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.

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.


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 - 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 -

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

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

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.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

My Son John by Kathi Macias

My Son, John (Sheaf House -April 2009)Read the chilling summary of Kathi Macias's latest book, followed by an account from the book's heroine, Liz Peterson. Then run, don't walk, to buy this intriguing book.

Murder. Could there be a more chilling word? Could it be any more horrible than to have a loved one killed, brutally and heartlessly, without obvious reason or motive? When Liz Peterson’s elderly mother is found viciously beaten to death in her home, Liz and her husband, Charles, along with their grown son, John, and teenage daughter, Sarah, are horrified beyond words. Their previously predictable, respectable lives seem to have vanished without a trace, as they struggle to make sense of a senseless act.

And then a second blow—more devastating, if possible, than the first—rocks them to their core. John is arrested for his grandmother’s murder. As what’s left of the Peterson family begins to crumble under the weight of loss and accusation, the Petersons’ longstanding Christian faith is put to the test in a way they could never have imagined, and unconditional love is stretched to its limits. Will family ties and relationships withstand such a crushing blow, or will evil succeed in dividing and conquering this once close and inseparable family?

ISBN 978-0-9797485-4-7

Trade paperback with study guide and resources list $12.99

Primary Character Interview with Liz Peterson

My Son John by Kathi Macias

Q: Liz, you’re respected in the community—married to a successful attorney with one grown son and a teenaged daughter—and you’ve been a Christian since you were a child. How did the news of your mother’s murder affect the lifestyle you had known for so long?

A: It was as if someone had dropped an atomic bomb in my backyard. What it didn’t kill outright was quickly tainted by the fallout. Nothing seemed familiar any longer. Life as I’d known it was over.

Q: Tell us some of the immediate emotions you experienced soon after receiving this tragic news.

A: Shock was primary, though grief and loss and confusion all swirled around me, vying for attention. And of course, in the background, was this nagging thought that something about John’s reaction to what had happened just wasn’t right.

Q: And yet you seemed unwilling and/or unable to accept the truth when John was arrested. Tell us about what was going on in your heart and mind then.

A: Without a doubt, the strongest emotion in play once John was arrested was denial. Even when I heard he’d confessed, I simply could not believe that the little boy I had loved for twenty-three years could do such a horrible thing.

Q: Once you were able to get past the denial and admit the truth about what had happened, where did your emotions take you then?

A: It was so much easier to stay in denial, which is why I clung to it so desperately. Once I faced the truth, I then had to deal with issues no mother should ever have to experience—primarily, how can I still love my son unconditionally after what he had done? Did I even know him anymore? Could we ever have a close relationship again?

Q: What was the catalyst that finally moved you from denial to truth, and from hopelessness to healing?

A: God used many people to speak truth into my life, and finally brought it all together when I realized my heavenly Father still loved me unconditionally and had never left me, even in the worst moments of my darkest ordeal. Slipping back into His arms was the best move I ever made.

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to someone who is even now wrestling with the need to forgive something so horrible that it seems impossible, what would it be?

A: There is an old saying that refusing to forgive someone is like drinking poison and then waiting for the other person to die. Unforgiveness benefits no one. There is no sin too terrible, no act too vicious, no breach too wide that it can’t be healed by God’s unconditional love. God gave us the example of how to deal with the hurts and injustices that inevitably come our way in this world when He sent His only Son to die a horrible death in our place. Why? To pay the required price for restoration of relationship between God and man. God’s heart is to see relationships restored. The Scriptures tell us that Jesus was in the world, reconciling the world to Himself; now He sits at the right hand of the Father, and He has given to us the assignment of completing that “ministry of reconciliation.” That’s why Jesus came, and that’s why we’re still here—to bring reconciliation to broken relationships.

Learn more about Kathi Macias and her books at her website.

Friday, November 06, 2009

He said, She said--Handling Attributions

I am so happy to have fellow author and book doctor Sandi Rog here today at Joy in the Journey. Sandi is going to share her expertise on Attributions (Dialogue Tags)

Let's talk about those pesky dialogue tags, otherwise known as attributions. An attribution is "said." As in "he said, she said." If you read the following excerpt (, you'll notice that there are no attributions. No, not one. In light of that fact, isn't it interesting that we knew who was talking the entire time, whether it was a soldier, David or his parents? How is that possible? Not one "said" word gave it away? How can that be?

Answer: If Character A's dialogue is in the same paragraph as the action of Character A, we'll know who's talking, so there's no reason to add "he/she said."

Attributions aren't "wrong." Using them doesn't mean your writing is poor. But if a beat of action can be used, that would be much better. Why? Beats of action can pull your reader deeper into your story. How does it do that? Beats give readers something to see, smell, touch, taste or hear; they reveal details about the character and the setting; they help eliminate useless words; and they can make the writing more active.

Notice below, we know who's talking because the action and the dialogue of each character is in the same paragraph:

"Let her go!" Abba pushed away from a soldier with his shoulder and lunged forward. "She has nothing to do with this!"

The third soldier rushed over, grabbed Abba and held him back. "Oh, really? That's not what we heard." He motioned toward the man touching Mamma. "Aulus, shouldn't convicts pay the full penalty for their crimes?"

The fewer attributions a writer uses, the better.

Here are some before and after examples:


"Let her go!" Abba shouted, pushing away from the soldier. "She has nothing to do with this!"


"Let her go!" Abba pushed away from the soldier. "She has nothing to do with this!"

