Friday, December 23, 2011

Mary, Did You Know?

Mary, did you know? is one of my favorite Christmas songs. I hope you'll check out Mark Lowry's rendition on YouTube. Have a blessed Christmas and a Happy, Healthy New Year!

I will be taking a blog break from 12/26/11 until 1/4/12. I need an opportunity to regroup and prepare posts for the New Year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

On My Nightstand - A Lasting Impression by Tamera Alexander

Claire Elise Laurent wants to escape the family business, but she doesn't know if a new life is even possible. When her father dies in an art robbery, she's sent packing to Nashville. Her late mother's warning to be careful who she loves serves her well.

Willister Sutton Monroe, a southern gentleman and lawyer, carries a boatload of guilt over his father's death. The victorious Federals move to take away his land and his hopes for the future. His position managing the affairs of Mrs. Adelicia Acklen keep body and soul together for the moment.

Tamera Alexander once again gives us an amazing story. She has a soft spot for Frenchwomen, and she's created a vulnerable streak in Claire that endeared her to me.

The author has the whole package: storyline, characters, tension, history, and a cover that makes you want to dive into the book. From what I've read, there will be more written on the doings at the Belmont Mansion. I can't wait for the next story.

Writers: When reading historicals, do you pick up tips for your own writing? Please elaborate.

Readers: Have you read any of Tamera's books? Which ones?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sanity During the Christmas Season

When my to-do list screams, "not done," I come away and remember:

It's His birthday.

When I'm bombarded with the glitz and clever merchandising of retailers, I come away and remember:

It's His birthday.

The once tiny hands, now nail scarred, beckon me to remember:

Come celebrate. It's My birthday.

How do you celebrate His birth?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Round-Up - #186

Shawn Lamb, at All-on Writing, compares publicity methods of yesteryear with the new landscape of Social Media.

Writers: Do you yearn for the good ol' days or are you excited about the present? Why?

Readers: How active are you with Social Media? Do you have a Facebook, Twitter, or other account?

Have a blessed weekend!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

On My Nightstand - The Father Christmas Confessions - FREE DOWNLOAD!

Emily Ann Benedict and I met on the blogging circuit. She contacted me and asked if I'd mention her free eBook, The Father Christmas Confessions. She graciously agreed to an interview.

1.  Ebooks are all the rage now. How did you decide to go this route?

I became a fan of the eBook quite a while ago. The ease of the "download and go" nature of the eBook is addicting.

When I decided to release a novel as a free Christmas gift to my readers, the eBook was the perfect choice. Creating it only cost me a little time.

2.  What platform did you use, and how steep was the learning curve?

The Father Christmas Confessions is available in two formats. The first form is PDF, which is easy to download to any computer and some eReaders. Creating a PDF was actually simple. Microsoft Word offers the option to save any document as a PDF.

I also wanted to offer a Kindle version. This is my favorite form to read in and has really become the preference for a large percentage of eBook lovers. Creating a Kindle book did take some research, but I finally discovered that Amazon released a conversion program called Mobipocket for free. With some help from my technologically talented brother, we were able to convert an MS document into a Kindle book.

A quick note: I host the Kindle version, so it must be downloaded from my site, not Amazon. Quite understandably, Amazon does not allow authors to offer their books for free.

3. Does your eBook include cover art? How did you locate an appropriate cover?

Yes, my eBook does come with cover art, though for some reason the Kindle opens all books to the title page. A reader will have to page back to see the cover.

I created my own cover, starting with an image from I know the publisher of my first book, Only Angels Are Bulletproof, uses iStock to design all of their covers, so I searched the site until I found an image that I felt suited the story. Then I used Photoshop to make the name plate for the book and merged the two together.

Katherine Meinicke, of Katherine Alison Photography, also offered me the use of some of her amazing nature photos to add the perfect frosty feel to the website.

4. From the description, your book sounds like a romance. What was your inspiration for the story?

Christmas Romantic Comedies have always been a great favorite of mine. My family binges on Hallmark and Family Channel Christmas movies every year. Christmas novels fill our shopping carts starting in November. My mother and I often race each other to see who can read the most before Christmas.

After watching one particular movie that centered on explaining certain Santa Claus traditions, I couldn't help wondering how I might write a novel around the idea of Mr. Claus. I actually wrote it over a period of three different Christmases. It just wasn't as fun writing it unless it was Christmas time, so I'd write until the 25th then put it down until the next December. Someday I'd like to turn it into a trilogy, but for the time being I enjoyed writing each character. I hope it gives a few extra smiles to every reader.

Here's the link to the FREE DOWNLOAD:

Thanks, Emily Ann, for the interview and your generous gift.

Question for Writers: Did you learn anything new about producing an eBook? If so, what?

Question for Readers: Do you often download free eBooks? Were they for a eReader or for your computer?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Looking For the Soft Middle

While chocolate will always be my favorite, I reach for hard candy when I have a cold or tickle in my throat. Since I'm an impatient eater, I end up biting and chewing this type of confection. One day, I came across a yummy caramel with a soft center. At the point when I wanted to "be done with this thing already," the creamy goodness stopped me in my tracks.

Writing has the same effect on me. I need to take my time and learn my lessons. But, oh how I want to bite down and finish this task. Where is that soft center that keeps me engaged in the process? I'm so tired of revising, re-writing, and editing that I could scream.

Then, a non-fiction editor accepts one of my devotionals. An agent and two authors urge me to stay the course. Ah, the soft middle! A word of encouragement keeps me interested. Maybe if I stick with this writing long enough, I'll succeed.

Writers: What's your "soft middle?"
Readers: Have you ever taken time to express your appreciation for someone's writing? Do you not only recommend their books to others but let them know you're spreading the good word?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday Round-Up - #185

Hilary Melton-Butcher, at Positive Letters, wrote a fascinating post on scents. Since we're to incorporate all the senses into our writing, I thought this would add to our knowledge.

Even if you're not a writer, it's fun to consider this aspect of life in historical times.

