Movie: The Nativity Story

I saw this movie when it came out on the big screen two years ago. I liked it then, but this is one of my favorites now and will be seen every Christmas. Although the story was familiar, the telling of it captivated me. The way the actors brought the words to life - the words I grew up reading - made them seem new.

The joy Elizabeth showed at Mary's arrival made me love the actress who played Elizabeth. But each scene drew me in. The roles of Mary and Joseph were well played by award-winning actors Oscar Isaac and Keisha Castle-Hughes. Joseph was a hero. You could see in Mary how he changed, grew, and made her proud.

Filmed in Italy and Morocco, the breathtaking landscapes added much to the scenes. Every time I heard the horses hooves coming into Nazareth, it provoked emotion. The camera angles made me want to run out of the way when the soldiers rode into town.

The wise men were very entertaining. I wanted to look around in the room where the wise men kept their technology. They gave the movie an amusing lightness. I really wonder if the real wise men were "wise guys".

Word Becomes Flesh

Can you hear the teaser to a news story: “Word becomes flesh. The story tonight at ten.”

Read the first chapter of the book of John, verses ten through fourteen.
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Once you’ve seen Jesus, it’s very hard to keep it to yourself. Whether you broadcast your experience over the TV, publish online or in a print magazine, or simply go about your business with an enormous goofy grin on your face, somebody’s gonna notice that you’ve been with Jesus.

Not kidding. Even the shepherds who saw Jesus on the day he was born couldn’t keep it to themselves. Read more at Seek God With Me.

Movie: Christmas in July

Dick Powell plays Jimmy MacDonald, a young employee who strives for his weekly wage working an adding machine, unappreciated by the advertising department to whom he’s sent thousands of ideas only to be rejected every time.

Ellen Drew plays his fiancé, Betty, who has waited patiently for hero Jimmy to marry her, but is becoming more impatient by the minute.

In this 1940 movie, Jimmy and Betty listen to the radio for the coffee slogan contest winner’s name to be announced by Maxford House Coffee president Dr. Maxford, played by the very entertaining Raymond Walburn. However, the contest winners aren’t announced because the jury has deadlocked and won’t come out of their deliberation room until the decision is unanimous.

While the jury continues to talk it over, the radio announcer closes the evening’s show with the joke about the executioner who can’t find the rope, “No noose is good noose.” Jimmy goes to work the next day to find a telegram on his desk stating that he’s won the top prize in the coffee slogan contest. Only he hasn’t really won. Trickster co-workers think this little joke is harmless, but it gets out of hand.

One thing leads to another and Jimmy ends up in a big department store spending his contest winnings on gifts for his family and neighbors. Then the joke is found out. Jimmy no longer feels like a hero and hopes he isn’t back at square one, only this time without a job.

With lots of humor and lots of twists, this movie is about taking a chance and not giving up hope.

Movie: This Christmas

Ma’Dere finally gets to spend Christmas with all her children after years of everyone going their own way, but everyone has a secret – even Ma’Dere.

As this average middle-class family in Los Angeles reunites, a secret wife is revealed, a cheating husband is dealt with, a surprise musician takes the stage, and a man on the run comes home. Not all plot threads were completely sewed up, but you knew that they would be very soon. The flaws and realities of human nature kept this family from being picture perfect, yet they were the perfect portrayal of how families can pull together and support each other.

Loretta Devine plays the matriarch Ma’Dere, known as Mrs. Whitfield to non-family members. Her leadership in the family is coupled with Delroy Lindo’s Joe Black. His fatherly encouragement to the youngest son, Michael “Baby” Whitfield, played by Chris Brown, keeps the bonds of support in the family strong. The loner, or should I say “loan-er” Quentin Whitfield Jr, played by Idris Elba, hides from men to whom he owes a great debt.

Regina King impacts the movie with a generous performance as Lisa Moore, the sister who tries to give all she has to everyone. Laz Alonoso, as Lisa’s husband Malcolm Moore, was a believable giver in a different way. Good job as the man we want to hate.

The Whitfield men are quite musical. Ma’Dere’s husband has left to follow his musical dreams, while Joe Black takes up the fathering duties for him. Quentin plays in a club in Chicago and hasn’t been home for four years. Baby hasn’t told his mother that his heart’s desire is music. The Whitfield women love their men, but each in a different way.

This isn’t a movie for the entire family due to several factors, but adult audiences will laugh, cry, and dance in the end.

Snow Day

Yesterday afternoon, Houston was blessed with a rare treat. A gift from God, some would say.

It snowed real snowflakes!

Snow is so rare around here we all kinda freak out when we see it. I heard of a drug store employee who came back into work from the outside saying, "This has been the best non-paid fifteen minute break of my life!"

Teachers let their class go outside to jump around and experience the tiny bits of snow before it melted on the ground. I drove to pick up my kids after school and was delighted by the flakes bombarding my windshield. If it had been love bug season, the front of my car would've been black.

So this morning, everyone's in a good mood. Except for those who travel on icy bridges, or those who have to go around the wrecks that happened because of icy bridges. Almost everyone's refreshed by the memory of last night's full moon shining down on the fluffy frozen flakes in the air.

The stop and go snowfall made my son change his tune from "It needs sugar," to "It's delicious."

Decorations With Meaning

On the night Jesus was born, shepherds were told to find Jesus. The wise men were already on their way. And soon more people heard about the birth.

Today, we’re reminded of the birth of Jesus when we drive down the road. We see nativity sets in yards, on fabric banners hanging from a pole, in front of churches, and in front of some businesses. We hear about the birth in Bethlehem sung in the grocery stores, in the malls and on the radio. In fact, if you don’t know that Christmas is about Jesus, you’re wearing blinders and ear plugs.

Because the message is everywhere.

If you look around and listen carefully, you’ll see that God is calling us to notice him. He’s using everyone who’ll join in the season to give the message of love because love is the message of God. Because God is love.

Join me at Seek God With Me as I remind everyone that this is the perfect season to see God.

Movie: A Christmas Carol

Ebenezer Scrooge, played by George C. Scott in this 1984 film, has a heart, but it’s cold, hard, and uncaring. A visit by his very deceased friend Jacob Marley begins his eye-opening transformation. At first, Scrooge is sure the ghostly visit was a result of something he ate. Surely, it was only a nightmare.

Scrooge’s heart remained hard throughout the visit of the Ghost of Christmas Past. He asks if she’s the ghost of Christmas long past. She answers, “No. Your past.” He thinks he’s on a warm journey down memory lane, but he’s confronted with the bricks that he’s used all this time to wall himself away from others. This version of the story has always made me see the emotional side of a very cold heart.

I love the humor in the eyes of Edward Woodward who played the Ghost of Christmas Present. Poor Scrooge seemed to be a little offended. By the time the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Be had finished his visit, he was a changed man.

So what caused the calloused and cold man to spring to life? It wasn’t the merry season. It wasn’t the repeated invitation of his nephew to join him for Christmas dinner. And it wasn’t the sight of his employee Bob Cratchit’s son standing in the snow, leaning on a crutch.

George C Scott plays a very sad man who can’t seem to see beyond his pocketbook. Subtle changes on his face tell about the heart of a man who wishes life had been different. When given a second chance to make things better, he proves that a villain can turn into a hero. And anyone who wants to change his life …can!

Movie: Joyeux Noel

I had to turn on the English subtitles to watch this movie released in 2005. The story is based on the real-life fraternization that happened along the front on Christmas Day during World War I.

Boys grew up in England, France, and Germany, learning to fear and hate each other. When war broke out, propaganda had already saturated those countries enough for the young men to have no problem shooting each other.

One of the heroes of the story was a famous German tenor (the singing voice came from someone else) who was called from the Opera to the front with the rest of the men. He was given no special treatment because of his fame. Late at night on Christmas Eve, something magical happened.

Scottish troops began playing their bagpipes. After their song finished, the German tenor sang to his men “Stille Nacht”. While he sang, the bagpipes joined in. Soon, the tenor raised his head above the trenches and stood for all to see, and sang to his men and to the men across the field.

Music united them. Music and the unity of the season and the spirit of Christmas joined their hearts until they called a cease fire.

Two other heroes, the officer from the French side and the officer from the German side, spoke to each other about a place in France they both knew. Men who had been shooting at each other just a few hours ago, began shaking hands. The officers and the privates walked to men from the “enemy lines” and visited with them. After getting to know the enemy, the enemy became human – and hard to shoot.

The emotion following the change of events was powerful. Surprising and expected at the same time.

I find it hard to think of a war movie as beautiful, but this one had moments of tenderness that made it feel that, for that one moment, everyone had forgotten the war. And, for that one moment, it was beautiful.

Curious?

On my Seek God With Me blog, the topic of Christmas gifts has come up.

I know. It's not a lonely topic this time of year.

But I'm not discussing which gifts I want. I'm discussing the really important gift I already have.

Go find out what it is.

A Christmas Meme

Having looked online for a Christmas meme, I found a few and made up my own version from a conglomeration of a few interesting ones out there.

