Monday, May 28, 2007

What I learned this weekend

If you've heard me talk at length before you may have heard me say I get more story ideas over Memorial Day weekend than the entire rest of the year. Attribute it to my morbid curiosity if you will, but I love visiting cemeteries. The older, the better. Between my husband, my father-in-law, and me, we travel to several cemeteries in rural southern Ohio to visit the graves of some of the more important people in our lives who have gone on.

Warranting a visit on Memorial Day weekend is quite an honor I suppose. It isn't possible to visit every departed loved one. Some graves are too far away and the trip isn't feasible. Or there just isn't enough hours in the day. So we visit grandparents, my husband's mother, a brother and sister who died in infancy, my nephew who died when he was seven, a beloved uncle, and various great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, and those whose relationship to us we aren't exactly sure of.

Some of the graves I visit year after year belong to people who aren't related to me and who died before I was ever born. Certain headstones prick my curiosity and won't let me be. Today I read a marker belonging to a baby who was laid to rest next to his parents. He was born on his parents' first anniversary in 1957 and died three months later. His parents went on to have 3 more children. Another infant was born and died on May 31, 1897. His young mother joined him in death two weeks later. Another baby died on her first birthday in 1901, which also happened to be Christmas Eve.

None of these stories are unique. With the help of modern medicine, it is a rarity for a couple in America to lose a child in the first few years of life. But not in 1901 or even in 1957. Many mothers knew what it was like to bury a child she loved and nurtured in her womb for nine months. Sadly, the next morning she had to get up and cook breakfast, milk the cows, gather the eggs, and finish a hundred other chores just like any other morning. She didn't have the luxury of microwave meals to tide the rest of the family over until she was able to rise out of her bed and drawing her remaining children to her bosom.

As a writer, I think on these things and wonder how these young women and families survived the hardships that were everyday occurrences for them. I wish I could document every story for they deserve to be told. Memorial Day is a time to remember our fallen heroes and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we might enjoy the freedoms we often take for granted.

But I can't help remembering the everyday heroes who put their staggering pain aside for the best interests of their families. I don't know if I could've been as strong as these hardy women, and the men too, who got up the next morning and went on with their lives after the ultimate loss. They didn't have therapists and books and hardship leave from work. Life went on and so did they.

If not for the grace of God...

Wishing each of you a blessed and prosperous week.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Welcome to author Toni V. Lee

In case you haven't discovered it yet, a great place to meet and network with Christians authors, artists, and just plain wonderful people is Shoutlife. Shoutlife is a fun place for those who have felt out of place or overwhelmed on other online communities. Shoutlife is also where I met Christian author Toni V. Lee. (pictured at left) Today we are going to discuss Toni's latest book, Expectations, and get to know Toni a little better. First read the review for Expectations and then join me in welcoming Toni to Joy in the Journey.

Expectations is a romantic comedy-drama about a woman who prays for a husband and receives more than one unexpected answer.When Michael Greer barges into Daria Simpson’s home to avoid a belligerent ex-girlfriend, Daria is not impressed. Then Michael renews his relationship with Christ and begins attending her church. Suddenly, the atmosphere becomes electric, and despite her best intentions, Daria can’t get her mind off that man. Soon they’re having monster alerts that have nothing to do with ogres or dragons. Hilarious encounters, eccentric aunties, and a persistent ex-girlfriend give them plenty of action, but nothing prepares them for the arrival of a secret baby who reveals an awful secret.

Will Michael walk away and fulfill Daria’s fearful expectations, or will their attraction mature into a godly love that lasts a lifetime?

A fresh look at the struggle for pre-marital purity and the power of forgiveness can be found in Expections, the latest work by Toni V. Lee. Using recognizable characters,
situations, and comedy, this novel addresses the impact of self-discovery, physical intimacy, and spiritual renewal on the Christian single man and woman.

Good evening, Toni. Sorry for the delay in having you on the Joy in the Journey, but I know it will be worth the wait. Can you tell everyone a little about yourself?

I’m a former Sunday school teacher who loves to curl up with a good romance novel.

I’m committed to communicating the message of Christ through my novels and plays;
hence my motto: Spreading Truth through Fiction.

Just prior to my work on Expectations, I published my first play, The Crown

I have a BSBA degree from the University of Central Florida and live in Central Florida with my family. I’m a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association, and I’m a member of the leadership team of the CIC (Complete in Christ) Singles’ Ministry of my church.