Writers: Do you research what type of perfumes were available during your story's timeframe? How do you go about it?
Readers: How important is the sense of smell when you're reading a book? If you can think of something specific, please share.

Have a blessed weekend!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

On My Nightstand - The Chair by James L. Rubart

Corin Roscoe knows antiques, but when an elderly woman offers him a special chair, he's more than a little skeptical. Although she doesn't say it outright, she implies it was made by THE CARPENTER.

Since the price is right (free), he takes it. Upon close examination, Corin marvels at the workmanship and perfect dimensions. He puts it in the window, hoping someone might be drawn into his failing establishment.

A woman and her asthmatic son wander into the shop. While there, the child experiences an attack. Exhausted, the youngster sits in the chair and falls asleep. Soon afterward, Corin reads an account of how the child was healed. He embarks on a quest that involves all sorts of characters, some of whom could be described as "unsavory."

Everyone wants the chair. Will he unlock the secret of the chair and maybe find some answers for his tormented mind? Or is it all a hoax?

James Rubart once again comes up with a premise that is both unique and electrifying. He knows how to get the reader involved in the story. I zipped through the book in a couple of days. It's a good thing I had a long Thanksgiving weekend.

If you like slightly offbeat mysteries, Mr. R. will keep you on your toes. :)

Question for Writers: Do you like traditional mysteries or something with a supernatural twist? Why?

Question for Readers: Who is your favorite mystery author?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Stuck in the Mud

In certain areas of New England, they have what is known as, "mud season." A walk without the proper gear is an invitation to ruined shoes and wet feet. Even with waterproof boots, slogging through the mess is far from pleasant.

Figuratively speaking, I've been stuck in the mud. My computer and battery back-up conspired against me like puddles waiting to drag me into their murky depths. Writing emails, blog posts, and commenting involve hitting the "Save" button every few seconds or all my work might disappear forever.

Ah, but Internet mud season is almost over. Yes, folks, I bit the bullet and am now the owner of an HP Pavilion with a 1 terebyte hard drive. My computer-savvy pastor set it up with all kinds of cool safeguards like a back-up to the Internet "cloud" and a  partitioned memory. As soon as we can coordinate a time, I'll bring it home.

Thank you for your patience and faithfulness in visiting the blog. When I'm fully back online, I'll go on a grand tour of blogdom.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday Round-Up - #184

Laurel Garver, at Laurel's Leaves, administers a cure for run-on sentences.

Writers: Do you need this remedy? What's your favorite way to break up long sentences?

Readers: How do you feel about long sentences that make you run out of breath?

Have a blessed weekend!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

On My Nightstand - Reclaiming Lily by Patti Lacy

Gloria Powell's life comes to a standstill when what she's feared comes to pass. Someone wants to reclaim her precious adoptive daughter. Will she be able to keep the rebellious teenager from abandoning her and gravitating to her biological sister?

Dr. Kai Chang crossed the ocean to America, got her degree, and citizenship all for the purpose of finding the child her parents gave up during China's Cultural Revolution. She's racing the clock because a hereditary disease stalks their bloodline. Will she find Lily in time to save her life?

Wow! Even when I couldn't pick up this book because I was work or engaged in one of life's many activities, it engaged my mind. Patti Lacy's storytelling gets better with every book.

The author went to China as part of her research and came back with a clear understanding of how people think and their motivations. Kai's personality is painted with masterful brushstrokes, while Joy/Lily is the epitome of a confused, rebellious teenager.

Let's not forget the story. The development of life events flowed as naturally as a mountain stream. I never saw the ending coming, and it delighted me. Have those tissues ready for both sad and happy tears throughout this stellar book. I hope Patti gets an award for this one.

Disclaimer: Neither the publisher or author furnished this book or requested a review. I purchased it, and the opinions expressed are mine.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Do You Really Want to Know?

Thanks to Susan Panzica, at Eternity Cafe, for the, "Tell Me About Yourself Award." I hope you'll pop over to see her and say, "Hi."

Here are the rules. I need to share 7 things about me, and then pass the award along to 5 other bloggers, who will do the same. No pressure! If you're swamped, we understand. :)

The challenge (courtesy of my buddy, Jen Levellie, at Audience of One) is to share the "messy" and not just the "cutesy" tidbits.

1.  I love to shop. Seriously. Since I also have a super-responsible streak, hunting for bargains scratches that itch.

2.  Up until my twenties, I was a nail biter. Twice I underwent minor surgery to drain an infection from one of my fingers. I'm happy to report, I've overcome in this area.

3.  The kitchen is not my natural habitat. Since my husband now resides in heaven (where I'm sure they must have many fine chefs), I can avoid cooking as much as my little heart desires.

4.  Waiting for people is a major test of my patience, especially if I don't know why they're late. I'm always early. If something delays me, I call and let the other person know what happened.

5.   I get overwhelmed if too much is dumped on me at once. Such an occurrence requires much prayer, list making, and prioritizing.

6.  Driving in an unfamiliar area makes me tense. If I have to go somewhere new, I'll sometimes do a "dry run." When I was interviewing for jobs, this reduced the stress on the day of my meeting.

7.  Routine is my friend. I get out of sorts when my schedule goes out the window. Flexibility. I must learn flexibility.

I'm passing this award on to:

Jessica Nelson, of Booking It

Lynn J. Simpson, at Connecting Stories

Nancy, at Boomers, Scribblers, and Saints

Jan Cline

Terri Tiffany

Check out these blogs and get to know their authors. :)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday Round-Up - #183

Wouldn't it be nice if we could use little happy/sad faces in our writing? Ah, but that's not how it is in life. It's fun in an email or comment, but doesn't work in a book.

Nisa, at Wordplay, Swordplay: The Magic of Writing, gives a neat tip on how to identify emotional reactions. It draws upon how actors learn to express a character's feelings.

Writers: What are some ways you communicate/identify a fictional friend's emotions?
Readers: What causes you to connect with a character?

