Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How to be a Reviewer Series

Learning about Reviewing
By Debbie Roome
This week we start a series on how to become a reviewer. This is a field of journalism that is open to all levels of writers. Many newcomers find opportunities to write reviews and some top journalists make a living from doing this.

What do Reviewers do
Most commonly, reviewers write about books, music, theatre, television and restaurants. There are vast areas within each of these categories and opportunities for all personalities and tastes.

What is a Review
A review is an article which analyzes any of the above. If you look at the groupings, you will see they all fit into the entertainment genre. People watch movies and stage shows, read books and dine at restaurants to enjoy themselves. The reviewer provides information and often their personal opinion on whether the entertainment is worthwhile.

Am I Qualified to Write Reviews
The basic skills required are the ability to write well and present a balanced report for the reader. In some circumstances, it is acceptable for the reviewer to inject their personal opinion but this depends on the publication.

Who Publishes Reviews
Most newspapers and magazines print reviews on a regular basis. The editors realize the value in this type of material as many people buy a paper just to see what movies are recommended for weekend viewing. Larger publications generally employ their own reviewers but smaller community papers often rely on freelancers.

Over the next few weeks we’ll examine the different areas of reviewing and discuss how to put together a review and get it into print. Come back next Wednesday to learn about book reviews.

Debbie Roome works as a freelance writer from her home in New Zealand. Visit her at Debbie Roome or read some of her work at Suite 101 , Take Root and Write and Faithwriters.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Three Recipes from The Potluck Club

Here are the promised recipes from The Potluck Club Cookbook by Linda Evans Shepherd and Eva Marie Everson.

Read a review and more about this book, and The Potluck Catering Club's lastest adventure in A Taste of Fame, on this earlier post.

Grandmother’s Coconut Chess Pie

2 eggs
1 Tbsp. flour (should be heaping)
1/8 tsp. salt
¼ Cup white sugar
¾ Cup white Karo syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
unbaked pie shell
¼ lb. butter
12-14 oz. coconut (can or bag)

Beat eggs well and set aside. In mixing bowl blend flour, salt, and sugar, then add eggs. Next add syrup and vanilla, beat until well mixed. Pour mixture into unbaked pie shell. Slice butter into thick slices and cover top of pie. Sprinkle coconut on top of pie and bake for about 1 hour in 300 degree oven or until firm and brown.

Serves 8

Linda: “I inherited this recipe from my Grandmother Evans. It’s one of the best pies I’ve ever tasted!” (Page 83)

Corn Pudding au Gratin

1 (15 oz) can creamed corn
2 Tbsp. flour
1 cup diced cheese
1/8 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. margarine
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup buttered bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine corn, flour, cheese and pepper; mix well. Add melted margarine and well-beaten eggs. Warm milk and add to mixture. Pour into 1 ½ quart casserole pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Cook in oven until pudding begins to set, then sprinkle buttered bread crumbs over the top and reduce heat to 325 and bake until firm. If bread crumbs are not sufficiently brown when pudding is firm, turn to broil briefly. Cooking time is about 30 – 40 minutes.

Eva: “This recipe reheats nicely.” (Page 169)

Linda’s Chicken Tortilla Casserole

2 ½ Tbsp. chopped onions
¼ cup butter
3 Tbsp. flour
1 ½ cups milk
¾ cup chicken broth
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. jalapeno peppers
1 ½ cups chopped canned tomatoes (stewed)
3 cups cubed chicken, cooked
½ cup shredded cheese
12 tortillas, cut into 1-inch strips

Sauté onions in butter, then add flour and cook until mixture is bubbly. Stir in milk and broth gradually. Stir in salt, peppers, and tomatoes.

In casserole dish, layer chicken, cheese, then strips of tortillas. Pour sauce over layers then sprinkle casserole with cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Serve hot.

Serves 6-8.

Linda: “You can’t go wrong with this tasty dish. It’s a potluck crowd favorite.” (Page 130)

Reprinted with permission.

