Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Preparing for the New Year

1113574_toward_2009Reflection seems to be a common state this time of year. As the New Year approaches, we look back on the past year and wonder what the new one will bring. Over the last few years God has led me to take this last week of December and the first week of January to spend time focused on what He wants to accomplish in the next year. I encourage you to do the same so that you can enter 2009 prepared and ready to join God in his plan.

These are the areas I focus on:

  1. Me. What adjustments do I need to make in my life in the areas of Bible study, service, prayer and fasting, and obedience to what God is calling me to do. As a writer, this is a constant struggle to stay on track and keep my words serving Him, which makes his guidance so valuable a reference point when I veer off track.

  2. My husband. Besides my constant prayers for his salvation, I ask God specifically for ways I can and should be praying for my husband throughout the new year. Interestingly enough, this has changed each year in regards to my husband’s future salvation and my growing belief that God will soon bring this to pass. For example, last year God told me to change my prayers from asking to thanking God for putting my husband’s salvation into place and to claim it.

  3. My children. My constant prayer for them is always protection and a deepening faith, but I also want to be sensitive to what God is doing in their lives. Along with my own concerns, I ask God to show what areas I need to cover in prayer for the upcoming year. This also gives me insight to what the year will hold for them.

  4. Extended family. Who in your family needs special prayers for the coming year? This is a good time to make a list (not too long or you’ll be overwhelmed) of those who don’t believe, are struggling in their lives, or are ill.

  5. Friends. How can I be praying and uplifting the special people in my life? Praying for them keeps me closer to them as well.

  6. Missionary. Do you have a cause or missionary you support? Put it down and make a commitment to pray for them. (Include your pastor here too!)

  7. World. Is there an area God is calling you to pray for on a larger scope? I will say this is the first year I’ve felt led to pray for a president, but I’m committed to praying for President Elect Obama.

Finally, write it all down. I assign a day of the week to each area (Monday for my immediate family, Tuesdays for extended family, etc.) Give each day a page and list who and what you’re praying for. Then leave space to write in updates during the year. This will help you reassess the following year as well.

Also jot down any promises God gives you in these areas so that you can go back and read them when you find yourself discouraged or off track. You’ll be amazed how much strength you can draw from these reminders that God is personally involved in every aspect of our lives.

I hope this helps you bring in the New Year with new hope and determination to serve our amazing God by serving others. Sometimes our circumstances leave us little time to do more than pray, but what greater gift can we give those we love and honor in the coming year?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Homeless Mom and Daughter Need Help

One of the members (Brandilyn Collins) of my local writing group found out one of her readers has been unfairly evicted from their home. This mom and daughter are now living in their car. And it's cold here right now, colder than I can recall in the last six years we've lived in San Jose.

This vivacious sixteen year old is also blogging about her mom and their saga here. You can read Brandilyn's updates here, while we search for a way to get this mom and daughter into warm beds for the night. The daughter, Katy, has also shared a PO Box if you would like to send financial support to get them through this time. Her mom, Liz, has a potential job interview but that's not until mid January.

Please keep Katy and Liz in your prayers. It's wonderful to see the body of Christ rallying around these two dear people. With God, we can do anything.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mercy vs. Sacrifice

"But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
— Matthew 9:13

This verse captured me yesterday. The study notes in my Bible talk about Jesus desiring us to be merciful, but I didn't see this verse that way.

When he says, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice," I believe its also shows the transfer of salvation from our hands to his. The Jews knew sacrifice well. From their time in Egypt and passed down through the generations since, animal sacrifices were their path to forgiveness. Yet even then it wasn't the perfect solution God desired. (See also 1 Sam. 15:22, Psalm 51:16, Prov. 21:3)

I believe Jesus is also saying here that the time of man's role in forgiveness was futile and had come to an end. Jesus had come as prophesied, and now his mercy would step in. In these five words, the source and method of our forgiveness shifted from our hands to his, literally and symbolically with the nails in his hands.

Just some thoughts for reflection...

Monday, December 08, 2008

My Favorite Time of Year

I love fall. I live for fall. Fall is my favorite time of year. We don't get a lot of visible changes in the SF Bay area, but I love some of the trees on the street near where we live. As an artist, these color changes just delight me to no end. I took a few pictures today on nice walk with our poochy, Shasta.

Faithful dog Shasta always has her nose in full gear.

I call these city deer. All show and no go. They definitely "illuminate" the night life.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Dark Pursuit by Brandilyn Collins

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Dark Pursuit

Zondervan (December 1, 2008)


Brandilyn Collins


Brandilyn Collins is known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense®. She is currently working on her 20th book. For chances to win free copies of her work, join her Fan Club on Facebook. Here’s what Brandilyn has to say about why she wrote Dark Pursuit:

In John Milton’s Paradise Lost Satan’s followers, kicked out of heaven, boast about storming the gates and reclaiming their territory. Beelzebub scoffs at their boasting as merely “hatching vain empires” and suggests a different revengeful scheme: seduce mankind away from God. So Satan visits the Garden of Eden to teach humans the very thing he and his cohorts have learned to be futile—the dark pursuit of hatching their own vain empires instead of following God. He presented man with this “gift” of death, disguised as life. And man fell for it.

Upon this theme of man’s fall and spiritual blindness, I created the characters and events in Dark Pursuit. The story clips along at a fast pace, with much symbolism running underneath.

Dark Pursuit—A twisting story of murder, betrayal, and eternal choices

Novelist Darell Brooke lived for his title as King of Suspense—until an auto accident left him unable to concentrate. Two years later, reclusive and bitter, he wants one thing: to plot a new novel and regain his reputation.

Kaitlan Sering, his twenty-two-year-old granddaughter, once lived for drugs. After she stole from Darell, he cut her off. Now she’s rebuilding her life. But in Kaitlan’s town two women have been murdered, and she’s about to discover a third. She’s even more shocked to realize the culprit—her boyfriend, Craig, the police chief’s son.

Desperate, Kaitlan flees to her estranged grandfather. For over forty years, Darell Brooke has lived suspense. Surely he’ll devise a plan to trap the cunning Craig.

But can Darell’s muddled mind do it? And—if he tries—with what motivation? For Kaitlan’s plight may be the stunning answer to the elusive plot he seeks...

Read the first chapter of Dark Pursuit, HERE.

Smudge says to leave a comment to win a copy of Dark Pursuit. If you haven't read Brandilyn's books before, now's a good time to start! This story promises to be one of her best!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

What's Laminin?

Watch this nine minute clip on YouTube by Louie Giglio. You will be amazed!

And thankful...

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Giving Thanks @ Thanksgiving

DM-ChairposeWhen asked to give my testimony, I never know what to say. God didn’t come into my life on a blazing horse, saving me in the middle of some catastrophic event or dark moment. As far back as I can remember, I always remember him being there. Which is amazing since I didn’t grow up in a Christian home.

