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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

On My Kindle - Where There's Smoke by Susan May Warren

Blazin' Kate Burns continues the smoke-jumping, fire-fighting legacy of her father, Jock. Some view her exploits as heroic, while others think she's reckless. Will she be forced to choose between her two great loves?

Jed Ramsom, her father's protégé, takes less risks and tries to instill a more conservative approach to fighting fires. He's torn between his love for Kate and his fear she'll get killed.

This is the first book in the Montana Fire series by Susan May Warren. She delivers on every front: inspirational, romance, and suspense. Her characters stay with me long after I've finished reading her books. The research is impeccable, and highlights the dangers of this occupation.

5 Stars! Go grab a copy for yourself while the summer is young.

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

Writers:  How do you give your characters more depth so they appear real?

Readers:  Do you like stories that have an element of danger? Please share.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Don't Panic!

Our IT guys at work have a sign-off on all their emails: Stay Calm and Reboot. When my computer or Smartphone are doing wonky things, I remember this tip. Most of the time, whatever is scrambling the machine's brain is corrected.

Biting your nails, hitting random keys, and flipping out will make the situation worse. This holds true not only for computers and Smartphones, but also for writing and life. My own procedure goes something like this with occasional tweaks:

1.  Stop. Banish the what-if scenarios and deal with the reality before me. Writers have this wonderful imagination, but it can turn them into first-class worriers. Worry is just another word for fear.

2.  Pray. Ask God for wisdom and direction on how to fix whatever is going wrong. I then trust He will either give me the answer or lead me to someone who can help.

3.  Analyze. If I'm stuck writing a scene, I read the previous paragraph or more, if necessary. Where was I going with this train of thought? While I'm a pantser versus a plotter, I usually know where I want the story to end. Is this scene moving toward that goal?

4.  Research. There's so much advice on the Internet. I look for something that applies to my situation.

5.  Ask. A discussion with a writer friend/critique partner sometimes breaks through the confusion or at least sends me in the right direction.

When my efforts seem at an impasse, re-writing the section in another document can take the focus away from the existing text. When that doesn't work, I shut off the computer and give my brain a rest.

Stay calm and reboot.

Writers:  What actions do you take when you hit a snag? Please share.

Readers:  When you're facing a problem in life, how do you go about solving it?

Photo Credit:  Joonas Lampinen

Friday, June 9, 2017

Spring Social Media/Imagery/Conversions/Devo/Recipe

1.  Molly Jo Realy guest posts at The Write Conversation on how to Green Thumb Your Social Media.

2.  Zoe M. McCarthy's blog is a perennial favorite. In this post, she writes about the importance of imagery and how to create strong mental pictures for your reader.

3.  Breaking Christian News reports on how a NY Times reporter came across a group of Christians, who converted from Islam.

4.  MaryAnn Diorio asks, "Are you a tongue twister?"

5.  Recipe for a PURPLE cake! How could I pass that up?

Writers:  Do you have a social media plan? What are some of the things you do to feed your garden?

Readers:  What did you think of today's devotional by MaryAnn Diorio?

Photo Credit:  Sarah Williams

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

On My Nightstand - The Breath of Dawn by Kristen Heitzmann

This is the third book in this trilogy. I strongly urge you not to miss the first two books: A Rush of Wings and The Still of the Night.

Morgan Spencer's success as a corporate turnaround expert is legendary, but he once again experiences tragedy with the death of his wife, Jill. Only their infant daughter, Livie, gives him to will to live.

Quinn Reilly moves to Juniper Falls. Her business as an ebay seller connects her to Morgan's sister-in-law and brother. Soon after they meet, she gets a threatening text from Markham Wilder, a conman she testified against.

Morgan jumps into action to solve her problems, but in a most unconventional way. Can this strange beginning grow into a love match?

As usual, Kristen's characters jump off the page. Their growth, discovery, and tension kept me glued to the pages. As they face many dangers and challenges, their faith grounds them and gives them direction. My only regret is the end of the trilogy. I hope Kristen returns to Juniper Falls someday and picks up the story of this family.

