Thursday, July 29, 2010



My observations of the metamorphosis of the Monarch butterfly

Each spring my garden is covered in Monarch butterfly caterpillars. They come because of the milkweed plants that are so prevalent there. After gorging themselves on the leaves, which is their sole source of food, these fat little "worms" crawl off to find a place to "hang". Once a location is selected, the caterpillars cannot be moved. In fact, if you try to detach them, they will most likely return to that same location.

The caterpillar will suspend itself into the shape of the letter "j" to prepare for creating its chrysalis. It takes less than 24 hours for the caterpillar to form the chrysalis. Eventually, the head of the caterpillar falls off, and a bright, green chrysalis appears.

Monarch Butterfly Chrysallis

The chrysalis remains green until the morning the butterfly is to emerge. At that point, it becomes completely clear, and you can observe the butterfly folded inside. This happens within about a week's span.

Monarch Chrysallis

Don't blink! Within less than one minute the butterfly emerges. Close observation shows a split occurring to the chrysalis from which the butterfly will push itself out. I am always so amazed it could fit in there!

Monarch Butterfly Emerging Monarch Butterfly Emerging

After emerging, the butterfly hangs upside down for several hours to dry its wings. It will turn back and forth to stimulate air flow. The drying time is very important because if the wings do not dry properly, they will be wrinkled and the butterfly will not be able to fly. Sadly, I've seen this happen.

Eventually, the new butterfly begins to pump its wings open-closed, open-closed. This helps to finish the drying process and also strengthens their wings. Then as the temperature of the day starts to rise, the butterfly flies away!

Newly Emerged Monarch Butterfly

You can watch a newly emerged Monarch as it dries its wings in the video below.

*All of these images were taken with my Nikon d5000, including the video.

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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, July 28, 2010

Intrigue in Paris

Reviewed by Phee Paradise

Dark in the City of Light
By Paul Robertson

It’s the middle of the nineteenth century and Europe is essentially divided into three powers – Austria, France and Prussia. The clash of empires makes war inevitable and the race is on to see who can amass the largest army and develop the most powerful weapons. Dark in the City of Light is a classic historical novel about the events of this period, but the setting and characters personalize it and keep it from becoming a historical treatise.

The story is centered on an Austrian family living in Paris. They are critical to the balance of power in Europe because they own one of the only sources of the explosive used in large guns. Their mines produce cinnabar ore which is distilled into mercury fulminate. The attempts by agents of the super powers to obtain the ore are full of intrigue, lies and maybe even murder.

Although the events of the story are global, Robertson personalizes it by focusing on Baron Harsanyi and his two children. The baron appears to be self-serving, playing one country against another. He is also an autocratic but not very attentive father. His son doesn’t know what he wants, but is angry with his father for making him attend the French military academy. His daughter is only interested in parties and the mysterious Frenchman who stole her heart in Vienna. And the French agent who wants to buy the ore is willing to take advantage of all the family’s problems.

The title is appropriate because there doesn’t seem to be much light in Paris at that time. It’s hard to see the good in any of the characters, although Harsanyi and his son both have their moments and I liked the few people that they both trust. The theme can best be explained by a phrase that is often used throughout the book. “Only God could … stop evil, keep a man from doing evil, stop the war …” Unfortunately, that is not an expression of hope, but of cynicism. When they use the phrase, they mean it will not happen because they don’t expect God to act. But somehow, through the evil events in the story, good does manage to shine through, God is not totally absent, and genuine love motivates some of the characters.

I found the book refreshing, after reading a lot of much lighter, romantic historical fiction, and I enjoyed learning about a period of time I knew nothing about. Keep in mind that the Napoleon in the book is not the one you studied in high school. This one is his grandson and not nearly as powerful or brilliant.

Pros: Detailed historical fiction with conflicted characters who reflect the international conflict they influence.

Cons: The mood is pretty dark and you have to be patient to see the goodness in the story.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Dark In The City Of Light
Bethany House (July 1, 2010)

Paul Robertson


Paul Robertson is a computer programming consultant, part-time high-school math and science teacher, and the author of The Heir. He is also a former Christian bookstore owner (for 15 years), who lives with his family in Blacksburg, Virginia.


What Evil Haunts the Shadows of 1870s Paris?

Baron Ferdinand Harsanyi — After his wife's mysterious death, this Austrian attaché holds control over mines whose coveted ore could turn the tide of war.

Therese Harsanyi — Swept up in new romance and the spectacle of Paris, the Baron's daughter is blind to the dangers stalking her family and the city she loves.

Rudolph Harsanyi — Unsure whom to trust, the Baron's son's grief over his mother's death twists into growing anger and a desire to break free.

As France and Prussia plunge toward war, one family is caught in a web of deceit, political intrigue, and murder that threatens to tear them apart.

To read the first chapter of Dark In The City Of Light, click HERE.

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Series on Freelance Article Writing - Part 2

Structuring an Article by Debbie Roome
Welcome to part two of our series on writing articles. This week we will look at how to put an article together.

