Monday, November 30, 2009

A Month of Christmas Stories

Greetings, Pixels! I hope your Thanksgiving weekend was filled with love, laughter, joy, peace, and fun - and plenty of awesome food and awesome football wins. (Or shopping trips ...)

Tomorrow, we're going to start a month of something a bit different. I wanted Debbie, Suzanne, Phee, and Kathy to have time to celebrate the season with their families, so I gave them a month off. Instead of their regular columns, we'll provide Christmas stories written by all of us, and by some of you! The first week of January, we'll post a list of contest finalists, and you'll get to vote on your favorites - your votes will count for half the total score for each entry, so please stop in daily to read all the entries. Of course, the staff of PnP won't be in the contest, but we want to share our stories, too, just for your reading pleasure.

I'm looking forward to this month, and hope you are, too. See you tomorrow.

UPDATE: A clarification upon request - If you submitted a story to the contest, and it is chosen for publication in Pix-N-Pens and/or A Pixel-Perfect Christmas, you will be notified within the next few days. Your story could appear in one or both places, and could be chosen as one of the finalists for readers to vote on in January. Hope that makes sense!

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Friday, November 27, 2009

A Recipe for all that Leftover Turkey

Did you head out and brave the crowds today? Or did you stay home and decorate for Christmas? Or cheer on your favorite team in their last regular season game? (Roll Tide!)

We'll be doing several different and exciting things here at Pix-N-Pens over the next six weeks or so. Today, we share a recipe and a story from Christian author Kay Marshall Strom.


This warm, mellow soup from Senegal, West Africa, can easily incorporate any extra turkey you have on hand. Just substitute it for the chicken.

You will need:

1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 teaspoons flour
2 cups chicken broth
½ cup diced chicken (or turkey)
1 cup yogurt
juice of 1/2 fresh lemon
fresh chives, washed and snipped

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the curry powder and flour and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Gradually blend in the chicken broth and bring to a boil, continuing to stir constantly. Add diced chicken (or turkey).

Remove the kettle from the heat and cool the soup slightly. Gradually stir in the yogurt, a small amount at a time. Squeeze the juice from the lemon half and add the juice to the soup.Garnish each bowl of soup with a dash of fresh chives.

The Women at the Well
Kay Marshall Strom

In Senegal, West Africa, I sat beside the community well, because that’s where the village women gathered. Out of the dusty wasteland they came, from every direction, their babies tied to their backs and their water containers balanced on their heads. They were glad to rest beside the well, for they had to walk many miles to get there. The average woman in the world, we are told, walks seven miles a day in her quest for water. When you factor in those of us who only walk to the kitchen to turn on the faucet, you can see that some must trek much farther than seven miles!

At the well, the women have a chance to catch up with the goings-on in neighboring villages, to air their complaints with one another, and to share their own news. And so I sat by the well with Obei and Helene, two Christian women in a country 98 percent Muslim, and waited to meet the women as they came for water.

And come they did.

A young woman came, sobbing over her baby son who was burning with fever. We prayed together in Jesus’ name that her baby would be healed.

A girl came and whispered her wish to learn to read, but said she could not because the walk to the well and back took her all day. Obei offered to teach her a little every day when she came for water. She started with: “For God so loved the world….”

A woman came with terror in her eyes and confided that her daughter must surely be a witch. Helene prayed for the girl, but also for the mother. “Do not believe what others tell you,” she warned the distraught mother. “Believe in the power of God.”

And Songa came. Obei and Helene had prayed with her before in Jesus’ name, and Songa had seen a miracle as her seriously ill son was healed. Now she too, was a follower of Christ. “My husband ordered me to renounce Jesus,” Songa told us. “When I would not, he threw me out of the house, but he kept my children. Please, please… pray for my little ones. Pray that they too will know the God of mercy and love.”

This holiday season, I am thankful for the women at the well in Senegal—all three of them, for Songa has joined the other two. I’m thankful for the lives they are touching in the name of Jesus. Most of all, I am thankful for the Living Water that flows freely for every one of us.

Author Kay Marshall Strom has two great loves: writing and helping others achieve their own writing potential. Kay has written thirty-six published books, numerous magazine articles, and two screenplays. While mostly a nonfiction writer, the first book of her historical novel trilogy Grace in Africa has met with acclaim.

Kay speaks at seminars, retreats, writers’ conferences, and special events throughout the country and around the world. She is in wide demand as an instructor and keynote speaker at major writing conferences. She also enjoys speaking aboard cruise ships in exchange for exotic cruise destinations. Learn more about Kay at her website.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thank You!

This year has been a difficult one in many ways for most of us, but it has also been a year of exciting transitions and tremendous blessings. Thank you, dear Pixels, for sharing our year and letting us be part of your life. We cherish the friendships made through our efforts here, and appreciate your participation, encouragement, and prayers.

I also want to express my deepest gratitude to Debbie Roome, Suzanne Williams, Phee Paradise, and Kathy Ide - for making Pix-N-Pens such a wonderful place. Ladies - I appreciate you, admire you, and love you dearly.

Happy Thanksgiving, Pixels!

May the Lord present Himself to each and every one of you in a mighty, mighty way during this special time of year.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Little Gem

Reviewed by Phee Paradise
Better Than Jewels by Linda Newton

The book of Proverbs is full of wisdom for living. Often you find it one nugget at a time. Better than Jewels is presented to the reader in the same way with 31 daily devotionals. Each one is a meditation on a one word topic, such as experience, parenting and trust. Newton quotes a verse from Proverbs that offers wisdom on the topic, then follows it with her insight about it. To make it personal, she then tells a story from her own life or that of someone she knows. As a pastor’s wife, she has a lot of stories.