Grab this series and be prepared for hours of reading satisfaction. 5 Stars.

Writers:  Have you ever written a series? Did you consider an encore performance for the characters? Please share.

Readers:  Do you prefer a trilogy or a longer series? Why?

Monday, June 5, 2017

Why Do I Need An Agent? - The Newbie Corner

According to Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, the word, "access," means:

1.  The ability or right to enter or use.

2.  A way or means of approach.

I'm focusing on these meanings. As an Administrative Assistant, my boss gives me access to all the things I need to perform my job. I have the authority to make certain decisions within his guidelines.

Publishers restrict access to their editors by using agents as gatekeepers. These individuals are viewed as experts and keep the companies from being inundated with substandard work. Literary agents review manuscripts and decide whether or not to represent a writer. They also provide advice, guidance, and act as a liaison between the writer and the publisher.

Some publishers will allow writers to approach their editors via meetings at writers conferences. Agents also meet potential authors at these venues. On an agents' panel, all agreed the primary way they met their clients was at a conference.

There are some small presses that accept non-agented submissions. However, it's important to check them out before jumping aboard. An agent not only finds a home for an author's book, but also knows the business side. They watch out for their clients' best interest when it comes to contract negotiations, settling disputes, etc.

If you dream of being published traditionally, an agent can provide the access needed to get your book to the right people.

Writers:  Are you seeking agent representation? Why or why not?

Readers:  How much does the publisher of a book influence your book-buying decisions? Please share your thoughts

Photo Credit:  Brian Lary

Friday, May 12, 2017

Low-Tech/Pantsers/Judge Alito/Devo/Recipe

1.  Okay, all you writer types out there. Sometimes we get too cerebral and need a dose of humor. Writer Unboxed talks about low-tech tools for writers. Knowing how techy challenged I am, you'll see why I liked this.

2.  Every writer wants to improve their craft, including us pantsers. Lisa Cron guest posts at Writers in the Storm with rare advice for those who aren't plotters.

3.  Breaking Christian News reports on Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito's speech urging Christians to "evangelize" for religious freedom.

4.  Adelee Russell, at Rewritten, talks about waking up to grace. If you've ever struggled with condemnation, this is a must read.

5.  Would you like to make something special for Mom? Check out Mom's Chocolate Pudding at the Food Network. Rated: Easy

Writers:  Are you techy-challenged or techy-savvy? Please share.

Readers:  Are you making something special for Mother's Day? Please share.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

On My Kindle - Wilted Dandelions by Catherine Ulrich Brakefield

Determined, often naive, Rachael Rothburn wants to go west to share the gospel with the Umatilla Indians. Alas, declared a spinster at the ripe old age of 22, the mission board won't entertain her application because they only take married couples.

Dr. Jonathan Wheaton wants to make a name for himself and follow in his grandfather's footsteps. When he learns the pretty Senator's daughter yearns to become a missionary, he approaches her father with a marriage proposal.

Will two proud, insecure people survive the rigors of the trail and someday have a loving marriage?

The author is new to me, but I'd heard positive things about her stories. She did a good job making me care about the characters and grounding me in the setting. I'm giving this story 5 Stars for courage and romance.

Disclaimer: Neither the author nor the publisher requested a favorable review or paid me to write one. All opinions are mine and mine alone.

Writers:  Have you considered taking historical situations and creating stories to fit them? Please share.

Readers:  Are you a fan of historical novels set during pioneer times? Please share your thoughts.

Monday, May 8, 2017

5 Ways to Avoid Blogger Burnout

In my previous Monday post, I shared some of the things I've learned since I started blogging. It's a lot like a marathon when you're blog is part of your writing platform. Here are five ways I

1.  Prayer is always at the top of my list. If my joy level is low on the spiritual front, it will affect every area of my life, including writing.

2.  It's easy to get caught up in the blogging/social media world. I'm interested in so many things and love to read about them. Take time out from the computer screen and live life. Go for a walk, hang out with family/friends (not just the ones on Facebook), read a book, plant a garden, volunteer, play with a child, and whatever else fills your creative reservoir.

