Thursday, December 31, 2009

A New Year's Resolution you may actually keep.

A good friend of mine from Spark People was kind enough to allow me to use this post she wrote a few weeks ago.

I stumbled upon this quote from Yo-Yo Ma, which I very much appreciate. It gives direction! "Things can fall apart, or threaten to, for many reasons, and then there's got to be a leap of faith. Ultimately, when you're at the edge, you have to go forward or backward; if you go forward, you have to jump together." I'm ready to jump. Want to jump with me?

The New Year is upon us, and I am thrilled. We now have an opportunity to look back on 2009 with lovingkindness, decide what we'd like to change and what goals we'd like to set, and move forward into a new year!

At the same time, I recognize that the statistics for people actually reaching their New Year's goals aren't very encouraging. Research shows that more than half of those who set goals fall off the resolution bandwagon by mid-February. What's up with that? Why do we abandon our goals? It's because we take on too much, and we make it all so complicated! We are overwhelmed and under-motivated. Take the leap of faith.

Statistics show that 75% of what we write down happens. Putting your goals on paper both alerts your brain that you are "open for business," as well as sending a strong and positive message to the universe, declaring that you are, indeed, "in the game!”

No Procrastinating Jump right into change. Now is as good a time as any to start working toward a more satisfying future. If not now, when? Create a Plan In order for you to manifest your goals, you need to create a series of clear and simple steps that you can put into action. Set your mind It starts and ends in the mind. If you resolve to walk every day, don't let the rain dissolve your resolve! There are always the stairwells at work or at home! And there's even rain gear!

Be Specific. Don't write or say, "I'm going to lose weight ." Instead say, "I am going to permanently remove 10 pounds."

Visualize. When you visualize, your brain "practices" your action. See yourself eating less, exercising more, relaxing, succeeding, smiling, being in a happy relationship, making money, singing, dancing, etc! Woo hoo!!

Less is more. The more things you try to change in a short period of time, the less likely you are to change anything over the long term. Pace yourself. Don't try and change 50 things at once.

Find a resolution buddy and share your goals with them. You are now accountable to someone other than yourself, and you will also feel a sense of purpose and accomplishment from helping your friend reach her goals!

Set a Timetable. The difference between a goal and a dream is a deadline! It can make all the difference. Specifically, when were you going to reach your goal? And how are you going to do that?

Create a Vision Board. Find inspiring quotes, motivating pictures, or anything that reminds you of your goal and collage these bits n' pieces together on paper and place it where you can see it!

Take a Risk. Resolutions are not just about 'fixing' something or getting something; they are about stretching a bit outside of your comfort zone. Go for it!

Write your goals on Post-It notes and place them on your fridge or bathroom mirror, or write your goals in your date book, or on your calendar. You don't want them to fall off your to-do list, do you?

Accentuate the Positive. Looking at the bright side of things will definitely generate more energy and enthusiasm that will help you to go after your dreams. And actually celebrate failure If at first you don't succeed, try again! Reassess the situation, tweak it, learn from it and celebrate your moving forward.

Start a Journal. Record your successes and your failures. Your thoughts and a-ha! moments. Give yourself a gold star, while you're at it. Steer Clear of Negativity. Just as you will find people who will support you, you will also come across those who are negative and are likely to stop you from moving forward. Smile and walk away.

BE PATIENT! People want immediate results, but change takes time. Remember that it's the journey that's important. Remember YOU matter! Carve out time to give yourself the love and attention you need, and be sure to compliment yourself daily. Fully acknowledge all that you've accomplished and how special you are!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Hero

I’m sure we all remember the heroes of books from olden times. Square jawed, aristocratic nose, shoulders that started out as broad as a barn and tapered to a flat stomach with chiseled abs. As if. (Without workout equipment that targeted certain muscle groups, how did these guys manage such a physique? Powerful biceps and a bull like neck I get. But those abs? Get serious.) And don’t even get me started on his gleaming, perfectly straight choppers. How in the world did that happen? A fortunate few are born with straight teeth that never require a dentist or at the very least fluoride, but in those days? Everybody knows what the lack of proper prenatal care does to bones and teeth.

But I digress. In days of yore the hardest part of creating the hero of a dime store novel or bodice ripper was deciding on which color to paint the thick mane that fell in glorious waves past the requisite broad shoulders, even in his waning years.

Villains were just as easy. Their hair was always thin and greasy to match their lecherous smile. They generally had bad teeth and equally poor hygiene. They were usually thin. No ripped abs or rippling biceps on these guys.

Most discerning readers today expect a little more. We want a hero with meat on his bones. No, now wait a minute. Not that kind of meat, though a little is acceptable, especially if he’s married. We still want our heroes handsome, mysterious and in halfway decent shape. But he needn’t be perfect. In fact, if he is we don’t buy it.

Besides a few physical flaws that add to his charm and good looks, he better have an issue or two. A little baggage is good as long as it isn’t too grievous. Life has been tough on our hero but it can’t have turned him into heartless jerk. That’s what villains are for.

I’m currently rewriting my hero as if you couldn’t tell from the tone of this post. He has a job, a past—including an ex-wife and an obnoxious teenage daughter—and obstacles to overcome. No ripped abs, but no beer belly either. Somewhere in the middle is good. Powerful arms and calloused hands are a given. I like those on a man. But he hasn’t yet told me exactly who he is. Besides the obvious, I’m unclear on what he needs to accomplish by the end of the book. How will he grow? What will he learn about the man he is and who he hopes to become that he didn’t know before?

I’ve been dwelling on my hero for several weeks. He keeps me awake at night. I can see him when I close my eyes, but he’s still a little blurry. I need to know him better before I can adequately tell his story. Of course he will become clearer as the story progresses. At least that’s what I’m counting on.

Isn’t that the fun of writing? When the story is a journey of discovery for the writer as much as for the reader. Enough stalling. Back to work. Speak to me, Brock. Tell me your story. What’s on your mind? Where do you need to go…….

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Learning How to Write

I couldn't log in to my You Can Write a Novel blog to post this article. I am posting here instead to see if I can figure out the problem. Hope it inspires or motivates someone today.

Is writing easy? That can be a tough question to answer because it can be both easy and difficult simultaneously. A great and legendary writer like Stephen King admits he has his good points and his tough points and by no means is writing a new novel easy for him. Of course, the mere fact that Stephen King is enormously successful leads one to reasonably conclude that he does not make the common mistakes that beginning writers commonly make. So, here are some tips on learning how to write while avoiding some of the common mistakes that are often embodied by new writers. Actually, a few seasoned writers make these errors as well.

