Wednesday, October 26, 2016

On My Nightstand - Who Do I Lean On? by Neta Jackson

If you enjoy series books, I highly recommend Neta Jackson's Yada Yada series and House of Hope series. I completed Who Do I Lean On? about a week ago. It's Book 3 in the House of Hope volumes. I'm now reading Book 4, Who Is My Shelter?

Yada Yada novels center around a group of women who start praying together on a regular basis. The characters cover a broad range of ethnicities and the Chicago setting goes from a penthouse apartment to a homeless shelter. The books were so popular that they spawned Yada Yada Prayer Groups throughout the country.

The House of Hope series has many of the same characters and adds some new ones. The main character, Gabby Fairbanks, lives in luxury but her marriage is strained at best. An encounter with Lucy, a homeless woman, impacts her in ways she couldn't imagine. I'm enjoying her story.

One thing I loved about both these series was the authenticity of the characters. It wouldn't surprise me if I met one of them in person. Gabby with her corkscrew, redheaded curls, Lucy with her shopping cart and knit hat, Jody teaching elementary school by day and a typing class on Saturdays at Manna House, and the rest of the gang all became friends I looked forwarding to catch up with in each book.

I don't want to give away any spoilers, but I think you'll enjoy following the lives of these folks and watching how God works in their lives.

Disclaimer:  Neither the author nor the publisher requested a favorable review or paid me. All opinions are mine as always.

Writers and Readers:  What makes a series special for you? Characters? Setting? Plot? Please share.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Nostalgia - The Older Generations

After writing last week's Monday post, I kept thinking not only about my past, but also about the lives of my older relatives. My mother is in her nineties, and she talks about her childhood on a daily basis.

When my grandfather was alive, I tried to interview him. The whole idea didn't sit well, so I tried to listen for those important references. Another way to handle this curiosity is to view old pictures or ask what it was like in the old days.

First-hand accounts have an advantage over reading. There are opportunities to comment, ask questions, and empathize with your older relative. For me, an added benefit was the connection to my roots.

The stories we grew up with spurred several cousins to research the family tree. One found detailed information on the ship my grandfather arrived on from Europe. The pictures and text made Grandpa's stories come alive.

As a writer, I'm thrilled to have expert witnesses of another time in history. Those who lived through the early twentieth century, the Great Depression, and World War II can offer insights in a unique and personal way.

All of these tales fill me with gratitude for God's hand on my family. To see how my ancestors arrived in this country, met their spouses, had children, met the Lord as their Savior, and how it eventually produced yours truly fascinates me.

Writers:  Have you thought of your older relatives as experts on a particular time in history? Please share how their stories affect your writing.

Readers:  How does reading about the past combined with the experiences of family members connect the dots for you? Does reading a World War II fiction or non-fiction book help you understand what they went through during that time?

Photo Credit:  John Evans

Friday, October 21, 2016

Opening Lines/Marketing Secrets/Movies/Celebration/Thrifting

1.  Do you want to hook your reader? Zoe M. McCarthy instructs us to look for the mystery in the opening line of our books.

2.  Wow! Edie Melson delivers some great book marketing secrets. Check them out here.

3.  Did you see The Passion of the Christ? Christian Headlines reports Mel Gibson's next project may be a sequel, covering the resurrection.

4.  Dena Netherton celebrates an answer to a 40-year prayer.
5.  For all the collectors out there, A La Carte shares her Friday Finds. So much fun to see what she found thrifting!

Writers:  What was your favorite book marketing secret?

Readers:  Are you a movie buff? What did you think of Mel Gibson's plan to do a movie on the resurrection?

Photo Credit:  Debbie Schiel

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

On My Nightstand - The Cat Lady's Secret by Linda W. Yezak

Emily Taylor returns to her hometown, but does her best to avoid old friends. She has a soft spot in her heart for those who face dire situations. Her friend, Millie, captures feral cats, and people pour out their hearts to her. Emily then helps them anonymously through her lawyer friend.

The handsome veterinarian, Scott, takes care of the kitties Millie finds. Scott keeps asking Emily for a date, but she refuses. He's frustrated at her rejections, but perseveres. Will he still pursue her when her secrets are exposed?

It took me a little while to get into this book, but I'm glad I stuck with it. When the author threw in suspense, it made me perk up. All in all it was a fun read and touched on some important spiritual truths.

