Monday, December 24, 2012

O Holy Night

I'll be taking a blogging break until Monday, January 7, 2013. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my friends in the blogosphere!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday Round-Up - #225

My good friend, Jean Fischer, gives a primer on Pinterest. She's even got me interested,  and you know how resistant I am to adding more social media to my plate!

Writers: Have you tried Pinterest? Please share your experience.

Readers: What kinds of Pinterest boards attract your attention?

Have a blessed weekend!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Friday Round-Up - #224

Jaime Wright, over at Coffee Cups and Camisoles, shares how she researched setting for her latest work in progress. She made some amazing discoveries along the way.

Writers: What interesting facts have you unearthed in your quest for a realistic setting?

Readers: How important is setting to the overall story?

Have a blessed weekend!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Crocheting Stories

Granny Squares, ripples, pillows, sweaters, baby clothes all grew from my crochet needle. Easter chicks, toys, and even a doll were added to the long list. As each took shape, I'd think about the next gift and the one who would receive it. What colors did they like? Would a cozy afghan be their preference or a hat and scarf?

As I craft my stories, I think of the readers. How much tension can they handle? What themes will be meaningful to their lives? Will the ending satisfy them?

Before I used yarn to create something tangible and valued. Now, I use words.

Writers: What are some of the things you do other than writing that reflect your creativity? How has it impacted your storytelling?

Readers: What gives you a profound sense of accomplishment?

Photo credit:  twasa

Friday, December 7, 2012

On My Nightstand - With Every Letter by Sarah Sundin

Mellie Blake volunteers for a pioneer position as a medical evacuation nurse during WWII. Raised by her father in some unorthodox settings, she has a unique perspective on the world. Making friends and fitting in with other women make her challenging job look simple.

Tom MacGilliver also has difficulty relating to others but for completely different reasons. He wonders if people will ever accept him for himself rather than judge him by the actions of a close family member.

An Army officer gets her husband to set up an anonymous letter exchange. Most of the participants either quit or decide to meet each other in person. Tom and Mellie continue their correspondence, but fear that meeting will invite rejection.

Author Sarah Sundin gives us another compelling story. Her careful development of the characters and impeccable research made me feel every emotion and jump at every bomb blast. This is my favorite of all her books. Of course, I say that with each new story that comes from her pen.

If I were rating this book, I'd give it five stars. Don't miss this amazing love story.

Disclaimer: Neither the author nor the publisher paid for this recommendation.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Lean Into The Task

I'm my own worst enemy. Procrastination, excuses, passive resistance add up to unfinished business. It takes a quality decision to move ahead whether I feel like it or not.

This week, I've leaned into the tasks instead of allowing them to bury me. I've chopped away at each one until I could cross them off my famous (or infamous) lists.

And you know something? I'm now free to do the fun stuff without all the grunt work hanging over my head.

Writers: What aspects of writing must you "lean into?"

Readers: What jobs around the house make you want to hide under the covers?

Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Round-Up - #223

Karen Lange, guest posts at Lessons from the Homestead (Carol Alexander). In addition to sharing a little-known holiday for writers, she gives suggestions on how to encourage children to write.

Writers & Readers: Do you encourage the children in your life to express themselves through writing? What are some of the methods you use to capture their imagination?

Have a blessed weekend!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Translating Reading to Fine Writing

As writers, we're admonished to read excellent books in our genre. Many post about how they analyze an author's style, plot, characters, and setting. As a Seat-of-the-Pants writer, this comes about as naturally as standing on my head.

So, how do I translate what I'm reading into principles I can integrate into my writing?

1) I read the story for pure enjoyment. If it grabs me and takes me on a breathtaking ride, I go with it.

2) After I finish, I evaluate how the book affected me. Did I keep getting pulled out of the story or was I engaged the entire time? Did the author create characters that were sympathetic or did I want to slap them silly? Was the ending satisfying or did it leave me feeling cheated?

3) When I narrow down the aspects of the book I liked and the ones I found unsatisfactory, I ask myself, "how did she/he do it?" Did the author make all those historical references a natural part of the story or did they pound me over the head with facts? What techniques did the author use to evoke an emotional response in me, the reader?

4) I then compare the methods against my WIP. I'll re-read sections and see if they're effective or need more work.

5) If I were reading my book, would I want to have a sequel or be disappointed at the end?

Writers: How do you translate what you read into tips for your own writing?

Readers: What makes a book go from so-so to so awesome?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Blogger Burnout Spa

My friend, Karen Lange, and I were discussing the need for a blogging break via email. She used a phrase something like, "blog burnout spa." Well, my brain did a flip and tossed out some interesting ideas of what amenities that spa might offer.

1.  Chocolate. Writing or not, this is a necessity.

2.  By day, I'd walk through an indoor tropical paradise. Birds and butterflies would swoop and hover among the orchids, waterlilies, ponds, and palm trees.

3.  At night, a cozy fire and couch would give me a place to read my Bible, journal, and talk with the Lord.

4.  A princess-and-the-pea canopy bed would await me, piled high with pillows and luxurious linens. Of course, they'd be various shades of purple.

