October. It’s a pretty rocking song. It’s kind of a song to lift up the glory of God’s name: “His name is mighty in counsel, and He’s the Lord and ruler of all.” We just wanted to proclaim that, “It’s You alone, God.” We highlight one of the verses, Acts 4:12 [“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved”]. We just wanted to set up God in that way. We lead off the record with “Revelation.” … Jon Micah [Sumrall], our singer, and myself wrote this song. If you look at Revelation 4-5 and read along as you’re listening to the song, it’s pretty much what is happening [in heaven]. Another one is the follow-up single to “You Alone” called “In Jesus Name.”  

How long have you guys been playing together as a band?  I joined the band in 2001 and we weren’t called Kutless. Jon Micah and I were the only originals.

With that history, have you had a chance to mentor any new musicians and bands?   That’s certainly a realistic aspect of us. When we started, I was 18 and had just graduated high school. It takes a little time to stop feeling like you’re the youngest around. Honestly, we had to kind of carve our own way. Radio stations would turn our CD over and see Tooth & Nail and say, “We’re not playing that.” Rock ‘n’ roll music wasn’t really on the radio. In Christian music, you had rap, rock or metal, so we were just trying to carve our own way. It took awhile for people to feel receptive to us. Now I feel there are tons of bands, so many. A lot of them, they do ending up telling us, “I’ve grown up listening to you.” I think what we realize is it’s no different than just sharing life as we’re supposed to as Christians. One of the most beneficial things any of us can do as Christians is pouring into a person. I’ve always viewed discipleship as honest friendship. It’s really edifying. It’s encouraging, mutually beneficial for guys to share about the wisdom that they’ve learned from God’s Word. It’s really beneficial for the person younger in the faith. We’re very happy to say we love each very well. We view each other as closer than brothers. We’ve stuck to our calling and tried to serve each other as a band. If we have anything to share with a band, it’s that.