Wednesday, July 19, 2017

On My Nightstand - The Shadow of Your Smile by Susan May Warren

Noelle and Eli Hueston deal with their grief and lose their relationship in the process. An accident causes her to lose all memories of the last 25 years. She struggles to relate to the man and the children that say she's their wife and mother.

Eli sees this as an opportunity to repair their marriage and be the kind of husband Noelle needs. As she discovers pieces of the past, will it destroy their new beginning or will they deal with the problems the right way - together?

Susan May Warren once again nails the story. She's not one to offer platitudes or gloss over problems. The situations are real-life, and I could relate to the characters' struggles.

This is a Deep Haven novel and well worth your time and money. 5 Stars!

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

Writers:  Do you tackle difficult relationship issues in your writing? Please share.

Readers:  What is your opinion of Christian Fiction? Do you relate to the various themes? Please share.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Ebooks vs. Print - Fast Food or Fine Dining?

Sweetie Mom and I grab our purses and fly out the door when an opportunity to eat out comes along. To a great extent, our level of enthusiasm depends on where we're going. Friday night means Wendy's. We've become regulars, and the staff knows us. It's fun when they plug in my name for the order without asking who I am.

A special dining experience for a birthday, Mother's Day, or to use a gift card (love gift cards!) results in discussions on what to wear, as well as what to eat. Certain restaurants have menu items that make us salivate thinking about them. I'm not a fan of sweet potatoes, but drowning a baked one in honey butter and maple syrup makes me swoon.

Reading an ebook or a print book are like selecting between fast food or casual/fine dining. Lately, I've been reading a lot of books on my Kindle Paperwhite. The last two books I've read, however, are print versions. Here are some of the pros and cons of each:

1.  Fast food places don't require a lot of thought, while other restaurants take more planning. A print book takes up a lot of space, while you can carry around hundreds of books in a Kindle or other e-reader.

2.  Seeing the percentage finished in an ebook doesn't give the same perception as looking where your bookmark sits in a print version. Like fast food, there isn't the savoring of the overall experience.

3.  With an ebook, I sometimes forget the title and/or author of the book I'm reading because it's not on every page. With a print book, I see the title and author. They become linked with the story in my brain because of the repetition. The ambiance of a more formal restaurant creates a memory not easily forgotten.

4.  When I order an ebook, there's no waiting. Zap! It's in my Kindle in a flash. By the time my print books arrive, I've sometimes forgotten what I ordered. The positive side is the excitement of opening a box of books. Fast food is - fast. When you're hungry and you've got a ton or errands, it's the way to go. Casual/fine dining takes planning and more time.

5.  The cost factor plays a big part in this equation. I can afford a lot more ebooks than print books, and the way I blast through them that's a big deal. Library, you say? Our local library doesn't have the kind of selection I can find online. Fast food restaurants don't cost as much as casual/fine dining. I can go there once a week, but my purse can't handle higher-end eateries that often.

So what do I prefer? I love the whole print book experience. The ebook is an economical and convenient choice. It depends on what I need at any given time.

Writers and Readers:  What are your preferences and why?

Photo Credit:  Susan J. Reinhardt

Friday, July 14, 2017


1. Les Edgerton posts at Writers in the Storm about character descriptions and the lack thereof. I'll have to pay closer attention to this when I'm reading a book.

2. Wow! The Write Conversation has a super post on 7 Things to Remember When You Host a Guest on Your Blog. For anyone who blogs, this is a keeper.

3.  Christian Headlines brings us an interesting article on the state of religion in China.

4.  How do you handle disappointment? Andy Lee shares her mother's wisdom on the subject.

5.  Do you want to get rid of some stuff, but don't know how to dispose of it? I discovered this post that will tell you.

Writers:  How do you handle character descriptions in your writing?

Readers:  Do you like detailed character descriptions? Why? Why not?

Photo Credit:  Ned Horton

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

On My Nightstand - The Air We Breathe by Christa Parrish

Molly Fisk cannot bear to go outside. She views the world from the windows of the wax museum she  and her mother run for a local businessman.

Although she longs to be free from the fears that hold her prisoner, it seems impossible. Even the handsome young man, Tobias, can't break through her fears and coax her outside. One day, a woman arrives at the museum with her family. It's the beginning of a new life for Molly.

Christa's books have a depth that's rare in most fiction. She digs deep into her characters' innermost thoughts and motivations. I ached for the terrified little girl, closed off from the world around her. I grieved with the woman, who filled her life with crossword puzzles and avoided love. This story got inside of me.

