Friday, October 30, 2009

How to Forgive Your Father

Reviewed by Phee Paradise
Levi's Will by W. Dale Cramer

This is a wonderful story about a man whose long journey away from his roots takes him back to them in the end. We first see Will near the end of his life when he has gone back to his childhood home to bury his father. His troubled son comes with him. As they meet the people from Will’s youth and participate in the funeral rituals, Will remembers. Most of the book is the story of his life, told in the context of his Amish childhood.

The title of Levi’s Will reflects the story perfectly, with its multiple meanings. It is Will’s story, but the way he lives his life is influenced his father, Levi. Levi’s control and rigidity drive Will away from home, but not before teaching him a persistence that makes him constantly seek his father’s approval and forgiveness, even though they are estranged. Throughout his life, Will defines himself as his father’s son, but usually in a negative way. Levi was Old Order Amish, so Will abandons God. Levi was a pacifist, so Will joins the army. Levi was a harsh father, so Will abdicates his fathering of his own sons to their mother. On the other hand, Will works hard and loves his farm, because that is what Levi taught him.

After running away from home, Will has to find his way in the World. He makes some bad decisions, but also meets some people who love him. Because of them, he eventually faces the repercussions of his upbringing and his response to it. He not only has to forgive his father, but he has to learn to ask forgiveness from his wife and sons. It’s a hard lesson and he doesn’t fully learn it until the end.

I highly recommend this book, not only for the deep themes, but for the easy style and the wonderful characters. Will’s struggles happen within a great story and the resolution is very satisfying.

Pros: I want to say everything about the book, but I’ll be more specific. It’s a good story with flawed but likeable characters, a good setting and real themes.

Cons: None that I can think of.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Photographing Captive Animals


Frankly, there is nothing more boring that someone else's zoo photographs. They usually consist of a distant animal surrounded by a few fake stones or some slithering reptile behind extremely dirty window glass. There are, however, a few simple things the everyday photographer can do to create better photographs and thus better memories.

1. Go for close ups

Here's the main idea. When photographing animals, the animal itself should be the subject of the photograph! Try to avoid including too much of the man-made enclosure. Obviously, in most cases eliminating it entirely will not be feasible, so pay attention to whatever foreground and background objects are in the scene as they can become very distracting.

Tom Turkey
Tom Turkey

2. Face the front

It is usually best for the animal to be facing forward with their eyes towards the lens. Keep the eyes in focus! People will always notice if the eyes are out of focus, whereas often they will overlook other areas. This will, however, mean exercising your patience as you wait for the animal, or bird, to turn in your direction. Take your time and don't get in a rush.

Windows to the Soul, Barred Owl
Windows To The Soul, Barred Owl

3. Keep shooting

Don't be afraid to take multiple shots when the right opportunity finally presents itself. Animals rarely ever just smile and pose. If the lighting is low, try using a faster shutter speed or increasing your ISO, or find a prop to steady your lens! Fence posts, benches, or railings work well to prevent blurry photographs.

4. Look for animal behavior.

After all, it is the animal's behavior that draws people in. The interaction between animal groups and any animal young make for great photographs. If possible, leave sleeping animals for a time when they will be more active. Inquire from zoo keepers as to what is the best time of day and return then.

Hatchlings, American Alligators
Hatchlings, American Alligators

5. Include the people.

Don't forget to photograph yourself, your children, or whomever is in your party. Place them as the subject of the picture with the animal in the background. Stop and talk to caretakers who are available and willing to talk, especially if they are toting an animal around. You might learn something and come away with a memorable photograph.

6. Angle your lens.

For animals "under glass" angle your lens to eliminate any glare, especially if you are using a flash. (When using a flash on animals, please pay attention to any signs warning you NOT to use one. Some animals are very sensitive to light.) If wire is the problem, zoom in past it. The use of telephoto, in most cases, will cause wire cages to fade from immediate view.

Feeling Blue, Poison Dart Frog
Feeling Blue, Poison Dart Frog

7. Never hide the fact the animal was captive.

The biggest mistake you can make as a photographer is to hide the fact your animal is captive. People can be very touchy about this issue, so when asked, just be honest! Know what the animal was called that you are photographing. There is nothing worse than someone inquiring and your only answer is, "Uhm..."


Here are a few other tips. Respect others by not cutting in front of them. If the area is crowded, give the person in front time to complete their view. Do not participate in any behavior which will disturb the animals. This is the biggest no-no of all. Lastly, by all means control young children! The day needs to be fun for everyone, not just your party.

Most of all, enjoy yourself and try to learn something!

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Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

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

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Plot to steal the Hope Diamond

Reviewed by Phee Paradise
Eye of the God by Ariel Allison

I enjoy a good crime drama with international intrigue and tough characters. I don’t even mind when the heroes have questionable ethics, if Good triumphs in the end. In Eye of the God, Allison makes a good attempt in that genre. Suave and cunning jewel thieves plot to steal the Hope Diamond from the beautiful woman who is ultimately responsible for it. The book has action, mystery, romance and just a little violence.

As the plot moves forward in unexpected twists, the characters surprise us. We get hints that Abby, the heroine, may be more than she seems. Some of the other characters are even more mysterious, but there are clues to their identities, if you look for them. My one complaint is with the men in charge of the security of the diamond. For professionals they were too casual about their responsibility and I actually found myself hoping the thieves would succeed because of it. I don’t think men in their position would make such foolish decisions and it felt like that part of the plot was forced in order for the rest of the scheme to work out.