I'm giving this story four stars.

Disclaimer: I received this book in a blog giveaway. Neither the author nor the publisher paid me for or requested a favorable review. All opinions, as always, are mine and mine alone.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Nostalgia - The Newbie Corner

Facebook jogs my memory about products, foods, entertainment, and practices common when I was growing up. The emotions these things evoke startle me when I consider people born two or three decades after me have little or no idea what it was like during that time.

As a writer, I can use these experiences to enhance my stories. When something traumatic occurs in the present - a new event for younger individuals - I can reach down and recall the first time life tried to throw a knock-out punch at me.

Another interesting use of nostalgia or bad situations is to write about that time period. Somehow, it's daunting to think of yourself as living during a historical period. While I'm not prepared to do this now, I've begun gathering material:

1.  Pinning fashions from the 1950's and 1960's.
2.  Decor from that period.
3.  Jotting down bits and pieces from my own life.
4.  Remembering historical events from the era.
5.  Thinking about society during those times and the turbulent era of the 1960's.

Even if you don't write a full-scale novel or non-fiction article about your life and times, this information could come in handy when referencing older characters or for comparison purposes.

Just think, the first smartphone will one day be remembered the way we recall party lines and telephone booths now.

Writers:  Do you keep a file with historical references or life happenings? Please share.

Readers:  Would you enjoy novels/articles with events or products that create nostalgia about your past? Please share.

Photo Credit:  W. Szabo Peter

Friday, October 14, 2016

Quick Lesson/Platform/Christian Athletes/Fun Story/Tackling Tasks

1.         Jerry B. Jenkins gives a quick lesson on the writing process. He goes through a series of questions to help sharpen his prose. Good stuff.

2.         Chad R. Allen shares strategies on how to build your platform and write your book.

3.         Christian Headlines reports on World Series veteran giving his testimony to fans after a game. Years ago, I remember being impressed with Christian baseball players. It's good for people of all ages to have role models.

4.         Lynn Simpson tells about an adventure that occurred while she was on her blog break. Hilarious!

5.         We all have days when the workload makes us want to hide under the covers. Carol, At Everything Home With Carol, shares her secret of tackling all those tasks.

Writers and Readers:  What link was your favorite this week?

Photo Credit:  mooncross

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

On My Nightstand - Murder Comes by Mail by A. H. Gabhart

This is the second book in the Hidden Springs Mystery series. I didn't read the first one, but it didn't detract from the story.

Michael Keane saves the life of a would-be jumper and becomes an instant hero. Yet, the man's words haunt him. When pictures of dead women start arriving, he's convinced he saved the life of a serial killer. He's obsessed with trying to protect the women he knows from becoming the next victim.

Ann Gabhart does a great job with this cozy mystery. For those of you unfamiliar with the genre, the murders occur offstage and the focus is on the whodunit part. I liked the way she got into the minds and hearts of the characters. I did figure out the solution. If you're a mystery buff, I'd be surprised if you failed to pick up on the clues.

The setting is reminiscent of Mayberry and Andy Griffith which I loved. Maybe that's one of the reasons this book drew me in and kept me involved. Some of the characters' quirks and the easy interaction between them and Michael reminded me of Andy and the gang. Yet, Hidden Springs has its distinct brand that sets it apart from the long history to its modern-day problems.

I'm giving this book Five Stars. I'll be looking for the first book, as well as the next one in the series.

Disclaimer: I won this book in a blog giveaway. Neither the author nor the publisher requested or paid me for a favorable review. All opinions are mine.

Writers:  Have you thought about writing a cozy mystery? Please share.

Readers:  Are you a fan of the cozy mystery genre? Please share.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Learning Styles

When I started Occupational Therapy for my hand/wrist several months ago, one of the questions asked during the intake session was, "What is your learning style?" Several examples were given and I chose, "demonstration."

My therapist showed me pictures of the exercises needed to restore my function and demonstrated them. She used terms like, "Bend your fingers at the second knuckle, not the first one."  "How do you hold a key? Now, press your thumb into the therapy clay to simulate that movement." Her instructions, descriptions, and demonstrations helped me understand and perform the exercises.

I thought about my learning style for writing. Cramming long blocks of text into my head didn't cut it for me. A lot of words confuse me. Visuals help, but are not sufficient for me to "get it." Examples and descriptions put pictures to the words.