5. No spa getaway would be complete without the company of good friends. Tea, delicate confections, and laughter would erase the tensions of daily life.

Items to be checked at the door:

1.  Computers
2.  Cell Phones
3.  TV's
4.  Newspapers
5.  Manuscripts and red pens

I'll be taking a break for the Thanksgiving Weekend. See you on Monday, 10/26/12. 

What's your idea of a blog burnout spa?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday Round-Up - #222

James L. Rubart is one of my favorite authors. Recently, he guest posted at Novel Rocket, and shared where he gets ideas for his books.

Writers: Have you figured out where your ideas come from? Please share.

Readers: Do you have story ideas that you'd wish an author would put into a book? Please share.

Have a blessed weekend!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Do Less, Accomplish More

My To-Do List screams at me. Like papers on my desk, it multiples. There's an Amish saying I've seen in tourist traps: The faster I go, the behinder I get.

How do I keep something helpful from turning into a monster? I've discovered a secret. I split my To-Do List in two. One list contains the big picture with everything that pops up in life, while the other is a daily list of priorities.

Here's a sampling of my Big Picture:

1) Write church blog.
2) Email update
3) Promised book review for friend (due in January)
4) Laundry
5) Gym
6) Swagbucks
7) Write out Christmas cards.
8) Christmas gift list. (I list each person, and jot ideas next to their names.)
9) Update bookkeeping and pay bills.
10) Call health insurance.

My devotional time and seeing Mom is a recurring item on all lists. Also, my Big List is much larger than what I've shown here.

My Daily Lists:


1. Gym
2. Vote
3. Laundry
4. Work
5. Swagbucks


1.  Gym
2.  Pay bills
3.  Swagbucks
4.  Cancel appointment and re-schedule.
5.  Work

You may have noticed that writing doesn't show up on any of these lists. I confess: I'm in a slump right now. I'm thinking about writing. I'm praying for direction on what to do with my trilogy. But...words are stuck like a chicken bone in my throat. (Yeah, I need a creative Heimlich maneuver.)

This post isn't about my writing woes though. The shorter lists help me take a bite out of that big elephant, while the longer list  reminds me there are other things on the agenda. Each one has a deadline. By scheduling the items on my dailies, they get done in a timely fashion.

By the way, my blog skin has disappeared. At least, I can't see it. Can you? Argh. Another thing to add to my list!

Writers and Readers: So, what do you think of my lists? How do you keep from feeling overwhelmed by all the "things you gotta do?"

Friday, November 9, 2012

On My Nightstand - Inescapable by Nancy Mehl

Lizzie Engel learns a difficult lesson: problems have a way of following you. She ran from the pressures of her strict Mennonite upbringing in Kingdom, Kansas. After five years, her life has taken another downward spiral, and she's on the run once again. Her once despised town now seems a possible safe haven.

Noah Housler, an old friend, brings back pleasant memories. How can she think of romance when secrets threaten her life?

I LOVED this book! The author plunked me into the setting and into Lizzie's life. I couldn't put it down. My Mom also gave Nancy Mehl's story high marks. I was torn between wanting to see what happened and yet not wanting the story to end.

Disclaimer: I won this book in a blog contest. Neither the author nor the publisher asked for this recommendation or gave me any payment.

Writers:  What are some of the methods you use to make your characters and settings realistic?

Readers: What books have gripped you and put you in the "I want to finish/I don't want to finish" dilemma?

Have a blessed weekend!

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Mystique of Setting

When I was 5 years old, my uncle gave me a dollhouse for Christmas. From that point, I was totally hooked on giving my miniature people all the advantages of a real home. Little children played in the nursery, while Mom cooked dinner. They had a stage for their activities.

My larger dolls didn't escape my vivid imagination either. When my cousin was born, my aunt passed her outgrown baby clothes on to me. I preferred them to the flimsy doll clothing available in stores. Real sweaters, hats, and booties adorned my darlings.

Along with the clothing, came the bassinet, the real wood crib, highchair, and doll carriage. At one point, my room had a fully-decked out bassinet, a crib, and a doll bed made out of a Penny Playpal box. (She was the older sister.)

A character without a setting is like a doll without the trappings of real life. Who can forget the curtains Scarlett O'Hara made for Tara? Authors like Cathy Gohlke, Tamera Alexander, and others draw us into their worlds with sweeping vistas and realistic details of bygone years.

How can we create a stage for our characters that doesn't resemble a cardboard backdrop?

1) Research, research, research. I know authors, who read books, newspapers, articles, visit museums, and travel to absorb the flavor of their characters' era.

2) Word choice. We would not use King James English in a contemporary novel. Neither would we resort to modern terminology in a historical romance.

3) Interview experts. While working on my first manuscript, I relied on a friend to give me cultural input. On TV, the character, Richard Castle, hangs around a real-life detective for inspiration and accurate details.


