Friday, December 28, 2007

Debut Author Cheryl Wyatt - Book Review & Blog Tour

I just finished reading A Soldier's Promise (Wings of Refuge, Book 1) (Love Inspired #430) by Cheryl Wyatt. This is Cheryl’s debut novel, and it’s a great one!

Here’s the back cover blurb:

"My name's Bradley. I'm eight and have cancer. I want to meet a Special Forces soldier more than anything. Well, almost anything. Having a family would be nice."

U.S. Air Force pararescue jumper Joel Montgomery promised to make a sick child's wish come true. Well, not the family part—not with Joel's past. And so despite vowing never to set foot back in Refuge, Illinois, Joel parachuted onto the boy's school lawn to a huge smile. But another smile unexpectedly stole Joel's heart: that of Bradley's beautiful teacher, Amber Stanton, who was trying to adopt the boy. And trying to show Joel it was time for new vows.

Cheryl’s got a real gift for dialogue. The characters are believable and will grip you from the first word. Her writing is a deft weaving of humor and emotion. Fans of contemporary romance won’t be disappointed.

Check out Cheryl at these stops on her blog tour:

December 31 - Interview, Lena Dooley’s blog
January 2 - Interview, Lacy Williams’ blog
January 3 - Guestblog, Danica Favorite-MacDonald’s blog
January 4 - Interview, Nike Chillemi’s blog
January 5 - Guestblog, Angie Breidenbach’s blog
January 6 and 7 - Interview and review, Brittanie’s blog
January 6, 7 and 8 - Interview, Lynette Eason’s blog
January 8 - Short quote, Jill Elizabeth Nelson’s blog
January 9 - Guestblog, Patricia Woodside’s blog
January 10 - Interview, Jennifer Hudson Taylor’s blog
January 11 - Guestblog, Janet Dean’s blog
January 12 - Interview, Leanna Ellis’ blog
January 13 - Interview, Ronie Kendig’s blog
January 14 - Interview, Camy Tang’s blog
January 15 - Interview, Crystal Miller’s blog
January 16 - Guestblog, Pammer James’ blog
January 16 - Christa Allan’s blog
January 17 - Review, Heather Diane Tipton’s blog
January 17 - Review, Interview, & Guestblog, Hope Chastain’s blog,
January 18 - Review, Cara Putman’s blog
January 18 - Mindy Obenhaus’ blog
January 19 - Guestblog, Linda Rondeau’s blog
January 20 - Review, Mary Connealy’s blog
January 21 - Interview, Jennifer AlLee’s blog
January 21 - Review and Interview, Cynthia Hawkins’ blog
January 21 - Interview, Missy Tippens’ blog
January 22 - Review and guestblog, Deborah’s blog
January 22 - Peg Phifer’s blog
January 23
- Interview, Amber Miller’s blog
January 23 - Review, Sally Bradley’s blog
January -24 - Review, Pattie Reitz’s blog
January 25 - Interview and Review, Deena Peterson’s blog
January 26 - Review and Interview, Shauna Sturge’s blog
January 27 - Review, Dineen Miller’s blog
January 28 - Interview and Review, Marjorie Vawter’s blog
January 29 - Review, Donna Fleisher’s blog
January 30 - Interview and Review, Michelle Rodgers’ blog
February 29 - Interview, Margaret Daley’s blog

Monday, December 17, 2007

I'm Missing the Christmas Craft Gene

I've been absent from the blogosphere for a bit, but I've got a really good reason. You know those elves you hear about this time of year... the ones that are hard at work, laboring to make Christmas merry for all? Well, I'm one of them!

I'm about ready to share part of my secret life with you: Every year, from October to December, I put on my candy hat and go to work at See's Candies. Usually, I'm one of the phone elves, taking orders and checking them twice. But last week, I took part in one of the more labor-intensive parts of the job... making gift bags.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketCheck out these happy Santas. I bagged and bowed about 75 of these fellows, including the ones you see here. I'll be the first to admit, I'm not naturally gifted in the art of bow tying. You should have seen me struggle just to get them to look decent. No, I take that back, no one should have to witness such a thing!

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Some people have a knack for it, though. Perhaps there's a crafty, basket assembling, bow tying gene that is absent in part of the population. Take my friend Beth. See how happy she is, standing in our stock room, making beautiful baskets! Beth truly has the crafty gene.

I'm curious... how many people out there consider themselves truly crafty? If you're one of them, I'd love to know what you're making to deck the halls.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Ode to an Artificial Christmas Tree

Well, the halls are all decked at my house… actually, the only thing that’s decked is the living room, but that’s okay. My family has a fake tree that we bought in 1998. I’d like to say we’re doing our part to save the environment, but really, it’s due to my husband’s strong, fiscally responsible streak, and his dislike of cleaning up dead pine needles. If it were up to me, we’d have a live tree every year.

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Here’s the tree before the branches are fully spread. Pitiful, isn’t it? And that strapping young man next to it is Billy, my excited 14-year-old. Doesn’t he look excited in the photo?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketAnd here it is all decorated. Say it with me now… OOOOOH… AWWWWW. And check out the leaning Angel at the top... looks like she's had a wee bit too much egg nog!

And now I’d like to share a little ditty that I wrote the first year we owned the tree. If you feel like singing, it’s to the tune of “Oh Christmas Tree.”

Ode to an Artificial Tree

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree,
You’re fake and I can tell.
Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree,
Because you have no smell.
But you were purchased by my spouse,
Because you don’t mess up the house.
Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree,
You are the best they sell.