I enjoyed this little devotional and I think you will too. It is well written and Newton’s insights stay on topic. She doesn’t expound on the theology or doctrine of the scripture, but offers her readers daily encouragement instead. The stories are well told and to the point. I didn’t see any obvious organization of the book by topic or scripture, but it’s the kind of book the Holy Spirit can use to speak to you about what you need to hear.

Pros: Short devotional with a personal message based on scripture. Easy to read and enjoyable, but with a point you can dwell on each day.

Cons: Not a deep study of scripture. It shouldn’t replace your daily Bible reading.

About the Author

Linda Newton's contagious enthusiasm and engaging storytelling brings God's Word to life. With authentic transparency and down-home humor she shares how God transformed heartbreak in her life into hope from her new book Twelve Ways to Turn Your Pain Into Praise published by Warner Press. Her new devotional book, Better Than Jewels: 31 Days of Biblical Insight for a Woman Seeking God is currently on sale now.

Linda and her husband Bruce pastor Sierra Pines Church in Oakhurst, CA where Linda has served as a counselor for the past 20 years. As a speaker, author, and counselor her passion is to lead ladies to a greater understanding of the abundant life available to them in Christ (John 10:10). You will laugh, learn, and leave feeling closer to the Lord!

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Giving Gifts to God

What can we give God for Christmas
By Debbie Roome

It’s less than a month to Christmas and the pace is accelerating. I’m sure it’s the same where you are. My calendar is jammed full of engagements, dinners and shows ... and most of the time I love it. I have a special bonus this year. My parents and sister are visiting from South Africa and we’ll be together for Christmas for the first time in four years.

It’s a wonderful season but sometimes we lose sight of what is really important. As you celebrate over the next few weeks, here are a few pointers to think about.

Give your Gifts and Talents to God
Christmas is a creative time and our writing talents can be put to good use. Think along the lines of plays, stories and reporting on Christmas events. I’m involved in our local community carols and although it is a secular event, it is organized by a group of Christians. I’m playing keyboard and I’ve written a story to read as part of the fun – but it has a message of hope and love woven into it. Ask God for openings where you can use your gifts to honor Him this Christmas.

Give your Time to God
Time with God is often compromised at Christmas. Everything seems to speed up and quiet times are delayed, cancelled or forgotten. Last year, I made a point of reading the Christmas story from the Bible every day. It was amazing how real it became to me ... and I plan to do the same this December. If you make a firm decision to base your Christmas on God, you’ll be amazed at the peace and joy you can experience in the midst of chaos.

Give yourselves to God
Christmas is the season where we remember God’s incredible gift to us. He gave us Jesus as a tiny baby, knowing He would one day die to pay for our sins. Christmas is a time where we celebrate the birth of Jesus ... but also a time where we can give ourselves to God in a greater measure.

As December approaches, I encourage you to plan your days with God in the center of them – let Him be the thread that runs through all your plans, all your dreams and all your hopes - and then relax and enjoy time with friends and family.

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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Monday, November 23, 2009

Loss of Carrier

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Loss Of Carrier

BookSurge Publishing (October 27, 2009)


Russ White


Russ White is an internationally recognized internetwork engineer. He has co-authored eight books in the field of network design and routing
protocols and is a regular speaker at international networking conferences.

In addition to working on several expert and senior-level network engineering certifications, he is a certified firearms instructor.

Russ, his wife, and their two children live in the Raleigh area of North Carolina, where they enjoy spending time on Jordan Lake and attending Colonial Baptist Church. Loss of Carrier is his first novel.


Bright yellow cables against a blue shirt? Carl never would have approved of that color combination. Why was his face so white? His eyes should be closed, not open. Why hadn’t one of the security guards seen this and reported it to the police? The lights were off, the cameras were useless in the dark.

Of course, the cables wrapped around Carl’s neck explained why the server wasn’t working. Loss of carrier.

Jess Wirth lives a dreary life. He spends most of his time crammed inside a cubicle, toiling as a network engineer and stewing over the details of his ugly divorce. But when he finds his co-worker dead in the basement of their office, Jess’s life takes a surprising—and unpleasant—turn.

The police quickly declare the death a suicide, but Jess isn’t so sure. Not long after he begins digging into the victim’s work, another co-worker turns up dead, convincing him once and for all that something sinister is brewing behind the cubicle walls.

His investigation leads him to a mysterious woman name Leah, who pushes him to entrust her with the information he’s collected about his dead colleagues. Wary of Leah’s motives yet inexorably drawn to her, Jess keeps her at arm’s length...until an attempt is made on both their lives. Realizing they are close on the trail of a dangerous criminal, the pair race to expose a data theft ring before they become the killer’s next victims.

To read the first chapter of Loss Of Carrier, click HERE

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Friday, November 20, 2009

God's Princesses are Beautiful

Reviewed by Phee Paradise
Fit for My King by Sheri Rose Shepherd

I was excited about Fit for My King because I have been struggling with weight loss for years. I know all the principles of healthy eating, but usually can’t motivate myself to follow them. I hoped a Christian perspective would make the difference.

The book offers a diet plan the author has developed from her own experiences with eating disorders. But first, Shepherd talks about Queen Esther’s beauty regimen developed to please the king. She tells her readers we are princesses and challenges us to live to please our King. She uses several different scriptures to remind us that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and treating it well will give us health and energy.

Before presenting the eating plan, she also offers a covenant letter for the reader to sign. The rest of the book is a series of 30 daily devotionals with a scripture, a prayer and an action to take. It ends with menu plans and recipes for “His princess” to follow.

The concept that intrigued me was tying fasting to healthy eating. Shepherd challenges her readers to fast from sugar, as well as other unhealthy foods, for 30 days. For me, this turned a fairly familiar diet plan into an act of worship. Unfortunately, the rest of the book didn’t help me to follow the plan the way I was hoping. I found the devotionals to be pep talks, rather than meditations on the scriptures presented. Many of them were about issues of self-esteem that I do not face.