Spreading truth through fiction. That's what it's all about. What can you tell us about your book?
Expectations is a romantic comedy-drama about a woman who prays for a husband and receives more than one unexpected answer.

The novel takes you on a roller coaster ride of laughter, drama, self-discovery, spiritual renewal, and love.

Using recognizable characters, situations, and comedic views of dramatic events, Expectations addresses the crippling effects of unforgiveness and the struggles involved in Christian dating and remaining pure before God.

What messages do you hope readers will gain from your novel?

My novel has many interrelated messages. I would like readers to gain the following from Expectations:

We have expectations, but God has a plan.

The truth that God loves them and is concerned about every facet of their lives.

Sometimes the answer we expect from God is not the answer we receive, but it will be the right answer for us. The timing of that answer will be perfect.

Unforgiveness is a destructive force.

Time for us here on earth is finite. Don’t put off having an honest and intimate relationship with Christ until tomorrow, because tomorrow may never come.

It’s important to stay pure before God in thought and deed.

What specific feature of the book will cause informed readers, who may already own other books on this subject, to spend money and time to read this book?

The novel takes you through a gamut of feelings. The characters and situations are recognizable and real.

The reader will care about the characters and become involved with them and their situation.

When writing Expectations, I tried very hard to make the characters real and believable, so that readers would identify with and relate to them. So far, reader feedback has been awesome.

What quotes from Expectations do you think emphasize your main messages?

“Lord, why is it taking You so long to send me a man? I’m trying to wait patiently and contentedly for You to send me somebody, but it’s just taking sooooooo long.” – Daria’s—the heroine—lament.

“Y’all be careful, you hear. Flesh is a mess when you don’t keep it in check.” - Aunt Euvinia speaking to Michael and Daria.

“Unforgiveness is like a slow poison. It spreads through you, corroding and contaminating your soul, leaving bitterness and hatred in its wake.” - Pastor Wicham.

Your reader feedback has been encouraging, what responses have given you the most encouragement?

I’m delighted and humbled by all of the responses I’ve received. They are generally “A good read. I couldn’t put it down.”, “The story is so real! Did it really happen?”, “I was there in every scene with the characters.”, and “When will the sequel be available?”

I’ve also received great responses from an unexpected source—middle and high school teenagers. They were not my targeted audience, but they really love the book and are being blessed by it. Well...we have expectations, but God has a plan.

Needless to say, a whole lot of encouragement can be found in the responses I’ve received.

Tell us what we have to look forward to in the future. What new projects are you working on?

I am currently working on my second novel, Even Then (working title). It contains some of the lovable and hilarious characters from Expectations. Even Then is a romantic comedy-drama about two women whose hearts are sent into a tailspin when they’re broadsided by the love of men they thought they knew very well.

If you like Aunt Lenore and Aunt Euvinia in Expectations, you’re going to love ‘em in Even Then.

Who are the Aunties?

Lenore is that elderly Christian who sees everything, especially when you’d rather she didn’t. She readily imparts wisdom and threats with an even hand to keep those she cares about in line.

Euvinia is quick to laugh and full of fun. She’ll joke with you and deliver wisdom all at the same time. You’ve got to love her.

You know these ladies. Both of them will get in your business and in your face without a qualm...all in the name of love.

Where can I find Expectations?

Expectations is available at...
On-line bookstores (,,, etc.)
1-877-421-READ (7323)
Local bookstores (If you don't see it on the shelf, ask for it.)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Raising Godly Children

Scripture Reading: II Chronicles 22:1-9 (NKJV)

II Chronicles 22:2-3

Ahaziah was forty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem one year… He also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother advised him to do wickedly.

It’s an Old Testament story of one of those minor kings whose names I can never remember. In this instance, one line jumped out at me. His mother advised him to do wickedly. Hmmm. The story of King Ahaziah is one of treason, murder, and genocide. To think he listened to his mother!

Sometimes we think our kids don’t listen to a word we say. Especially that teenager who hasn't come out of his room in two years. But how often have we heard them repeat something we wish we hadn’t said? Often we don’t realize what great influencers we are of our children. They walk like we do, talk like we do. They even root for the same team at a ball game.

We all want our children to be happy and healthy; to grow into honorable young men and women. We would never advise them to do wickedly. But what about our actions? Do they observe us practicing patience and humility? Or do they see us yelling at the driver in the next car, complaining about last Sunday’s sermon, dishonoring our own parents?