Have a blessed weekend!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Many thoughts run through my head at this moment. Perhaps I can catch them like an elusive firefly. Instead of forming neat sentences, I decided a list would best suit my purposes.

1. We talk about Thanksgiving, but do we remember Who we are thanking? Like Christmas with Christ x'd out, I've heard it referred to as, "Turkey Day." I will give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; his love endures forever. (Psalm 107:1)

2. I'm thankful I can write these words, a freedom people in some countries do not possess.

3. My heart swells with gratitude when I think of what it cost God to reconcile with me. Such love makes thanksgiving flow from my lips each day.

4. When I sit down with my family to share a meal or I reach out to hug one of them, I'm overwhelmed by the blessings He's given me.

5. I'm awed by the way believers have stood by me in times of great distress, discouragement, and sorrow. We are family.

What are you thanking God for this Thanksgiving?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Blogging Preparation

While I'm not wild about cooking, I do like to eat. Short cooking videos and TV chefs inspire me to copy recipes, so I can "someday" try them. What they neglect to show you is all the preparation that went into making the food. In fact, there's a whole class of chefs known as "sous chefs." They chop, cut, dice, and get all the ingredients ready for the chef, who pulls it all together.

Today, I'm giving everyone an inside look at what it takes to write these posts. Behind the short paragraphs and graphics, time and energy are expended to gather what I'll need for my blog meal.

1) Prayer. I know. I say that a lot, but it's essential for all aspects of my life and writing. I don't hang around waiting for an answer to drop from the sky or a booming voice. I pray and then go about my business. God responds in many ways. (See #2.)

2) The idea. This one came from watching food videos on Swagbucks. Others come from reading blogs and mulling over different points. My journaling time and Bible reading are a constant source of inspiration.

3) The Takeaway. Why would anyone want to read my post? Is there something that will challenge them, help them with a task, or encourage them?

4) The Graphic. When I'm looking at the Blogger feed, it's often a graphic that gets me to stop and check out a post. Choosing the picture takes almost as much time as writing an entry.

5) The Writing. Once I've prayed, jotted down my ideas, know the takeaway (application), and have the graphic in My Pictures, I'm ready to write. Sometimes the post flows in a different direction than I'd anticipated, but I go with it. After all, I am a SOTP writer! Yet, my preparation makes puts the basics at my fingertips.

Writers: How do you construct a blog post? Do you wing it the night before, outline, plan, or a combination?

Readers: What keeps you coming back to a blog?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Round-Up - #182

Lynn, at Connecting Stories, deals with the call on our lives. Is this writing adventure part of God's plan for us?

Her post helped solidify some things in my own mind. I particularly related to item #2 on her list.

How about you? Do you believe God called you to write?

Photo ba1969

Have a blessed weekend!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

On My Nightstand - Blue Skies Tomorrow by Sarah Sundin

Lt. Raymond Novak is the eldest of the Novak brothers. He'd much rather occupy a pulpit than fight in a war. When the Army Air Force decides that hero pilots should be training recruits, Ray gets re-assigned to a paper-pushing job. Is he a coward? Could he handle the rigors of combat?

Helen Carlisle, a widow with a young son, carries a dreadful secret. She's allowed others to call the shots in her life since her marriage to hero, Jim Carlisle. Can she escape the twisted logic that holds her captive and prevents her from accepting the love of a Godly man?

This is the final book in the Wings of Glory series. Although it's a stand-alone novel, you'll get more out of it if you read the previous books.

Sarah Sundin has once again captured the essence of her characters' struggles. She knows how to ramp up the tension and get my pulse racing. I loved the story, the setting details, and the people. At times, I related so much to them that it was difficult to separate my feelings from theirs.

If you haven't read any of Sarah's books, you're missing some wonderful writing and heart-stopping action. While the romance element is strong, there's enough war action to satisfy the males in our audience. This would also be a great gift for the older generation, who lived through this time period.

Great job, Sarah!

Disclaimer: Neither the author nor the publisher provided this book. I purchased it, read it, and wrote this recommendation. The opinions expressed are mine.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Free Samples

They're one of the reasons I'm drawn to stores like Costco. The management knows if they can get you to sample a product, you might put it in your shopping cart. It occasionally works with me.

Blogging, book excerpts, and details about our writing journey can act like a free sample. The reader gets familiar with your writing voice, your genre, and you as a person. There have been many posts about whether or not blogging is worthwhile. When we reach out to others and give them something that will help them, they'll keep coming back for more. Whether or not they buy anything, the friendships we make enrich our lives.

What are some of your favorite writing "free samples?"

Photo: dcandea

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Round-Up - #181

Heather Sunseri, at Balance With Purpose, deals with the question of blogging and the fiction writer. She talks about our audience, should we blog about writing or the theme of our book, and other fascinating details.

Even if you aren't a novelist, there's enough food for thought on the whole subject of why and how we blog. Check out the post, and let's discuss our views on the subject.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Series Books - Love 'Em, Hate 'Em?

From Karen Kingsbury's tales of the Baxter clan, to the Left Behind Series, to Yada Yada, I love series books. My only caveat is: I like to start at the beginning and blast my way through the entire set. Nothing frustrates me more than waiting for the next book to come out.

I've been reading Neta Jackson's House of Hope Series, which follows the Yada Yada Prayer Group books. They're all written in first person, which puts you in the character's shoes. Both my mother and I adore these books. All of them are rich in detail, have spiritual themes, and feature a multi-cultural cast of characters.

Neta is still writing the House of Hope books, but she has four of them on the market. I've picked up each one for Mom as they've been published, but my first taste of this delectable series was last week. I broke my own rule because they were calling my name the way chocolate does. :)

I'm totally hooked! I'm not going to review them in detail because I don't want to spoil the reading experience for anyone.

Writers: How do you feel about writing 5-7 books in a series? I'm writing a trilogy. I can't imagine writing more than 3 books.

Readers: Do you prefer stand-alone novels or a true series that keeps you panting for more?

Monday, November 7, 2011

You May Have Noticed...

