Thursday, July 31, 2008

Get Real!

T. Suzanne Eller's third book that we're featuring this week is Making it Real: Whose Faith is it Anyway?

A recent statistic said that over 80% of Christian teens abandon their faith for a season. Author T. Suzanne Eller says, "As someone who has ministered to teens for a long time, I believe that teens leave a support system only to have to find out what they believe, as opposed to what they've heard in a sermon or celebrated as a family."

Making It Real starts that journey now, rather than later so that they are not one of the 80% who aren't sure what they believe anymore. Whether the reader is a first-time Christ-seeker or a seasoned believer, the book is for teens wanting to know God on a personal life-changing level. Making It Real helps teens grow their faith, no matter where they are spiritually--into a dynamic relationship with God.

For teens asking questions about their faith, like:

  • How do I make my faith more personal?

  • How do I turn to God in both good and bad times?

  • Where is God leading me?

  • Is my faith a relationship or tradition?

Family faith is awesome. Youth church is a place where teens can grow. But personal faith is a one-on-one journey. Making It Real is great for individuals as well as small cell or discipleship groups or Sunday school classes.

What Others Are Saying:

Making It Real will engage you and take you on a faith-building and life-changing journey,leading you daily to a powerful one-on-one encounter with God. This book connects this generation with a message that is relevant, inspiring and definitely needed.

~ Beau Herbert

In-depth with Suzie about Making It Real:

How can teens own their faith rather than inherit it from their families?

At some point we all need to make a decision as we ask this question: Whose faith is it anyway? It's especially crucial for teens because they leave a support system and their faith is questioned, or they hit challenges and obstacles and dig deep for God and come up with a 1,000 sermons or their parent's belief system and it's often just not enough. Statistics say that over 80% of young adults walk away from their faith for a season. For some, that's just a statistic. To me, it's names. I could sit with you for hours and talk about the young adults who abandoned their faith for a season, and those who have never come back, and those who lost their way and are now in situations or circumstances that they never expected to be in. Faith is so much bigger than hanging out in a church. It's knowing and loving God, and being loved and known by Him.

You talk about four "faithbusters." What are they?

  • Living your faith by feelings - Teens get tripped up when God is only as big as their last experience--whether an awesome camp moment or a colossal mistake. Living by feelings is roller-coaster Christianity at it's best. You are close to God and you are up. You make a mistake and you bungee down. The problem with living faith by feeling is that you turn to what feels good at the moment, instead of God when you don't feel Him or feel worthy.

  • Confusing tradition with faith - Traditions are amazing, but intimacy with God is making Him more than a habit. Going to church doesn't take the place of seeking God, or being honest with Him about your life, or carving out a part of your day to hang out with Him. It's not a to-do list. It's relationship.

  • Making faith a group activity only - I've worked with teens for a long time. I can tell you every gross food game; I can proudly say I've conquered mud mountain; I've watched teens connect with God in a beautiful way as a group in worship or service. But sometimes teens wait for the music or hype or youth pastor to tell them when to worship God. Worship is more than a song. It's becoming a follower of Christ, even if no one else chooses that path. It's knowing where to turn if the people you trust, like your youth pastor or believing parents, walk away from their own faith.

  • Living on borrowed convictions - A lot of teens (and adults) start thinking about education at a young age. It's a goal. But are we as educated about our beliefs? Too often Christians have enormous amounts of education, but only a 6th grade knowledge of their faith. I don't say that to be condemning, but to encourage believers to dig deeper. Do we know who God is? Do we understand the act of the Cross? Do we understand scripture and how it applied then, and how it applies today? When you live on borrowed convictions and you have to live them out in the real world, it's tough. That's why I wrote Making It Real. I love discipleship. I wanted a resource that a teen could take and it be relevant and real and deep, but not complex.

Isn't it scary for a teen to doubt his faith, or to ask the tough questions?

Many parents are fearful when a teen questions their faith, but let's look at it another way: they are trying to make it personal. They need to understand why they believe, and as they do their faith becomes a life-long journey, as opposed to just going to church.

If your teen came to you and said, "I don't get calculus," you'd most likely try to help them by giving them additional resources or support or encouragement. You wouldn't react with fear or anger.

So, what do you do when a teen is trying to "make it real"? During that time, you still go to church as a family, but you understand that Christ didn't drag any of us to the foot of the cross. You let your teen know that you trust that he or she will find their way and that you are praying for direction. You offer resources. It's important that your faith remain vibrant and intimate, as you turn to God and pray for your child. The average teen hears a thousand messages about spirituality or skewed perceptions of Christianity. My daughter once said, "when I thought about it, Mom, I thought about your relationship with God and I knew it was real and that was enough for me." Your influence spiritually is so much greater than you realize. Trust God. Pray. Ask for guidance. Continue to honor God as a family, but encourage the individual journey of your child. His or her faith may not look exactly like yours, but if the foundation is Christ, then they are well on their way to an intimate relationship.

Thank you, Suzie, for another vital book. We've enjoyed having you here this week - and hope you'll come back another time!! You are a true blessing.

Pixels - drop by Suzie's Web site for a daily dose of inspiration, and don't forget about the contest:

1. During this blog tour, any reader who responds to Twila Belk at iamstraightway[at]aol[dot]com with the name of a church or organization that is interested in having Suzie in as a guest speaker, will receive all three of Suzie's books (up to 10 sets will be given away on a first come first serve basis).

2. If any of your readers contact Twila regarding a Bible study group or book club wanting to use Suzie's materials, their groups will receive conference calls from Suzie to kick off or conclude their studies.

3. All readers who post a comment regarding Suzie's books will be placed in a grand prize drawing on August 2, 2008, for a delightful gift basket (see description on Monday's post.)

Another great contest!

Be sure to check out the great contest going on over at Tekeme Studios this week! They're calling this contest the "Design Grab Bag" and will give away several prizes:

  • Free Blog Design
  • Free Pro Blog Design
  • Free Business Card Design
  • Free Logo Design
  • Free Postcard Design

They designed a postcard for me a few weeks ago - it was truly beautiful and breathtaking! Excellent and personal customer service, too!

Tell them Tracy sent you.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Want to be a better Mom?

T. Suzanne Eller has written a book that helps all of us become better mothers - especially if we came from difficult backgrounds where we did not learn parenting skills.

The Mom I Want to Be

Being a mom is a great joy and a great responsibility. But what if you have a painful past, a background that didn't include a good role model for parenting? What if your experiences have given you an unhealthy view of motherhood? How can you be the parent you want to be without dragging along your history?

Suzie Eller knows from experience that a mother is influenced by the mothering she received as a child. In her book, The Mom I Want to Be, Suzie shares from the brokenness of her own growing-up years and compassionately discusses how bitterness and anger can be transformed into hope and determination when a woman turns her past and her future over to God's care. Suzie draws attention to a rarely addressed topic, detailing how to put shattered legacies back together, restore broken images of motherhood, forgive the unforgettable, set boundaries that make sense, and let go of yesterday so a new today and tomorrow can be embraced.

The author says, "This is a book for women and moms, but especially for women who want to find wholeness, healing from the past, and specific helps to give their children better memories than they received as a child." She wants her readers to know they don't have to repeat the unhealthy patterns from their childhood. With God's healing power at work in their lives, women can become the moms they want to be.

