Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Look Back at 2008 – Television

When I was growing up, the TV was always on. From the time I got up in the morning till the time I went to bed, sound and pictures emanated from that glowing, 20 inch screen. I knew what time it was based on what show was playing. The only exception was on the weekend. This was the olden days, before cable, VCRs and DVDs... the days of three networks, a local station, and PBS. Saturday afternoons and most of Sunday were TV wastelands, and during those times, I played records. Remember those?

Today, we have so many more options when it comes to the television. But no matter how many channels you have to choose from, there's always a time when someone in the house will say "There's nothing good on TV!"

So here's what I think about 2008:

Favorite New Series That's About to be Cancelled: Eli Stone
This series about a lawyer who has visions from God in the form of song and dance numbers (many of them from George Michael) is quirky, touching, thoughtful, and funny. The entire cast is great, but a personal favorite is Victor Garber. Any show that gives him the opportunity to display his musical chops is okay by me. Unfortunately, ABC doesn't share my enthusiasm. Although it hasn't been officially cancelled yet, things don't look good. Shoot!

Returning Series I'm Most Excited About: LOST
Thanks to the network's nasty habit of pulling a series after one or two episodes, I watch very few new ones until I'm sure they'll be around for awhile. But LOST sucked me in from episode one. A great cast, the mythology of the island, flashbacks and flash forwards (which drive my hubby NUTS), Sawyer constantly misplacing his shirt... I love it all. Can't wait to find out what's going on with our poor, tortured castaways!

The Other Returning Series I'm Excited About: 24
Poor Jack! Killers, terrorists, crazy girlfriends, an accident prone daughter, chemical warfare, an evil president, double agents... none of that was able to stop him. It took the writers' strike to keep Jack Bauer off our TV radar for a whole year! But Jack's back, and judging from the two-hour movie last month, we're in for another wild ride. Bring it on!

Reruns I'm Most Surprised That I Like: King of the Hill and That 70s Show
My son started watching these shows on one of our local stations. At first, I listened with one ear for the sake of "monitoring" but then, something strange happened. I started to laugh. I started to watch. I started to watch the clock and call out "Hey, it's time for our shows!" Even though there are some PG-13 moments, both of these shows have loving (though dysfunctional) families at the core. And they provide lots of opportunities for my son and I to talk about issues that might not come up otherwise. A fun, pleasant surprise.

Thing I'm Most Surprised to be Entertained By: Reality Shows
I used to say that I didn't like reality shows, but then I thought about some of the shows I watch: Survivor, American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing With The Stars. Huh, guess I do like reality shows.

I could go on and on, but I'll stop here. Thanks for playing along!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Check Out My New Banner!

There's something new here at Musings... that's right, it's the blog banner! My buddy Lisa Richardson created it for me as a Christmas present. Isn't it cool?

Lisa is truly multi-talented. She's also a great writer and has come up with a unique idea for her blog in the new year. She'll be writing an interactive story that lets the reader help guide the plot. Interested? Then check it out at Inspired Adventures.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Look Back at 2008 – The Music

Ah, music. I cannot drive in the car without it. I'm one of those radio belters. And I like to have it on while I'm working, although I rarely can write to music with words. Instrumentals are best for that.

Looking back at 2008, I discovered some new music, rediscovered some old favorites, and puzzled over a few things...

Favorite CD Released This Year by an American Idol Winner: David Cook by David Cook
Mr. Cook kind of came out of nowhere on AI. I don't remember seeing him at all during the audition shows until the one where they told him he was going through. But what a great surprise he was. What I like the most is the emotion he puts into each song, along with the raw rumble of his vocals.

Favorite CD Released Last Year by an American Idol Winner: Carnival Ride by Carrie Underwood
I like the unique, country/pop twist Underwood gives most of her songs. For example, two of my favorite songs on this CD are Crazy Dreams and Last Name. And the girl can belt one out with the best of them.

Favorite CD by a Group I Forgot I Loved: Greatest Hits by The Newsboys
The Newsboys have been around for awhile... my husband and I listened to them while we were dating, and we just celebrated our 17th anniversary. But it wasn't until I spotted this CD at the library that I remembered how much I enjoyed them. Now my son is a Newsboys fan. Their lyrics range from crazy fun (They don't serve breakfast in Hell) to worshipful adoration (I'm alive and well, Your Spirit is within me, Because You died and rose again). Extra! Extra! The Newsboys rock!