One of the best things about the book is that the history of the diamond is told as a story within the story. As the conspiracy develops, the reader learns about different people who have owned it over the centuries, and the tragedies they have suffered because of this cursed jewel.

I don’t think I’m giving away the end if I tell you that Good does triumph, though it will surprise you how it happens. And Allison gives us one little fact that promises another book. It will be fun to see what intrigue Abby will face next.

Pros: Fast paced drama with lots of intrigue. In the midst of this, the reader is given insight into the characters and we get to see them resolve some of their emotional issues while solving a crime.

Cons: The dialogue is a little stiff and the situations don’t always seem realistic, particularly the administration of the Smithsonian Institution.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

eye of the god

Abingdon Press (October 1, 2009)


Ariel Allison


Allison is a published author who lives in a small Texas town with her husband and three young sons. She is the co-author of Daddy Do You Love Me: a Daughter’s Journey of Faith and Restoration (New Leaf Press, 2006). Justin Case, the first of three children’s books will be published by Harvest House in June 2009. Ariel is a weekly contributor to and has written for Today’s Christian Woman. She ponders on life as a mother of all boys at and on her thoughts as a redeemed dreamer at

From Ariel:
I am the daughter of an acclaimed and eccentric artist, and given my “unconventional” childhood, had ample time to explore the intricacies of story telling. I was raised at the top of the Rocky Mountains with no running water or electricity (think Laura Ingles meets the Hippie Movement), and lived out the books I read while running barefoot through the sagebrush. My mother read to me by the light of a kerosene lantern for well over a decade, long after I could devour an entire novel in the course of a day. Authors such as C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, George MacDonald, and L.M. Montgomery were the first to capture my heart and I have
grown to love many others since.


eye of the god takes the fascinating history surrounding the Hope Diamond and weaves it together with a present-day plot to steal the jewel from the Smithsonian Institute.

We follow Alex and Isaac Weld, the most lucrative jewel thieves in the world, in their quest to steal the gem, which according to legend was once the eye of a Hindu idol named Rama Sita. When it was stolen in the 17th century, it is said that the idol cursed all those who would possess it. That won’t stop the brilliant and ruthless Weld brothers.

However, they are not prepared for Dr. Abigail Mitchell, the beautiful Smithsonian Director, who has her own connection to the Hope Diamond and a deadly secret to keep. Abby committed long ago that she would not serve a god made with human hands, and the “eye of the god” is no exception. Her desire is not for wealth, but for wisdom. She seeks not power, but restoration.

When the dust settles over the last great adventure of the Hope Diamond, readers will understand the “curse” that has haunted its legacy is nothing more than the greed of evil men who bring destruction upon themselves. No god chiseled from stone can direct the fates of humankind, nor can it change the course of God’s story.

To read the prologue and first chapter of eye of the god, cllick HERE

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Creating a Personal Inspiration Book

A Journal with a Difference
By Debbie Roome

Have you ever read a sentence or paragraph that really sticks in your mind or something profound that triggers a stream of thoughts or memories? I often find this happening and for a couple of years now, have recorded these words into a book. I use a journal that contains beautiful photographs and call it my Inspiration Book.

Is it Plagiarism to Copy People’s Words
If I used their phrases in my own writing, it would be classed as plagiarism ... but I don’t. I use them to prompt my own creativity; to help me come up with something new and fresh. Somehow, the process of reading skilled writing and deep truths causes something within me to respond.

How can I Start my own Inspiration Book
I’ve found a blank journal with a peaceful cover and photos inside adds to the value of the content. This is a picture of the one I use, plus a shot from inside. Browse the stationery shelves in your area and choose something that suits your temperament. There is a wide range available from zany to reflective to modern to dreamy.

Write the Words by Hand
Although I end up typing almost everything I write, I often scrawl it on paper first. There’s something about a raw sheet of paper that begs for a pen and a dash of creativity. I’ve thought about typing pages and gluing them into my journal but handwritten words work best for me in this context. They’re natural, free-formed and from the heart.

Include Scriptures
There are some incredible word pictures in the Bible that fit perfectly into a journal of this kind. Psalm 1:3 (NIV) is one of my favourites:

He is like a tree planted by streams of water,

which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.

Add to it Regularly
Keep the journal on a shelf or somewhere near your reading and writing area. If you read something that resonates, copy it down or if away from home, make a note of it and do it later. It’s an ongoing discipline but the rewards are well worth the effort.

Read it Occasionally
Don’t read it too often or the words will lose some of their effect. I pick out pages here and there if I need inspiration and that is often enough. It’s like priming a pump so a fresh flow of water can come bursting through.

My Inspiration Book is a personal creation that means a lot to me. Others might enjoy browsing through it, but I can remember where the words came from and the impact when I first read them. I’m glad I started recording them and intend to keep it as a lifelong habit.

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, October 27, 2009

Fun Interview Celebrates Christmas Miracles

Today, continuing our celebration of Christmas Miracles, we feature a fun interview between the two authors. Be sure to check out yesterday's two posts for your chance to win a copy of Christmas Miracles or to participate in our special writing contest for your chance to win one of three cash prizes or a huge box of books.

Interview with Cecil “Cec” Murphey
by Marley Gibson
Co-authors of Christmas Miracles, from St. Martin’s Press

I am extremely privileged to have the opportunity today to talk to my friend and co-author, Cecil “Cec” Murphey, and to chat about our newly released book, Christmas Miracles.

Marley: Cec, thanks for spending some time with me today.

Cec: Marley, it's great that you could take time away from important things like making a living to spend a little time with me.