There's a new addition to my sidebar! A few weeks ago, I received my contributor copy of Love is a Verb. I searched through the book, and located my devotional. Keep My Heart Soft is printed on May 2nd.

My friend, Jeanette Levellie, is also featured in this book. Jen's devotional, The Sacrifice of Silence, is found on May 26th. What fun that we're both in the same volume!

Do you submit to devotional books or anthologies? Please share with us.

Readers: Do you enjoy daily readings?

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

I'm doing a switcheroo today from my usual Friday Round-Up. Sit back and have some chocolate. :)

Speaking of chocolate...

No, it isn't my birthday, but the picture is chocolate!

I discovered something startling at a recent doctor visit. The nurse went through the usual litany of do you smoke, drink, etc. Then, she asked about caffeine consumption.  "Coffee, tea, soft drinks, CHOCOLATE." Chocolate??? How did that get in there?

I hung my head and whispered, "Yes, I eat chocolate every day...but only a little."

I glanced up in time to see her eyes narrow. "Would you say one or two ounces?" I shrugged. Her pen poised over the chart. "I'll put down two ounces."

Have you experienced this line of questioning?

What is with Blogger these days? Or my computer for that matter.

Argh! I visit many blogs, and my comments go "pouf!" Gone. Disappeared into cyberspace. I was doing okay with the Name/URL thingy. Now, it's decided to eliminate my comments.

Please know that I do visit even if your blog won't allow me to add to the conversation.

Is anyone else out there having difficulties commenting?

One of the greatest joys I've experienced over the last couple of months is connecting or re-connecting with friends. Jeanette Levellie, of Audience of One, stayed with me during the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference where we met up with Elaine W. Miller, Susan Panzica, Kathi Macias, and a bunch of other writer friends.
People I haven't seen in 10-20 years are now emailing me. (I'm liking August, October, and November A LOT!)

Do you notice you're meeting folks from the past more often?

Have a blessed and safe weekend!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

On My Nightstand - The Doctor's Lady by Jody Hedlund

Priscilla White harbors a devastating secret. Marriage and family are out of the question for her. She decides to devote her life to missions in India. Her plans suffer a major setback when the Mission Board announces they won't accept the applications of single women.

Dr. Eli Ernest has a passion for the Nez Perce indians in the Oregon Territory. He's already been there and wants to return. He runs into the same problem as Priscilla.

Neither of them want marriage, but it's the only way to fulfill the call on their lives. She's honest about her condition, but he's more worried about her surviving the dangerous trip. No woman had ever attempted the journey.

Three cheers for author Jody Hedlund! She hooked me right away, and I finished this book within a few days. Anyone disturbing my reading time discovered I was still on a covered wagon headed west.

This book is based on the true story of Narcissa Whitman, the first white woman to cross into Oregon. Jody used her diaries as the primary source of information. It gave me a new perspective about keeping a journal, although I doubt mine would rate biography status.

Writers: If you're a historical writer, would you consider writing a fictional account of a real person? Why or why not?

Readers: Do you like books based on someone's life or do you prefer straight fiction?

Everyone: Would you want someone to tell the story of your life in a fictionalized account? Why or why not?

Disclaimer: I won this book in a giveaway on Carol Garvin's blog. Neither the publisher nor the author paid for this review. All opinion, as always, are mine.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Stretch Those Muscles

Is that a cute kitty face or what? My black and white tuxedo cat, Abraham, loved to brace himself against the bookcase and stretch to his full length. He'd make the same face as the cat in this picture. Then he'd march around, working the muscles in his legs in slow motion. After this display of feline flexibility, Abraham would settle down with a contented sigh.

I get the same satisfaction from working my writer muscles. Oooh, trying some new technique to make my character come alive pushes me to the limit. Mmm, describing taste sensations send me running for the chocolate.

Writers: Have you stretched your writer muscles lately? How?

Readers: Have you read anything lately that made you sit up and take notice? If you can recall a phrase that made you smile, tickled your funny bone, or made you wish you'd said that? Please share.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday Round-Up - #180

Kay Strom wrote a tongue-in-cheek post called, "Adverbally Yours." I couldn't resist sharing it with all of you.

Have you ever gone back and read an old novel through your "writer's eyes?" I wonder what the rules will be like 20 years from now? Will adverbs come back into fashion like platform shoes, padded shoulders, and wide-legged pants?

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On My Nightstand - Betrayed by J. M. Windle

Vicki Andrews' latest assignment takes her to Guatemala. Her charity requires a thorough evaluation prior to extending support to the faith-based organization helping children. While there, she meets her sister, who works with an environmental group. Holly expresses concern over corruption.

Her observations of a nearby garbage dump where people live and eek out an existence. She notices movement in a garbage bag, and is shocked when she discovers her sister, shot and dying. The authorities write off the incident as just another incident in the crime-ridden city.

Vicki goes on a quest to find her sister's killer. Even as she works to uncover the truth, others try to prevent it from being revealed.

Jeanette Windle's grasp of conditions in underdeveloped nations reflects her experience as a missionary kid. The setting details, political maneuvering, and moral dilemmas leave no doubt that such scenarios occur in real life. The mind-bending logic of the enemy reveals the lengths to which people and governments will go for money and power.

The author includes an element of romance in the midst of a chaotic situation, as well as a strong spiritual thread. At 365 pages, this book kept me engaged. I'd love to read a sequel.

Do you like action/adventure/political books? Why or why not?

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Big Picture

Doing jigsaw puzzles is a favorite activity at a local elderly housing complex. At any given time, three or four puzzles are in progress. Having all the pieces in a big pile looks overwhelming to my inexperienced eyes. I watch these folks separate the straight edged parts and begin to fit them around the edge. There's a definite order to their work. They refer to the picture on the cover often to verify they're on the right track.

Writing a book or article is much like putting a puzzle together. We have a vision for a story and take steps to achieve our goals. A setting is built, characters developed, and conflicts devised. Our early efforts may not look like much, but we have the big picture in our heads, and we work until the guy gets the gal, the murderer is caught, or the crisis is resolved.