Photo Credits:  Dollhouse by melodi2
                         Fashion by Ayla87

Writers:  What techniques do you use to produce great settings?

Readers: What does a stunning setting do for your reading experience?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Friday Round-Up - #221

Are you participating in November's NaNoWriMo? Larry Brooks, at Story Fix, gives a plan for moving from an idea to a viable story plan in one easy lesson.

Writers: Are you taking on the challenge? How do you manage with Thanksgiving at the end of the month?

Readers: How do you find time to read during the holiday season?

Have a blessed weekend!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Chasing Trends

Have you noticed the trend toward colorful athletic shoes? While purple is my favorite color, there's a lot to be said for basic black and white. A recent shopping trip left me frustrated and wondering what's happened to the classics.

I'm not against the latest fashion fads, but usually catch them as they're fizzling out. For example, jumpsuits were once quite popular. By the time I adjusted to the look and purchased one, they were declared extinct.

Books also go through cycles in the popularity game. When I first began writing, Chick Lit was super hot. Whoever hears of it now?

When a genre gains popularity, how can we tell if they will be the next literary phenomenon or a short-lived blip on publishing's radar? I'm sure few people believed the Amish craze would last this long.

I've thought about this, and here's my take on the subject:

1.  A classic can withstand a bit of updating, while a fad is so far out it defies alteration.

2.  Timeless themes on the human condition will always be in style. Romance, good versus evil, and  championing the underdog never fail to rivet us.

3.  Originality is a key element. Authors who can breathe new life into a time-tested storyline will have readers beating a path to the nearest bookstore or online outlet.

Writers: What are your thoughts on classics versus fads?

Readers:  What fashion trends do you remember either with fondness or horror?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday Round-Up - #220

Author Jody Hedlund explores the subject, "Is Blogging a Time-Suck for Writers?"

Loree Huebner, at Between you, me and the gatepost, discusses the use of heirlooms in our stories.

Writers:  What are your thoughts about blogging and time management?

Readers: What are some of your favorite elements in a story: heirlooms, scene detail, customs of a bygone time period, etc.?

Have a blessed weekend!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies & Social Media

Those of you who've known me for awhile understand my favorite foods are chocolate chip cookies and a glass of milk (for dunking, of course). A friend told me about the whole food way of eating recently, and I was impressed. Unfortunately, the aforementioned treats do not appear on this diet.

My initial trips to the grocery store yielded few purchases, and I walked out in a daze. What do I eat? Words like, "gluten free, organic, and natural," chased me down the aisles and left this bargain hunting champ suffering from major sticker shock.

Little by little, I'm learning the ropes. Organic meats (no hormones, additives, natural feed) go into my cart. My grocery store marks them down on Monday mornings. You gotta be quick to get the deals. Organic veggie omelets grace my table 3 times a week, and raw nuts and carrots are new snacks.

But...let's not get crazy here. The milk and cookies stay. Period.

As a writer, I'm not quite so adventurous with Social Media. I took to blogging like a chocoholic is drawn to Godiva, but Twitter, My Space, Good Reads, Facebook, and Pinterest nearly sent me over the edge. A friend dragged me kicking and screaming onto Facebook. It took some deep breathing, but I've adjusted. My Twitter account rarely chirps these days, and they send me, "We've missed you," messages.

Maybe someday I'll join Pinterest and Good Reads. Maybe someday I'll go the full whole foods route and leave all things chocolate chip behind.


BTW: Diane Estrella, from That's What I'm Here For, is featuring me on her blog today. :)

Writers: What Social Media outlets strike fear in your hearts?

Readers: Have you connected with writers on Social Media (other than blogs)? What resources do you use to discover new authors/books?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

And The Winner Is...

Oops! I was supposed to post this yesterday. My apologies. To make up for my boo-boo, I extended the deadline through last night and eliminated the email address requirement.

Congratulations to:    SARAH FORGRAVE

Sarah, I'll email you to arrange shipment of your book. Thanks for all the comments.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday Round-Up - #219

Jeanette Levellie, at On Wings of Mirth and Worth, posts about being great before you're famous. 

Heather Sunseri, at Balance With Purpose, discusses self-publishing not really being "self" any more than traditional publishing is "full service."

Writers: Do you think self-publishing is "taking the easy route?" Why or why not?

Readers:  What are some of the small kindnesses that have impacted your life?

Have a blessed weekend!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Giveaway Time!

The Amish Midwife has a mix of Amish and English characters. Mindy and Leslie present a clash of cultures, and serve up a tantalizing mystery.

Rather than allow this story to languish on my bookshelves, I'm having a drawing. Here are the giveaway details:

1) The giveaway is open to residents of the United States.

2) Only Followers of Christian Writer/Reader Connection are eligible to participate.

3) Leave a comment on this post with your email address. Sorry, no email = no entry. You can get extra entries by posting this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, or your blog. Please notify me in the comments if you choose to share this opportunity with your friends and blog readers.

4) Deadline: Thursday, 10/18/12, at 11:59 P.M. The winner will be announced at the end of the blog post on Friday, 10/19/12.