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Two Books for Readers Who Like to Cook

Reviewed by Tracy Ruckman

The Potluck Club Cookbook by Linda Evans Shepherd and Eva Marie Everson
A Taste of Fame, A Potluck Catering Club novel by Linda Evans Shepherd and Eva Marie Everson

"Woo-hoo!" I shouted when I opened the package, and hubby had to know what was going on. The latest Potluck Club books - and the cookbook - had arrived! It was like opening that one sought-after, wished-for, hoped for, hinted at gift on Christmas morning! This wasn't just a pair of socks - it was THE POTLUCK GIRLS!

And I think this adventure, in A Taste of Fame, was my favorite yet! Plenty of drama, frustration, humor, adventure, and excitement to keep you turning pages.

But then, this package got even better, because it also included The Potluck Club Cookbook. That's when hubby shouted, "Woo-hoo!" at all the new recipes to try!

Have you been to hundreds of potlucks in your lifetime, like I have? Do you always discover a dish or two or three that you wish you knew how to make, or wish you'd gotten the recipe, but never did? Well, this cookbook is for us! I think I've had almost every dish in the book, but didn't have a single recipe! And as I read through them, I could pinpoint which church I'd had that dish in, which party I'd had another dish. It was so fun to read each and every one of them. And more fun to read the comments in the margins by the authors.

The publishers have graciously allowed us bloggers to share three wonderful recipes with our readers, so I'll be posting them shortly and I'll include a link when I do. Read the recipes here.

Tracy's recommendation: Go buy the books! Both of them! For you and some friends! You'll love them and so will they - I promise.

Now, about the books:

Follow the Potluck Club Ladies into Their Biggest Catering Job . . . On Reality TV!
Filled with feisty characters, friendship, and hilarity, book 2 in the beloved

The Potluck Catering Club series takes readers along for the ride to New York City

Authors Linda Evans Shepherd and Eva Marie Everson love dishing up the stories of the six friends featured in their latest series The Potluck Catering Club—much to the delight of readers. “This is the way Christian fiction should be written,” one reader says. “No cardboard Christian cut-outs of sweet angelic women none of us can relate to. These women are real, just the kind of women I find in my own community.”

A Taste of Fame is the latest book in The Potluck Catering Club series and serves up more of what readers have come to love from these feisty characters and the hilarious antics they find themselves in—which takes them this time to the Big Apple for their first taste of fame:

A Taste of Fame by Linda Evans Shepherd andEva Marie Everson
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3209-7
September 2009, $13.99

The Potluck Catering Club that these six friends started is already a growing business when a budding filmmaker decides to cast them for a class project. For fun, they agree. That is, until they realize that he has entered his documentary in a new reality show “Great Party Showdown”—and they actually get picked for the show, taking the ladies of Summit View, Colorado, to the Big Apple for the unexpected adventure of their lives. Between navigating New York City, dealing with other cutthroat contestants, and trying to maintain their close friendship in the high-stress world of reality TV, the Potluck women must keep their eyes on the prize—a cool million dollars—and work together if they’re going to make it back to Colorado in one piece.

A Taste of Fame serves up the perfect blend of humor, misadventure, and mouth-watering recipes. Fans new and old will love this exciting trip into the wild world of competitive cooking!

Linda Evans Shepherd and Eva Marie Everson are award-winning authors, successful speakers, radio personalities, and avid readers of fiction. They are the popular authors of The Potluck Club, The Potluck Club—Trouble’s Brewing, The Potluck Club—Takes the Cake, and The Secret’s in the Sauce. They’ve also led numerous Bible studies and women’s retreats and still find time to be wives and mothers. Linda lives in Colorado and Eva lives in Florida.

Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, offers practical books that bring the Christian faith to everyday life. They publish resources from a variety of well-known brands and authors, including their partnership with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Hungry Planet.
For more information, visit

Potluck Parties: The Popular Pastime Goes Posh
Dinner parties take a cue from the past, with revival in potlucks during hard financial times.

PLUS: New cookbook full of recipes perfect for these friends-and-family get-togethers!
As wallets tighten, friends and family have to get more creative about the way they socialize, seeking to make get-togethers more budget-friendly without sacrificing the fun. That challenge is what has brought about the revival of potlucks to the social scene.

The Potluck Club Cookbook by Linda Evans Shepherd & Eva Marie Everson
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3349-0
September 2009

“Eating in is the new eating out,” says Eva Marie Everson, a potluck enthusiast and co-author of The Potluck Club Cookbook. For instance, Everson and her husband used to meet up with another couple each month over dinner at a different restaurant. “But with the recent economy, we started eating in and dining √† la potluck. We get to sit on a screened-in patio and watch the sun set over the lake behind the house. We all agree we should have been doing this all along!”