DO YOU LIKE:

1. Getting kissed under the mistletoe or in the snow?

Since snow is so rare around here, I prefer mistletoe overhead. Of course if I can’t find any mistletoe, my husband might just kiss me without it.

2. Santa or Rudolph?

Just the mention of Santa and Rudolph takes me back to the animated Rudolph TV show narrated by Burl Ives. I love that show. Rudolph is so cute when he’s young and so brave when he’s older. So for that reason, I’d have to choose Rudolph. “Ready, Rudolph?” “Ready, Santa!”

3. Decorating the tree or putting lights on the outside?

My husband’s job is the outdoor decorations. My job is the inside, including the living room tree. My husband puts it together every year and makes sure the lights are all working. I go through the boxes of decorations and decide what to use on it. Last year and this year, I put some cinnamon-scented pine cones on it to make it smell good.

4. Warm fires or sleigh rides?

There aren’t too many sleigh rides around here, so if I picked sleigh rides, that would mean traveling to an area where one might find horses pulling sleighs through the snow. Yay! But without travel, the warm fires would feel good on those cold winter nights that we may get this year.

5. Caroling or Christmas stories?

Although I do love stories so very much, caroling has a special place in my heart. One Christmas at my mom’s house, the family gathered in overcoats and walked down her street knocking on doors and singing to all the neighbors who were home. We had the best time. I've also gone caroling with my youth group in nursing homes and hospitals. We always stopped for hot cocoa afterward.

6. Fake tree or real one?

An artificial tree is less costly, less fussy, less messy, and less prone to cause allergy problems. Fake is fine.

7. Homemade ornaments or store-bought?

We actually have more than one tree. Both of my kids have a tiny tree in their rooms. It started when my son was still interested in using a night light. We put a small tree in his room with multi-colored lights on it. We waited until he was asleep and then we turned off the lights. We let him decorate it with ornaments that he made in school or the ones we made at home. The store-bought ornaments went on the living room tree.

8. "The Muppet Christmas Carol" or George C Scott’s "A Christmas Carol"?

Who doesn’t love the Muppets? Some of them are really adorable. But honestly, I prefer the George C Scott version of that story.

9. Wrapping paper or gift bag?

Gift bags are wonderful time-savers. I love them. However after years of using wrapping paper, my family has proven to be quite the creative gift-wrappers. And I think some of us like to annoy everyone else with a less-than-speedy unwrapping process since we usually take turns opening packages. Gift bags would be way too fast – unless there are several small boxes inside! Mmwwahahaha!

10. Travel during holidays or stay at home?

Both. We like to be home for part of the holidays, but we try to see as many of our relatives as we can.

11. Making Christmas cookies or eating them?

Duh. Eating them. I’m a good cook, but my husband does most of the baking around here.

Show, Don't Preach

Some writers think they have to put a salvation scene in every book they write. What they don’t realize is that making their books too similar can make the scene a cliché instead of an emotional turning point for the character.

Good guys have to seem real to the reader or the novel gets abandoned.

If the protagonist finds someone who needs God, she doesn’t necessarily preach to them. She might show God’s love without words. God speaks through actions too.

I’ve written more on the best kind of evangelism at my Seek God With Me blog. Check it out and see if you agree with me.

Not TBR

I know a lot of people have a pile of books they intend to read, their To Be Read pile (TBR).

My TBR pile has interesting books stacked, ready and waiting. A book in my pile has to describe a time and place so vividly it takes me into another world. It has to introduce me to characters I want to know. Aside from being vivid and appealing, it also has to be well-written. I won’t read it if there are too many pages of hard-to-follow narratives or hard-to-believe plots.

As I read, I listen to the sound of the words in my mind. If sentences are awkward or grouped so that words become difficult to pronounce, I lose interest in the book. So many similar words in a sentence sounds silly.

For example, look at genius, ingenious, genuine, and disingenuous.

What’s the difference between Genius and Ingenious?

Ingenious means clever, imaginative, or inventive and usually refers to an object. A genius is a person with extraordinary intellectual abilities. So a genius can write an ingenious plot.

How about the difference between Disingenuous or Genuine?

Disingenuous means lying about being genuine. Genuine means sincere.

How genuine was the genesis of the genius? The disingenuous genius lied about his ingenious genesis.

See what I mean? That was a mouthful.

Conflict

In order to give something away, you have to have something.

This is a lesson I had to teach my daughter when she was learning about double-digit subtraction. “You can’t take something away from nothing” is a universal truth that applies to more than just math. You can’t give financially, spiritually, physically, or professionally if you don’t have something to begin with.

If you have no singing or song-writing skills, you can’t send a song to a major label for a recording contract. If you have no cows, you can’t give your family hamburgers or even milk from your backyard.

And if you have no conflict in your story, you won’t be able to give away your novels.

Conflict is an adhesive.

If you have enough conflict in your story, you’ll be able to give your characters plenty of ways to make sure the reader sticks with the story.

Conflict is an electrical outlet.

If you have enough conflict in your story, your readers will be energized in the flow of the story as they watch your characters overcome all obstacles.

Conflict is a Sherpa.

If you have enough conflict in your story, it will lead your readers to the highest mountaintop and back down to safety.

Not putting enough conflict in your novel is like trying to borrow from zero. Your reader will find out that there’s nothing there.

Good Works

Good works are waiting for us. What kind of good works? The works we were designed to do.

God created you to excel in the good works which challenge your unique skills. Cherish your uniqueness.

I believe that God creates some people to be writers and some to be math teachers and some to be Olympic swimmers. Some of us can enjoy math, writing, and swimming, but we’ll excel at those tasks which were designed specifically for us.

For example, let’s say that I spend all my time learning to knit, but God didn’t create me to be a knitter. I may learn to knit, but I might miss out on the greater task prepared in advance for me.

What are some of the tasks you were designed to do? Think about it with me at my Seek God With Me blog.

Got Bad Guys?

Who can be an antagonist?

An antagonist is anyone or anything that stands in the way of the protagonist achieving his/her goal.

It can be the loan officer at the bank who won’t give you a loan, the bank robber pointing a gun at the loan officer, the bank robber’s mother-in-law whom he blames for his insanity, the serial killer who is after the mother-in-law, the serial killer’s boss who has just figured out what his employee does after hours, or the hurricane which has knocked out the electricity and cell towers in the boss’s community so he can’t call the police for help.

Anyone or anything can be an antagonist. The one requirement is that an antagonist deter, overwhelm, or hinder the hero or heroine in some way.

Let’s say a man and a woman finally admit over the phone to each other that they’re head-over-heels in love, and they agree to meet behind Mr. MacGregor’s garden, which is midway between their homes. But as soon as they get two hundred and fifty yards from each other, a tornado touches down, ripping up the farmland between them. They can see each other and long to hold each other, but there’s a tornado keeping them apart. Before the bunny clothes start flying off the scarecrow, the man and woman each have to make their own plan of escape from the antagonist. (Okay, it’s not a deep story, but it illustrates how weather can be a character in a story.)

An antagonist can be something innocent like a pet cat or even little Billy from next door. If you’ve owned a pet cat (or a cat has owned you) or if you’ve been around an active little boy, you know that there are plenty of ways these characters can create havoc for the protagonist.

So here’s a “Hurray!” for antagonists. For without them, novelists wouldn’t have much of a story.

What I Learned From Tyra Banks

I watched a show I had recorded out of curiosity and kept my ears open for instructions I could apply to myself. I’m not a model, but the model competitions on TV show me that even beautiful girls struggle with confidence.

Tyra Banks hosts a model competition reality show that proves once again that no matter which industry you work in, there will always be challenges to overcome. If you have talent and work hard to improve yourself, you have a chance to succeed. And if you can keep your head on straight, you just might win.

Some of the girls received a lot of encouragement from the judges, and some received mostly instruction. The girls who could take the instruction and show improvement stayed in the competition. If they became hard to work with, they went home.

I like to learn from the mistakes of others. Since the correction isn’t aimed at me, I don’t have to get over any bad feelings that might come with it. I can internalize anything that fits me and make changes. If I’ll learn from my own challenges and practice using sound advice, I’ll do more than I ever thought I could.

Tyra said some things on the show that could be used outside the modeling industry. She makes me want to be fierce, show life and energy, be generous, take direction, and let who I am come out.

I’m a writer who wants so much to produce bestselling novels that I’m using tips from the modeling industry to improve my craft.

Really, it’s the same thing the writing instructors say; they just say it differently.

Becoming Accomplished

On my Seek God With Me blog, I’ve shared about the effect obedience has on our lives.

In John 14: 23-24, we read the words of Jesus. "If anyone loves me , he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own, they belong to the Father who sent me.”

Obedience is one of the ways we maintain our spiritual growth. It just makes sense that you will obey the wisdom of those you love most.

If you really know God, then you love Him. If you love Him, you’ll obey Him. If you obey Him, you’ll thrive in His presence and accomplish much.

Naming Characters

There are probably thousands of ways to come up with good names for characters in novels. I don’t have any problem coming up with names because the character looks a certain way and the name either fits or doesn’t. I’ve traded out characters’ names occasionally when I’ve given a character a name that was too close to another’s name.