Yet to look back over my life is to see the constant impression of God’s fingerprints and his divine plan connecting each joy and trial to the next in an amazing display of perfect planning and preparation.

I believe God ingrained Romans 8:28 into the very cells of my body and mind. I knew this truth as a young child before I ever read that Scripture. In fact, everything fell into place the first time I read it, and I finally understood the pattern of my life. That God was, is and will be that pattern.

Read the rest at S.U.M.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Time for Reflection

This morning I finally had time alone to sit, pray, and think. So much has happened in such a short time, yet to think back to the end of September when we were thrust onto this path of surgery and treatment seems so long ago.

We have so much to be thankful for in the midst of this crazy journey, and I believe we've been witness to miracles and so many answered prayers. Last week tests revealed the tumor isn't a PNET, which are always grade 4, but another type that's more like a grade 3 and will need less treatment.

This is wonderful news and, I believe, a miracle. Leslie won't need to undergo chemotherapy, just radiation. My girl may even get to go back to school early next year.

God is good.

And he's so very faithful. He's kept his word every step of the way, and most importantly, never left my side. I don't know how people deal with situations like this without God. I really don't. He has strengthened me every step of the way and given me a certainty that my daughter would be okay.

In this light of this quiet and peaceful Monday morning, I am praising God for his greatness and love. We still have a ways to go, but I know God's there, working in amazing and miraculous ways that we won't fully understand this side of heaven.

I can't wait to one day see the full picture. But for now I'm content in the Father's arms, knowing he has everything well in hand. I pray that for you too. Be blessed.

(Picture: Leslie in her purple and red wig and pink beanie.)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

An Irishwoman's Tale by Patti Lace

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

An Irishwomans' Tale

Kregel Publications (July 8, 2008)


Patti Lacy


Patti Lacy graduated from Baylor University in 1977 with a B.S. in education. She taught at Heartland Community College in Normal, Illinois, until she retired in 2006 to pursue writing full time. She has two grown children with her husband, Alan, and lives in Illinois.


Far away from her Irish home, Mary Freeman begins to adapt to life in Midwest America, but family turmoil and her own haunting memories threaten to ruin her future.

A shattered cup. Cheap tea. Bitter voices asking what's to be done with the "little eejit." Mary, an impetuous Irishwoman, won't face the haunting memories--until her daughter's crisis propels her back to County Clare. There, in a rocky cliffside home, Mary learns from former neighbors why God tore her from Ireland forty-five years earlier. As she begins to glimpse His sovereign plan, Mary is finally able to bury a dysfunctional past and begin to heal. Irish folk songs and sayings add color to the narrative.

Watch the Book Trailer:

If you would like to read the first chapter of , go HERE.

Now I'd like to add that I'm not a big reader of women's fiction, but Patti's book was great. Personally, I think she'd make a great suspense writer the way she keeps you guessing about this woman's life and what happened in her past. This is not your average story folks, so if you're intrigued, get the book! Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A God of the Little Things

I want to share a post I did at our site at, which is an awesome site for those in medical situations like ours to stay in contact with updates to family and friends. We know we serve a great big God, but did you know he's a God of the little things too?

From October 25th...
OilverEarlier today while we were still in the ICU, I was looking through the movie and game closet near the nurses' station for something to get Leslie's mind off her discomfort. She didn't like my selection but said she wanted to watch Oliver and Company.

I went looking again, praying that if they had it that I'd actually find it in the chaos of this closet, but they didn't have it. I checked the hospital library list but didn't see it there either. Then I logged onto iTunes, but they only had the soundtrack. Finally I called a dear friend who'd planned to come up with another dear friend later in the day. Yes! She had it on VHS. We were in business.

Fast forward a few hours. Leslie is sent up to a room. We get settled in and enjoy the peace of a quiet room. Leslie finally sleeps for a while. My friends arrive with the movie as well as an array of DVDs for Leslie to look through.

After Leslie ate dinner, she asked to watch the movie. Her dad popped in a tape already sitting on the machine. I told him that wasn't the right tape—it was resting on Leslie's tray. He ejects the movie and guess what?

It was Oliver and Company. The movie was already here, in the VHS machine for her side of the room. Chills ran up my arms, and my friends and I looked at each other in amazement.

How like God to be in the little things—to provide a movie for a 14 year old girl recovering from brain surgery?

I am in awe of this great big God of ours. Again, he shows me how faithful he is. Even in the littlest of things.

I'm so excited to be a part of the Kingdom Assignment. Next week I will tell you a story of how my family and I became the subject of such an assignment between a complete stranger and a dear friend. Again, I proclaim, God is so good!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

In Pursuit of the Pink Wig

Leslie_2My daughter has instructed the surgeon to shave off all her hair for her surgery Wednesday. I was surprised. He grinned and said to give the girl anything she wanted.

She wants a light pink wig, long and without bangs. We've begun the search. Oddly, this pink wig is turning into a kind of symbol of our journey. We know there's one out there somewhere, but it ultimately comes down to perseverance and persistence, waiting and trusting.

Just like this journey we're on. Leslie and I have the peace of knowing God's in control of the whole thing. Yet we keep moving, striving to reach the next step as whole and balanced as we can. Knowledge and understanding alleviate the fears and give purpose. Hiding in the unknown leaves us vulnerable and fearful.

Keep moving. Keep looking for that pink wig. Keep looking upward.

We spent the day cleaning and getting the house ready this past weekend, and mainly cleaning her room thoroughly. It's been quite messy and dirty lately. Not a good environment for someone soon to undergo radiation and chemo. Now it's clean and organized. Funny how just doing simple things like cleaning your house can take on special meaning and purpose.

Just another step on the road, in pursuit of the pink wig. And healing.
Praying and believing,

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Great vs. Great

Leslie_2In January of this year, God had me write something important down. He gave me a specific word about my future. Part of what he said was, “this is the year I will do great things in your life.”

Now I will honestly say I knew these “great things” didn’t necessarily mean complete success and all my dreams coming true. I know God well enough to understand that what I consider great and what I want may not necessarily be in agreement with what God is shooting for.

And I’m a firm believer in Romans 8:28. I have no doubts that everything God does has a purpose, nothing is wasted, and anytime we, his children, are included in these events, he always has our best interest at heart. So even faced with a difficult road ahead of us, I know God has a plan, a reason, and I trust him.

But looking back at his words during this time with my daughter has illuminated a new aspect for me. What God considers great can have much deeper ramifications. And more difficulties than we anticipate.

Sometimes “great” has farther-reaching ramifications than we can ever imagine. “Great” then takes on deeper meaning than the casual usage implying better than good. Great can mean significant, important, earth-moving and life changing.