Disclaimer: Neither the publisher nor the authors provided this book or gave me any remuneration for this giveaway.

Friday, October 12, 2012

On My Kindle - Secrets by Kristen Heitzmann

When Lance Michelli's grandma, Antonia, has a stroke, she manages to give him a letter and send him on a mission. With little to go on, he travels to a cloister in the old country. Upon his return, he and his trusty pooch, Baxter, end up at a villa being transformed into a bed and breakfast.

A perennial rescuer of damsels in distress, he nearly meets his match in the person of Rese Barrett. With her heart closed off to love and dealing with grief, she's built walls so high even she can't see over them.

Lance takes the job of chef and begins restoring the carriage house where he'll stay until Rese decides if he's a keeper. As he works, the property yields clues to its past, including a shocking discovery. He struggles with his mission from Grandma Antonia and his growing relationship with Rese. Will he be successful or once again hit the road?

A stand-alone novel, this book is the first of a series by Kristen Heitzmann. I was a bit surprised by the toned down fright factor and the ramped up love connection, but it worked. All you romance fans will love the story, and mystery buffs will smile as well.

I'm looking forward to her next book, "Unforgotten." Yup, I'd say this was another winner for Kristen.

Writers: How do you feel about tweaking your genre or even abandoning it completely to address changes in the marketplace?

Readers: When a favorite authors take another genre road, do you stick with them or abandon ship? Why?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Choosing a Path

Decisions. Some are easy, and others stress us out. When we know the choices we make could mean the difference between security and disaster for our families, they deserve our full attention and consideration.

Elections come up every year, but a Presidential year is extremely important. The winning candidate will exert a great deal of influence over our future for better or worse.

While my family has been affiliated with a particular party for many years, my father and mother always stressed two things: 1) The values of the candidate. 2) His qualifications. If a person met their criteria but was not a member of their party, they also considered the party platform. Never did they slavishly vote along party lines just because their ancestors or anyone else did. The well-being of the country and godly principles took precedence.

The amount of information in this media-soaked country sometimes causes confusion. How do we separate the honest from the hype? What do we do to bring clarity to the overall picture? Here's my methodology:

1) What is the candidate's track record? What has he done versus what he said he would do?

2) Does his values reflect mine, and, more importantly, God's precepts?

3) When it comes to economics, has he shown good business sense and responsible stewardship of our tax dollars?

4) Foreign policy: What is his attitude toward Israel? How does he protect the autonomy of the U.S.? Does he respect our Constitution or undermine it by his words, actions, and selection of people to fill key positions?

5) The candidate may not fully reflect my wish list, but is he a good fit on the most important issues?

6) I do not consider the candidate's rhetoric or how good-looking he may be.

7) Last, but not least, I pray. If we leave God out of the equation, how can we expect His favor or blessing on our land?

We're all busy with our own lives, but we cannot afford to ignore elections.

Writers and Readers: How do you select the person, who will be our President?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Learning the Hard Way

When I turn on the shower I expect water. On one particular morning, what I got was an anemic trickle. Uh oh. How do I fix this?

I remembered reading somewhere that soaking the showerhead in vinegar could clear out any mineral deposits. Later in  the day, I marched into the bathroom with a basin and a jug of vinegar.

With the basin of vinegar in the tub, I removed the hand-held shower attachment and let it hang. It didn't reach the basin. Hmm, what now? A lightbulb went off in my head. I dug through the linen closet and found additional basins. If the showerhead wouldn't reach the basin, then maybe I could make the basin reach the showerhead.

Now, now, I hear all those groans, but I thought it was a dandy idea. I stacked the basins until they resembled the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Only this leaning tower gave way, and the vinegar went down the drain. Someone later said to me, "Why didn't you just unscrew the showerhead?"

Because I tend to do things the hard way.

Unfortunately, this tendency isn't limited to plumbing dilemmas. My critique partners can attest to my rather creative attempts to format a manuscript. They have saved my neck more than once in the formatting wars.

I'm still learning how to format the right way, but I sure wish I had a teacher, who could walk me through the steps. ACFW Genesis Contest gave detailed instructions on how to format the contest entry. Does anyone know of an online class or craft book that teaches how to acquire this skill?

Writers: Please share your toughest formatting challenges and how you fixed them.

Readers: Have you come across books where the formatting messed up? I recently read a Kindle book where sentences and paragraphs ended in strange places. The distraction pulled me out of the story for a few moments, but didn't totally wipe out my concentration.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday Round-Up - #218

Stephen Tremp, over at Breakthrough Blogs, shares an article by Gillian Roberts. She gives the 7 C's of mystery writing. With so many authors introducing an element of mystery into their stories, this might be a good skill to acquire.

Writers: Have you considered including a mystery in your manuscripts? What are some of the pitfalls you've encountered?

Readers: How do you feel about mysterious happenings in your romances or contemporary fiction?

Have a blessed weekend!