5 Stars all the way. This book and any of Christa Parrish's books are highly recommended.

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

Writers:  How do you get inside your characters' hearts and heads?

Readers:  What's more important to you: characters or story? Or both? Please share.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Built-In or Add-Ons?

Houses that have built-in bookcases or cabinets attract me. They're a permanent part of the architecture. Sure you can add on these things with free-standing items, but there's something special about the seamless construction of built-in units.

We're a lot like houses. God builds into each person certain gifts, so they can fulfill their purpose in life. They're not add-ons or after thoughts. No, they are original construction and essential to the structure. Whether or not we discover our purpose or use those gifts properly, they are part of us.

We recently had a special speaker at church. He'd done numerous things in life, but he always ended up teaching others. He pointed out God put leadership within Joseph. He had charge of Potipher's household, then the prison, and finally the entire nation of Egypt. No matter what you do or where you go, your gifts will help point you to your purpose.

Gifts are not your purpose but rather the equipment to fulfill your destiny. Joseph didn't learn how to lead, it was part of him. Yes, he still had to do the work, but it brought satisfaction and joy.

Throughout my life, writing and teaching have popped up wherever I go. Operating in God's purpose has never been easy. The enemy of our souls will do everything to stop us from succeeding. Paul often became discouraged, but he was following God's plan for his life.

Whether you're a writer or a reader, ask God to show you His plans and purpose. Are you a whiz at organization? Are you an encourager? Does writing seem as important as breathing? He wants you to know why He gave you these gifts.

Writers and Readers:  What are some of the gifts God has built into you?

Photo Credit:  Iraine

Special thanks to Pastor Noel Willis for inspiring this post.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Writing a Book/Excuses/Abortion Ban Upheld/Fear/Summer Decor

1.  I hear so many people say they want to write a book someday. Jerry Jenkins (of the Left Behind Series fame) tells us how to write a book in 20 steps. So, what are you waiting for?

2.  While looking at the previous article, I spotted this one: 7 Really Bad Excuses for Putting Off Writing Your Book. I think there's a theme in this week's links. Perhaps someone out there is struggling.

3.  Breaking Christian News reports on Iowa's 20-week abortion ban being upheld by the court.

4.  Beth K. Vogt posts at The Write Conversation on "Lose the Fear." For anyone with a creative bent, whether writing or some other area, fear can kill our dreams.

5.  Better Homes and Gardens has a slide show with tips on how to brighten your house for summer. Even if you don't use their exact ideas, it might jumpstart your own creative juices.

Writers:  If I had a dollar for everyone who told me they wanted to write a book someday, I might not be a millionaire but I'd sure have plenty in my piggy bank. Are you a "someday" person or have people said this to you?

Readers:  Do you love writing, photography, painting, or some other creative activity? Are you pursuing it or putting it off into the future? Please share.

Photo Credit:  Kia Abell

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

On My Kindle - Swept Into Destiny by Catherine Ulrich Brakefield

Maggie Gatlan, the quintessential southern belle, meets Ben McConnell, an Irish immigrant. She's fascinated by his view of life and loyalty.

When the Civil War breaks out, Ben fights for the Union. Maggie's people hold fast to the standard of the Confederacy. After the war, will they be able to find common ground?

This intricate story had a strong spiritual theme running throughout, as well as some thoughtful ideas regarding unity versus division. The parallel to what's going on today in the U.S. is worth noting.

I would have liked the villain to have even one redeeming quality, maybe even a change of heart toward the end. He seemed devoid of any humanity or caring.

I'm giving this book 5 Stars for story content.

Disclaimer:  The author provided an ARC for my unbiased review. All opinions, as always, are mine and mine alone.

Writers:  How do you keep your characters from being totally good or totally evil?

Readers:  Do you enjoy stories set in the Civil War era? What's one of your favorites?

Monday, July 3, 2017

Newbie Corner - The Writing Pool

When most people begin writing, they have an idea they want to get on paper. Funny stories about their kids, devotionals, stories, news items, promoting others, technical knowledge all serve to set off the writing itch.

Here are some categories of writers:

1. Non-fiction - Whether you write articles, books, or blog, this can relate to ministry subjects, how to do something, biographies, memoir or various other topics pertinent to life.

2. Fiction - Storytellers spin their yarns in various genres. Romance is by far the most popular. Other areas include Amish, Science Fiction, Suspense/Thriller, Mystery, Fantasy, etc. There are many sub-genres as well such as Historical Romance and Romantic Suspense.

3.  Journalism - Newspapers, TV, radio, the Internet can all be outlets for this type of writing. This type of writing generally focuses on current events.