In real life, your name could actually be George, and your son’s name could be George, and your other son’s name could be George, and your other… But not in a novel.

There are websites which offer random name-picking help. There are Baby-naming books. And Character-naming books. Some authors see interesting names in newspapers and take someone’s last name and pair it with that interesting first name. Or the other way around. Some authors put parts of their friends’ names on minor characters in their novels.

There are even lists of most-popular names of children born in a certain year.

Some name their characters by saying the name aloud to check if it sounds good. Say, “Randall Evan Williams, the third.” You immediately picture a certain type of character. Now say, “Toby and Estelle Hanks.” Totally different, right?

Working on the right name for a single character is important, but grouping the names together to see how they work in an ensemble cast is also very important. If you had Randall Williams and Toby Hanks in a scene together, you couldn’t call them by their last names or country music fans would be humming a Hank Williams tune before the scene was over.

This is one of the things I love about writing. Naming characters takes time, effort, and creativity, but it is so fun.

What Should You Write?

How funny! This quiz confirms what I already knew. I love to write romances. What do you write?




You Should Be a Romance Novelist



You see the world as it should be, and this goes double for all matters of the heart.

You can find the romance in any situation, and you would make a talented romance story writer...

And while you may be a traditional romantic, you're just as likely to be drawn to quirky or dark love stories.

As long as it deals with infatuation, heartbreak, and soulmates - you could write it.

Faithchick Rene Gutteridge

Rene Gutteridge was an award-winning screenwriter before becoming a novelist. Her latest novel, Skid, which lets the reader “Come Fly The Frenzied Skies!”, is from her Occupational Hazards series. She’s also the author of the popular Boo series including: Boo, Boo Who, Boo Hiss, and Boo Humbug.

What will the reader remember the most about her books? Rene thinks it depends on the reader’s journey. We all bring our own experiences into the novel, and we all take away different things. She hopes each reader finds her stories unforgettable, meaningful, and fun.

Book Club Alert: Rene wants to join in the fun at your book club by conference call. Imagine having access to the author herself as you discuss her novel. You can bring Rene to your group by using the contact information on her website.

Rene was pleased to be a part of a major motion picture when she was asked to write the novelization of the movie The Ultimate Gift.

What does a writer do when her characters won’t obey her? Write a popular series called the Boo Series. When Rene’s wacky characters got totally out of control, she let them have their way. And one story formed after another. The following is a portion of a review of Boo by www.ChristianFictionReview.com. Boo “reads like a good old-fashioned Frank Capra film. Rene Gutteridge has filled the town of Skary with the wackiest and lovable ensemble cast I’ve read about in a long, long time.”

Known for writing humor amazingly well, Rene has written 14 novels for several major Christian publishing houses. Never the Bride: A Novel is her next release, due in bookstores in June 2009.

Need More Energy?

Have you ever been on a cell phone while the battery drained? My guess is you were quick to find a cord and plug it in to a good power source.

What do you plug into when you need more energy?

In my Seek God With Me post, I share about how to plug into a very good power source.

Faithchick Susan May Warren

There’s nothing like a riveting video to prove that Susan May Warren does her homework. Susan recently expanded her novel research to include a skydiving trip. You can view it on her website. While you’re there, go ahead and sign up for her newsletter.

Award-winning novelist Susan May Warren is a giver. She’s done something not everyone gets an opportunity to do. She and her family moved to Russia and lived there, giving to the people in her new community for a few years, until they moved back to the USA in 2004. Two of her series have a distinct Russian flavor: the Heirs of Anton series and the Mission: Russia series.

Since generosity is apart of who she is, she imparts her wisdom to writers of all levels. She helps developing novelists see their novel’s strengths and weaknesses, and experienced novelists have received her help as well. Her manuscript evaluations not only give suggestions for improvement at a reasonable rate, but also leaves the writer encouraged and empowered.

She and Rachel Hauck co-host the popular My Book Therapy blog which teaches their blog readers the step-by-step methods of writing an award-winning story.

Whenever she’s available, Susan speaks to various groups. She offers writing classes throughout the year and makes appearances at writer’s conferences.

Of course she adds to the fun at the Faithchick blog, but you can also find her at her blog Scribbles.

Susan has been writing novels for years. If I counted correctly, she’s published six series. Her three most recent books are the 3-book Noble Legacy series: Reclaiming Nick, Taming Rafe, and Finding Stefanie. I’m looking forward to her 2009 release, Nothing But Trouble.

Faithchick Stacy Hawkins Adams

Stacy Hawkins Adams has won awards for her contemporary women’s fiction and has appeared on national and local radio programs as well as the Montel Williams Show.

Visit her at StacyHawkinsAdams.com where you can sign up for her monthly newsletter Life Untapped™. She not only blogs on Faithchick.com, but she also connects with readers on her MySpace site, which includes photos of her with a few celebrities and book club members.

Stacy is a member of the Academy for Professional Speaking and brings messages of hope to many groups, challenging them to address their goals with faith and confidence. She is available to speak at conferences, banquets, workshops, or other special events. She also promotes youth literacy.

Her well-received books follow her heroine, Serena, through her various decisions and life-changes. In Stacy’s debut novel, Speak To My Heart, Serena uncovers a family secret. Nothing But The Right Thing shows Serena longing for a dream that seems out of reach. And in Watercolored Pearls, Serena joins two other women in an effort to look to God and each other to find beauty in themselves and their journey.

Watercolored Pearls won second place in the 2008 ACFW Book of the Year contest. Stacy heads the Richmond, Virginia chapter of ACFW.

You can pre-order her next release, The Someday List (coming January 2009).

Surrendering To The One I Love

Our forefathers knew that hard work was essential to success. Goals are achieved by those who use some self-discipline. But disciplined minds and hard-working bodies cannot accomplish everything.

Sometimes we find that surrender is the key element we've been missing.

It makes a huge difference to whom we surrender, of course. The surrender I'm talking about is giving up on trying to do everything yourself. I've experienced far greater success when I've relied on my intimate relationship with God. Surrendering to Him brings simplicity to complicated matters. He makes difficult tasks much easier.

The Bible tells us to rely on Him in Matthew 19:26 where it says, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Working together with God significantly increases our power.

Still, some people think they're effective enough as they try to be The Lone Ranger when they'd have so much more power working with God and looking like The Cavalry.

If you're interested in more power, check out my post at Seek God With Me.

Faithchick Marilynn Griffith

Marilynn Griffith blogs on Faithchick.com, and she has authored the Shades of Style series and the Sassy Sistahood series. Her latest release is Rhythms of Grace.

If you’ve seen Tyler Perry’s movies, you may have seen one of Marilynn’s books used as a prop. “One of her novels, If the Shoe Fits, served as a prop in Tyler Perry's box office hit Why Did I Get Married? (The mistress has a book in her hand at the beginning of the scene where Jill Scott is forced off the plane.”

Marilynn speaks to women’s groups and writers’ groups. If you’re a writer, you could meet her at a writer’s conference. She has served among the faculty at many writers conferences and has served as Vice President of American Christian Fiction Writers. I met her at Mount Hermon Writers Conference where she was teaching a workshop and I was getting lost among the unpublished. Her wide toothy grin put me at ease and made me feel at home with someone who loves Jesus.

This August, she took part in the Soul Expressions Book Tour with Angela Benson, Victoria Christopher Murray, Kimberla Lawson Roby, Allison Hobbs, Donna Hill, Seven, Rochelle Alers, L. Divine, Brenda Jackson, Beverly Jenkins, Earl Sewell, Geneva Holliday, and Wahida Clark.

On her website is a link to her blog. On her blog is a video of Howard Hewitt singing a song that Marilynn says Sean, her hero in Rhythms of Grace, hears in his head when he goes to sleep. I listened to the song on her blog. Nice. I could listen to it again. I think the songs on her blog give her readers an opportunity to get into the Rhythms of Grace mood. After listening to the different songs on her blog, I wanted to reach over to the novel and read it. Unfortunately, I haven’t bought it yet. It’s a good thing Christmas is coming - and it’s on my wish list.

“Marilynn Griffith is a wife to a deacon, mom to a tribe and proof that God gives second chances. When she’s not trying to park her van straight or find someone a clean shirt, she writes novels about faith, friendship, and forgiveness and speaks to women and writers about reaching their dreams.”

Faithchick Kristin Billerbeck

How do you combine Faith and Froth? Kristen Billerbeck knows how.

I didn’t know whether to describe her with Faith, Froth, & a Flirty Read or Faith Froth and a Designer Handbag. Both of those phrases can be found on her website. And both tags describe her stories well.

The Faithchicks blog is so fun because of the great variety of personalities. Kristen’s posts reflect who she is and show her unique combination of faith and froth.

She also blogs with three of her writing friends at Girls Write Out and has her own blog called Girly Girl.

You can sign up for her newsletter at the bottom of her website’s home page. She also has a trailer for her novel She’s Out Of Control there for you to watch.