What Others Are Saying:

"I truly believe all parents WANT to be good parents, but some lack the skills or are themselves weighed down and stagnated by an injured inner child. This amazing book offers thoughts and direction to overcome hurtful memories and improve your parenting skills. It is positive and liberating."

~Brenda Nixon
author of Parenting Power in the Early Years

In-depth with Suzie about The Mom I Want to Be:

This book isn't the typical lighthearted motherhood book. What sets your book apart, and how does it explore territory seldom covered in books designed for mothers?

It's definitely not a fluffy book! This is the book I didn't want to write. I've taught "Pushing Past Your Past" for the past five years at parenting conferences. At one, I was approached by the director and also by their publisher and asked to consider writing a book for women. I hesitated because it's one thing to share my childhood experiences, and what God has done in a workshop or keynote, but another to publish it and put it in the hands of women across the nation. If it helped many women, but destroyed my mother (by telling our story) it wasn't worth it.

And yet she encouraged me to write it. I invited her to join me, to share her story and to show how generations of dysfunction can continue if there is not healing, as well as practical helps and tools. I believe she added depth and wisdom, and it has ministered to many women, whether they were the victim of abuse or neglect, or the ones who are trapped in dysfunctional parenting methods and want help.

The Mom I Want to Be addresses the past, the present, and the future. It shows how to learn from the harm of your past, how to let go, how to forgive, how to trust again, and how to view the world from an adult's perspective, rather than that of the once-harmed child. It shares very practical steps on how to shape your children's memories now rather than focusing on the memories of your past, how to set boundaries for parents or people who are still dysfunctional, how to parent with resources and healthful parenting methods as opposed to familiar patterns from the past, and much more. It offers a lot of interactive study and questions and encouragement, as well as a 12-week small group study for women who want to take this to their church or friends or MOPS groups, etc.

It's still the book I didn't want to write, but I'm so glad I did.

Why did you feel the need to address these issues?

The first time I shared my "Pushing Past the Past" workshop I looked out over the crowd. They looked like women who had it all together. And yet as I spoke, I could see the defenses lowering and we connected as women with a painful past. After that first workshop, women lined up down the aisle, out the door, and around the corner, all who wanted to share a little bit of their story, or to ask questions, or to request prayer, or just to hug me and cry as they said, "you just told my story."

Did you find this book required an extra dose of raw transparency on your part?

It's so raw. But it's just as raw about God's amazing grace and transformation in my heart and for my family as it is about the hard times.

Did this affect any of your own relationships?

In good ways. My brother read this book and I'll never forget his words: "I've read other books and wondered if they understood what I went through. As I read my own sister's book, I knew that not only did you understand, but I know how whole you are. I knew that I was reading truth that could change me." That was worth the pain of writing the book--a thousand times over.

It also affected my mom's and my relationship. At this time, we were close and had been for a long time. But I learned about things that she had never told anyone--that she was molested at five, the insecurities she had when she was a suicidal mom and crying for help and no one was listening. It added a deeper level of compassion for the person who is my mom.

One of the issues you mention in the book is forgiveness. What's the hardest part of forgiveness to get right that's also the element that causes the biggest victories?

To let go. A lot of times we hold on to unforgiveness, waiting for someone to change, or someone to say they are sorry. Maybe they will one day, but maybe they won't. I want to be whole today, for my children and me. I let go because it cuts the tendrils of the past that keep me from growing. It starts the process of removing bitterness or rage or sorrow from my heart and mind.

I want to fly, and if letting go is part of that I'm willing to let go.

How can a mother let go of her past in order to give her children a better present and future?

First, go back and take a good look at what harmed you. Put it all out on the table. Learn from it. I didn't know my biological dad as a father, but I still learned from him. He was absent, so I learned the joy of being at my kid's ball games or feeling the soft touch of a baby's hand on my cheek. I was fully in the moment when my children walked down the aisle (my children are all newlyweds) and married their spouses.

My biological father chose not to be a part of my life, and I can't change that, but I'm willing to learn from his mistakes and do better with my own children.

Second, many women have faced things that are so grievous. Letting go doesn't make those injustices right or okay. It simply says, "I won't let the past continue to burden me or harm my relationships with my children or spouse." If you were neglected, abused sexually or physically or emotionally, you may find it difficult to let go. I did. But I was willing, and that was the first step. I invited God into the process. It took time. Healing is often a life-time journey. I would encourage women to seek counseling if they need help during that time, but also to open their minds to the possibility of what God can do with a willing heart.

Tracy here: With an interview that brings me to tears, I know the book is even more powerful. Thank you, Suzie, and thank your family for us too - for being so transparent to help us all. May the Lord use your words to touch hearts and changes lives.

Pixels - don't forget the contest:

1. During this blog tour, any reader who responds to Twila Belk at iamstraightway[at]aol[dot]com with the name of a church or organization that is interested in having Suzie in as a guest speaker, will receive all three of Suzie's books (up to 10 sets will be given away on a first come first serve basis).

2. If any of your readers contact Twila regarding a Bible study group or book club wanting to use Suzie's materials, their groups will receive conference calls from Suzie to kick off or conclude their studies.

3. All readers who post a comment regarding Suzie's books will be placed in a grand prize drawing on August 2, 2008, for a delightful gift basket (see description on previous post.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Win 33 BOOKS - Deadline Friday!

Just two more days to enter for your chance to win our huge box of books - all new releases! Fiction, non-fiction, hardcover, paperback. Most are trade paperbacks, not the smaller ones.

I just discovered Bloggy Giveaways - a list of over 800 giveaways! I'm listing this contest on it, and invite you to go check them out and see what YOU can win!

For new visitors, contest rules are simple - just look through the posts any time in July and leave at least one comment somewhere during the month. The comments must apply to the post, and consist of more than just "great post." We had some great entries, and each of those will also be entered into the contest.

When you make a comment, please make sure to leave an e-mail address or login to your account so I have a way to contact you if you win.

Enter by midnight July 31st for your chance to win!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Special Contests, Giveaways, & More!

This week, I'm very honored to welcome special guest author, speaker, motivator T. Suzanne Eller. Suzie is an inspiration and mentor to so many writers, myself included, and to thousands of young adults. She is a blessing to observe, and a role model for all women. Her testimony is tremendous - visit her Web site to learn more about her.

We're celebrating the release of three of Suzie's books this week. I'll post one interview today, then another on Wednesday and Friday. I hope you'll come back and read about each of her books. They make great gifts for your family and friends, and a great resource for your own library - the books are challenging and in-depth, and written by a woman in love with God.

Suzie's holding a really awesome contest - and I'd love for some of you Pixels to WIN! Here are the details:

The Contest

1. During this blog tour, any reader who responds to Twila Belk at iamstraightway[at]aol[dot]com with the name of a church or organization that is interested in having Suzie in as a guest speaker, will receive all three of Suzie's books (up to 10 sets will be given away on a first come first serve basis).

2. If any of your readers contact Twila regarding a Bible study group or book club wanting to use Suzie's materials, their groups will receive conference calls from Suzie to kick off or conclude their studies.

3. All readers who post a comment regarding Suzie's books will be placed in a grand prize drawing on August 2, 2008, for a delightful gift basket (see description below.)

Gift Basket includes:

  • Real Issues, Real Teens: What Every Parent Needs to Know

  • The Mom I Want to Be: Rising Above Your Past to Give Your Kids a Great Future

  • Real Teens, Real Stories, Real Life

  • Making It Real: Whose Faith Is It Anyway?