Potlucks are easy even on strained budgets because no one person carries the full cost of a table-full of food; instead, guests each bring their own favorite dish and together cater the event. This allows guests to sample new dishes and share favorite recipes from their closest friends.

These potlucks that are popping up in even the classiest of circles barely resemble the potlucks of yesterday. Now, they might carry intriguing themes that the dishes are based around. For instance, a book club’s potluck might feature foods mentioned in the pages of their latest read. Or a birthday celebration for a longtime friend might be a wine-and-cheese potluck showcasing favorite edibles that get better with age. For a close girlfriend who is always known for accenting with yellow, a potluck in her honor might include a savory, golden-hued smorgasbord.

Whatever your affair may look like, Eva Marie Everson and Linda Evans Shepherd are the experts when it comes to hosting and attending these shared meals. Veterans of countless potlucks over the years, the duo has gathered their favorite potluck-ready recipes—from salads to slow-cooker delights—plus their experienced insights about pulling off a potluck into one source: The Potluck Club Cookbook. Shepherd and Evans are also the authors of the popular fiction series The Potluck Club and The Potluck Catering Club—so their penchant for potlucks is obvious.

“Potlucks have been a part of my life since childhood,” explains Everson, whose memories are rife with these culinary celebrations—from her days growing up in the South to her newlywed years to the times toting her young children along to the potluck, too. “The potluck meal isn’t just about sharing good, home-cooked food, but also about connecting with your closest friends and family and creating memories that last a lifetime,” Shepherd adds. “Potlucks must be what love tastes like.”

Available September 2009 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

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Photo Assignment #16: Seasons

Here in south Alabama, the change of seasons isn't visible yet with leaves, but we can tell autumn is arriving because of the change in sunlight, and because of all the recent rain. One of my precious friends is experiencing fall in Maine for the first time this year - she's already declared it "the most beautiful place I've ever seen."

This week's photography assignment: Share your change of seasons with us. This time - feel free to submit up to three photos to our Pix-N-Pens photo album. (Access the album using the password inspired.)

We'll announce a contest at the end of October and some of your previously posted photos may come into play.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Fat Woman Devoted to Prayer

Reviewed by Phee Paradise
The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow by Joyce Magnin

The first half of The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow reads like a slice of life in a small town in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. It’s full of quirky characters with names like Studebaker Kowalski and Personal Best. Its star citizen, Agnes Sparrow, is a 700 pound woman who prays miracles for her neighbors. Their attempts to honor her are quite humorous, even though she tries to give the glory to God. They ignore her desires because their views on prayer are more superstition than religion.

The narrative is fun to read, but I began thinking the story could have been told in a lot less space. Then, halfway through the book, the events and people began to change. Magnin surprises the reader with a series of unexpected events that change the direction of the story. As they play out, she develops several layers of complex themes. The book becomes a parable about idolatry, a treatise on group think, a lesson on faith and a personal narrative about betrayal. This is a book that would generate interesting discussions in a high school English class. Like all good literature, it provokes thought without pronouncing explicit truths. In spite of this it does have a satisfying ending, with a hint of “happily ever after.”

Pros: Wonderful characters and a great setting. Deep themes that leave you pondering.

The sudden shift in the plot may deter the reader who enjoyed the first half of the book. The local church is important to the story, but the minister offers weak spiritual leadership.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow

Abingdon Press (September 2009)


Joyce Magnin

Joyce Magnin is the author of short fiction and personal experience articles. She co-authored the book, Linked to Someone in Pain. She has been published in such magazines as Relief Journal, Parents Express, Sunday Digest, and Highlights for Children.

Joyce attended Bryn Mawr College and is a member of the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Fellowship. She is a frequent workshop leader at various writer’s conferences and women’s church groups.

She has three children, Rebekah, Emily, and Adam; one grandson, Lemuel Earnest; one son-in-law, Joshua, and a neurotic parakeet who can’t seem to keep a name. Joyce leads a small fiction group called StoryCrafters. She enjoys baseball, football, cream soda, and needle arts but not elevators. She currently lives in Havertown, Pennsylvania.

