Wednesday, April 26, 2017

On My Kindle - One Perfect Spring by Irene Hannon


Claire Summers works hard as a teacher, mom to a precocious 11-year-old daughter, and owner of a house that's falling apart. One benefit to living in her neighborhood is her new friend, Dr. Maureen Chandler. Her daughter's good deed for the cancer survivor impacts their lives beyond her wildest imagination.

Keith Watson's life revolves around work, work, and more work. His early years haunt him and keep him trapped in a prison of his own making. A compassionate boss and a thoughtful little girl change everything.

This new-to-me author created a sweet story with adoption and a spiritual theme intertwined. It's a great spring/summer read, filled with hope and transformation. While I prefer something with either historical or suspense elements, it was a satisfying read.

I'll be checking out more of this author's books. Five stars!


Writers and Readers:  Do you like a quick read or a book that requires a more thoughtful approach? Please share.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Know Your Audience


A friend and I were discussing why some of our favorite retailers have lost our business. We came to the conclusion that they didn't pay attention to what their customers wanted. They changed their marketing strategy and antagonized their most important resource: buyers.

How did they do this? Where I live, there's a strong conservative mindset. We also have many people over the age of 50. It's not that we don't want to buy at that store. The store doesn't have what we want. Seeing racks and racks of extremely short dresses does not attract our attention. Both of the stores we discussed also have rewards programs that leave much to be desired.

While we'd all like to think of writing as a purely creative endeavor, we cannot ignore the business side. My books (The Moses Conspiracy, The Scent of Fear, Out of The Mist, and The Christmas Wish) have strong elements of suspense. It's what my audience expects when they pick up one of my books.

In the Christian market, there are certain constraints, ones I welcome and embrace. Christian publishers have strict guidelines. However, with many writers self-publishing, they can do whatever they want. Yet, if a reader expects a clean story from an author they know and they get a nasty surprise, they'll feel betrayed. They might come back a time or two and check out new titles, but they'll eventually walk away if they're continually disappointed.

There's a struggle between writers and publishers on how much to push against Christian guidelines. I believe the decline in the number of Christian fiction titles has a lot to do with what our audience wants and expects when they pick up a book - a clean story, a strong spiritual thread, and quality writing.

Writers and Readers: What are your thoughts on knowing your audience?

Photo Credit:  Kimberlee Kessler

Friday, April 21, 2017

Backstory/Book Covers/George Washington/Devo/Table Decor


1.  Weaving backstory into your novel is critical to the overall story. Lisa Cron posts at Writers in the Storm and debunks the myth that backstory is unimportant.

2.  Whether you're an Indie or Traditional author, book covers are an important component in marketing your story. Zoe M. McCarthy gives some definitions and guidelines.

3.  Many people say George Washington was a Deist. Breaking Christian News ran an article on why this isn't true. He was a committed Christian.

4.  Henry McLaughlin posts at The Write Conversation on Getting Through the Rough Spots.

5.  Spring! I love this season and found some pretty table decor. Enjoy these slides at House Beautiful.

Writers:  How involved do you get in the book cover design process? Indie authors - where do you get your book covers?

Readers:  Which spring decor slide was your favorite? I liked #4 the best. Hmm, could it be the gorgeous purple tulips?

Photo Credit:  Susan Kers

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

On My Kindle - The Still of Night by Kristen Heitzmann


After reading the first book in this series, I couldn't wait to get my hands on the second one. The Still of Night features Morgan Spencer - prodigal, genius, and troubled older brother in the Spencer clan.

I got more than I expected. The story includes a disastrous past relationship and a teenager's fight against cancer. The author did her research, and the emotions and details of the battle were all too accurate. Since my husband fought the same cancer, it brought a flood of memories.

The story highlighted the characters' choices and their far-reaching consequences. By the same token, it was a testament to the grace of God and how He turns what the enemy means for evil in our lives around for good.

It's rare that I get a block of time to read. On the day I finished this book, I was able to read for 2 1/2 hours straight. If you want a story you can't put down, this one was riveting. I'm placing my order for the next book in the series.

5 Stars for The Still of Night by Kristen Heitzmann.

Disclaimer: Neither the author nor the publisher paid me for this review. All opinions are mine and mine alone.