Some of us have a more detailed picture than others. As a seat-of-the-pants writer, I may not have all the little nuances in an outline, but I know where to start and where to end. By keeping focused on where we want to go with our story, we don't get bogged down by all the daily glitches.

The end result of both the puzzler's and the writer's work brings much pleasure to others. They'll display the projects for a time, but then they move forward. There's always another puzzle to put together or book idea to spur them on.

Writers: How do you face the daunting task of writing a book?

Readers: Do you see all the individual pieces that make up a book or is the picture seamless?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Winner of Carla Stewart's Book, "Broken Wings"

Congratulations to JESSICA NELSON! You've won Carla Stewart's book, "Broken Wings." As soon as you respond to my email with your address, I'll forward it to Carla.

Thanks to all, who participated in the comments. Carla and I enjoyed doing the interview and interacting with you.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday Round-Up - #179

Do you ever get frustrated at the gap between your vision for a story and the actual writing? Carol J. Garvin, at Careann's Musings, posted a video by radio personality, Ira Glass, on that subject.

She posed an interesting question on whether or not you'd really want to know the road would be long and difficult. What do you think?

Have a blessed weekend!

Photo credit: ror d

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Interview with Carla Stewart & Giveaway - Part 2

Carla Stewart, author of  "Chasing Lilacs" and "Broken Wings," joins us today for the second part of our interview. Giveaway details are at the bottom of this post. We interrupt this post for an important announcement:

NEWSFLASH! After you finish this post, I hope you'll pop over to Jill Kemerer's blog where I'm answering her "Five Easy Questions."

4) Hi, Carla! I'm brimming with questions for you. What advice would you give writers seeking publication?

Community is the best gift you can give yourself. Writing groups, conferences, critique partners - the human interaction keeps the solitary life of writing from feeling like you are alone. Although it's a cliche, iron really does sharpen iron. Pay attention to what those who've walked before have to offer in craft and networking. For your writing, don't be afraid of being unique.

5) I notice you're fairly active with Social Media. How do you strike a balance between writing and marketing? What's your favorite Social Media outlet and why?

Marketing is a huge time gobbler. I struggle continuously with it and am still eager to learn more about how to be an effective marketer. My favorite is FaceBook. Even with its drawbacks, it's the most efficient way for me to interact with family, friends, colleagues, and readers. I'm by nature a social person, so I like being able to offer congrats, condolences, and words of encouragement to a variety of people all in one place. I'm not crazy about the "selling something" aspect. Hopefully, people will buy my books because I've developed a relationship with them.

6) What authors influenced your work in the early days of your career?

I've always been a fan of mysteries and thought when I wrote my own novels, they'd be mysteries. I did write one, and it was terrible (the one in the bottom of the closet). Then I discovered Anne Tyler, and I knew relationship stories were what resonated in my heart. Rosamund Pilcher, Barbara Kingsolver, Billie Letts, and Sue Monk Kidd were some early influencers and great examples of literary women's fiction writers.

I didn't know CBA had literary equivalents and was delighted to learn of Lisa Samson, Susan Meissner, Mary DeMuth, Dale Cramer, and Charles Martin. So many wonderful authors to love and learn from.

7) I'm looking forward to reading more of your books. Can you share about your current WIP?

"Stardust" (Faith Words) will be out early next summer. It's lighter in tone than "Broken Wings," but still has some knotty issues. I've returned to a nostalgic time and found some real characters in the bayou country of East Texas. The year is 1952 at the height of the polio epidemic. Here's a thumbnail sketch:

The Stardust Tourist Court beckons an East Texas widow to a new life, but when her dead husband's mistress arrives and polio strikes, George Peyton's dreams are crippled.

Susan, thank you for having me! I've had a grand time!

Bio: Carla Stewart's writing reflects her passion for times gone by. She's the author of two current novels, "Chasing Lilacs" and "Broken Wings," an alum of the Guideposts Writer's Workshop, two-time winner of the ACFW Genesis contest, and a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award. She believes in Jesus, the power of the written word, and a good cup of coffee. She and her husband have four adult sons and six grandchildren. You can find Carla at Follow her on Twitter:!/ChasingLilacs and FaceBook:

Giveaway details:
1) To enter, comment on this post, including your email. Sorry - no email, no entry. You can have up to two entries by commenting on Part 1 and Part 2 of the interview.

2) Residents of the U.S. are eligible for this giveaway. It is void where prohibited, and the winner is responsible for their eligibility.

3) You must be a Follower of Christian Writer/Reader Connection to enter the giveaway.

4) Deadline: Saturday, 10/22/11, 11:59 p.m. The winner will be selected by random drawing, emailed, and announced on the blog on Sunday, 10/23/11. When I receive the winner's snail mail address, I'll forward it to Carla, who will mail you her book, "Broken Wings."
Disclaimer: I have not received any remuneration for doing this interview from the author or the publisher. I loved the book and wanted to showcase the author.

Writers: Carla said, "...don't be afraid of being unique." Do you shy away from writing something that's not a current favorite? Also, what authors have influenced your writing journey?

Readers: What was your favorite part of this interview and why?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Keep Your Creativity Well Oiled

When I purchased my first car, a family member emphasized the importance of changing the oil at regular intervals. This exercise would keep the parts from wearing out or freezing up. The advice stuck with me, and I've always maintained my vehicles.

How do we keep our creativity flowing and in good condition? Here are a few suggestions:

1) Write! Don't allow your skills to get rusty from neglect.

2) Read! An active mind will fuel new ideas.

3) Insights! Ask the Lord to give you illumination as you read His Word and quality books.

4) Time! Give yourself time to acquire the mechanics of writing.

5) Encourage yourself! I love the Psalms. David prayed, worshipped, sang, and kept God's Word in the forefront of his mind. He persisted, trusted, and believed in God's promises.