Marley: I’m so jazzed about our Christmas Miracles book that’s coming out soon. I’ve had a lot of questions from folks wanting to know how we met, what brought us together, etc. So, I thought we’d do a back and forth on how it all came to be. Of course, I have to give props to our amazing agent and friend, Deidre Knight, for bringing us together. For those of you who don’t know, Cec co-authored the runaway New York Times bestselling hit 90 Minutes in Heaven with Don Piper.

Cec: I have to say thanks to Deidre Knight as well. Between Deidre and my assistant, Twila Belk, I've been able to sell quite a few books. 90 Minutes in Heaven has been my big book. I'm also proud of a book I wrote in 1990 called Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story. The book has never been out of print and has hit close to four million in sales. Early this year, Cuba Gooding Jr. starred in the made-for-TV film version.

Marley: That’s amazing! You are truly prophetic and definitely “the man behind the words.” Now, people ask how we teamed up. Sadly, there was a personal tragedy that brought Cec and me together as friends.

Cec: True. In early 2007, our house burned and our son-in-law died. Aside from the grief over Alan, we lost everything. Deidre and Jan, my-then-assistant, sent the word out of our tragedy without telling me. I'm immensely grateful for every gift people sent, but I probably wouldn't have admitted I needed help and wouldn't have asked. They taught me how much we need other people.

Marley: Deidre put out a call to other clients of The Knight Agency, to help Cec and his family out in any way in their time of need. At the time, my company was moving and we were cleaning house. We had a ton of office supplies that we were either going to throw away or give to some of the charities the company worked with. I got my boss’ permission to send a large care package to Cec…full of office supplies for him to re-stock his writer’s office. You name it…post-its, staples, paper clips, pens, pencils, markers, white out, ruler, scissors, paper, notebooks, notepads, envelopes, a laptop case, tape, glue, folders, binder clips…etc. A veritable potpourri of office delights. I was hoping that it would help Cec have a sense of getting his office back so he could keep working.

Cec: Marley's gift was the most unexpected I received. We hadn't met, although Deidre Knight had spoken of her many times and kept telling me she was wonderful. I wonder if you can imagine what it was like for me to open that box from someone I didn't know. I saw all those practical things for my office and yelled for my wife. I felt as if I were reading a first-grade book. "Look! Look and see! Oh, look!" I was overwhelmed by the gift and even more to receive it from a stranger. Those supplies were the most practical gift anyone could have given me. I'm still using black paper clips and red folders from Marley.

Marley: Awww…thanks, Cec! I didn’t have to think twice about doing it. Writing is such a solitary “sport,” but the writing community always astounds me with how they help their own. Not long after that, over plates of spinach and Gouda omelets, Deidre introduced me to Cec in person and I was thrilled to finally meet the man behind the words. Deidre knew we needed to work on a project together and thus began our brainstorming. What did you think of that first meeting, Cec, and cooking up the idea to work together?

Cec: Deidre and I had already spoken about a Christmas book and I had some idea about what it should contain, but nothing had come together. One day Deidre told me that Marley was coming to visit her and she wanted us to work together on a Christmas project. Marley and I talked before we ate and again during the meal. Everything felt right to me. I knew my strengths and Marley knew hers (and Deidre knew both of us). Everything clicked. Marley, a far better networker than I am, immediately sent out the word for submissions. Within days she had almost four times more than we could use. (She read every one of them!)

Marley: I was truly impressed with the submissions we received and it was hard narrowing it down to the ones we chose for the book. We’re fortunate to have such a go-getter agent in Deidre Knight. Cec, can you share how the whole idea of Christmas Miracles came about and what you thought of the project originally?

Cec: For me, it actually started while I was on the rapid-rail train from the Atlanta airport when I listened to teens talk about Christmas and it was mostly about gifts. I had the idea then, but nothing really came together. Months later when Deidre I and had a meeting, she brought up the idea of a compilation and mentioned my working with Marley. I've been Deidre Knight's client since 1997 and I've learned to listen carefully when she comes up with an idea. I said yes before she gave me all the information.

Marley: That’s the truth about Deidre! Getting back to those submissions, Iwant to say we got more than two hundred submissions for Christmas Miracles. So many wonderful stories to read through and select for the book. It was a challenge to pick and choose which ones were right for the book, but I loved every minute of it. After I chose the entries that would go into the book, Cec toiled long hours editing the works for a unified voice. What was the biggest challenge you found in the editing process, Cec?

Cec: I've been a ghostwriter and collaborator for twenty-plus years and this was a switch to give the book a unified voice—which was mine. It would have been easier to stay with each writer's voice, but the book—like many compilations—would have been uneven in tone and quality. When I discussed this via email with our delightful editor, Rose Hilliard, she was (to my surprise) familiar with my work. She told me she liked the warm tone of my writing and that I don't waste words. "That's the voice we want," she said. It still wasn't easy, but it was an exciting challenge. After Marley and I agreed on the stories and gave them that unified voice, our editor pulled six contributions. Although different, Rose felt they were too similar to other stories.

Marley: Can you give our readers a preview of the book? A favorite story perhaps…or one that moved you to tears? (I have to say the little boy who wished for nothing but to be able to read a book all the way through because of his stutter had me bawling when I read the submission.)

