Friends, please join me in giving a warm welcome to up-and-coming new author Janell Wojtowicz. I’ve invited Janell here today to share with us about her brand-new book debut “Embracing Hope”. As a special bonus Janell has included an excerpt from “Embracing Hope”.
Janell Butler Wojtowicz, born and raised on an Iowa farm, was one of those kids who loved to write the dreaded “What I did on summer vacation” essay. She attended the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, Minnesota, earning a bachelor’s degree in, naturally, Written Communication/Journalism Emphasis. She returned to Iowa where she worked as a reporter/editor at three small town newspapers for 10 years.
Janell left the small town Iowa life when she married, Frank Wojtowicz, a family friend, who lived in Minneapolis. (By the way, her Polish last name is pronounced “Why-tow-vitch.) She worked in public relations at her alma mater, the University of Northwestern; Leadership Foundations, a nonprofit organization supporting inner-city Christian ministries; and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Today, Janell owns a freelance service, A Portrait in Words. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America.
Janell and Frank, live in New Brighton, Minnesota, a pleasant suburb of the Twin Cities. She has two step-sons, a step-daughter-in-law, and three step-granddaughters.
Janell enjoys connecting with her readers. You can find Janell at the following
About “Embracing Hope”
Christian college dean Drew McKinley mourns his dead wife and still wears his wedding ring. He stumbles on a desperate journey to understand God’s motives for her tragic death. Crossing his perilous path is Allison, a graduate student and new employee in the dean’s office. Even as she deals with financial hardships, she recognizes Drew’s unresolved grief from her own loss. Putting up a roadblock is Chris Whitney, the handsome but egotistical student senate president. He carries the secret burden of a dysfunctional family and a below-the-surface temper. The road Drew must navigate is fraught with career upheaval, a reawakening heart, substance and domestic abuse, a violent assault, and the struggle for forgiveness and restoration. Will Drew finish his journey to embrace the hope God offers, the love Allison shares, and the guidance Chris needs, or will he turn his back on all three with catastrophic consequences?
Inspiration for the book
Janell never set out to write a novel. The idea—and compulsion!—came after watching a BBC version of “Jane Eyre” in 2007. That night she dreamed the beginning, pivotal scene in the middle and the ending of “Embracing Hope”, and began writing it the next day. As the story developed and went through several titles, the hope theme emerged. But what is hope? Is it wishful thinking and sitting around waiting for things to change for the better? Or is hope something more tangible—something you need to take steps to achieve? The hero in “Embracing Hope”, Drew, begins to understand hope, and realizes he needs to step out in faith. Fearful and reluctant at first, Drew takes steps to find hope. Those steps included mentoring, a gritty missions experience, bravery in a crisis, and forgiveness that seemed impossible. He had to look beyond himself. The result was he gave tangible hope to others, he discovered what God wanted him to do with his life, and he found hope through the love of a strong woman.
Drew wrung his hands. Something else was wrong. Mitch had never seen Drew visibly upset. Even during those first days after Kendra’s death and throughout counseling, he had never displayed much emotion beyond sadness, loneliness, and the inevitable questions. But tonight, the young man’s discomfort was painfully evident as his eyes darted about the room and he pulled the coat tighter around him.
Long seconds of silence passed. Then, finally, “I crossed the line,” he mumbled.
Mitch froze. “What line?”
Drew’s hand scraped through his hair again. “With a student. I … I hugged her.”
Mitch barely heard Drew’s whispered words.
“She was upset … and about to cry—” He jumped up and retreated to a dark corner of the room. “I—I could be in trouble with my job. They fire men for this. It’s…it’s sexual harassment! She could press charges!”
Mitch followed Drew, his heart accelerating. “Take it easy. Don’t panic. Explain slowly what happened.”
Drew backed against the wall, his arms stiff at his sides, hands fisted. “I don’t remember most of it…just hugging her. I’m not even sure what we were talking about before.”
“Where did this happen? Who was it?”
Drew stared at the floor. “My office. I didn’t do it on purpose and the door was wide open.” He shook his head. “I can’t tell you who… I don’t want to get her in trouble.”
Mitch released the question, but he already knew the answer. “Was it Allison Bennett?”
Drew’s head snapped up, fear-filled eyes wide.
Mitch placed a firm hand on Drew’s forearm afraid his friend would run out of the house. “Relax. I know you. It wasn’t sexual harassment, and I’m sure Allison realizes that, too.”
He steered Drew back to the couch. “You didn’t cross the line. You aren’t her professor. You aren’t her dean. You aren’t her direct supervisor. You’re both university employees and you’re both responsible and single adults.”
Drew twisted his ring. “I feel like I cheated on Kendra.”
“That’s a natural feeling. But it’s OK to move on, Drew, as hard as it seems right now. The bigger problem is you’ve been holding your emotions in too long and someday they’ll come out.” Mitch chuckled. “Actually, I think they leaked out this afternoon.”
Drew groaned and pinched the bridge of his nose. “This can’t be happening. It’s not right.”
“What do you think of Allison?” Mitch wondered.
His friend opened his mouth then closed it again. Was he even breathing? Finally, “I like her.”
“Obviously,” Mitch snickered. “Why?”
Drew looked up as if searching the sky. The silence stretched on and Mitch gave him a gentle pat on the back. “Be honest.”
He inhaled deeply. “She’s genuine and honest. She doesn’t try to impress you or turn the attention on herself. She’s a bit negative at times, yet she’s also warm and supportive. But this afternoon, she was hurting, and I wanted to stop the hurt.”
“Do you find her attractive?”
Longing replaced the fear in Drew’s eyes. “Most men would.”
“I’m not asking other men. I’m asking you.”
“Yes. She’s pretty.” Drew picked at the top button on his coat. “She’s also confident, intelligent, pretty, and articulate.”
Mitch tucked his laughter away. “You said ‘pretty’ twice.”
Drew catapulted off the couch, brushed past Mitch, and headed for the door.
“Would you like to be in a relationship?” Mitch asked, catching up with him.
“No! It’s too soon.” Drew stared at the floor. “I knew Kendra since we were freshmen in college. That’s a third of my life. How can I toss her aside so quickly?” Drew tugged at his wedding ring, and seeing his distress jerked Mitch’s heart.
“Kendra’s death has affected every area of your life: your job, your health, your faith, your hope for the future. She will always have a special place in your heart, which is where she belongs.”
“I don’t want to forget her.” His hand reached for his head.
Mitch gently grasped Drew’s wrist. “Liking a woman—being attracted to a woman is not going to make you forget Kendra. But that embrace was a decision, Drew. You made a subconscious decision to reach out to someone you care about. You’re moving on so let God do the leading. Don’t freak out when feelings emerge. Don’t run from them. You’re a vital young man with a broken heart that’s finally starting to heal.”
Trisha: Janell, thank you for stoping by to share about your new book. What a great excerpt. I look forward to reading more!
Friends, please share your thoughts and encouraging words with Janell in the comments below.