You’ll appreciate the book if you are looking for Christian encouragement and emotional support. It may also challenge you to change your attitudes toward food.

Pros: Christian perspective on healthy eating with daily devotionals and new recipes. Also has some insight into causes of eating disorders.

Cons: Scriptures are quoted, but not explained.

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

About the book:

Discover the best health and weight-loss secrets found in God's Word!

In this 30 day journey, the bestselling author of His Princess shares how God healed her from an eating disorder, helped her conquer chronic fatigue, and gave her the strength and wisdom to lose over sixty pounds and keep it off. Today, at nearly 50 years old, Sheri Rose is healthy and free. More than a half a million women have been set free through this life changing teaching.

You can win this diet war once and for all! Sheri Rose Shepherd walks through each day with you, supporting you with 30 days of life changing devotions, heartwarming stories, creative cooking, and a daily dose of Scripture to keep you on track. The treasures of truth found in these pages will transform the way you see yourself forever.

It's time to get your girlfriends together and become the best version of you! God loves you and will be with you every step of the way.

About the author:

Sheri Rose Shepherd is the founder of His Princess Ministries and the author of several books, including the bestselling His Princess: Love Letters from Your King. She was the popular subject of a prime-time Billy Graham special and will be touring with Extraordinary Women in 2010. She lives with her family in Orange County, California.

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You're Invited to an Online "Happy Birthday, Jesus" Party

NASHVILLE—November 19, 2009 - This Christmas an expected quarter million Christian families—individually and through churches—will make high-tech history when, through Really Woolly® Kids, a Dayspring® division, they participate in a two-month online Happy Birthday, Jesus party with a live teacher, part of Really Woolly Kids’s growing line of Online Family Adventures.

Happy Birthday, Jesus launched its new interactive online experience in partnership with Oregon-based Flying Rhinoceros Enterprises. Really Woolly Kids premierd this unprecedented technology to unite kids and parents in spiritual learning while giving kids a safe place to play because the teacher sees kids’ game progress but sees no kids. (Really Woolly teachers come largely from Portland Bible College or Multnomah grad students. The program allows for an unlimited number of teachers.)

How does the Happy Birthday party work? Families, churches or Sunday school departments log on. Teachers appear on-screen—young, enthusiastic, encouraging each child by name—and the games and learning begin. All through the lovable lamb characters that made Really Woolly the top-selling division in Dayspring. Each log-in to the party gives:

*A live, interactive, 30-minute session with a trained teacher
*Live sessions on your schedule, daily, each hour 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
*Games and activities that educate and entertain
*Stories from the lovable lambs of the Really Woolly Kids series
*A week's worth of daily activities

(For a free demonstration, log on to, click on "free experience," login with password: support.)

“From searching the world, at this point we know of no Christian or secular technology where a teacher connects live with kids in an interactive game platform. This is a first,” said Flying Rhinoceros founder and president Ranjy Thomas. Within 18 months, Thomas predicts, this Internet platform will be the “best after-school program in the nation.” Kids’ enthusiasm for Webkins and Club Penguin, precursors to Thomas’ more advanced technology, he says, bodes well for HBJ and Dayspring’s future Online Family Adventures.

Dayspring Marketing Manger Kendra Moore likes seeing the technology turn the clock back on how families absorb eternal values together. “In our consumer society, once a week, parents drop kids at the children’s department and head off to their own classes or service,” Moore explains. “We come alongside parents and bridge the gap between Sundays with biblically sound, entertaining, and engaging activities to pull families closer together."

“In beta tests,” Moore added, “response was off the charts."

Local churches can join the world’s biggest birthday party at Happy Birthday, Jesus, free to use:

*Introductory videos suitable for any size group from a Sunday School class to a full sanctuary
*Frequently Asked Questions for church leaders and individual families
*Safety descriptions
*Free, ready-to-use templates for bulletin inserts, fliers, and emails to spread the word about this exciting project to an estimated 250,000 families

The Happy Birthday, Jesus support site and the Happy Birthday, Jesus online party site are up and running. The party runs throughout November and December 2009.

Happy Birthday, Jesus springs from Really Woolly and DaySpring Cards’ recently launched Online Family Adventure. Dayspring is the world’s largest creator and distributor of Christian cards, personal expressions, gifts and home d├ęcor.

DaySpring is a leading manufacturer and distributor of Christian greeting cards and other personal expression products and gifts. DaySpring products are sold in Christian retailers, card and gift stores, and other outlets in the United States and 60 foreign countries. Based in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, DaySpring has a staff of over 325 employees. In 1999, the company was acquired by Hallmark. DaySpring offers more than 7,000 products each year and touches more than 860 million people in a year.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Surviving Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving being a one-day event has always brought difficulty for me. This is because, simply put, once I was married, I found myself with too much family. My one, big meal now stretched into three big meals. Need I remind you that, discounting breakfast, there are only two other meals during the day? Suddenly, I had to somehow fit everyone into the schedule.

And more meals meant extra cooking. Dishes had to be fixed to arrive piping hot at a particular place at only certain times. I had to be sure I was smiling and happy for each event, willing to try every casserole or dessert brought, and full of positive feedback. After all, they only fixed that dish once a year. Frankly, by the time I reached the dinner meal, I was exhausted and couldn't care less what my family looked like, much less have any room left in my stomach to force any food into.

Over the years, things have adjusted somewhat. I have learned how to cope, what to put aside, and how to enjoy the day. Here are a few tips from my personal experience.

1. Sit down

Take the time to stop cooking, and rest for a moment. Turn your thoughts to something not Thanksgiving related and forget for at least a few minutes the hectic things going on around you.


2. Be patient

Thanksgiving, and Christmas too, for that matter, means dealing with friends and relatives you don't see very often. Their habits and your habits can clash and cause conflict. Determine instead to exercise your patience. You'll find it will make the day go much smoother. You are, after all, only responsible for your own behavior, not theirs.

