Friday, April 28, 2017

Interview Questions/Freelance Writing/Facebook Bias/Risky Love/Recipe


1.  Have you ever wondered what to ask an author during an interview? Laurel Garver gives 50 Fabulous Questions to Ask an Author.

2.  Do you want to be a freelance writer and work from home? Jean Fischer gives us a peek at what it's like and what's expected.

3.  Breaking Christian News shares a story from CBN about a Christian Mommy Blogger. Facebook apologized for deleting one of her posts, but now she's helping other bloggers deal with the bias against Christian viewpoints.

4.  Amy Menter guests posts at Maria Morgan's blog about The Direction of Love. Is it worth the risk?

5.  Chocolate Almond Biscotti - just saying that phrase makes me want to try making these yummy cookies. (It didn't hurt that the recipe said "Easy.")

Writers:  What are some of your favorite interview questions?

Readers:  What kind of information do you like to know about your favorite authors?

Photo Credit:  Kerem Yucel



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

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

On My Kindle - Always With You by Elaine Stock


Isabelle Gilbert's frustration with her father and grandmother's secretive ways makes her ripe for trouble. All she wants is a normal home and family life.

Tyler Saunders lives with his three siblings among a communal religious group. He's totally into their beliefs until he meets and falls in love with a special Outsider. Will she consent to marry him and become a devoted Faithful wife?

Elaine Stock did a great job with these characters. Each one came to the relationship with expectations that were soon shattered. Their growth and journey to spiritual freedom happened organically and in a believable fashion.

The strong ending wowed me. I didn't expect it to take that particular twist.

Five stars for an excellent story. I could see this as a movie.

Disclaimer:  I can't recall how I got this book since it's been sitting on my Kindle for a while. However, I haven't received any payment from the author or publisher. All opinions are mine and mine alone.

Writers:  How do you develop your characters? Do you use character charts or other devices to map out their progress or do you let it happen as the story progresses?

Readers:  No spoilers here - what book had the best ending you've ever read?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Making Course Corrections - Part III


In the previous two Monday posts, I shared how I re-connected with my call to write and how problems were identified. The next logical step: determine how to get back to that place where words flowed.

Maybe this is just me, but I tend to think such change requires something difficult. My flesh screams when I tell it to sit at the computer and write. Yet once, I yield to the tugging of the Spirit on my heart, it becomes easy. Isn't that the way most things are in the Christian life? There's a battle in the mind, but once we follow His leading, peace reigns.

So, the corrections became obvious as I took each step:

1.  John 15 talks about abiding in the vine. My hunger for the Lord grows in direct relation to how much Word I take in. He answers my questions, and from Him springs creativity and inspiration.

Those answers come in many ways, and I ask Him to keep me alert. He's promised to give wisdom to those who ask, so I expect it. 

2.  Write. While that may seem simplistic, it's like any endeavor. The more I do it, the more I improve. One idea begets another and so on.

3.  I'm still learning not to stress out about the time factor and how to accomplish all I need to do in a day. The one thing I cannot skimp on is my time with the Lord. If I put Him first, I'm more productive and have less stress.

4.  Watch my mouth. Negative self-talk is a sure way to spiral down into discouragement and even depression. I'm filling my mind with the Word of God, so it's there when I need it.

5.  Guarding my heart by editing what comes into my ears and enters through my eyes is essential to maintaining clarity. The old computer saying of, "garbage in, garbage out," applies here. And we all know there's no shortage of trash out there.


Writers and Readers: What, if anything, resonates with you from these posts?

Photo Credit:  Jonathan M

Friday, March 17, 2017

Settings/Writers Voice/Homeschool/Inspiring/Spring Colors



1.  Zoe McCarthy always pens great writing articles. Setting grounds our characters and gives them a stage on which to perform. Zoe compares real versus fictional settings.