What do we do in those times?

Hang on to God. I can tell you from experience, he’s very faithful. He’s certainly not letting go of you. And if you’re a control freak like me, the best thing you can do is spend a lot of time with him, especially in his Word. The better you know God, the more you will understand his will and find peace in acceptance and trust. God speaks, we just have to listen.

Look beyond ourselves. There’s always a bigger picture there, I promise you. I can look back over the last seven years and see ways God has been moving us to this point, AND preparing us for what we face right now. Those times are significant. Those times were great. Struggles, difficult decisions, set backs, failures—all of these have equipped me to deal with we are facing now. In this viewpoint, I can be grateful to God for all he’s done to get me ready. And I see it’s really not about me. It’s about God and his plan, which he set in place from the beginning, and he’s completely in control of it all and knows the outcome. I can’t do any better than that, so leaving it all in his most capable hands brings me tremendous comfort.

Join God. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned recently regarding ongoing issues is that much more is accomplished when I seek to join God in the process instead of demanding God just fix it and make it go away. Does it seem like God’s not hearing your prayer in a particular situation? Are you praying over and over again for God to change/fix/remove this problem, but nothing’s happening? Change you prayer. Instead of asking God to deal with it for you, ask him how you can be a part of the solution. God doesn’t need our help but he wants us involved as part of our growth. And that growth is what brings us closer to him, allows us to know him better, and even gives us a glimpse of what God has planned in his perfect will.

So much has happened in my family these last few weeks. And we still have more to face. We learned yesterday the tumor is cancerous. She will need more surgery, weeks of radiation, and months of chemotherapy. I know there will be days that I will wonder why God has taken us down this path.

But for now, I’m holding onto God’s promises for my daughter and for my husband. I can see that there is so much more going on than just the visible. God’s allowed this time for a greater reason than ourselves. Lives will be touched and changed. One in particular… God’s presence is being and will be revealed.

I want to be a part of that. I want to walk alongside God and participate as he’s calling me to. The big picture is salvation and relationship to God. That’s what this is all about.

And I can’t wait to see the culmination.
Praying and believing,

Monday, October 13, 2008


One of my favorite authors, Tosca Lee, is giving away some really cool stuff at her blog, including a copy of her newest book, Havah. I personally am chomping at the bit for this book. And if you haven't read Demon: A Memoir, hop to it! That's one of my all time favorite books. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Most Amazing of Times

Leslie_2Many of you know my youngest daughter (14) was diagnosed with a brain tumor last week. Thank you all for the wonderful and encouraging comments you left last Thursday at Spiritually Unequal Marriage, for the emails, and most importantly for your prayers. I am so very grateful and thankful for this amazing online community and at 1Peter3Living.

Never did we imagine such an outcome when her headaches increased. What I want to share with you is how God worked in the midst of this before we even knew. He is so very good, and very, very, very faithful.

Read the rest at S.U.M.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Answer the Call

948175_telephone_46And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. — Ephesians 2:6-10 (NIV)

I’ve noticed a commonality lately with many unequally yoked spouses. Many have shared with me that God has called them to cease petitioning for their unsaved spouses’ salvation and to begin thanking God that it’s already in place. I know this to be true in my own situation, but I wondered how I could back that up biblically.

This Sunday, my pastor unknowingly revealed what I needed in the above verses. If you take at the first verse, Paul says “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms.” Our place is secure and already established. And there’s much more to this multifaceted jewel:

Read the rest at S.U.M.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My Hubby My Hero

935633_heroI think I fell in love with my husband all over again Monday evening. Our family is facing a crisis at the moment, which called us all to join together and participate in something he normally would refuse. My sweet guy not only came, but he didn't fuss, argue, or resist either.

As I sat across the room from him, I fell in love with him in a whole new way. For the first time in twenty-one years, he was my hero. He came to the rescue of his family. At one point I looked at him and said, "I don't think I've ever loved you more than I do at this moment."

Read the rest at S.U.M.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hit Again

Img_0293Last Friday as I was driving home with my daughter in typical California rush hour traffic, I got rear-ended. Again.

Two years ago we traded in my gas guzzling car for a nice, shiny red Honda Civic. I picked up my daughter from school one day and got rear-ended by the poor 17-year-old in the SUV behind me. I say poor because I totally lost my cool, hopped out, and started ranting how the car was only a week old. Brand spanking new.

I was not at my best that day. I apologized to this poor kid who felt so horrible for hitting us, and I could tell he felt his world had just crumbled into total darkness. I later found out that was because he wasn’t supposed to drive his car to school.

Uh oh. We both learned big lessons that day. I asked God to help me keep my cool if I was ever in the same situation again.

Well, last Friday, as I said, I got rear-ended. Amazingly, I stayed completely calm, got out of my car, and checked out the damage. A nice dent the size of a basketball waved hello along with his entourage of scratches in the nice shiny red paint.

And the last two years were so peaceful and damage free. The guy behind me suggested we move out of traffic. I paused for a mere second. Long enough for the thought that he might take off to present itself to my brain and my heart to say, “Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.”

Sigh. Why didn’t I at least use my cell phone to take a picture of my bumper and one of his license plate, which I didn’t even take time to notice? (In CA we have both front and back plates).

Well, you guessed it. I drove ahead a bit and found a church parking lot to pull into. He kept going, never to be seen again. Boy, did I feel stupid, but I did learn another lesson and will know how to handle it the next time it happens, which it most likely will.

After spending the next few hours beating myself up for being so gullible and feeling rather stupid, it suddenly dawned on me that I never lost my cool. When the guy hit me, I remained calm and polite (though I sure would like to give him a piece of my mind now).

God had certainly answered my prayer from two years ago. And the reward in this (yes, there really is one) is that the dent in my bumper popped out by the time I got home. Only the cover was damaged with some scrapes.

Life will inevitably throw us these curves, but knowing God sees (yes, whoever you are, God saw and will deal with you at some later date for your deceit) and equips us to handle these surprise situations.

I may have left the scene of the accident with a dent, but I landed on my feet mostly undamaged and a lesson learned. But most of all, my prize is knowing God was at that intersection before me, ready to answer a two-year-old prayer.

And that’s the best kind of accident insurance anyone could have.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Chain of Effectiveness

1018103_broken_chainFor this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. — 2 Peter 1:5-8 (NIV)

For years I’ve sought to understand why it is so difficult to an effective Christian. When we read the storied of the disciples and the thousands brought to Christ in one day, I wonder what we’ve lost in this day and age. What’s different now compared to then? Why is it so difficult to be effective in our own generation? To our own families and spouses?

Read the rest at S.U.M.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Part Four: A Question & the 3 C’s: Colors, Continuity, and Choices

Last week we answered two reader questions and talked about business cards. (Click here to read part three.)