3. Take photographs

Photograph the food, the location, the people, even the pets. Put on your creative hat and look for unusual angles. Take photos that depict the action. Group things together - the dishes you only take out twice a year, the decorations, or the generations of your family (grandmother, mother, daughter). If you are indoors, use a tripod or a flash. Pay attention to your shutter speed so that any movement blur is minimized.

Harvest Basket
Harvest Basket

4. Be thankful

Don't forget what the holiday was created for. This is a day to say show your gratitude for those in your life who have helped you. And most of all be grateful for what God has done for you this year. The sports and the food are only part of the celebration. Take the time to pray and tell Him "thanks".

This is my last Pix-N-Pens blog for 2009. They will resume each Thursday beginning in January of 2010. I will continue to update my personal blog (link below) if you wish to continue to hear from me.

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Suzanne Williams Photography
My Blog
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Will Death be Defeated in the Future?

Reviewed by Phee Paradise
Eternity Falls by Kirk Outerbridge

I’ve never read a cyber thriller, although I like science fiction. So Eternity Falls was new to me, but had a lot of familiar elements. The world of Rick Macey has taken our obsession with the internet to a new extreme and it was a little scary to read about people physically connected through jacks in their necks. But I’ve seen enough futuristic movies for that to almost seem natural.

The real theme is whether mankind should use science to prolong our lives indefinitely. A Miracle Treatment has been developed that will do just that, and Macey is hired to stop a “terrorist” who has found a way to negate the treatment. His adventures are typical of any detective novel, including car chases, gun battles and fighting an evil mastermind. He’s hired by a beautiful woman who intrigues him, but hinders his investigation.

Macey faces the question of immortality in an internal debate, as well as with Sheila, who is a scientist, and even the terrorist. Religion has been all but forgotten, after the passage of the Freedom from Deity law, but Macey was once a Christian. God plays a role in the decisions about the Miracle Treatment and Macey must confront his past.

Outerbridge has constructed a tight crime story with lots of action, thought provoking themes and good characters. My only complaint is with Sheila, the woman who hires Macey. She is presented as a tough corporate manager, with some nasty personal habits. But she very quickly turns into an emotional wimp. It’s a bit incongruous when Macey calls her face angelic. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying a fun story.

Pros: Fast action, challenging ideas and good characters as well as a strange but believable futuristic world.

Cons: Lots of computer jargon and technology that is quite confusing, but necessary to the action.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Eternity Falls

Marcher Lord Press (October 1, 2009)


Kirk Outerbridge


Kirk Outerbridge developed a passion for storytelling at an early age. Through years of reading Fantasy and Science Fiction novels, comics, table top gaming and watching endless hours Japanese anime, he developed a keen sense for what made stories enjoyable and more importantly—what didn’t.

While pursuing an engineering degree in college, Kirk endeavored to tell his own stories, choosing writing as the easiest and cheapest medium to master—or so he thought. Several years and several hundred thousand words later, he produced a Sci-fi trilogy that shall never (God willing) see the light of day, but that did teach him much needed lessons about the craft of writing fiction.

After college Kirk returned to his homeland of Bermuda where he reunited with his childhood friend and future wife, Ria. But before marrying his lovely wife, Kirk entered an even greater marriage and devoted his life to Christ in 2002.

With a new found direction in life, writing fell by the wayside but the urge to tell futuristic stories never left. After much prayer and contemplation, Kirk purposed his writing for God’s Will, seeking to draw to Christ those who shared his passions for all things futuristic and Sci-fi.

Kirk currently lives with his wife Ria and 18 month old son Miles in beautiful Bermuda. He is a faithful member of the Church of Christ and is a professional engineer employed by the government.


In the future, death is only a problem if you can’t afford the price. Such is the promise of Gentec Corporation’s “Miracle Treatment”, a genetic anti-aging elixir that grants eternal life—or does it?

When a Gentec client suddenly dies of natural causes, the powers that be will stop at nothing to ensure their version of eternity remains unchallenged; even if it means concocting a religious sabotage conspiracy to cover a lie.

With the media about to blow the story wide open, the credibility of Gentec and the lives of millions of clients rest on one man’s ability to uncover the truth.
Enter detective Rick Macey, religious counterterrorist expert and Gentec executive Sheila Dunn’s last hope for salvation.

Now with the clock ticking and the corporate brass seeking their own solution at any cost, Macey must track down a religious zealot out to destroy the Miracle Treatment for good.

But when Macey finds himself not only falling for his client, but confronted with the possibility that the culprit could hold a connection to his shaded past, the truth suddenly becomes a dangerous thing.

Only through a test of faith can he stop the crisis before it’s all too late and eternity falls.

To read an excerpt from Chapter 1 of Eternity Falls, click HERE

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Writing a Christmas Blessing

Give the Gift of Words
By Debbie Roome

How do you feel when someone pays you a genuine compliment? Warm and fuzzy inside? Excited and happy? Like you’re floating around for the rest of the day? Positive words can transform the way we view ourselves and make us feel better about life. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful Christmas gift to give a friend or family member?

How can I Write a Blessing
There are several ways we can bless a loved one with our written words. Here are some ideas:
· Write an account of something meaningful she has achieved
· Write a paragraph of two on how you perceive God’s peace, joy etc in his actions and lifestyle
· Fictionalize an event in her life and write it into a story she will recognize
· Ask his friends and family members to write a few lines about what he means to them

How to Present the Blessing
Again, there are different ways we can do this:
· Print the words onto special card or paper and frame them
· Make the story into a booklet with a cover and photos of the person and what they have achieved
· Make a scrapbook and include comments from friends on each page
· Find a blank card with a meaningful image on front and glue the words inside

A Gift that will last Forever
The power of words should never be underestimated. I have a box full of uplifting cards and letters I’ve received over the years. Even though some were written ages ago, they still have the power to encourage me and spur me on to greater things.