  • The Woman I Am Becoming: Embrace the Chase for Identity, Faith and Destiny

  • A sleek coffee cup filled with Dove Caramel chocolates

  • A tootsie roll bouquet

  • A Dove Almond Chocolate bar

About the Author:

T. Suzanne (Suzie) Eller is the author of five books and over 600 articles and columns. She is a contributing writer to Today's Christian Woman,, and Enrichment Journal. Suzie is a youth culture and parenting columnist, and a community mentor in The Woman of Vision program. Her books include The Mom I Want to Be, The Woman I Am Becoming: Embracing the Chase for Identity, Faith, and Destiny and Making it Real: Whose Faith is it Anyway?

Suzie is a sought-after inspirational speaker who ministers internationally to groups of all sizes. She has been featured on hundreds of radio and TV programs. Suzie and her husband have three children and make their home in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. For more information, visit

About the Book:

The first book we'll feature this week is The Woman I Am Becoming.

Overarching themes such as identity, relationships, faith, and destiny provide readers a fresh approach to finding their way in this world. Author, speaker and mentor Suzie Eller offers young women an honest and faith-filled look at the journey to completeness. In The Woman I Am Becoming: Embracing the Chase for Identity, Faith, and Destiny, she acknowledges the pressures to look and act a certain way, and helps women explore key questions:

  • What is a real woman?

  • Where do I fit?

  • What should I look like?

  • Who should I be with?

  • Where am I going?

  • What about my faith?

Suzie shares her own story teamed up with life applications, as well as real-life advice from women further along in the journey who are still in the process of becoming. Concluding questions help readers assimilate what they've read into their own lives. As twenty-somethings absorb the book by owning their emotions and meet God in a new way, they'll begin to understand the woman they're becoming.

What Others Are Saying:

Wow, is this a much-needed book! Since I, like most women, ventured into my twentysomething and married years far from home and the influence of older women who had been around the block, I so appreciate Suzanne's heart to create a way for young women to gather and receive that sort of input and counsel.

~ Shaunti Feldhahn

Author of For Women Only and Coauthor For Young Women Only

Real. Raw. Relatable. For women from all backgrounds trying to figure out this thing called life.

~ Kerri Pomarolli

nationally known comedian and author

In-Depth with Suzie about her ministry and The Woman I Am Becoming:

It seems your life calling has taken on so many different themes. You have a heart for student ministries, young adult women, and mothers. What's it like writing and speaking for three different people groups? How are the dynamics different, and what one thing remains the same no matter the group?

The overall theme of my ministry is "becoming." If you look at what I teach or write, you'll see that theme stamped all over them. I dare to believe that God is who He says He is, and I want to become all that I can be as I follow Him. I love to share that same theme with others, no matter their gender or age.

Describe the passion or burden behind writing The Woman I Am Becoming.

I've worked with teens in different ways for nearly two decades. I'm lucky, because that means I now have a lot of connections and friendships with twentysomethings and even those in their early thirties. I don't have all the answers, and that is not what this book is about, but I have had the privilege to come along side these amazing young women as they ask tough questions.

We're encouraged scripturally as older women (that's me!) to teach the younger women. For me, the definition of teaching is to talk about the issues that matter to them. First, I need to know exactly what that is, rather than assume that I know. Second, I need to be open to a dialogue, a conversation between women at different stages of life, and I love that part of this book. I also love that in real life. It's not a one-sided relationship, but I learn from them and perhaps I can share insight gained through experience, or through bumps (or crashes into brick walls) and thus we all are stronger.

I receive e-mails from all over the nation, and even from as far away as Nigeria or South Africa or West Africa and other parts of the world from young women who say, "I read your book today and it answered a question I have been praying over." That's priceless to me. Many have become Facebook friends and we continue to stay in touch.

You made sure to gather the input of several young women (twentysomethings) for the book. What was the common thread or theme in their stories?

Transition. They were making every critical decision in their lives: who to love, where to live, what to do, wondering what God expected or wanted from them at this stage. This was true, regardless of whether they were 21 and in college or 28 and a wife and mom to two. It was just different in intensity.

If you could give sort of a coming-of-age speech to women in their twenties who are just now finding their way in this world, what would be your three main points?

  1. You are a work in progress - be patient with the process. Learn from it.

  2. You fit - we are not all alike and aren't meant to be, and there is a niche for you. I can't take your place, you aren't meant to take mine, but together we can make a difference.

  3. Your "calling" is to love and know God daily - we make it too complex. We are looking at the five-year or ten-year plan, and many times we miss the opportunities all around us--right where we are right now.

This age probably has the hardest time fitting in at church. The women's groups seem to be more for married women with children, and the college and career class is starting to feel too immature. What do you recommend for women who want to be involved at church, but don't feel like they fit in?

Margaret Feinberg, author of Twentysomething, says, "What makes a difference for twentysomethings who grow in their faith and one who grows stagnant or falls away? Without fail, relationships and community are most often cited as the determining factors for growth."

Community is a word that is strong among twentysomethings. They have left or are leaving the familiar world of family. Even if they are still close to family (distance or otherwise), the way their family perceives them may remain the same, but the reality is that they are changing. They are no longer the rebellious 16-year-old or the really smart cheerleader or the screw-up or the good daughter. Labels have fallen away as they are educated, make new friends, attempt to find a spiritual community, make relationship choices or face heartbreak, live financially on their own, work their way up the career ladder, have babies or wait to have babies, etc. They have moved from child to adult. Family is just as important to them, but they are looking for new sources of strength and encouragement.

The same difficulties arise in finding a church. Where do you find your niche? It's like a black hole in ministry among many churches. The twentysomething comes home and finds out that the youth group is mostly 13-year-olds and definitely not a good fit, or the singles group is comprised of mostly divorced men and women in their 40's with very different needs. Where do they fit?

So, I ask twentysomethings to redefine community as becoming a part of something larger. You contribute. You take. These people matter to you.

I encourage them to create community right where they are. For some, the biological family remains the primary community. Others find community in small groups or their community becomes four or five couples who meet in their home or at Starbucks, or four or five close friends who remain connected and close. The secret is that one community does not take away from the other. But it's still vital.

Thanks, Suzie, for writing this tremendous book. What a great resource for women today.

Pixels - come back Wednesday to read about The Mom I Want to Be, and Friday for Making it Real: Whose Faith is it Anyway?

Don't forget - recommend Suzie to speak at your church, and you could receive all 3 books! And leave comments below to be entered to win that scrumptious gift basket!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Writers Wanted

Birthdays tend to stir me into action, and this year is no different. Almost every birthday, you will find me creating something new and different somewhere in my life, or traveling somewhere I’ve never ventured before. Since August is my birthday month, and there are currently no travel plans, so we’re going to be making some changes here at Pix-N-Pens.

First off, all scheduled special guests are still on the schedule, and I’m still adding more guests as books are released. (We’ve got some really special ones coming up, starting as early as next week!)

In the coming months, Pix-N-Pens will offer more content, more helps, hints, tips, and more guest bloggers than ever before.

Beginning Monday, August 4th, we’ll be covering specific topics each day, geared towards writers, photographers, and even foodies, travelers, and techies!