The Basic Components of an Article
An article needs an introduction, a middle and a conclusion:
· Introduction – this should tell the reader what the article is about ... and capture their attention. Many people decide whether to keep reading based on the first couple of lines of an article. Try and present the topic in an interesting way that raises questions and lays a foundation for the middle of the article
· Middle – this is the place to develop the content. Do this in a logical manner and focus on the chosen topic. Facts should be verifiable and sources cited where appropriate. Quotations add interest to an article and should be included were possible
· Conclusion – once the content has been presented, it is important to summarize the important facts. The ending should pull the article together while allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions

How Long should an Article be
Articles can start from as little as a couple of hundred words and extend to several thousand words. The length should be determined by the publication the article is aimed at.

Where are Articles Published
Articles are published in a variety of publications which can be divided into the following broad categories:
· Newspapers
· Magazines
· Websites
· Advertising material

Come back next week to find out how to lay out your articles and present them to an editor.

Debbie Roome works as a freelance writer from her home in New Zealand. Visit her at Debbie Roome or browse through her blog. Some of her work can be found at Suite 101 , Take Root and Write and Faithwriters.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Shaker Romance?

Reviewed by Phee Paradise

The Seeker
By Ann H. Gabhart

A romance about the Shakers seems like an oxymoron, since they believed marrying was sin. In The Seeker, Charlotte Vance follows her fiancé to the Shakers after he breaks their engagement, and joins them. Hoping to convince him to change his mind, she discovers that is not an easy task, since she is not allowed to talk to him. So where’s the romance?

Well, it isn’t really about Charlotte’s ex-fiancé. There’s an artist that visits her father’s house, who is enchanted by Charlotte, but has no intention of making a commitment. So, although the Shakers play an important part in the story, it’s not really a romance about them. In fact, the book is more about the Civil War and slavery, than it is about the Shakers.

Charlotte has more than one reason for joining the Shakers, including escaping from her father’s new wife and trying to help her favorite slave. While she lives with them, she learns a lot about herself, about hard work, and about her own faith. The Shaker faith had some strange tenets, including belief that their female founder was the second coming of Christ. In spite of this, Gabhart dwells on their positive attributes and gives her readers an interesting look at this fascinating cult.

My favorite parts of the book were not about the Shakers. The story takes place in Kentucky, which hopes to stay neutral in the pending war. Many of its citizens want to stay in the Union, but keep their slaves. When the war starts, Gabhart provides moving, but not too graphic, descriptions of several of the battles. There is also a delightful series of letters between Charlotte and the artist, which document both the war and their romance.

You might pick up the book out of curiosity about the Shakers, and it’ll be satisfied, but you’ll get so much more than that.

Pros: Fascinating descriptions of a Shaker community and the Civil War. It also has good characters and a satisfying romance.

Cons: The main character lacks common sense and some situations seem contrived.

About the book

When well-laid plans go awry, can she still make her dreams come true?

Charlotte Vance is a young woman who knows what she wants. But when the man she planned to marry joins the Shakers—a religious group that does not allow marriage—she is left dumbfounded. And when her father brings home a new wife who is young enough to be Charlotte's sister, it is more than she can bear. With the country—and her own household—on the brink of civil war, this pampered gentlewoman hatches a plan to avoid her new stepmother and win back her man by joining the Shaker community at Harmony Hill. Little does she know that this decision will lead her down a road of unforeseen consequences.

Ann H. Gabhart brings alive the strikingly different worlds of the Southern gentry, the simple Shakers, and the ravages of war in 1860s Kentucky to weave a touching story of love, freedom, and forgiveness.

About the author

Ann H. Gabhart is the bestselling author of several novels, including The Outsider, The Believer, and The Seeker. Her latest novel was inspired in part by the many stories her mother and two aunts told her of growing up in small town Kentucky during the 1930s. She lives with her husband a mile from where she was born in Kentucky.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Editing Tip # 39: Writing Your Memoir (part five)

Kathy Ide’s Editing Tips
© Kathy Ide, 2010

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

~ Writing Your Memoir (part five) ~

The last few weeks I’ve been discussing some steps to creating a good memoir. Here are two more.

Step 6: Share

Once you’ve finished a solid draft, have two or more people you trust (including people who represent your “target audience”) read your manuscript and give you their honest impressions—both what they liked and what they think could be improved. Don’t tell them anything about the book ahead of time. Ask them to highlight sections they feel are powerful and sections they found confusing, boring, or unnecessary. After they’ve read the memoir, ask them to summarize what the story was about (without looking again at the manuscript). Be sure to thank your reviewers for their feedback and their time.

Consider these assessments/critiques as objectively as you can. If you disagree with one person’s opinion, ask someone else. If you get the same response from more than one reviewer, give it serious consideration. Carefully consider all feedback offered, but in each instance, give yourself the freedom to take it or leave it. After all, this is your story.

Consider finding, joining, or starting a critique group with others who are writing their memoirs (either in person or by e-mail). Giving and receiving feedback with like-minded people can sharpen your writing and self-editing skills. And it won’t cost you anything but time.

Step 7: Polish

Fine-tune your memoir by making sure all the nitty-gritty stuff (punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling) is correct. A simple comma in the wrong place can change the meaning of a sentence. And mechanical errors will make you look like an amateur (to readers and publishers).