Janice Olson left another great question, so let’s start there.

Thanks Dineen, for all the wonderful answers and information. My questions this time are concerning “the” photograph. I have seen different types of professional photographs, but I question which would be the best choice for a one-sheet and business card. Even on your site, there are head, partial, and full body shots on your examples.

My questions:
Would you suggest the same photo be on the card and one-sheet, or should they be different?

Since I see a host of photographs with outdoors or casual settings, and this seems to be the trend, would it look better to have a more casual photograph on the one-sheet? Or on both?

Both are good questions, Janice. In answer your first one, this is really a personal preference. There is a benefit to keeping the same picture on your printed materials to create continuity, but you could use different poses. The background and clothing could be the same but your poses varied. That’s one option. Then for things like blog interviews, you could use a variety of pictures that still hold a connection without becoming redundant.

As for your second question, I strongly recommend you tie this to your genre. For example, if you write chick-lit, doing a portrait that has suspenseful or mysterious tones doesn’t match what you’re writing. Remember, your picture will have some influence on your future reader when they pick up your book in the store. Make a good impression here.

Also, keep in mind that your picture will be small on book jackets and bookmarks. You may have a great picture of yourself set against a lush landscape, but in order to keep you from being the size of a pea in the photo, the layout artist will have to enlarge the photo and crop that excess away so readers can see your face clearly. What may look great in a full background may wind up looking busy and unidentifiable behind your head when cropped. Keep this simple and be sure nothing is poking out from behind your head. You’d be surprised how often this happens. Professional photographers know what to look for and what to avoid.

Overall, whether casual or formal, keep your portrait looking professional. Trust me, whether we realize it or not, most people can spot the difference between a professional shot designed to look candid and casual and a picture taken by a family member or friend.

I touched on this briefly in part two of this series. Just like your portraits, your colors should mesh with your genre. A color scheme of deep red, black, and white will bring across a sense of danger, suspense, and strength. Great for those thriller and suspense writers. Pastel tones give a sense of happiness and peace—a perfect choice for inspirational writers, some women’s fiction, and children’s books. Bold, loud colors are perfect for chick-lit and lively women’s fiction. I think you get the picture here. Choose colors that convey the theme of your stories. This holds true for your printed materials, as well as your web presence, and is another important aspect of continuity.

Creating a common theme between your printed and online materials is like writing a book series. There are elements that carry over from book to book and stay consistent. This will create strong reader identification (also why book series have continuity between covers in their design, colors, fonts, and imagery) and this also speaks a strong but silent message of professionalism.

If you started with your website, carry those designs and colors over to your business card, letterhead, and promotional materials. If you’re a published author and you’re using your current book as a guideline, then your materials to promote that book should match it. Again, this creates strong reader identification. Making connections between advertising materials to the product on the shelf (your book) is vital to a successful promotion. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time. And your money.

Choices: Timely vs. Timeless
This is where your planning will pay off. Literally. Make choices now based upon two things. One, your immediate goal. Are you promoting a book? Then make a “timely” choice.” Design your bookmarks, postcards, and online materials to match in color, design, and even fonts. Order quantities of your printed materials based upon your need. It may be a great deal to spend that extra few dollars just to get 500 more bookmarks, but if you wind up not needing them, then it’s money wasted.

Two, your long term goal. Are you promoting yourself as an author? When making “timeless” choices for your printed and online materials, keep in mind that you will most likely keep this “identity” for two to five years. Can you live with that logo and color scheme that long? Making frequent changes will lose continuity and confuse readers. Choose colors and designs for the long haul. Take advantage of the price break between 250 hundred and 500 business cards if you you’re happy with your image and information, and you will make good use of them. The same can hold true for bookmarks, especially if they’re promoting a series of books, or your books in general.

I hope this series has been helpful. This is just a taste of what I’ll be covering in my Late Night Chat, "Design & Marketing Demystified," at the Conference Friday evening. I hope you’ll come, ready to ask questions and even bring your own materials to share or ask questions. Should be fun!

And feel free to leave any questions. I’ll answer them here in the comments section. See you at conference!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Passion Redeemed by Julie Lessman

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing

A Passion Redeemed
Revell (September 1, 2008)

Julie Lessman

Julie Lessman is a debut author who has already garnered writing acclaim, including ten Romance Writers of America awards. She is a commercial writer for Maritz Travel, a published poet and a Golden Heart Finalist. Julie has a heart to write “Mainstream Inspirational,” reaching the 21st-century woman with compelling love stories laced with God’s precepts. She resides in Missouri with her husband and their golden retriever, and has two grown children and a daughter-in-law. A Passion Most Pure, book one in the Daughters of Boston series, was her first novel.

No man can resist her charms. Or so she thought. Charity O'Connor is a woman who gets what she wants. Her stunning beauty and flirtatious ways have always succeeded with men. Until Mitch Dennehy, that is.

Brilliant and dangerously handsome, Mitch is a no-nonsense newspaperman who wants nothing to do with her. Charity burned him once, destroying his engagement to the only woman he ever truly loved. He won't play with matches again. But Charity has a plan to turn up the heat, hoping to ignite the heart of the man she loves. And she always gets what she wants--one way or another.

Or does she? Will her best-laid schemes win his love? Or will her seductive ways drive him away forever? Book 2 in the Daughters of Boston series, A Passion Redeemed will captivate your heart and stir your soul with a story of faith and redemption rising from the ashes of temptation, desire, and shame.

Praise for the first book in the series:
"Full of romance, humor, rivalry, and betrayal, A Passion Most Pure will captivate readers from the first page." --Historical Novels Review "Superb! Incredible!
"I loved Julie Lessman's A Passion Most Pure from the second I picked it up until the very last moment I stopped reading." --Armchair Interviews
"I devoured this book and loved every single page. . . . This is a thick, juicy read, and one I would pick up again in a heartbeat."

If you would like to read an excerpt from A Passion Redeemed, go HERE.

Smudge says, YOU HAVE TO READ THIS SERIES! Julie Lessman treads the ground of passion in and outside of love and God's will with such finesse and truth, unlike anything I've read in Christian Fiction to date. I absolutely love these books and I normally don't care for historicals. These books are loaded with awesome characters and timeless struggles.

I love this series so much that one special commenter will not only get A Passion Redeemed, but also A Passion Most Pure. I am buying these books out of my own pocket to share them and support this fabulous author. Anyone who refers a friend will get their name in twice for the drawing, so BE SURE TO COMMENT!

CONGRATULATIONS to Ronie Kendig for winning House of Wolves by Matt Bronleewe!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Part Three: Questions and the Business Card

Last week we covered some key aspects of the one sheet. Two readers brought up a couple of really good questions so let’s start there before we move on to business cards. (Click here to read part two.)