The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow is her first published novel.


The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow is the story of an unusual woman, Agnes Sparrow. No longer able or willing to leave her home, where she is cared for by her long-suffering sister Griselda, Agnes has committed her life to the one thing she can do-besides eat. Agnes Sparrow prays and when Agnes prays things happen, including major miracles of the cancer, ulcer-healing variety along with various minor miracles not the least of which is the recovery of lost objects and a prize-winning pumpkin.

The rural residents of Bright's Pond are so enamored with Agnes they plan to have a sign erected on the interstate that reads, "Welcome to Bright's Pond, Home of Agnes Sparrow." This is something Agnes doesn't want and sends Griselda to fight city hall.

Griselda's petitions are shot down and the sign plans press forward until a stranger comes to town looking for his miracle from Agnes. The truth of Agnes's odd motivation comes out when the town reels after a shocking event. How could Agnes allow such evil in their midst? Didn't she know?

Well, the prayers of Agnes Sparrow have more to do with Agnes than God. Agnes has been praying to atone for a sin committed when she was a child. After some tense days, the townsfolk, Griselda, and Agnes decide they all need to find their way back to the true source of the miracles-God.

To read the first chapter of The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow, click HERE

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Writing Prompt #16: Seasons

This week's writing prompt is prompted by the sunshine currently coming through my windows - a sight we haven't seen in a few days - weeks - possibly months? - because of all the rain we've had.

This week's prompt:

Write a scene depicting a change of season. Remember to be creative and use this prompt for a variety of purposes: nonfiction, fiction, poetry, songs; use it for just a scene, or create an entire book around it. Change POVs. Let your imagination run wild.

At the end of October, we'll announce a contest that will put these writing prompts to good use, so be sure to keep them in a file or journal.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

You Can Make a Difference

Reviewed by Phee Paradise
She Did What She Could by Elisa Morgan

Pixels, this is my first review of a non-ficti
on book. She Did What She Could is a meditation on an event in Jesus’ life and a call to action. Shortly before His arrest, Mary anointed Jesus with oil during a banquet. Morgan uses Jesus’ words about Mary’s act, “She did what she could,” to challenge her readers to acts of service and compassion. Mary used the gift she had, in the available moment, to express her love for Jesus. We should do the same.

The book cleverly emphasizes the different words in the title, using each word to challenge our assumptions. First we’re led to understand the significance of Mary’s act, then we’re asked, “What if we did what we could?” The meditations are brought home through brief stories of peop
le who did what they could. The tone is chatty and easy to read and I was reminded that there are lots of things I could be doing to make a difference.

The author tells the story of Mary and Jesus with rich imagery. She describes the scene and tells us what she imagines Mary was thinking. But as she makes her points, she seems to read too much into this incident from the Scripture. I read it with my Bible open, checking to see what the passages actually said and what part of her descriptions came from her imagination. The book is also a little repetitive. The message could have been communicated in half the space. After six chapters telling me Mary did what she could and six chapters asking what
I could do, I felt I had gotten the point.

If you believe you can’t make much difference in the world, this book will encourage and challenge you. It will give you a little push
toward action.

Pros: Imaginative meditation on a passage of scripture with a good message and challenge.

Cons: Repetitive and lacking support for some of the assertions about the passage.

About the Book

She Did What She Could: Five words of Jesus that will change your life by Elisa Morgan (Tyndale House Publishers)

Most of us care. We really do. We care about poverty and injustice, about orphans and the sick. And yet, weighed down by the everyday load of bringing home a paycheck, putting food on the table, and taking care of our family demands, we question our ability to make a difference. Bombarded by one celebrity help-the-world-athon after another, we shrug our shoulders in futility and do absolutely nothing. Enter SDWSC. Based on the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume in Mark 14, SDWSC provides overwhelmed, yet service-seeking, significance-starved readers a realistic response to the seemingly unmeetable needs around us.

Five letters. Unthinkable power.

Most of us care. We really do. We care about poverty and injustice, about orphans and the sick. And yet, weighed down by the everyday tasks of bringing home a paycheck, putting food on the table, and shuttling kids around, we question our ability to make a difference. Bombarded by one celebrity help-the-world-athon after another, we shrug our shoulders in futility and do absolutely nothing.
But what if we did . . .
Just one thing.
The thing that matters more than anything else in that one solitary moment.

