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Where Adventure Meets Redemption: An Interview with Dani Pettrey

Read our interview with author, Dani Pettrey.

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I was making the rounds at a local author meet-and-greet at the library. I was gathering business cards, bookmarkers, and other marketing material as I went from table to table where each author was displaying their work. Hands full, I grabbed a few more bookmarkers from one of the last tables where the author was already busy talking to someone else and headed out. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized that this local author was a Christian and fellow homeschool mom, which I found intriguing.

I took a chance and shot her an email asking if she’d be willing to get together for coffee. I knew it was a long shot; she is a busy author with deadlines. But Dani Pettrey graciously agreed to get together to discuss writing, books, publishing, and homeschooling. As a writer and homeschooling mother myself, I had lots of questions about how she balanced her love of writing with the rest of busy-mom-life.

Dani Pettrey is the author of the Alaskan Courage series for Bethany House. Submerged, Shattered, and the newly released Stranded follows various members of the McKenna siblings as they solve mysteries, struggle with faith, encounter romance, and chase adventure. Dani agreed to give Ungrind readers a peek into her life as an author and share where her inspiration for writing comes from.

Tell us when you first discovered a love of writing?

I have always loved daydreaming and making up stories. I dabbled with creative writing growing up, but set it aside. It wasn’t until after a bout with a serious illness many years ago that I really felt God stirring me to start writing again.

How do you find inspiration for your plots?

I find it everywhere: movies, song lyrics, news articles, even a simple word. For example, the inspiration behind Submerged came from watching a movie about cave divers; the inspiration behind Shattered came from a passing comment a friend of mine made about her son’s recent surgery. I just never know what may trigger an idea. Once I have an idea, comes the fun part … running with the “what if’s?”

Do you know how the whole story will turn out before writing, or does the story reveal itself to you as you go?

It definitely reveals itself as I go. I’m not a “plotter.” I have a general premise and a very rough feel for my characters when I sit down to write. The fun for me is seeing how it all unfolds.

Your stories have a lot of action in them that includes skiing, diving, and rock climbing. Do you know how to do all these sports yourself, and if not, how do you research in order to write convincingly about them?

I’ve been skiing and rock climbing. I took the diving certification classes, but found I felt too claustrophobic. Fortunately, I love research and enjoy spending time learning about all the adventures my characters encounter. I love research so much, I often have to stop myself and force myself to sit down and write. But I definitely have an adventurer’s heart and I think that really helps As far as research goes, I read a lot of first person accounts and adventure handbooks. I also find watching movies involving the sports or documentaries on the sport or the athletes to be extremely helpful. I’m such a visual person so anything and everything visual helps me feel more apart of my characters’ worlds.

What can readers expect from your newest book, Stranded?

Stranded is an action-packed romance set aboard an Alaskan cruise ship. Here’s a summary:

When her friend vanishes from a cruise ship, reporter Darcy St. James isn’t satisfied with their explanation that she simply left her job of her own accord. Something isn’t lining up, and Darcy believes the only way to find the truth is to put herself in Abby’s position. Within days, Darcy learns her friend wasn’t the only person to disappear mysteriously. Last summer, a woman vanished under almost identical circumstances. Gage McKenna has taken a summer-long stint leading adventure excursions for the passengers of various cruise lines that dock for a few days of sightseeing. He’s surprised to find Darcy working aboard one of the ships, investigating a troubling report. Something sinister is going on, and the deeper they dig, the more Gage fears they’ve only discovered the tip of the iceberg.

What spiritual impact or theme do you hope readers will take away after reading a Dani Pettrey novel?

There are so many things in this world vying for our attention, but wholeness, true healing, redemption and renewal can be found in Christ alone. I hope that’s what readers take away when they read one of my novels. Each book has its own theme, but they all fall under the amazing grace of our Lord.

If you could share one piece of encouragement or advice to an aspiring writer, what would it be?

Write. I know it sounds trite, but it’s true. You need to learn to be disciplined early on. To spend the hours writing and reading and learning. A lot of people want to write a book. Few actually do it. And, secondly I would say never give up. If writing is your passion, follow it. God created that love and hunger for the written word in you. It’s His gift to you and when you use it, you give a gift (your words, your heart) back to Him.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not busy writing?

I love spending time with my family. I enjoy hiking, spending time at the beach, swimming, reading (of course), watching romantic comedies, and frequent trips to the coffee house.

Would you share some of your own favorite books or authors?

Absolutely. My favorite authors include Dee Henderson, Terri Blackstock, Sue Grafton, Jane Austen, and Karen Witemeyer. Some of my favorite books are Dee’s entire O’Malley series, Terri’s Predator, Sue’s Alphabet series, and Karen’s Short-Straw Bride, Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes and absolute favorite of all time is Pride and Prejudice.


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Danielle Ayers Jones is wife to an amazing husband and mother to three. She's a writer and photographer, combining both loves on her blog, danielleayersjones.com. A space where she seeks to find beauty in everyday places, joy in hardship, rest in the struggle, and encouragement in unexpected places. She's also written for Thriving Family, Clubhouse, Jr., iBelieve.com, StartMarriageRight.com, and FortheFamily.org. You can follow Danielle on Instagram here and Pinterest here.