Here’s the schedule:

Mondays: Writing for Magazines
Tuesdays: Writing Non-Fiction Books
Wednesdays: Freelancing & Marketing
Thursdays: Photography
Friday: Fiction
Saturday: Variety

I’m looking for writers willing to share their expertise in the above topics – for all skill levels, from beginner to professional. The more specific the article, the better.

Right now, the Photography expert is already on board – readers of my newsletter may recognize Suzanne Williams’ name. She’ll be sharing photography tips with us each Thursday, beginning August 7th.

Saturdays will be fun days, filled with all sorts of different things from food to travel to technology to faith, to whatever strikes my fancy any given week. I’ll do some of the writing and I’ll invite guests for other weeks. I’m open for suggestions, so if you’d like to see us cover a particular subject, just pop me an e-mail.

Most of all, I want Pix-N-Pens to be a place where readers come to learn, fellowship, grow, encourage, laugh, play, and pray together in community. And yes, we’ll still have the occasional contest and giveaways! I hope you’ll come join us.

Submission guidelines:

* All entries must be submitted to tracyruckman[at]gmail[dot]com as an attachment, Word document file, and must be accompanied by a cover letter stating a brief description about your article. Please put “PNP Article Submission” in the SUBJECT LINE.

* Single space sentences within paragraphs, double spaces between (in the style of this article.)
Times New Roman, 12 pt. font.

* Contact info (name, state, and e-mail address(es) in upper left corner, word count and article category (below) in the upper right, then skip a couple of spaces and center the title and byline.

* Please include a 50-100 word bio at the end of each article submission, and you may also include a photo if you wish. In your bio, feel free to include your Web or blog address, and the title of your current release if you have one.

* You must own the copyright to the piece you submit. If the piece is a reprint, you must state so when you submit the article.

* Articles should be 300-1200 words.

* No payment at the present time, but your participation could turn into a weekly column at a future date.

* You will receive a reply within 2 weeks.

Articles must fit one of the following categories, but the subject matter may vary within that category:

* Writing for Magazines – how-topics for query letters, ideas, formatting, breaking into the bigger markets, online markets, market leads, building a clip file, conferences, etc.

* Writing Non-Fiction Books – how to topics for queries, proposals, synopses, ideas, publishing leads, conferences, platform building, and more.

* Freelancing & Marketing – this category is wide open and I’ll consider a wide variety of articles here. How-to’s on building a freelance business, how to find customers, how to develop a niche, how to market your business or your book, marketing yourself as a novelist, or a non-fiction author, or speaker, or photographer – like I said, it’s open.

* Fiction – this category will be a how-to for writing fiction. We’ll cover all different genres – mystery, suspense, romance, general fiction, science fiction/fantasy, women’s, lits, etc.; different lengths – novels, short stories, flash fiction; different markets – CBA and ABA. Also open for conference lists and market leads, contests, and more.

Your participation in this new change is encouraged – let us know if you like something by leaving a comment for the author; if you don’t like it, send me a private e-mail. If you have questions about something in an article, feel free to post it in the comments, or if you have questions about this new format, drop me a line.

I’m excited about the changes, and hope you are, too. Help spread the word!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Grieving and Rejoicing - UPDATED

UPDATE from Milton Dykes:

Thanks to some very creative volunteers in our church we plan to offer a live feed from Kristy's Homegoing Celebration Service Thursday, July 24 at 1:30 PM Eastern time. This can be viewed via the internet at the following address:

The service will be recorded and can watched at later time for those who cannot watch it live.God bless you!

<><< <><< <><< <><< <><< <><< <><< <><<

Pixels, you may remember me posting about Kristy Dykes in the past several months - a beautiful, precious woman, writer, wife, mom, grandmother and faithful woman of God who was diagnosed with a brain tumor November 7th.

She passed away Monday evening, so our hearts are both grieving and rejoicing. Rather than explain, I'd like to just point you to her Christian Love Stories blog, where her husband Milton has posted about her homegoing. Please read it. It will touch your heart.

Kristy will be missed, but her faith and her faith in action will live on. May God surround her family with His loving comfort and care during this time.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Try It - You'll Love It!

My quick take on the CFBA book this week - Try Darkness: I loved this book - suspenseful, fast-paced, memorable characters. James Scott Bell has been one of my favorite authors for quite some time, and with this book, my admiration continues.

This week, the

is introducing

(Center Street - July 30, 2008)



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 sis 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.

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.”Booklist

“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

Friday, July 18, 2008

Entry #2: What if...?

Call When You Are Ready
By Carolyn M. Kenney

“Call me when you’re ready,” I said gently to my sister. It was early in the morning; we had arrived minutes before at the doctor’s office where she was to have a test.

She replied, “It will take a little over an hour, so I’ll call your cell phone.” I would pick her up after the appointment and drop her off at her house before proceeding on to work. After leaving the doctor’s office, I decided to get a cup of my favorite Starbucks coffee and sit by the nearby lake. It is a favorite area for many people.

The mid-morning sun glittered and danced on the blue water as I carefully sat down on a bench. Placing the hot cup of coffee and cinnamon coffee cake beside me, I noticed two retired men sitting on a nearby bench talking animatedly about the baseball game of the preceding night. I leaned back against the bench; the gentle breeze refreshing my soul and enlivening my senses. A young father walked by with his two-year old daughter as a woman passed walking her adorable pug. Every now and then someone would jog by me focusing only on what lay before them.

I heard the whistle of a train as it pulled into the station only a few hundred yards away. It was not even 8:00 a.m. I could picture the throngs of people waiting to board the train which would take them into the city for their jobs.

I sipped some of the hot steaming coffee and relaxed for the first time in days. Work was busy, so I relished this time alone.

I thought to myself, what if… What if a terrible earthquake shook the eastern seaboard? What if a terrorist attack occurred in the town in which I worked? What if something absolutely awful happened right at this moment? Leaning against the back of the bench, I felt a sudden rush of cool air envelope my entire body. The chirping of the birds in the nearby trees grew in intensity, then everything was still. The lack of any noise was eerie. Perhaps this was how it would feel if something horrendous took place. What would be my reaction?

At this moment, my first thought would of course be of my younger sister undergoing a test about fifteen minutes from where I sat. I would forget about my delicious, steaming coffee and race to my car parked only yards from where I sat. I would hurry to get her in order that she and I could drive home to be with family members.

When the terrorists hit the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, I was at work only a mile from my home. As word came of a third plane crashing in Pennsylvania, my first thought was to be with my family! Not knowing what lay ahead, I desired only to go home and be with those I love who have been there for me at critical times in my life. They were there to help me take the next step forward when I was too afraid to go on due to health issues. I have come to know in my heart of their love for me. I do not want material wealth, but only desire to share my life with those closest to me.

Entry: What if...?

Internet and computer problems are resolved. Yaay! Send in your entries and I'll get them posted right away.

This essay comes from New Zealander Debbie Roome. It gives us all food for thought.

Here's my contribution to the "What If" theme. It's a factual essay more than a story and true. The brochure is right here, next to me. I will probably adapt this for our local market and send it into the local paper next week.

Tsunamis in Christchurch
by Debbie Roome

What if a tsunami should hit Christchurch? It’s not a subject that received much attention before the 2004 tsunami devastated areas in Asia. However, it is now considered a possibility and a coping strategy has been developed. New Zealand has major fault lines that run throughout the country and also suffers from tornados, floods and severe weather conditions. The Institute of Geological & Nuclear Sciences records about 10,000 to 15,000 earthquakes in New Zealand each year. Of these, about 100 to 150 quakes are big enough to be felt.