Thanks for the helpful information. I looked at your site. Some of the examples had backgrounds, others did not. The background ones seemed more cluttered and hard to read. May have been because they were in a small format and not what will be seen on an actual 81/2×11 sheet of paper.

My question: Do you find a one sheet draws more attention with or without a faded background picture. Or should we keep it simple as you suggested in your article without the background to detract from the written material? And if no background, are you suggesting we us graphics and our photo? Will that not also look cluttered?

Janice K. Olson

Janice, this is a great question. You’re right about trying to look at those one sheets in a smaller format. The backgrounds tend to look darker. The key is to do a test print. Often I find the screen version may look darker but the print version is lighter. I always ask my clients to do a test print. Then I can make adjustments for them, if needed. So if you keep an eye for that, either way can work marvelously. Using a background image that’s low in contrast and soft will screen back well, giving you an attractive appearance without the busyness.

It’s really not an issue of one being better than the other. Better to do what you’re comfortable with and can feel confident about in pitching to agents and editors. In other words, if doing the background image seems cluttered to you, go without it.

And add graphics sparingly. Sometimes we can wind up having so much fun with our layout that we keep adding. Just like in writing, if you can take something out and it still stands strong, you most likely didn’t need it.

I have a question related to the one sheet photos. It seems a little - funny - to put a picture of oneself at the top of the page. But, then it seems odd to put it near the bottom too. I can't figure out where it looks best! Is it possible to put a picture of oneself as a child? LOL! I took some of my best pictures then. Or is it best to put a picture- for instance a historical photo - at the top to emphasis the genre one writes? The closer we get to the conference, the more I find I don't know and the more nervous I become.

Donna Alice Patton

Donna, this is also a great question. First, relax and try not to stress over this too much. Remember that God is in the mix too. Do your best, then let him do the rest.

Now, I wouldn’t recommend you put your picture first. You’re already sitting there with that editor or agent. Seeing a picture of you first isn’t really necessary. Start with your story and that historical photo that suits your theme. Put the picture of you at the bottom, side, or even on the back with your bio. Your photo will do its work if/when the editor or agent takes the one sheet with them, which I’ve found many of them do. Then they have a constant reference and connection to who you are and a reminder of your meeting. However, don’t take it personal if they don’t take your one sheet. Even those single sheets of paper can add up quickly and create extra weight in a bag or suitcase.

You asked about using one of yourself as a child. I would only suggest doing that if you tie it into your story or your writing in some fun or quirky way. If you write children’s books, go for it! What fun you could have with that. Then just be sure you tie your bio to it in some way as well, like how your first stories bloomed in your childhood garden. Just understand that the visual identification can be of great help as you make connections. Perhaps you can add your business card to your meeting which has a recent and professionally done picture of you.

And onward to…
The Business Card
Most of what I’ve covered for the one sheet applies to business cards as well. These are basic design concepts that apply across the board. And even more so for the business card, because it’s a very small area of advertising designed to impart your most important information.

When I first started attending conferences, I found it odd that writers would include their picture. Now I understand how beneficial it can be in the connections we make and helping agents and editors remember who we are. They meet with so many people over the course of three days. A picture is a great way to stay in their memory. I do recommend you spend the money, if possible, on a professional photographer. In fact, each conference, a photographer is contracted for this very purpose. And at prices you just can’t beat. Take advantage of this opportunity. Trust me, even cropping a family portrait will still scream family portrait. It’s not just the quality, but the pose as well that can make a difference. If money is an issue, exchange services with someone. Ask around your church, or perhaps you have a family member or friend who does photography as a hobby. Just try to make sure it looks as professional as possible.

For your business card layout, you need your picture, which should be a high resolution image—around 1mg or more—your name, email address, phone number and your web address, if you have one. Optional but helpful tidbits are a tagline and a blog addy. Don’t use a tagline just to have one. If you’re not sure yet what genre or style you plan to write, better to leave this off. And if you’re not a consistent blogger, better to leave this off for now as well.

Use a good card stock for your printing as well. Here are some online printers that offer good service and competitive prices. I’ve worked with most of these and have found they’re all pretty good. And they have templates to step you through your business card design without additional charges—a great alternative if you can’t afford a designer.

Print Runner
Vista Print
Printing for Less
Print Place
Got Print
Just Print

Next week we’ll finish up our exploration into conference materials preparation with any questions you’d like to leave in the comments section and touch briefly on colors, continuity, and making choices now that will fit neatly into your marketing materials for the future. Please feel free to check out my design page for samples of business cards. See you next week!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

House Of Wolves by Matt Bronleewe

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

House Of Wolves

Thomas Nelson (August 12, 2008)


Matt Bronleewe

Matt Bronleewe is a recognized producer, songwriter and author. The former member of the band Jars of Clay, has earned numerous awards producing and co-writing albums that have sold a combined total of over 20 million copies. His songs have recently been recorded by Disney pop sensations Aly & AJ, American Idol finalist Kimberley Locke, and more. Bronleewe has worked with Grammy Award-winning artists such as Michael W. Smith, International pop singer Natalie Imbruglia and Heroes star Hayden Panettiere.

Born in Dallas, Texas, Bronleewe was raised on a farm in Kansas, where he lived until he left for college in 1992. At Greenville College in Illinois, Bronleewe formed the band Jars of Clay with his dorm roommate and two neighbors, and the group soon found success. Though Bronleewe opted to leave Jars of Clay early on to pursue an academic career, he soon found himself in Nashville, co-writing, producing, and playing music professionally.

To add to his list of accomplishments, Bronleewe has expanded his love of story telling beyond music into authorship. He is currently penning a 5 book series for Thomas Nelson Fiction. His first book Illuminated began the adventurous series about rare manuscripts and the mysteries within.

Bronleewe currently resides in Brentwood, Tenn., with his wife and three children. He continues to write and produce music, and he also volunteers through his church to help disadvantaged youth in the community. Bronleewe enjoys reading, taste-testing good food and watching sports, as well as indulging his interests in art, architecture, design and science.

A mysterious book with a dangerous secret.

An evil brotherhood out to conquer the world.

One man stands between them . . . with his family in the balance.

In the twelfth century, Henry the Lion collected the rarest relics in Christendom. And to protect his most precious acquisitions, he encoded the whereabouts in a gorgeous illuminated manuscript called The Gospels of Henry the Lion.

The manuscript has been showing up and disappearing ever since. No one knows where the relic has been hidden . . . or its ultimate power.

Only one man holds the key to the mystery.

He's carrying it in his briefcase at his son's school for show-and-tell, and he thinks it's a fake. But he's about to find out just how real it is.

Because the wolves are rapidly closing in. And if August Adams can't decode the secret in time, the world's balance of power will forever be altered.