2.  Jennifer Brown Banks gives 6 Vocal Tips to Help Writers Cultivate Voice. Developing our unique sound when writing is a key element to writing success.

3.  WND reported on a homeschool mom convicted for being reckless with her son's education because she missed a non-existent reporting deadline. Ohio actually praised her for the child's achievements. She's not backing down, but fighting the beauracracy.

4.  I had to share this testimony with you. Breaking Christian News tells about a young girl's dream and how it affects her life. She learned a profound truth that went past the mind and gripped the heart.

5.  HGTV shows 2017 Spring Color Combinations. Interesting - I wouldn't have thought about putting some of these together.

Writers:  How did you discover your writer's voice?

Readers:  If you know any authors, do they sound like their writing? Please share.

Photo Credit:  Davide Guglielmo



Wednesday, March 15, 2017

On My Nightstand - Lucy Come Home by Dave and Neta Jackson


Throughout the House of Hope series by Neta Jackson, Lucy is a familiar character. She's a bag lady that lives partly on the streets and sometimes at Manna House, a homeless shelter.

The book, Lucy Come Home, left me with mixed emotions. The pacing was slow and much of it was a rehash of her part in the House of Hope Series. On the positive side, the authors did a good job showing how this woman ended up on the streets of Chicago. They also dealt with the plight of migrant workers during the Depression Era.

When the last House of Hope book ended, readers were left hanging with Lucy's story. I looked forward to this book, but it was just okay. I'm giving it 3 1/2 stars. I usually don't review anything under 4 stars, but I loved Neta's other books so much. At least, we found out what happened to Lucy and why she was reluctant to go home.

Writers:  How do you incorporate back story into your writing without it becoming a big yawn?

Readers:  When the promise of a good story goes bad, do you finish or walk away (or skip to the end)?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Identifying the Problem - Part II


If I don't know the question, how can I find the answer? Looking for a solution before identifying the problem is a waste of time and energy.

All researchers start off by asking a questions like, "How does this disease start, and under what conditions does it flourish?" In similar fashion I needed to review my writing journey and find that spot where things went terribly wrong.

What I discovered was not a huge event, but rather a series of small decisions/actions that made me veer off course. I'm reminded of the scripture that talks about the little foxes spoiling the vine. By this time, many of them were buried, and only the Lord could bring them to the surface.

Here are some of the missteps that eventually brought me to the place where I questioned my call to write:

1.  While there's wisdom in many counselors, I listened to anyone and everyone rather than seeking those who were qualified. This led to conflicting advice and confusion.

2.  Advice about writing, the publishing industry, and marketing wasn't always filtered through prayer and the Word of God. I relied too heavily on people.

3.  Instead of operating from my relationship with the Lord, I began to depend on my own strength, abilities, and plans. This caused stress, striving, and worry.

Okay, now that I knew the problems, what were the solutions?


Writers and Readers: When you're stuck, do you ever ask God, "What thought process/decision brought me to this place?" Has He brought light to your situation? If you can, please share.

Photo Credit:  Arte_ram

Friday, March 10, 2017

Tough Times/Phishing Scam/Uber and NFL Player/Devo/Miniatures


1.  Edie Melson, at The Write Conversation, shares how Writing Through the Tough Times Brings Discovery.

2.  Keeping your gmail account safe can be tricky. Here's an article by Wordfence.com that details a new phishing  scam.

3.  I recently read a neat story on Breaking Christian News about an Uber driver (who is a pastor) leading an NFL player to Christ. Enjoy!
   
4.  Beth K. Vogt posts at The Write Conversation concerning The Thoughts That Make Us Strong - a good word for writers and readers alike.

5.  Susan, at Writing Straight From The Heart, collects miniatures. I find them so appealing and sweet, but so far have resisted the temptation to take up the hobby.

Writers:  How do you make time to write?