Ahaziah’s mother’s fate was death by the sword. Our consequences can be just as deadly if we fail to raise our children in the ways of the Lord. As mothers, we have been given the most frustrating, aggravating, lowest paid job ever created. But it is also the most fulfilling. We are the greatest influencers our children will ever have. Let us take that responsibility seriously.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Keep me mindful of my influence over my child. Let my advice be directed by Your word. Amen
Additional Reading: Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Creativity in the Garden

This time of year, it's hard to stay inside and get any real work done when the sunshine is beckoning outside. Last week I made my first trip to a gardening center and spent more money than I intended on annuals and hanging baskets. It takes a stronger woman than me to resist the colors and smells of wet earth and possibilities of what my garden and front porch can look like with a minimal amount of tender loving care.

I spent too much money, bought more flowers than I have room for and came home and got creative. This is my favorite time of year even though I don't have as much money or time and desire to do to my yard and flowerbeds what my father does in his.

I like to think part of my creative bent came from him. As far as I know, he's never strung a word picture together in his head or penned a song or even wrote a love letter. His creativity is in the garden. People stop to admire his handiwork all summer long. He is considered an expert on anything green. They ask for advice and the names of some of the more exotic plants growing in his flower beds. Most importantly, they marvel at how much an old man who can't walk without the aid of a cane and a scooter has accomplished.

Since becoming published in 2004 I suddenly became an expert on writing. My creative outlet has always been through my pen. People now seek my advice on everything from inspiration to sentence structure to finding a publisher. I've never exactly been the person people turn to for advice. The retiring second of four girls, people tended to forget I existed among the melee that was my house. Expecting them to turn to me for advice and hang on my every word is still new to me.

Regardless of the attention and praise my work has received, I still prefer the creative side of writing. If I had my druthers, I would make very few public appearances. Alas, that's not the way of the writing business anymore. Marketing is paramount. A writer approached me the other day about adding a 3-D interactive community to their website to encourage reader participation and build a buzz about the books. It's the way of the future. Creativity is only a small part of the business writers are now expected to be expert in.

Where will it end? When will we have time to do what we want to do, which is to create? When will we be able to step away from the computer and get back outside with nature to rejuvenate our spirits? I don't know if any writer will ever have the optimal work balance. I know I haven't found it. But I'm searching. For now, the sun is shining, the mild morning temperatures promise an afternoon of sunshine and warm breezes later. I think I'll go outside and enjoy the day the Lord has created.

Have a great one!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Organizing a Blog Tour

With gas prices sitting at well over three dollars a gallon nationwide and no relief in sight since summer's coming and the oil companies have us by the throat, we writers have to do whatever we can to promote our books. What better way than a blog tour from the comfort of our homes.

June 1st will see the release of my new book, Evidence of Grace, the third installment of my Jenna's Creek Series. Monday, May 14th marks the beginning of a month long blog tour. I highly recommend blog tours for any writer wanting to attract attention for an upcoming release or event. I know, you may argue that no one really reads blogs and how lucrative can a blog tour be? Well, if you've ever embarked on a book tour into actual brick and mortar bookstores, you probably know these don't have much of an impact on book sales either.

The last one I had in Cincinnati, Ohio was as dismal an affair as you can imagine. People are not impressed with meeting an author in a bookstore anymore. Unless you are a celebrity. After I got home from my signing where no one came into the store to see me and I didn't sell a single book, I read in the newspaper that James Belushi was doing a book signing in a nearby store and Tom Brokaw was in another. I totally agree with you that neither Jim Belushi or Tom Brokaw are authors and probably didn't write a word in their books, but they are celebrities and I'm not. I was also heartened to learn that even higher list authors from the big New York City publishing houses have little more luck than me at book signings.

I'm not saying I'm through wasting my time with bookstore signings; it's a necessary evil in this business. But why not try something much easier, cheaper, and easier on my ego? I notified a few writer friends, posted a plea for participants on a few writing sites I belong to and organized a blog tour. It may not garner a flood of sales. But my name might end up in a few places where it had been before.

According to my publisher, my lackluster attention to my blogs has already had a positive affect on sales. A blog tour can only improve that. The best part is, I don't have to put gas in my car. I don't even have to get dressed if I don't want to. Don't worry, I will.

Look for me next Monday at the kick-off of my tour when I will be the guest of Molly Noble Bull on her blog. I am looking forward to the whole process. I can't wait to meet you there.