All works of writing need to have a clear beginning, middle, and end. This is true of both fiction and non-fiction. Fiction needs to present a clear narrative with writing that yields a direct path to the conclusion of the work. Non-fiction will usually introduce a concept, spend the middle of the material developing it, and then tying it all up in a proper conclusion. Beginning writers have a tendency to meander in their material and present an unfocused work. That confuses the readers and turns them off rather quickly.

Be sure you know and understand the audience you are writing for. Those that are crafting works designed for a young audience need to be sure the material is written at their level and not above it. If it is, they won't understand what they are reading. On the other hand, you would not want to write oversimplified material to an older audience that they reject. Again, you always need to tailor your writing to the age bracket of the reader.

It is also important to maintain the same point of view in the work. Yes, there are some famous novels such as THE SOUND AND THE FURY that violate such principles, but these books are complex even for those that study them on an academic level. Also, Faulkner knew what he was doing when he was changing the narrative and structural point of view of his novel. This is not an easy task to pull off! When done improperly, changing a point of view can thoroughly confuse a reader. So, avoid doing it!

Avoid making every character in a fiction piece sound the same. This is often the result of using too much exposition. When all the characters sound the same, they can have a tendency to blend together. When you can't tell the protagonist from the antagonist, you have a major structural flaw. Keep this in mind when you are learning how to write.

When learning how to write, it is quite helpful to invest a lot of time practicing how to improve your material. Consistent practice is something that you never lose sight off and something you never stop no matter where in your writing career you may be. Setting aside the time to practice so you hone into your craft is always a recommended plan when seeking to correct common beginner writing mistakes.

Lastly, it should almost always go without saying that proper syntax and grammar are a must. Those learning how to write always need to pay attention to the proper wording of their material. If not, the material will not be well received. That's just the way it goes!

Article Source: http://www.upublish.info

About the Author:
Lisa Brunel
Planning on writing a book? Have you considered writing for children? Learning how to write can be a rewarding and fun experience! Sign up for our free newsletter at http://learntowriteachildrensbook.com and receive regular writing tips and articles. From story development to publishing tips to much more in between. Get the support you need become a successful writer.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Celebrate with Dawn Meehan

What Really Matters
by Dawn Meehan

In the hustle and bustle and commercialism of Christmas, take time to remember the real reason why we celebrate - the birth of Christ, our Lord and Saviour. May you all have a blessed Christmas!

I had a VERY long day with the kids doing little but fighting. By the time we left for church, we were all short tempered, snapping at each other, and not at all in the Christmas spirit. Thankfully, once at church, we calmed down. Things were put in perspective for us. We sang Christmas songs and began to smile at one another again. The kids didn't fight once while we were there. Well, they did use their battery operated candles as light sabers for a minute, but we'll forget about that part.

I never sent out cards (sorry to all my family and friends). It just didn't happen this year. I don't think I ever completely finished my shopping, but it's a little late now. Several items I ordered online have been back ordered. I just realized that the kids have eaten all the cookies I've made and there are none to put out for Santa now. I encouraged them to leave him a glass of wine instead. And I failed to read the Christmas story to the kids before they went to bed.

But you know what? None of that matters. It really doesn't. Christmas is here! Christ is born! And He doesn't care if we sent out Christmas cards. He doesn't care if we ate all the cookies we baked. He doesn't even care if we never got around to baking a single cookie at all! He loves us no matter how much we screw up.

Now that's worth celebrating!

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Dawn Meehan (aka mom2my6pack) grew up in Chicagoland where she began her writing career at the age of 5 with her widely praised, The Lucky Leprechaun, an epic tale of a leprechaun who is- yes, you guessed it, lucky.

Dawn has six children, basically because she didn't want seven. She is the author of Because I Said So and spends her days blogging at BecauseISaidSo.com, changing diapers, cleaning pudding off her ceiling, tackling insurmountable piles of laundry, and explaining to her kids why they can't have a pet squirrel or an indoor slip-n-slide.


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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info

Thursday, December 24, 2009

12 Pearls of Christmas: Slow Down, Pray & Give Thanks

All Decked Out For Christmas
by Maureen Lang

One of the reasons so many of us love the holiday season is that it's just so...pretty! Twinkling lights, shiny ornaments, packages that glisten with bows and fancy wrapping. Our houses are trimmed with wreaths and glowing trees, and the neighborhood lights up the night with strands of icicles and glimmering reindeer.

Even we get decked out for the holidays! Chances are most of us will attend at least one party this season, and if we don't usually don clothing or jewelry with a bit of sparkle, now's the time to take a chance with something that reflects the holiday.

Smiles are another reason this season is such a popular one. They accompany that familiar greeting-Merry Christmas! Smiles go with the gifts we give and with the gifts we receive. Smiles go with the old Christmas carols and classic movies we watch every year.

The holiday season is a time when everything can seem amplified. But what if we're all decked out on the outside, from the sparkling clothing to our best effort at a smile, and on the inside we're anything but happy? If life isn't what we expected it to be, the gap between reality and our happy, hopeful expectations seem wider when everyone around us is laughing through the season.

I know there are as many reasons to be unhappy as there are to be happy, and I wouldn't begin to have the answer to make this season bearable for everyone. But I do know a few things that have worked for me:

Slow down. What? During the busiest time of the year? Yep. I know when I feel completely overwhelmed it's because I'm pressuring myself to do too much. So I try to plan ahead, settle for less than perfection, do my best without driving myself and everyone around me crazy. Choose what's really important and let go of the other things. And I've adopted my aunt's favorite saying: "However it turns out, that's how we like it." Works wonders on attitude!

Pray. As my pastor reminded me this weekend from Psalm 34:18: the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. God may not deliver us from our troubles, but He promises to stay beside us-in fact, closer than when everything seems hunky-dory.

Find a moment to give thanks for what you do have (without looking around at those who have more).

This last point deserves a moment of reflection, and is something I'm still learning to do. I have a child severely handicapped by Fragile X Syndrome, a genetic form of mental retardation. For years I thought I'd accepted his condition. I obediently said to God, "thank you even for this," since it taught me many things about adjusting to the life I've been given rather than the one I might have chosen.

But as my son gets older, I see new forms of acceptance making that feeling of gratitude more genuine. I think I'm finally letting go of some of the hopes and dreams I had for him, my oldest son. I can no longer imagine him any other way than the way he is, even though I'd be first in line if a cure is ever found.

I still think it's a good thing to give thanks in all things, even if it begins out of obedience rather than tender gratitude for whatever thorn we live with. But realizing it's okay to grow into that gratitude was a blessing to me.