A written Christmas blessing is a wonderful gift to give and will normally be treasured for years – long after the chocolates are eaten, the socks are worn out and the jewellery tarnished. Why not start working on your blessing now? Ask God for inspiration and wisdom ... and have some creative fun!

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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Monday, November 16, 2009

Holiday Sale - Save up to 50%!

I opened up the 2010 calendar for Write Integrity, and except for our awesome line-up of WIES Workshops, it's rather empty. So I decided to have a HOLIDAY SALE*!

From now until December 15, 2009 (or until our calendar is full - whichever comes first), we're offering some specials so good, we hope you won't pass them up!

New Clients: Schedule your editing project NOW, for any time January 4, 2010 - March 1, 2010. If you reserve your spot by December 15th, 2009 with a 50% downpayment (balance due by project date scheduled), we'll give you a 50% DISCOUNT on "The Works" edit for your project! Yes, 50% discount off our regular posted rates. Limited spots are available, so reserve your spot as soon as possible to guarantee the discount.

For example, let's say your manuscript is 75,000 words. Normally, your cost would be $1500, payable in advance. But with this special, you'll pay only $750, AND you can pay in two installments of $375 each! What a bargain!

Previous clients: Many of you receive discounted rates already, but I'll give you a discount off your standard rate and let you pay in installments, too. Just email me with details, and we'll work out a special discount, just for you!

Self-publishing clients: We've recently bundled our services into full packages for clients who are self-publishing their books. Schedule your package before December 15, 2009, to begin work any time January 4, 2010 - March 1, 2010, and we'll give you a 25% discount on the entire package! (Savings of $262 to $737!)

Send Tracy an e-mail today to schedule your project. Be sure to put "Holiday Specials" in your subject line and/or the body of the email.

You must schedule your project by December 15, 2009 to take advantage of the discounts. Quantities are limited due to workload limits, so the earlier you reserve, the more likely you'll have space available.

Be sure to remind your loved ones that we offer gift certificates - the perfect gift for any writer!

*P.S. I use the term HOLIDAY SALE to be inclusive of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannakuh, and the New Year, not to avoid CHRISTMAS. Jesus Christ IS the reason for the season, and I'm proud to proclaim it! He is the Messiah and Savior, and I cherish this season to remember, celebrate, and honor His birth, His death, His resurrection, His salvation for all. If you don't know Jesus as your own personal Lord and Savior, send me an e-mail and I'll share with you how to invite Him into your life.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

You Could Win a GORGEOUS Christmas Basket!

The Christmas Miracles book we featured here at the end of October is on an awesome blog tour. The publicity team, Kathy Carlton Willis Communications, is giving away a BEAUTIFUL Christmas gift basket filled with all sorts of goodies and two copies of Christmas Miracles.

Since we'd already featured the book, I didn't participate in this tour, but you can STILL enter to win the contest. Below, you'll find a list of participating blogs. Just pop over to any or all of them, leave a relevant comment, and you'll be entered to win. I'd LOVE for one of our Pixels to win, so if you're chosen, send me a note and we'll announce it here!

I'm also interviewed today on Teresa Slack's blog Joy in the Journey, so come on over for a visit!

Oh, and before I forget, we just learned that the publisher of Christmas Miracles, St. Martin's Press, has given permission to share four stories from the book, so we'll feature those stories here at Pix-N-Pens sometime after Thanksgiving.

Now, here's the list of participating bloggers - stop by and leave a comment for your chance to win! Tell them Tracy at Pix-N-Pens sent you.

Cindy Scinto Blog
Melanie Writes
Homeschool Blogger
Christmas Miracles 2009
Written By Faith
Blogs of Books
Sunnybrook MeanderingsWyn is Reading Books
Joy in the Journey
Abundant Blessings
My Heart Belongs to Books
One Man Revival
Amuzing Mom
Dancing Word
Wendi's Book Corner
Faith Creativity Life
Finding Hope Through Christian Fiction
Carly Bird Home
Cindy's Love of Books
Connected to Christ
Tinsley Troup
Unfettered Designs
My Book Bliss
Come Meet Aus Jenny
Canadian Lady Bug Reviews
Reviews and Reflections
Gatorz Skunks and Mudcats
The Nearsighted Bookworm
The Radical Write
His Reading List
The Thinking Girl's Guide
Everything's Coming Up Daisies
Are They All Yours
Seed Thoughts
Christy's Book Blog
Net's Notes
Enroute to Life
Janey's Muse
Growing for Christ
Pam T's Blog
Amusing Mom Speaks
Word Up

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tips For Holiday Photos


With Thanksgiving and Christmas on the horizon, here are a few tips to making your holiday photographs a bit more interesting.

1. Bokeh

What is bokeh? Bokeh involves making something deliberately out of focus and having it work well in an image. You can do this using any number of objects, but the most popular would be background lighting. Bokeh will give an image a very abstract feel. Don't be afraid to try something more creative in a holiday image.

Christmas colors
Christmas Colors in Abstract

2. Lights

Perhaps you want to photograph the lights and have them actually be in focus. My first tip would be to use a tripod and a shutter release. If you don't have a tripod, look for a solid surface - a table, fence post, or railing - instead. And if you don't have a remote shutter release, most cameras come with a 2 or 10 second timer which will work just as well.

For images involving lights, I like to adjust my shutter speed manually and I always spot focus. Photographing lights will not require as long of a shutter speed as you think it will. Generally speaking, the longer the shutter is open the less definition you'll see in the lights (which takes you back to bokeh in point one). If you are in doubt as to what speed to use, then don't be afraid to take several photos with different shutter speeds. After all, it's better to be "safe, than sorry" later.