Writers:   Have you used detailed medical situations in any of your writing? Please share. Book 3 of The Moses Trilogy, Out of The Mist, has a character with the same cancer as the one in Kristen's book. I didn't go into the kind of detail she did because it wasn't as critical to the story line.

Readers:  When reading a series, do you read each book as it's released or wait until you can blast through the whole series? Why?



Monday, April 17, 2017

The Art of Reviewing Books


Yes, I said, "art." As a reviewer, I'm painting a picture for a potential reader. Like a canvas or music, the evaluation of writing is subjective. How I communicate my thoughts will affect their perception of an author's work. I try to remember there's a real, live person who wrote those books. They have feelings, dreams, and it's taken everything for them to put their hearts on the line.

Here are some principles I use to review books:

1.  I select books I enjoy reading. If I detest history (which I don't), why choose a novel set during the Civil War? If horror gives me nightmares (it does), I leave it to braver souls.

2.  I read the descriptions on Amazon. It's irritating to see a review based on someone's disappointment that the content didn't match what they thought the book was about. Even more astonishing is when the reviewer says they didn't read the book.

3.  Give a writer some grace. A debut author's book shouldn't be measured with the yardstick of a seasoned professional's bestseller. A child's first efforts at writing are not in competition with a grad student's thesis. Writing is hard, and we're all on a learning curve.

4.  My number one don't: I rarely review a book under 4 stars. If I know the author and they trust my desire to help them, I might share my thoughts in a private message on what I observed.

5.  Are all my reviews sugar and spice and favorable? No, I'll often point out something that I didn't like. However, I'll also lead and balance those comments with what intrigued, interested, or touched my heart.

Social media and review sites are great when used with kindness and sensitivity. An honest review doesn't equate to trashing an author or their work. My relationship with the Lord affects every area of my life, including how I treat others. It takes a lot to get an agent, a book contract, or even to self-publish. Let's encourage each other to bigger and better things.

Writers:  What are your pet peeves about reviews?

Readers:  What are some of your guidelines for book reviews?








Friday, April 14, 2017

They Could Not - Sandy Patty

My all-time favorite Resurrection Sunday song. I did this last Sunday as a Sign Language special.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

On My Kindle - Where The Morning Glory Blooms by Cynthia Ruchti


This story spans several time periods, including the 1890's, 1950's, and the 2000's. Anna Grissom opens a home for unwed mothers during a time when these young women were considered outcasts. Her love and compassion helps many of them to find grace, forgiveness, and the ability to move forward with their lives.

Ivy Carrington, a young woman carrying the child of her soldier boyfriend serving in Korea, meets Anna at the nursing home where she works. They form a friendship as Anna shares her life story and Ivy commits it to paper. Anna's kindness and wise counsel help Ivy navigate the most difficult time of her life.

Becky Trundle's daughter, Lauren, struggles to complete high school after the birth of her son, Jackson. Decisions have consequences and affect the whole family. Their journey highlights the struggles of modern-day families adjusting to new realities.

I'd heard of this author and wanted to read her books for quite some time. I finally purchased this one, and loved the story. The author has a unique way of turning a phrase and a fresh writing voice. This is a beautiful story of God's grace and how He uses others to provide a second chance at a stable, productive life.

5 STARS and off the charts!

Disclaimer:  Neither the author nor the publisher paid me for a review. All opinions are mine and mine alone, as usual.


Writers:  Have you considered writing either books or novels with a strong redemptive thread? Please share.

Monday, April 10, 2017

How Much is Too Much?


Walking through a Farmer's Market or the produce section of a grocery store makes me smile. I love the colors and variety of fruits and veggies. While I like some better than others, I understand that not everyone shares my taste or responds to them in the same way.

There's quite a debate in Christian Fiction about how overt the spiritual content should be in our books. Some think the merest hint is sufficient, while others want it spelled out on a billboard.

Personally, I'm not a fan of watering down the principles and message. My characters pray, quote scripture in a natural way, and live their convictions. While a subtle touch may work for some people, others need something more solid. The apostle, Paul, spoke of using various methods to reach different people.

I believe there's a place for both schools of thought. God has led me to write in this direction. Perhaps others write for a more general audience.

So, my writer and reader friends, what are your thoughts on the subject?