If you would like to read an excerpt of House Of Wolves, it will be HERE

Smudge says not to miss out on the fun. The story premise of this series is very interesting. And I actually have a copy of this book (and a signed book plate!) for one lucky commenter, so be sure to say something!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Part Two: The One Sheet

Last week I talked about identifying your genre and/or niche so as to help you create your “mood.” (Click here to read part one.)

This week let’s talk about the one sheet. Every year I see the questions start a couple months before conference. We’re gearing up and getting ready. We want to make a great first impression on those agents and editors we’re planning to meet. We want to make our stories shine.

The one sheet is an excellent tool to do just that. You can use imagery right along with your carefully crafted words to give a first impression as well. Just like a book cover gives a potential reader an initial glimpse of what your story is about, a one sheet can do the same.

The basic elements to a one sheet are: story title, a short synopsis, author picture and bio, contact information, and one or two images that portray what your story is about, either by story line, setting, or key elements. And make sure both your story blurb and your bio are polished and ready to go. Writing it along with your layout is a bad idea. Time and energy are wasted when a layout has to be redone because of major copy changes.

Let’s start with some basic layout hints to keep your one sheet looking clean and professional.

The temptation can be mighty strong to use some of those quirky fonts you just noticed came with your favorite software program. Resist it! A good rule of thumb is no more than two fonts to a one-page layout. Sometimes three will work if you’re careful, but keep in mind that using the bold form of a font face is almost like using an additional font.

Now that you’ve gone to all that trouble to determine the “mood” of what you write, choose fonts to match. Find a font that suits your story title and feel free to use a bold form here. If you write techno thrillers, a curly cursive font is not going to fit. Find a modern san serif font (no serifs—the little embellishments) to set off that title. If your genre is chick-lit, have a little fun and use something interesting and lively. The point is to make your title stand out, AND fit your story.

Next choose a good font for your body copy for both the story synopsis and author bio. Serif fonts such as Times New Roman are usually the best choice for readability. You can also use a san serif font like Helvetica if it’s not a large block of copy, but keep the font size to 12 point. Again, resist the temptation to use a fancier font (AND NO CAPS or italics!!!). If an editor or agent can’t read it easily, you’ve just wasted all that effort and a chance to make that great first impression.

Now use a bold form of that body font for your name and contact information. That’s critical information, which needs to be easily found and read. Keep it with your bio and make sure it’s complete. If you have an agent, that’s important to include as well.

If you have sub-titles, use either a larger and bold form of your body copy font, or choose another font that compliments your title font. Be sure not to clash here. This is when your can either make or break your one sheet. If it’s too busy, the eye will naturally resist reading. That’s the last thing you want happening when you pitch your story.

If you’re a camera aficionado, feel free to use your own pictures. Otherwise, there are a multitude of image sources available online. Even Microsoft has a site for images and clip art. Another option is to use stock photos. Most sights involve fees and some are free as long as you follow their guidelines. Check these out:

This is a wonderful site to find free images. The photos are clearly marked as to what the photographer’s requirements are. Most are free to use as long as you’re not reselling the image or creating a logo using the image. Some photographers ask for notification of use, which can be done easily through the site and some may ask that you give them credit for the photo (either placing their name by the picture or an aterix at the bottom of the page with a “photo by…” credit line.)

Like StockXchange, this is another fee free site. Again, follow the guidelines and respect the photographers’ rights.

iStock is usually my first choice for images for my clients. Using a prepurchase credit system, these images range anywhere from one or two credits to five or ten. Some run more if they’re detailed and/or high resolution. You prepurchase blocks of credit, which works out to about a $1.30 a credit. Again, there are some usage guidelines, similar to StockXchange.

Book Series One Sheets
If you want your one sheet to promote a book series, consider creating a two-sided one sheet. You can use your series title as your main header, then treat your book titles like subheads, even using a smaller version of the same font you used for the main header. Include a brief description of each book to go with the titles and put your bio on the back. This will keep your page looking uncluttered and easy to read.

Simplicity is always a good rule of thumb. Find an image you like best and use it to set off your story title and synopsis. Make sure your bio picture is fairly current and as professional looking as possible. Try not to crop yourself out of a last year’s blurry family photo. Use colors sparingly, especially if you’re using color photography. A busy page will deflect, not invite.

Keep it clean, keep it organized, keep it simple, and keep it professional. Remember, this is your chance to start off with a great first impression of your professionalism and your story.

Click HERE to look at one-sheet’s on my website. And feel free to leave any questions. Next week we’ll take a look at business cards and continuity in your materials. Hope to see you next week!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Finding Stephanie by Susan May Warren
And a Contest!

If you haven't had a chance to read the books in Susan May Warren's Noble series, you've missed out! I loved the first two, Reclaiming Nick and Taming Rafe. And Finding Stephanie looks just as good. I can't wait to read it. In fact, I'm going to Florida for a week and I've save my copy to read on the plane. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of your own, AND keep reading to the end for details about winning a $50 gift certificate to the movie theater of your choice.


When she put her dreams on hold to help run the family ranch, she never imagined they would slip out of sight. Luckily for Stefanie, those dreams are about to come knocking at her door.

Lincoln Cash has gained fame and fortune on the big screen, but a crippling secret leaves him one last chance to make his mark on the movie industry. With dreams of hosting a new film festival, Lincoln intends to remodel a sprawling ranch in eastern Montana to make it the new Hollywood hot spot.

Unfortunately, a house fire threatens his plans. So does opposition from his new neighbor Stefanie Noble, who's not thrilled about his Tinseltown changes. What Lincoln and Stefanie don't know is that the fire won't be the last disaster to threaten Lincoln or his future. Someone is out for revenge... but who? And who is the real target?

Read an excerpt HERE.

Susan May Warren is the award-winning author of seventeen novels and novellas with Tyndale, Steeple Hill and Barbour Publishing. Her first book, Happily Ever After won the American Fiction Christian Writers Book of the Year in 2003, and was a 2003 Christy Award finalist. In Sheep’s Clothing, a thriller set in Russia, was a 2006 Christy Award finalist and won the 2006 Inspirational Reader’s Choice award. A former missionary to Russia, Susan May Warren now writes Suspense/Romance and Chick Lit full time from her home in northern Minnesota.

Grab your magnifying glass and join me on a Fact-o-Find!

Answer these questions about the bloggers on the tour and be entered to win a $50 gift certificate to the movie theater of your choice (you know so you can see some of Cash's great movies *G*)! Email Amy your answers (

Ready, get set, giddy-up!

1. Which blogger is adopting a girl from China?

2. This word 'featherbunkle' is found on which blog?

3. Which blogger is supporting the 'Pickens Plan'?

4. Which blog is "The Cutest Blog on the Block"?

5. Which blogger is a S@HM and also a wife, daughter, sister, friend, nursery director, and woman that is just trying to keep it all together?