I read her Ashley Stockingdale series and thoroughly enjoyed it, and then I gave the series to my niece who was about to be married. She’s also released her Spa Girls Collection (Three friends. One spa. And an infinite amount of oversharing.) and her latest series, The Trophy Wives Club (Because Sometimes, Prince Charming Isn’t).

So run to the bookstores and look for Kristen Billerbeck’s The Trophy Wives Club novels: Novels of Fakes, Faith, and a Love That Lasts Forever.

Why Are You Here?

Do you know how important your uniqueness is?

You've heard all the descriptions of unique finger prints and voice prints and other ways of telling people apart. But have you considered how unique your calling is?

Do you know why you're here?

Join me as I look into this important topic at Seek God With Me.

Faithchick Camy Tang

Camy Tang posts interesting thoughts on the Faithchick blog every month. I've also read her informative posts on the craft of writing at Story Sensei. But most recently, I’ve read her just released novel, Single Sashimi. I loved it! Here's the review.

Her first novel, Sushi for One? recently won the 2008 Book of the Year award for Debut Author. Congratulations, Camy!

At writers' conferences, she's fun. Online, she encourages other writers. And besides all that, she's generous. She gives away books on her blog and her website.



Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. She used to be a biologist, but now she is a staff worker for her church youth group and leads a worship team for Sunday service. She also runs the Story Sensei fiction critique service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels every Monday and Thursday, and she ponders frivolous things like dumb dogs (namely, hers), coffee-geek husbands (no resemblance to her own...), the writing journey, Asiana, and anything else that comes to mind. Visit her website at http://www.camytang.com/ for a huge website contest going on right now, giving away ten boxes of books and 30 copies of her latest release, SINGLE SASHIMI.

Camy Tang's Single Sashimi



Venus Chau is a take-charge, business-minded woman who has on-going conflict with greedy, vengeful, moral-free men in the male-dominated gaming industry. Will she be able to get what she’s worked all these years for or will she find herself bested by the rats she works with?

She and her three female cousins, Lex, Trish, and Jenn, start this fun adventure with family tension and try to help each other out just as they always have. All the while, Venus and her mother try to get along with each other.

While honest, if maybe a bit blunt, Venus has a perfectly businesslike demeanor unless some slacker needs a stern word or two. Her height, combined with expensive stilettos, adds towering persuasion to her polished, but slightly masculine Versace suits.

As Venus finishes the testing phase of her new game development tool, she worries about lining up investors. She gets a little help from the wonderful hero, until something goes wrong. But with the help of her well-connected Grandma Sakai, she thinks she can still get the job done, that is, unless someone pulls the rug out from under her.

I’ve been looking forward to this story since I met Venus in Sushi for One? (Lex’s story). Grandma Sakai is shown in a much better attitude in this book. I noticed the nod to the Seekerville ladies as I stumbled, grinning, over a few names. Venus is wonderfully written and allowed to have a sense of humor, intelligence, beauty, and several peanut butter cups.

Camy Tang has done it again with the final piece of the Sushi Series. I highly recommend all three of Camy’s books in this debut series. They’re as yummy as Jenn’s homemade chocolate snacks.

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. She used to be a biologist, but now she is a staff worker for her church youth group and leads a worship team for Sunday service. She also runs the Story Sensei fiction critique service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels every Monday and Thursday, and she ponders frivolous things like dumb dogs (namely, hers), coffee-geek husbands (no resemblance to her own...), the writing journey, Asiana, and anything else that comes to mind. Visit her website at http://www.camytang.com/ for a huge website contest going on right now, giving away ten boxes of books and 30 copies of her latest release, SINGLE SASHIMI.

Where's God?

Have you ever walked up to the counter of an Information Center, but no one was there to take your question?

Many people have questions for God. He isn't on break. He isn't taking a day of vacation. He didn't call in sick. He is waiting and ready for you.

Join me at Seek God With Me as I discuss the real problem behind not being able to find God.

Here's a hint: the problem isn't God.

Faithchick Rachel Hauck

Rachel Hauck is a Faithchick who has been writing for many years. Her last two books have been quite popular Thomas Nelson hits. Sweet Caroline (February 08) held a spot on both the ECPA and CBA Bestseller lists. Love Starts with Elle (July 08) was ranked as a Top Pick from Romantic Times Book Club.

Her website has a cute video and a slide show of her book covers. From her website, you can go to her blog and see what she’s been up to lately. You can click on the photos link and see cool pics of her with other authors. If you happen to see her at one of the conferences she goes to, don’t be afraid to mention to her that you’re a writer. She’ll talk about writing to anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Recently, her novel, Diva Nashvegas, won the Maggie Award for published Inspirational novels at the Moonlight & Magnolias Conference.

You can buy her books at Signed by the Author.com and sign up for her newsletter at Rachel Hauck.com.

Rachel co-hosts the My Book Therapy site with Susan May Warren. If you're a writer, you'll want to check in for some therapy.

Faithchick Virginia Smith

Faithchick Virginia Smith has a desire to write novels that honor God. She also has a desire to write contemporary novels that bring us laughter and touch our hearts. Her website tells us a little more about her:

Virginia Smith
left her job as a corporate director to become a full time writer and speaker with the release of her first novel Just As I Am. Since then she has contracted ten novels and published numerous articles and short stories. She writes contemporary humorous novels for the Christian market, including Murder by Mushroom, Bluegrass Peril, and her new releases, Sincerely Mayla, and Stuck in the Middle. In March of 2008 she was named "Writer of the Year" at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. An energetic speaker, she loves to exemplify God’s truth by comparing real-life situations to well-known works of fiction, such as her popular talk, “Biblical Truths in Star Trek.”

Her latest release is A Taste of Murder (October 08). She writes Contemporary Fiction, mysteries, and short stories. You can subscribe to Ginny’s free newsletter by going to virginiasmith.org/funstuff.html.

Among her other titles, Sincerely, Mayla (Book two in her Just As I Am series) can be found at SignedbytheAuthor.com.

Faithchick Sharon Dunn

This month, I'm highlighting the ladies who blog at Faithchick.com - in no particular order.

Sharon Dunn has a great sense of humor. Her Bargain Hunter Mysteries series follows Ginger and the rest of the Bargain Hunters Network as they come face-to-face with murder.

The first two books in the series, Death of a Garage Sales Newbie and Death of the Six-Foot Teddy Bear, have been well-received. Book 3, Death At A Discount, will be released in January 2009.

Her website has an area for bargain hunters. You can read and add to the bargain hunters tips list.

Sharon Dunn: A little mystery, a little romance, and a whole lotta fun.

You may also know her Ruby Taylor Mysterys series.

Are You A Faithchick?

I've meandered through the Faithchick site several times, catching up on what's going on with some great authors. This month, I'll highlight a few of them. If they're new to you, you may want to check out some of their blog posts on that site. Or at least buy one of their books. They have a bookstore on their site. With one click, you can browse their books.

There is a cute quiz on their site that I have to share about here. It's one of those "You're Probably A Faithchick if..." kinds of quizzes. I know you love the humor in those, don't you? You even get to add up your score. Don't worry, you don't need a calculator. One hand will do.

So go check out these interesting Christian women, with their wisdom and humor spilled all over the site.

Peace

How do you sleep at night?

With all that’s happening in the world, do you worry yourself to sleep? Or do you give the worry to God and let him handle it while you sleep like a baby?

It’s so much better to sleep in peace with God as your babysitter. I wrote about this on today’s blog post at Seek God With Me.

Join me.

Zzzzzz.

Guest Blogger Camy Tang


Hi there! This is Camy Tang, and Laura is letting me guest blog today!

Laura asked me to talk about the three heroes in my Sushi series, Aiden, Spenser, and Drake.

They’re all very different personalities—but they have to be, because their three heroines are so very different from each other.

Aiden is my quiet thinker. He’s actually the most like my husband, Captain Caffeine. He’s disciplined but not anal about it, he’s encouraging, he’s a quiet rock to lean on. Much like my hubby. :) Lex needs someone both strong and supportive, and her craziness is tempered by his calmness.

Spenser has more dash and style. He’s got both class and charm, but he’s also good at his job as a scientist—which, in some ways, is a lot like Trish. They each have parts of their personality that are fun, which contrast with their jobs as biologists. Spenser is teasing and tolerant, which are both traits he needs to keep up with Trish, who’s a bit flighty at times.

Drake is my alpha-male—and he needs to be because Venus wouldn’t respect him if he were weak. He’s very smart, very strong and aggressive, and also decisive, which he developed as CEO of several start up companies.

He’s also had a change of heart from the hard man he used to be. He had a small heart attack when he was still in his thirties, and now, while he’s still a good CEO, he has learned the importance of prioritizing things in his life.

Venus is still angry at him for the way he treated her years ago when they were working together, and he needs to work hard to prove to her that he’s a different man.

So there they are—the Sushi men. LOL that sounds kind of weird, doesn’t it?

Thanks for letting me guest blog, Laura!




Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. She used to be a biologist, but now she is a staff worker for her church youth group and leads a worship team for Sunday service. She also runs the Story Sensei fiction critique service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels every Monday and Thursday, and she ponders frivolous things like dumb dogs (namely, hers), coffee-geek husbands (no resemblance to her own...), the writing journey, Asiana, and anything else that comes to mind. Visit her website at http://www.camytang.com/ for a huge website contest going on right now, giving away ten boxes of books and 30 copies of her latest release, SINGLE SASHIMI.

Oh Mercy!

God is merciful to the obedient and the rebellious.

Now, is that fair?

Of course it's fair. And I'll tell you why.

If God reserved his mercy for the obedient, no one would benefit from his mercy. There isn't a person on the earth who hasn't sinned. We've all been rebellious. In Romans 5:8 we read, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Since the blood of Jesus levels the playing field, we all have the same opportunity to call on God for help and the same ability to receive it.

God's mercy is one of the things many people do not understand. If you'd like another look at mercy, read today's Seek God With Me blog post.

First Place BOTY Winners

Congratulations to all of the First Place Winners of ACFW’s 2008 Book of the Year contest!

The Debut Author winner is Sushi for One? by Camy Tang, editor Sue Brower of Zondervan.

The Contemporary Novella winner is Finally Home by Deborah Raney (editor: Susan Downs of Barbour Publishing).

The Historical Novella winner is Love Notes by Mary Davis from the Love Letters Anthology (editor: Rebecca Germany of Barbour Publishing).

The Lits winner is Splitting Harriet by Tamara Leigh (editor: Julee Schwarzburg of Multnomah Books).

The Long Contemporary winner is Within This Circle by Deborah Raney (editor: Krista Stroever of Steeple Hill Books).

The Long Historical winners are (1) Veil of Fire by Marlo Schalesky (editors: Jeff Dunn/Jon Woodhams of RiverOak) and (2) Where Willows Grow by Kim Vogel Sawyer (editor: Charlene Patterson of Bethany House).

The Mystery winner is Your Chariot Awaits by Lorena McCourtney (editor: Amanda Bostic of Thomas Nelson).

The Short Contemporary winner is The Heart of Grace by Linda Goodnight (editor: Allison Lyons of Steeple Hill Love Inspired).

The Short Contemporary Suspense winner is Caught Redhanded by Gayle Roper (editor: Krista Stroever of Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense).

Short Historical winners are (1) Canteen Dreams by Cara Putman (editor: JoAnne Simmons of Barbour/Heartsong Presents and (2) Golden Days by Mary Connealy (editor: JoAnne Simmons of Barbour/Heartsong Presents).

The Speculative winner is The Restorer's Son by Sharon Hinck (editor: Reagan Reed of NavPress).

The Suspense winner is Black Ice by Linda Hall (editor: Traci DePree of WaterBrook Press).

The Women's Fiction winner is Remember to Forget (Deborah Raney (editor: Philis Boultinghouse of Howard Books/Simon & Schuster).

The Young Adult winner is In Between by Jenny B. Jones (editor: Jamie Chavez of NavPress).

Also a big congratulations to the second and third place winners as well as the finalists who didn’t place. For the complete list, go to http://www.acfw.com/boty.shtml.

Brandilyn Collins, BOTY Finalist

Best-selling author Brandilyn Collins has two books vying for ACFW’s 2008 Book of the Year in the suspense category. Her Kanner Lake series books two and three, Coral Moon and Crimson Eve, tell about some of the quirky characters who stop by the fictional coffee shop Java Joint and contribute to the real-life blog Scenes and Beans.

But fiction isn’t all she does.

Collins has also educated many best-selling-novelist-wannabes with her non-fiction book Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets A Novelist Can Learn From Actors. And I’ve found her blog to be as entertaining as it is informative.

Here’s my review of Crimson Eve, the third book in the Kanner Lake series:

Kanner Lake realtor Carla Radler has a nibble. Possibly a whole bite. She’s positively elated about the chance to sell Edna San’s estate to a tall, dark, and handsome. But Carla keeps her poise in front of this charming man with rich brown eyes. When she learns that this British gentleman with a cocky James Bond attitude will pay cash if he likes the place, she really gets excited. Who wouldn’t?

What Carla soon finds out is that things are not as they seem.

Fast forward to a phone call at Bailey Truitt’s coffee shop, Java Joint. Two of Scenes and Beans blog post authors, Bailey and Carla, discuss Carla’s missed appointment with Wilbur, another Scenes and beans co-author who needs Carla’s help with a blog post. Carla’s in more trouble than Bailey knows. She can’t let Bailey know what’s going on. What if the phone lines are tapped?

Carla’s run for her life takes a desperate turn. No one can know where she is. No one. Or he’ll kill them too.

Brandilyn Collins reveals the secrets of Kanner Lake residents one by one in this series. In Crimson Eve, she again mixes real-life with fiction in her references to a real blog called Scenes and Beans, which is based in a fictional coffee shop called Java Joint.

She has woven another well-paced suspense in Kanner Lake, only this time we leave town.

If Not Now, When?

On today's Seek God With Me blog post, I've expressed my opinion about the apparent lack of gratefulness to God in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike.

It seems to me that the news reports are covering much of the destruction, but not as much of the things we didn't lose.

I don't understand why people stayed on Galveston island. There was a mandatory evacuation notice and phone numbers to call for help getting off the island. But people stayed. And almost everyone who stayed lived through it, even though they may have lost some belongings. The death toll (fewer than 30 right now) could have been hundreds, if not thousands, more people than it was.

Those who lived in non-evacuation areas and didn't prepare for the hurricane by storing three days worth of water and non-perishable foods don't have the right to complain about the free food, water, and ice they are given at various points of distribution within the Houston area.

But people complain anyway.

I think it's time we told God that we appreciate His hand of protection. We should thank Him for neighbors who share what they have. The whole Houston area should be on their knees thanking God. This is the time to acknowledge Him.

If not now, when?

When the Nile Runs Red by DiAnn Mills

DiAnn Mills has many heroes. She's written romance and suspense, fiction and non-fiction, historical and contemporary, novellas and full-length novels. If you looked for a list of her awards, you might find:

“Six of her anthologies have appeared on the CBA Best Seller List. Three of her books have won the distinction of Best Historical of the Year by Heartsong Presents. Five of her books have won placements through American Christian Fiction Writer’s Book of the Year Awards 2003 – 2007, and she is the recipient of the Inspirational Reader’s Choice award for 2005 and 2007. She was a Christy Awards finalist in 2008.”

This month, three of her stories are finalists in the American Christian Fiction Writers 2008 Book of the Year contest: When the Nile Runs Red in the Long Contemporary category, Mississippi Mud in the Contemporary Novella category, and Beyond the Memories in the Historical Novella category.

When I read Mills’ When the Nile Runs Red, I found Larson Farid’s complicated situation very touching. If you haven’t read it, look for the book online. Here’s my review :

This is a book of conflict. Paul and Larson Farid are happily married, but wonder if they should run for their lives or stay in the danger zone where God has placed them.

This is a book of love. Larson finds herself caring for a baby that isn’t hers. She can’t just let it die.

This is a book of spiritual hunger. Paul’s brother may want to convert to Christianity, but Paul doesn’t know if this is just a ploy to trick him into getting the torturous death his family has been plotting against him for years.

Again my heart goes out to Colonel Ben Alier. He keeps fighting the stirrings in his heart. His troubles cause permanent changes to his life. Some good changes and some not.

This captivating sequel to DiAnn Mills’ When the Lion Roars brings us up to date on the characters’ emotional struggles and breaks our hearts for the people of Sudan.

For more information on any of DiAnn's heroes, visit DiAnn's website.

Where Is God Looking?

Have you ever walked into a room and found everyone looking at the ceiling?

It makes you curious enough to look at the ceiling too, doesn't it? When we see people staring off at something, watching it closely, we want to see what has caught their interest. We can't help but follow their gaze.

Have you ever asked God what He's looking at?

On today's post at Seek God With Me, I share a couple of scripture verses which might motivate you to get inquisitive with God.

Come on over and Seek God With Me.

Camy Tang, BOTY Finalist

Camy Tang’s novel Sushi for One is a finalist in two categories of the ACFW’s 2008 Book of the Year contest. She’s competing in the Lits category and the Debut Author category.

I can tell you that her writing is compelling and fun. I’ve read the first two books in her Sushi Series, and I’m waiting for number three.

When I read Sushi for One, Camy Tang's lovable characters sprang to life. Her story of four very interesting, yet very different, girl cousins who help each other through difficult situations kept me intrigued and wondering how it would all work out.

Tomboy Lex Sakai needs a boyfriend, and she needs him now. Or at least before Grandma sees her at cousin Mariko’s wedding. Grandma Sakai isn’t your average good-natured granny. She knows how to wield enough power to get what she wants, even when what she wants (a boyfriend for Lex) isn’t easy to come by due to Lex’s high standards.

Will she find a boyfriend through her volleyball friends, at her workplace, or from her brother’s long list of friends? All she knows is she’d better find one quick. If she doesn’t, Grandma will withdraw her support from Lex’s girls’ volleyball team. She was planning to take them to playoffs, but if Grandma cuts funding, how will she cover the traveling costs?