Working together, the Police and the Christchurch City Council have produced a brochure entitled “Tsunami. Evacuation information for coastal Christchurch.” I picked up one at the library last week and the contents got me thinking.

Christchurch city is as flat as the proverbial pancake. A paradise for cyclists but a huge concern if a tsunami should hit. The coastal areas are densely inhabited and the New Brighton Spit is especially vulnerable. This is a narrow piece of land with the ocean on one side and a massive estuary on the other. Hundreds of people live here, with the sea almost touching their back yards.

Our home is further inland and presumably beyond the reach of a giant wave. Being double storey, it offers incredible views across the Southern Alps from one side, and the Port Hills on the other. The rest of the landscape unfurls without a ripple or bump in sight.

A tsunami might not reach us here but what if New Zealand sunk a few feet or the ocean rose? I decided to read on and see what the experts recommend. The first point is to develop an evacuation strategy that includes the entire household. There are eight of us and two dogs so that could be rather complex.

Next up is advice on knowing when to evacuate. If the tsunami were to originate from a far distance, it could take 12 to 14 hours to reach our coastline. In this case, police and Civil Defence would evacuate the areas concerned and announcements would be made on various radio stations. If the tsunami originated close by, the only warning would be earth tremors, followed in minutes by the first waves.

This was rather disturbing so I moved on to the next point, preparing a get away kit. This is something we are familiar with as TV ads pound it into us, week after week. “Be prepared.” they say. “New Zealand rests on a fault line.” Apart from that, extreme weather can isolate areas for days, cutting people off from electricity, running water and food. The tsunami check list recommends keeping family documents, licences, passports, insurance papers etc, together in a safe but easily accessible place. Another pack should be prepared containing personal items such as medications, toiletries and warm clothing.

Before evacuating, the brochure advises, check whether neighbours require assistance and leave a telephone book outside your front door to indicate to emergency workers that you have left.

It gave me a funny feeling thinking about all this stuff. What would I do if my family were scattered across the city? Where would 400,000 people go if the water came further inland than expected? What would happen to us if our home was flooded, or even worse, swept away by a tsunami?

I normally read brochures and discard them, but this one I’ve tucked away in a drawer. It’s like a niggle in the back of my mind, a reminder that we often take life for granted. Maybe I’ll pull it out one evening soon and we’ll discuss it as a family and set an evacuation plan in place. I think it would be wise.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Blog Tour: Promises, Promises

I'm suffering (with a capital S) some computer/internet issues, so I'll make this short and sweet.

Amber Miller's debut release Promises, Promises offers rich characters and a strong storyline.

Here's all the info - and because of my computer problems, I won't be downloading photos - if things improve I'll add them later this week.

This week, the

is introducing

Barbour - July, 2008



Hi, I'm Amber, but my friends call me Tiff, short for Tiffany, my first name. Writing had always been a hobby, a way for me to express my innermost thoughts and feelings in a way I sometimes find difficult with the spoken word -- although my friends will tell you 'shy' is not in my vocabulary. Thanks to the gentle nudging of a fellow author -- Tracie Peterson -- in 2002, I took the next step in my writing career and joined the American Christian Fiction Writers. I owe all so many there a hearty hug of appreciation for their constant encouragement and unselfish assistance. I feel a lot more confident thanks to their support and love. For those of you who are also fiction writers looking for a wonderful support group, check them out!

I got involved with web design in 1997, when I was asked to take over running the official web site for the television series Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. That eventually led to a series of negotiations where I was offered the job of running world-renowned actress Jane Seymour's official fan site. That has branched into doing web sites for a variety of clients, including: authors J.M. Hochstetler, Trish Perry, Kathy Pride, Louise M. Gouge, Susan Page Davis, and Jill Elizabeth Nelson, actor William Shockley (the voice of AT&T and Sony) and many others. With the help of a handful of other web site "technos," Eagle Designs was born! Feel free to visit and see our other clients.

Books are a definite passion. Why else would I be writing and publishing them? I firmly believe that a good book can take you away from all of your problems, into a world you've never seen. My favorite food is Italian; I sing all the time, and I once worked with my church choir to do a professional recording for a music CD of our performances.

I am in my 30's, married the love of my life in July 2007, and live in beautiful Colorado, but I love to travel and visit new places. Ultimately, my dream is to own horses and live in a one-level rancher nestled in the mountains. For now, I will remain where I am and do what I love—design web sites and write.


Raelene Strattford knows God has promised never to leave or forsake her. But after the catastrophic deaths of her parents, she doesn t believe it. What kind of God would take a girl's family and leave her alone in a wild land where women have no voice? Gustaf Hanssen has admired Raelene from afar for a while, but his poor attempt at courting her in the past has made him unwelcome in her life. When Gustaf promises Raelene's dying father that he will take care of her, he finds himself bound to her happiness, her success, and her well-being in ways he never imagined. To keep his word must Gustaf really oversee all of Raelene's affairs, find her a husband, and maintain her farm, while she does nothing but scorn him? Can God reach through Raelene's pain and self-centeredness and give her the love that awaits, if only she will accept His will?

To read the first chapter, go HERE.

At this time, Promises, Promises can only be purchased through the Heartsong Book Club.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Two Fiction Picks & New Theme

This week, we're featuring novels of all sorts here at Pix-N-Pens. Here are two great picks for a summer vacation read. And after I share them, I'll give the contest details.

by Kathryn Mackel

The press about this book is highly interesting, so I'd like to share some of it:

The Department of Homeland Security has made inroads in its effort to protect citizens, but it remains under scrutiny from many different sources. Responsible for border security, emergency management and biodefense, one of the biggest weaknesses is coordination of communications. Since 9/11, creating a system that enables local and government agencies to coordinate their efforts during times of emergency has been a challenge. Perhaps no event better typifies this weakness than what happened in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

According to author Kathryn Mackel, most Americans look to the government to bail them out of difficult situations - terrorist attacks or natural disasters. She says, "America's vulnerability to terror is far from over. This country has still not grasped the notion that the greatest act of terrorism would be one that systematically shredded their economy." While 9/11 created a temporary glitch in the stock market, the long-term effects (other than the war effort) have not been lasting. A second attack might have a more lasting effect.

In her book Vanished, Mackel says, "Order restored means order that could be blown apart." Yet, far from being a doomsday prophet, she simply believes that most Americans are under the false belief that someone will step in to help in times of catastrophe. In Vanished, the residents lose water, something most Americans take for granted. "We take for granted many thing things: food, water, communications."

What happens when basic services, including medical help, are suddenly unavailable to us? In Vanished, Mackel draws a pictures of just how devastating a terrorist attack can be to basic services and the disruption of life as we know it. Mackel's book asks many "What ifs?" For example, what happens if you are isolated from medical care during an emergency? She suggests our dependency on government has made us less dependent on one another - extended family or community.

While the community is not a panacea for solving our every problem, when the government fails to help, most people become angry or turn toward God. Mackel deals with the God question and suggests that during crises our hearts become open to God.

About the book:

After a bomb explodes in a working-class neighborhood of Barcester, Massachusetts, Police sergeant Jason Logan fights to keep order and assist the injured while desperately waiting for aid to arrive. Is the mist from the bomb preventing ambulances and fire trucks from coming in? Or has something far more dire occurred?