Review the nuts and bolts of punctuation and grammar for yourself. Consult The Chicago Manual of Style (the industry-standard reference for commercial book publishers in the US). Be sure to use the most recent edition. (The 15th is the current, but the 16th is scheduled for release August 1, 2010.)

If you can’t get a copy of The Chicago Manual of Style (or can’t find what you’re looking for in it, or can’t understand it when you do), you may wish to purchase my Polishing the PUGS: Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling Tips for Writers. It’s based on the rules in CMOS, but is organized in a more user-friendly fashion and written in easier-to-understand layman’s terms. (Available on my Web site,

Look up every word you’re not 100% sure of the spelling for in the most recent edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (the industry standard for commercial book publishers in the US). Study the definition to make sure the word is what you meant in that context and that you’re using the correct spelling for that form of speech. Look up all hyphenated words and compound words. Do not rely on spell-check.

Ask a friend to proofread your manuscript to catch typos, inconsistencies, and other mistakes you may have overlooked.


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 written books, articles, play and movie scripts, short stories, devotionals, and curriculum. Her books include Polishing the PUGS and Fiction and Truth. Kathy is a full-time freelance editor, offering a wide range of editorial services for authors and publishers. 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, July 22, 2010

Photographing Where You Live


You know you've been there. You picked up the latest issue of a photography magazine and an entire article was dedicated to some remote, fascinating location. You soon find yourself either (a) planning your next trip or (b) feeling really down-in-the-dumps because you "never go anywhere".

Looking at the same scenery day after day, we become visually jaded. The beauty of the world around us fades and is replaced by seemingly impossible-to-reach expanses of ocean or glorious mountain heights. So how can we re-fire our love for the landscape of home? And how can we best display it to those who've perhaps never been here?

Circle B Reserve, Lake Hancock, Winter Haven, Florida
Tree Shapes

1. Remember

In the second question, you find the first key. Remember that others have never been there. Where you live is just as unique to other people as their location is to you. With that thought in mind, ask yourself what in your area makes it stand out. It could be architecture, natural geology, or a particular historical event. Do some research. Pick a location, and go there.

2. Angle

When you visit, take photos from many spots. Do both close-ups and wide-angles. Include people in some and exclude people in others. Look for high camera angles or low camera angles. Different points of view seen together will in the end give your viewer a better feel for that location. And don't be afraid to imitate a well-known photograph for yourself.

Oak Hammock
Oak Hammock

3. Seasons

If your area is seasonal, plan out how you can over the course of time feature the seasons. I know here in Central Florida this is often a bigger challenge, especially in the winter months. Therefore, I look for decoration displays indicative of an upcoming holiday. I also pay attention to the more subtle changes in nature, the bare branches of certain trees or the early flush of spring. There is something special to where you live, you have only to step back and see it.

4. Time of Day

The lighting at certain times of day can be a definitive factor. The sunset on canyon walls adds additional colors to the stones. The placement of a statue at noontime might create particular patterns of light between buildings. Be sure to use the shadows to your advantage. Shadows can indicate distance or height, or even exaggerate it.

Fallen Oaks
Fallen Oaks

5. Information

Lastly, include location information in an online gallery, especially if there is history involved. This will give a better foundation for your photographs. However, keep the words short. Learn how to paraphrase or refer to a link when a longer explanation is needed. Too many words can be distracting and cause people to lose interest.

I am always trying to display to others how beautiful it is here. Most often, people think of Florida as sand, beaches, and sea shells. Yet for me, as a resident of this county from birth, Florida is slash pines, live oaks, and sabal palmettoes. It is ponds, whose dark waters provide sustenance to multiple species of herons, egrets, ibis, or storks, and of course, the ever present alligator. I desire to present the beauty of this place to others, so that even if they never have an opportunity to visit here in person, through my photographs they might feel like they did.

*If you have an online gallery, that displays your area, leave a link in the comments section. I am always willing to travel to your locale via the internet.

Sabal Palms
Sabal Palms

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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, July 21, 2010

Murder on the Victory Train

Reviewed by Phee Paradise

Stars in the Night
By Cara Putnam

There’s plenty of romance in Stars in the Night, but not from long walks on late evenings. The stars are movie stars and the main character is reluctant to acknowledge the romance. Audra Shaeffer is intent on finding her sister’s murderer. The search takes her on a train ride with a bunch of Hollywood stars who are touring the country to sell war bonds during the second World War. Although she doesn’t know it, Audra is beautiful enough to catch the stars’ attention, and one of them, Robert Garfield, gets hers.

The romance and the mystery of the murder develop side by side. Although Audra is attracted to Robert, she doesn’t know if she can trust him. He does all he can to reassure her and help her in her search for the killer. Since most of the story takes place on a train, they are thrown together, like it or not. Robert is thrilled with the opportunity, although Audra tries to keep her distance.

Robert is an interesting character. Although a recognized star, he is on the Hollywood B list and currently without a contract. He is a strong Christian and tries to avoid the typical Hollywood lifestyle, although he had allowed the studio to tell him whom to marry. The result was a painful divorce that he didn’t seek.