Readers:  Is there a hobby that attracts you, but you've resisted the temptation to dabble in it? Please share.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

On My Nightstand - Cold Shot by Dani Pettrey


Griffin McCray, a park ranger at Gettysburg, stays under the radar. He's been in law enforcement, but the death of a hostage eats him alive on the inside.

Beautiful Finley Scott, an anthropologist, works on a dig in the area. The discovery of a body draws her into the investigation to identify the victim. When she determines a sniper bullet caused the woman's death, the FBI is called in to take over the case.

Griffin's friends, Declan Grey and Parker Mitchell, get involved in the effort to identify the woman and stop the sniper from striking again. He didn't bargain on falling in love or dealing with the hurts that made him withdraw from his passion for righting injustice.

This is Book One of The Chesapeake Valor series by Dani Pettrey. I've read one other book by her, and she has a knack for ramping up the story tension. The characters are likable, and their faith shines through in a natural, unassuming way. She also did a wonderful job with her research. A plus - the author is donating some of the proceeds from this book to a human trafficking organization.

I did wish for more information on Finley's background and family life. Perhaps the author will shed further light on that subject in future books. I marveled that everyone on the team were Christians, even people like Finley, a noted scientist. It required me to shrug off my doubts and flow with the story.

All in all, it's an enjoyable story, and I'll be looking for the next book in the series. Four stars for this novel.

Writers:  How do you balance the plot and the characters? Do you give readers enough information on the characters to give them a sense of history? Please share.

Readers: When something makes you pause and doubt the credibility of the story, are you able to put that aside and enjoy the story or is it a deal breaker? Why?

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Call - Or How I Re-Connected to My Purpose - Part I


Should I quit writing? Why am I putting myself through this torture?

Sound familiar? These are some of the thoughts I've had going through my mind. They've turned writing from a joy to a chore and from a blessing to a curse. How did I get here?

Even as I struggled, I cried out to the Lord for answers, wisdom, and direction. Maybe He didn't want me writing. Then He spoke this to my heart: "Go back to the vision."

We humans need reminders, and this was my day to recall the early days when the intense flame of destiny energized me.

I reflected on the original vision and how God led me in those early days:

1.  Pouring words onto the page, filled with passion to communicate God's love for His people. This became my standard, my rallying cry:  write words that were containers of life.

2.  Sitting at my desk 13 plus years ago and asking Him if He really wanted me to pursue publication. His answer was swift and sure. Within a half hour, the phone rang and an invitation was issued to attend a small writers group.

3.  Standing in Gettysburg town square and hearing the voices of the forefathers as fading echoes.

4.  I can still hear my late husband as we talked about The Gettysburg Experience. After eight months, its meaning still escaped me. Then he declared, "That's it. That's your book, and you'll write it in four months, and call it Ghosts of the Past."

5.  Long before I heard advice like, "get something on the page, and then you can edit," I began writing a story that will forever remain embedded in my spirit.

How did I get from Point A to a published manuscript? When did things go awry?

Writers:  If you sense God has called you to write, how do you stay true to your original vision?


Readers:  There are books that entertain, but there are books that impact your life forever. Can you name a book (other than the Bible) that influenced your walk with the Lord?

Photo Credit:  darkip

Friday, March 3, 2017

Immersive POV/Definition/Lists/Devo/Photography


1.   We've all heard of Point-of-View (POV) and Deep POV, but Immersive POV? Donald Maas posts at Writer Unboxed on the subject.

2.   Donn Taylor posts at Author Culture on Writers and the Power of Definition. When talking or writing about any subject, how we define our terms is critical to communicating our worldview.

3.  There are all kinds of lists: Bestseller lists, Best Looking Person lists, but there's one list a nation should never be on: The Persecuting Nations List. For the first time since it started, the United States is on that list. Hopefully, it will be temporary. Read the article here.

4.  Adelee Russell, of Rewritten, allows us into her thought processes and her heart. The revelation she received of God's love for her and the freedom we have in Christ is life changing.