4.  Freelance - The Freelance Writer can encompass all these categories. I know people who will be working on a devotional one month and a novel the next.

5.  Ghost Writers - These folks write books for other people, many times celebrities or ministry leaders, who lack the time and/or ability to write their own. Depending on their contract, their names may or may not be on the book.

6.  Technical Writers - These folks write textbooks, tests, technical manuals, etc. They usually have expertise in a specific field.

7.  Bloggers - Yes, bloggers are writers. :) They usually write about topics of interest to them. This blog is called, Christian Writer/Reader Connection. I enjoy encouraging writers, reviewing books, and pointing out blog posts that might appeal to both writers and readers. I connect the dots between the writer and the reader. Since I write Christian Fiction, this is the audience I serve.

8.  Advertising Copy - With the demands of running a business, many people turn to writers who specialize in this area. A friend writes blog posts and handles social media interaction for a neighborhood store. There are also writers who work for big ad agencies and write commercials/advertising copy for TV, magazines, and radio.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but will give you a skeleton to identify your interests. I recommend searching these categories on the Internet.

Writers:  What is your writing specialty?

Readers:  Have you considered dipping your toe into the writing pool?

Photo Credit:  Joanie Cahill

Friday, June 30, 2017

Wordiness/Workout Writer/Adoption/Motivation/Summer Fun

1.  Is your writing plagued by wordiness? Zoe M. McCarthy gives concrete examples of how to correct this, but also shows times when it's appropriate.

2.  Katherine Magendie guest posts at Writer Unboxed about the Workout Writer:  Perceived Weakness. Warning: This is not a Christian site, and there is some mild language. However, the advice was so good that I decided to include the link here.

3.  I'm a big supporter of adoption. When I was younger, I considered single-parent adoption, but it wasn't as common or easy as it is today. When my husband and I married, we looked into adoption, but our combined ages ended our hopes.

Breaking Christian News shares the heartwarming story of seven siblings adopted from foster care by a Georgia couple. It brought a smile to my face, and I hope it blesses you as well.

4. Fellow-blogger, Dena Netherton, wrote a post on Slugs and Motivation. I'm pressing on. How about you?

5.  I came across this list of 50 Fun Summer Activities on Real Simple. Picking berries attracted me right away. I'll have to see if there are any berry farms in my neck of the woods.

Writers:  Do you allow your perceived writing weaknesses to stifle the creative flow? How do you overcome negative self-talk?

Readers:  What fun activities are you planning for the summer besides reading?  :)

Photo Credit:  William Stadler

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

On My Kindle - Shades of Morning by Marlo Schalesky

Marnie Wittier's tough exterior hides a broken heart and a belief that she's unworthy of love. When she meets Taylor Cole, she's wary of his kindness. He ignites a glimmer of hope in her, but everything comes to a halt when she makes a mistake that will cause even Taylor to reject her. Her solution: run.

Marlo Schalesky is a new-to-me author. This book grabbed my attention and never let go. Normally, flashbacks irritate me, but the ones in this story worked well. I thought I'd figured out the mystery, but she threw in a curve at the end which caught me off guard.

Five stars for this heartwarming story of redemption.

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

Writers:  Do you use flashbacks in your writing? Why or why not?

Readers:  How do you feel about flashbacks? 

Monday, June 26, 2017

To Write or Not to Write - That's the Question

Need doesn't equal assignment.

It's something I'm learning daily as opportunities present themselves. If I'm to accomplish what God called me to do, what I take on must fit into the time available and have the green light from Him.

When people learn I'm an author, they'll sometimes ask me to write their stories or articles. Of course, they want this done free of charge. I'll either encourage them to write it themselves or steer them to people who freelance.

Writing a book requires an enormous effort:

1.  Research
2.  Meetings with the individual.
3.  Time
4.  Getting the person's voice on paper.
5.  Editing

While I may empathize with a person or situation or passionately believe in a cause, I rarely take on anything extra. Here are some considerations:

1.  I hold down a demanding, full-time position.
2.  My Mom needs more help as she gets older.
3.  I'm writing, promoting, and seeking publication of my latest book.
4.  Church involvement, including administration of their blog, takes a chunk of time.
5.  The daily chores of life must get done, i.e., laundry, shopping, cleaning. Somewhere in there, it's nice to get some sleep and leisure time.

Perhaps God wants you to take on an assignment. The peace of God will be in your heart, and you'll have the grace to see it through to completion. Otherwise, be honest and tell people you're not the right person for the job.

Writers:  How do you determine what projects to accept or reject?