Audra, on the other hand, confused me. She is also a strong Christian and her faith is beyond question. But, while she is described as a strong woman, her actions present her as weak and emotionally driven. She is an attorney who has fought for acceptance in a male world, but she constantly doubts herself and her abilities. She believes she should always be in control, and blames herself for not taking care of her sister, but most of her decisions lack common sense. It felt to me like Putnam told the readers who she wanted Audra to be, but showed us a different person.

The murder mystery part of the book was well developed and the story was peppered with clues, but not enough to solve the mystery. For a little while I thought the solution would have no relevance to the clues, but I was proved wrong. In the end the mystery is solved, the romance is resolved and the future looks bright.

What more could you ask from your light reading?

Pros: Well developed plot and characters with an underlying strong Christian message. A good mystery with just the right touch of romance.

Cons: The motivations of the protagonist are not consistent with the author’s depiction of her character.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Stars In The Night
Summerside Press (July 1, 2010)

Cara Putman


A Word From Cara:

I graduated from high school at sixteen, college at 20, and completed my law degree when I was 27.

My writing journey started in 2005 when I decided to write my first novel. Now I have eleven books published with more on the way.

People say I've accomplished a lot and that I must have life by the proverbial tail. Hardly! I grew up as a home schooled kid when home schoolers were misunderstood and oddities.

I struggle with balancing my writing and law career, plus being a good mom and wife.

I often fear people won't like my books.

I've walked through the deep pain of miscarriage.

Really, I'm just like you – I don't have it all together and have gone through tough times. But in His strength, I've discovered a strength I never knew I had. A strength I want you to discover, too.

In the end I'm just an ordinary mom who has seen God do some wonderful things as I've been obedient to step into the calling He's led me into.

Stars in the Night Background

Stars in the Night was an idea that had begun to percolate in my mind. I’d written two World War II series and was actively looking for my next setting. My husband, a huge World War II history buff, and I were kicking ideas around, and I’d decided Hollywood was probably the next place for me. I’d gone to the library and gotten a stack of research books when I got the call. An editor I knew but had never worked with wanted to know if I might be interested in a new line they were starting. As we talked, I got so excited. And then she emailed me their guidelines, which listed that Hollywood was a location they were interested in setting books.

Only God could have known ahead of time. But because I followed His prompting I was ready to run with an idea. Stars in the Night is the result.


Hollywood 1942. When attorney Audra Schaeffer's sister disappears, Audra flies to Hollywood to find her.

Any day Audra might have been flattered by the friendly overtures of Robert Garfield, a real-life movie star. But on the flight from Indianapolis to Hollywood, Audra can think of little else than finding her missing sister. When Audra arrives in the city of glitz and glamour, and stars, and learns her rising starlet sister has been murdered, all thoughts of romance fly away.

Determined to bring the killer to justice, Audra takes a job with the second Hollywood Victory Caravan.

Together with Robert Garfield and other stars, she crisscrosses the southern United States in a campaign to sell war bonds. When two other women are found dead on the train, Audra knows the deaths are tied to that of her sister.

Could the killer be the man with whom she's falling in love?

To read an excerpt of Chapter 1 of Stars In The Night, click HERE.

Contest: Lots of opportunities to win and great prizes, and the grand prize contains some of Cara's favorite classic movies as well as all of her WWII novels: Launch Contest!

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Series on Freelance Article Writing

What is an Article by Debbie Roome
Welcome to our new series on article writing. Over the next few weeks we’ll look at the basics of article writing, how to market your work and what pitfalls to avoid.

Define an Article
Articles are nonfictional and come in many shapes, forms and sizes. They are generally an independent part of a larger publication.

What Kind of Articles can I Write
The word article encompasses a whole range of writing. Here are some possibilities to look at:
· How-to-articles give step by step instructions to help readers accomplish a certain task. This can include things such as unblocking a drain, baking the perfect chocolate cake or painting a wooden fence

· Self-help articles focus on specific areas. For example they may lay out the steps to overcoming addictions or clearing up a skin problem. They are similar to how-to-articles but the tone is more personal

· Reviews are articles that discuss books, movies, theatre and restaurants and look at the strengths, weaknesses and entertainment value of these

· Interview articles are normally based on a conversation with a celebrity or a person with experience or qualifications in a certain area. These may be on a serious topic such as global warming or may be about the person and their lifestyle and achievements

· Inspirational articles are those that inspire people to change their lifestyles and habits and help them see the positive side of every situation. They may include anecdotes about people who have achieved the extraordinary

· Humorous articles are just that. The writer takes a situation and writes about it in a way that causes the reader to laugh

· News articles are the basis of newspapers and are aimed at answering the questions of who, what, when, where and why

Come back next week to find out how to put an article together.

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.

Monday, July 19, 2010

How Not to Face High School

Reviewed by Phee Paradise

Perfectly Dateless
by Kristin Billerbeck

Perfectly Dateless is a 21st century print version of an ‘80s teen movie. It has all the insecurities, self loathing, and cliques located firmly within the horrors of high school. I suppose it might be an entertaining book for a teenage girl who is experiencing it all, but it was a little too extreme for me. I hated high school, but I don’t remember it being that bad.