What if we did just that?
What if?
Five letters that have the power to change your life, free your spirit, and transform your world!

About the Author

Elisa Morgan is a nationally recognized speaker and the author of more than fifteen books, including the best–selling What Every Mom Needs and Mom's Devotional Bible. Elisa has served as CEO of MOPS International since 1989. She is also the publisher of MomSense and FullFill magazines and is a frequent contributor to Christianity Today. Elisa is married to Evan (vice president of strategic development for RBC Ministries, known internationally for Our Daily Bread, and founder of They have two grown children and one grandchild and live in Centennial, Colorado.

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Coming Home from Mars

Review by Amy Barkman

Offworld by Robin Parrish

If Robin Parrish's Offworld has a chapter that doesn't keep you on the edge of your favorite chair with your heart pounding in anticipation of what will happen next, I missed it.

This brilliant sci-fi piece is fascinating and thought provoking. It is easy to identify with the main four characters even if they have been off playing on Mars for the past two years. It certainly wasn't their fault that they returned to an earth devoid of mankind and animals. Well, at one point they wish the earth was completely empty of the one segment of mankind that remained.

They are determined to stay alive long enough to solve the mysteries that present themselves constantly.

Since the book is published by a Christian publisher, I was surprised to find no mention of Jesus. There were a few prayers thrown out but no mention of who they were thrown to. Still, it’s a good book, no R rated material at all. And I recommend it to anyone who likes adventure.

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Editing Tip # 14: Character Descriptions

Kathy Ide’s Editing Tips
© Kathy Ide, 2009

In this column, freelance author, editor, and speaker Kathy Ide shares tips on self-editing your manuscript.


As each character enters a scene, provide a brief description of that character’s physical appearance. As with setting descriptions, keep these brief and somehow related to the action and always in the point-of-view character’s perspective. What does the heroine notice about the hero when she sees him for the first time? What does she notice about him after she’s spent a few weeks getting to know him? Don’t just tell the reader what he looks like. Show him doing something. And reveal how his appearance affects her.

For example, rather than writing, “John was tall, with black hair and brown eyes, and he wore a hat,” try something like this: “John ducked slightly as he entered the room. When he saw Mary standing in the corner, he removed his Seattle Mariners cap, revealing a mop of thick black hair that stuck out in every direction. His dark eyes darted back and forth as if he expected a wildcat to lunge at him. Mary stared at the thick fingers of his left hand as they squeezed the cap. He wasn’t wearing a ring.” Here you’ve shown that John is tall, with black hair and brown eyes. But you’ve shown the details within the action of the story rather than simply telling the reader the facts.

Vary your descriptions. Don’t show each character’s clothing every time he or she enters a scene . . . unless your main character is a fashion designer or has some other reason for noticing people’s clothes.

Showing the appearance of your point-of-view character can be tricky. Since she can’t see herself, it’s more difficult to show what she looks like. Using a mirror sometimes works, but this method can appear contrived, especially if she doesn’t have a good reason to be looking in a mirror and if you don’t show what she thinks about her appearance.


NOTE: It is an infringement of copyright law to reproduce this publication, in part or in whole, without the express permission of the author. To request permission, please e-mail



Kathy Ide has been writing for publication since 1988. She has written books, articles, play and movie scripts, short stories, devotionals, and curriculum. She is a full-time freelance editor, offering a full range of editorial services for aspiring writers, established authors, commercial book publishers, subsidy publishers, and magazines. Her services include proofreading, copyediting, substantive/content editing, coauthoring, ghostwriting, and mentoring/coaching. She also speaks at writers’ conferences across the country. She is the founder and coordinator of The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network ( and the Christian Editor Network ( To find out more, please visit

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Here Comes The Sun


Shifting Sunlight, Amicalola Falls, Georgia
Shifting Sunlight, Amicalola Falls, Georgia

When the weatherman announced on yesterday's news that it was the first day of autumn, I, along with probably many other Floridians, said, "What autumn?" Here in Central Florida, our autumn comes during the winter months of December and January, so autumn is a long way off at this point. That's not to say we don't have cooler weather in October and November, but cool air lasts a day or so and then the sun is back and the heat.