6. Which blogger is taking the Southern Reading Challenge?

7. Which blog asks 'How may we serve you'?

8. Which blogger refers to her son as 'super good big guy'?

9. Which blogger is a self-proclaimed 'Starbucks Addict'?

10. Which blogger is a big Trekkie?

For a complete blog tour schedule, click HERE.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Who Are You?

The ACFW Conference is just weeks away, so I know many of you are wondering what you need or even where to start. Each Thursday for the next four weeks, I’ll be posting some basics to help you get prepared. We’ll talk about identifying your genre or brand, one sheets, business cards, and how to apply this later on to your website, blogs, and future promotions.

So let’s start at the beginning. Who are you? Every path needs a starting point and creating marketing materials start with two things:

What am I selling?
Who am I selling it to?

Now to apply this to writing, start with your product. Your stories are your product, whether you’re published or unpublished (or pre-published, if you prefer). Start by identifying if you’re “genre specific” or “niche specific.”

Genre specific identifies what kind of stories you write. Suspense, YA, historicals, etc. Even if your story is a combination of genres, decide which is the stronger element to identify your book. In the long run, this helps agents and editors to identify and place your product. Where will it fit, and how will we market it?

If your story has more to do with a culture (Camy Tang’s Sushi Series), a hobby (Rebeca Seitz Scrapbooker’s Series), or ministry (Palmer and Chapman’s The Four Seasons of a Marriage Series), then your story is niche specific and serves a very unique demographic.

And it’s possible your stories could be both genre and niche specific, which can be even more appealing. Now don’t sweat this too much. It’s not an exact science, and if you’re just starting on your writing journey, keep it simple.

Once you’ve made this distinction, identify your market. Now I’m going to take the word “market” and use the word “mood” for my purposes here. The idea is to create materials that will portray what your story is about and clearly show that to the editor and/or agent you plan to pitch it too. This is crucial to how you create your one sheets and business cards, and for published authors for your bookmarks and newsletters.

If your story is what you’d describe as a suspense or thriller, you don’t want to put cute little flowers and use bright colors on your one sheet. And if that’s your genre, you don’t want a business card that looks more like something a chick-lit writer would have. This all boils down to imagery and first impressions. This is an opportunity to communicate clearly who you are AND what you’re selling.

Next week, I’ll cover more specific ideas for designing one sheets. I’ll also have some resource links for free and affordable royalty free photographs to help create that mood we’re talking about as well as communicate your story.

Feel free to leave questions in the comment section. Hope to see you next week!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Judgment of Others

I spoke with a friend at church Sunday who is also unequally yoked, and she brought up an issue I think we all run into at one point or another. As unequally yoked spouses, what can we do to cross the faith barrier to connect with our unbelieving spouses? And in so doing, how do we handle the judgments we sometimes receive from other believers.

We’ve talked in the past about how our actions speak louder than words. Sometimes the actions God call us to can look questionable in the eyes of others. I’ve recently joined my husband in playing an online video game that some would consider the “wrong influence.” Is it my first choice of activities? No, but it’s something my husband enjoys and joining him sends the message that I want to spend time with him, and I’m willing to do it on his terms (without sinning, of course) to show my love and acceptance of him.

I knew going into this that other Christians I know would not approve, but I moved this direction out of obedience. This was something God put on my heart to do. Let me cover some key points here:

Read the rest at S.U.M.

Photo by Zoran Ozetskyspan

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Falcon and the Sparrow
by Marylu Tyndall

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Falcon And The Sparrow

(Barbour Publishing, Inc - August 1, 2008)


M. L. Tyndall

M. L. (MARYLU) TYNDALL grew up on the beaches of South Florida loving the sea and the warm tropics. But despite the beauty around her, she always felt an ache in her soul--a longing for something more.

After college, she married and moved to California where she had two children and settled into a job at a local computer company. Although she had done everything the world expected, she was still miserable. She hated her job and her marriage was falling apart.

Still searching for purpose, adventure and true love, she spent her late twenties and early thirties doing all the things the world told her would make her happy, and after years, her children suffered, her second marriage suffered, and she was still miserable.

One day, she picked up her old Bible, dusted it off, and began to read. Somewhere in the middle, God opened her hardened heart to see that He was real, that He still loved her, and that He had a purpose for her life, if she'd only give her heart to Him completely.

Her current releases in the Legacy of The Kings Pirates series include:The Restitution, The Reliance, and The Redemption

When Mademoiselle Dominique Dawson sets foot on the soil of her beloved homeland, England, she feels neither the happiness nor the excitement she expected upon her
return to the place of her birth. Alone for the first time in her life, without family, without friends, without protection, she now faces a far more frightening prospect, for she has come to the country she loves as an enemy-a spy for Napoleon.

Forced to betray England or never see her only brother alive again, Dominique has accepted a position as governess to the son of Admiral Chase Randal, a harsh man, still bitter over the loss of his wife. Will Dominique find the strength she needs through God to follow through with the plan to rescue her brother? Will Chase find comfort for his bitter heart in God's arms and be able to love again?

And what new deceptions will they both find in France when they arrive to carry out their plan?

If you would like to read an excerpt of The Falcon And The Sparrow, go HERE.

Smudge gives MaryLu high meows for her stories. I don't normally read historicals, but MaryLu's pirates stories are great! Be sure to check out her books. AND, leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of this book!

(Congrats to Trish at Beauty4Ashes for winning Try Darkness)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

When Our World Shakes

575316_falling_dominoesOur human nature makes us naturally resistant to change. And we tend to view any kind of shake up with a negative eye. It makes sense…naturally.

So how do we shift our viewpoint from the natural to the eternal when God is shaking up our lives? If we’re to believe God is sovereign and nothing occurs without his approval, then he’s allowed whatever situation we are currently struggling with to occur.

I think this is one of the most difficult areas for us as Christians to accept and understand. Trust me, I know! Recently God showed me three areas that are very critical to understanding these times of shake up.

Read the rest at S.U.M.

*Photo by Sam LeVan

Monday, July 21, 2008

Try Darkness by James Scott Bell

The Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is featuring Try Darkness by James Scott Bell. I read the first book, Try Dying, and loved it. Bell brings back the staring cast in this continuing story of Ty Buchanan, a "reformed" lawyer now committed to serving the poor and underrepresented.

JAMES SCOTT BELL is a former trial lawyer who now writes full time. He has also been the fiction columnist for Writers Digest magazine and adjunct professor of writing at Pepperdine University.

The national bestselling author of several novels of suspense, he grew up and still lives in Los Angeles. His first Buchanan thriller, TRY DYING, was released to high critical praise, while his book on writing, Plot and Structure is one of the most popular writing books available today.