Maybe some of the bruises on our spirit seem tender during the holiday season, a reminder that all the glitter on the outside might not light us up on the inside. My prayer is trust Psalm 34:18. Let's lean on Him this season-He's right here beside us!
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Maureen Lang grew up loving to tell stories, and God has blessed her immeasurably to be able to tell them to a wider audience these days. For the latest goings-on, please check her blog!

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

12 Pearls of Christmas with Anna Joujan

12 Pearls of Christmas: Wondrous Mystery

Magnificant
by Anna Joujan

Holy. Holy. Holy is the Lord. The familiar catch of breath. The sting in the eyes. And the tears begin to flow with the falling rain. Or do the tears fall with the flowing rain.

What is it in these words that I whisper that wrenches at my heart so? Why does Mary's prayer touch the core of my being, so many centuries after it was spoken?

I think it must be because I know that she was just a girl, just a human being, with a woman's heart like my own. And so, when I hear her wondering words, I can feel with her the emotion she must have felt. To bear the son of God-what wondrous mystery, what glorious honour! And she was, like me, just a young woman-much younger, in fact, than I am now. And so, no matter how often I hear the story and read her words, it still has the power to bring abrupt and unsought tears.

What a gracious God, to work wonders with such frail and faulty creatures as us!
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Anna G. Joujan was born in South Dakota, as a Canadian citizen, and was raised in Zambia, the child of missionary teachers. Since her family's move to the U.S., Anna spent her childhood and early adulthood traveling throughout the world thanks to various educational and work opportunities . . . France, China, Peru, and Jamaica being some of the stops in her journeys. Her undergraduate degree in French Literature led to a Masters in Information Sciences, and to work as a college and high school librarian, and a cross country coach. She has also returned to Zambia multiple times to teach for individual families and for local schools. All the while continuing pursuing her passions of writing, artwork, photography . . . and running to a fault. She blogs at Full of Grace.

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

12 Pearls of Christmas by Melody Carlson

A Soggy, Jolly, Holly Christmas
by Melody Carlson

One of my most memorable Christmases started out as a natural disaster. But isn't that a bit how a pearl is formed? An oyster's soft easy life is disrupted by the invasion of sand, but something good comes out of it. When I was eight, we experienced the worst flood in recorded Oregon history. It was only a few days before Christmas when our streets became shallow rivers and the governor proclaimed a state of emergency. My sister and I assumed the flood was simply our new water-world playground and didn't understand the seriousness of washed out bridges and downed power lines and submerged homes. But when we realized this flood was about to nix our usual three-hour trek to our grandparents' home near the coast, we were not happy.

Naturally, our mom, a single parent, protested the sensibility of holiday travel (most of Oregon's rivers were involved in the flood). But Christmas at Grandma's house was our favorite event of the year. And thanks to our persistence, Mom finally gave in. We piled into the car and headed out. Flood waters climbed higher the closer we got to the coast. And at one point the road behind us was closed and the one ahead was flooded and about to be closed as well. The state policeman told us we could cross "at our own risk." We followed a Volkswagen Bug into the water-then we actually watched the bug floating away! Of course, there was nothing to do besides plow on through the water, which appeared to be nearly two feet deep! Fortunately we had an old heavy Chevy that did not float away, but the water seeped in and pooled on the floors.

Fortunately, we made it safely to the grandparents. But once we arrived, we learned there would be no Christmas tree because the road to the woods was closed. Then my grandpa picked up his ax and led us outside where he chopped down his prize holly tree planted in the parking strip. I stared in horror, thinking Grandma was going to have a fit. But then he explained the city had told him to remove the tree for traffic visibility. So we had a twelve foot holly tree for Christmas. It was a little prickly decorating it, but with its shiny green leaves and red berries, it was the most beautiful tree ever! So what started out as a disaster turned out to be a soggy, holly, jolly Christmas after all.

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Melody Carlson, author of Limelight, Love Finds You in Sisters, The Christmas Dog, 86 Bloomberg Place, Diary of a Teenage Girl, The Carter House Girls, and much more... http://www.melodycarlson.com

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!

Monday, December 21, 2009

12 Pearls of Christmas with Tricia Goyer

12 Pearls of Christmas: Help & Support

Calling Elizabeth ... HELP!
by Tricia Goyer

Mary, the mother of Jesus is one of the most well-known women of all time. She was also a teen mom facing an unplanned pregnancy. This Christmas we will see evidence of Mary's story all around us. And as you hear it through Christmas songs and Christmas shows think of three things:

1. Mary was signed up for a big task she wasn't prepared for.
2. Mary no doubt faced criticism from people around her.
3. Mary found someone to turn to - a friend who could help Mary to succeed in her new role. It was Mary's older cousin Elizabeth.

Elizabeth played an important part in Mary's life. We know this because the book of Luke begins by telling us Elizabeth's story first. Elizabeth was the wife of a priest. She was very old and had no children, but God blessed her in her old age by allowing her to get pregnant. After Elizabeth's story comes Mary's story ... another surprise pregnancy. Can you imagine what a shock that was to everyone who knew both women? (Yes! I'm sure you can!)

The cool thing is that the angel Gabriel told Mary about Elizabeth's surprise pregnancy. It's as if he was saying, "Look, there's someone in your same situation. Turn to her. She can help you."

Mary did go to Elizabeth. In fact she lived with her older cousin for three months. Elizabeth was the first one who rejoiced over the child Mary held within her womb, and I imagine Elizabeth was there to encourage Mary as she coped with the idea of becoming a teen mom.

Like Mary, each of us should have people in our lives who we turn to for help, support and encouragement. Being a mom isn't an easy thing, and facing an unplanned pregnancy is even tougher.

When I had my son Cory I was 17-years-old, and there were a group of women from my grandma's church who supported me. They were the first ones who showed me that the child that was growing inside me was a gift. They gave me a baby shower, and they fought over holding my son after he was born.

As my son grew, there were other women I looked to ... and most of the time they didn't even know I was watching. One of them was Cheryl. Cheryl was patient with her children, she gave them big hugs, she laughed with them and played with them and I modeled myself after her. The thing about finding mentors is sometimes we can observe them without them even knowing. And if we're really lucky they enjoy their role of giving us advice.

Later, when I had two kids, I met a friend named Cindy. She and I were the same age and we became quick friends. Cindy was a support to me because we traded babysitting, talked about parenting problems, and we encouraged each other. She was someone who was walking the same road as me, and her advice helped more times than I can count.

No matter who we are, or where we live, each of us can look around and see the people we have in our lives. Some may cheer us on, some may guide our parenting, and others may just be there to walk along side us. If the mother of Jesus needed someone to look to for support ... shouldn't we? Everyone needs someone to provide a little help and support.