Daisy Crispin, entering her senior year after being nobody for the past three, is determined to attend her prom. Being a perfectionist, she starts a journal to keep track of her progress. On top being way outside the popular crowd, she has strict parents who won’t let her date and insist she wear homemade clothes. Things do not look promising.

The book is full of long entries in her prom journal, which I found unnecessary for the story. Daisy narrates her life in first person, present tense, so we get a ringside seat to her emotions and thoughts. She is a typical, self-absorbed teen, and Billerbeck did a great job of presenting the world through her eyes. I tried to see the adult reasoning behind Daisy’s parents, but all I saw was their weird and strict decisions. I agreed with Daisy that they totally didn’t get her. But I did see her rebellious attitude, and didn’t like it. That made it hard to empathize with her problems.

But there are some interesting plot twists to the story and the journal turns out to be a symbol of Daisy’s declaration of independence. It doesn’t work out the way she planned and even her parents turn out to be much more understanding than she expected. But she manages to grow up without too much damage. There is a lesson in the book about trust and obedience, so I wouldn’t mind my teenager reading it.

Pros: It captures the current world of teens from a – slightly – Christian perspective and offers some insight into how not to be a teen.

Cons: It’s definitely targeted to teenage girls and doesn’t have much to offer any other readers.

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A Princess, A Prince and A Dragon

Reviewed by Phee Paradise

By Anne Elisabeth Stengl

I’ve been disappointed by the fantasy books I’ve reviewed for Pix-N-Pens. None have measured up to my favorite secular authors, but Heartless makes up for all the others. At first, it didn’t look like much of a story and it didn’t seem very original. In the kingdom of Parumvir, Princess Una comes of age and suitors visit the palace to ask for her hand in marriage. She gets to choose among them and she chooses badly. Neither she nor the reader anticipates the consequences of her decision. Meanwhile, there are rumors of a dragon causing mayhem wherever he goes. By this point, I was hooked.

I am not going to spoil it for you, but I will tell you that I was so wrapped up in the events of the story, that I almost missed the deep themes. It occurred to me toward the end that this might be an allegory. The Christian themes are all there – love, faith, hope, grace and sacrifice. But the allegory, if that’s what it is, is subtle. The parallels are not as clear as in some Christian fiction. That is a good thing. It provided some distance that let me enjoy the story while I read it, and ponder the meaning afterward.

The publicity for the book mentions Tolkien. That’s quite a claim to make and I don’t quite see it. The style is reminiscent of Victorian fairytales and Heartless does not have the breadth and depth of The Lord of the Rings. But the story is so well told and the themes are integrated so well, that I would not hesitate to put it on my shelf next to Tolkien.

If you like fantasy at all, or even if you just have fond memories of your childhood fairy tales, you won’t want to miss this book. I highly recommend it.

Pros: Fascinating tale of kingdoms, princesses, fairies, dragons and romance with a gripping resolution to an old problem.

Cons: The style is a little distant and you might take a while to get used to it.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Bethany House (July 1, 2010)


Anne Elisabeth Stengl


Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she enjoys her profession as an art teacher, giving private lessons from her personal studio, and teaching group classes at the Apex Learning Center. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. Heartless is her debut novel.


Princess Una of Parumvir has come of age and will soon be married. She dreams of a handsome and charming prince, but when the first suitor arrives, she finds him stodgy and boring. Prince Aethelbald from the mysterious land of Farthestshore has traveled far to prove his love--and also to bring hushed warnings of danger. A dragon is rumored to be approaching Parumvir.

Una, smitten instead with a more dashing prince, refuses Aethelbald's offer--and ignores his warnings. Soon the Dragon King himself is in Parumvir, and Una, in giving her heart away unwisely, finds herself in grave danger. When Una makes the wrong choice, catastrophe ensues for the princess and her family, and love, courage, and trust are needed when darkness engulfs the kingdom.

Only those courageous enough to risk everything have a hope of fighting off this advancing evil.

There are some delightful things and scenes: the Twelve-Year Market that appears in its own good time and sells fairy goods; a clever blind cat who is invariably underfoot and has, of course, a secret!

To read the first chapter of Heartless, click HERE.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Editing tip #38: Writing Your Memoir (part four)

Kathy Ide’s Editing Tips
© Kathy Ide, 2010

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

~ Writing Your Memoir (part four) ~

The last three weeks I discussed some steps to creating a good memoir. Here’s one more.

Step 5: Revise

After you have a detailed outline and a completed first draft, it’s time to let out your “inner editor” and make some improvements.

A. Revisit Step 1 above. Does everything in your manuscript:
a. relate to your specific theme?
b. appeal to your target audience?
c. fit with your chosen voice?
d. have a consistent tone?
e. follow a logical order and flow smoothly?

B. Take out any “inside jokes” that only your and your family and friends would get.

C. Consider how what you write will affect other people if your memoir gets published. If something is potentially controversial, you may wish to change some people’s names and any details that may make the individuals identifiable to theselves and/or people who know/knew them. Put a disclaimer in the front of your book stating that some names and identifying details have been changed.