Photo Credit:  Mette Finderup

Friday, April 7, 2017

Stranger Danger/Part-Time/Dead Sea Scrolls/Devo/Recipe


1.  Orly Konig-Lopez posts at Writers in the Storm about Stranger Danger. This refers to your characters' likes and dislikes, experiences, etc. becoming foggy in your mind after finishing the manuscript. She gives tips on how to avoid key pieces of information.

2.  Balancing your writing, holding a full-time job, and family commitments is beyond tough. Jerry B. Jenkins tells how he managed before he quit his day job, as well as guidelines on when to pull the plug.

3.  More Dead Sea Scrolls? Breaking Christian News gives the latest information.

4.  Lynn Simpson invites Joy to her blog, a member of her writers group. She talks about submitting to God's plan for our lives. Yeah, I remember a time when I faced a major decision in this area. It's a lesson that bears repeating.

5.  Recipe Time! These Candied Almonds look delicious. Be warned - they're not a diet food. :)

Okay, I'm feeling a twinge of guilt here. How about a low-carb, ketogenic, diabetic-friendly fudge? Check this out.

Writers:  How do you make time to write?

Readers:  Does archaeology in relation to the Bible interest you? Please share.

Photo Credit:  Saivann

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

On My Kindle - Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden


Lydia Pallas longs for the security of home and family. With a talent for languages, she lands a job with the Navy Yard. Her living situation is threatened by the sale of her building. At the point of losing hope, an opportunity to translate for a mysterious visitor gives her renewed energy.

Alexander "Bane" Banebridge shows up and disappears at the most unexpected moments. His work requires a translator, and Lydia fits the bill. He never expects to care so deeply for a woman, but marriage is out of the question. It would leave them both vulnerable and in danger.

Elizabeth Camden is a new-to-me author. I'm glad I picked up this book and sampled her writing. Her story has the right balance of suspense, history, and romance. It was startling to learn about the opium trade during this time period and how medicines for infants and children contained this addictive substance. There's also a strong spiritual thread skillfully woven into the tale.

I'm giving this book 5 Stars.

Disclaimer:  Neither the author nor the publisher paid me for a review. All opinions are mine and mine alone, as usual.

Writers:  If you plot your stories, how do you balance the different elements?

Readers:  Are you a fan of historical novels that highlight social issues? Please share.


Monday, April 3, 2017

Putting the Brakes on the Worry Train


Back in March, I turned the shower off and the faucet handle came off in my hand. Ugh! What do I do now? I put it aside and in true Scarlett O'Hara fashion decided to think about it tomorrow - at least that was my plan.

Instead, I thought about calling a plumber, but dollar signs flashed before my eyes. With a contractor starting on porch repairs in a couple of weeks, I sure didn't need another bill. The worry train headed for a wreck. My church family and I prayed God would give me wisdom.

My neighbor is handy, so I called and asked if he could take a look at the faucet. What looked like a major problem to me was no biggie for him. Ten minutes later, it was fixed.

After the crisis was over, I thought about the many times I'd worked myself into a frenzy over a troubling obstacle: 

A stalled chapter in my book
A tight deadline
Confusing instructions
A difficult task at work

Thankfully, I'm recognizing the pattern and seeking His wisdom before my imagination takes over.

I'm so grateful my Heavenly Father brings people like my neighbors, my agent, writing friends, co-workers, those in my church family, my mom and stepson and so many others to help when a need arises. May I be His hand extended when He taps me on the shoulder and sends me on an assignment.


Writers and Readers:  How do you put the brakes on the worry train?

Friday, March 31, 2017

Creativity/Conflicting Advice/Prayer/Devo/Chocolate


1.  Grammarly advises us on ways to inspire creativity. I need this.

2.  One of my great frustrations as a writer involves the abundance of conflicting advice. Cathy Yardley posts at Writer Unboxed on this subject. It was well worth the read for me and applies to both fiction and non-fiction writers.

3.  Wow! Breaking Christian News shares the story about how 50 weeks of prayer held the Supreme Court seat open until now. The death of Justice Antonin Scalia was a serious blow to those who advocate an original intent Constitution.