Cec: That's not fair! I liked them all. The one that touched me most, however, is the last story in the book, "Sean's Question." We had almost finished the book and I was teaching at a conference in Florida. I felt we needed one strong story at the end. Despite all the good ones, I didn't feel fully satisfied to conclude the book. On the last day of the conference, I met a conferee named Sara Zinn for a consultation. As we talked, I mentioned Christmas Miracles and that I still needed one more story. "I have a Christmas story," she said and told me about Sean. As I listened, tears filled my eyes—but, being the macho type I am, I was sure it was an allergy. Sara wrote the story, and it became the one I sought.

Marley: Oh yes…that one is an emotional one all right. It was meant to be in the book because of how you met at the conference. Now, you and I have both had challenges in our lives that others might have found too much to take, but we are both very strong in our faith and our relationship with God. How do you think Christmas Miracles is going to help others feel closer to God and experience His miracles in their own lives?

Cec: Awareness and appreciation are the two things I want readers to grasp. Awareness means for them to realize that they're never totally alone in life. Those unexpected, out-of-the-ordinary events remind us of that. Appreciation means to be thankful for what we already have. Too often, and especially at Christmas, we focus on what we'd like or what is supposed to make us happy. Christmas Miracles gently reminds readers of both.

Marley: In this day and age when our country is fighting two wars, unemployment is high, and a lot of people have a lack of hope and faith for their future, what do you want readers of the book to take away from Christmas Miracles and how can the stories in our book help provide comfort to those struggling?

Cec: I want readers to see that miracles do happen—sometimes simple, unexpected blessings or those that involve the supernatural (as in one of Marley's stories). I call myself a serious Christian. For me, the world's greatest miracle began with the birth of Jesus. Regardless of a person's religion, this book encourages readers to think about life during the Christmas season and see that life as more than gifts and celebrations. It's also a reminder that God loves us and hears our needy cries.

Marley: Beautifully put, Cec, and I couldn’t agree with you more. Can we share what’s next after Christmas Miracles?

Cec: Why it's the Cec and Marley show, of course. Because of our go-getter agent and our enthusiastic editor, we've already received thumbs up for The Christmas Spirit. This will be stories of people who express the true spirit of Christmas by acts of love and kindness, for release in the fall of 2011.

Marley: And I can’t wait to start working on that project! Thank you so much for your time, Cec, and answering my questions. It was a privilege and honor to work with you and I look forward to our future projects together. You’ve helped me along during a trying time and I appreciate your friendship and support.

Cec: I liked this project because Marley had to send out the word, collect submissions, read them, and discard the weaker ones. I get to see only the better-written stories. (Don't tell her that I have the better job.) Although I mentioned only one story, all of those in the book touched me because of the poignancy of their situations and the miraculous answers. I won't say the stories increased my faith, but they increased my appreciation for the delightful mix of human need and divine intervention.

Marley: Thanks again, Cec! God Bless! And to our readers, please be sure to pick up a copy of CHRISTMAS MIRACLES, from St. Martin’s Press. It’s a great stocking stuffer or gift basket filler. We hope you, too, will discover your own Christmas Miracles in your life.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Christmas Writing Contest - Win Cash AND Publication!

In celebration of the release of Christmas Miracles (see previous post), we're throwing a huge contest!

This contest is not like those we've had in the past, so please, please follow the directions.

Mid-December, Pix-N-Pens will publish a new book entitled A Pixel-Perfect Christmas 2009. This book will feature YOUR stories!

From October 26 - November 25th, 2009, you may submit two Christmas stories of 1,500 (one thousand five hundred) words or less. The stories may be fact OR fiction - the choice is yours - but you must state which on your entry.

Submission Guidelines:

1) Submit each story as separate attachment, Word format, and send to pixnpens[at]yahoo[dot]com. (Replace the words in brackets with the symbols) or if your computer is set to open your e-mail to send, just click here.

2) The document should be double-spaced, 1" margins all around, Times New Roman font size 12.

3) At the top of the document, please include:

In the LEFT corner:

Your name
mailing address
e-mail address
Paypal e-mail address if different from above in case you are chosen as winner.

In the RIGHT corner:

Word Count
Prompt or Photo Assignment # Utilized (optional - see below)

4) Please include a header with the title, your last name, and page number.

5) You must own the copyright to your story. Previously published works will not be considered.

6) All contest entries will automatically be considered for publication in A Pixel-Perfect Christmas 2009 and/or on the Pix-N-Pens blog during the month of December, but submission of a story does not guarantee publication in either format.

7) We reserve the right to edit submissions for grammar, style, and length.

8) Deadline for submissions is November 25, 2009, Noon Central U.S. Time.

Here's how the contest will work.

All stories submitted by November 25th will be read and considered for publication. From December 1-31, I will post one story per day on Pix-N-Pens.

[I've also invited each of our regular columnists to submit one story themselves, so their stories will appear during the weeks on their regular posting day, but they will not be eligible for the contests.]

Stories will be judged on:

Story - 50%
Craft - 25%
Originality - 25%

Bonus points will be added if you utilize any ONE of the Writing Prompts we've offered here during the past several months (look under the Writing Prompts tab above), OR somehow incorporate one of the photographs in our Photo Assignments into your story. Do not place a photo in your story - just use one of the photos in our Pix-N-Pens photo album as a guide for your story. Be sure to include on the first page the assignment number utilized. And only incorporate one - no need for overload, only one will earn bonus points.

After the submission deadline, stories will be chosen for publication in the book and/or on the blog. (Some stories may appear both places, others may appear in only one or the other.) The book will be published by mid-December. If your story is chosen for publication in the book, we will e-mail you a contract to sign and return.