5.  If you enjoy beautiful photography, check out A New England Life. I'm a visual person and find much inspiration in pictures. (It's why I love Pinterest.)

Writers:  Did you know what "Immersive POV" was? What did you think of the article?

Readers:  If you're a blogger, what inspires you?

Photo Credit:  Jean Scheijen

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

On My Nightstand - Wild Montana Skies by Susan May Warren


Kacey Fairling returns home after a crash during her last tour of duty in Afghanistan. She's found a job as the new head pilot for the PEAK Search and Rescue Team. Maybe some time away from the military will help her reconnect with her teenage daughter and parents.

Ben King's singing career suffers a devastating blow when his partner strikes out on her own. Since his father is struggling with an injury, he returns to Mercy Falls to help him out. In the back of his mind, he hopes Kacey will be there. He's never loved anyone else, but their lives took a sharp detour 13 years ago.

This is book 1 in the Montana Rescue Series, and I'll definitely be getting the next book. There's a strong spiritual thread, but the characters are far from goody two shoes. They have the emotional scars to prove it. It's a strong theme of forgiveness and second chances.

I love the combination of romance and suspense. Susan May Warren has a talent for throwing in a twist when you least expect it. Hmm, it sounds like real life, doesn't it?

Five stars for this book.

Writers:  This book uses detailed knowledge of rescue operations. Have you given your characters an unusual occupation? Please share.

Readers:  When a novel includes elements of suspense, does the tension keep the story moving for you? Please share your thoughts.


Monday, February 27, 2017

Survey Time - Social Media



Where do you hang out on social media?

Facebook
Goodreads
Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter
Pinterest
Instagram
Other (Please specify)

Please answer in the comments. If you could include a brief reason why you chose the particular platforms you're on, I'd appreciate it. I'm considering expanding my social media reach.

Thanks!

Photo Credit:  Craig Parylo


Friday, February 24, 2017

Cliffhangers/Twitter/Planned Parenthood/Devo/Birthdays


1.  Cindy Sproles posts at The Write Conversation on tips for using cliffhangers in our books. While they're effective, they can give the reader ulcers if they're overused.

2.  I love Facebook, but I have to admit some social media platforms leave me cold. Twitter is a fine example. When I saw Edie Melson, at The Write Conversation, wrote a post about using Twitter, I thought perhaps it would help me understand it better. She gives the Twitter ABCs.

3.  Breaking Christian News reports a Senate Committee has referred Planned Parenthood to the FBI for criminal investigation. The issue is the selling of fetal body parts, which is against the law.

4.  Lynn Simpson shares her word for 2017 and the challenges she's experienced.

5.  Since my birthday was yesterday, I thought about celebrations and how to make them special. When Sweetie Mom turned 75 quite a few years ago, I threw her a, "This Is Your Life," party. I enlisted the help of family members, and we surprised her with people she hadn't seen in a while - her father, sister, brother and sister-in-law all showed up as part of the festivities. Friends from her church in another state were also invited.

I googled for information about parties and found this site. The event planner gives tips on making those milestone birthdays extra special.

Writers:  Do you incorporate cliffhangers in your writing? Please share.

Readers:  Are you on Twitter, and do you connect with authors there? What are your thoughts about that Social Media platform?


Photo Credit:  Robb Kiser

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

On My Nightstand - Frayed by Kerry Nietz


Threadbare is a low-level debugger. He's relegated to a greasy garage and fixes heavy, rather uncomplicated bots (robots). The constant razing by fellow debugger, Bullhammer, irks him, and he wishes he could better his position.

This is definitely a watch-what-you-wish-for kind of story. He's eventually promoted and given a cushy position. He's got his own apartment, a great food producer, and exclusive access to almost every area of the estate. Things go downhill when he discovers everything is not as it appears.