D. If your memoir includes references to a particular culture, important people or events in history, details of careers or hobbies not your own, etc., double-check your facts for accuracy. Errors, even minor ones, will undermine your credibility with your reader.

E. Read the manuscript aloud, one “character” at a time, as if you were an actor in a play, and act out the motions mentioned in the text. Listen for places where the dialogue sounds forced, stilted, or unrealistic, or where a person’s speech is inconsistent. Watch for places where an individual stands when he/she is already standing, sits when he/she is already sitting, stops being involved in a scene without actually leaving the area, fails to react appropriately, etc. Look for places where a character or object suddenly appears in a scene (or disappears).

F. Tighten your manuscript. Consider every chapter, scene, paragraph, sentence, even every word. Could it be deleted without losing anything important or changing the meaning? If so, cut it out (no matter how fond you may be of it). You will be tempted to include certain scenes or details because they are exciting or important to you, but if it isn’t relevant to your theme, bite the bullet and take it out. (Save it for your next book if that makes you feel better.) Eliminate all unnecessary details. Provide only enough backstory or specifics to explain the context of events. Don’t overwhelm readers by giving too much information. Don’t bog down your story with a lot of adjectives and adverbs. Use powerful nouns and verbs instead.


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 written books, articles, play and movie scripts, short stories, devotionals, and curriculum. Her books include Polishing the PUGS and Fiction and Truth. Kathy is a full-time freelance editor, offering a wide range of editorial services for authors and publishers. 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, July 15, 2010

Simple Steps To Photography


There are two things about me that people are quick to learn. First, that I love photography. Given all the photographs I post everywhere, that is easy to figure out. Second, that I like things to be simple. If a task is complicated or requires multiple steps, chances are I will avoid it. With that said, when I am writing about photography, I want to state things in a manner that anyone on any level can understand.

Perhaps it is because I remember what it was like to be "me" at different stages of my life. I can remember being a sixteen year old, a new wife, and a young mother. For this reason, I strive to adapt myself to fit different situations and by extension, I apply this same mannerism to my writing. I do this also because I have known people who weren't like this - a certain high school chemistry teacher comes to mind. He could never seem to "come down" to the level of us, his students, and as a result, I learned less in his class than any other.

Photography can be complicated or it can be simple. It's all in how you approach it. Since I like things to be more on the simple side, here are a few of my favorite tips.

Lynx Spider
Lynx Spider


It always amazes me that people do not do this. Whenever I buy a new electronic gadget, the manual is the first thing I look for. With a few exceptions, it is the best way to learn what your camera will or won't do. (There are always badly written manuals.)

Another great way to learn more about your camera is through reading reviews. Even after I have purchased it and have it in my hands, I can figure out how certain settings work from those who spent days examining it from every angle. I even watched the (slightly corny) "how to" DVD they sent me.


The best way to learn aperture, ISO, and shutter speed is by watching what your camera chooses on its own when you hit the shutter button. If your camera has a function that shows you the details of your photograph, then use it. It is through diligent observation that you will learn what settings work and will know when you need to alter them. Think of it as having a constant guide with you, someone who has the photo knowledge you don't, and take advantage of that.



Most cameras have an EV adjustment setting. "EV" stands for exposure value, and it most often appears as a +/- sign, whether as an actual button or from within the camera's menu. In short, EV alters the luminance of a scene to be brighter or darker. A dark object against a bright background with a positive EV adjustment can correct for contrast problems and give more detail to shadowy areas. In the same manner, a bright object, for instance a white flower, against a dark background, with a minus EV will preserve highlight details (and often prevent the "white blob" syndrome).

EV is actually based on a mathematical formula. Now, it is not necessary for you to understand the formula. But knowing it is there and realizing how it affects your photographs is a big step forward.


The biggest compositional advice I can give is for everything that is straight to look straight. A vertical object, a tree or a building, for instance, should look vertical, and horizons should be horizontal, not going up or downhill. These can be corrected somewhat in post-edit, so don't despair, but anything a photographer can do to avoid editing afterward is a sign of a better photographer.

Working Farm, Near Blairsville, Georgia
Working Farm, Near Blairsville, Georgia


My last bit of advice is the simplest of all. Take lots of pictures and delete the bad ones. Digital photography is great for this. It is always important to learn from your mistakes, but don't beat yourself up because you have made one. Take each photograph knowing you can take another and readjust what you just did in some manner to make it better. Compare them later; notice which one worked best, and save that into your thinking.

At the heart of photography is the enjoyment of it. Always savor the moment you are in, regardless of what photographs you successfully capture or which ones you failed at entirely. After all, the sunset is still beautiful even without a lens in your hand.

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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, July 14, 2010

Mormon Polygamy

Reviewed by Phee Paradise

The Sister Wife
By Diane Noble

Imagine the man you love, who has committed himself to you in marriage, taking a second wife because God told him to. In The Sister Wife, Gabriel MacKay is a devout Mormon with two wives. We see his point of view, which is complex, but the story is more about his first wife, Mary Rose, than it is about Gabe.