On January 2nd, I will post a list of finalists out of all the stories posted either on Pix-N-Pens or published in the book, and then I'll give all our readers the opportunity to vote on favorites. To keep the contest from being a popularity contest, the votes will only count towards 50% of the total scores for the cash prizes, but 100% of the total for the Bonus Prize.

Voting will take place from January 2-15th, and on January 18th, I'll announce the winners.

1st Prize - $100 Cash and one copy of A Pixel-Perfect Christmas 2009
2nd Prize - $50 Cash and one copy of A Pixel-Perfect Christmas 2009
3rd Prize - $25 Cash and one copy of A Pixel-Perfect Christmas 2009

BONUS Prize - One large box of books awarded to the Reader's Favorite story.

And don't forget - you can win a copy of Christmas Miracles just by leaving a comment on the previous post!

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Is it too early for Christmas?

Today is an exciting day here at Pix-N-Pens, for several reasons! My first post today will be the reason WHY we're celebrating, and the second post today will be HOW we're celebrating!

On October 13th, the book Christmas Miracles by Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson was released - and I (Tracy) am honored to have my story, "Miracle of the Nativity," included in the book!

As I was arranging promotion for the book on other blogs, I thought it was odd that I wasn't doing something similar here at Pix-N-Pens, so I asked our precious Debbie Roome to interview me for here, and for my page. And then I decided just an interview wouldn't do for Pix-N-Pens, so in the next post, I am announcing a really cool contest with CASH prizes!

But we'll also give away an autographed copy of Christmas Miracles - all you have to do is leave a relevant comment on any post during this entire week, and you'll be entered to win. You can leave up to ten comments (one per post, two posts per day if we have them) for a chance to win.

Christmas Miracles makes an AWESOME Christmas gift or stocking stuffer. You can buy them here online, and you can find them at Barnes & Noble, some Christian book stores, and some Wal-mart locations. (Some have asked, so I'll share a shamless plug - personally, it benefits me most if you purchase from any of the links in this post, or any of the amazon links on this blog or my Web sites.)

Now, here's Debbie's interview. Thanks, my friend.

1) What is your greatest desire in relation to your writing career?

Well, that seems to change over time. My greatest desire - for all aspects of my life - is to stay in God's will, wherever that takes me. Sometimes it seems like a rollercoaster ride, but looking back, I can see His hand guiding me through certain things to get where I am now. Isn't He awesome?

2) Tell us about a book that has had a profound impact on your life.

As a reader, you know I can't name just one! LOL! I was an avid reader from a young age, so I was reading adult books by the time I was 8 or 9 years old. During those years, although I can't pinpoint the exact times, my grandmother - Nanny - gave me three books for gifts. The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, In His Steps by Charles Sheldon, and God's Smuggler by Brother Andrew. All three of those books had such an impact on me that I continue to re-read them every couple of years. Tim and I just finished reading together God's Smuggler - it was his first time - and I enjoyed it more than ever. And now we're reading The Hiding Place. Think of the impact that these three lives have had worldwide - it's mind-boggling, and so totally God! The authors encourage and inspire me to lead a life open to God's leading, and to have the courage to stand strong in the midst of difficulties, and to share my faith openly, as often as I can.

3) What is the craziest most reckless thing you have ever done?

You want me to admit this in a public forum?

4) What is the most fulfilling part of your day-to-day work with writing and writers?

As an editor, the most fulfilling part is hearing back from a client. The waiting between the time I hit 'send' to return their edited manuscripts until I see a reply in my Inbox is excrutiating. I don't know how he or she will respond to my edit - whether my suggestions will be accepted or not. Thankfully, only three or four times (out of over 100 clients) have I had negative responses. The positive responses have been tremendous. One client recently sent a note that said, "You've made my story better than I ever thought it could be, and made me a better writer." It's very satisfying to know something I truly enjoy can have such an impact.

I also love to hear about clients receiving contracts and winning contests!

As a writer, getting into my characters heads and putting flesh on them to the point that they become real to me - that's awesome!

5) What is the most embarrassing situation you have ever found yourself in?

Again, you want me to answer this in a public forum? I don't do embarrassment well. My face turns beet red at the slightest provocation, so airing my embarrassing situations in public would only set me up for future embarrassment!

Thanks for a great interview, Debbie!

Read another interview over at CWE.

Be sure to check out Virginia Smith's Web site this week - she's giving away a copy of Christmas Miracles, too!

And check the next post for a big contest announcement! You could win one of three CASH prizes or a HUGE box of books!

Tomorrow, we'll share a fun interview with the authors of Christmas Miracles - Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Complicated Story About Missions

Reviewed by Phee Paradise
Lost Mission by Athol Dickson

Fray Alejandro is a Franciscan monk who leaves his home to share the gospel with the pagans in Alta California in 1767. Lupe is a Mexican who leaves home to share the gospel with the pagans who live in modern day California. They are tied by a common mission and by a wooden altar piece painted by Fray Alejandro and carried by Lupe. Both find their work discouraging but are committed and cannot abandon it.

The eighteenth century thread is focused on Fray Alejandro and always gives us his point of view. But the modern story is not only about Lupe, it’s also about the people who help or hinder her mission. The point of view shifts from chapter to chapter. I found this a bit disconcerting because I was never sure what the “right” viewpoint was. There was never any doubt that Lupe’s goal of sharing the gospel is the primary motivating force in the book, but each character has a different perspective on it. But there is a strong narrative in both stories, and the characters are compelling.