As the hours tick by, Logan tracks the terrorist mastermind—whom he learns is not done wreaking havoc. Cut off from modern medical resources, nurse-practitioner Kaya de los Santos treats the injured and soothes the fearful, unaware that her teenaged son Ben is on the run from both the cops and the terrorist.

The vanished begin a battle for survival against enemies they’ve always known—and forces they’ve never even imagined.

About the author:

Kathryn Mackel is an accomplished screenwriter and novelist who has worked extensively in both mainstream and Christian-themed entertainment. Kathhryn has written for Disney, Fox, and Showtime. She was the credited screenwriter on her own novel, Can of Worms, and for Frank Peretti's Hangman's Curse. Kathryn was also part of the story team for Left Behind: The Movie. Her novels include Christian chillers such as The Surrogate and the Christy-nominated The Hidden, as well as the fantasy series The Birthright Project. She is the acclaimed author of Can of Worms and other novels for middle readers published by Putnam, Avon, and HarperCollins.

Learn more about Kathryn at her Web site, and on her blog.

Our other equally exciting feature book this week is:

Alton Gansky

About the book:

An earthquake shakes Southern California, setting the stage for the appearance of Aster, a stranger from a world far from our own. Miracles happen around him, spectacular promises are made, and wisdom flows from his lips.

He says he has come to complete our knowledge, to explain our beginnings, and to correct our spiritual errors. And the world is ready to receive him: politicians seek his advice, religious leaders wish to call him friend, scientists want to study him, and philosophers wish to debate him.

But not everything is what it seems. This messenger seems too good to be believed. Priscilla Simms, an investigatory journalist, is the only one close enough to the stranger to get at the truth. But unraveling the truth may cost her reputation, and maybe even her life.

About the author:

Alton Gansky is the author of twenty published novels and six nonfiction works. He has been a Christy award finalist (A Ship Possessed) and and Angel Award winner (Terminal Justice.) He holds a BA and MA in biblical studies and has served as senior pastor for three Baptist churches in California, with a total of over twenty years in pulpit ministry. He and his wife live in the High Desert area of Southern California.

Learn more about Alton on his Web site.

Now for this week's contest:

The theme this week is "WHAT IF...?" You may write your entry as a factual essay, or as a short story - either is acceptable, just let me know which it is when you enter. Please keep entries 2000 words or less.

"WHAT IF...?" your world ceased to exist as you know it right this moment - due to terrorist attack, natural disaster, some other major catostrophic even out of your control. What actions would you take? What would be your first concerns? How would you cope?

Recently, our state has been pushing the "Get 10" program, urging residents to collect and store 10 essential items in case of emergency. They're promoting it so much (billboards, television, newspaper, magazines, radio, flyers in grocery stores, and more!), it's a bit creepy. We want to be prepared, but it also makes me wonder if they aren't telling us the whole story. Is there a fine line between being prepared and being fanatical? Between being aware/alert being considered a doomsday prophet?

Write. Share. We want to hear YOUR opinion, YOUR ideas, YOUR story. Feel free to leave your comments, too!

Submit your entry by sending an e-mail to tracyruckman[at]gmail[dot]com by Friday, July 18th for your chance to win.

Each entry will be entered into our grand prize drawing on July 31st for a huge box of books. The book count is up to 22 this week, and still growing. You won't be sorry you entered.

Blog Tour: Sisterchicks Go Brit

This week, the

is introducing

Multnomah Publishers (May 20, 2008)



Robin grew up in Orange County, California and has lived in all kinds of interesting places, including Reno and Hawaii.

Robin’s first novel was published in 1988, and she has continued to write between two to five books a year. Her 63 published books include 47 novels, all of which are still in print. Sales of her popular Christy Miller Series, Glenbrooke Series and Sisterchicks Series, including Sisterchicks in Gondolas and the new Katie Weldon Series including Peculiar Treasures all of which are approaching four million copies sold, with translations in nine languages.

Robin’s passion for storytelling and travel are evident in all her books, especially the Sisterchicks novels, and she has received thousands of letters from readers around the world who have come to know Christ through her writing. She sees this as her dream come true. Her novels are traveling to foreign lands and her characters are doing what she always longed to do; telling people about God’s love.

She and her husband currently live near Portland, Oregon and have been married for 30 years. They spent their first 22 years of marriage working together in youth ministry, and enjoying life with their son and daughter who are now both grown.

As a frequent speaker at local and international events, one of Robin’s favorite topics is how God is the Relentless Lover and we are His first love. She delights in telling stories of how God uses fiction to change lives.

Robin is the recipient of the Christy Award, the Mt. Hermon Pacesetter Award, the Sherwood E. Wirt Award and is a Gold Medallion Finalist. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Media Associates International and the Board of Directors for Jerry Jenkins’ Christian Writers’ Guild.


SISTERCHICK® n: a friend who shares the deepest wonders of your heart, loves you like a sister, and provides a reality check when you’re being a brat.

Two midlife mamas hop over to jolly ole England and encounter so much more than the usual tourist stops. Liz does have a bit of a childhood crush on Big Ben, and she has hoped to “meet” him ever since her fifteenth birthday. Kellie dreams of starting an interior design business and figures Liz needs to be a part of that equation–a calculation that hasn’t added up for Liz yet.

Nothing on the excursion goes the way these two friends had envisioned. They start with a village pancake race and end up being held for questioning on The Underground. Kellie and Liz take a wild tour through the land of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien and then find themselves swept up, up, and away in a hot air balloon over the Cotswalds. London beckons with the Tower of London, Windsor Castle, shopping at Portabella Road in Knotting Hill, and of course, reservations at the Ritz for a posh high tea.

A few detours along the way and the possibility of being lost in a London fog of wonderment aren’t enough to stop these two Sisterchicks! Each step of their regal journey is lined with evidence of God’s gracious compassion, and both come to realize that God knows their every wish. He is the One who planted every dream in their hearts. And, oh, what a surprise awaits them when they return home!

To read the first chapter, go HERE.

“Robin has done it again! You and your Sisterchicks will love taking this new adventure together!” - Karen Kingsbury, New York Times best-selling author of Between Sundays and Ever After

“My only complaint about Robin’s latest is that now I want to hop a plane to England! But combine a cup of Earl Grey tea and this charming story and you’re halfway there. Another delightful tale about women helping women to live their lives to the fullest.”- Melody Carlson, author of These Boots Weren’t Made for Walking and A Mile in My Flip-Flops

“Sisterchicks in Gondolas is a true delight. The characters shine, and evocative language will make any reader want to visit Venice. Biblical truths are portrayed simply, yet will touch hearts and lives with their realistic application.”- Romantic Times magazine

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Home Sweet Home

This funny story comes from Kiwi Pixel Debbie Roome. She calls it funny, but it seems more like torture to me!

Note from Debbie: This story is 100% true and happened seven years ago. I typed it out after living through this very frustrating morning. (My husband's computer skills have now improved somewhat.)

by Debbie Roome

I used to imagine that working from home would be fun, stimulating, liberating even. I’m still sure it could be, but not with a husband, five children and three cats in the equation.

