Christian Retailing

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.

Meet the Artist: Bob Smiley Print Email
Written by DeWayne Hamby   
Tuesday, 24 December 2013 08:51 AM America/New_York

MulletsOnFireComedian Bob Smiley releases his newest DVD, Mullets on Fire (622306019090, $14.99), Feb. 15 through Crown Entertainment ( The video captures Smiley’s live performance at Roseville, California’s Bayside Church.

How did you come up with this DVD’s amusing title?  The title Mullets on Fire is the punchline from one of the bits I did. ... The feature presentation is strictly stand-up—fast-paced story form. There are messages in there. I end with a story about how much God loves us unconditionally. I tell a story about listening to my son playing trombone and how bad it is, but how I love it because he’s playing it for me. Maybe we’re not playing the song how God created us to play the song. He still loves us. We’re His children. There are quite a few inspirational things in there. 

I’m also doing some bonus features. They will have a question-and-answer period. After the concert, I go out and take questions from the audience. If they have questions about a bit from the past, I’ll also do the bit. A second bonus feature will be cartoons to go with some of the bits from my first CD. 

You’ve been touring as a comedian for a long time. What is that like?  Well, my hotel shampoo collection is extensive. When my kids were young, I would bring them shower caps from hotels and tell them they’re space helmets. When I first started, I simply wanted to use comedy as a vehicle to get them in, get them laughing and then let me share scripture or my testimony. The thing I’ve seen is not only are people receptive to that and that plan is still working, but also [what] I’ve learned is just simply laughter is a huge healing tool. ... I did a show at a Christian coffee house one night for no money. I had a dad come up after and said he and his teenage son had not spoken. … When they heard I was coming, the week leading up to it, they were able to share old bits from that old DVD and laugh. It really kind of started the healing process. They had more in common than all the problems. I’ve seen families laugh together. There could be tragedy walking through the door, but God uses laughter and joy to show that He’s not given up on them. 

How hard is doing stand-up comedy night after night?  I’ve done a show for eight people and 82,000 people. I’ve done a football stadium. I did a show in the middle of a racetrack, and I had to stop my jokes while the cars raced between me and the audience. I did a show for a church called “55 and Better,” but no one in the audience could remember being 55. This lady kept talking to me through the whole show. She would ask questions and I would answer her. At the end, she stood up and gave me a big hug. It was the perfect end to a show. I feel like I’ve seen every situation a comic could be in. 

What is the key to demonstrating confidence and yet remaining humble?  I love my job and I have the confidence that God has blessed me. I realize that God has given all of us individual talents to use to glorify God. That’s the whole reason He gave me that talent to begin with. He’s going to equip me with the ability to do my job well. The humility comes from the fact that God would even use me. I’m just so grateful to do stand-up and to do it well enough to do it this long. I think a lot of people do stand-up comedy and put us up on a pedestal where we don’t belong. To me, I say words into a microphone and people laugh.