Dickson connects the two stories with philosophy. Each chapter begins with Fray Alejandro. His experiences always end in a reflection on the abstract nature of something like sin or obedience, followed by the author telling us how it is also evident in the people in the modern narrative. From there he goes on to tell more of the modern story. There is a rhythm and tone to the book that is borrowed from Spanish, which lends itself to the philosophical thread that weaves the stories together. In addition to the philosophy, themes of missions, church growth and immigration make the story even more complicated.

If you like complex stories and themes, you’ll enjoy Lost Mission. It’s one of those books that makes you think while telling you a good story.

Pros: Interesting point of view about sharing the gospel. It has likeable characters with unpredictable action and a touch of history and mysticism.

Cons: This is not a straight narrative and the style makes the story bog down at times.

About the book:
What haunting legacy awaits deep beneath the barrios and wealthy enclaves of Southern California?

An idyllic Spanish mission collapses in the eighteenth century atop the supernatural evidence of a shocking crime. Twelve generations later the ground is opened up, the forgotten ruins are disturbed, and rich and poor alike confront the onslaught of resurging hell on earth. Caught up in the catastrophe are...

· A humble shopkeeper compelled to leave her tiny village deep in Mexico to preach in America
· A minister wracked with guilt for loving the wrong woman
· An unimaginably wealthy man, blinded to the consequences of his grand plans
· A devoted father and husband driven to a horrible discovery that changes everything

Will the evil that destroyed the MisiĆ³n de Santa Dolores rise to overwhelm them? Or will they beat back the terrible desires that led to the mission's good Franciscan founder's standing in the midst of flames ignited by his enemies and friends alike more than two centuries ago?

From the high Sierra Madre mountains to the harsh Sonoran desert, from the privileged world of millionaire moguls to the impoverished immigrants who serve them, Athol Dickson once again weaves a gripping story of suspense that spans centuries and cultures to explore the abiding possibility of miracles.

About the author:
Athol Dickson is an award-winning author of several novels. His Christy Award-winning novel River Rising was name one of the "Top Ten Christian Novel of 2006" by Booklist magazine. He lives in California with his wife.

Dickson's They Shall See God was a Christy Award finalist. River Rising was selected as one of the Booklist Top Ten Christian Novels of 2006 and was a Christianity Today's Best Novel of 2006 finalist. Both River Rising and The Cure won Christy Awards for best suspense novel.

His latest novel, Winter Haven was a finalist for the 2009 Christy Award in the suspense category, making four novels in a row to receive
that honor.

And now Athol is back with a gripping tale with an epic sense of the passage of time and the way events and choices impact people across generations.

Visit his website for more information.

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Editing Tip # 18: Fair Use

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.

What Is Fair Use?
Fair use allows consumers to copy part or all of a copyrighted work, even if the copyright holder has not given permission to copy the work. Unfortunately, there are no clear-cut rules for determining this. Fair use is decided by a judge, on a case-by-case basis, after balancing four factors listed in the copyright statute. These factors are:

1. The purpose and character of fair use
Educational purposes (such as making multiple copies for classroom use) is more acceptable than when monetary profit is anticipated (such as royalties from the sale of a book). Fair use is more likely when the copyrighted work is "transformed" into something new, such as quotations incorporated into a paper, or pieces of a work mixed into a multimedia product for teaching purposes or included in commentary or criticism.

2. The nature of the copyrighted work
Many characteristics of a work can affect the application of fair use. Copyright owners have the right to determine the circumstances of first publication of their works. Courts favor the fair use of nonfiction more readily than fiction (novel, short fiction story, or song lyrics, for example). Commercial audiovisual works generally receive less fair use than do printed works.

3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the work as a whole
No specific measures of allowable quantity exist in the law. Quantity is evaluated relative to the length of the entire original and the amount needed to serve a proper objective. For example, copying an entire journal article would not be considered fair use. However, even short clips may be protected if they constitute the most extraordinary or creative elements of the piece, the "heart of the work."

4. The effect of the use on the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work
Some courts consider effect on the market the most important factor, although this is often difficult to assess. If your purpose is research or scholarship, market effect may not be an issue. If your purpose is commercial, market effect is presumed. Short, occasional quotations may have no adverse effect on the market of the source you're quoting from. The newly created work should not be a substitute product for the copyrighted work.

Weighing and Balancing the Factors
All four of the factors above must be considered when attempting to reach a responsible conclusion about the lawfulness of "fair use." If most of the factors lean in favor of fair use, the quotation will be allowed; if most lean in the opposite direction, you should request written permission from the copyright owner prior to publication. If there’s any doubt, check with the US Copyright office (


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, October 22, 2009



If there is one thing I could say about my home state, it's that the sunshine is consistent and the heat always returns. Here it is October and it's been unbearably hot. Others in more northern climates are experiencing crisp fall air and the spectacular colors of autumn. But here just two days ago it was in the 90s (F). We did finally have a cold front sweep in during the night which plunged our temperatures down to about 66(F) this morning. Yes, I said "down to".

Despite what you might think, we do get to have a fall December and January. And we have trees that turn amazing shades of yellow, orange, and red with leaves that fall. The main difference is you will not see them in such masses as you do further north.

Halcyon Days, Red Maple
Halcyon Days, Red Maple

What we don't get much of is winter. Our lowest temperatures are usually in the mid 20's (F), but they tend to level out around 50-55 (F). Personally, I like it that way, but then I was born here.

I have seen snow twice, once in Florida when I was in elementary school and once on a trip to Arizona in December with my high school marching band. There we stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon, watching the snow dust the cliffs like powdered frosting. That was amazing.