I thoroughly enjoyed the hero’s part in this story. He was visible, yet subtle. Heroic, yet had an obvious weakness. As I read, I knew they would get together, but was surprised by the ending. In fact when I turned to the last page of the story, I immediately thought, “Darn. It’s over.” I wanted the story to continue because I loved the characters.

This Asian Chick-lit is a must-read for anyone interested in a fun story with dramatic turns. According to the front cover, “Sometimes romance needs a kick of wasabi.”

Ransomed Dreams by Amy Wallace

I met Amy Wallace at the 2007 American Christian Fiction Writers conference. I was one of the many in line to get her autograph. Amy’s face lit up when I met her. She’s encouraging and a very sweet person to talk to. But her talent speaks for itself. After reading her novel, I found that her writing is superb and her story is gripping.

This year, she’s a finalist in the suspense category of ACFW’s 2008 Book of the Year contest. That category is, for me, quite interesting and will be one to watch. The winner will be proud to have triumphed against extremely tough competition.

Here’s my review of Ransomed Dreams, book one in the Defenders of Hope series.

It was an accident. Gracie Lang didn’t lose her life, but she might as well have. The drunk driver of the truck that hit her family never stopped. How many others were in danger of losing their live s with him still on the road?

Although she find nothing but dead-ends, Gracie’s driven to find the one responsible and can’t seem to give up on her search. But it was time to rejoin the human race and begin to live again. Date again.

Steven Kessler is raising his son without the help of his ex-wife who abandoned him. His parents help out when Steven’s job as an FBI agent in the Crimes Against Children Unit pulls him out of dad-duty. Steven’s partner keeps planting verbal seeds and waits for him to return to God, but Steven doesn’t see the point.

Steven’s job and his son brought him and Gracie together since she’ll be his son’s teacher when school starts. He’ll be seeing a lot of her in the coming months. Something he wouldn’t mind. But it can’t get serious. Not with his ex back in the picture.

The villains are wretched and scary. And real enough that I wanted to get to the end of the book where they wouldn’t be running around loose anymore.

Amy Wallace weaves superbly, showing the many hold-my-breath conflicts at the right time and allowing me to catch my breath before I fall over from lack of oxygen.

I finished reading this book a few months ago and set it aside. The story was still on my mind when I started writing this review, but I skimmed through the prologue anyway. Having already read the entire book, you’d think I could get through a few of the beginning pages without tears coming to my eyes. No chance. Wallace’s writing makes Gracie’s story real enough that Gracie’s emotions became mine.

For more information, visit her website and her blog.

Attack! (the problem)

Today on Seek God With Me, I'm on the attack.

Some people like conflict and others like conflict resolution. Personally, I like to see problems resolved, crises averted, dilemmas deciphered, and turmoil cleared up.

But that doesn't usually happen if you ignore the problem.

Many times the triumph comes after a battle, and that means you have to attack.

Being creative in your attack often helps, so join me on my devotional blog to prepare for your next problem.

See The USA

This summer, I learned the words to the Johnny Cash song, "I've Been Everywhere". Although I haven't been in as many places as he's been, I have been in all but sixteen states.

Thanks to Kaye Dacus for the idea and link to this mapping site.


visited 34 states (68%)
Create your own visited map of The United States or determine the next president

Coulter's Trailer

Yesterday, I posted my review of Brenda Coulter’s new inspirational romance from Steeple Hill Love Inspired. AT HIS COMMAND shows Maddie and Jake’s story as they find love in Texas.

My favorite scene is the tubing scene. It took me back to my tubing days. Yes, please wear the sunscreen. Anyone who’s been tubing will be nodding in approval.

And thanks, Brenda, for the BBQ restaurant scene. I can still smell it.

By the way, both of those scenes feature Jake’s law partner Travis Wylie, a man with boots on his feet, dimples in his cheeks, and a cowboy hat over his dark wavy hair.

So for those who haven’t made up their mind to buy the book, here’s Brenda’s book trailer. Enjoy!

At His Command by Brenda Coulter

Madeline Bright always seems as sunny as her name, but her positive outlook isn’t helping her attract the attention of ex-pilot Jake Hopkins. In fact, Jake avoids her as if he’s as allergic to her as he is to peanuts.

He’s the hero who can’t get past the fact that he came home from a helicopter crash without his best friend Noah Bright, Maddie’s brother. He’s the hero who believes Noah’s death was his fault. He’s the hero Maddie has looked up to since she was a child.

Jake can't let Maddie know what really happened after the crash. He can't let her know how he really feels about her either. He wants to protect her at all cost – since he couldn’t protect her brother.

Brenda Coulter’s books are an interesting peek at the lives of heroes who have flaws, an unquenchable desire for the heroine, and enough sense to make things come together at the end. This book, Coulter’s fourth, takes a look at an Army pilot turned civilian attorney and the constant problems he tries to ignore, but can’t. Her characters feel real. And since the story’s set in Texas, she gets extra applause from me.

AT HIS COMMAND is in stores now. (Hint, hint.)

For more information, visit her website and her blog.

God, Show Me A Sign!

How many times have people asked God for a sign and God responded that He'd already given them a sign? People see signs from God all the time and either ignore them or don't understand them. While Jesus was on the earth healing many and performing other miracles, people came to him to test him and asked for a sign.

Can you imagine someone going into a clock store and asking the manager to tell him what time it is? The manager, after he restrains himself from calling the potential customer a knucklehead, might spread him arms wide and say, "Look around you. What do you see?"

I think we start getting into trouble when we find ourselves so busy doing things we think we have to do that we get distracted from any messages God may send. We'll see, hear, and feel God's signs (which He's already set into motion) when we calm down, look around, and listen.

On Seek God With Me, I discuss one of the signs God gives everyone of us. Check it out and learn how to respond to God's signs.

Double-Finalist Gayle Roper

Gayle Roper is a dear, sweet, encouraging person. But she can deftly handle the trauma and trouble in her romantic suspense novels. Gayle’s short contemporary romantic suspense novel See No Evil has finaled in the ACFW 2008 Book of the Year contest. Picking one winner will be extra hard for the judges because Gayle has another book, Caught Redhanded, which also finaled in the same category.

While reading Gayle Roper’s See No Evil, I found Amhearst in trouble and Anna Volente afraid for her life.

Anna, an art teacher with over 150 intermediate school students, sews curtains, slipcovers, and pillows to generate extra income. Grayson Edwards is a construction contractor at Freedom’s Chase where Anna’s drapes and pillows decorate the model homes. Little does she know all that sewing will get her wrapped up in a murder that takes place right across from where she works.

Not afraid of heights, Anna climbs ladders all the time to install expensive drapes. However when Gray sees her fall from her ladder, his rescue attempt starts things in motion that changes both their lives.

She is shot at, witnesses a killer leaving the scene of a murder, and bloodies Gray’s nose – all in the first part of the book. After that, of course, things really get bad.

Rita award-winning author Gayle Roper made her poor hero, Gray Edwards, go through agony before he was allowed to participate in a happy ending. But isn’t it the pain that makes the joy more intense?

Correction

Correction. Discipline. These are things we need, but run from sometimes.

Offering a loving correction is a good way to help someone. However, children don't often see discipline as help.

In view of God's love for me, I try to offer "help" to my kids when it's needed. The funny thing is that God corrects me just as often.

I'm not sure my kids know this. Maybe I should tell them. Maybe that would let them know that those who pray to our Almighty God will continue to make mistakes as long as they're on the Earth. Hopefully the amount diminishes over time.

That would be nice.

Join me at Seek God With Me as I discuss this kind of "help".

Summer Tip #3

This tip involves foot care because vacationers spend an awful lot of time on their feet.

Summer tip #3.
Choose shoes that fit the activity.

I once took a trip to Chicago with my husband – with no kids along. I went sightseeing in a dress and feminine sandals.

Big mistake.

I think I may have run out of bandages for my blistered feet that year. Before the trip was over, I had to buy a new pair of walking shoes.

When we visited The Big City, my daughter wore her inexpensive rubber clogs all over the city. I wore my comfortable sneakers and got tired a lot more quickly than she did.

Walking the city sidewalks requires a different shoe than climbing a mountain trail. I should’ve learned the shoe lesson in Chicago.

This year when my family and I go hiking, I will not be packing a dress and sandals. I’ll wear my hiking shoes on the trails and get some inexpensive rubber clogs for the museum part of the trip.

If we make smart decisions while planning and packing, we won’t require bandages for our feet.

Hopefully.

Check out my other tips:
Summer Tip #1
Summer Tip #2

Vickie McDonough

Vickie McDonough has been writing long enough to have a few books out.

She is a double-finalist in the ACFW 2008 Book of the Year contest with her Short Historical A Wealth Beyond Riches and with her Historical Novella "The Spinster & The Tycoon" from The Spinster Brides of Cactus Corner anthology.