Ty Buchanan is living on the peaceful grounds of St. Monica’s, far away from the glamorous life he led as a rising trial lawyer for a big L.A. firm. Recovering from the death of his fiancĂ©e and a false accusation of murder, Buchanan has found his previous ambitions unrewarding. Now he prefers offering legal services to the poor and the underrepresented from his “office” at local coffee bar The Freudian Sip. With his new friends, the philosophizing Father Bob and basketball-playing Sister Mary Veritas, Buchanan has found a new family of sorts.
One of his first clients is a mysterious woman who arrives with her six-year-old daughter. They are being illegally evicted from a downtown transient hotel, an interest that Ty soon discovers is represented by his old law firm and his former best friend, Al Bradshaw. Buchanan won’t back down. He’s going to fight for the woman’s rights.
But then she ends up dead, and the case moves from the courtroom to the streets. Determined to find the killer and protect the little girl, who has no last name and no other family, Buchanan finds he must depend on skills he never needed in the employ of a civil law firm.
The trail leads Buchanan through the sordid underbelly of the city and to the mansions and yachts of the rich and famous. No one is anxious to talk.
But somebody wants Buchanan to shut up. For good.
Now he must use every legal and physical edge he knows to keep himself and the girl alive.
Once again evoking the neo-noir setting of contemporary Los Angeles, Bell delivers another thriller where darkness falls and the suspense never rests.

If you would like to read chapters 1 & 2, go HERE.

“Bell has created in Buchanan an appealing and series-worthy protagonist, and the tale equally balances action and drama, motion and emotion. Readers who pride themselves on figuring out the answers before an author reveals them are in for a surprise, too: Bell is very good at keeping secrets. Fans of thrillers with lawyers as their central characters—Lescroart and Margolin, especially—will welcome this new addition to their must-read lists.”
“Engaging whodunit series kickoff . . . Readers will enjoy Bell's talent for description and character development.”
—Publishers Weekly
“James Scott Bell has written himself into a niche that traditionally has been reserved for the likes of Raymond Chandler.”
—Los Angeles Times
“A master of suspense.”
—Library Journal
“One of the best writers out there, bar none.”
—In the Library Review


Smudge gives this series high meows and loves James Scott Bell's books in general. I personally can't wait to dive into this book. I'm kind of partial to the nun. :-)

Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Try Darkness, JUST IN just never know...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Online Chat with Melanie Wells

Melanie Wells Joins Readers on Online Bookstore Chat

Melanie Wells, author of the critically acclaimed Dylan Foster series – “When the Day of Evil Comes,” “The Soul Hunter” and the newly-released “My Soul to Keep.” Wells will join the family-friendly online bookstore,, to discuss her insights on the fiction series, writing, building story lines and using one’s creativity and imagination to shape character development.

“Authors at Abunga” Chat with Melanie Wells
Wells’ Dylan Foster trilogy is packed with both humor and suspense. Each thriller tracks the mayhem surrounding Wells’ unlikely heroine, college psychology professor Dylan Foster. Wells, who is also a psychotherapist and accomplished musician, will provide insights into her writing style, how stories are created, and where characters come from.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008
11 a.m. – Noon PDT / 1 – 2 p.m. CDT / 2 – 3 p.m. EDT (LIVE)

Wells is the first author to be featured on the newly-created “Authors at Abunga” chats by A Texas native, Wells is an accomplished musician (she’s a fiddle player) a licensed psychotherapist, and the founder and director of Dallas-based LifeWorks counseling associates (

Beginning with “When the Day of Evil Comes,” each of Wells’ novels weaves a gripping tale in which the quirky, likeable Dylan Foster wrestles with her own personal demon -- Peter Terry – “a spiritual and emotional stalker,” Wells says, ”Peter Terry is a compelling character who rings true for all of us. He is a metaphor for the opposition we all have in our lives. And we can all relate to Dylan, who often feels like she’s fighting forest fires with a squirt gun.”

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wiser Than Serpents by Susan May Warren

I'm very excited about Susan May Warren's latest book, Wiser Than Serpents. I love this series, and especially love Susan's books. She's an awesome writer and storyteller. Plus this book deals with the issue of modern day slavery. Here's Susan to tell us about this horrific reality and what you can do to help simply by buying her book.

A Note From Susan:
Did you know that there are 27 million people around the globe held as slaves today – more thank 80% of them women and children, and up to 50% minors. In fact, there are MORE slaves today than were in the time of William Wilberforce. That leaves me horrified, and it was those stats that compelled me to write a story with a human trafficking plotline.

Wiser than Serpents is a continuation of the Mission:Russia series, a thriller about Yanna, whose sister is snatched through a Russian dating service, and disappears. Yanna enlists the help of Delta Force Captain, David Curtiss to find and rescue her. Readers who’ve read, In Sheep’s Clothing and Sands of Time will recognize Yanna as the tech expert, and David as the solid Christian of the group. (Read the 5-Rose Review here!)

The book is written from the point of views of the rescuers, not the victims, and offers hope and empowerment, instead of feelings of helplessness. It raises awareness without lowering the standards of Christian fiction.

However, the world is real, and the need to get involved is great. I so greatly admire people who take their beliefs and put action to them –hence why a portion of the proceeds of Wiser than Serpents is going to help the International Justice Mission, (, an organization dedicated to rescuing victims and fighting the scourge of slavery.

About Susan:
Susan May Warren is the award-winning author of seventeen novels and novellas with Tyndale, Steeple Hill and Barbour Publishing. Her first book, Happily Ever After won the American Fiction Christian Writers Book of the Year in 2003, and was a 2003 Christy Award finalist. In Sheep’s Clothing, a thriller set in Russia, was a 2006 Christy Award finalist and won the 2006 Inspirational Reader’s Choice award. A former missionary to Russia, Susan May Warren now writes Suspense/Romance and Chick Lit full time from her home in northern Minnesota.

About Wiser Than Serpents:
When her sister vanishes into a human slave ring, FSB agent Yanna Andrevka is determined to rescue her. Unfortunately, she's in over her head, with no way out, especially after destroying the undercover operation of Delta Force Operative David Curtiss, who is deep undercover in the Twin Serpents crime syndicate. David has his hands full trying to save Yana, and his operation -- one that could rescue hundreds of women from the Serpent, or cost he and Yana their lives. The thrilling next chapter of the Mission: Russia series!

Contest Info!
Susan will be giving away 3 SIGNED sets of the Mission: Russia (In Sheep’s Clothing, Sands of Time, and Wiser Than Serpents) series. To enter the contest…click on over to Susan’s blog tour post here and tell us which ministries/charities you support and why! Susan will randomly select three winners!

Smudge the Paradox gives this series a rating of 4 out of 5.