Most Confusing Lyric in a Beloved Christmas Song: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
I've been at lots of Christmas gatherings, but never one where we told scarry ghost stories. What's that about? Maybe it's because stories rhymes with glories at the end of the next line, but it stops me in my tracks every time I hear the song.

Favorite New (to me) Soundtrack: Spamalot - The Broadway Cast Recording
Billy and I were able to see Spamalot in Vegas the week before the show closed (thank you to whoever decided to give locals the chance to buy two-for-one tickets). I can't tell you how much fun we had. So, not only is the soundtrack fun to sing along to, but it reminds me of that great memory of hanging out with my son.

Those are my musical highlights for the year. Are there any songs you just can't get out of your head?

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Look Back at 2008 – The Movies

I love movies, TV, music, books, and I love finding out what's made an impact on people and why. So, for the next few days I'm going to take a look back at the things that moved me – for better or worse – in 2008. Starting with movies...

Favorite Musical Featuring Non-Musical People: Mamma Mia!
With the exception of Amanda Seyfried (who has a lovely pop voice) none of the people in this movie can sing. Okay, Meryl Streep can carry a tune, but if Oscars were given out just on singing ability, she'd be in trouble. But that's okay, cuz this movie's not about singing. This movie's for anyone who's ever sang into a hairbrush at the top of her lungs. It's for people like me who wish life came with a soundtrack. I love this movie for the pure joy of it (and the lovely Greek scenery).

Favorite Animated Movie Containing No Animals (except for the cockroach, which I don't consider an animal but my son is making me mention): WALL-E
The Pixar folks continue to amaze me. I shouldn't be so surprised considering all the emotion they've been able to wring out of toys, ants, rats, cars... but YOWZA, they blew me away with this touching tale of a little waste clean up robot who just wants someone to love.

Favorite Animated Movie with Nothing BUT Animals: Kung Fu Panda
Casting Jack Black as Po, the panda with grand aspirations, was inspired. Paired with the sharp dialogue and a touching core, and this movie's on my "keep after my son leaves home" list.

Movie That Left Me Most Conflicted: I Am Legend
I wrote a review of this when it first came out. (You can read it here if you're interested.) I thought about this movie a lot after I saw it, and the more I thought about it, the more unhappy I was. I still think it was an overall good movie, but those darned mutants really ruined the end. Why do mutants always end up with super powers? Really, what is it in the mutation process that enables once ordinary folk to jump twenty feet in the air and cling to walls as if their finger tips had become toilette plungers? I want to know, cuz it's bugging the heck out of me!

Movie I Wish I'd Skipped: Wanted
Morgan Freeman, Angelina Jolie, James McAvoy... I'm a fan. Really. Love you guys. Wish I could have saved you from this mess of a movie. Few things are as unsettling as hearing the men who have played God and Mr. Tumnus say the F-word. Repeatedly.

I did see other movies this year, but those are the ones that made the biggest impression on me. What about you? What did you see in 2008 that stayed with you after you left the theater?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

BOOK REVIEW - The American Patriot's Almanac by Bennett & Cribb

The idea of daily readings about American history might sound a little scary... if you're like me, you sat through more than one dry history class in your school days. Thankfully, The American Patriot's Almanac is about as far from dry as you can get.

William J. Bennett and John T. E. Cribb have put together a fascinating collection of snipets from American history, from our country's birth to more recent happenings. For each day of the year there's a short story as well as the American History Parade (a short list of important events that happened on that day). Besides this, there are longer sections between each chapter, covering everything from Flag Etiquette to Fifty Great All-American Movies.

Over the last few years, there's been a lot of talk about what our country's done wrong. And yes, we've made mistakes. But I like this paragraph, taken from the introduction:

Patriotism doesn't mean obnoxious boasting. It's not about bragging that our country is the best in the world, but it does involve taking pride in our country's achievements, sticking up for its principles, supporting its efforts, and cheering it on at times. It means offering respect to our nation and its institutions.

Whether you read The American Patriot's Almanac on your own or with your family, I think you'll find it uplifting, interesting, inspiring and entertaining. What better way to start off the new year?

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you and your family
a beautiful Christmas.
May the love of Christ
and the joy He brings
fill your hearts and homes!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Letting Go by Sherri Sand - And BOOK GIVEAWAY!

Welcome to today's guest blogger, author Sherri Sand!