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Tricia Goyer is the author of twenty-one books including From Dust and Ashes, My Life UnScripted, and the children's book, 10 Minutes to Showtime. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 2003. Tricia's book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like Today's Christian Woman and Focus on the Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in the mountains of Montana. Connect with Tricia at www.triciagoyer.com.

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info

Sunday, December 20, 2009

12 Pearls of Wisdom---God Intervenes

The Answer
by Susan May Warren

Whos, Here, we are Whos here, smaller than the eye can see. Whos here, we are Whos here, I'm a Who and so is she...

I've always wanted to live in a musical. When I was a kid, I loved Oklahoma, Sound of Music, West Side Story. I seriously thought that, if the moment was right, maybe the stars aligned, people would break out into song and dance.

I was sorta right. Because in my house, one needs to be able to talk in movie lines and song lyrics to effectively communicate. At any moment, someone might break out with a quip from the Princess Bride, or Finding Nemo. They might sing Tomorrow from Annie, or My Favorite Things like Julie Andrews.

But, most recently we've found ourselves speaking in "Suess"...

It's suppertime, son, and the time is near To call far and wide the sneetches who hear Just the sound of their bellies, the whir of their gear The Gurgles and Burbles that give them great fear Tell them all, tell them loud, tell them clear Their hands they should wash, check their face in the mirror Because the food is now ready and it's time to steer Close to the table, where they'll find hot gribbles here.

Why, you ask? Because David and Sarah are performing in the community theater's production of Suessical the Musical, a hilarious conglomeration of Dr. Suess' fun work, from Horton hears a Who to Horton Hatches an Egg.

As the Christmas season draws close (and the songs from the play linger in my head), one line has stood out to me... "We are here, we are here!" You know the story - that part where, after everyone has called Horton names and they're about ready to boil the speck that contains Who-ville, Horton calls out to the Whos to send up a cry to prove themselves as real. "We are here, we are here!"

It strikes me that sometimes we can feel like Whos...smaller than the eye can see. Tossed hither and yon by the wind, helpless and facing being boiled. Tired, perhaps, or alone. Wishing someone might find us and pay attention.

Someone has, and that's the good news about Christmas. Because we don't have to "make ourselves heard," like the Whos. In fact, even before we realized we were headed for the cauldron, God intervened. God demonstrated his own love for us in this - while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8). That's what Jesus is all about - he's the answer to even the unspoken cry of our hearts, saying, "I am here, I am here." Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

So as this season approaches with its whistles and bells I hope you hear the voice where the Mighty One dwells -- down deep in your hearts, so nothing can shake the knowledge of his love, given all for your sake.

Merry Christmas from Susie May Warren

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Susan May Warren is the award-winning author of twenty-one novels and novellas with Tyndale, Steeple Hill and Barbour Publishing. Her first book, Happily Ever After won the American Fiction Christian Writers Book of the Year in 2003, and was a 2003 Christy Award finalist. In Sheep's Clothing, a thriller set in Russia, was a 2006 Christy Award finalist and won the 2006 Inspirational Reader's Choice award. A former missionary to Russia, Susan May Warren now writes Suspense/Romance and Chick Lit full time from her home in northern Minnesota. www.susanmaywarren.com Check out her Christmas Novella, The Great Christmas Bowl.

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info

Saturday, December 19, 2009

12 Pearls of Christmas: He is Always Enough

Christmas in a Barn
by Mary DeMuth

The Christmas of 2006 we were homeless. We didn't have keys. Not to a car, not to a home. We'd flown halfway around the world, leaving behind a ministry we toiled over. Much, particularly in our hearts, lay in ruins.

Some friends had a camp, and on that camp stood a barn. In the corner of the barn was a tiny apartment, flanked by this caboose and hundreds of acres of Texas pasture. We'd never been there before, so we followed directions at night, making plenty of wrong turns.

When we found the place, we drove a borrowed car over the cattle guard toward what would be our home for a month. String lights illuminated a small porch, a window and a door in the corner of an aluminum-sided barn. We hefted large pieces of luggage to the apartment.

And when we opened the door, Love welcomed us.

The place, usually completely unfurnished in the winter, was decked out with just the right amount of beds, couches and tables. The pantry was full. We had dishes and garbage cans, and cups and forks and food. But even more, we had a Christmas tree. Friends had hijacked the place, decorating it for Christmas. Cookies preened on the table.

I will never, ever forget that Christmas. We had so little. We felt the painful burden of failure. But we were loved, so terribly and wonderfully loved.

Christmas felt right there, in a barn. We heard the nickering of horses, the meowing of kittens, the clop of hooves against the barn floor. Chickens and goats and cows served as a holy object lesson of the incarnation. Although we were warm and clothed, we understood more keenly the Savior's homelessness, how He left the splendor of heaven for the sodden earth. We experienced barnyard life alongside him, without much to call our own except our Heavenly Father and our sweet family.

He was enough, that Christmas. And He will always will be.

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Mary DeMuth writes fiction and nonfiction. Her latest book, A Slow Burn released in October and she has a memoir entitled Thin Places coming out in February of 2010. You can meet her: http://www.marydemuth.com, http://www.thewritingspa.com, on Facebook and Twitter!


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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info

Friday, December 18, 2009

Jesus in the Christmas Cookies

Since adopting a healthier lifestyle in 2008 and losing almost 20 pounds I never want to see again, I don’t bake nearly as often as I once did. Nor do I bake in such large quantities.

You may think that just because I don’t want to gain over the holidays, I shouldn’t punish my whole family. To that I say if it’s in the house I’m going to eat it. My only hope of not gaining the usual 5 pounds from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day is to limit the presence of temptation in the house.

But I love splurging as much as the next gal. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without star shaped cookies and homemade fudge. Not to mention the men who work the nightshift at my husband’s job have come to expect a huge platter of cookies from me.

Yesterday my four-year-old grandson arrived just as my kitchen counter had become a landmine of cookie preparations. My prayers are with you if you’ve ever had to bake a large quantity of food around a four-year-old.

But it offered a chance to impress upon him the true meaning of the season. When I told him the cookies were for Papaw’s work party in honor of Jesus’ birthday, he asked; “Is Jesus going to be there?”

What a good question. Is Jesus going to be there? Will he be here for any of our Christmas rituals? Whether baking and obsessing over maintaining a goal weight, sending cards, hanging lights, singing carols, or attending parties, is Jesus there?