So, what works? My editor, Deirdre Lockhart, of Brilliant Cut Editing, figured it out. Here are a few examples of her instructions:

1. Excerpt: He doubted either of these women ever heard of disco music or bell-bottom pants. Editor's comment: " Adorable line, but...if he is 46, in 2016, then he was born in 1970. His prime "dating" years would have been late 80s-90s. Definitely no bell-bottoms, scarcely any disco. He only remembers those as something snickered at in old shows - unless you are referring to the 70s resurgence of the early 2000s."

Revision: "He doubted either of these women ever heard of "Walk Like an Egyptian" or velour shirts." Editor's comment in next edit: "Great and perfectly timed revision, Susan."

2.  Excerpt:  "They rode in silence, but the tension remained." Editor's comment: "How does he feel this? What does he see to show him Dan feels it too? Show."

Revision:  "They rode in silence, but Dan's mouth slashed across his face in a straight line. Maybe he could give it one more shot."

3.  Excerpt: "Lindsey seemed to relax." Editor's comment: "How can he tell? A soft smile? Little color returning to her pallid checks? What? Show. Share!"

Revision:  "Lindsey shrugged, and she resumed jogging."

My editor used examples and descriptive language to communicate the changes she wanted. This worked well for me.

Disclaimer:  I did not receive any payment for this endorsement. I've used this service and highly recommend it.

Writers and Readers: What's your learning style? Written instructions? Demonstration? Pictures? Other? Please share.

Photo Credit:  Holger Selover-Stephan

Friday, October 7, 2016

Treading Water/Time Management/Revival/Recipe/Shopping


1.         Heather Webb's article, at Writer Unboxed, spoke to my current situation. I'm between publishing contracts, spent the summer nursing a broken wrist, and editing my latest novel. Are you in a season where you feel like you're treading water? Check out this post.


2.         Writing, holding a full-time job, caregiving, and ministry responsibilities are my life. When I saw Sandra Ardoin interviewed author Amy Clipston on the subject, I jumped over there to see if I could get some tips.


3.         There's revival in Iran despite persecution. While believers cannot meet together, the internet has provided a way for them to connect. Check out the story here.


4.         There's a chill in the air, and our thoughts turn to pumpkin recipes. I found these low-fat pumpkin/cranberry muffins that take only 35 minutes to make.


5.         When the seasons change, the need to pick up some new clothes can  be tough on the budget. Check out these tips on shopping clearance sales from Money Crashers.


Writers:  Are you making progress in your writing or do you feel like you're treading water? Please share.


Readers:  Do you shop clearance sales? If you have any tips, please share.

Photo Credit:  Micah Burke

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

On My Nightstand - Anchor In The Storm by Sarah Sundin

Lillian Avery keeps everyone at arm's length. Whenever people saw she was crippled, they rejected her, so she's learned to protect her heart. She's determined to reach her career goals and manages to land a job as a pharmacist with Dixon's drugstore. When Arch stars flirting, she brushes away his attention like an annoying mosquito.

Arch Vandenburg, a Naval Officer and her brother's best friend, visits the Avery family while on leave. He desperately wants someone to love him for who he is and not his money.

If there were Olympic medals for writers, Sarah Sundin would snag a gold for this book. I loved the addition of mystery and suspense to the romance. The characters grabbed my heart from the first page, and I read the book in record time. There was a strong spiritual thread, and the book was a clean read.

I can't wait for the next one in the series. 5 Stars!

Disclaimer: I did not get paid for this review, and all opinions are mine alone.

Writers: There are a gazillion romances out there. If you write this genre, how do you give your stories that added zip?

Readers: What type of romances do you enjoy? Historical? Contemporary? Romantic Suspense? Other? Please share.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Guest Post - A New Take on "Write What you Know" - Jennifer Brown Banks

Let's give a big welcome to Jennifer Brown Banks, of Pen and Prosper. I hope you enjoy her informative guest post. 

“Write what you know” is one of the cardinal rules of writing.
In fact, it’s been passed down for generations; much like family heirlooms.
This school of thought contends that writing what we know increases our efficiency, our acceptance rate, and ultimately our bottom line as writers.

But, for greater success, I encourage you to put a new spin on this old advice.
In addition to penning pieces based upon your areas of expertise, examine these other applications.

You should be able to demonstrate that you are “in the know” in the following categories for optimal results and greater longevity as a blogger or author.