Take this morning for example. I thought I would get up early and catch up some work while everyone was asleep. I hadn’t been in my office for a couple of days, but boy, had everyone else. My neat pile of computer CDs was cascaded like a giant domino game across my desk. Every spare surface was covered by empty tea cups, cereal bowls, chip packets and apple cores. The computer screen had a splodge of peanut butter in the centre where little fingers had obviously been pointing and the key board was adorned with sticky splash marks. I weighed up the pros and cons of awakening the culprits and had decided it would be more peaceful to clean up myself.

With the desk clear at last, I pulled out the chair and sat down as I switched on the computer. Five seconds and it informed me that it hadn’t shut down properly and needed to run scandisk. My husband had been reading our emails the previous night and had obviously switched off without shutting down. In spite of my best efforts, his skills remained at the level of switching on, reading emails and switching off again.

“Go for it.” I muttered, hitting enter.

“Mommy.” a voice wailed down the passage. It was the six year old wanting to know what time it was. I told her it was far too early to wake up, gave her a kiss, and tucked her back into bed. As I walked out, a sleepy voice called after me. “Mom, why do you have a sandwich stuck to your butt?”

6:15am. The chair had been scrubbed, I had changed my clothes and the computer was ready. For fifteen blissful minutes I worked steadily at entering cash sales and purchases. As I was about to save my work, however, the power died and the screen slowly faded into blackness. I screamed hysterically. “Who turned the electricity off?”

Enter a sheepish fourteen year old with a screwdriver in his hand. “Sorry Mom. I wanted to fix the plug on my aquarium but when I switched it back on it tripped everything. I didn’t know you were working on the computer.”

Reboot. This time I cancelled scandisk. I couldn’t afford to waste anymore time. However, minutes into the accounts, the screen froze and a little box appeared. ‘This program has performed an illegal operation and will be shut down.’ It duly did so. Teeth clenched, I abandoned the idea of accounts on a Saturday morning. Instead, I would write an email to my friend overseas. Definitely a therapeutic idea, I thought as I typed furiously, telling her of the woes of the morning and the frustrations of family life. Then the phone rang. It was the thirteen year old’s best friend. Being a good mother, I picked up the cordless phone and took it through to her.

When I returned, our huge black cat was lying sprawled across the keyboard. My e mail had disappeared and the blue screen kindly informed me that a fatal error had occurred. I hit the power off button and ejected the surprised cat with considerable force. It was pointless trying again, because I knew from experience that the phone line would be in use for at least an hour. It was at this point that the eight and ten year old appeared. “Mom” they asked innocently. “Please can we play on your computer?”

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Wind River makes my Top Ten List!

The CFBA selection this week caught me by pleasant surprise. I'm not sure what I expected, but Wind River met every expectation I could possibly have for a great book. From page one until the surprising end, I did not put the book down. This book is BEAUTIFUL but filled with such great conflict. Members of my critique group recently named our own Top 10 Lists for "Books to Read Before You Die" and Wind River was on my list.

Relationships, beauty, nature, fly-fishing (my favorite hobby) all brought together by characters with character conflicted on many fronts.

After you read Wind River, let me know if you're adding it to your Top Ten list, too. And if you're so inclined, leave your own "Top Ten Books to Read Before You Die" in the comments this week.

This week, the

is introducing

(Bethany House July 1, 2008)



Tom Morrisey is a mountaineer, aviator, shipwreck diver, and explorer, who holds a Full Cave certification from the National Speleological Society - Cave Diving Section.

He has launched, edited or contributed to numerous national publications and is an award-winning adventure-travel writer. A popular speaker, he is also active in both evangelism and the arts. Morrisey earned an MFA in creative writing from Bowling Green State University, and his fiction has been featured in numerous anthologies and magazines.

His first novel, Yucatan Deep (Zondervan, 2002) was a finalist for the Christy award, and he is the author of four other novels: In High Places (Bethany House Publishers, 2007), Dark Fathom (Zondervan, 2005), Deep Blue, (Zondervan 2004), and Turn Four (Zondervan 2004). In addition Tom has also written two nonfiction books: 20 American Peaks & Crags (Contemporary Books, 1978) and Wild by Nature (Baker Books, 2001). He and his family live in Orlando, Florida.


You Can't Outrun the Sins of Your Past

Desperate to forget what happened to him in Iraq, Tyler Perkins flees to the emptiness of Wyoming. He's here to escape and also to fulfill a long-ago promise by accompanying his 86-year-old friend Soren Andeman on a fly-fishing trip--once more for old time's sake. But their trek to an idyllic trout lake soon becomes something more deeply harrowing--a journey that uncovers long-held lies, deadly crimes, and the buried secrets of the past. Ty barely has time to contemplate the question of what constitutes justice when nature unleashes her own revenge. Trapped in a race back to safety, he must face his own guilt-ridden past or risk being consumed.

Powerfully imagined by the acclaimed author of In High Places, Wind River is an engaging wilderness adventure that explores the power of confession, the beauty of forgiveness, and the freedom of truth unveiled.

To read the first chapter, click HERE.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Young Man's Dream

Remember the last time you got a drink of water? Did it come from your kitchen sink, perhaps from the refrigerator door? Did you happen to think of where the water was coming from or how it came to be in your house, and your convenience?

I urge you to watch this video, and then challenge you to take action. Help this young man help others.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Are you squeezed in the Middle Ages?

Phil Callaway has written the perfect book for our current times. Family Squeeze - Tales of Hope and Hilarity for a Sandwiched Generation offers a humorous look at family life as many of us now know it. And it gives us a perfect theme for this week's entries!

From the back cover:

You've been warned about middle-age spread. But no one told you about the Squeeze.

You're in the "Middle Ages" - sandwiched between the "greatest generation" and the "gimme" generations, busily juggling both with no relief in sight. Children are driving, and parents are not. Money is tight and so are your favorite jeans. And things that never ached before are beginning to give you trouble! For every baby boomer who wonders if it's possible to navigate the Middle Ages with grace and style, Phil Callaway offers plenty of hope and a little hilarity too. Because there's nothing like a smile to make wrinkles less noticeable.

The author of Who Put My Life on Fast Forward? and Laughing Matters offers this lighthearted look at the challenges of the middle years - and promises that while we can't slow down the aging process, we can ease the worries it brings by focusing on what really matters most.

About the Author:

Described as "Dave Barry with a message," author, speaker, and television host Phil Callaway has written twenty books, many of them bestsellers. He is a popular speaker at conferences, camps, and marriage retreats - coaxing laughter and tears from audiences worldwide. Of his personal accomplishments, he rates the following highest: shutting off the TV to listen to his children's questions (twice), taking out the garbage without being told (once), and convincing his high-school sweetheart Ramona to marry him (once.)

You'll start laughing the moment you read some of the chapter titles:
  • Shotgun Memories
  • The Teenagers are Coming
  • Baloney Detectors
  • Eight Simple Rules for Dating My Son
  • I Proposed in a Chain Letter
  • How's Your Stuffometer?
  • My Shark Hunter
  • Bumper Cars and Harpoons
  • and more!
I was recently having an e-mail discussion with one of my friends about the next generation. The opening of Phil's Chapter 14 rang true to our conversation:

Have you ever wondered if there's hope for the next generation? I certainly have. They've got more earrings than brain cells. They're confused. They don't know which way to point their hats or how high to pull their pants. They have problems with their eyesight. They can't find a thing o eat in a fridge full of food nor a thing to wear in a closet full of clothes. They're glued to their cell phones - when they're not chatting online in brief, meaningless sentences.