3.  Don't stress out. I'm more into prevention than crisis management. If you anticipate a busy time, ask a friend if they'll do a guest post. On a holiday, post a favorite song or writing quotation.

4.  Take regular breaks. Some of my favorite times to take off include Christmas, spring, and summer. Last summer, I took a longer blog vacation because of a broken wrist. When you need to rest, REST. Let your readers know your plans and when you'll return.

5.  Reading does double duty for me. I  not only enjoy a good book, but also review it on my blog. It's one way to get the most out of something I love to do.

Recently, my day job has sapped a lot of my energy. It's time to kick back and relax, so I'm taking one of those blogging breaks starting May 15th. I'll return on June 5th, hopefully refreshed and ready to resume my normal Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule.

Happy Spring!

Writers/Readers: How do you avoid blogger burnout? If you don't blog, how do you keep life in general from overwhelming you?

Photo Credit:  Marcel Hol

Friday, May 5, 2017

Helping Authors/Keep Swimming/Religious Expression/Change/Pottery

1.  As a reader, I often want to purchase a lot of books. Since I'm not independently wealthy, I've had to find other ways to support the authors I enjoy. Inky Girl gives some great tips on how you can help your favorite authors.

2.  Are you struggling with writing? Chad Allen quotes Nemo: "Just keep swimming." Discover 5 Scientifically Verified Benefits to Writing.

3.  Christian Headlines reports on a bill passed by Kentucky to protect religious expression in public schools.

4.  Dr. MaryAnn Diorio talks about how to make change our ally.

5.  Do you like pottery? You might be amazed at the items Linda, at A La Carte, found. One of these days I'm going to take a pottery class. There's something about fashioning a plate, vase, or mug that appeals to me. 

Writers and Readers:  Does change make your insides quiver or are you a natural-born risk taker? Why?

Photo Credit:  Jose A. Warletta

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

On My Kindle - The Governess of Highland Hall by Carrie Turansky

Julia Foster's missionary days in India are interrupted by an illness in her family. She believes with all her heart that she'll return at some point, but takes on the daunting task of caring for Sir William Ramsey's two children, as well as his nieces.

Sir William Ramsey focuses on keeping the family estate amid financial difficulties. As a handsome man with a stellar pedigree, he hopes to make a marriage that will ease his burdens. He never thought he'd be attracted to a former missionary.

This book is the first in the Edwardian Brides series. This book has all the elements I enjoy: a clean romance, characters that undergo a change of heart, mystery, and an element of danger.

The author did a fine job with this book. 5 Stars!

Disclaimer: Neither the author nor the publisher requested a favorable review, and I did not receive any payment for it. All opinions, as usual, are mine and mine alone.

Writers: What kind of elements do you include in your writing to keep the reader's interest?

Readers:  Do you enjoy books set in other countries and in different time periods? If so, what are your favorite settings/historical times?

Monday, May 1, 2017

Blogoversary Month!

Every time May rolls around, I think about those early days of blogging. I never dreamed I'd be doing this for nine years. At first, the thought of staying on a schedule week after week almost sent me running in the opposite direction. How could I ever find enough things to say to writers and readers?

Here are a few things I learned along the way:

1.  Pray for direction and for those who would read the blog.

2.  Be honest about my struggles with the writing life. It's okay not to have it all together. The learning process often has bumps (and sometimes mountains) on the road.

3.  For the sake of sanity, have at least a couple of weeks worth of posts written and scheduled. My preference is six weeks. Why? Life happens - a broken wrist, the illness of a family member, simple exhaustion, church/work/family commitments can all derail your good intentions to keep up with your blog. Oh, and let's not forget about writing deadlines and book launches. (I've done four of those during my blogging years.)

4.  Write about the things that interest your readership. I've seen others turn their blogs into one long advertisement for their books. Boring.

5.  Since my audience is primarily Christian, I strive to encourage blog readers from that perspective.

Are you a blogger/blog reader? What draws you to a blog? If you blog, what are some tips you've found helpful?

Photo Credit:  Maaillustrations

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


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.  WND 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 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 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?

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.


Photo Credit:  Craig Parylo