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree,
Your boughs are always green.
Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree,
They have a plastic sheen.
No needles dropping on the floor,
No struggling with you through the door.
Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree,
You’re even flame retardant.

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree,
They don’t come any finer.
Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree,
‘Cause you were made in China.
And when the season is all through,
Back in the box goes you-know-who.
Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree,
You can be unassembled.

Wishing you and yours a beautiful Christmas, whether your tree is real, plastic, or aluminum!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

What's New In Christian Fiction - December 2007

Here is the December 2007 line-up of new Christian fiction releases in time to add to your Christmas gift list. Also this month, Jill Eileen Smith has a new Spotlight interview with best-selling author Stephanie Grace Whitson author of the recently released Jacob's List from Baker Publishing Group. Be sure to stop by and read Stephanie's interview and visit the websites of the following authors. Enjoy!

1. Bluegrass Peril by Virginia Smith from Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense. When Becky Dennison's boss at a retirement farm for thoroughbred stallions is murdered, she becomes entrenched in a high-stakes game of danger, money, and that famous southern pride.

2. Buried Sins by Marta Perry, from Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense. Caroline Hampton flees to her family's inn in peaceful Pennsylvania Amish country after her husband's death, but even there, someone with deadly intent wants her to believe he's still alive.

3. Gavin Goodfellow: The Lure of Burnt Swamp Book One of the Burnt Swamp Trilogy by Candy Abbott from Fruitbearer Publishing. Dyslexic tween encounters Christ while battling witchcraft in Burnt Swamp where fires have been burning for ten years.

4. Heart of the Family 2nd in the Fostered by Love series by Margaret Daley from Steeple Hill Love Inspired. A past secret threatens Jacob and Hannah's newfound love.

5. Kansas Weddings a Heartsong 3-book compilation by Kim Vogel Sawyer from Barbour Publishing. Three Kansas women have difficult decisions to make and burdens to bear.

6. Missouri Memories by Deborah Raney, DiAnn Mills, Joyce Livingston, and Kelly Eileen Hake from Barbour Books. The beautiful House on Cranberry Hill in Hannibal, Missouri, holds love for four generations of couples.

7. Seasons of Love Book 3 Massachusetts Weddings by Elizabeth Goddard from Heartsong Presents. Riley O’Hare must revive her grandfather’s cranberry farm, but her brother’s untimely death thrusts her into his partner’s path and into the midst of a perilous cyber crime.

8. The Love Song by Anita Higman and Janice A. Thompson from Barbour Publishing (Heartsong Presents). With God's help, Clair O'Neal lets go of her painful past and accepts all the laughter and music and love her heart can hold.

Happy reading~

Monday, November 26, 2007

Giant Book Giveaway from My Special Guest Bloggers!

I'm thrilled to share a special guest post from the mother/daughter writing team of Sherrie Ashcraft and Christina Berry. These ladies are as nice as they are talented... expect to see big things from them in the future!

A special announcement from Sherrie Ashcraft and Christina Berry:

We cowrite books about relationships. We are a relationship. We want to dominate the relationship brand. And we want to have at least 500 subscribers to the Ashberry Lane Newsletter by the first of the year. Should we expect you to sign up and work hard at strong-arming your friends to sign up while you get nothing out of the deal? No way!
Compassionate as we are, we've worked up a HUGE new incentive. How better to promote our relational fiction than featuring other fiction that focuses on different types of relationship? Why don't we give our supporters a chance to win EIGHT autographed books? What a great Christmas present that would be! Or what a lot of Christmas shopping done for you!
Without further ado, we present, with a booming voice,


For the Friend Relationship: Roxanne Henke's After Anne

One of our absolute favorite books. As you watch Olivia and Anne struggle through a difficult challenge, you'll want to be a better friend.

For the Prodigal Relationship: Robin Lee Hatcher's Return to Me
How many of us have walked away from what our father wanted for us? Or away from our Father? This story will remind you that the you can go home again.

For the Marriage Relationship: Robin Jones Gunn's Wildflowers Wildflowers

Married Genevieve falls in love with the man she least expected could win her heart. It's not who you might think ....

For the Sibling Relationship: Lauraine Snelling's Ruby (Dakotah Treasures #1)

In the first of this frontier series, Ruby must deal with her new "inheritance" while protecting her sister from its influences.

For the Man's Perspective on Relationships: James Scott Bell's Breach of Promise

A heart-rending story of a man trying to keep his family together.

For the Supernatural Relationship: Tosca Lee's Demon: A Memoir

Don't let the title of this book scare you away. There is no glorification of the demonic, but an enlightened fresh look at what History means.

For the Relationships Gone Bad: Bette Nordberg's Serenity Bay

A truly terrifying story of woman who married Prince Charming and discovered he wasn't.

For the Single Among the Marriage-Minded: Camy Tang's Sushi for One? (The Sushi Series, Book 1)

You'll laugh. You'll relate. You'll be impressed with this debut novel from up-and-coming author Camy Tang.

EIGHT books. ONE winner. Here are the ways to win:
Current subscriber and previous referrals are already in the hat. Any new subscriber or referral will gain another entry.
Publicize this to your homeys through newsletters: one entry.
Blog about the contest: one entry. (Email us if you need what to post.)
Include it in your Christmas cards: two entries.
Tuck it in the gift bag with the fruitcake you'll be leaving on random doorsteps: five entries.
Subscribe! Spread the word! Flood the blogosphere! Take over the world!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Blog Interview and Book Contest

Hey All!