It starts with a gripping prologue that shows Mary Rose facing Gabe’s wedding to his second wife. I was fascinated by her feelings of hurt, anger, determination and love for Gabe. But, after pulling me into her turmoil, in chapter one, Noble jolted me by jumping back to a time before the two had met. It was a disappointing shift, although she is such a skilled writer that it didn’t take me long to fall back into their story.

Neither Mary Rose nor Gabe were born Mormon. Her grandfather converted when the religion was quite new and, in spite of her doubts, he brought her with him to America to live in the town the Saints were building. Gabe had rejected God when his family died at sea. They met on board ship while crossing the ocean where they fell in love and married. They also witnessed a miracle performed by Brigham Young that convinced them both that he was right about God and the new Church.

The transformation in their marriage, and especially in Gabe’s beliefs is gradual, but inexorable. He is drawn in by Joseph Smith’s teaching that he can become a god. Mary Rose is disturbed that women are excluded and that she can only learn about the faith from Gabe. But she loves and trusts him, and he has a charm that always turns away her doubts.

I loved Mary Rose, but I was disappointed that she let Gabe persuade her to a lifestyle that she hated. I begged her to say no to him, but each time she made a decision to stand up to him or to leave him, circumstances or his charm changed her mind. The changes in Gabe were not so complex and I was disappointed to learn that he had a predisposition to love more than one woman. I felt it reduced his Mormon beliefs to simple lust.

The descriptions of faith in the book are interesting and at first I wondered if Noble is a Mormon. The teachings of the Prophet seemed authentic and I could see why the characters embraced his religion. None of them seemed to have much background in true Christianity. Mary Rose remembered her mother teaching her scripture when she was young, but was confused about its truth, since Smith taught that most of the Bible was wrong. She and some of the other women doubt the new religion and ask God to reveal Himself to them, but there is no one to help them find the truth.

The Sister Wife is a fascinating story about love and faith, and how people change. The growth in the characters is enough to recommend the book, but it’s also a well told story. I couldn’t put it down.

Pros: Fascinating story with wonderful characters about a lifestyle that is incomprehensible to most of us. Very well written.

Cons: The characters never find the truth, although there are hints of it throughout the story.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Sister Wife
Avon Inspire (June 22, 2010)

Diane Noble


Diane Noble is a former double finalist for the prestigious RITA Award for Best Inspirational Fiction, a finalist for the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award and the Reviewers' Choice Award, and a three-time recipient of the Silver Angel Award for Media Excellence.

With more than a quarter million books in print, Diane feels incredibly blessed to be doing what she loves best—writing the stories of her heart.

For the last three years Diane has been honored to be lead author for the popular Guideposts series, Mystery and the Minister’s Wife (Through the Fire, Angels Undercover), and has recently returned to writing historical fiction. She is currently writing book two of her new historical series, The Brides of Gabriel. Book one is The Sister Wife.

Diane’s hometown is Big Creek, California, a tiny village nestled in the rugged Sierra Nevada back country. As a child, Diane’s older brother Dennis fueled her creative streak by entertaining her with his own gift of storytelling. Growing up without TV and iffy radio reception, Diane became an avid reader, inhaling more than one hundred novels—both YA and adult—in a single

year by the time she reached seventh grade. Her passion for reading continues to this day.

Now empty nesters, Diane and her husband live in the Southern California low desert, near a place known for the lush and beautiful gated communities of the rich and famous.


What if the man you loved told you God wanted him to take another wife? What if that woman was your best friend?

Set in the heart of the earliest days of a new nineteenth-century sect known as the Saints, The Sister Wife is a riveting account of two women forced into a practice they don't understand, bound by their devotion to Prophet Joseph Smith.

When Mary Rose marries Gabriel, neither of them could foresee how quickly the community would turn to the practice of plural marriage. Devastated when Gabe is faced with an order from the Prophet to marry her best friend, Bronwyn, Mary Rose tries to have the faith to carry through with the marriage.

But can she really be married to the same man as her very best friend? Can Mary Rose and Bronwyn face betraying both their husband and their God to do what they feel is right?

To read the Prologue and first chapter of The Sister Wife, click HERE.

Watch the book video!

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Seasons of Writing

Understanding the Ebb and Flow of Writing by Debbie Roome
I love the verse in Ecclesiastes 3:1 that states, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” (NIV) Do you sometimes feel like your writing is fresh and bursting with promise while other times it is dead and dry? It happens to all of us and looking at the natural seasons can help us gain a perspective of why this happens.

Spring and Writing
This is the season of writing where new ideas are birthed, new projects are conceived and stories begin to grow and develop. It is a time of freshness, hope and inspiration. Thoughts are nurtured in your heart and vision abounds.

Summer and Writing
As spring gives way to summer, ideas mature and blossom and stories are captured on paper. Projects grow and strengthen and life is evident in the words you write.

Fall and Writing
This is the time of harvest when fruits mature and stories are sent forth to touch lives. Projects that once brought excitement may lose their appeal and there is a sense of ageing and decay as winter approaches.

Winter and Writing
Winter often feels like a time of waiting. Everything appears stiff and cold and there is little life or inspiration. Nature is resting and words won’t come. Everything you write feels pointless and dry ... and then the first signs of spring appear and the cycle begins again.