Sherri Sand

Letting Go . . .

I wanted a dad who would be my mentor and my friend. Someone I could lean on and go to for advice. Someone who desired to meet me for lunch and listen to the goings on in my life with a proud smile and adoration in his eye.

I didn’t know I wanted this until I reached adulthood. Up to then, I thought my life was normal. Like most people’s.

But then I went to college and realized that normal was relative to . . . well, to whomever you were speaking.

Some dads were involved and some weren’t. I’d never thought much about the fact that my dad worked long hours and didn’t speak more than a few words when he was home. He didn’t inquire about our lives or come to our childhood events, unless it was with a bored look and longsuffering sigh.

I knew I was loved. On the surface, anyway. Those three words seem to echo without a place to land when they are spoken without the investment of time or sacrifice.

But it left me with a longing for more. To find somewhere I could get those deep needs for love and connection met. Because of that desire, I went down painful roads and made choices that left scars rippling across my life.

My father made his own choices that broke up our family. It wasn’t until much later that I heard a woman speaking and what she said moved into my heart in a way that brought immense revelation.

This woman said, “Parental love is like a hot fudge sundae. Everyone is designed to have it, but not everyone gets it. You’ll never be free if you focus on what you should have had. The people who gain freedom are the ones who can accept that even though they’re never going to get that sundae, they can have a bowl of ice cream and maybe some nuts on top or whipped cream.”

I realized that for years I’d been looking for someone or something to fill that void. The void of my father’s lost love. The love I should have had.

When she spoke those words, it felt like a missing puzzle piece settled into place. Freedom came with acceptance. I could let the dream go and begin looking forward to what I did have.

And I have a lot.


Sherri Sand is a wife and mother of four young children who keep her scrambling to stay ahead of the spilled milk. When she needs stress relief from wearing all the hats required to clothe, feed and ferry her rambunctious brood, you may find her sitting in a quiet corner of a bistro reading a book (surrounded by chocolate), or running on one of the many trails near her home. Sherri is a member of The Writer’s View and American Christian Fiction Writers. She finds the most joy in writing when the characters take on a life of their own and she becomes the recorder of their stories. She holds a degree in psychology from the University of Oregon where she graduated cum laude. Sherri and her family live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

ABOUT THE BOOK - Leave It To Chance

SS - Leave it to ChanceSingle mom of three, Sierra Montgomery is desperate to find a new job to keep from having to move back home and be smothered to death by her mother’s good intentions and overbearing love. So when Sierra inherits Chance, a quirky old gelding she doesn’t have a clue what to do with, she thinks her best bet may be to sell the horse to cover another month’s rent—a decision that devastates her children.

Enter Ross Morgan, a handsome landscaper who just happens to have an empty barn and fenced pasture… perfect for an old horse to live out his days as the pet of three wounded kids. Ross develops a soft spot for eldest child Braden…and he just might have one for Braden’s mother. But what he doesn’t have is time for distractions—he’s got a landscaping business to run and nursery plants to tend.

But Sierra has a secret. She’s terrified of horses and—thanks to her past—wary of attractive men. Yet seeing the way her angry son idolizes Ross and adores that old horse forces Sierra to confront her fears. Will she remain distrustful and self-reliant, or will she seek help from God and those who love her?


If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of Leave it to Chance just leave a reply to this blog. I’ll pick a winner at random on December 28th. Please leave an email address so I can contact you if you're the winner. (To prevent spammers from trolling for your email, please use this format with the brackets--you [at] yourmail [dot] com--or something similar.) Good luck!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

CFBA Presents WHERE DO I GO by Neta Jackson

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Where Do I Go?
(Thomas Nelson - December 9, 2008)
Neta Jackson


As a husband/wife writing team, Dave and Neta Jackson are enthusiastic about books, kids, walking with God, gospel music, and each other! Together they are the authors or coauthors of over 100 books. In addition to writing several books about Christian community, the Jacksons have coauthored numerous books with expert resource people on a variety of topics from racial reconciliation to medical ethics to ministry to kids in gangs.

Dave and Neta live in Evanston, Illinois, where for twenty-seven years they were part of Reba Place Church, a Christian church community. They are now members of a multi-racial congregation in the Chicago area.

They're trying something new! Not just new for them, but something completely new in Christian fiction: “Parallel novels,” two stories taking place in the same time frame, same neighborhood, involving some of the same characters living through their own dramas and crises but interacting with and affecting one another … just the way it happens in real life.