I am thankful for the opportunity to share my faith with my grandson. And I’m thankful for that nugget of wisdom out of his mouth. When we wear our “Jesus is the reason for the season” pin, may we truly embrace the sentiment. As our special guest at our Christmas rituals, let us feel His presence and honor Him in everything we do.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Last Full Workweek of the First Decade of the New Millennium

This is the last full workweek before Christmas. Actually it’s the last full workweek of the first decade of the new millennium. At least it is for me. Doctor’s appointment this week and party this weekend to plan, shop, and clean for. Besides the usual gift wrapping, last minute shopping, and all the other things that need done well before the twenty-fifth, squeezing in writing time is going to be tough.

But this is Monday. We have a full week to make something happen in our writing before the relatives descend—or we catch the plane to their house—before the kids begin rifling through our closets in search of bounty, before the dog needs taken to the kennel and the cookies need to go in the oven.

What tips have you picked up along this writing journey that keep your butt in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard? The key things for me are routine and discipline. I wake up before six every morning and jump right in. I eat half a granola bar while watching Joyce Meyer and then do an hour long exercise routine. After a shower and phone call to a friend, I eat my real breakfast and get straight to work. On days when I can’t keep this routine for whatever reason—like aforementioned doctor’s appointment—my entire day is shot. Even if most of the afternoon remains, my productivity level drops to nearly zero. I can't explain why I get nothing done simply because of an appointment or unscheduled visit from friends, but it always happens that way.

It’s the end of the year, dear writers. Two weeks and 2009 will be a memory. I have several projects to wrap up before then. If I don’t hustle this week, my totally manageable tasks will follow me into the New Year to be added to what needs done in the next decade.

Let’s practice some discipline and routine this week. Consider this your last workweek of the first decade of the new millennium. Now let’s get cracking.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Good News of Great Joy!

I am so happy to bring this devotion to you today from the desk of my good friend Penny McGinnis. More of Penny's devotions can be found at Encouragement Journey.
You can sign up there to receive her weekly devotions in your inbox.

Good News of Great Joy!
by Penny McGinnis
11/2/09

Luke 2:8-11

vs.8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”

If I were outside at night sitting on a hill preoccupied with my job and an angel (or anyone else for that matter) appeared to me, I'd be terrified too. And, I would wonder why on earth an angel is telling me, a lowly shepherd, news that the whole world longed to hear. Of course God knew what he was doing, he always does. He knew that the shepherds believed, and that through their faith they would spread the news. Later in the scripture we learn that the shepherds did indeed spread the story and glory of Jesus. They lead others to see him in the manger outside of Bethlehem, where they worshipped him.

What message has God given us to share this season? Perhaps through our greetings and cards, he wants us to remind the world that Christmas glorifies his Son. Penning an encouraging email to brighten someone’s stressful day, or using words to create inspiring stories and essays may bring the joy and peace of the season to a reader’s heart.

Where are you in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the holiday? Are you a shepherd minding your own business or a shepherd spreading the news of the glorious King's birth?

Best wishes for a joy-filled Christmas.
Penny McGinnis


http://encouragementjourney.blogspot.com/

http://pennyspicks.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Free Books for Christmas

From now until December 31st, buy two of Teresa’s books and get one free. There is no limit to the number of books you can get free and no specific combination of books. Much fewer restrictions here than you’ll find on those BONUS gift cards you buy at your favorite restaurant.

Cost per book--$15.00. Additional savings: I have reduced shipping and handling costs to the absolute minimum. Only $1.00 shipping per book. Again, no limit.

So take the hassle out of your gift shopping this Christmas. Books are a no-brainer for the reader on your list. I will happily autograph each book any way you like. Email me for more information or to place an order. I will put your books in the mail within 2 business days of placing your order.

Description of each title:

Streams of Mercy—— On the day of her father’s funeral, seventeen-year-old Jamie Steele discovers he was the prime suspect in the disappearance and possible murder of an old girlfriend. All too familiar with his violent reputation and hard-fisted lifestyle, Jamie has to find out for herself if he was capable of the crime everyone in their small town thinks he committed. What will she do if he’s proven guilty? How can she forgive someone who never asked to be forgiven or admitted any wrongdoing? Can she find the mercy in her heart to forget the past and mourn the father she has lost?

Redemption’s Song—— One woman stands on the precipice of change and discovery. The other carries a twenty-year-old burden of sin in her heart that threatens to destroy everything she holds dear.

Jamie Steele and Abigail Blackwood share nothing more than love for one man. When heartbreak and tragedy test their faith beyond what either can imagine, will they trust the God of purpose, or will foolish pride drive them to take matters into their own hands?

Two women who share nothing more than love for one man. When their lives are shaken and faith tested beyond what either can imagine, will they trust the God of purpose who promises to stand closer than a brother? Or will foolish pride drive them to take matters into their own hands?

Evidence of Grace—— A phone call from a potential eyewitness leads Noel Wyatt to believe the real killer of Sally Blake got away with murder. He enlists the help of a young attorney and his old friend, retired prosecutor and judge David Davis, to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Was someone else involved in the events of that fateful night? Since the convicted killer is already serving time for the murder, is it too late for justice to be served?

A Tender Reed—— Michelle is a 33-year old never married nurse. She leads an uneventful, predictable life, but her calm exterior hides unresolved resentment and emotional insecurity. When Nicole, her irresponsible younger sister, abandons her two young children in Michelle's front yard, she's forced to recall her own mother's abandonment of her.

How Michelle faces her childhood demons while building a family with Nicole's kids offers a thought-provoking examination of family relationships. The author deftly handles Michelle's spiritual cynicism as she struggles to find acceptance and love.

Infused with humor and practical insights, A Tender Reed and its characters will capture the hearts of readers who love children, understand their challenges, and appreciate the many definitions of family.

The Ultimate Guide to Darcy Carter——Considered an expert on every conceivable topic, Ultimate Guidebook guru, Darcy Carter, can’t guide herself out of a paper bag. When her editor suggests she write The Ultimate Guide to Finding Mr. Right, Darcy wants no part of it. To avoid Mr. Right and hopefully find out where the discontentment with her life is coming from, she heads south to research one last ultimate guidebook. Soon she discovers there’s more to life than telling other people how to live theirs.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Finding Christmas

I have had so much fun bringing the Revell Christmas releases to your attention this week. Today I want to tell you about Finding Christmas by James Calvin Schaap.

Christmas is everywhere . . . even where you least expect it.

Join award-winning author and storyteller James Calvin Schaap as he uncovers the grace, joy, and love of the season through seven heartwarming tales of miracle moments in a messy world. This beautiful and inspiring collection of contemporary Christmas stories will remind you what grace looks like--and where to find it.

Click here to read an excerpt from the book.