I'm not a big science fiction fan, but Kerry Nietz managed to snag my attention. The Christian thread is subtle but definitely present. Frayed is Book 1 in the Dark Trench Shadow Series. You might want to read the Original Dark Trench Saga: A Star Singing Curiously, The Superlative Stream, and Freeheads. It will give you a foundation for this book.

I confess:  I'm hooked and will pick up the rest of this series as it comes out. If you like Science Fiction, these two series will capture your imagination. Five stars!

Disclaimer:  I won this book in a blog giveaway. The author did not pay me for a favorable review. All opinions are mine and mine along.

Writers: Have you ever tried to write science fiction? What books/TV programs have inspired your efforts. Please share.

Readers:  Do you like Science Fiction? What are some of the titles you've read? 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Presidents' Day Trivia and Thoughts


Today is Presidents' Day. When I was younger, we celebrated Lincoln's birthday on February 12 and Washington's birthday on February 22.

In the 1960's, an effort was made to combine the two holidays through the Uniform Holiday Act. The effort failed, but a piece of the legislation was passed in 1971. Presidents' Day was moved to the third Monday in February. Many patriotic groups use this date for reenactments and events honoring various presidents.*

I found a couple of quotes by George Washington which illustrate his beliefs:

"Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."

"It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible."

The study of American History is critical to the future of our country. Our freedoms depend on each generation understanding what it took to secure them and how our government was designed to work.

While researching for a project, I was distressed to see government sites wiped clean of references to Christianity. Many of the history books and internet websites put forth a revised history that bears little or no resemblance to the truth. They don't back up their claims with original documents or simply omit whole chunks of information.

I'm thankful for David Barton, at Wallbuilders, and others who have original documents from the Founding Fathers and raise awareness of our true history. If we forget our roots as a country, we're in serious danger of seeing the type of scenario found in my novels (The Moses Trilogy and The Christmas Wish).

We remember George Washington (the Father of our Country) and Abraham Lincoln on this day. If not for these great men and so many others, America would not exist.

*Thanks to History.com for the information on Presidents' Day.

Writers:  Does history provide inspiration for your writing? Please share.

Readers:  What is your favorite time period in American History? Do you look for books that are based on those eras? Please share.

Photo Credit:  Mana Media


Friday, February 17, 2017

Characters/Writing Goals/Confiscated/Memorizing/Flowers


1.  Character development has a strong impact on dialogue. Chip MacGregor, at MacGregor Literary, gives tips on developing character voice.

2.  We're not too far off from the beginning of the year. Are you accomplishing your writing goals? I came across an article on Positive Writer on One Goal to be a Brilliant, Accomplished Writer (Are You Ready?) Be forewarned this isn't a Christian site, and he uses the term, "mantra," quite often. (Otherwise, it's okay - no profanity.)

3.  Christian Headlines reports on a Church Retreat Center being confiscated by the Iranian government.

4.  Jeanette Levellie, at Hope Splashes, shares 5 Ways Memorizing Scripture Can Enrich Your Life.

5.  Are you looking forward to spring as much as I am? Last year, I got such a late start on my garden. After I broke my wrist, it was impossible to finish. I've promised myself that I won't procrastinate in 2017. Here's a site to give you some inspiration.


Writers:  How do you make your characters different from each other in terms of personality?

Readers:  Are you longing for spring? Do you have a color palette in mind for this year's garden?


Photo Credit:  Filip George

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

On My Nightstand - Caught in the Current by Lynnette Bonner


Marie Sinclair and her three-year-old daughter are doing fine, thank you very much. She's learned to depend on herself no matter how tough her financial situation gets.

Reece Cahill returned to his hometown because of his father's illness. Has Marie changed or is she still looking for love at Pete's Bar?

I read the first book in Lynnette's Pacific Shores series and liked it so much that I purchased Book 2. I wasn't disappointed. There's a strong spiritual thread throughout the story. Little Alyssa is adorable although she sometimes sounds more like a teenager than a three-year-old child.