It’s something that only a husband and wife writing team could pull off. While Neta has Where Do I Go?, her husband Dave has written Harry Bentley's Second Chance.


A story of seeking-and finding-God's will in unlikely places.

Gabrielle Fairbanks has nearly lost touch with the carefree, spirited young woman she was when she married her husband fifteen years ago. But when the couple moves to Chicago to accommodate Philip's business ambitions, Gabby finds the chance to make herself useful. It's there she meets the women of Manna House Women's Shelter; they need a Program Director-and she has a degree in social work. She's in her element, feeling God's call on her life at last, even though Philip doesn't like the changes he sees in her. But things get rough when Philip gives Gabby an ultimatum: quit her job at the shelter or risk divorce and losing custody of their sons. Gabby must take refuge, as in the song they sing at Sunday night worship: "Where do I go when there's no one else to turn to? . . . I go to the Rock I know that's able, I go to the Rock."

Romantic Times Book Reviews says, “Exquisite characters coupled with God's mercy and love emanate from each page.”

Publisher's Weekly adds, “Jackson's Yada Yada series has sold half a million copies, and this new offshoot series ... promises the same.... The book's dramatic ending ... leav[es] readers eager for the next installment in the series.”

To read the Prologue and first Chapter of Where Do I Go?, go HERE

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Flying Shoes

By now, you've probably seen the video of President Bush ducking shoes being thrown at him by an Iraqi journalist. My son and I saw in on the Sunday news... several times. Finally, one of our local reporters imparted what he believed to be very important information.

"In the Middle East, throwing your shoes at someone is a sign of contempt."

My son's immediate comment was, "Isn't throwing your shoe at someone a sign of contempt in ANY country?" You can't get anything past my boy!

I have a few other thoughts on this incident...

  • President Bush has great reflexes - He ducked that first shoe like a boxer weaving away from a punch. Which brings me to...
  • He didn't hit the dirt - If it had been me, I would have crouched behind that podium until I got the all-clear. But the Prez stayed standing, kept his eyes open, and ducked the second shoe. Which makes me ask the question...
  • What took the Secret Service so long? How did that guy have time to take off the other shoe? He didn't get tackled until well after the second shoe flew through the air. Hmmm...

One more reason I'm glad I'm not in politics. My reflexes aren't nearly that good!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Set Your GPS for the Promised Land

from guest blogger
Lil Duncan

1 Peter 1:8
…you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.

I love those words. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be filled with inexpressible and glorious joy? The question is how to get it and, more importantly, how to keep it. I’ve found the answer. At least for me, it‘s chasing my dream of being a writer. I’m convinced that people who are pursuing a dream (successful or not) are happier and more fulfilled than those who don’t or won’t acknowledge and pursue their dreams.

Why is that, you ask? In Ephesians 2:10, Paul wrote that God prepared good works for us before we were even born. God’s purpose is our dream. That means as we pursue our dreams, we are fulfilling God‘s purpose. That’s where the inexpressible and glorious joy comes from.

God’s purpose may be our dream but that doesn’t means it’s will be an easy journey. It can be long and have more roadblocks and detours than ever imagined. How do we keep our GPS set for the promised land in spite of life’s problems? This is what God told Joshua as he was about to complete the journey to the promised land that Moses began.

Joshua 1:8-9
Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

If you want more joy in your life, then start chasing your dreams. By studying and obeying God’s Word, you will learn what you need to be prosperous and successful and whatever happens never give up. Now, set your GPS and take that road trip to the promised land!

Lil Duncan writes stories where faith, hope, and love mingle with murder and mayhem. She believes that fiction can be entertaining without being tasteless. Besides writing, Lil is a Speech-Language Pathologist. She and her husband live in a (very) small town in the Amish country of Ohio. You can learn more about her and the books she’s written at familyfriendlyfiction.net.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dreaming With Linore Rose Burkard & WIN HER BOOK!

Linore BurkardHi, Linore Rose Burkard posting here for Jennifer today. I'm honored to blog for her audience, so I'm going to share a very special dream that was supernaturally real, thrilling, and wonderful. It was also bittersweet--because it had to end. You see, the Lord was in it and he spoke to me!