How do you maintain your creativity and keep it running like a well-oiled machine?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday Round-Up - #178

We've all been there. Inspiration rains down on us, and we start the future bestseller. Somewhere along the line, our writing seems flat and even boring.

Gail Gaymer Martin, of Writing Right, gives suggestions on how to get the story moving again.

Writers: What methods do you use to get your story off life support?

Readers: What makes you lose interest in a book?

Have a blessed weekend!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Interview with Carla Stewart & Giveaway - Part 1

When I read Carla Stewart's book, "Broken Wings," I couldn't wait to approach her for an interview. Not only has she agreed to the interview, but she's sponsoring a giveaway for her book. See the bottom of this post for details.

Without further preliminaries, let's get on with the interview.

1) Welcome, Carla! We'd love to hear about your journey to publication. Were you "discovered" or was it a long road?

Definitely the long road. It took almost nine years to the day from the time I got serious about writing (bought the book, put on the writer's hat, and whispered, "I'm a writer.")

2) Is your genre considered Contemporary Women's Fiction? Did you face any obstacles because of the genre you selected? If so, please share your experience and how you overcame them.

What I write straddles the fence between contemporary and historical. I usually call it nostalgic women's fiction. This is something of an anomaly in the CBA, so yes, there have been obstacles. My first book, "Chasing Lilacs," was rejected many times before it found a home. It was six years in the making!

In retrospect, I think my belief in the story, being willing to rewrite it a dozen times, and listening to the experienced and wise people God put in my path led to it finally being published. Now, I don't think of it as an obstacle, but a learning process and God's timing.

3) What was your inspiration for, "Broken Wings?" Did you base some or all of it on incidents in your life?

It began with a short story I wrote a number of years ago based on my own family's tales about the Great Depression and Black Sunday in particular. In "Sand Plum Summer," three orphans were taken in by a farm family when their mother perished in the worst dust storm in history.

I loved this story and thought of the characters from time to time. It was almost like they were waiting backstage for their cue to make an entrance. It kept coming back to me that the oldest of those three orphans surely had a story to tell.

Then one day, I read a newspaper article about the possible renovation of Tulsa's Big Ten Ballroom, a jazz hall in the forties and fifties. I knew at once my little orphan had grown up to become a jazz singer. She would be quite elderly now, of course, but perhaps she needed to tell  her story.

None of, "Broken Wings," is based on my life or people I know, but about a month after I'd received the contract offer, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with mid-stage Alzheimer's. The story took on a very personal meaning as I was writing it.

Next week, Carla will share her advice for writers seeking publication, discuss social media, and talk about those who influenced her career.

Writers: Are you facing obstacles with your choice of genre? How do you stay motivated?

Readers: Do you ever wish publishers would expand their horizons beyond their usual offerings?

And now what you've been waiting for...the giveaway details!

1. Please comment on this post, including your email address. Sorry - no email, no entry. You can have up to two entries if you comment here and on Part II of the interview.

2. You must be a Follower of Christian Writer/Reader Connection.

3. The giveaway is limited to residents of the U.S. and is void where prohibited. The winner is responsible for their eligibility.

4. Deadline: Saturday, October 22, 2011, at 11:59 p.m. The winner will be selected in a random drawing, notified by email, and announced on Sunday, October 23, 2011 on the blog.

5. When the winner sends me their snail mail address, I will forward it to Carla. She will send you, "Broken Wings."

Disclaimer: I have not received any remuneration for this interview from either the author or the publisher. I loved the book and wanted to showcase the author. :)

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Care & Feeding of Readers

We've looked at the care and feeding of writers, but what about readers? What can we do as writers to make the reading experience a pleasure? What can readers do to enhance enjoyment of a story?


1. Remember the reader cannot see what you envision. They need description, showing, and great word choices to paint a picture in their minds.

2. Have mercy and eliminate those favorite words or at least use them sparingly. When readers see a word too many times in a book, they start counting. Guess what? It pulls them out of the story.

3. The reader hasn't looked over your shoulder while you poured over research material. Define terms they may not understand.

4.  As a follow-up to number 3 above, don't try to impress your reader with all your technical knowledge. Not everyone in your audience is a doctor, nurse, engineer, computer geek, etc. Realism is good, but losing your reader isn't.

5.  Pray for your reader as you write, as you brainstorm with others, and as you develop your characters and storylines.


1.  If you hate long novels, avoid anything thicker than an inch.

2.  Know your reading style. Do you read on the go? An eReader might be a great investment. Does the look and feel of a "real" book make you happy on the inside? Find a comfy chair and settle down with one.

3.  Does a genre make you want to run out of the room screaming? For your peace of mind and the author's, please don't buy it and then post nasty reviews on Amazon or your blog.

4.  I like books that are stand-alone novels, but are also a series. Tamara Alexander's Fountain Creek Chronicles gave me many hours of reading pleasure. If you enjoy following characters from one book to another, feed the reader within by picking up a series.

5.  Before you choose a book, do your homework. Read reviews, blogs, author websites, and author interviews. You'll feel more confident in your selections, and there will be less chance of disappointment.

Writers and readers: Do you have any suggestions for the care and feeding of the reader?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday Round-Up - #177

With so many of our blogging friends getting agents and contracts, I thought this post might be useful. Jennifer Hudson Taylor gives a timeline for all those tasks necessary to launching a book.

Even if you're not at this stage, you might want to file this for future reference. Question: Are you a plan ahead type person or do you cram in everything at the last minute?

Have a blessed weekend!

Photo credit: Ask (

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

On My Nightstand - Remembered by Tamara Alexander

Veronique Girard travels from Paris, France to the Colorado Territory to fulfill a promise made to her dying mother. After an exhausting journey, she arrives in the small town of Willow Creek.

Her plans to search for her missing father run into major obstacles. The petite Frenchwoman finds a solution with the help of a kind livery owner.

Jack Brennan decides to work as a freighter, carrying goods to remote mining camps. When someone purchases his wagon, his patience wears thin.

Veronique and Jack agree to a working arrangement. Both are looking for healing and peace, and find it in the most unexpected way.