Taysia Sumner made a few cameo appearances from the first book, but I wished the author had included her more. After all, she and Marie were like sisters. It would have added to the story if she'd been supporting and advising her.

Throughout the book, I was reminded of the scripture saying those who are forgiven much love much. I think Marie displayed this, while certain characters seemed to forget they needed forgiveness as much as she did.

If you're a fan of sweet romance, you'll love this book. Five Stars for Caught in the Current.

Writers:   This is a series which focuses on a particular character. Have you considered writing about various characters from your original story? Please share.


Readers:  Are you a fan of the sweet romance or do you prefer an element of suspense/history?

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


Monday, February 13, 2017

Making Adjustments



As the years go by, I've made adjustments in how I do things and how I think. My knees protest if I want to scrub my floor by hand. While knee pads I use in the garden help, most of the time I reach for a sponge mop. My brain tells me, "I'm going to clean the entire house today," but my body reminds me to pace myself.

I've always looked forward to the future, which isn't a bad thing. With a birthday approaching later this month, I've learned to appreciate the here and now. One of my favorite verses is, "This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it."

When people learn I'm an author, they'll often say they want to write a book someday. I wish I'd started writing at an earlier age. Learning the craft takes time and never stops. Perhaps it wouldn't seem like cramming for an exam if I'd begun studying sooner.

Maybe your priorities are on a family, ministry, and career at this point. Why not pick up some writing books, read blogs, attend a writers group to soak up the knowledge you'll need when you're ready to seek publication? Take 10 or 20 minutes to journal or write down ideas for a devotional, short story, or the novel you have brewing in your mind.

Life has a way of changing in a moment. I don't want to miss the opportunities the Lord gives me to make a difference in any area.

Writers:  What steps are you taking to move forward as a writer?

Readers:  How do you balance your immediate responsibilities with your goals for the future?

Photo Credit:  Marius Largu

Friday, February 10, 2017

Multiple POV/Writer's Block/Big Brother/Devo/Cabin Fever


1.  Jerry Jenkins gives 3 Tips for Featuring Multiple Main Characters in Your Story. Since all of my novels are written this way, the article held a special attraction.

2.  Dave King, at Writer Unboxed, gives some unusual insights into writer's block and its remedies.

3.  Google on Steriods. Does that sound ominous? It does to me. Check out this article on further breaches in our privacy by the Feds.

4.  Andy Lee posts at The Write Conversation about The Cost of The Call. Many think if God called them to a specific task everything should go forward without a hitch. When difficulties arise, they get discouraged. Check out this important article.

5.  When winter weather forces you to spend a lot of time indoors, the resulting cabin fever can be debilitating. Wisebread.com gives 6 Frugal Ways to Beat Cabin Fever.

Writers:  Have you ever used multiple point-of-view characters? What were some of the challenges you faced, and how did you overcome them?


Readers:  Besides reading, what are some of the ways you deal with cabin fever?

Photo Credit: Nico Van Diem

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

On My Kindle - Every Secret Thing by Ann Tatlock


Beth Gunnar returns to her Alma Mater, Seaton Academy, as a seasoned English teacher. Most of her memories are pleasant, but she's haunted by one life-changing event. It takes reconnecting with old friends and a bond forged with a bright student to finally put the past into its proper perspective.

I'm not into poetry. Philosophical discussions - uh, no. I kept reading this book, hoping for a payoff. At Chapter 26, I almost gave up. Then, a funny thing happened. The characters started doing stuff instead of talking/musing, and it all came together.

If you haven't figured it out by now, this wasn't my usual kind of read. I'm glad I stuck with it. When all was said and done, this book finally made sense to me. The end reached a satisfying conclusion.

A lot of people have difficulty finding meaning in life. The characters' search for truth, values, and worth make it a good choice. I'm giving this one four stars.

Disclaimer:  I received this Kindle version during a free promotion. Neither the author nor the publisher paid me for a review. All opinions are mine and mine alone.