Have a blessed and prosperous Monday.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Hate Crimes Law

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the term Hate Crime redundant? Or are they all someday going to be categorized as: Greed Crime, Lust Crime, Self-involved Crime, Rage Crime, etc. Come on, America, wake up. There are real issues out there that are being ignored so a chosen few can have their voice.

Please read and know that Big Brother is watching you.

The Thought Police
By Chuck Colson5/1/2007
What the Hate Crimes Law Would Do
In George Orwell’s classic novel 1984, the government Thought Police constantly spies on citizens to make sure they are not thinking rebellious thoughts. Thought crimes are severely punished by Big Brother.
1984 was intended as a warning against totalitarian governments that enslave and control their citizens. Never have we needed this warning more urgently than now, because America’s Thought Police are knocking on your door.
Last week the House Judiciary Committee, egged on by radical homosexual groups, passed what can only be called a Thought Crimes bill. It’s called the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. But this bill is not about hate. It’s not even about crime. It’s about outlawing peaceful speech—speech that asserts that homosexual behavior is morally wrong.
Some say we need this law to prevent attacks on homosexuals. But we already have laws against assaults on people and property. Moreover, according to the FBI, crimes against homosexuals in the United States have dropped dramatically in recent years. In 2005, out of 863,000 cases of aggravated assault, just 177 cases were crimes of bias against homosexuals—far less than even 1 percent.
Another problem is that in places where hate crimes laws have been passed, hate crimes have been defined to include verbal attacks—and even peaceful speech. The Thought Police have already prosecuted Christians under hate crimes laws in England, Sweden, Canada, and even in some places in the United States.
If this dangerous law passes, pastors who preach sermons giving the biblical view of homosexuality could be prosecuted. Christian businessmen who refuse to print pro-gay literature could be prosecuted. Groups like Exodus International, which offer therapy to those with unwanted same-sex attraction, could be shut down.
In classic 1984 fashion, peaceful speech will be redefined as a violent attack worthy of punishment.
This is the unspoken goal of activist groups. We know this because during the debate over the bill last week, Congressman Mike Pence (R) of Indiana offered a Freedom of Religion amendment to this hate crimes bill. It asked that nothing in this law limit the religious freedom of any person or group under the Constitution. The committee refused to adopt it. It also refused to adopt amendments protecting other groups from hate crimes—like members of the military, who are often targets of verbal attacks and spitting. They also shot down amendments that would protect the homeless and senior citizens, also often targeted by criminals. Nothing doing, the committee said—the only group they wanted to protect: homosexuals.
Clearly, the intent of this law is not to prevent crime, but to shut down freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of thought. Its passage would strike at the very heart of our democracy.
The full Congress may vote on this bill as early as this week. Unless you want Big Brother telling you what to say, what to think, and what to believe, I urge you to contact your congressman immediately, urging him or her to vote against this bill. If you visit the BreakPoint website, you’ll find more information about this radical law.
If we do nothing, 1984 will no longer be fiction, and Big Brother will be watching you and me—ready to punish the “wrong” thoughts.

.American Family Association – Tupelo, MS 38803

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Are you smarter than my son?

This morning, my son Randy was a guest on Cincinnati Radio WEBN's new morning segment, Are You Smarter than Wild Man Walker. Working off the popularity of FOX's game show, Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader, WEBN was smart enough to give Randy the opportunity to be their first contestant. It didn't hurt that Randy has been emailing them and challenging Wild Man to a sports trivia face-off for several weeks. Even though Randy missed 3 first grade level questions, he managed to beat Wild Man in a nail biter of a competition by knowing that Canada is the second largest country in land mass. Whew! All those student loans and grants are finally paying off.

Randy is a student at the Ohio Center for Broadcasting in Cincinnati and an intern at Clear Channel Radio. He absolutely loved the experience. He said everything right, avoiding the rookie "Umm's" and "Er's" that make TV and radio interviewers cringe. The hosts of the show had a great time teasing him about attending three different colleges. One told him that didn't mean he was smart, just that 3 schools had kicked him out.

But Randy handled himself with humor and aplomb. Nothing rattles him. I have known he was meant for great things since he was two years old and would stand in front of the TV and mimic the weatherman, complete with hand gestures and cold fronts.

He told me after the broadcast he is now sure this is what he wants to do with his life. Who would've thought a child of mine would want to sit behind a mike and talk for a living? You go, Randy. Your mother is very proud of you.