Readers:  Have you given thought to the work that goes into that 350-page novel or non-fiction book? Please share your thoughts.

Photo Credit:  Channah

Friday, June 23, 2017

Short Story/Compelling Stories/Down Syndrome/In God's Way/Decorating Styles

1. Crafting a short story can be more challenging than writing a full-length novel. Zoe M. McCarthy gives writers tips on how to write a great one.

2. Chad Allen gives three tips for writing compelling stories. Are your stories "filmable?" This is an excellent article.

3. Breaking Christian News gives shocking statistics on babies with Down Syndrome being aborted.

4.  Edie Melson, at The Write Conversation, shares how she learned how saying, "Yes," can stand in the way of God.

5.  The gal at Desert Cottage loves vintage decor. Others like shabby chic, contemporary with clean lines, traditional, and too many to name. While I can appreciate many styles, I love traditional with a dash of country. What's your favorite decorating style?

Writers: Which one of Chad Allen's tips helped you the most?

Readers:  How do you decide when to say, "Yes," and when to say, "No?"

Photo Credit:  Gurkan Kurt

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

On My Kindle - A Noble Masquerade by Kristi Ann Hunter

Lady Miranda Hawthorne chafes under society's rules for a lady but tries to follow them. She vents her frustrations by writing letters she'll never send to her brother's friend, the Duke of Marshington.

Ryland Montgomery, a spy for the British Crown, takes the position of valet for Griffith Hawthorne, the Duke of Riverton, a.k.a., Lady Miranda's brother. When he comes across one of her letters and posts it, Lady Miranda is sure her chances of making a suitable match are over.

Loved, loved, loved this book. If you're a fan of Regency Romances, pick this one up. The author has several books in this series, and I plan to get them. Her characters and writing style made me smile, laugh, and sometimes horrify me by their antics.

This book gets 5 Stars - all well deserved.

Writers:  How do you raise the stakes for your characters? Do you put them into impossible situations? Please share.

Readers:  When you read an enjoyable book, do you search to see if it's part of a series? Please share your thoughts.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Striving or Contentment?

"I can't wait until I grow up and can do what I want." That line always made my parents laugh and roll their eyes. Why is it we think if we reach a certain age or achieve some goal that our lives will be perfect?

It's wise to have plans and move toward them. Yet chasing a dream won't satisfy the longings of a heart. It might provide a measure of happiness for a time, but the effects are temporary and often hollow.

As a writer, I thought if I could just get an agent and get my books published, I'd have it made. Yeah, the authors out there are having the same reaction my parents had to my declaration. With an agent and four books published, I can tell you it's a carrot on a stick that keeps moving out of reach.

I'm not downplaying the satisfaction of reaching success. However, writing doesn't define who I am. It's something I do that hopefully provides insights and touches the reader at a deep level.

It's easy to forget some basic things:

1.  God loves me whether or not my books get published.

2.  Loving and reaching out to others helps keep my perspective God-centered.

3.  Any creativity I have is a gift from Him.

As I wait on this plateau where nothing seems to be happening, I trust that He's working behind the scenes. I'm not where I want to be, but it's a good place. There's time for reflection and enjoyment of the simple blessings. And, yes, I can wait.

Writers and Readers:  How do you remain at peace while pursuing your plans?

Photo Credit:  Alex Bruda

Friday, June 16, 2017

Myths and Truths/Opening Scene/Modern-Day Joseph of Arimathea/Devo/Visual Inspiration

1.  Parul MacDonald guest posts at Writer Unboxed. While she works primarily in the general market, I think her advice is sound on what an editor at a publishing house looks for when reviewing a submission.

2.  Another general market site is Jane Friedman's informative blog. Hallie Ephron guest posts and teaches on the importance of a strong opening scene. I'm going to read this one more than once.

3.  Breaking Christian News shares the story of a woman called, "a modern-day Joseph of Arimathea." The original Joseph claimed Jesus' body after the crucifixion and buried it in his own tomb. You won't want to miss this touching story.

4.  Marja Meijers continues her devotional trip through the alphabet with the letter, "U."

5.  I popped over the Thrifty Style at 68. The pictures immediately set off a train of thought on how they inspire me. Perhaps the third snapshot of a bedroom could help furnish my heroine's boudoir. Another might trigger a blog post. Check it out.

Writers: Reading a strong opening scene, as well as pictures on sites like Pinterest, inspire me. What inspires you?

Readers:  Do you read the first page of a book before plunking down your dollars and cents? Please share.

Photo Credit:  Ramel Gamboa Sanchez