Endorsements
"Jim Schaap knows our lives. He re-fires our memories. He draws us into settings familiar. He causes us to inhabit the worlds of plain folk struggling with the problems of an ordinary life--and he makes it all so very, very important. . . . Schaap writes sacred mystery into our common lives."--from the foreword by Walter Wangerin Jr.

James Schaap is a professor of English at Dordt College and president of the Chrysostom Society and the award-winning author of twenty-two books. He lives in Sioux Center, Iowa.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Unfinished Gift by Dan Walsh

I received a review copy of The Unfinished Gift by Dan Walsh a few weeks ago. I immediately fell in love with the story and couldn't wait to let readers know about it.

From the back cover: Can a gift from the past mend a broken heart?

Ian Collins is an old man without his son. Patrick Collins is a young boy without his father. On his Christmas list are only three items. He wants the army to find his father. He wants to leave his grandfather's house. And he wants the dusty wooden soldier in Grandfather's attic--the one he is forbidden to touch.


Set at Christmastime in 1943, The Unfinished Gift is the engaging story of a family in need of forgiveness. With simple grace, it reminds us of the small things that affect powerful change in our hearts--a young boy's prayers, a shoe box of love letters, and even a half-carved soldier, long forgotten. This nostalgic story of reconciliation will touch your heart.

It is easy to let little hurts and misunderstandings escalate into huge obstacles in relationships with the ones we love most. This is the case of Ian Collins and his son Shaun. When Ian's daughter-in-law dies unexpectedly, his grandson Patrick has nowhere else to go except to Ian. Out of obligation to his late wife's wishes, Ian begrudgingly accepts the boy into his home.

Thus begins The Unfinished Gift and a relationship that will change both of them forever.

One for the keeper shelf! Dan's book is a fabulous story of redemption and forgiveness. I couldn't put it down, and it made me cry, which is hard to do. ---Colleen Coble, author of the Rock Harbor and the Lonestar series

Click the link below to read an excerpt from The Unfinished Gift.

http://www.revellbooks.com/Media/MediaManager/Excerpt_9780800719241.pdf

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Christmas Dog by Melody Carlson

I recently received a review copy of The Christmas Dog by Melody Carlson from Revell Books. I'm always in the mood to read themed books this time of year, and I gobbled this one up in no time.

From the back cover: Betty Kowalski isn't looking forward to the holidays. She just cant seem to find Christmas in her heart. Maybe it's because her husband is gone. Maybe it's because she's missing her children. Or maybe it has something to do with her obnoxious new neighbor, who seems to be tearing his house apart and rearranging it on the lawn.

But when a mangy dog appears at her doorstep, the stage is set for Betty to learn what Christmas is really all about.


If not for a commitment to plan her friends' anniversary party at her church, Betty would've skipped out on the Christmas season altogether. Then her son calls to tell her about his missing stepdaughter, Avery. Avery's mother is frantic over the missing young woman, although Betty figures it is more for her own gain than actual concern over her daughter. Avery shows up at Betty's, but her parents want her home. As if she doesn't have enough to contend with before Christmas, Betty is suddenly in the middle of a family crisis.

All she wants is to be left alone to plan the anniversary party and get through the holiday.

A Christmas Dog will provide a fun respite from the malls and will surely help put you in the holiday spirit.

Click to read the following exerpt from Revell The perfect gift idea for the readers on your Christmas list.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Passion for Writing

Last weekend I attended a writers' retreat in Dayton, Ohio. I came home pumped and ready to tear it up on my lastest manuscript. Then, guess what, the week got in the way. Between cleaning, shopping and preparing for the 30+ guests who will descend upon my home tomorrow, I barely wrote a word. While I look forward to holiday guests and all the parties and celebrating that come with the Christmas season, I tend to stress over my writing schedule and all the things I still haven't done.

In the midst of my frustration over what I need to do--update my website, add layers to my current romance, better illuminate my hero who is such a great guy, and perhaps sell a book or two--but can't seem to find the time, I was reminded of what a very sweet, astute lady wrote to a group of writers not long ago.

Just when I needed encouragement in this writing journey, I read these words by Lea Ann McCombs: "I just wanted to encourage every one of us with the reminder that it is God who has placed this passion for written expression in our hearts. It is He who gives the story, the twists, and the truths that we weave into the lives of our characters. So it is also He who will see it through to whatever end He had in mind in the first place.

Whether it becomes a bestseller or one little old lady's favorite book, God's purpose for our writing is what we must desire. We study to to our very best, but in the end, it is up to God what happens to it. And that's all right with me. Take heart today as you struggle with whatever writing phase you are in at the moment. The result is not really up to you. This is God's show. Write for Him today."

Thank you, Lea Ann. And thank you, Heavenly Father, for using your people to encourage us in just the way we need at just the right time.

You can learn more about Lea Ann at her blogs.

http://leaannsgarden.blogspot.com/
http://learntowritecreatively.blogspot.com/

And a very happy Thanksgiving to All.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mothers of the Bible--free book

Between now and December 15 my good friend Kathi Macias is hosting a Christmas promotion for her beautiful hard cover, gift/study book Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today. Buy one copy of this wonderful book to give to someone special in your life, and receive a free copy to keep for yourself. Or go in with a friend and get two books for the price of one. What could be better? With Christmas right around the corner, here is a great opportunity to give a gift that will touch someone's heart.

Contact Kathi for ordering information or visit her website.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Soldier Daddy by Cheryl Wyatt

I am excited to present Soldier Daddy by Cheryl Wyatt, available in bookstores and online now. What a perfect gift for the upcoming Christmas season.

The following interview is with Sarah Graham, the heroine of Soldier Daddy

1. Hi, Sarah. What made you want to be a nanny?

I've always loved children and I have a secret in my past tied to a tragic event involving a child. It changed my life and caused me to give my life to helping children.

2. What do you think about Aaron Petrowski, your new employer?

First of all, wow! Is he tall and handsome. Reminds me of Kevin Costner as he played in The Guardian. He's very brave too. And he's such a wonderful dad to his boys. He leads three pararescue teams, an amazing job. I feel blessed to have gotten this job. Mina, the housekeeper says it's just a matter of time until I fall head over for Aaron...errr Chief Master Sergeant Petrowski. But I told her to put her cupid arrows away.
At least for now...

3. What's your favorite part of taking care of Aaron's sons?

That they are so full of life and fun and laughter despite that they lost their mom in infancy. Aaron has done so well raising them alone despite that he thinks at times he hasn't. The twins are almost four and we're planning a great big party. If only Aaron's sister wouldn't have gotten the kids guinea pigs for their birthday. I'm not fond of rodents. Of course Ash knows that which is why she probably got the boys the pets.