Photo:  melodi2

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Parent and Child

I don't usually post on Wednesday, but promised I would if I had something to say. Well, that time has arrived.

My parents taught much by their example. Every year on election day, we walked to the local elementary school I attended. On the way to the polls, they would discuss the candidates and why they would vote for certain individuals. Dad would tell me when I reached 21 (the voting age at that time) I would be eligible to participate in the voting process.

This ritual continued year after year. It never occurred to me that I wouldn't be a voter. When I turned 21, my parents helped me register. The next time election day rolled around, I exercised my right as a citizen of the United States.

It still shocks me that so many people don't vote. Someone once said to me, "It doesn't matter if I vote or not. It doesn't affect my life." I totally disagree. Elections have been won or lost by a few votes, and winners have the power to pass laws that directly impact our well being.

Whether you are a U.S. citizen or have the right to vote in another country, don't let this opportunity slip away from you.

Writers and Readers: What motivated you to register as a voter? Did the example of  your parents influence your decision?

Next week: How I decide who gets my vote.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Are We There Yet?

Road trips are one of my favorite things in life, especially if someone else is driving. No matter how much I like them, the novelty wears a bit thin after the first 100 miles.Traffic jams and construction hamper progress. My back and legs scream for a good stretch, as well as relief from the constant motion.

The writer's journey is a lot like a road trip. The planning, anticipation, goal setting, and initial work are all driven by enthusiasm. Once we hit a certain rhythm, we just want "to be there." Our word count moves along much slower than we'd anticipated. Writer's block, plot holes, life's surprises all threaten the desired end result - a completed manuscript.

How To Survive a Road Trip (without going stir crazy)

1.  Make sure you have clear directions.

2.  Stopping every couple of hours keeps you limber and may prevent dangerous blood clots in your legs.

3.  Food. There's something comforting about a snack on a long trip. You also avoid ridiculous prices and losing travel time.

4.  Music, teaching tapes, games for the younger set, and taking in the scenery make the miles and time fly.

5.  If you're not driving, a quick snooze might be in order. My friends often traveled at night, so the kids would sleep through a chunk of the trip.

How To Survive The Writing Journey (without driving every one around you insane)

1.  Read as much as you can about the business side of publishing. You'll run into fewer unpleasant surprises along the way.

2.  Explore various genres and determine which one best fits your interests and talents.

3.  Take time to acquire the skills you need to communicate your story.

4.  Don't be in a rush to present your work to editors and agents. You'll save yourself a heap of embarrassment and avoid a bad first impression.

5.  Take a break to enjoy life. Putting God and family first will make your writing stronger and  more satisfying.

Writers: What are some of your writing survival skills?

Readers:  Do you have any tips for a frazzle-free road trip?

Photo credit: Windchime

Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday Round-Up - #217

Ane Mulligan, at Novel Rocket, shares her experience as a critique partner.

Writers: What do you value most about your critique partners?

Readers: Have you ever written to an author and given them either positive or negative feedback (nicely, I hope)?

Have a blessed weekend!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fun Questions

Blogger friend, Janette Dolores, posted some questions awhile back. I won't tell you how long ago because I'm too embarrassed to admit my tardiness.

Without further delay, here they are:

1.  Book or Movie?  No contest here! I'm an avid reader.

2.  Real book or e-book? In the past I would have said, "real book," with no hesitation. Today, I've become quite attached to my Kindle. With print and e-books, I think I have the best of both worlds.

3.  Funniest thing you've done in the last five years? Ha! I just thought of something, but I'm going to save it for a blog post. Thanks for the inspiration.

4.  How would your best friend describe you? Loyal.

5.  Do you put yourself into the books you read/write or the movies you watch? I take character traits from a number of sources otherwise all of them would sound/act like me. The main character in my first book, Ellie, has my fire for a cause, but she's more talented. Perhaps it's a case of living vicariously through her.

6.  Favorite kind of car and why? I love my 2-door Honda, but it's become impractical. The 4-door version would be better suited to my needs.

7.  Would your choice of party be a catered meal or barbeque out back? It depends on the purpose of the gathering. For a wedding - catered. For a casual family/friend event, the barbeque is more conducive to conversation.

8.  What's your favorite season and why? I'd have to say, "spring," but fall comes in as a close second. The first blooms after a gray winter makes my energy level soar. Fall colors also nourish my soul.

9.  Besides writing, what's your favorite thing to do when you get some extra time? This is one of the easiest questions. Packing a lunch, jumping in the car, and going for a long ride tops my list. Stops at antique stores add to the delight.

10. What's one place you can be found at least one time every week? Church! While my daily devotional time feeds me, there's nothing like a 4-course feast on Sunday morning. My pastor is an awesome teacher.

Writers and Readers: Pick any question and give your answer! Did you learn anything new about me?

Friday, September 21, 2012

On My Kindle - Code Blue by Richard Mabry, M.D.

Cathy Sewell returns to her hometown of Dainger, Texas. She's running away from her troubles and God. Not long after the move, she discovers geographical changes won't solve her problems. They've tagged along for the ride.