I devoured this book. The interaction between Veronique and Jack ranged from hilarious to endearing. The author is an expert at the whole "emotional reaction unit" technique.

The third of the Fountain Creek Chronicles, Remembered, was my favorite. I only wish I'd read the three books closer together. Tamara wove in details from the other books and hinted at others. While a stand-alone novel, I recommend you read all three in sequence.

A big "YES" for this delicious historical romance!

Disclaimer: I received this three-volume book as a gift from my Mom. I did not receive any remuneration from the publisher or author for this review/recommendation. All opinions, as always, are entirely mine.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Ruined Reader?

A former judge once said he found it difficult to enjoy reading. His training in the law made him dissect every word.

Several weeks ago, I asked a question at the end of my post about whether or not typos, misspellings, and other mistakes ruined the reading experience. Most people noticed the mistakes, but forged ahead. Some found it almost painful.

When I attended workshops and read craft books, my errors stood out like a huge ink blot. My observations weren't limited to my work, but also included the many books I read. I chose to overlook the minor annoyances and shut down the internal editor. If the problems overwhelmed the story, it became almost impossible to keep reading.

Once I understood some of the mechanics involved in writing, my appreciation for a well-written book and great storytelling skyrocketed. When the author's story world drew me in, it was nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Question for Writers: Has your knowledge lessened the pleasure of reading a good story that isn't well written? Do you edit as you read?

Question for Readers: What makes you throw your hands up and quit reading a book?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Round-Up - #176

Jack Popjes guest posts at Novel Rocket (formerly Novel Journey). He tells an amazing story about a grandmother he met at a writers conference.

I loved this line: "The weakest ink lasts longer than the most powerful memory."

Are you writing down the answers to your prayers and sharing them with others?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

On My Nightstand - A River to Cross by Yvonne Harris

Elizabeth Evans moves to Texas to help her widowed brother with his newspaper and his little girl. Leaving Washington, D.C. and the memories of her late husband, she's excited about this new opportunity. What she gets is a different story. Her brother is murdered and she's kidnapped by the forces of General Manuel Diego.

In 1886, Texas is still a wild frontier. Jake Nelson serves as a Texas Ranger. In an area with few law enforcement personnel, the group provides protection from outlaws and handles problems. Jake obtains a photo of Elizabeth and sets out to rescue her.

I don't want to give away too much of the story, but it grabbed me from the first page. This story was a bucking bronco from start to finish. I loved it!

There's plenty of action, history, and romance. It also makes me happy I live now and not back then.

When you read historicals, do you wish you lived in that time period or are you satisfied you live in the present day?

Disclaimer: I won this book on Jaime Wright's blog. I received no remuneration from either the publisher or author for this review. The opinions, as always, are my own.

Monday, September 26, 2011

It All Adds Up

When I started my new job, the learning curve seemed overwhelming. I took copious notes to use as cheat sheets. Within a couple of weeks, the notes sat in my inbox untouched. What sent my mind on tilt when I began was now second nature. While I'm learning more advanced procedures, it no longer cramps my brain. I'm building on the knowledge I already possess.

We look at the elements that go into professional non-fiction and fiction and wonder if we'll ever get to the point where our work is publishable. Then, one day we submit a piece, and it's accepted.

Each step we take to improve our craft and learn the business side brings us closer to our goal of publication. Keep building upon the foundation you've laid. It all adds up to success.

Don't get discouraged or despair. Most of all, trust the Lord to help you absorb what's necessary and applicable to your writing life and to open the appropriate doors. Everyone's journey is different.

Do you have a word of encouragement for other writers? Let's make this a day of supporting those still in the newbie/intermediate stage.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Round-Up - #175

C.J. Darlington compiled a list of popular novels and their word counts. They ranged from 30,000 (Playng by Heart by Deborah Raney) to a whopping 199,000 (The Bones of Makaidos by Bryan Davis).

Writers: What's the target word count for your WIP?

Readers: Do you prefer shorter novels or the War and Peace variety?

Have a blessed weekend!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

On My Nightstand - An Accidental Family by Loree Lough

Nadine Greene is attracted to her neighbor, Lamont London. Yet, she's afraid to follow her heart. A widow, her marriage left scars, both physical and emotional. Can she get past her fears and experience true love?

Lamont London played the field after his wife died, but he couldn't reconcile his love for his late wife and remarriage. Circumstances throw him in the path of the lovely Nadine Greene.

This is the first book I've read by Loree Lough, and I enjoyed it. As a widow, I appreciated the sensitive exploration of the characters' feelings, turmoil, and confusion.

This Love Inspired book contained all the satisfying elements one looks for in a romance. At 215 pages, it's a quick read. I'd pick up another Loree Lough book in a heartbeat.

What's your favorite (past or current) love story?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Alphabet Fun

My friends, Jeanette Levellie, Diane Estrella, and Nancy inspired me to share a little about myself. If you want to do this exercise, jump right in either on your blog or a short version in the comments.

A. Age. Older than 20, but younger than 80.

B. Baked Goods. Chocolate Chip cookies and brownies.

C. Chore you hate. Cleaning my kitchen floor. Because of the design, I have to get down on my hands and knees.

D. Dogs. I like them, but they're too much work. I prefer cats.

E. Essential start to your day. Bible reading, journaling, and prayer.

F. Favorite color: Purple. (Jeanette can verify this.)

G. Gold or silver. I like gold, but silver is nice.

H. Height: 5' 6" I've shrunk a bit. With the longevity in my family, I could end up petite.

I.  Instruments you play. I took piano as a kid, but hated it.

J.  Job. Administrative Assistant. I love the work, the people, and the company.

K. Kids. Two grown stepsons and a daughter-in-law.

L.  Live. East Coast, USA

M. Mother. Still with me, Praise God!

N.  Nickname. Suze (pronounced Sooz, but sometimes Susie)

O.  Overnight hospital stay. Two that I'd prefer to forget.

P.  Pet peeve. People who don't clean up after their dogs.

Q. Quote. John 10:10. Yes, you'll have to look it up!

R.  Right or left. Right.

S.  Siblings. I'm the Lone Ranger (my Dad's words), but I have an honorary sister.

T.  Time you wake up. I wake up several times during the night, but I get up at 6:15 A.M.

U.  University you attended. The School of Hard Knocks (again, according to my Dad). I did graduate from Bible School and spent an additonal year at a second Bible School.