29 Comments
  • Thanks so much for having me!

    • No problem, excited to have you “visit” Ungrind!

      • Danielle, Please share with us the sage advice on homeschooling and writing at the same time! More than ever I could use some wisdom in this area. :)

        • It’s so hard because everyone’s lives are so different, but I think one practical suggestion was afternoon quiet times for the kids, even if they don’t sleep. Dani is welcome to chime in here too if she likes!

          • We do the afternoon quiet time too — even if the kids don’t sleep. The older ones take time to read, listen to “Adventures in Odyssey,” or play quietly.

  • Cyndi W.

    Recent adventure? We traveled 13 hours to surprise my daughter after her boyfriend proposed. He planned an amazing proposal and when they went back to his folks’ house to tell them and call us, we were already there. :) That was quite a surprise but then when her older brother and his wife walked out, she was completely shocked! So much fun! Btw, LOVED Stranded… and the other two!

    • Cyndi W.

      temporary brain freeze :) Also loved Submerged and Shattered!

  • Shannon

    Trip to Alaska for our 1 year wedding anniversary!

    • Congrats, Shannon! You are the winner! I’ll send you an email soon with more info.

      • Shannon

        THANK YOU!

  • Amy Kittel

    Recently I accompanied my husband on his business trip to New Orleans. Since he was busy all day for 3 days, I got to do my own vacation! I saw things I may not have with him. I went on a swamp tour and saw alligators. I toured 2 plantations. I went to a WW2 museum. And a food tasting tour. I’ve realized I need to take a day by myself, when we do our family vacations, to see things by myself.

  • Theresa N

    I changed the faucet in my bathroom by myself,trust me it was any adventure. Yes everything works right. Thankfully!!

  • Sharon Timmer

    My husband & I took a trip to Montana / it would have been more exciting if we had been able to go to Glacier National Park however the government shut it down :(

  • Rachel

    I haven’t had any recent adventures but a favorite from the past was dog sledding in Quebec. It was fantastic!!

  • Erin

    No travels really- I started a new job recently though!

  • Karen G

    Went hiking in the Adirondacks in NY state.

  • Cheryl Veenstra

    Just discovered Dani Pettrey! Loved her book Shattered. Looking forward to reading her other books!

    My husband and I were blessed to go to Kauai last Spring for our second honeymoon (after 26 years and 3 kids!!) SO needed that wonderful break after 15 years of many serious medical issues in our family. Reading Christian fiction has been my ‘escape’ and inspiration!!

    Thanks!

  • Naomi Shores

    I don’t really have a traveling adventure. As someone else posted, a home adventure, I’ve been having is trying to get the algae killed in our pool so that I can close it this winter clean and open it in the spring algae-free. It would be the first time in 3 years that it has happened.

  • Jessica

    My adventures don’t get much more exciting than a trip to the grocery store each week with my one year old! Every week, we head out on our excursion. Everything is new and exciting for him!

  • Marilyn Johnson

    We live an adventure. We are missionaries to the Haitian People. We currently live in South Florida, however, we lived in Haiti for 4 years. It is an blessing just to serve the Lord. But what an adventure it was to live in a third world country with my family.

  • Debbie

    Trip to Canada with my husband a few weeks ago! Gorgeous country and great hiking and food!!!!

  • Lovely interview! I must admit that I have never read any of your books, Dani, but I have wanted to since hearing about them. I am afraid that most of the adventures that I have had are in my books. But then, being a singer & musician is an adventure in itself. Who knows what towering scores you’ll have to conquer next, or where you’ll be called upon to sing? Tis always best to be prepared. ;) Thank you for sharing with us, Dani. Thank you for the giveaway!! Blessings,
    Juli

  • Having fun reading about everyone’s adventures. Thanks so much for stopping by :)

  • Rachel @RedeemingHer

    A day of camping and sight seeing in Hot Springs, AR!

  • Debbie S

    Raising kids is always an adventure! Especially with the boys. :-)

  • Summer

    I’m a mom. Every day is an adventure! :)

  • Shirley Blanchard

    I use to home scoll its very rewarding, i would love to win this book, thank you
    Shirley B [email protected]

  • Ola Norman

    I like Alaska adventure stories. Can’t wait to read this one.

  • Melissa

    I teach 8th grade. Everyday is an adventure! :)
    I love your books! Thanks for the giveaway!

Articles

When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Articles

Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.

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“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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Articles

He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.

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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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Hi, I'm Ashleigh Slater, founder and editor of Ungrind. Here at Ungrind, it’s our goal to churn out biblically-based encouragement for women. We strive to be honest and transparent about our struggles in a way that inspires hope, faith, and perseverance.

As you read, we hope you consider us friends, the kind you feel comfortable sitting across the table with at the local coffee shop. You can read more about me HERE and our team of writers HERE.

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Where Adventure Meets Redemption: An Interview with Dani Pettrey

by Danielle Ayers Jones time to read: 4 min
29