Will Kennedy hasn't give up hope. He's loved Cathy from the time they were in high school. Now a successful lawyer, will he be able to keep her alive and help her deal with the excess baggage?

Dr. Mabry's book grabbed me immediately, and I couldn't put it down. I loved the combination of medical mystery and romance. His background made the story realistic, while the who-dun-it part kept the tension at the right level.

My only regret is that I didn't read this book sooner. The author has several other books out, and I'll be picking them up.

Writers: How do you ramp up the tension in your manuscripts/short stories?

Readers: What gets your heart pumping? Sinister characters? Spooky settings? Please share.

Have a blessed weekend!

Monday, September 17, 2012

What Flips Your Switch?

Sometimes I can eat chocolate to my heart's content and never suffer a bit. Other times, one measly piece can flip the ol' migraine switch and send me careening into the pain dungeon. Trial and error revealed a few key factors:

1) While chocolate alone doesn't always trigger a headache, a combination of two sensitivities stack the odds against me.

2) My brain reacts to drops in the barometric pressure. If a storm is brewing, I'd better stay away from chocolate.

3) Foods I love, like genoa salami and red grapes, are a no-no and promise suffering when mixed with chocolate.

What flips the switch for "writing headaches?"

1) Lack of time with the Lord and sketchy prayer top the list for me. Inspiration dries up and withers like corn stalks in drought-ridden areas.

2) An unbalanced life marked by too much computer and not enough living sap my creativity. After all, I'm writing about people, places, and things. When I cut myself off from social interaction, I have little to draw on for my stories.

3) Minimal exercise, poor nutrition, and sleeplessness can render my brain mushy and sluggish.

Writers:  Your turn. What flips the "writing headache" switch for you?

Readers: What qualities in a book produce a reading "headache?"

Friday, September 14, 2012

On My Kindle - Cooking the Books by Bonnie S. Calhoun

Sloane Templeton's successful career in the IT field comes to an abrupt halt when her mother dies of a heart attack. She gets more than a double dose of trouble when she steps into mom's shoes as co-owner of a local bookstore.

A jealous former boyfriend, a new love interest, international intrigue, and a zany cast of characters keep this book moving along. Bonnie throws in so many red herrings that you could catch a mess of fish. Surprise is the order of the day in this novel.

Be aware, there is some violence, but it's very much a part of the setting and necessary to the story's outcome. Her well-written scenes made the tension stark and realistic.

Bonnie's writing voice is fresh, lively, and entertaining. We'll be seeing a lot more from this author.

Writers: How do you make your characters jump off the page?

Readers: What's your favorite mystery/character of all time?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Counting The Cost

When a young person decides to pursue a career in medicine, there's much to consider. How will this endeavor be financed? Do they have the self-discipline necessary to finish the course? Do they know what's involved or have they romanticized their dreams?

We've talked about dreams before, but are we willing to pay the price? We hear about the sacrifices people make to reach their goals.

Are we willing to:

1) Learn the mechanics of writing?

2) Invest the time and money necessary?

3) Have the determination and grit to push past discouragement and setbacks?

4) Endure the comments of those who don't understand our calling?

5)  Discern when to make changes and when to stand our ground?

Writers: What crisis moments have you been through to reach your present writing level?

Readers: What areas of your life have tested your commitments?

Photo credit: onetwo

Friday, September 7, 2012

On My Nightstand - The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn

The Harbinger is not your usual novel. On the page reserved for a dedication, the author states: "What you are about to read is presented in the form of a story, but what is contained within the story is real." Those words alone are enough to make a reader sit up and take notice.

I've heard many prophecy teachers over the years, and one recurring question they receive is, "Where is America in prophecy?" Jonathan Cahn conducted an extensive study and discovered a connection between ancient Israel and the United States. Could verses in Isaiah contain the mystery of 9/11 and the collapse of our economy in 2008?

While this book won't teach you the fine points of writing, it will make you think. The words I've read still echo in my mind and send me to my knees. A New York Times Bestseller, it's reaching people most Christian novels will never touch.

This is more than a book review/recommendation. I believe this message needs to be read by every believer. The future of our nation could well be at stake.

Writers and Readers: Have you read this book yet? How did it impact you? The author has also appeared on many Christian TV programs. Have you seen any of the interviews?

Disclaimer: I borrowed this book from a friend. Neither the author nor the publisher paid me to give this review/recommendation. The opinions I've expressed, as always, are my own.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Taking Time to Smell the Roses

I'm taking a brief blogging break to spend time with family and friends. See you on Friday, 9/7!

Enjoy the last official summer weekend.

Photo credit:  silencefi

Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Round-Up - #216

Phyllis Zimbler Miller guest posted at Joylene Nowell Butler's blog on the subject of producing an ebook. She gives some great tips in an easy-to-digest form.

Writers: Have you considered publishing an ebook? If you have already done so, please share your experience.