Christmas Lights All In A Row
Christmas Lights All In A Row

3. Unusual

Look for unusual subjects and zoom in close. Food, decorations, even seasonal flowers make great holiday images. Decorate your pets or even your children and capture them in action, wrapping presents, baking cookies, or jumping in the leaves.


4. Location

As they say, location, location, location. In this case, I mean go to a holiday themed location, pose the family and capture the moment. It is great for everyone's spirits and fun to remember. Photographs are, after all, about saving one's memories.

Christmas Tree, Grand Floridian Hotel, Orlando, Florida
Christmas Tree, Grand Floridian Hotel, Orlando, Florida

5. Black & White

Try eliminating the color in your images and go for black & white photographs. I prefer photographing in color and then converting the images into grayscale later using Photoshop. But there are many, many other ways which will give you excellent results. Try giving the image a creative frame or overlaying a softening filter. Sometimes a subtle effect will enhance the photo nicely.

White Christmas
White Christmas

Most of all, remember why we are thankful this season. Give time and love to your family and friends, and spend at least one moment with the Father, saying, "Thanks, God, for all you have done for me this year."

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Suzanne Williams Photography
My Blogger
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Register now for Kathy Ide's online course

Our own Kathy Ide will be teaching an online course starting Monday, November 16.

During this four-week "Building Your Publishing Credits" course, you'll explore writing opportunities such as articles, play scripts, short stories, devotionals, and Sunday school curriculum, to hone your skills and develop a writing resume. This course is suitable for beginning writers.

Register for the course here.

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Good Historical Romance

Reviewed by Phee Paradise
A Prisoner of Versailles by Golden Keyes Parsons

In light of the discussion we’ve been having about Christian writing, I’m happy to review A Prisoner of Versailles. Keyes Parsons tells a good story with characters who face trials and temptations that could lend themselves to crude language. Yet she clearly communicates the “world” without using explicit language.

Madeleine is a French aristocrat who has fled the country with her family because of persecution for their Huguenot beliefs. But she is also the king’s childhood sweetheart and he sends soldiers to bring her back with her oldest son. He believes her son is also his. She must confess her sinful past to her son, who has been raised in the faith and has no experience of the world. She worries about how court life will corrupt his morals, while facing the same temptations herself.

The well constructed plot includes fighting, sexual sins, deceit and pride. It also includes faith, doubt, hope and love. Yet, Keyes Parsons never resorts to crude language. We know that Madeleine and the king were lovers; some of the characters are rough soldiers; there are a few fight scenes; yet I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book to a young teen. She not only uses clean language, but the situations are real and the resolution is hopeful. Madeleine has her moments of doubt and doesn’t always walk in God’s ways, but she also experiences repentance and forgiveness.

If historical romance is not your genre, you may not enjoy this book. But the themes are universal and it’s a good example of good Christian writing without the edge.

Pros: Good historical settings with characters who struggle with their faith in difficult situations. Lots of adventure and romance.

Cons: The fight scenes are a little stilted and the dialogue sometimes jumps into the 21st century.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

A Prisoner of Versaille

Thomas Nelson (September 1, 2009)


Golden Keyes Parsons


In her deep plowing of the heart, moving from tears one moment to laughter the next, Golden will touch your heart with her dynamic Bible teaching, combined with her vivid personal examples, moving from tears one moment, to laughter the next, all the while communicating the message that God is faithful--keep trusting Him. She has a passion to communicate the Word of God in such a manner that will lead to godly living.

Golden, and her husband, Blaine, have just retired as pastors at Faith Mountain Fellowship Church in Red River, NM. They have three grown daughters and eight grandchildren. Her testimony and myriad of life experiences lend a touch of authenticity to her teaching. She loves to speak for women's conferences, seminars, luncheons, retreats and Mother/Daughter events.

If deep Bible teaching that brings the Scriptures alive is what you want, Golden is the speaker you need.


Madeleine's faith puts her at odds with an intimidating rival: King Louis XIV.

Having fled their homeland of France because of the persecution by Louis XIV, the Clavell family seeks refuge in Switzerland. However, the king is not about to let the recently widowed Madeleine, his childhood sweetheart, escape that easily. He sends musketeers to kidnap her and her oldest son, Philippe, holding them captive in his opulent palace. King Louis is suspicious that Philippe could be his son, and he's enraged by the growing affection of one of his courtiers for Madeleine.

Will Madeleine escape the king with her life or lose everything that she's fought so hard to keep?

To read the first chapter of A Prisoner of Versaille , click HERE

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10 Reasons to Keep on Writing

Finding Motivation to Write
By Debbie Roome

1. The best way to perfect a skill is by practise. The more you write, the better the results. Try and write something every day, even if it is just a few words.

2. Writing is a calling and a gift that God has given us. He longs for us to use our words to spread His message. He will make a place for our words if we are willing to write them.

3. Writing is a passion. I carry pen and paper wherever I go and I love to talk about writing. Let the gift God has given you burn deep in your heart that all may see it.

4. God can use our words to bring about change in society. The written word is a powerful medium to convey dissatisfaction to businesses and government. History is full of examples of this. Use your words to stand up for righteousness.

5. Written words can bring forgiveness, healing and restoration. Write those letters you’ve been putting off and send them off today.

6. Written words of affirmation can change a person’s life. It doesn’t take long to write a thank-you note or a paragraph that commends someone for who they are. Make a decision to improve someone’s life today.

7. God’s mercies are new every morning and even when we feel uninspired or we’ve written something we shouldn’t have, there is always a new day with new opportunities. Don’t get bound up in the past.

8. Skilful words can supply income. A workman is worthy of his hire so send some words off to magazines and newspapers. The rejection rate is high, even among experienced writers so persevere with this. The thrill of seeing your work in print is amazing.

9. Written words are links of communication that bind us to people across the world. The internet has shrunk our boundaries and we are able to develop friendships with people we have never met.