I love the sun. The sun creates things; it stirs things. It warms the life of dragonflies and the blood of lizards. It opens the petals of flowers. It puts my dog to sleep in a puddle of light. The sun brings growth and movement and activity in the garden. It brings brilliant colors to the morning and evening sky, lighting up the clouds in fantastic splendor. It also creates shade and shadows, cool spots to rest.

Embrace The Sun, Swordtail Fern
Embrace The Sun, Swordtail Fern

The change of seasons is based on the path of the sun, its height in the sky and its movement across the earth. Long summer afternoons contrast themselves with longer winter nights. I rise in the mornings now and have to wait almost and hour for the sun to make its initial appearance. Cold fog creeps across the ground, swallowing up all things in its path.

But the sun always rises and clears away the sleep of night. The sky, flush with its sparkle, is the first to embrace it, and then the ground, and the leaves. The night creatures begin to fold in, to again await the darkness, and the day creatures stir and stretch and rise.

Good Morning Sunrise
Good Morning Sunrise

I love the sun. I love it for what its coming does each day and for what its leaving does each night. It authors. It emphasizes. It germinates.

Raspberry Blossom
Raspberry Blossom

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Suzanne Williams Photography
To Read More of my Thoughts
Florida, USA

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

FBI Agent Falls in Love

Reviewed by Phee Paradise
An Eye for an Eye by Irene Hannon

With a sniper shooting in the first chapter, An Eye for an Eye starts with a promise of action. But it quickly bogs down in the relationship of the two main characters. Their instant rapport based on a twenty year old romance, and their memories of that time, are interspersed with the search for the would-be killer. They each rehash their feelings for each other and their fears about rekindling their love, while FBI agents look for clues. I’m not a big fan of flashbacks, but I found myself wishing Hannon had used one or two to catch us up and move on to the story at hand.

The characters are compelling and you have to like them. But as the tough FBI agent shows his softer side, he also reveals that he has wandered far from his childhood faith. His love interest, who is a committed Christian, is concerned about his soul, but doesn’t worry about her own relationship with an unbeliever. She sees a wonderful man and is pleased that her faith opens his heart to begin seeking the Lord again. But his return to faith is not explicit and I wanted to have a motherly chat with her about the problems I’ve seen in marriages between believers and unbelievers.

But there is a killer to catch, and as the romance progresses, so does the investigation. The FBI and police actions ring true, including some tedious detective work, as they follow a limited number of clues. The strength of the book lies in the brief glimpses we are given of the shooter. As the investigation progresses so does our knowledge about him and his motives. In the end I found myself hoping he would get some help; mercy as well as justice.

It’s a good crime story, but prepare yourself for lots of romantic scenes and a lot of introspection by the main characters.

Pros: Well plotted crime investigation with just enough clues to keep you going. A very good depiction of the perpetrator.

Cons: Repetitive descriptions of the characters’ feelings.

Available September 2009 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

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The Value of Journaling

Five Reasons to Keep a Journal
By Debbie Roome

The word journal comes from the same root as the words journey and day. A journal is a day to day record of the journey of life. Keeping a journal can be extremely meaningful and a wonderful way to unwind and analyze feelings.

Record Thoughts and Memories
Write down special happenings and events that impact your life. This may be for your own personal enjoyment or as a record for future generations. Never underestimate how important these words could be for your children and grandchildren. If writing from a historical point of view, mention significant medical advances or incidents that may interest family in years to come.

Times of Solitude for your Soul
Journaling is generally a private affair. It forces you to take time out and find a secluded spot to pour your feelings onto paper. It’s a time to relax and think; a time to examine heart issues and write about them.

Journaling is a Form of Creativity
Because journals are mostly for personal enjoyment, it is easy to write freely without worrying about polishing words and perfecting punctuation. It’s a place to experiment, to write snatches of creativity and phrases that appeal. If you want to fill a page with words describing cookies or a stormy lake, that’s absolutely acceptable.

Writing can aid Inner Healing
A journal is a place to explore emotional pain and write things that can’t or shouldn’t be expressed verbally. Writing things out is often cathartic and brings clarity and healing. I love this quote from Shakespeare’s Othello: What wound did ever heal but by degrees? Journaling can be part of that healing process.