Readers: Do you own a Kindle or Nook? Again, please share.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Stretch Your Muscles

"Ouch." Yes, that's me suffering because I didn't stretch before and after my workouts. Oh, I got away with it for a season, but it caught up with me. My hamstrings shortened and affected my back. When one part is out of whack, it messes up other areas.

My quiet time with the Lord is like that stretching. It loosens muscles tightened by intense writing sessions. When I spend time with Him, my brain processes thoughts better. My mind doesn't cramp so easily when my characters get themselves into a jam. Creativity leaps and does a happy dance over my keyboard.

The chiropractor said things wouldn't go back to normal overnight. Yet, every day there's improvement. When I've been in a rush or just plain lazy about hanging out with the Lord, it takes effort to regain lost ground.

Writers:  Do you talk to the Lord about your writing? How does your quiet time strengthen you?

Readers: How do your values affect your reading choices?

Photo Credit: lundeholm

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Round-Up - #215

Laurel Garver, over at Laurel's Leaves, gives a great tip on how to fix long, dull descriptions.

Writers: How do you hand setting descriptions?

Readers: Do you skim over descriptions?

Have a blessed weekend!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Is Anyone NOT Writing a Book?

Whether it's Christian TV or regular TV, all the guests seem to be promoting a book. From How to Lose 40 Pounds in a Week to 10 Steps to a Deeper Walk With God (both titles I made up), it's like one long-running infomercial.

Are people writing because of:

1) A bad economy?

2) A me-to, let me jump on the bandwagon mentality?

3) Easy access to training via Websites/Blogs?

4) A desire to leave a legacy?

5) A passion for a cause?

6) They feel called of God to write on a particular subject?

7) A combination of the above or something else?

Writers: Why do you write? We're fond of talking about inciting moments in fiction. What was your inciting incident that catapulted you into the writing arena?

Readers: Do you get overwhelmed with the number of books out there? How do you decide what books you'll read and what books you'll pass on?

I'm choosey about what I read. I want material that's wholesome, has a Christian worldview, and a great story.

Photo:  lusi

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday Round-Up - #214

Michael Ehret talks about goal setting for the organizationally challenged. Confidence is built one small success at a time.

Writers:  What kind of intermediate goals have you set for your writing journey?

Readers: This can apply to other facets of life, but what goals have you set for reading? Will you try a new genre this year or several new authors? Please share.

Photo credit:  4seasons

Monday, August 13, 2012

Floating Along

Growing up, we had a small pool in the backyard. A tube provided lots of daydreaming possibilities. I would imagine myself arriving on a tiny island or as a grown-up with a family of my own. Maybe I'd be a Candy Striper, volunteering in a hospital or become a nurse.

Once I got out of the pool, I put feet to my dreams. I investigated hospitals with Candy Striper programs, but the only one was too far away from my house. After research into the nursing profession, my interest waned. 

Some of our dreams have little substance. They're passing fancies that flit into our minds like a butterfly and then float away. Others imbed themselves in our hearts and never let go.

Like writing.

Like ministry.

Like family.

Have you put feet to your dreams and explored whether they're a flighty idea or a God-breathed pathway?

Writers: What were some of your ideas that didn't pan out? How did you decide they weren't for you?

Readers: How did you find your life path?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday Round-Up - #213

Janice Hardy guest posts at the Bookshelf Muse. She gives examples on how to smooth the flow of your prose.

Writers: Do your paragraphs sound like lists? How do you detect the problem and fix it?

Readers: Do you prefer books written in first person or third person?

Have a blessed weekend!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Broken Habits

I removed my glasses and rubbed my eyes. Daily tasks called for my attention, and my mind re-focused.

Hours later, I sat in the parking lot at work. I went through my ritual of putting away my driving glasses and saw the case to my reading glasses gaping at me. How had I missed the clues before leaving home? My heart sank. No reading glasses equal an inability to perform my job. I called my boss and retraced my steps.

They were right where I left them: on top of my Bible. Somehow I'd broken with my habit of returning them to their rightful place.

Distraction is my enemy in the early morning hours. I'm accustomed to operating on auto-pilot for repetitive tasks, while my mind is occupied with important issues like world peace. If I miss a step in the regular sequence, I'm sunk. The whole routine can turn into a nightmare of forgotten glasses, inside out socks, and lunches sitting on the counter.

My writing life functions in much the same way. Turning on the lamp, firing up the computer, and gathering my papers are familiar procedures. Alas, a stray note or a telephone call can sidetrack me and knock out my best intentions.

While auto-pilot works great on optimum days, a little extra attention doesn't hurt.

Writers: How do you keep your writing time from slipping away unnoticed?

Readers: Do you have automatic routines? How do you keep them from spinning out of control?

Photo Credit:  lgowerf

Friday, August 3, 2012

On My Nightstand - Band of Sisters by Cathy Gohlke

When Maureen O'Reilly's mother dies, her aunt insists she take her sister and move to America. A letter from an old friend of their father promises a start in the new world. 

Her hopes are dashed when she discovers that the old friend has died, and the family disavows any knowledge of the promise. Olivia Wakefield, the daughter, decides to honor her father's commitment even though her family disapproves.