I dreamt I was in this gated area and everyone there was dressed completely in white, as was I. There was no one speaking through their mouths, yet I was aware of communication going on all around me. For some reason, speech wasn't necessary. It was as if I could hear thoughts. And everything that was spoken was LOVE. It was a beautiful, utterly soothing atmosphere.

Suddenly, an electric excitement overtook everyone, and I understood that Jesus was coming our way! I was just as eager and excited as everyone else, and when I saw him, my heart longed for Him like a little child wanting its mother. I was incredibly overcome by my love and NEED for my Saviour. As he approached, his hands looked enormous--I was actually thinking how strange it was that the Lord's hands could be so BIG! And then he looked over at me, and it was my turn to rush at him with great joy. He took my hand in his, and I was aware that, for all the hugeness in those hands, he was able to hold mine as if his were a normal size. I clung to the Lord, reveling in His presence and love. Then, he asked me a very startling question:

"Linore, what are you going to do with your life?"

Yikes! I had no answer. So I didn't try to answer, I just puzzled over it. An unknown amount of time passed, not long. And he asked me again. "Linore, what are you going to do with your life?"

Oh, no! I still didn't know what to tell Him. That was a question I still hadn't answered for myself! Others were also still around us.

Then, Jesus had to leave, though I didn't understand why or where he had to go. I knew he would pass out of those gates, and that none of us could go with Him. I panicked.

"Lord!" I shouted. "Don't go!" He stopped and looked at me. But he turned to go, again.

"Lord!" I shouted . "Don't leave me!" I felt again like a little preschooler who needed her mother desperately. I didn't want Him to go! He stopped and again looked very knowingly at me, but turned to go, and this time drew nearer to the gate, before I shouted, loud, "Lord! Don't go!" Jesus turned and looked at me very patiently.

"Linore, what are you going to do with your life--for Me?"

What? Why was he asking me that? I had no answer! Suddenly, I had a "light-bulb" idea--I thought I had hit upon the "right" answer. It was the same feeling I got when I was in college and suddenly realized what answer a professor wanted. So I said, "I know! I'm going to glorify YOU, Lord!"

He wasn't fooled. (I should have known, huh?)

He looked at me, and this next thing still bothers me. He said, "Linore, Linore," and continued to speak, but I couldn't hear him. It was like a loud sort of static had begun and was hiding his voice. To this day, (and this dream happened about twenty years ago) I still don't know what else Jesus was saying to me. I think someday it will be revealed. But it wasn't praise, I can tell you that!

There are many things I don't understand about that "dream." I do believe that it was a special gift. Jesus spoke to me. He loved me. He cares about what I do with my life. Best of all, He has a plan and WANTS me to do something special for him! These are my conclusions.

Perhaps, not surprisingly, my life verse is: "He that saves his life will lose it but he that loses his life for my sake will save it, even unto eternal life."

I don't know why I received such a special occurrence--one I will never forget. But I love that it happened, and it is a reminder to me that Jesus wanted me to get with HIS plan. At this point, I have concluded that my two special callings are to mother my children for his kingdom, and to write books to His glory.

What am I going to do with my life for You, Lord? Mother the children you've given me so that they will see my faith is a living hope. And write my books as though I am writing for the best reason in the world--to glorify You, Lord. To tell others about You.

For it is the best reason in the world.



Linore Rose Burkard is the creator of “Inspirational Romance for the Jane Austen Soul.” Her characters take you back in time to experience life and love during Regency England (circa 1800 – 1830). Fans of classic romances, such as Pride & Prejudice, Emma, and Sense & Sensibility, will enjoy meeting Ariana Forsythe, a feisty heroine who finds her heart and beliefs tested by high-society London. Ms. Burkard now lives in Ohio with her husband and five children. She homeschooled her children for ten years, and still has a heart for homeschooling families. An avid fan of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, Linore delights in bringing the Regency alive for Christian readers with light-hearted adventure, faith and romance.


England, 1813
Romantic woes at home send Ariana Forsythe to her Aunt Bentley’s town house in the fashionable Mayfair district of London. There she finds worse troubles than those that prompted her flight from home. Under her aunt’s watchful eye, Ariana is soon steeped in high society—and at odds with Mr. Phillip Mornay, London’s current darling rogue

Then, unexpectedly, rumour of a scandal changes Ariana forever. Her faith and her future are at stake in an unexpected adventure that gains even the Prince Regent’s attention.