V.  Vegetable you dislike. Brussels Sprouts and asparagus. However, I do like broccoli.

W.  What makes you late? Digging my car out after a snowstorm.

X.  X-rays. It's a wonder I don't glow in the dark.

Y.  Yummy food. Spaghetti and meatballs with salad, black olives, and garlic bread.

Z.  Zoo animal favorite. Giraffe. I always remember my cousin's 2-year-old pointing to the markings and saying, "Boo-boo?"

Were you surprised by any of my answers?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Round-Up - #174

Do you want to make your scenes stronger? Lynnette Labelle, at Chatterbox Chitchat, shares some hints on crafting scenes with muscle.

I liked her suggestion to start a scene with a happy character, but have them leave feeling sad or angry. Which tip is your favorite?

Have a blessed weekend!

NEWS FLASH! Congrats to Jeanette Levellie! You're the winner of Carrie Turansky's book, "Seeking His Love."

Photo by: stroszko

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

On My Nightstand - Seeking His Love by Carrie Turansky & GIVEAWAY!

Rachel Clark moves to Fairhaven, Washington to get a fresh start. She loves her new job directing a Christian Theater Group for kids.

When the group has to move or face closing down, she locates a building that houses an artist cooperative. She gets more than she bargained for when she meets one of its influencial members.

Cam McKenna's work consumes him. He can forget about the past and live in the moment. Women and children don't fit into his life.

When two wounded people meet, sparks fly. Will the fire warm them or consume them?

Author Carrie Turansky writes a sweet love story with enough surprises to hold the reader's attention. I liked how she developed her characters and chose a real-life setting.

At 214 pages, it's a quick, satisfying read for a chilly evening. I enjoyed it and hope you will too.

Disclaimer: I picked this book up from the Freebie tables at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference. I have not received any remuneration from the publisher or author. The opinions expressed are my own.

It's been awhile since I did a giveaway. Here are the rules:

1) You must be a Follower to enter.

2) This one will be a FLASH giveaway. It starts at 12:01 A.M., 9/14/11, and ends 11:59 P.M., 9/15/11.

3)  Leave a comment on this post with your email address. Sorry, no email = no entry.

4)  The giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. and is void where prohibited. Winners take all responsibility for their eligibility.

5)  The winner will be announced at the end of the Friday Round-Up Post on 9/16/11 and notified by email.

Writers: Do you think it's harder to write a short novel or novella than a full-length book? Have you ever written the short version? If so, tell us about your experience developing a theme with fewer words.

Readers: What is your preference? A full-length book or a shorter novel you can read in a day or two? Tell us why.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Care & Feeding of Writers

When I worked full time days and went to Bible School full-time nights, I existed on cold cereal and TV dinners. In moderation, these items are fine, but on a daily basis, they don't come close to a balanced diet. My body let me know I'd better consume fruit, veggies, and protein. Without them, my energy levels and sense of well being almost disappeared.

The writer also needs a balanced diet:

1) Come out of the writing cave and breathe in the beauties of God's creation. Fresh air and sunshine make for a happier, upbeat attitude.

2) Read wholesome, well-written books in a variety of genres. You know the saying with computers, "garbage in, garbage out." If you want to write well, read material that exposes you to quality writing. It's way too easy to pick up bad habits.

3) Live your life. Those babies won't be babies forever. Those children will someday leave the nest. Pour into them and enjoy them while you can. Treasure your mate, your extended family, and your friends. Your experiences will enrich your writing.

4) Exercise. While soaking in the colors, sounds, and sights of nature, get those muscles working. The blood flow to your brain will sharpen your writing and attention to detail.

5) Spend time with God. I'm a morning person, so the first thing I do is journal, read my Bible, and pray. He often gives me insights that guide me through any rough spots I'll face throughout my day. Often, I'll find inspiration for my writing, as well as for my life.

What are some of the things you do to "feed the writer within?"

Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday Round-Up - #173

Janalyn Voight, at Author Haven, provides a proofreading checklist. I don't know about you, but I can sure use this.

Writers: Have you gone through your manuscript umpteen times, and still find mistakes? What steps do you take to present a clean copy to editors/agents?

Readers: Do you get aggravated when you come across misspellings and other errors in a book? Does it cause you to abandon the story or do you forge ahead?

NEWSFLASH! My friend, Maria Morgan, of Life Lessons, and several other women are starting a Monday through Saturday Devotional Page on Facebook. It's called, "Living By Grace." It will launch on Monday, September 12, 2011.

The writers are Joanne Sher, Maria I. Morgan, Jessica R. Patch, Lynda Schultz, Patty Wysong, and Jennifer Slattery. Hop over to their Facebook page today, and say "hello." And grab your Bibles and join them on Monday for the official launch of Living by Grace!

Have a great weekend!

Photo credit: nkzs

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

On My Nightstand - Broken Wings by Carla Stewart

Two women deal with the realities of life. Mitzi Steiner volunteers as a Pink Lady at the local hospital and visits her husband, Gabe, in a nursing home. Brooke Woodson finally has a boyfriend at age 30. She's the envy of many single women, and her family adores him. Too bad, he has a temper.

An accident causes the paths of these ladies to intersect, and their lives are changed forever. The author handles sensitive subjects without diluting the powerful emotions involved. This story touches on issues common to many women, while showing how God uses relationships to help us see truth.

Carla Stewart is a new author to me, but I'm looking forward to reading more of her work. This book sat on my TBR pile for a long time. Little did I know there was a gem hidden in my stack.

Have you read any books lately that took you by surprise?