Maureen finds a job at a high-class department store. Women begin disappearing, and she wonders if she hasn't stepped from the proverbial frying pan into the fire. When several people offer their assistance, her trust issues make it difficult to accept.

Cathy Gohlke hits the target with her latest book. She has a way of putting a face to historical issues. Intricate family and friend relationships drive the story forward, and the decisions made can open the doors to love or slam them shut forever.

The author has a wonderful talent for creating realistic characters and situations. Their actions were always understandable even when I groaned at some of their choices.

I highly recommend this panoramic view of an female immigrant's life in the big city. If you want to see first-class writing, read Cathy's novels.

Disclaimer: The author provided an Advanced Reader Copy. As always, the opinions expressed are completely mine, and I received no payment for this review.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Hanging Curtains

Remember the old Peanuts line: Happiness is a Warm Puppy? Lace curtains put a smile on my face. I'm a sucker for the delicate designs, the fresh white color, and the old-world charm.

Unfortunately, the putting-up-curtains gene didn't come with the I-love-decorating gene. Getting on step ladders, stretching, and getting the edges of curtain rods to hook onto microscopic brackets is not only maddening, but downright dangerous.

My latest stint with taking down draperies, washing, ironing, and re-hanging them almost ended in disaster. The valance on the bathroom window required a major stretch from the top of the step ladder. I felt myself wobbling, but thank God, I was able to regain my balance. That's when I called for reinforcements, a.k.a., my neighbor.

With everything back in order and no broken bones, I mulled over the experience. My writing journey can mimic certain aspects of the dreaded curtain adventures.

1) No matter how I stretch to attain a skill level, there are times when I must seek expert advice. This comes in the form of critique partners, craft books, and asking lots of questions.

2) My early tries with window coverings were ignorance is bliss ventures. When I brought my fledgling fiction attempt to a writers conference and presented it, I had no idea what I was doing. Thanks to kind writers and editors, they showed me how I could improve my novel.

With much trial and error, my knowledge base expanded on both fronts. Everything, whether it's curtains or novels, has a learning curve.

3) The end result brings much satisfaction. New or freshly laundered curtains give the room a boost, and a well-written article or novel gives me that same "ahhh" moment.

Writers and Readers: Finish this line: Happiness is...   Then explain why. Let's have some fun today!

Photo Credit: humeniuk

Friday, July 27, 2012

On My Kindle - Angel Sister by Ann H. Gabhart

Kate Reece Merritt takes care of everyone: her sisters, her mother, and even her father. Yet when the young teen finds an abandoned child on the church steps, her caregiving moves to a whole new level. Little Lorena Birdsong adores Kate and believes she's an angel.

I loved this sweet story! Ann H. Gabhart captures every nuance in the complicated relationships between family members and townspeople. Her characters draw you in and capture your heart.

If you gravitate toward character-driven fiction, you'll find much satisfaction in this novel. I'm glad I picked up Angel Sister and discovered another author to add to my favorites list.

Writers: Have you written children into your novel? What are some of the steps you take to make them authentic?

Readers: Do you like books that delve into the hearts and minds of characters or do you find them tedious? Why?

Have a blessed weekend, and Happy Birthday to my dear Mom!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Small Beginnings

My blogging friend, Carol, inspired me with her post about making a difference. I hope you'll visit her and check it out.

Do you ever wonder if your writing or blogging makes an impact on anyone? I do. Carol's post reminded me not to despise small beginnings. The young woman she wrote about collected $164 in pennies when she first began fund raising. Little by little, the amount grew until it's now in the millions. She inspired others to join in her efforts.

Our voices may be a whisper in cyberspace or print, but someone is listening. As that person catches the vision and runs with it, the sound amplifies. We'll never know the true extent of our influence until we reach our heavenly home.

Writers: How do you maintain a healthy perspective on your writing journey?

Readers: Has a devotional, blog post, or book encouraged you to press on through a difficult situation? Please share.

I'll go first, speaking from a reader's perspective. After my husband died, I read a book where one of the characters dealt with grief. The author handled the subject and brought much comfort to my aching heart.

Photo credit: aquima

Friday, July 20, 2012

On My Nightstand - Lady of Milkweed Manor by Julie Klassen

There's no grace for Charlotte Lamb when she makes a disastrous choice. She leaves home and family for London's Milkweed Manor to hide her secret.

The desperation of the other women opens her eyes to unpleasant realities, and marks her life forever. Like them, she's faced with situations that threaten to rip her heart in two. Can she put aside her own desires to protect her loved ones?

When a former suitor shows up at the Manor, she's terrified. He treats her with respect, and she soon discovers the pain he carries.

While this was Julie's debut novel, I missed it. Now, I fully appreciate her talent. Anyone who writes such a stunning first book has a bright future in publishing. Her thorough research, engaging characters, and amazing ending made this a memorable reading experience.

Julie Klassen = automatic purchase for me. Don't miss this author's work.