Connecting with God
Journaling can link well with devotional times. Reading the Bible and recording thoughts and revelations in a journal can reinforce what God is saying to you. It can also be a means of expressing deep feelings to God; feelings you may have difficulty verbalizing can be written down.

Many people journal every day as part of their routine. Others journal erratically as inspiration strikes or something significant happens that they want to record. Whichever way you journal, it can result in great growth and personal satisfaction.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hope for Christmas

Reviewed by Phee Paradise
One Imperfect Christmas by Myra Johnson

Sometimes when one is burdened by overwhelming guilt, it turns inward, making the person incredibly self-occupied. Natalie, in One Imperfect Christmas, lets this happen to her. When her mother has a stroke, she blames herself. Her guilt and anger overwhelm everything else in her life and she can only think about how she feels. She refuses to accept understanding and compassion from the people who love her, claiming that no one understands her feelings. She pushes away the people who love her most and jeopardizes her marriage and her daughter’s security. She can’t see how she’s hurting them.

The book is one long cry of pain, but it isn’t maudlin, and the road Natalie, Daniel and their daughter, Lissa, travel is a logical one. Genuine emotions take the characters from one bad decision to another, making their estrangement understandable. Natalie and Daniel don’t see how they can ever undo all the hurt they have caused each other, but the reader hopes they will find a way.

Hope lies in the Christmas theme, which Johnson skillfully uses to tie different facets of the story together. Natalie and Lissa beg God for a Christmas miracle, and He surprises them with His love. I hope you’ll read the book to see how His healing is greater than our hurting.

Pros: Strong characters and emotions that move the story forward with a hopeful ending.

Cons: Some of the life transitions are abrupt, leaving the reader wondering how the characters got there.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

One Imperfect Christmas

Abingdon Press (September 2009)


Myra Johnson


Making up stories has been second nature to me for as long as I can remember. A select group of trusted friends back at dear old Mission High waited eagerly for the next installment of my "Great American Spy Novel" (think Man from Uncle) and my "All-American Teen Novel" (remember Gidget and Tammy?). I even had a private notebook of angst-ridden poetry a la Rod McKuen.

The dream of writing persisted into adulthood, although it often remained on the back burner while I attended to home and family and several "real" (read paying) jobs along the way. Then in 1983, while recovering from sinus surgery, I came upon one of those magazine ads for the Institute of Children’s Literature. I knew it was time to get serious, and the next thing I knew, I'd enrolled in the “Writing for Children and Teenagers” course.

Within a year or so I sold my first story, which appeared in the Christian publication Alive! for Young Teens. For many years I enjoyed success writing stories and articles for middle-graders and young adults. I even taught for ICL for 9 years.

Then my girls grew up, and there went my live-in inspiration. Time to switch gears. I began my first women's fiction manuscript and started attending Christian writers conferences. Eventually I learned about American Christian Romance Writers (which later became American Christian Fiction Writers) and couldn't wait to get involved. Friends in ACFW led me to RWA and the online inspirational chapter, Faith, Hope & Love.

So here I am today, still on this crazy roller-coaster ride. Still writing. Still hopeful. Writing, I'm learning, is not about the destination, it's about the journey. My current projects are primarily women's fiction and romance . . . novels of hope, love, and encouragement. Novels about real women living out their faith and finding love in the midst of everyday, and sometimes not so everyday, situations.


Graphic designer Natalie Pearce faces the most difficult Christmas of her life. For almost a year, her mother has lain in a nursing home, the victim of a massive stroke, and Natalie blames herself for not being there when it happened. Worse, she's allowed the monstrous load of guilt to drive a wedge between her and everyone she loves-most of all her husband Daniel. Her marriage is on the verge of dissolving, her prayer life is suffering, and she's one Christmas away from hitting rock bottom.

Junior-high basketball coach Daniel Pearce is at his wit's end. Nothing he's done has been able to break through the wall Natalie has erected between them. And their daughter Lissa's adolescent rebellion isn't helping matters. As Daniel's hope reaches its lowest ebb, he wonders if this Christmas will spell the end of his marriage and the loss of everything he holds dear.

To read the first chapter of One Imperfect Christmas, click HERE

Watch the trailer:

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