Today I have the honor of being interviewed on Amber Miller's blog. Come on over and check it out. If you leave a comment on Amber's blog (not this one) you'll be entered to win an autographed copy of my new book, The Love of His Brother.

Good luck, and thanks for playing!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Counting My Blessings...

There's an old hymn that goes "Count your blessings, Name them one by one..." My grandma Marie used to love it, but she gave it her own twist, singing "Name them ton by ton." Grandma went to be with Jesus about six years ago, but to this day, I can't hear that song without thinking of her. It's only natural, with Thanksgiving coming in a few days, that I'd remember it now. I've got a lot to be thankful for. Here's just a partial list:

  • An awesome husband who's put up with me for almost 16 years now (to be fair, I've put up with him, too!)

  • An incredible teenage son who still enjoys spending time with his parents and is a real joy to be around,

  • Wonderfully supportive friends,

  • The realization of a dream in my first published book,

  • A completed first draft of my current project,

  • And most important, a God who loves me and showers me with all this and more on a daily basis.

How about you? What blessings can you name today? I pray that you and your loved ones have a wonderful Thanksgiving day filled with family, food and fun!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I'm Famous Today!

At least, that's what my husband said. Why, you ask? I'll tell you...

My first book, The Love of His Brother came out today! After years of dreaming and hoping, what a thrill to finally be able to hold my book in my hand. My name's on the cover and everything!

Check it out on Amazon (shameless plug, I know). There's no blurb on Amazon telling you what the book's about (don't ask me why... I have no idea) so here's the scoop:

When Whitney married Cliff Poulten, she thought they’d be together forever. But his unexpected death makes her face quite a different future. Despite her grief, Whitney grabs hold of what is still good in her life: her family, her faith, and her unborn child. But she never expected Doug to come back. Regarded as something of a black sheep, Doug Poulten returns home as unexpectedly as he left, determined to make things right with his family. When he learns his brother is dead, his attention turns to taking care of his sister-in-law. The last thing either of them expects is for brotherly love to turn into something much more intense.

Thanks, hubby, for proclaiming me to be famous, if only for today. I'll enjoy my fifteen minutes, no matter how small my circle is!

Monday, November 5, 2007

New Contest - Holiday Memories

Having grown up in Southern California, my mind is filled with memories of Disneyland. If you've never been to the Big D between Thanksgiving and New Year's, you're missing something beautiful. The entire place is covered in festive decorations. Garlands and lights, bows and ribbons in bright red, green and gold cover everything that can be covered. The Small World ride, usually not a big draw if you've been on it more than twice, becomes a must-do attraction after it's been made over in its Christmas finery. Now that's a holiday miracle right there!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketOne of my most vivid holiday memories takes place at Disneyland, about 5 years ago. My family had recently moved back to Southern California after spending several years in Ohio. I was so excited about taking my son to his very first Disney Christmas, and the end of the fireworks show when they made it snow. (Okay, it's soapsuds or whatever, but it looks like it's snowing when it's falling.)

We had a great day. We watched the fireworks from right across from the castle and then the snow started. That's when I discovered that we were standing behind the snow dispensers... we could see it, but it wasn't falling on us. That just wasn't right! I gave Billy a nudge toward where the snow was falling. Being a little guy, he was able to get through, but I couldn't follow as fast as he moved, and when I got to the spot that I thought he would be, he wasn't there.

If you've ever lost a child, no matter how briefly, you know exactly how I felt. A dozen worst-case scenarios zipped through my head at once. The snowfall was over, and now the area was a sea of moving bodies. I just stood there yelling my child's name, turning around like a lighthouse.

Finally, the crowd thinned out enough that I saw him. He was back where we'd started, in the same place that we'd watched the fireworks, and he looked as scared as I felt. But as soon as we locked eyes, it was okay. I was proud of him, because he'd had the presence of mind to go back to the last place he saw me and stay put. I, on the other hand, would have run around the park like a crazy woman if I hadn't seen him there.

So there it is, maybe not the most heartwarming holiday memory, but it's something we still talk about to this day. In fact, when Billy had to write about a holiday memory for school, this is the one he chose. It does have a happy ending, after all!

By now you're probably thinking to yourself, "Didn't she mention a contest?" Well yes, I did. And here it is: Reply to this blog with your holiday memory. The one that sticks in your mind no matter how many years go by. It can be Thanksgiving or Christmas related. Everyone who responds by December 4th will be entered in the contest and I'll announce the winner on December 5th.

And here's what you'll win....

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket In the spirit of my Disney-related memory, you'll win an adorable stuffed Christmas Mickey Mouse. He's about 17 inches tall and comes from the Disney Store, where he retailed for $16.00. But he's ready to come to your home!

Want to increase your chances of winning? Just go to my website,, and sign up for my newsletter. You'll be entered twice to get Mickey, and you'll find out about any other contests I have, as well as late breaking news.

Let the memories begin!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What's New In Christian Fiction - November 2007

Here is the November 2007 line-up of new Christian fiction releases! Time to add a few books to your Christmas wish list or find a great gift for a loved one. Also this month, Jill Eileen Smith has a new Spotlight interview with award-winning author Nancy Moser author of the newly released Just Jane. Be sure to stop by and read Nancy's interview and visit the websites of the following authors. Enjoy!

1. A Christmas to Die For Book 2 in The Three Sisters Inn series by Marta Perry from Love Inspired Suspense. A holiday season among the Plain People swarms with hidden danger when an inn owner finds herself the target of a killer.