I’ve learnt the best thing to do is surrender my writing to God. Unlike the natural seasons, writers may find the winters short and the spring and summer long. We all need to rest at times and if you’re in a dry season, take time off and relax. Feed your soul with the Word of God, read inspiring books and indulge in creative activities ... and one day you’ll catch a hint of spring as the tendril of an idea pushes forth.

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.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Editing Tip # 37: Writing Your Memoir (part three)

Kathy Ide’s Editing Tips
© Kathy Ide, 2010

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

~ Writing Your Memoir (part three) ~

The last two weeks I discussed some steps to creating a good memoir. In my last column I shared a few ways to incorporate fiction-writing techniques. Here are more of those.

D. Scenes. Considering your memoir’s chosen theme and your target audience, decide which parts of your life story would make interesting scenes. For cohesiveness, one scene should lead naturally to the next (unlike real life often does).

E. Beginning. Consider carefully the best place to start your story. The opening scene (even the opening paragraph) needs to hook readers, compelling them to continue reading to find out what happens next. (Each chapter should also end with a “cliff-hanger” that will entice readers to read “just one more chapter.”)

F. Backstory. Don’t start with a dramatic opening scene and then leave that scene to fill in a lot of information about what happened in the past that led up to it. Weave in specifically chosen details in tiny bits and pieces as they become important to the reader’s understanding of what’s happening in the current scene.

G. Conflict. Each scene should revolve around a particular conflict. If everything is going smoothly, that won’t be interesting to your reader. For every scene, ask yourself: What do you want? Why do you want it so badly? What’s stopping you from getting it? What are you willing to do to achieve your goals? What do you attempt to do? How does that work out for you?

H. Description. Invite readers to experience your story with you by including brief descriptions of the people and places. Provide just enough specifics for readers to visualize, but avoid superfluous details that don’t relate specifically to the story.

I. Dialogue. Dialogue makes a scene “come alive” and gives readers an insight into how the people communicated with each other as well as their personalities and moods. The words don’t need to be exactly what was said, just an accurate reflection that is authentic and relevant to your story. Do not use include dialect (spelling words the way they sound, such as droppin’ letters at the ends o’ words). Do not use profanity (even mild curse words or symbol substitutes), as this can offend some readers. (If cursing is integral to a scene, you may say that a character swore without using the actual words.)

J. Surprise. A good story occasionally surprises readers. If your memoir is too predictable, readers will get bored and stop reading.

K. Climax. All scenes in the manuscript should progressively lead toward a powerful climax in which it seems impossible for you to achieve your desires. The climax should come very near the end of the book.

L. Resolution. The last few pages of the book should show how you either reached the goal you established in the beginning or realized that you were better off going a different direction after all. How your memoir ends is as important as how it begins. While real life never gets tied up in tidy bows, the memoir needs a satisfying resolution to the particular theme being addressed. What message do you want readers to come away with after reading your story? Make sure that message is clearly communicated by the end. Don’t leave your readers hanging, but don’t draw out the resolution for too long either.


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


Kathy Ide has written books, articles, play and movie scripts, short stories, devotionals, and curriculum. Her books include Polishing the PUGS and Fiction and Truth. Kathy is a full-time freelance editor, offering a wide range of editorial services for authors and publishers. 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, July 8, 2010

Learning Curves


Well, I finally did it. I bought a DSLR. I am excited; don't get me wrong. However, what has happened is exactly what I expected. I am back, in some ways, to being a beginner. There is now a learning curve between the knowledge I have acquired over the last ten years, and the knowledge I am lacking.

I keep asking myself how it will change me, as a photographer and a writer. I guess time will only tell.


My last camera never did sit right with me. You know how that is. It's like the time my husband and I bought a new car only to trade it a year later because we neither one liked it. I was finished with that camera not too long after I purchased it. If I'd had foresight, I would have returned it.

In the long run, I think it did damage to my photography. Oh, I took some great pictures with it. But unlike it's predecessor, it had less of a photographic range to work with. I equate it to taking photos on a leash. I could only go so far before I ran out of options. As time passed, I felt this more and more.

Why do we do that to ourselves? Why do we buy certain things only to discover it really isn't what we want after all? What happens between the shiny catalog advertisement and the actual owning of the object? You know, you buy the new pair of pants and then your spouse or a friend makes one comment and you never wear them again. That's kind of how I felt about that camera.

My husband suggested I sell it. He loves to sell things. My response was, "I wouldn't sell that camera to my worst friend." (Not that I have a worst friend.) So instead, I have buried it back in the closet. I think somehow it'll do its best work there.

Monarch Butterfly
Monarch Butterfly

I have now so much to learn, and I am looking forward to it. I pinch myself sometimes to see if I'm not dreaming, that I really CAN take that shot and it will turn out. My brain has yet to adjust. But I suspect when all is said and done, I'll adapt just fine.

After all, my philosophy hasn't changed. I still believe that anyone can make great photographs, no matter what camera they are using. Well, perhaps not if they have the one I just got rid of...

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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.