Writers:  How do you keep a reader's attention?

Readers:  If a book isn't "grabbing" you, do you continue reading or abandon it? Why?


Monday, February 6, 2017

Inspiration in Unlikely Places


Before Christmas, I was praying about what to write for my blog. The book review and Friday link posts don't demand as much creativity as the Monday posts. The answers came bit by bit.

While shopping for gifts at Kohl's, they had a display of products they sell for charity. A Madeline doll caught my eye, and I was smitten. Both Sweetie Mom and I collected dolls for years until they threatened to take over the house. I'd managed to resist the appeal of these cuties for a long time, but this little girl wouldn't let me go.

After several trips to Kohl's, Sweetie Mom bought Madeline for me. I later picked up the book that went along with her. After unwrapping her on Christmas Day, I sat down and reread the book. I was struck by Madeline's adventurous spirit. When a tiger roared at the zoo, the other girls cowered behind Miss Clavel, but not Madeline. She stood in front of the cage and studied him without a trace of fear.

Madeline made me smile - not a hint of a smile but a big ol' grin. Then the grin turned into a giggle and finally an old-fashioned, tears-running-down-my-face laugh.

She reminded me of David in the Bible. As a youth he killed a lion and a bear to protect his father's sheep. He trusted God to protect him against Goliath. He, too, was fearless.

I admired David and Madeline - one real person and one fictional child. For the millionth time, I wished I had more courage and an adventurous heart. Unfortunately, I resembled the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz more than them.

The Lord reminded me of several times when I exhibited bravery. Perhaps it was the accounts of young David and Madeline that planted that seed of trust in God's protection and care.

Words on a page can inspire people to greatness. Who would have thought seeing a simple doll and reading her book would dig up memories from long ago. Up to that point, I didn't know what my word for 2017 would be. Now, I know:

Courage.

It's about trying new things, being adventurous, and not allowing fear to keep me from experiencing all that God has for me in the New Year.

Writers and Readers: Do you have an inspirational word for this year? Please share.


Friday, February 3, 2017

Advanced Tips/Dialect/Free Speech/Loneliness/Winter Safety


1.  Laura Drake, at Writers in the Storm, gives some advanced writing tips. Her examples help illustrate what she's teaching. It's an article that you might want to bookmark and reread more than a few times.

2.  At one time or another, every writer wants to communicate the dialect/accent of their characters. Chip MacGregor, of MacGregor Literary, talks about writing effective dialogue without distracting your readers.

3.  Public universities are designating areas as, "free speech zones." Not long ago, students were threatened with arrest over a beach ball with a message. Our freedoms are under attack. Raising awareness is the first step toward protecting them.

4.  Dr. MaryAnn Diorio wrote an excellent blog post on how to get free of the secret sorrow of loneliness.

5.  Winter Safety Tips from Weather.com. Did you know floor mats could get you out of a dangerous situation? Veggies are not only good to eat but can fight frost on your car.

Writers:  What was your favorite tip on writing dialect/accents? Please share.

Readers:  Dr. MaryAnn Diorio made several points about loneliness. Which one spoke to your heart and why?

Photo Credit:  Jyn Meyers


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

On My Kindle - Wings of Glass by Gina Holmes


Take one young woman with a distant father and a handsome, but abused, man and you get a volatile relationship. Penny and Trent Taylor live their lives in a haze of alcohol and co-dependency.

If I had to choose words to describe this story, they'd run along these lines:

Gritty
Intense
Realistic
Warning
Dangerous

Gina Holmes paints a picture of the physical abuse and mind games that leave the victim in perpetual confusion. Her powerful writing and hope infusion left this reader wanting more stories.

5 Stars for Wings of Glass.

Disclaimer: I can't recall how I got this book - perhaps a free promotion. Neither the author nor the publisher paid me for a favorable review. All opinions expressed are my honest evaluation of the story.