Can you feel the difference between these two lines? "Pushed" is more active than "pushing." It gives the writing more life. A part of the scene is played out with ongoing action; the scene moves forward. The exclamation mark shows that the character is shouting, so there's no reason to tell the readers that Abba is shouting by adding, "he shouted." Also, the sentence is shorter, giving it more punch, which adds to the tension of the scene.

But what about scenes that aren't supposed to have this kind of tension? Will eliminating attributions add tension to a scene that doesn't need it? Scenes will usually have tension, just a different kind.

Here's an example where the tension is beneath the surface, rather than an outside force:

"Well, I'm glad I don't have any sin." Alethea swung her legs as she sat on the wall. She thought to scoot in closer to David so her arm might brush against his. Instead, she basked in his scent of leather and pine.

David rested his elbows on his knees and watched her, but Alethea avoided his gaze. "No one is without sin." He leaned toward her. "No one."

She glanced at him from the corner of her eye, but quickly refocused her attention on the horizon. "It doesn't make sense." She shrugged. "Why make someone die when he could clap his hands and say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' and be done with it?"

David stared at her for a while, his mouth closed as if tasting her words.

Shifting under his scrutinizing gaze, she leaned forward and watched the birds soar and dance on the air in front of them.

A gentle breeze caressed her cheek as David lifted her chin. He forced her to look at him. His blue eyes fixated on hers.

"Passion," he said.

Alethea took a long shuddering breath.

"What shows greater love?" He continued to hold her chin. "Someone who sacrifices himself to save your life, or just claps his hands?"

There are times you'll want your scene to move slowly and adding an attribution will help slow the pace or create the right rhythm. This leads to my favorite subject: breaking the rules. Notice above how after the dialogue "Passion" one attribution is used, but it works to create the right rhythm.

Depending on how attributions are used, they can also become a form of telling.

I call the following "impossible attributions" because they create impossibilities.

Chime, deliver, breathe, repeat, seethe, spat, articulate, laugh, conclude, add, roar, state, counter, muse, roar, growl, exclaim, fume, explode, and the list goes on.

Why do these create impossibilities?

A person can't "chime, deliver, breathe, repeat, seethe, spat, articulate," a statement. These vices shout amateur to editors and agents (and if not, they should). Avoid them at all costs.

Here's a quote from Newgate Callender, in The New York Times Book Review:

Mr. (Robert) Ludlum has other peculiarities. For example, he hates the "he said" locution and avoids it as much as possible. Characters in The Bourne Ultimatum seldom “say” anything. Instead, they cry, interject, interrupt, muse, state, counter, conclude, mumble, whisper (Mr. Ludlum is great on whispers), intone, roar, exclaim, fume, explode, mutter. There is one especially unforgettable tautology: “’I repeat,’ repeated Alex.”

The book may sell in the billions, but it’s still junk.

The best thing to do with “said” is to cut it all together and replace it with an action. This will create more “showing” and less “telling.” It pulls us into the story and helps us become more acquainted with the characters. Also, as I said, if one character has dialogue and action in the same paragraph, we’ll automatically know who’s talking so there’s no need to "tell" us who's talking. But if you have to use “said,” then use “said” and not some impossible attribution that hack writers love.

Dave King and Rennie Browne's book, "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers," goes into detail on this subject, as well as other important writing subjects. If you'd like to ask Mr. King some writing questions, pop on over to my blog at:

Attributions aren't "wrong." Just use them with care.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Inspiration at the Polls

A few years ago someone in my polling district got sick or moved or retired or whatever. As a registered voter of the minority party in my county, I received a phone call from the election boards asking if I would be willing to work at my local election poll. Little did I know this would become a fulltime gig.

For a writer always on the lookout for material, manning the polls is pretty good fodder for the old idea mill. Since I seldom leave my house, I don’t hear much local gossip that could inspire a fiction work. Once a year this changes radically.

Discussing the election or candidates and issues is off limits so we talk about the way things used to be, former residents and those we only wish would move away, unresolved scandals, and the bleak condition of the economy. Or rather, they talk and I absorb like a sponge.

The one thing all writers have in common is an insatiable curiosity. We’re not satisfied knowing something happened. We need to know why and how. If no one can tell us, we fill in the blanks. It’s how fiction writers are born.

Filling in the blanks is a habit I picked up as a child. When adults discuss the really good stuff around children, they speak in code they think the child will not be able to follow and leave key sentences hanging. Covertly listening in on these conversations is what encouraged the writer in me so many years ago. Born and raised in a small town I heard stories, new and old, about unrequited love, jealous quarrels that ended in gunfire, robberies, back stabbings, cheating, lying, and coveting thy neighbor’s wife.

It wasn’t long before I began writing stories that satiated my curiosity and allowed me to end them however I chose. The power over the lives of adults was intoxicating. Before I even knew how to write the stories down, I was addicted. I suppose writers never outgrow that love for the unknown, the unsolved. It’s what keeps us tapping away on our keyboards even when publishers are stingy with contracts and our agents consider another line of work.

It is my hope that my job tomorrow at the polls will deliver some interesting, intriguing tidbits that start me tapping away on some new material. I’m taking my Dana with me for when inspiration strikes. Who knows, I might even start my next bestseller. So get out and vote tomorrow. If you see old neighbors and friends with their heads together discussing the latest local scandal and a lone woman nearby tapping away on her keyboard, come over and say hi. I always like meeting readers.