Her Historical Romance called The Bounty Hunter and the Bride won third place in its category in Heartsong Presents’ 2007 readers’ contest. Two of her stories finaled in the ACFW Book of the Year contest in 2007. Spinning out of Control won a place in the Top Ten Favorite Historical Romances in Heartsong Presents’ annual contest.

In 2006, Sooner or Later won second place in the Short Historical Category of ACFW’s Book of the Year contest, first place in the Texas Gold contest’s Inspirational category, and third place in the Inspirational Readers Choice contest in the Short Historical category.

That does not cover all her awards, only the recent ones. On her web site, she has a list of awards so long you have to keep scrolling down to get to the 2002 entry.

This novelist has fans!

If you haven’t read any of her works of art, pick up a copy of Virginia Brides now and put A Bride By Christmas and Oklahoma Brides on your Christmas list.

Generosity

Generosity is giving. But it is also a gift.

Some people are good at cutting hair, and some aren't. Some people are naturally talented athletes, and some aren't. If a talent comes easily to someone, we say that they have a gift.

However, just because some people are gifted mathematicians, that doesn't mean the rest of us shouldn't try to be good at math. Some of us just have to work harder at developing that skill.

There are people who are naturally generous people. But those who aren't can still develop some generosity, even though it may not be easy. Just like learning to play the piano, it might be difficult at first, but with practice, it can be learned.

Join me at my Seek God With Me blog where I discuss seeking God in our giving.

Summer Tip #2

I love taking trips with my family. We travel well together and enjoy a variety of activities. So my next summer tip will be helpful for those who travel.

Summer tip #2:
Plan your vacation, but live for the fun, not for the plan.

Earlier this year, my family took a trip to The Big City. We communicated in the planning stages so we could have a list of all the things we wanted to see. I researched, wrote and sorted addresses of places to see according to proximity, and printed a daily itinerary.

However, some of the most memorable times we had were the surprises along the way.

We had come out of the park and stopped in to visit a toy store, but when we were ready to leave the store, rain poured out of the sky in heavy sheets. We hadn’t brought an umbrella so when we saw a break in the rain, we ran out of the store to get to our hotel as quickly as we could.

On the way back, it started raining again. We stopped trying to find the subway entrance and stepped into a store to stay dry. The store we found was one we didn’t know existed. In that surprising turn of events, we found a memory-making moment. The kids saw some fascinating items in the store. I was glad we stumbled upon it.

You never know what’s around the corner.

The Greatest Show on Earth, 1952

The circus is in town!

Well, it was here two or three weeks ago. It's in another town now. I’ve seen the circus a few times, but not this year. Watching this movie makes me feel like I’m there watching the really fascinating people doing their death-defying feats.

This drama under the big top is the story of a clown, an elephant trainer, trapeze artists, and the man who runs The Greatest Show on Earth. The circus may have to cut its season short unless they can find a new act to draw the crowd. When the new act, Cornel Wilde as The Great Sebastian, shows up with a flourish, the women gasp and smile, but others are wary.

Charlton Heston, in his third movie, plays Brad Braden, the circus manager. Heston did a great job in his role, but as usual, James Stewart stole the show. He plays Buttons, the clown who never takes off his makeup. His skill as an actor comes through no matter what he’s wearing.

Betty Hutton plays Holly, a feisty trapeze artist with a heart for the circus – and Brad, but getting no attention from him. When The Great Sebastian takes away her hard-won center ring, she fights even harder to get it back.

Elephant trainer Angel, played by Gloria Grahame, would gladly take Holly’s place in Brad’s arms, if only Brad wanted her. But she sees a different hero in her future.

This film, directed and narrated by Cecil B. DeMille, received Oscars for Best Picture and Best Writing. Golden Globes were delivered for Best Motion Picture-Drama, Best Director, and Best Cinematography-Color.

Edith Head was nominated for an Oscar for her costume designs. Other Oscar nominations were for Best Director and Best Film Editing.

The amazing thing about this movie is that the stars had to learn to do the circus acts for real. Betty Hutton and Gloria Grahame didn’t use stunt doubles. Cornel Wilde was afraid of heights, but learned the trapeze and high wire acts anyway.

Emmett Kelly and Lou Jacobs, professional clowns in real life, took on a role playing themselves. Many other circus performers are listed in the credits as playing themselves, including The Flying Concellos, The Flying Comets, and even Peterson’s Dogs.

I loved the cameos by Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.

Lena Nelson Dooley

Lena Nelson Dooley, a multi-published award-winning author, has mentored many now-published novelists and encourages others who are aimed at publishing their first novel.

"The Spinster & The Cowboy", her Historical Novella in the Spinster Brides of Cactus Corner anthology, has finaled in the ACFW 2008 Book of the Year contest. She is currently working on a Christmas novella called "Charlsey’s Accountant" for a collection called Cowgirl Christmas Brides.

Lena's blog, A Christian Writer’s World, is filled with fabulous interviews with intriguing authors who freely give advice about the writing journey. Her recent interviews with Linda Windsor, Leah Starr Baker, and Sharon Hinck were fascinating. It’s always good to hear from those who have succeeded.

Lena gives away free novels on her blog, so check it out to see if you can win one!

Quiet Expectation

How do you honor God?

Some honor Him with worship songs, some with big donations to the needy, and some honor Him with quiet expectation.

God sees those who trust Him, those who don't try to second-guess Him nor throw an impatient fit. He enjoys our show of confidence in Him when we wait quietly for Him to rescue us out of trouble.

Join me at my devotional blog, Seek God With Me and see what Jeremiah said about those who wait quietly for God.

Summer Tip #1

Welcome to the dog days of summer!

I've decided to remind everyone to learn from their past mistakes. Many already have adequate knowledge, but like me, have distractions during key packing moments. So to help out, I've put together a brief summer series of lessons I've learned.

Summer tip #1.
Make sure you bring ALL your sunscreen with you to the beach or pool.

At my house, I have a few bottles of sunscreen. One has been in the laundry room since last summer. One is in my bathroom cabinet. And I think one is in my daughter’s bathroom.

I bought a new one this spring when the big sunscreen display popped up in the grocery store. However, I hadn’t tried to use that bottle yet this year. Recently, the kids were going to spend quite a bit more time in the sun so I pulled out the fabulous new bottle. I was excited to see the new technology that the label boasted about. All my other bottles are squeeze bottles of lotion. This one is a spray can.

Oooh! A spray can! I won’t have to get my fingers all greasy, right?

Well, I didn’t get my fingers greasy. And I didn’t get to see the new technology. I pushed the spray nozzle, but nothing happened. So I pushed it again. And again. My young nephew wanted to give it a try, so he pushed it. Nothing.

I banged it on the bricks out on the back porch in my desperate attempt to produce some kind of reaction from the can. Nothing.

It’s been a couple of months since I bought it so I can’t take it back to the store to exchange it for a can that works. No receipt.

I feel like calling the customer service line to see what that manufacturer has to say about it. I may just ask my husband to work on it for a while.

It’s a good thing I had last year’s lotion for my Plan B.

A Thanks Funnel

How can conversation affect gratitude?

Your conversations with your friends and family can have a lasting effect on the people you speak with and the people they speak with afterward. If you were to encourage someone and turn their day from impossibly glum to suddenly bright, don’t be surprised to hear that they passed on more encouragement to someone else. You can start a chain effect of people thanking God for the good things in their lives.

With the few people you affect added to the few that each of those people affect, a large amount of gratitude going up to Almighty God can look like a funnel of thanks.

This is something we can do all year long. Don’t wait for a holiday to encourage others in a meaningful conversation and start the chain-reaction of thanks.

The habit of meaningful conversation will help your efforts to improve your relationships with your family or anyone you love. 

How Do You Communicate?

I took another quiz! Yay!

You can go to blogthings.com and check out their quizzes.




You Communicate Like a Woman



You empathize, talk things out, and express your emotions freely.

You're a good listener, and you're non-judgmental with your advice.

Communication is how you connect with people.

You're always up for a long talk, no matter how difficult the subject matter is.

Are You Filling Your Storehouse?

The following paragraph is from today's post at Seek God With Me, my devotional blog.

God’s ways are higher than ours. I can’t predict how God will handle any situation. There are always so many factors involved that I’m not aware of. All I can do is prepare for the situation by getting close to Him in prayer and study the Bible so He can show me things that apply to the situation.

Just like in a novel, danger surprises people in real life. But we can prepare ourselves to handle trouble.

Before you allow your kids to go to the beach, you teach them to swim, you teach them to recognize jellyfish, and you bring a first aid kit. Moms try to prepare for everything, but there are somethings that will surprise even them.

God knows more than we do and will help us if we let Him. Many times we can avoid trouble by listening to God in the peaceful times.

Check out the post about filling your storehouse at Seek God With Me.

Reluctant Runaway by Jill Elizabeth Nelson


A theft from a museum and the disappearance of a woman cause Desiree Jacobs to fly to New Mexico to help a friend. An expert in her field and the owner of an art and antiquities protection business, Desi wants to know how someone was able to steal items from a museum guarded by her company. But more importantly, why?