Many times it’s quite evident to me as an avid blog reader, that not all bloggers have a real awareness of who comprises their audience. How is this able to be detected?  A lack of focus; inconsistent themes; no real solutions to the creative problems for which I visit their sites; and rants that I can’t relate to.  Don’t let this be you. In order to offer readers value for their time, you need to be clear about who they are, their pain points, their interests and how you can best serve them. “Knowledge is power.”


Don’t be fooled. Just because folks are friendly in the blogging community, does not mean they should not be viewed as your “competition” as well. Honestly speaking, we’re all “competing” for the limited amount of time and attention that busy readers have today. Which doesn’t mean we can’t be supportive of one another, or build important bonds. Perish the thought. We can and we should. Still, you need to know what the other bloggers in your niche area have to offer, what their “draw” is, and how you can use that information to level the playing field and increase your odds of staying in the game.


What are you good at? Do you know? Can you deliver on it? Self-awareness is crucial to your success as a blogger and writer. Want to know why?  It helps you to be more strategic, focused, and properly positioned. For instance, my strengths as a blogger are my passion for writing, my diverse background, my authenticity, and my desire to help others to “know more and grow more.”
Everybody is different. To identify your strengths, take personal inventory. Look at the things you enjoy; the things that come easily to you; or perhaps positions you’ve held in your professional career.


Why do you blog? What’s your end game? Are you seeking to raise awareness of an important cause?  Showcase your stories?  Beat boredom? Entertain? Educate? Find an agent? Build a customer base to sell products? 

As you can see, the possibilities are endless. Your goals, however, serve like a G.P.S. system to help navigate your direction, cause fewer detours, and save wasted time for you and your readers.

In conclusion…
If you want to appear wise in your readers’ eyes, don’t just “write what you know;” follow these tips and write from a more informed perspective that indicates you know who they are and care about what they seek.
JENNIFER BROWN BANKS is a veteran freelance writer, award-winning blogger and instructor at
Her Blog was selected a “Top 100 Writing Blog” in 2016.

Thanks for sharing with us, Jennifer!

Writers and Readers:  What are your writing goals?

Friday, September 30, 2016

Platform Killing/Better Goal/Homeschool/Devo/Thrifting

1.         Are you killing your social media presence? Check out this article by Karen Ball, at Literary Agent Steve Laube's website.

2.         A lot of writers have a goal: Get a publishing contract. Chad Allen gives us a better goal in his recent blog post.

3.         Homeschool parents have long faced opposition. Some in California recently received a letter, saying homeschool was not a legal alternative to public education. Read the story here.

4.         I read a devotional at on What The Power of Praise Can Do. I thought you might enjoy it as well. We're faced with so many difficulties in our personal lives and in the world. It's good to re-focus on God.

5.         Some of my readers love going to thrift stores and yard sales. Like you, I share the passion of the hunt and the unexpected bargains. Check out this blog post by One Little Momma, who gives tips on finding great deals.

Writers:  How do you handle promotion on social media?

Readers:  What was your favorite link today?

Photo Credit:  Trevor Kirpaul

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

On My Nightstand - The Courier of Caswell Hall by Melanie Dobson

This book attracted me because it takes place during the Revolutionary War in Williamsburg, Virginia. In addition to a sometimes heart-breaking romance, I enjoyed history coming alive through the characters' eyes. Other than Betsey Ross sewing our first flag, I never gave much thought to the role of women in the war effort.

Like the Civil War, families, neighbors and friends were divided between the Patriots and the Loyalists. Each feared reprisals from the other side.

The one thing I'd suggest to readers is skip the prologue until after you've finished the story. I felt it gave away too much and diluted the tension. It nearly ruined the book for me. I'm glad I stuck with it though as the second half of the story picked up the pace.

Well written, great characters, awesome historical details, and a great plot make this a satisfying story. If not for the prologue, I'd give it five stars. As it stands, I'm giving it four stars.

Disclaimer: Neither the author nor the publisher requested a favorable review. I didn't receive any payment, and all opinions are mine and mine alone.

Writers:  While I've used a prologue in one of my books (The Moses Conspiracy), I avoided getting too specific. Do you use prologues/epilogues? Please share.