We had also stopped in a field of it on the way up to throw snowballs at each other. There we were a bunch of silly Florida teenagers making snow angels. That is where I learned the biggest thing about snow - that it's wet. Some of you are laughing at me right now because you see so very much snow, but it was a shock to discover that an hour in the snow outdoors meant being very, very wet and cold when we remounted the buses!

Iced Layers, Grand Canyon, Arizona
Iced Layers, Grand Canyon, Arizona

We do like to experience autumn. Most years my family packs up our few sweaters and jackets as well as our long pants and drive to the Appalachian Mountains for a week in November. We want to feel the cold and see the rolling hills. My week this year is coming up. I am looking forward to it and will have photos to share with you when I return.

But, you know, I am always so ready to come home at the end of it - home to the Florida green with humidity that curls your hair (mine is curly anyways, so you can imagine how THAT goes!) and causes your shirt to stick to your sides. Home to brilliant blue skies, afternoon thunderstorms, and year-round flowers. You just can't beat that with a stick in my opinion.

Cloud Dreams
Cloud Dreams

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Suzanne Williams Photography
To Read More Of My Words
Florida, USA

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Fence My Father Built

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Fence My Father Built

Abingdon Press (October 2009)


Linda S. Clare


Linda S. Clare is an award-winning coauthor of three books, including Lost Boys and the Moms Who Love Them (with Melody Carlson and Heather Kopp), Revealed: Spiritual Reality in a Makeover World, and Making Peace with a Dangerous God (with Kristen Johnson Ingram). She has also published many essays, stories, and poems in publications including The Christian Reader, The Denver Post, and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Linda grew up in a part of Arizona, where the dirt is as red as it is in Central Oregon. She graduated summa cum laude in Art Education from Arizona State University and taught in public and private schools. She has taught college-level creative writing classes for seven years, and edits and mentors writers. She also is a frequent writing conference presenter and church retreat leader. She and her husband of thirty-one years have four grown children, including a set of twins. They live in Eugene, Oregon, with their five wayward cats: Oliver, Xena the Warrior Kitty, Paladine, Melchior, and Mamma Mia!


When legally separated Muri Pond, a librarian, hauls her kids, teenager Nova and eleven year-old Truman, out to the tiny town of Murkee, Oregon, where her father, Joe Pond lived and died, she's confronted by a neighbor's harassment over water rights and Joe's legacy: a fence made from old oven doors.

The fence and accompanying house trailer horrify rebellious Nova, who runs away to the drug-infested streets of Seattle. Muri searches for her daughter and for something to believe in, all the while trying to save her inheritance from the conniving neighbor who calls her dad Chief Joseph.

Along with Joe's sister, Aunt Lutie, and the Red Rock Tabernacle Ladies, Muri must rediscover the faith her alcoholic dad never abandoned in order to reclaim her own spiritual path.

Watch the trailer:

To read the first chapter of The Fence My Father Built , click HERE

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How to be a Reviewer Series

How to Review Restaurants
By Debbie Roome

People love to eat out and restaurant reviews inform them of the type of food and standards they can expect at a certain eating establishment. If you enjoy food, why not try your hand at writing a review and submit it to a local newspaper.

What to Note in a Restaurant Review
A dining out experience is composed of many facets. Here are some of the important ones to look out for:
· Service
· Atmosphere
· Decor
· Ambience
· Crowd
· Lighting
· Seating
· Price
· Music

Take Notes while in the Restaurant
Keep a notebook on hand and jot down thoughts as the meal progresses. There is plenty to observe and notes make the process easier.

Focus on the Food
Don’t forget that the main purpose of a restaurant review is to discuss the food. Make sure you are familiar with the terminology and understand words such as jus and escargots. If assessing a specific type of restaurant such as Italian, Chinese or French, make sure you have a good grasp of the names and types of food and expected preparation. Look for things like freshness, colour, garnishes, quantity and presentation. Avoid generic descriptions like delicious and tasty. Use more specific language such as the meat was spicy with a dash of coriander or the dessert had a delicate almond flavor.

Who are you writing for
This is often determined by the type of restaurant. Is it a fast food place, a diner where students can grab a reasonably priced meal, a vegetarian restaurant or a top French Restaurant?

Don’t Narrate your Experience
People don’t want to read a review that states “I did this” and “I did that”. Rather draw the reader in by recreating the ambience and flavour through words. You can then add in your personal opinion as you go.

Include the Restaurant Details
This is an area sometimes neglected. Give the full name of the restaurant, the address, phone number and website and state their opening hours.

Restaurant reviewing can be a fun way to make a bit of extra money. If you enjoy eating out, try your hand at writing reviews and see what come of it.

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, October 20, 2009

Unlikely Friends

Reviewed by Phee Paradise
Rain Dance by Joy DeKok

Sometimes friendships happen between the most unlikely people. Jonica and Stacie in Rain Dance are two such people. Jonica is a Christian wrestling with the Lord over her infertility. Stacie is a liberated woman exercising her right to choose abortion. But by God’s grace, Jonica offers compassion to Stacie when she needs it and a close friendship develops. Their families are impacted in the process, and love expands like ripples from a rock thrown into a puddle.

The strength of the book lies in this friendship and its impact on the women and their families. DeKok has created real people struggling with real issues. Both women have strong husbands and there are also some complicated relationships with parents and siblings. However, there were some events in the story that seemed as if they were there just to give Jonica something to react to. Although I know Christians are far from perfect, I don’t know any that are quite as judgmental as the members of Jonica’s church.