10. Words are fun, creative, full of possibility, come in all sizes and shapes and can be strung together to tell amazing stories. It is an absolute privilege to work with words and sow them like seeds – even if we never get to see the end result.

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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November Contests

Welcome to all our visitors this month, who've found their way here through other bloggers who have graciously interviewed me to celebrate the release of Christmas Miracles. We have a couple of contests going on this month.

The first one - just leave a comment on any post during the month of November and you'll be entered into a drawing to win a copy of Christmas Miracles. (Up to 5 entries per person.)

The second contest is a writing contest, where you can win cash prizes, a box of books, or perhaps even publication. Check out the details on this previous post.

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Yeah for the Good Guys

Reviewed by Phee Paradise
The Swiss Courier by Tricia Goyer & Mike Yorkey

Adventure, intrigue, romance, faith, evil men…The Swiss Courier has them all. Near the end of World War II, a group of German resisters and a group of Swiss supporters of the Allies pull off a coup that will change the course of the war. Young Gabi is in the middle of the action. Her native Switzerland is neutral in the war, but her father is American and she is horrified by the German atrocities, so she volunteers for some undercover missions.

Her story is so good, I’m afraid to spoil it for you, so I’m not going to say much more. But it’s not just Gabi’s story and Goyer and Yorkey construct it like an ancient stone castle. Each stone is placed on the next, building to a solid finish. Throughout the story we see different characters, in both Germany and Switzerland; some with allegiances to the Fatherland and some to God the Father. They clash in expected ways, but we also see God intervene through the bravery of His people. There is one big surprise at the end that I loved, but didn’t anticipate.

The book doesn’t have a lot of layers or deep themes, just Good triumphing over Evil. The authors give us a glimpse of the horrors of the Gestapo and the complicity of the people. Even though I was sure Good would triumph, knowing the reality of Nazi Germany made the suspense stronger. If the resisters were caught, they would face torture and death. There is some necessary violence, but it is not graphic, and, well, the bad guys are Nazis. They deserve what they get.

What I loved most about the book is that it’s a great story. Some of it had me on the edge of my seat, whicle other parts had me cheering for the good guys. When I finished, I just wanted sit for a while and savor it.

Pros: Well told historical spy novel, with great characters, good suspense and action, and a satisfying ending.

Cons: Uses a lot of German words that slow the story down a bit.

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Friday, November 6, 2009

What is Your Responsibility as a Writer?

Something's been bugging me for several weeks now, and today, I'm going to toss it up for discussion here.

Awhile back, a discussion started in one of my writer groups about our qualifications as writers, and in particular as Christian writers.

That raised some questions in my own mind, but I dismissed them for a time. Then, within a short time, Phee and I have had to review two different books that left me confused, angry, and actually embarrassed that they presented themselves as "Christian" books. So, I decided it was time to address this issue here at Pix-N-Pens.

As Christians who happen to be writers, I think it's vitally important that we know who we are, and know what our calling is. To do that, we need to identify whether we are:

a Christian writer


a writer of Christian material (be it fiction or nonfiction, any length).

There IS a difference.

As Christians, we can be a Christian gardener, a Christian photographer, Christian neighbor, Christian baker, Christian barber, Christian butcher, Christian parent, Christian voter, Christian bowler, Christian whatever. But we may also be a writer for ABA - so that would make us, by this definition, a Christian writer. We can write nonfiction magazine articles that don't have a hint of Christianity in them, for general market publications, but by this definition, we are still Christian writers.

BUT, when we take on the RESPONSIBILITY (and it truly is one) of being a writer of Christian materials (fiction or nonfiction), presenting a Christian message through CBA or even ABA, we take on a RESPONSIBILITY to not be a stumbling block to our readers. If the words we write, the images we convey, the thoughts we cause the reader to develop, cause the reader to stumble, put bad images, words, or thoughts into their minds, then *WE* are responsible for that. We are accountable to our readers AND to God.

As a writer of Christian material, it is my job to shine Christ's light to the world, not spread darkness into an already dark world. How can I shine Christ's light if I use the f-word, or write such horrid gore that readers have those images put into their heads forever?

As writers of Christian materials, we need to look HIGHER and be BIGGER than the world. And yes, I realize that REALITY is messy and dirty - most of our lives testify to that. But we can write about life, write about evil, write about the darkness in such a way that the reader will look to Christ and will find Hope in the midst of the darkness.

One question I've asked myself since we received this latest book to review (Phee's earlier post today) is, "What has happened to COMMON DECENCY?" If I pick up a book published OR promoted by a Christian publisher or Christian organization, I want to know that it's a decent book. When it contains curse words or graphic descriptions of pure evil, the decency is gone. And so is my respect for that publisher, author, and promoter.

Many will question this - say that if we "clean" up our writing, then we're not writing realistically. I don't agree with that. I LIKE to pick up a clean novel. I LIKE to read a compelling story (most any genre) that is REAL, without have to block images of gore, or skip over pages of curse words.

I'll toss out three examples here, all from the ABA. Have you ever read any books by M.C. Beaton, Diane Mott Davidson, or Debbie Macomber? The first two MIGHT have an occasional curse word, but nothing major or overdone. The first two write books in the crime genre, yet their books aren't dark. All three authors write books that, in my opinion, are clean and "safe." Yet, at the same time, they are realistic.

So if these writers, spiritual condition unknown by me, can turn out clean books bought by millions, through the general market, why can't we as writers of Christian books do the same? Why do we have to push the envelope? Why do we have to be edgy just for the sake of being edgy?

Why do some writers of Christian books WANT to share the darkness, rather than the Light? Why can't publishers take a firm stance and draw a firm line? What are they thinking?

As a reader of Christian books, should we support the publishers and authors who publish this questionable material?

What do you think?