2. A Matter of Trust by Lisa Harris, from Heartsong Presents. With Ty back in her life, will Kayla be able to trust him when a dark secret comes to light and all evidence of the crime points to him?

3. Faith Awakened by Grace Bridges from Lulu Press and Waitemata Books. In virtual stasis to escape a deadly virus, an ex-slave in Ireland finds far more than just survival.

4. Just Jane by Nancy Moser from Bethany House. Historical novel about the life of author Jane Austen.

5. Standing Strong, Fourth and final book in the Homeland Heroes Series by Donna Fleisher from Zondervan. Four warriors. Two rival gangs. Is faith enough to win peace on the streets of Kimberley Square?

6. The Love of His Brother by Jennifer AlLee from Five Star, a division of Thomson Gale. A young, pregnant widow finds more than just support when her black-sheep brother-in-law comes home.

7. Within This Circle (mass market size) Sequel to A Vow to Cherish by Deborah Raney from Steeple Hill Books. After her mother’s death from Alzheimer’s disease, Jana McFarlane struggles to cope with her roles as wife and mother.

Happy reading~

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The View From Vegas: Over The Rainbow

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Since I live in such a unique town, I thought it would be nice to share some of it with my cyber friends. What you see here is a shot of the famous Bellagio fountains and the Paris Hotel across the street. If you look closely, you'll see a rainbow in the fountain mist. Pretty cool, huh?

This city is such a dichotomy... You've got the glitz and glamour of the strip, and just a couple blocks behind it are run down buildings and trashy open lots. The streets are teaming with visitors from all over the world, equal in their desire to hit the big one. And on almost every corner and freeway ramp are the pan handlers, their cardboard signs worn from frequent use. And sometimes, right in the middle of the Las Vegas strip, you see a rainbow. It's a nice reminder that God lives here, too.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Last Chance to Win a FREE Book!

They say the word FREE is an attention grabber. It must be, since you, oh lovely reader, have found your way into this blog. But it's not just a marketing gimmick... I really am giving away a free book.

"So how do I enter?"

I'm so glad you asked. Just go to my website and sign up for my e-newsletter. Not only will you be entered to win a copy of my new (and first) novel, The Love of His Brother but you'll also get occasional updates on what I'm up to, as well as other interesting writerly things. Just go to and scroll down to the bottom of the home page for the newsletter subscription box.

Hurry, I'll be pulling names out of... something... on November 1st!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

A Week Later and the Sucking Has Stopped!

Exactly one week ago I had myself a little blogging pitty party about my spider bite and banged up toe. Since ya'll were so kind to let me dump my baggage, I thought it would be nice to follow up and say how great I feel today!

Last Tuesday I saw my wonderful doctor. After he finished scolding me for not having someone look at my arm sooner, he gave me a perscription for an antibiotic and sent me on my way. I'm happy to report that I no longer look like I escaped from the leper colony (no offense intended to any lepers out there). The rash is all gone as is most of the itching. However my skin is peeling like crazy, so now I just look like I'm recovering from a sunburn.

My toe is slowly coming along. If you've ever stubbed a toe before bad enough to bruise it, you know what I mean. But it's much better than last week.

To top it all off, when I was going over part of my WIP yesterday, I discovered that I had two chapters marked "4" which means I have one more chapter than I thought I had. Cool! Even though it didn't change the length of the WIP, or how many chapters I have left to write, it still felt like a little gift, like finding $10 you forgot you had in your jeans pocket.

Praise God for He is good... He was good even when I felt lousy, and He's good now as I bask in an abundance of chapters. I wonder what tomorrow will bring...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

It's A Matter of Perspective

For the last week or so, I've been struggling through a scene in my current book. I'd write something, then get rid of it. Then I'd write something else, but it didn't work either. Yesterday, it hit me like the proverbial brick... I was writing the scene in the wrong POV (that's "point of view" for those of you who aren't obsessed with craft issues). As soon as I switched to the POV of my heroine, the whole thing fell into place. Boy, did that feel good!

You know, I do that in my day-to-day life, too. Sometimes, I'll struggle to deal with something ("How could she talk to me that way?") until I finally look at the situation from the other person's point of view. Then, even though I still might not appreciate it, I can at least start to understand it.

How about you? Have you ever needed to change your POV, either in writing or real life? Give it a try... It's amazing what a different perspective can do for you!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Well This Sucks...

As a person who's had a chronic illness since childhood (diagnosed with rhuemetoid arthritis at age 10) I don't usually let physical issues get me down. If something hurts, you deal with it and move on, right? Right! But today, I'm letting myself wallow... just a little.

See, three weeks ago, I was in Dallas for the ACFW conference. It was great, but I had physical challenges the whole time. Mainly, a sinus headache that started as soon as I got to the hotel on Wednesday, and went away as soon as I went to the airport on Sunday. I ventured out of the hotel only once during that time, Friday night, and managed to get a mosquito bite. That wasn't a big deal, though. It hardly even itched. So I moved on.

Two weeks ago, I realized that the "mosquito bite" (because now I'm pretty convinced something else bit me) had a red ring around it and itched A LOT. By the next day, the ring had turned into a rash, and now, one week later, that rash covers a five inch area of my arm. And it still itches. A LOT! But I dealt with it, and moved on.

The thing that finally did it to me, the proverbial "last straw" if you will, was when I stubbed my toe two days ago. It was one of those things that as soon as it happens, you want to smack yourself because of the stupidity of it. I ran into a table in my living room, a table that's been in the same spot for a year. It's not like I didn't know it was there. So now my pinky toe is black and blue and screaming in pain. But the thing that irks me the most is that I was going to take my son to the Renaissance Festival this weekend, and now I can't. His dad will take him, so he'll still get to go, but I'm bumming because I was looking forward to it, too.