4.  The Write Conversation had a wonderful devotional written by Danetta Kellar called, "The God Who Sees Me."

5.  Here's a recipe the kiddos will enjoy making and eating. Chocolate Dipped Swirl Pops are making me hungry.

Writers:  Have you experienced conflicting advice on your writing? Please share.

Readers:  Do you read any Christian News websites? Recommendations?

Photo Credit:  Cheryl Empey


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

On My Kindle - The Rush of Wings by Kristen Heitzmann


Terror drives Noelle St. Clair as she seeks a safe place, far from a controlling father and fiance. She lands in Juniper Falls, Colorado, and finds a haven at a small ranch. Yet, the panic attacks and frightening dreams follow her.
                   
Rick Spencer, a strong Christian, knows something haunts the lovely woman who stays longer than the average tourist. His brother, Morgan, falls hard for Noelle, but makes little progress in breaking through the shell surrounding her. The other drawback: the woman wants nothing to do with God.

Wow! This is classic Kristen Heitzmann storytelling with a mix of suspense and romance. She gets into each character's head and leads each one through a process of self-discovery, faith, and change. I'm so excited to see this is the first book in a series. I can't wait for the next one.

5 Stars for this all-around winner.

Disclaimer:  Neither the author nor the publisher paid me for this review. All opinions are mine and mine alone.

Writers:  Do you research various character traits or how traumas can affect a person? Please share.

Readers:  Do you like it when an author digs deep into the psychological make-up of a character? Please share.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Waiting Times


In the spring of 2016, a visiting speaker ministered to me. I'd gone up to the altar because I wanted healing for a physical problem I'd had for years. After sharing I'd been losing height steadily, she looked me in the eye and declared, "No more lost inches, in Jesus' name."

As far as I was concerned, the issue was settled. Later, that year a bone density scan showed some improvement. While that might not seem like a big deal, it was to me because it was the first time in 10 years I'd seen any progress.

A couple of months later, a nurse measured my height during a routine doctor visit. She informed me I was 5' 6" tall - a half inch more than my last visit. (Before I started losing height, I was almost 5' 8".) Wow! I'm trusting God for total restoration.

I've been thinking a lot about small successes in my writing. You know, stuff like my first publishing credit (a devotional), my first check, the first 5-Star review on The Moses Conspiracy, which all gave me one of those "made-my-day moments."

Gratitude for each positive step forward keeps me persevering. They're markers on my writing journey, telling me I'm closer to my goal. I'm in another one of those waiting times with my next book. As I look back at what God has done over the past 13 years, my patience is strengthened and rooted in Him.

Writers:  What are some of the things that help you through the waiting times?

Readers:  When it seems like your hopes and dreams are still so far off, how do you stay the course?

Photo Credit:  Jiratchaya Siripoonya

Friday, March 24, 2017

Discouraged?/Journaling/Refugees/Fears/Recipe


1.  I never realized when I began this writing journey how daunting it could be.  If you're feeling discouraged, take heart. Your writing matters. A post at The Write Conversation will give you a lift.

2.  Not everyone who reads Christian Writer/Reader Connection is a writer. Yet, journaling can be a powerful tool toward becoming more positive. Although this article isn't on a Christian site, you can find these principles in scripture. David praised God during his most difficult times. Check out Positive Writer's take on journaling.

3.  WNDhttp://www.wnd.com/2017/01/establishment-in-full-meltdown-over-trump-refugee-orders reports on the many reasons for a hiatus in refugee settlement. Americans have big hearts, but they're also protective of their families. One of the positive aspects of the hold on refugees are the exceptions. Christians and other religious minorities will be allowed to come here. Less than one percent of refugees from these nations were Christians. Yet, they face certain death at the hands of ISIS. Check out this informative article.

4.  Fear can paralyze a person and is a common problem. I found this devotional on Crosswalk.com. Like the author of this piece, I discovered the importance of dealing with my thoughts and facing my fears.

5.  Spring is around the corner, and my thoughts are gravitating to flowers, bright skies, and shedding the heavy clothing of winter. I looked up Spring recipes and found this basil, chicken and tomatoes dish.

Writers:  What kind of expectations did you have when you started writing? Has reality measured up to your expectations? Please share.

Readers:  Doesn't that recipe sound yummy? Do you have a favorite Spring/Summer recipe link to share with us?

Photo Credit:  Crystal Leigh Shearin