Family Squeeze is a great book - you'll want to get a copy to promote laughter on your most stressful days!!

Now, for the contest.

We want FUNNY. We want FAMILY. Submit your most humorous family story - it can be real, or imagined - as long as you let us know which one! Limit your entries to 2000 words or less, and submit to me at tracyruckman[at]gmail[dot]com by Friday, midnight.

With each entry, you'll be entered to win a HUGE box of books at the end of July. Right now, the book count is at 18, and it will continue to grow. These are new books, some hardcover, some softcover, fiction, and non-fiction. Most are trade paperbacks (the larger ones) or hardbacks. There are three mass market (smaller) paperbacks. Current authors, many bestsellers, include Goyer, Moser, Baaert, Liparulo, Daley, Raney, Dooley, Arterburn, Sweet, Hake, and MORE!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

All Worthwhile

Another Pixel submitted this great story of her family's 4th of July celebration:

All Worthwhile
by Karri Compton

My youngest daughter's birthday is July 4th, so it's an extra celebration for us. She's always so excited to get fireworks on her birthday. This year a friend of ours offered to take us in his boat to the Cape Fear River, where fireworks would be shot off the U.S.S. Battleship North Carolina.

We traveled quickly south down the ICW (Intra Coastal Waterway), wind ripping through our hair and clothes. The salt spray got us a few times as well when our boat crossed another boat's wake, causing the boat’s bow to slam up and down against the water.

A landlubber, I'm not fond of choppy waters and fast speeds, so when we reached the mouth of the river and had to make a right turn in order to come inland, I got a bit nervous. Thankfully, our friend slowed down for me.

It took about an hour to reach our destination, where we were among at least 30 other boats and thousands of on shore spectators. We were trying to set anchor when the display began. I've seen fireworks everywhere from Washington, D.C. to Germany to Disney World, but there's nothing like sitting directly under them when they explode. The sound was deafening and I had to shield my eyes several times because of the brightness. But the feeling of being a kid again, oohing and ahing, trumped any discomfort.

Finally, the show ended and we began our trek home. Now, of course, it was totally dark. The river current was against us, so it took longer to get back to the waterway. Thank God for GPS and depth finders, because we nearly hit a few of the unlit markers when we strayed too close to the boundary of the safe range. I felt so helpless, not being able to control the water or the boat or where the markers were in the almost pitch black. The red and green flashing signs and the GPS were the only things there to guide our friend in the right direction. Thankfully, he was very experienced.

Finally, about two hours later, we arrived back at the marina. I was never so happy to see good ole terra firma! I thanked God silently and our friend aloud for the safe and fun trip. Even though parts of the experience were nerve-wracking, the fantastic show made it all worthwhile.

Isn't that how our lives are sometimes? God is the captain of our boat. He alone knows where the channel is, where the signs are, where the dangers are. He slows down for us sometimes when we're scared. We have to cross choppy waters--it's inevitable in the journey he's taking us on. But he's faithful. His promise to be with us when we pass through the waters remains a hope for us. And at the end of the journey we will look back on the joys and the trials and see that it was all worthwhile.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

War Not Over When Soldiers Come Home

This touching piece is written by our special Pixel Amy Barkman. Grab a tissue.

Not Over
by Amy Barkman

It’s so exciting when our soldiers return from service on foreign soil. We relax and breathe a sigh of relief. It’s over and we can let up on our prayers, right?

My husband served two terms in Viet Nam. When we got married he’d been home for sixteen years. I was shocked to find out that he often woke up drenched with perspiration and fear from nightmares that he was on a ship headed back for a third term of duty.

A few years later, we attended a huge Christian conference and before the preacher began his message he asked that all the Viet Nam Veterans stand up. He assured all other Vets present that he appreciated them too but God had put this on his heart for the ones who served in Viet Nam. When the eight men – out of over 4,000 people present– were standing, he said “This is from God and from me. Welcome home, soldier, you did a good job.” My husband wept and said “That’s the first time anybody ever said that to me.”

We’ve learned to show appreciation to our troops on their return since the injustice toward those who served in Nam. But have we learned that just because they are off the battle field physically, their inner war is not over.

Those who fight for freedom do not come back the same as they left us. My husband’s nightmares were not because he wasn’t shown appreciation; they happened because of the horrors of war he experienced.

The horrors of war haven’t changed. Don’t stop praying for our soldiers who make it back safely. Just pray differently. Pray that the healer of broken hearts, the healer of minds who’ve seen horrors, will heal and cleanse and purify their minds and emotions. And pray for their families as they walk with them to wholeness.

A 4th Tale of Two (Very Different) Cities

Wow. Yesterday was a TREMENDOUS 4th of July for us. Tim's cousin plays in a concert band, and they played at the Riverwalk Amphitheater in Montgomery, so we went to see them. From 5 p.m. on we experienced a water skiing show, a picnic on the lawn, beautiful music that stirred our souls, and the MOST BEAUTIFUL AND GINORMOUS fireworks I've ever experienced in my WHOLE LIFE!

The pictures posted below share some of our day.

The other city referred to in this post's title is Cartersville, Georgia. My son drove his fiance, all of her family, and a host of friends many miles to re-visit the town of his childhood for their fireworks show. The town now charges a parking fee to view the fireworks from the city park since it makes for the best viewing. When my son's group arrived, the park officials took their money (the group traveled in several vehicles), city police directed traffic into parking places, and directed them to the best place for viewing the fireworks within the park.

When time came for the fireworks, NOTHING happened. After a few minutes, the crowd finally HEARD the booms, and could see light off in the distance where apparently the fireworks were going off - but they could not be seen by any of the thousands of people who paid to see the show!

The crowd booed and hissed, and then watched as the park personnel and police LEFT THE PARK. Soon, everyone ran for their cars, but traffic was TOTAL CHAOS because police officers didn't stick around to handle crowd control.

A TOTAL mess.

So - Gigantic Kudos to Montgomery, Alabama and a "What's up?" to Cartersville, Georgia.
Enough of my rant. Hope you enjoy my 4th photos - send in some of yours and I'll post them too!

Montgomery Riverwalk Amphitheater

Above - the early crowd

Below - the later crowd

My darling hubby - he sure doesn't like me to take his photo, so I have to sneak it in. He was WAAY across the lawn when I got this one, but he sure knew what I was doing! :-) I got one other shot, and he gave me permission to post one or both of them. I chose this one because, even though he's not smiling, you can see his eyes!

The water skiing demonstration sure made me miss being on skis myself. Of course, I was never this graceful or skilled, but I enjoyed it anyway!

Three photos above - our dear cousin Tom is in the center of the first one, in the middle of the speaker, behind the band member with the red shirt. The others are of the very talented Capitol Sounds Concert Band, and their Director John Jackson.

(Tom, we enjoyed spending time with you. You are such a blessing.)

I was pleased with some of the fireworks pictures I took when they first started, but they truly don't do the show justice. I finally put the camera down so I could experience the beauty firsthand. With the band playing patriotic songs as the fireworks lit the sky - it became a beautiful time of worship and praising the Lord for the beauty of the day, for the freedom we have to worship and to tell others about Jesus, and for His creation of the earth, the weather, the water.

A beautiful, special day.

Come, share yours with us!