I will move on from this. The rash will go away and the toe will heal. But for right now, I'd like to wallow just a little. Maybe eat some ice cream and watch some mindless TV. Then I'll hobble back to my desk, with my box to prop my foot on and my ice pack for my itchy arm, and I may even write something new... hmmm, I'm thinking of a heroine who gets a bad case of poison ivy... hmmm...

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Trip Home

Two Sundays ago I was in the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, making my way home from the ACFW conference (which, by the way, was an awesome experience). Airports are interesting places, particularly if you like to eavesdrop on people, a trait for which we writers are infamous.

So I'd been sitting in the airport for about an hour, reading Sharon Hinck's The Restorer (which was incredible) when I heard this conversation behind me:

MALE: "Hey, I just wanted to say goodbye to you guys before you left."
OLDER WOMAN: "You're so sweet. How'd the auditions go?"
MALE: "Pretty good. We had a couple thousand people and narrowed it down to a hundred."

Okay, I'll admit, my radar picked up at the word "auditions." Immediately I figure out, based on the amount of people who showed up for audition, that it must have been for American Idol. Now I'm curious, figuring that the man behind me is part of the production staff. So I casually turn around, and there is Ryan Seacrest. Well whatcha know! Then I turned back around and opened my book again. That was fun.

I figured that was the most interesting thing that would happen to me, but I was wrong. My seatmate on the plane turned out to be a 19 year old guy who smuggled in some Popeye's chicken (actually, you're allowed to bring food on the plane, but he wasn't taking any chances, so he kept it stashed in his backpack until we took off). I didn't figure this was a person that was going to want to talk during the trip, which was fine by me, 'cuz I had my book. But again, I was wrong.

Turns out Thomas was on his way to Las Vegas not for vacation, but to meet a buddy and then drive from there to Fort Irwin, near Barstow, California. From there, he was being deployed to Iraq. Thomas has a grandmother in South Carolina. He said that the scariest things in Iraq aren't IEDs, it's the booby traps that are set up where you don't expect them. He said that even though a lot of people don't think we should be in Iraq, he feels it's more important that we fight over there than to let the war come to American soil. He told me a lot of stuff.

As I listened to this young man, who's only 5 years older than my own son, my heart began to ache. I don't want to make a political statement one way or the other, but I think we can all agree that no one likes to send men and women off into such a dangerous situation. But nothing makes it resonate like meeting someone who's going there. Until I talked to Thomas, I had no physical, flesh and blood connection to our troups. Now, after 2 1/2 hours flying from Dallas to Vegas, I do.

Before we got off the plane, I gave Thomas my business card (and assured him that I was old enough to be his mother, just so he wouldn't get scared that I was trying to pick him up!) I told him to send me an email if he ever wanted to talk or if he and his buddies needed prayer. I doubt I'll ever hear from him, even though he put the card in his pocket. But I can still pray for him, and I do.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

3:10 To Yuma - Long Live the Cowboy Movie!

On Sunday, hubby and I went to see a movie. This was quite an event, because it's not often that we both want to see the same thing (the last movie we saw together was Casino Royal... and let me just say that Daniel Craig makes a yummy James Bond!)

The movie we chose was 3:10 To Yuma. I love horses, but that doesn't mean I'm automatically drawn to all cowboy movies. For one thing, the horses often die in these movies, which I find to be a bummer. But, this one caught my attention because of Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. Also, the premise was interesting; A one-legged Civil War vet must accompany a notorious murdering bandit to board the 3:10 train which will take him to Yuma prison. Problem is, the bandit's gang is doing everything they can to stop it.

There's a lot in this movie about destiny and what makes the true measure of a man. There's also a ton of action, a fair amount of swearing (it's rated R, after all) and some appearences by actors that you don't expect to see. I found myself having some rather unexpected reactions whenever they popped up.

Hey, is that Peter Fonda underneath all that hair?

Hey, that Gretchen Moll makes a pretty little farm wife.

Hey, how can Luke Wilson manage to still be so cute when he's playing a sadistic bigot with dirty teeth?

Hey, there's Alan Tudyk! Wash alert! (Let me just confess now, I'm a sci fi geek, and I love finding actors from my favorite sci fi series getting work after their series are over. In case you didn't know, Alan Tudyk played Wash, the pilot, in the series Firefly and the movie Serenity.)

But I gotta say, I really enjoyed this movie. Yep, it's violent, but I think the violence was pretty much a part of who these men were (the characters in the movie. I can't speak to how actual desperados acted, having never met one). The best parts of the movie are the performances turned in by Crowe and Bale. Both of these men are terrific actors, and they find the nuances in their characters, ensuring that it's impossible to take either one at face value.

And another plus, to my recollection, not a single horse died in the movie. Hot diggity! (A cow bit the dust, but I don't have quite the same emotional connection with bovine.)

So if you're looking for a good western with great acting, pretty horses, and you can stomach some blood and raw language, catch the 3:10 To Yuma. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Oh, My Aching Back!

I can't believe it's finally here... in just 4 short days, I'll be getting on a plane bound for Dallas and the ACFW conference. You would think, with such an incredible event coming up, that I would have spent the day writing. But you'd be wrong.

I've had a fun-filled day of cleaning! (Please note the heavy sarcasm intended.)