 Readers: What is your opinion of prologues/epilogues? Yay or nay?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Guest Blog - When You Are Worried by Jeanette Levellie

Worry dogs us all. The famous and obscure; the wealthy and the indigent; youth and the elderly—few have mastered the secret of casting all their cares on the Lord and leaving them in his hands. Yet it can be done.
            With the Holy Spirit’s help and the prayers of a good friend, we can learn to rest in the Lord during fearful times. I hope you’ll consider me that friend today as you read the words of this prayer. I hope it will encourage you on your journey to touch God.

When You Are Worried
Lord, my friend is not only worried; she’s also mad at herself for worrying. She knows You’ve promised never to leave her or forsake her. Yet she frets and agonizes over everything, from what she imagines people think of her to the threat of cancer.
Her worries torment her, slithering at her feet and perching on her shoulders, hissing dark thoughts and cackling what-ifs. Very real what-ifs, Lord, or she would dismiss them as foolish.
Yet they are not more real than Your love for her, Your care for her. For You are her Good Shepherd.
Please reassure her that, should she entangle herself in the thorn bush of troubles or sickness, You will remove every thorn, pull her free, and carry her on Your shoulders to safety.
Convince her that if someone else should trick her into wandering from the path You’ve planned for her, if she should get lost and be unable to hear You call, You would search for her until You found her and brought her home.
Should a star fall from the sky and burn her, You would heal her. Should she jump to catch a star and fall down, You would bandage her bruises, pick her up, and help her stand.
Let her know that she is never far from Your help. Every beat of Your heart is for her; Your every breath is to see her prosper and be protected. You never abandon Your sheep. Never. Even when it seems You have walked away, You are still right there beside her, cherishing her, holding her close to Your heart.
Encourage my friend to doubt her worries and to believe Your love instead. Let her hear Your sweetest song that sings to her troubled soul, “I love you always, even to the end. I will never stop loving you. You are Mine, and I am yours. All will be well.”
In Jesus’ name, so be it.
References to Scripture: Hebrews 13:5; 1 Peter 5:7, John 10; Luke 15:3–7;
1 John 4:18
The above prayer is an excerpt from Jeanette Levellie’s newest book Touchable God: Finding the Lord’s Friendship Through Prayer.
“Every Christian longs for an intimate walk with the Lord, talking openly with their Heavenly Father and hearing from Him. Touchable God addresses this longing, helping you find a joy-filled relationship with the Lord instead of a joyless religion. In Section I Jeanette shares stories from her own journey in prayer. Written in her warm and casual style, these candid glimpses into Jeanette's tests and trials will help you believe the Lord's willingness to be involved in every area of your life. Section II consists of Jeanette's bold, often poetic prayers for friends in crisis. You need answers, and the Scripturally-based prayers will help you approach God's throne to find them. Touchable God gives caring friends, family members, and ministry leaders specific prayers for others' needs and guides you in praying for yourself during crises.”

A spunky pastor’s wife of forty plus years, Jeanette Levellie has published four books and hundreds of articles, greeting card verses, stories and calendar poems. She authors a weekly humor/inspirational column in her local newspaper, and enjoys speaking to church and civic groups, offering hope and humor in every message. She is the mother of two, grandmother of three, and waitress to several cats. Find her blog, Hope Splashes, at

Disclaimer:  I endorsed this book but didn't receive any payment for the recommendation or this post. 

Writers and Readers: How do you deal with worry?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Freelance/Writing Opportunities/Global Police/Devo/Purple!

1.         Are you a freelance writer or want to earn a living as a freelancer? Jennifer Brown Banks guest posts at Beyond Your Blog about how to break the Freelance Feast or Famine Cycle.

2.         Beyond Your Blog as a list of 20 Christian websites accepting writing from women.

3.         The Daily Coin reported that Obama and the U.N. announced a global police force to fight extremism in America. This also appeared in The Drudge Report. I remember how an acquaintance scoffed at the idea of U.N. forces in America when he read The Moses Conspiracy. It's not as farfetched as he thought.

4.         Alisa Hope Wagner, at Faith Imagined, gives a verse meditation on Ephesians 5:8.

5.  Susan, at Writing Straight From The Heart, caught my eye with her photos of Breckenridge, Colorado. As a lover of all things purple (well, maybe not black and blues), these gorgeous hanging baskets made me want to run out and buy one.

Writers:  Have you thought about becoming a freelancer? Please share.

Readers:  Which link was your favorite this week? Why?

Photo Credit:  Simon S.