Will Ariana’s faith survive this test? And what about her heart? For it is Ariana’s heart that most threatens to betray the truths she has always believed in. When she finds herself backed against a wall, betrothed to a man who cannot share her faith, how can it ever turn out right?


If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of Before the Season Ends just leave a reply to this blog. I’ll pick a winner at random on December 16th. Please leave an email address so I can contact you if you're the winner. (To prevent spammers from trolling for your email, please use this format with the brackets--you [at] yourmail [dot] com--or something similar.) NOTE: To make things really interesting, there need to be at least 10 comments from unique individuals to make the contest a go. Good luck!

Monday, December 8, 2008

CFBA Presents QUILLS & PROMISES by Amber Miller

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Quills And Promises
Barbour Publishing, Inc - May 28, 2008
Amber Miller


Hi, I'm Amber, but my friends call me Tiff, short for Tiffany, my first name. I am in my 30's, married the love of my life in July 2007, and live in beautiful Colorado just east of the Front Range of the Rockies, but I love to travel and visit new places. Ultimately, my dream is to own horses and live in a one-level rancher or log cabin nestled in the foothills of the mountains. For now, I will remain where I am and do what I love—design web sites and write.

Amber's very first book, Promises, Promises, released in February 2008. It's a historical fiction set in Delaware during the Colonial period and the Great Awakening. The other 2 books in the series are this current one, Quills And Promises (July 2008) and Deceptive Promises (December 2008). In 2009, they will be repackaged for a state set entitled Delaware Brides. She has also sold another series set in historical Michigan during the Industrial Revolution. The 3 books in that series will begin releasing in May 2009 and will be repackaged in 2010 as Michigan Brides.


-- Separated from Madison when he leaves to fight the French and Indians, Elanna Hanssen must choose between her heart and her head, especially when Madison's integrity is questioned. --

"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not until thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths." ~Proverbs 3:5-6

Innocence paired with wisdom beyond her years. With these traits, Elanna Hanssen unwittingly captures the attentions of Major Madison Scott. Her honest desire to understand the war fascinates him, and he resolves to get to know this perspicacious young lady better. When his military duty separates them, they begin a correspondence, cautiously baring their hearts to each other. Elanna has never known emotions like this before, but she is drawn to the integrity she sees in her major. Wh a local news reporter questions the major's credentials and activities, however, will she allow her heart or her head to rule? Can true love grow over such distance and around such obstacles?

If you'd like to read the first chapter of Quills And Promises, go HERE.


In Quills & Promises Amber Miller provides another fascinating look into the early years of our country. She skillfully weaves together historical fact with a tender love story. When you get to the end of this book, you'll be glad there's one more title in the series to savor!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

MUSINGS Wins An Award!

What a thrill! I was chosen as the CFBA Reviewer of the Month for my review of Megan DiMaria's Out of Her Hands. I'd like to thank the academy (and Michelle Sutton) for this wonderful honor and the pretty new graphic I get to display proudly in my sidebar!

By the way, have you seen the latest issue of Christian Fiction Online Magazine? It's jammed full of fabulous articles. If you're a writer, or just interested in books in general, you've got to check it out. It's fun and free... what's not to love?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

New Book Focuses on Playing To Your Strengths

In The Truth About You, Marcus Buckingham breaks some commonly believed myths and shares his insights on how to succeed in, and more importantly enjoy, your life.

Buckingham encourages us to identify our strengths and weaknesses. But one of the greatest revelations to me was that a strength isn't necessarily something you're good at. You can be good at something you don't enjoy, which would really make it a weakness. It's nuggets like this that get you thinking. In fact, that's the real strength of this book: it's ability to make you think about your life and the way you're living it.

There are three parts to this mini-program: The book, the DVD, and the Rememo pad. The packaging is unique, but it makes the book difficult to read. That is, until I realized that you can actually remove the book from the shiny silver box-like cover. That was an exciting revelation in itself!

If you've got a teenager in the house, or if you're looking for some new direction, pick up The Truth About You. You may be surprised at what you find out!

Click here to preview the book.