Normally, I'm not a great housekeeper. In fact, you could probably plant things on the dust that accumulates on my table tops and TV screens. But I've got this weird quirk... I have to know that the house is clean before I go on a trip. There's just something restful about knowing that the cleaning was done BEFORE my exodus from the house starts. Of course, this time I'm going off on my own, leaving my husband and teenage son behind, so who knows what the house will look like when I get back! But that's okay... I did my part.

It's only 2:00 PM right now, so technically, I've still got a lot of time to get some writing done. But I think I'm going to rest my spine (which is screaming out in protest of this morning's unusually physical activities) by kicking back in bed and reading. I may even watch a Star Trek Voyager rerun or two. If I pay really close attention to the character development and plot structure, I could even consider it writing related... couldn't I?

Friday, September 7, 2007

Love Books? Near Dallas? Come on Down!

Do you love Christian fiction? Want to be able to meet over 60 Christian fiction authors all in one place? Then join us for the ACFW booksigning on September 22nd from 1:30-2:30 at the Dallas Addison Quorum Marriott, 14901 Dallas Parkway, Dallas. Click on the picture below to see the flier. Hope you can join us!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

When Eyelashes Are Wasted On Boys

There some things in this life that just aren't fair. Like...

  • Chocolate is fattening
  • Kids want to grow up fast and adults long to be young again
  • You can't go to the beach without bringing a ton of sand home with you
  • As a rule, boys get the best eyelashes

It seems I'm constantly being reminded of the eyelash issue. It all started with my brother, Josh. Josh is quite a bit younger than I am, so I noticed things like the fact that he had the longest eyelashes of anyone I'd ever seen. As a teen, I would be in the bathroom, experimenting with makeup and trying unsuccessfully to make my whispy lashes look full and lush, and I couldn't help but wonder why. Why had God seen fit to bless a boy with eyelashes like that when he obviously didn't need them?

Flash forward to today, when I have a son of my own. Billy is 14, but he's been blessed with a baby face that is a trait handed down from my side of the family. (I tell him that it may be a pain looking younger now, but he'll appreciate it later. I still haven't convinced him.) He also has incredible eyelashes. Not quite as amazing as my brother's, but still great. To make matters worse, he's got perfectly shaped eyebrows. Now I ask you, what does a boy need features like that for? They're wasted on him! I, in the mean time, still struggle with my balding lashes and almost non-existent eyebrows (they're so pale, they almost disappear).

But it's okay. I've made my peace with the fact that some things in life just aren't fair. And for every unfair thing, there's something cool to balance it out. Like...

  • Dark chocolate is good for you
  • When you get old enough, you can act like a kid and get away with it
  • Car vacs can suck up a lot of sand
  • As a rule, very few women go bald, and in the rare occasion that one does, there are lots of smashing wigs available!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Look Who's New in Christian Fiction - September 2007

Good news, readers! Here's the new list of Christian fiction releases for September 2007. Be sure to stop and visit the websites of the authors. Enjoy!

1. A Big Apple Christmas by Vasthi Reyes Acosta, Gail Sattler, Lynette Sowell, and Carrie Turnasky from Barbour.
A contemporary collection of four novellas that captures the sights and sounds of Christmas in New York City.

2. A Mommy In Mind, A Tiny Blessings Tale, Book 3 of 6 by Arlene James, from Steeple Hill Love Inspired.
A single woman trying to adopt an infant eventually realizes that the attorney behind a nightmarish custody suit is God's chosen mate for her.

3. A Shadow of Treason, 2nd book in The Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War series by Tricia Goyer from Moody Publishers.
Sophie must leave behind the man she loves and return to the person who betrayed her. Another layer of war in Spain is revealed and nothing is as it seems.

4. A Texas Legacy Christmas, Texas Legacy series Book 4 by DiAnn Mills from Barbour Publishing.
Snuggle down between the covers of A Texas Christmas Legacy, where the miracle of love and life awaits you on every page.

5. Boo Humbug, The Boo Series by Rene Gutteridge from WaterBrook Press.
The zany characters of Skary return in this Christmas novella.

6. Finding Marie sequel to Frasier Island by Susan Page Davis from Harvest House.
Marie Belanger witnesses a murder and runs for her life not knowing why, eluding her pursuers so well it’s nearly impossible for her husband Pierre to help her.

7. Long Trail to Love 2nd in the Vermont Contemporary series by Pamela Griffin from Heartsong Presents.
Carly loses her boyfriend, her job, and the town’s respect in one crazy moment while out-of-towner Nate suffers a similar fate, but when they become “team mates” during a hike into Canada, the trek doesn’t allow for a smooth climb – in more ways than one!

8. Mason's Link by Bill Andrews from Xulon Press.
Recounts the fictional discovery of a link used to communicate with a departed loved one, considered by Heavenly powers to be the most important event since the Resurrection.

9. Montana Mistletoe by Lena Nelson Dooley, Lisa Harris, Debby Mayne, and Kim Vogel Sawyer from Barbour Publishing.
Four friends make a pact to marry by their twenty-eighth Christmas, but as the deadline looms, careers and experiences threaten to douse their Christmas spirit — and their chances for romance.

10. Shadow of Danger by Jeanne Marie Leach from Mountain View Publishing.
Sent away from home because of an undisclosed danger, a woman locates an old friend to help, but will she find love or will the danger get her first?

11. Sushi For One? by Camy Tang from Zondervan.
Will Lex Sakai be able to surrender her "perfect man" list and give Mr. All Wrong a chance?