Writers and Readers:  Do character-driven novels give you that strong, emotional reaction? Please share.

Monday, January 30, 2017

New to Me


Even the most exhausting task can become routine. For example: going to the laundromat. I'm thankful the one I used for years is right down the street. Still, the weekly ordeal of loading the car, unloading, getting everything into washers and later dryers, waiting, reloading the car, and then unloading the car at home makes me huff and puff.

I began to think there was no other way to do this chore or that it could never be different because of circumstances. My way of thinking changed gradually.

1.  I broke my wrist last June. Reduced to doing things with one hand (my left - not my dominant right hand) made lugging a laundry basket impossible. Duffle bags provided the solution. They worked so well I continued using them after my wrist healed.

2.  My house is old and the plumbing sometimes presented difficulties. When thinking about getting a washing machine, all kinds of negative thoughts popped up. My neighbor's parents were upgrading to new appliances. He was in charge of finding a new owner for their used washer and dryer.

I showed him the area, presented all my concerns, and he reassured me everything would work out fine. The new-to-me washer and dryer are now in my basement and functioning with no problem. I no longer to drag everything to the laundromat in all kinds of weather.

3.  The laundromat was expensive, but now I'm spending a fraction of what it cost me to do laundry.

There are other areas of my life I've grown to accept as "just the way things have to be." How often does God want to bless me, and I hesitate to obey Him? Is it fear of the unknown or concern I'll fail if I try something new?

It's time to gain a greater perspective. God's perspective - about my writing, about my spiritual walk, about my job, and about the future.


Writers and Readers:  What areas of your life have you come to accept as unchangeable? Please share your thoughts. Agree? Disagree? Why?

Friday, January 27, 2017

Blog Posts/Backstory/Redefinition/Devo/Coloring Books



1.  Zoe M. McCarthy gives 7 Tips to Generate Blog Posts. If you've been blogging for a while, you know how challenging it can become.

2.  Jerry Jenkins delivers a first-class article on Why Backstory Is Better Than Flashback. Far from an information dump, this backstory sets the reader up for a great payoff down the road. I've got to try some of these techniques.

3.  The state of Massachusetts recently tried to redefine places of worship as "places of public accommodation." This gave them the right to dictate what was said and done within churches. See how the Alliance Defense Fund challenged the state and won.

4.  Marja Meijers' post, "Give Me A Q," made me think.

5.  Donna, at The Enchanted Cottage, highlights her daughter's new coloring book, "Bedrooms." For all of you enthralled with coloring, I thought this might be an unusual change from flowers and animals. There are some neat pictures. It almost makes me want to take up the hobby. If only I had the time!

Writers:  Flashbacks are frowned upon these days. How do you handle events that shaped your characters' outlook on life?

Readers:  Do you enjoy coloring books? If so, what are your favorite subjects?

Photo Credit:  Dan Colcer



Wednesday, January 25, 2017

On My Nightstand - Understory by Lisa J. Lickel

Lily Masters knows something isn't right when her stepbrother, Art Townsend, sets up an interview for her in the Wisconsin woods. She decides to seek help from a friend, but gets lost in a blizzard.

Cameron Taylor, a former literature professor, finds Lily almost frozen to death near his cabin. He's hiding away while writing his grandparents' biography. He accidentally stirs up a cold case murder in the process.

While I met Lisa Lickel around the writing scene, this is the first book I've read authored by her. Understory shows many layers of trust, truth, and lies. The characters' fears were palpable and their wariness of strangers made for a spine-tingling reading experience.

I've read numerous novels that covered hot topics like interracial relationships, civil rights, and sex trafficking. Rather than a hit-you-over-the-head telling of the story, the author allowed the events to reveal attitudes and perceptions in an organic manner.

Understory held my attention and delivered a satisfying ending. Five stars.

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

Writers and Readers:  Do you write/read novels that deal with controversial/hot topics? Please share.