4. Sounds like there's some animosity there between you and Ash?

Oh, definitely. Only I can't figure out why. Unless she has used her skip tracing abilities to uncover a past I'd rather stay buried...

If that's the case, my days as the nanny may be numbered.

I hope you will pick up the book and see how our story unfolds. Most people laugh about the bubbles. And there is an imaginary set of geese one of the boys has that you won't want to miss. Hope to see you soon inside the pages of Soldier Daddy.


About the book

U.S. Air Force commander Aaron Petrowski leads pararescue teams, yet can't find one nanny for his three-year-old twins? The widowed father is returning to duty, but not without the best care for his beloved boys. So when Sarah Graham applies, the young woman surprises everyone by passing inspection. Until Aaron discovers Sarah has a secret tied to a tragedy in his past. He can't keep her in his employ—or in his heart. Until his brave little soldier boys teach him a thing or two about love.

Soldier Daddy-4 Stars-Romantic Times

About the Author

Born Valentine’s Day on a naval base, Cheryl Wyatt writes military romance. Her Steeple Hill debuts earned RT Top Picks plus #1 and #4 on eHarlequin's Top 10 Most-Blogged-About-Books, lists including NYT Bestsellers.

Join her newsletter mailing list by visiting her Web site and signing up in the space provided if you’d like Wings of Refuge recipes, new release news and goodies exclusive to newsletter subscribers.

Book purchase link:

Soldier Daddy on Amazon

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Seattle, WA - Critically acclaimed author, Athol Dickson's writing has been favorably compared to the work of Octavia Butler (Publisher's Weekly), Daphne du Maurier (Cindy Crosby, Christianity Today fiction critic) and Flannery O'Connor (The New York Times).


Although a work of fiction, Athol's LOST MISSION, touches on some of the hot-button issues being discussed in the media today! Dickson explores 1) The personal costs of our immigration policies, asking difficult questions about our ethical and moral obligations as Americans and as Christians. 2) It forces readers to consider the logical end result of the spiritual decisions being made by most Americans today, which are slowly driving American into a post-Christian era. 3) LOST MISSION digs deep into current debate within the American church between the emergent movement and the traditional evangelical community, exposing strengths and weaknesses in both ways of "doing" Christianity.

About LOST MISSION:


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 Athol:

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.

What people are saying...

Athol Dickson is a breath of fresh air in a market that is often saturated by manufactured plots, spurious characters, and inauthentic spiritual conversions. Lost Mission is redemptive storytelling at its highest level and once again Dickson proves that he is a true master of the craft. -Jake Chism, Fiction Addict


The story is filled with compassion and truly reaches to the heart of human kind and it's frailities and reminds us that we are not alone and that God will direct us if we choose to follow his ways and not our own selfish desires. And when we sin we can ask for and recieve His forgivness. This is such a beautiful story that you simply MUST read. -Kim C., Book Reviews Today

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Stephanie Grace Whitson--Advice for Writers

For most published writers, writing means HARD WORK. We do not go on book tours. We do not talk to Oprah. And, most disappointing to me personally. . . . Mel Gibson is not going to star in the movie (smile).

The most encouraging thing I know to tell any writer is this: If God has called you to write, you will be successful as long as you follow His leading, whether that results in a publishing contract or not.

My own "how I got published" story is atypical and is an example of the Lord taking a manuscript and putting it in the right hands at exactly the right time to provide for a widow and her children. Once a contract was offered, the Lord also blessed the first books with sales enough to begin a new career. Since the beginning of this new career back in 1995, I've often felt like I was playing catch-up with other writers I admire -- the ones who know "the rules", who study "the craft," who have the creative writing degrees and speak at the conferences. In my not-very-organized quest to improve my craft, I've stumbled on some encouraging words from other writers that I have posted near my computer as reminders to myself.

It's not about talent. It's about persistence. Donald Maas.

I only write when I'm inspired, and I make sure I'm inspired every day at 9 a.m. Peter DeVries.

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. Reading is the creative center of a writer's life. Stephen King

I have not read many "how-to" books on writing. Of those I own, I go back to three repeatedly. Stephen King's On Writing (This isn't the Ouija board or the spirit-world we're talking here, but just another job like laying pipe or driving long-haul trucks.), Donald Maas's Writing the Breakout Novel, and Sol Stein's Stein on Writing. James Scott Bell's fiction column in the Writer's Digest Magazine invariably gives me the feeling of having had a "pep talk" from my favorite coach.

I often remind myself that success in light of eternity has nothing to do with books sold. Success in light of eternity means obedience to the Audience of One. In a hundred million years it will not matter if I was published, if my name appeared on any best seller lists, if I received any writing awards. In a hundred million years, what will matter is my obedience to my Lord. If He says "well done," then whatever happened here below was good, and I achieved success in the truest sense of that word.

For more information about Stephanie or her books, visit her website.

Monday, November 16, 2009

On to the next round, Deborah Bolack

Thanks to everyone who entered the drawing here at Joy in the Journey for the gift basket sponsored by the creators of Christmas Miracles. I had a lot of fun hearing from you. I am only sad that my dear son didn't enter. Had he won the prize, I'd know all the cool stuff I was getting for Christmas. But then you would think the contest was rigged, and we wouldn't want that.

Instead I am happy to announce Deborah Bolack from Manitoba won my drawing here. She will go to the next round for the basket of Christmas goodies. Congrats, Deborah. I hope you win.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Christmas Miracles with Tracy Ruckman

Today is the second part of my Christmas Miracles Blog Tour. I am so excited to have with me Tracy Ruckman, author of Miracle of the Nativity, one of the beautiful stories featured in Christmas Miracles.

A fun side-note about the following interview is that Tracy answered all my nosy questions in the middle of a hurricane! Talk about dedication...and putting up with an annoying interviewer.

Now on with the show. Welcome, Tracy! You sure have a lot going on. Photographer, author, editor, mom, and writing promoter. How in the world do you balance everything?

I have a very supportive husband, and I work a lot of hours. But when you love what you're doing, it doesn't seem like work! I've very blessed to do what I'm doing. I've learned to take a 24-hour Sabbath each week - usually from some point Saturday to some point Sunday. I think that helps me rest and refresh.



Christmas Miracles is a beautiful book. What can you tell us about it?

We're so excited about this book - the stories included are incredible. Tim and I are reading one story per day with our "Preparing Your Heart for Advent" Bible study, and it is just blessing us beyond measure. Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson did a tremendous job of pulling all the stories together, and St. Martin's packaged it so beautifully. It makes a perfect Christmas gift, basket filler, or stocking stuffer! We also learned it's going to be printed in Swedish, too! How fun is that?



Writing for anthologies is a tough nut to crack. Do you have any suggestions for writers who aspire to break into the market?