12. The Restorer’s Son by Sharon Hinck from NavPress.
A new, reluctant Restorer is asked to sacrifice for his people—if he can find a way to yield to the One.

13. When the Morning Comes by Cindy Woodsmall from WaterBrook Press.
Wounded by her family, doubted by her fiance, Hannah Lapp plunges into life outside her Old Order Amish community.

14. When the Nile Runs Red by DiAnn Mills from Moody.
An Arab Christian dedicated to helping the Southern Sudanese is hunted by his Muslim brothers.

Happy reading!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Breaking the Block

You know, I thought I had it licked. That ugly thing called writer's block.

I was in a time where the words were just flowing. I was waking up early, before anyone else in my home, and writing everyday, exceeding my daily word goal. And the stuff was good! I even went in a direction I hadn't expected, which definitely seemed like a God thing.

Then one day, it just STOPPED. I woke up, and there was nothing. I read over what I'd written the day before, and had no idea where to go next. Maybe it was the distractions. My husband is between careers right now (long story) so he's home all the time, and so is my son. Yep, it's easy to blame it on them. So when I found out that they were both going to be gone for a weekend (another long story) and I'd have the house all to myself, I was elated. This was it, my chance to really get back on track.

The weekend came. I sat at my computer and... NOTHING.

This made no sense. I was completely alone for 3 days, yet I couldn't come up with a thing to write. I finally gave up, and watched a few movies on TV (for the record, The Bone Collector and Shall We Dance, two very different movies, but both very good.)

This dry spell lasted for almost 2 weeks. Finally, I did write the devotions I needed to get done (chronicled in the I Made My Deadline blog). But still, the WIP was stuck.

Today, I decided it was time to get unstuck. I opened up my WIP file, determined to write something, ANYTHING, just to get some words on the page. And it worked.

Praise God, here I am, 5 pages and 1200 words later. The best part is, I think it's actually stuff I can use, not just page filler. At any rate, I'm feeling good.

So what happened when I couldn't write? Was it God's way of reminding me that I need to trust Him? Was He trying to remind me that all the words come from Him, anyway? Or was I just lazy? I really don't know. I'm just thankful that today, the words flowed, and the block broke.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I Made My Deadline!

There's nothing quite like the feeling of finishing a writing project and meeting a deadline. Come, share in my joy!

The project was 7 devotions for the Concordia Publishing House "My Devotions" quarterly magazine. I've been writing these for a while, but didn't realize how long until I pulled out my file to check... 13 years! It's hard to believe, but I've written nearly 100 of these. Yowza!

A lot's changed in 13 years. The editor I started working with has retired and I work with another great editor, the magazine went from monthly to quarterly, and now there are four authors featured per month instead of three. (And did I mention I've got some gray hairs now? This in no way is a result of the work!) But I love the fact that it gives me the oportunity to share the Gospel and the love of God with kids.

So now that one project is wrapped up, I move on to the next one... my WIP. I work much better with a deadline, so I've given myself one. My goal is to have my WIP completed before I leave for the ACFW conference in September. That means I have 34 days to write about 20,000 more words. Can it be done? Yes, but only if I keep my butt in my chair and do the work!

How about you? Any goals you've set for yourself? Any projects you're chomping at the bit to finish? May God give us strength!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

What's New In Christian Fiction - August 2007

There's always something cool going on in Christian fiction! Here are the August 2007 New Releases:

1. Abomination by Colleen Coble from Thomas Nelson. A young woman flees from a serial killer who leaves his victims at geocaching sites.

2. Family for Keeps and Sadie's Hero reissued as one book by Margaret Daley, from Steeple Hill Love Inspired. This Love Inspired Classic captures two touching stories that were favorites of readers.

3. Jacob's List by Stephanie Grace Whitson from Bethany House Publishers. Facing the challenge of their lives, the Nolans learn that their son's list is about a lot more than youthful adventure. Jacob's List: a story of reconciliation. . . against all odds.

4. In His Dreams from the Michigan Island Series by Gail Gaymer Martin from Steeple Hill Love Inspired. Two widowed in-laws meet again on Beaver Island after a few years absence and find joy in the sense of family, especially the hero's emotionally impaired pre-teen daughter, but the familiar friendship goes far beyond what they expected.

5. Massachusetts Brides by Lisa Harris from Barbour Publishing. Three old-fashioned romances bloom in the heart of New England.

6. Missionary Daddy Book 4 of A Tiny Blessings Tale by Linda Goodnight from Steeple Hill Love Inspired. A single missionary battles to adopt two boys from Africa and discovers the woman of his dreams is not who he thought she was.

7. Murder by Mushroom by Virginia Smith from Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense. A potluck on the lawn of Heritage Community Church brings out the usual pests: ants and flies, gossips and murderers.

8. Off the Record by Elizabeth White from Zondervan. A hidden past with journalist Cole McGaughan could end Laurel Kincade's judicial career...Or will the truth set them free to love again?

9. The Restitution 3rd book in The Legacy of the King's Pirates series by MaryLu Tyndall from Barbour Publishing. When Lady Isabel Ashton's only son is kidnapped, she is forced to enlist the aid of the boy's father, the pirate who ruined her life and stole her virtue.

10. To Love Anew Book One of Three by Bonnie Leon from Revell. When Hannah Talbot is banished from London and transported to Australia on a prison ship she's certain God has turned his back on her.

11. Trusting Him by Brenda Minton from Steeple Hill Love Inspired. A woman learning to trust, a man longing to be trusted, and a love that takes them by surprise...