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Not a Christian Novel

Reviewed by Phee Paradise
One Fine Season by Michael Sheehan

If you like baseball, you might enjoy this story about a major league rookie who has an amazing season. But, unfortunately, that is the only thing I can recommend about One Fine Season. The writing is amateurish and the dialogue is unnatural. It also has some crude language and pre-marital sex is celebrated as an expression of love. Even without that I would not recommend this book.

The problem lies in the New Age worldview. The real story is not Danny’s rise to the top of the majors, but his journey through grief after the death of two close friends. Several of his teammates help him come to grips with it through many deep philosophical conversations. They teach him that “Everything is one. Separation from those who have passed over is nothing more than an illusion.” At first I thought that maybe Sheehan was asking us to suspend disbelief and move into a world with a different set of spiritual rules. I like reading fantasy and find this easy to do, although Christian fantasy always maintains a Christian worldview.

I also wondered if Sheehan is a non-Christian trying to reach the Christian market without really understanding our theology. But at the beginning of the book Danny, who considers himself a Christian, summarizes the doctrines of sin, justification and redemption pretty well. His friends immediately correct him with their truths, including the belief that all people have come from “the Divine” in search of something which turns out to be what they left behind. They also tell him that Jesus’ purpose on earth was to show people the way back to the Divine. These are only a few of the concepts that Danny comes to accept as truth. There is no one to argue against them or to say that they are not Christian beliefs.

Pixels, I assume you read this blog because you enjoy reading Christian fiction. If that is what you are looking for, you won't want to read this book. I don’t see how anyone can claim it is Christian. If you are just looking for a good read, you won’t find that either, although Sheehan is a promising writer and experience will probably correct the flaws in dialogue and descriptions I found in this book.

One Fine Season is self-published and Sheehan doesn’t offer acknowledgement or thanks to anyone. Many of the problems I saw in the book may be because he didn’t benefit from professional editing and strong Christian feedback. This is the first time we’ve received a self-published book from the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and we’re wondering why they accepted it.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

One Fine Season

AuthorHouse (November 25, 2008)


Michael Sheehan


Michael Sheehan is CEO and founder of BioResource, a company that distributes natural remedies including the popular INFLAMYAR ointment for sports injuries. He wrote One Fine Season to honor the memories of two childhood friends who died young, before they could realize their dreams.

One Fine Season is true to life. It draws on Sheehan’s religious education at a Catholic seminary and his experience as a high school baseball and collegiate soccer player. A graduate of Santa Clara University, Sheehan also earned a master’s degree in science journalism from Boston University. He lives in Northern California.


ONE FINE SEASON tells the story of a promising young athlete who must rise from the ashes of devastating personal loss to fulfill a pact made years earlier with his best friend.

Best friends Pete O’Brien and Danny Grace are gifted college athletes, both hoping for careers as professional baseball players. When tragedy strikes, Danny struggles to cope with his overwhelming grief and fulfill a pact the young men made years earlier: to play in the World Series.

Events unexpectedly thrust Danny into the spotlight with the new expansion team in Sacramento. Three guides – an aging catcher, spiritual centerfielder and wise manager – plus a beautiful woman lead him on a healing journey, revealing that even death cannot break the bonds of true friendship.

To read an excerpt from the first chapter of One Fine Season, click HERE

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Want to Work at Home but Need Health Insurance? Please read...

We've offered some home-based business opportunities here in the past from our friends over at Christian Work-At-Home Moms, so I thought some of you might be interested in another opportunity - this time with me!

Many of you know my husband was forced into early retirement back in April. Things have been tight for us financially, like I know they have been for so many. My businesses provide an income for us, but not health insurance, so we've been considering whether I should take a job outside the home to meet that need. But I've been seeking other alternatives, and this week I finally found one.

A friend recently called me the "Idea Queen" - because my brain is like a wildfire of ideas. When one idea presents itself, it's not long before it has spread into a raging inferno of other ideas. So after I found the alternative to working outside the home, I had an idea.

I am going to build another blog team, similar to what we have here at Pix-N-Pens, except with a different focus. I'm looking for a team of four women who want to work at home, who like the idea of making some money, and who are open to trying something a bit different. I'd love for some of our Pixels to join me on this new team.

If you are interested, or if you know someone else who might be interested, please e-mail me ASAP at tracyruckman[at]yahoo[dot]com (replace the words in brackets with symbols) for more details.

This could be the start of something big for all of us, or as it was for me, it could be an answered prayer.

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I admit it. There are times when I have lost all inspiration to take photographs. I pick up my camera only to feel like pitching it through the nearest window. I go outdoors and can't see anything I'd like to capture.

Every photographer goes through dry places, and lately, that is where I have been. The glories of spring have faded - vivacious flowers tumbling over each other in their search for the sun, multitudes of insects scrambling side by side for that sweet bit of nectar, the fluttering wings of handfuls of butterflies sweeping through the air.

White Peacock Butterfly
White Peacock Butterfly

Instead, my garden looks rather natty. Faded and tattered Mexican sunflowers are holding up the last of their heads. The lantana and verbena have outstretched their boundaries. Summer vegetables - ripe red tomatoes, fuzzy green okra, and crisp green beans - are long gone.

Faded, Mexican Sunflower
Faded, Mexican Sunflower

It doesn't help that the weather is unseasonably hot for October. Oh, I know it IS Florida, and I DO love warm weather. But October is supposed to be fresh with crisp air swept in on an early cold front, comfortable breezes, and clear blue skies. Well, okay, so we do have the clear blue skies, at least it seems so today as I gaze out my window.

I know that the inspiration will come again. It always does. And I have learned when I find these dry places, just to ride them out. If I don't pick up my lens today, that is okay.

For me there will always be photographs. They press in from my past. They hold themselves in my future. In the present though, I will just forgive myself this lapse in time and wait.

Carolina Saddlebags Dragonfly
Carolina Saddlebags Dragonfly

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Suzanne Williams Photography
My Blogger
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.