I also found much of the dialogue to be unnatural. The characters speak naturally about every day things like food and jobs, but many of the conversations are about faith and ideology. When the Christians talk about their faith they use Christianese and the liberals talk about their ideology in catchphrases. In spite of this, the story of the growing friendship is gripping, and the impact the two women have on their families is developed beautifully.

Pros: A heartwarming story of a strong friendship and its impact on a great many people.

Cons: Detailed descriptions of emotional pain and dialogue that is sometimes stiff.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Riches or Love

Reviewed by Phee Paradise
The Jewel of His Heart by Maggie Brendan

Even though Juliana has just lost her mother, she’s not completely hopeless. She has a new friend, a new job and several men are interested in her. One of them is Josh, a sheepherder who is fascinated by Juliana’s blue eyes. They remind him of the sapphires he found on his property. The discovery of the jewels is a catalyst for the action in the book, but you will want to read it for the love story.

Juliana is a strong woman in a time when women rely on men to take care of them. She has to be, because she’s all alone. Her father deserted his family when he went in search of gold. Her anger at her father extends to God, whom she blames for her circumstances. Josh has to overcome that before he can win her heart. His faith is strong, but is tried by tragedies of his own. Their attraction to each other is powerful, but falling in love isn’t quite a fairytale.

You should read The Jewel of His Heart if you’re looking for a warm love story that is not completely predictable.

Pros: Strong characters who haven’t figured it all out yet and whose growth moves the story along. Enough action to make it exciting. Faith is an important element, and is a natural part of the narrative.

Cons: The dialogue is a bit stiff at times and the main character is not always consistent. Sometimes she reveals feelings that are a complete surprise and seem out of character.

About the book:
Romance readers have taken to the soft, romantic style of Maggie Brendan in her runaway-hit debut novel No Place for a Lady. Now, the second book in the series releases with great anticipation, taking readers back to the Big Sky Country of the American frontier—and the life and love that awaits.

The second book in the Heart of the West series, The Jewel of His Heart is set in 1890s Montana. It is here that Juliana calls home when she meets Josh McBride, a handsome, gentle sheepherder. When he discovers a rare kind of sapphire on his property and considers striking out on his own path in the world, he is forced to decide what’s most important to him: the world’s riches or the eternal value of love in a woman whose eyes rival the rarest of gems.

For fans of Lori Wick and Kim Vogel Sawyer, Maggie Brendan’s beautifully woven story captures the rugged, adventurous life on the American frontier—and the quest for love by the pioneers who live there.

About the author:
Maggie Brendan is a member of American Christian Writers and the American Fiction Writers Association, and is a contributor to, a website for inspirational romance in the old West. You can read her blog at She is the author of No Place for a Lady and lives in Georgia.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Mother's Love

Reviewed by Phee Paradise
Leaving Yesterday by Kathryn Cushman

Alisa will do anything for her son. But what she thinks he needs is not as simple as a favorite meal or a ride to the mall. In fact, it is morally, ethically and legally questionable. Alisa convinces herself that Kurt deserves her support so God won’t blame her for what she does. For me, that’s the problem with Leaving Yesterday.

It’s ultimately a book about redemption, but most of the story is about the actions that require redemption. Alisa makes a lot of bad choices and justifies them by her love for her son. Meanwhile she works at a church and does grief counseling. So on top of distorted love and poor judgment, she is a hypocrite. Surprisingly, this bothers her more than her other “mistakes.” I didn’t like her at all. In fact, when she finally made the right decision, I didn’t believe she would follow through.

Yet, the book was compelling and I sped through it to see how it would end. There are several interesting characters and the situations are believable. There is a lot of back-story and at first I thought I must be reading the second in a series. Cushman introduces people and past situations casually, as Alisa knows them, which is a bit confusing, but actually very clever. It creates a natural and believable narrative.

You might like Alisa, or at least identify with her. Even if you don’t, the book is worth reading for the fresh approach to temptation.

Pros: A good depiction of a struggle with temptation and resulting ripples in many lives. The story is well told and has a good ending.

Cons: A little too much of the book is devoted to the temptations and sins, with little help from the Christian community.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Leaving Yesterday

Bethany House (October 1, 2009)


Kathryn Cushman


I graduated from Samford University with a degree in pharmacy, but I’ve known all my life that I wanted to write a novel “some day”. For me, “some day” came about five years ago, when I started writing and never looked back.

My third attempt became my first published novel.

A Promise to Remember was a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers Book-of-the-Year in the Women’s Fiction category, and Waiting for Daybreak was a finalist in Women’s Fiction for the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award. Leaving Yesterday just arrived on scene and I’m very excited about it!

On the homefront, I’ve been married to the wonderful and handsome Lee for over twenty years now, and our two daughters are currently braving the worlds of elementary and high school. We’ve lived in Santa Barbara for the last seventeen years. When I’m not writing or reading or braving seventy degree holidays, you’ll find me watching the younger daughter play softball, or the older daughter building amazing high school theater sets


Alisa Stewart feels like she's lost two sons: her eldest to a terrible tragedy and her youngest, Kurt, to a life ruined by addiction. But now Kurt has checked himself into rehab and found a healing faith that seems real. It's like he's been raised from the dead.

But then a detective arrives at Alisa's door asking questions about a murder--the death of a drug dealer before Kurt entered rehab. Alisa fears losing her son again, and when she finds evidence linking him to the killing, she destroys it. Her boy is different now. He's changed and deserves a second chance.

But when another man is charged with the crime, Alisa finds herself facing an impossible choice: be silent and keep her son or give up everything for the truth.

To read the first chapter of Leaving Yesterday, click HERE

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