Happy reading~

REVIEW - A New Promise by Julie Eller

What would you do if you made a promise that you couldn't keep? Scott Parnell finds himself in this position after his wife, Rachel succumbs to Huntington's disease. Scott can't bring himself to carry out the DNR order, so Rachel lingers on life support while her family struggles to cope. When Rachel's sister, Celeste, comes home to assist them, the reaction is mixed. Gradually, it becomes clear to everyone in the family that our plans aren't always the same as God's plans.

New author Julie Eller asks the compelling question: when you're faced with circumstances beyond your control and comprehension, will you still keep your trust and faith in a loving, all powerful, all knowing God?

Julie doesn't back away from the hard questions. I appreciate the fact that her characters are quite human, with faults and sins, just like the rest of us. They can't work this out on their own, which she makes quite clear in the pages of this emotional first novel. To quote from the back cover: A New Promise exemplifies the truth of Proverbs 16:9, "We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps, with an assurance that His ways are higher than our ways," and that His ways are always best.

To find out more about Julie Eller and her book, A New Promise, visit her website at Also, to read an interview with Julie, visit Stormi Johnson's blog at

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Live Free, Die Hard, Mellow Out

Last week, my husband and I saw Live Free, Die Hard, the forth (and presumably final) Die Hard movie. I've gotta say, I really enjoyed this one. It had loads of action, but at the same time it was, dare I say, more mellow?

Don't get me wrong, this is a Die Hard movie, after all. Things blow up, people crawl over broken glass, and incredible stunts are staged. Bruce Willis as John McClain is as wonderfully maverick as ever, taking on the bad guys and saving the country, all while dragging along a techie-nerd accidental partner (convincingly played by Justin Long, the "Mac" in the Apple commercials) and saving his daughter. What a guy!

But there's one big difference between this and the other Die Hard movies... this one is PG-13. When we were leaving the movie, my husband said, "This one didn't seem as bloody." He was right. Oh, it's got blood, just not as much. And there's swearing, just not as much. And the famous "Yippee Kye Yay (you know the rest)" does make its way in there, but just once, and I gotta say it felt very appropriate when it's said.

The makeup of the audience was interesting, too. Out of the 2 dozen or so people we saw the movie with, only four of them were teenagers (and they were brought by their parents). The rest were my age (43) or older. Obviously, they were fans of the first 3 movies, and there we all were, drawn together by nostalgia, to share in John McClain's last hurrah. It would have been a poignant moment, if it hadn't been a Die Hard movie. Yippee... oh, you know!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Thank God For Sugar-Free Cheesecake!

Despite the fact that I'm a lover of all things chocolate, I've found that my body feels much better when I don't eat a lot of carbs (specifically white flour and sugar). So sadly, I've stopped my visits to See's Candies (my absolute favorite) and stopped eating bread and such. It's a small price to pay for the difference it makes in my health.

But hey, a girl's still got to have some fun, right? That's why I'm so jazzed about sugar-free cheesecake. What's in cheesecake? Cream cheese, eggs, vanilla and sugar, so if you cut out the sugar, it's pretty much a low-carb food. And if you don't eat the graham cracker crust, you're golden!

The only problem is, finding this delicious treat. We've been able to find it at most of the buffets that we go to (yes, we eat out a lot, but we always use 2-for-1 coupons, so it's actually pretty cheap). But so far, the only place we can find to buy a whole sugar-free cheesecake to take home is The Cheesecake Factory, and I can't justify paying $42 for dessert!

So, if any of you know of a sugar-free (or low-carb) cheesecake source, give me a shout out. I know the answer is out there somewhere!

This Is Me

In order to get my picture into my profile, I've got to post it here and then jump through some other technical stuff. So, here I am. Hi!

Well... that didn't work! I've done it just the way they said, but for some reason it won't hold the photo URL.
Oh brother... well, if anyone is dying to know what I look like, this is me. People will just have to hunt for this post. It's kind of like playing "Where's Waldo?" only it's "Where's Jen?"

OKAY... I finally figured it out! I was making it too hard. So now I've got two photos of me side by side... Guess I'm just going to have to blog more to move this one down!

Friday, July 6, 2007

BOOK REVIEW - The Perfect Blend by Allie Pleiter

First, I have a confession to make... I don't like coffee. I love the smell, but have never liked the taste. And while I have been known to frequent Starbucks, it's only to get the hot chocolate. Which is what made The Perfect Blend such a sweet surprise.

Maggie Black knows what her purpose in life is - opening a coffee house in Seattle. And not just any coffee house. Hers will be a Christian coffee house, serving the most fab coffee in town, in an open, non-threatening environment where people can gather and discuss anything... even faith. It's an incredible idea, a God-inspired idea. You'd have to be a dolt not to see it.

Enter William Grey, III, a dedicated TEA drinker, and the loan officer who has to inform Maggie that her dream is the biggest financial gamble he's ever heard of. But there is a way that the bank will reconsider her loan application. She has to take a small-business course which is taught by none other than, as Maggie likes to call him, Earl Grey himself.

Writing physical comedy isn't easy, but Allie makes it look like it is. Her book is, may I say, the "perfect blend" of I-Love-Lucy style comedy and characters with genuine, relatable motions. The author has built up a reputation of delivering laugh-out-loud moments mixed with true spiritual insights, and this book lives up to that reputation.

The Perfect Blend is a Steeple Hill Love Inspried July 2007 release, so run to your bookstore now before it's gone from the shelves! Or, you can order it from the Harlequin website. Either way, don't miss this delightful experience, even if you don't know your espresso from your cappuccino.