FBI agent Tony Lucano’s current case may be linked to the same people Desi is after. He struggles to keep his girlfriend alive and out of harm’s way, but with Desi’s compassionate heart and nose for trouble, he’s got his hands full.

I enjoyed the fire between Desi and Tony. He holds back, but the truth of his love for her shows. And when gutsy Desi took matters into her own hands, she made this book a page-turner. The predicaments she found herself in came as a surprise each time.

Jill Elizabeth Nelson has written a unique and engaging story in Reluctant Runaway, Book Two in the To Catch A Thief series. Desi and Tony tackle all kinds of problems and sort through their feelings for each other throughout the three book series.

Artistic Novelist Jill Elizabeth Nelson

Award-winning author Jill Elizabeth Nelson isn't reluctant. She's happy to announce that her romantic suspense novel Reluctant Runaway won the RRT Best Book of 2007. I’ve read it, and I agree that it keeps the reader glued to the pages until the end.

Her novels are wonderful, but her website is also exciting. You can read about what she’s doing lately or click on “Stealth & Wealth” to read about art theft and play a game.

Her blog, Artistic Blogger, is a “blog addressing issues about art, art theft, and the art of fiction.” She reviews new releases of her Christian novelist friends. And she announces book giveaways from time to time.

If you enjoy romantic suspense novels, you’ll want to come back tomorrow to see my review of Jill Elizabeth Nelson’s award-winning novel.

Seeing God Anew

How many times have you passed by someone who is collecting money for a good cause in front of a grocery store?

Did you feel guilty about not dropping some money into their bucket?

Well, that's not the only way you can help people. You can be generous with your money, but you can also be generous with your loving actions.

When I was young, my dad, my mom, brother, sister, and I were going home from some event in the early evening while it was still daylight. My dad stopped our car in the street by the curb to help a young girl who had fallen off her bicycle. She was our neighbor and she'd hurt herself. My dad put her bike in the trunk of our car and helped her into the front seat of our car, and we took her home.

That has always stood out to me as an example of God's love. My dad didn't worry about his car possibly being hit. His concern was for the girl and getting her home.

This is the kind of thing God wants to see us involved with.

While my dad was caring for someone in need, he was teaching his children to love like God loves - with action.

Join me at my Seek God With Me blog for more ways to see God's love in action.

Life with Father, 1947


William Powell took on the role of Clarence Day in this film which displays how the father was always the hero or the head of the house in the 1880s. The mother was the beautiful, dutiful child manager. But Powell’s Day was constantly being outwitted by his devoted wife. It’s always interesting when a father (character) sets himself up to be king of the family, but the wife is really the true ruler.

The stage play, which held the record for the longest non-musical run on Broadway with 3,224 performances, was based on Clarence Day’s autobiographical book. Clarence’s widow was on the movie set to give approval to Irene Dunne’s performance. She even provided jewelry from the real Vinnie for the film, which released in theaters the same year the Broadway run ended.

Elizabeth Taylor brought a wonderful performance as Miss Mary Skinner in her seventh film, which came three years after National Velvet.

The second oldest Day son, John, was played by Martin Milner, whom I remember as Officer Pete Malloy from TV’s “Adam-12”.

Irene Dunne, nicknamed the First Lady of Hollywood, played Vinnie Day, the mother who kept the Day household going. She was nominated for an Academy Award five times, but never won. Her only color film was Life with Father. A statement attributed to Irene Dunne, according to imdb.com, is “Trying to build the brotherhood of man without the Fatherhood of God is like having the spokes of a wheel without the hub.”

For his work in this film, William Powell won the Best Actor award from the New York Film Critics Circle Awards in 1947. Life with Father won the 1948 Golden Globes award for Best Score in a Motion Picture.

The film was nominated in 1948 for four Academy Awards, winning none. They included William Powell’s Best Actor nomination; the Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color nomination; the Best Cinematography, Color nomination; and the Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.

When I remember watching Life with Father, I remember the fifteen dollar ceramic pug dog and the “free” suit. I remember the young boy and his first love. I remember laughing at the boy’s determination when it looked like the relationship had no chance of working out. This fun romance with a young hero and heroine was tucked away in a comedy about a man’s ability to rule his family.

Write Place, Write Time

The always informative Kaye Dacus loves to share interesting stories with her Write Place, Write Time blog readers.

Recently, she encouraged everyone to support Sheaf House, Joan Shoup's brand new publishing house, by buying a copy of One Holy Night by J. M. Hochstetler. One Holy Night is the publishing house's debut novel. Other excellent novels on their way are: Michelle Sutton's It's Not About Me and A. K. Arenz's The Case of the Bouncing Grandma. Go to Amazon and order your copy today.

And before that, she told about Lucy Maud Montgomery, the author of Anne of Green Gables. I love the wonderful details and the pictures in her blog posts.

Kaye's easy way with words and her wit comes out nicely in each post. I've read her posts about heroes and about heroines and I plan to read her debut novel Stand-In Groom when it comes out.

She also has an upcoming celebration. She's preparing for her 500th blog post on July 31 and will give away prizes to her readers.

Congratulations, Kaye.

Quieting the Noise

Picture a man standing on a mountain listening for God to speak, but instead he encounters destructive winds, an earthquake, and a fire. Then when the noise has passed, he hears a still, small voice.

In years past, when I've substituted for my children's teachers, I've been in charge of a group of noisy kids. I don't like to repeat myself and try to talk over the chaos, so at times I had to wait for them to notice my silence before they quieted enough to hear me.

We can imagine God as that teacher who waits for us to be ready to listen before He'll speak. Join me at Seek God With Me for my blog post on this subject.

Finding Marie by Susan Page Davis


Marie Belanger’s trip home turns into a dangerous game of hide-and-seek. How will she get home without jeopardizing her family? How will she avert the perils on the way?

Searching for Marie on this maddening trail is her husband Lieutenant Pierre Belanger, and his best friend, Lt. Commander George Hudson. The US Navy had secrets. Secret missions. Information that could kill thousands if it fell into the wrong hands.

But Marie wasn’t told anything the Navy didn’t want her to hear. And she never thought she’d be saving the lives of others by protecting a small secret.

Who is after her? She recognizes faces time and again as they continue catching up to her. But for whom did they work? Is there a safe place to hide?

Marie begins her trip in Japan and travels through six states on her way home to Maine. The people she finds along the way sometimes help her and sometimes endanger her. Whom can she trust?

Writer's First Aid

Interested in a little encouragement?

Kristi Holl has authored 35 books, fiction and non-fiction, including Writer's First Aid. I checked out her blog and found a lot of helpful tips.

She has posts on writing challenges, writing habits, schedules, priorities, and more topics than I should mention in this limited space. I think her series on Facing Your Creative Fears has probably helped a lot of writers who need the push to tackle the fears that keep us from accomplishing the job at hand.

Where do you go when you need a little encouragment? Kristi's blog is a good option.

Worshipping Calves Again?

In the Bible, a golden calf was made to give the people something to worship while they waited on Moses who was taking a long time up on the mountain watching God making the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments on them. When Moses finally came down, he saw the people worshipping the golden calf and got a little upset. Okay, more than a little.

I can just hear Moses fussing at the people. "I turn my back for one minute, and what do you do? Run off and make a golden calf!" Okay, he didn't really say that. It sounds more like somebody's mother.

After Moses got really angry about the sin of the people, you'd think that would be the last we ever hear of anyone making a golden calf.

Apparently, there were a few who forgot that first calf fiasco. Join me at Seek God With Me for the rest of the story.

Eternal Connections

Everyone has a friend, a family member, or someone with whom they can talk about meaningful topics. That relationship is important. It’s a connection with someone who cares enough to listen and share their experiences.

But is it an eternal connection?

My dad’s father didn’t spend a lot of time with just the two of us talking about important matters while I was growing up. I’m one of his thirty grandchildren, so I had a little competition for Papaw’s knee. I remember laughter around the dinner table and him requesting that we all sing Amazing Grace at family reunions, but being a part of a large family meant I didn’t get much personal time with him. I’m sure we’ll get a chance to catch up when I see him again in heaven because I’m sure we’ll both be there.

Can I be sure all of my family will join me in heaven?

Some, yes. Some, we won’t find out until we get there.

If I’m not sure a friend or family member is headed to heaven, how can I bring up the topic with them?

The first thing I’d do is pray. Then I’d work on having conversations with them that will build the relationship into a relationship of trust. After that, you’ll be able to tell how to turn the conversation toward eternal things.

If you see that they’re agitated about where the discussion is heading, back off and listen for God’s guidance. Don’t lose the trust you’ve built.

I know I don’t have to do the work of changing hearts. God will do it. All I’m in charge of is speaking truth in love.

The habit of meaningful conversation will help your efforts to improve your relationships with your friends, family, or anyone you love. Mary DeMuth has made available a package of 150 conversation starters as a download for $5 to help people get into deeper, more meaningful conversations with each other.

If you have trouble getting the conversation going with those you love, give Mary’s starters a try. Her web site has a FREE STUFF page where you can find NINE FREE STARTERS.