The first thought that came to mind was, "Try, try again." Keep writing, write tight - make every word count, and write from the heart. I shared recently that God took two of the hardest times of my life, gave me the ability and courage to pour the experiences out on paper, and let if find favor with the authors and publisher. So have courage - share of yourself.



You are a writer, editor and designer for hire. What is the one thing you believe editors look for first in a manuscript?

A story compelling enough to keep turning pages, is first and foremost, but if the story isn't presented professionally, it's not going to get much attention either. Prove to the editor you know what you're doing by studying the industry and learn how to submit.



As an editor, what makes you stop reading a submission?

This question is interesting to me right now, because of a discussion going on over at my blog about the responsibilities of a writer. How are our responsibilities as writers who happen to be Christians different from our responsibilities as writers of Christian material? If I am presented with a manuscript claiming to be written for the Christian market, yet I find many highly objectionable issues, I'll stop reading. Then I'll discuss the matter with the writer to determine his or her goals for the project, then we'll go from there.



What would you tell those writers who continue to improve in their craft, but have still not received that elusive contract?

Oh, please don't give up. Keep writing. You'll only improve. Look at other options if publishing is vastly important to you. If you write nonfiction, self-publishing (especially in today's market of print-on-demand) might be a viable option for you - especially if you've got a platform through speaking engagements or a heavy online presence.



I see your faith is a very important part of your identity. If you don’t mind me asking, does it influence your writing, and how?

Yes, faith is very much a part of my writing. To continue my thoughts from the earlier question, we have a responsibility as Christian writers, and as writers of Christian materials, to shine the Light of Jesus into this dark world - and even if we don't mention Christianity in any form, that responsibility still exists to not spread darkness. So with each story I create, each character I develop - I think of the reader. Will this story cause readers to stumble in their faith? Or will it give them hope? Are my stories God-honoring, or self-honoring? Our sole purpose is to glorify God in all we do - if our stories fail to do that, then we need to rethink our mission.



I am a fellow dog lover and animal rescue advocate. People tell me my dogs are my muse. Has your dog ever inspired a story idea or made an appearance in your writing?

Abby is truly a member of our family - thank you for asking! Some of my stories have had dogs, but I've never featured her in one yet. Hmmm ... maybe it's time. Thanks for the idea!



Thanks for stopping by, Tracy. Is there anything else you would like to add? Please tell us how to learn more about your workshops and especially about Christmas Miracles.

Thanks for having me, Teresa! Your questions have been great!

Readers can learn more about our online writing courses at WIES Workshops - www.WIESworkshops.com. We offer gift certificates, too, for our classes and our editing services, so if you know any writers who might benefit, keep us in mind as you do your gift shopping!

You can read my story, "Miracle of the Nativity" in Christmas Miracles-available online, and they're now beginning to appear in the stores. Grab one if you see it - they're selling out quickly, and we're already on our third printing! You can also order from the link on my blog - www.pixnpens.com.

Be sure to let your readers know about the cool contest we're having over at Pix-N-Pens. All during the month of December, we'll be featuring Christmas stories submitted by readers. Pix-N-Pens will publish a book with the top 20-30 stories, and the top three will receive cash prizes! Deadline is November 25, so get your story in soon!


You heard that, writers and readers. Get your Christmas stories over to Tracy and the staff at Pix-N-Pens. And don't forget you must comment to this post or yesterday's to enter to win the fabulous gift basket from the creators of Christmas Miracles.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Christmas Miracles

On Friday author Tracy Ruckman will be here to discuss writing and her contribution to Christmas Miracles (St. Martin’s Press, October 2009). If you've ever wondered what it takes to write for an anthology--or if you love to give or receive these awesome books--you really need to come back on Friday and read what Tracy has to say. In the meantime I am happy to introduce you to Christmas Miracles and its creators. This is a beautiful book; one you won't want to leave off your Christmas shopping list this year.

Oh, and before I forget, don't forget to leave a comment at the end of this post to be entered to win a fabulous basket of Christmas goodies.

Christmas Miracles
Cecil Murphey/Marley Gibson
Foreword: Don Piper
St. Martin’s Press, Oct. 2009
Hardcover, 256 pages
ISBN: 978-0312589837
Retail: $14.99

Many ordinary people experience Christmas miracles—those special moments during the season of giving and receiving when Christmas becomes more than just a holiday. In Christmas Miracles (St. Martin’s Press, October 2009), Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson share the stories of those who have recognized the special moments that transcend daily experience and transform their lives.

In these stories, people overcome desperate situations through a miraculous twist of fate—all during the most wonderful time of the year. A young boy sits down to read a Christmas book and discovers that his learning disability has vanished. A woman stranded in a blizzard is rescued by a mysterious stranger who she suspects is an angel. And a woman living far from home gets an answer to her prayer in the form of an unexpected gift.


Bestselling author Cecil Murphey says, “We all face discouraging times, whether it's the lack of money, being stuck on a road in a snowstorm, feeling stress, or being hungry and homeless. But God's help is available. I want readers to see that miracles do happen—sometimes simple, unexpected blessings or those that involve the supernatural. We start by asking, and in strange and wonderful ways God tiptoes into our dark nights; we experience renewed joy in life and witness God in action through people and unexpected events.”


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 upcoming 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, I want 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, out October 13, 2009 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.

Award-winning writer Cecil Murphey is the author or co-author of 114 published books, including the NY Times bestseller 90 Minutes in Heaven (with Don Piper) and Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (with Dr. Ben Carson). He’s also the author of When Someone You Love Has Cancer and When God Turned Off the Lights, both 2009 releases. Murphey’s books have sold millions and have given hope and encouragement to countless readers around the world. For more information, visit www.cecilmurphey.com.

Marley Gibson is a young adult author whose first published books in the Sorority 101series were released by Penguin Group in 2008 under the pen name of Kate Harmon. She has a new Ghost Huntress series with Houghton Mifflin written under her own name. She can be found online at www.marleygibson.com.

Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win the Christmas Miracles gift basket. Wouldn’t you love to take home this amazing basket filled with Christmas goodies galore? This amazing gift basket contains everything you’ll need to make your Christmas holiday a success. Inside you’ll find a stocking stuffed with hard candies, kitchen towels and oven mitts, seasonal potpourri, holiday-colored candles, stuffed animals that talk, snowman candle, nutcrackers, Christmas ornaments, gift bags, gift tags, gift bows, ornament hangers, Christmas cookie cutters, a Merry Christmas doorstopper, a picture frame, Christmas cards, Santa ear muffs, and not just one, but two copies of Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson’s Christmas Miracles – one to keep and one to give away to someone special.