Monday, December 1, 2008

CFBA Presents DARK PURSUIT by Brandilyn Collins

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Dark Pursuit
Zondervan - December 1, 2008
Brandilyn Collins


Brandilyn Collins is known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense®. She is currently working on her 20th book. For chances to win free copies of her work, join her Fan Club on Facebook. Here’s what Brandilyn has to say about why she wrote Dark Pursuit:

In John Milton’s Paradise Lost Satan’s followers, kicked out of heaven, boast about storming the gates and reclaiming their territory. Beelzebub scoffs at their boasting as merely “hatching vain empires” and suggests a different revengeful scheme: seduce mankind away from God. So Satan visits the Garden of Eden to teach humans the very thing he and his cohorts have learned to be futile—the dark pursuit of hatching their own vain empires instead of following God. He presented man with this “gift” of death, disguised as life. And man fell for it.

Upon this theme of man’s fall and spiritual blindness, I created the characters and events in Dark Pursuit. The story clips along at a fast pace, with much symbolism running underneath.


Dark Pursuit—A twisting story of murder, betrayal, and eternal choices

Novelist Darell Brooke lived for his title as King of Suspense—until an auto accident left him unable to concentrate. Two years later, reclusive and bitter, he wants one thing: to plot a new novel and regain his reputation.

Kaitlan Sering, his twenty-two-year-old granddaughter, once lived for drugs. After she stole from Darell, he cut her off. Now she’s rebuilding her life. But in Kaitlan’s town two women have been murdered, and she’s about to discover a third. She’s even more shocked to realize the culprit—her boyfriend, Craig, the police chief’s son.

Desperate, Kaitlan flees to her estranged grandfather. For over forty years, Darell Brooke has lived suspense. Surely he’ll devise a plan to trap the cunning Craig.

But can Darell’s muddled mind do it? And—if he tries—with what motivation? For Kaitlan’s plight may be the stunning answer to the elusive plot he seeks...

Read the first chapter of Dark Pursuit, HERE.


Every now and then, you read a book that won't let you put it down. For me, this was one of those books.

Darell Brooke is a writer who can no longer writer, which terrifies him more than any of the suspenseful plots he cooked up in the past. When his granddaughter comes to him with a nightmare of her own, is he willing to risk both their lives on the hope that he can get his mind working again? Any writer who's ever hit a figurative stone wall with their manuscript will completely relate to Darell's desperate frustration.

Being that it's full of wonderful surprises, I don't want to give anything away. But I will say that it had me guessing until the very end. Collins creates unique characters that don't always act the way you expect them to... just like in real life! If you're a fan of hold-your-breath suspense, you'll enjoy Dark Pursuit.

CFBA Presents ONE PERFECT DAY by Lauraine Snelling

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
One Perfect Day
(FaithWords - October 22, 2008)
Lauraine Snelling


Today, Lauraine Snelling is a member of the more than Two Million Books In Print club, but when she first began, she was a mother of three teenagers with a simple dream to write “horse books for kids.”

All told, she has over 50 books published. She thinks. She’s not sure. She’d rather write them than count them. Lauraine’s work has been translated into Norwegian, Danish and German as well as produced as books on tape.

Awards have followed her dedication to “telling a good story”: the Silver Angel Award for An Untamed Land and a Romance Writers of America Golden Heart for Song of Laughter.

Helping others reach their writing dream is the reason Lauraine teaches at writer’s conferences across the country. She mentors others through book doctoring and with her humorous and playful Writing Great Fiction tape set. Lauraine also produces material on query letters and other aspects of the writing process.

Her readers clamor for more books more often and Lauraine would like to comply, if only her ever-growing flower gardens didn’t call quite so loudly over the soothing rush of the water fountains in her back yard and if the hummingbirds weren’t quite so entertaining. Lauraine and husband Wayne have two grown sons and a cockatiel named Bidley, who loves to tease their Basset Hound named Chewy.


Two mothers end up more closely connected than they could dream...and yet they are strangers to one another.

The first has two children--twins, a boy and girl, who are seniors in high school. She wants their last Christmas as a family living in the same home to be perfect, but her husband is delayed returning from a business trip abroad. And then there's an accident--a fatal one.

Meanwhile, the other mother has a daughter who needs a new heart, and so the loss of one woman becomes the miracle the other has desperately prayed for. While one mother grieves, and pulls away from her family, the other finds that even miracles aren't always easy to receive.

If you would like to read the first chapter of One Perfect Day, go HERE


Jenna Montgomery prayed for a miracle - that a new heart would become available for her daughter. Nora Peterson wanted this Christmas, the last she knew her whole family would be together before the twins went off to college, to be perfect. But a car accident shatters Nora's dream and life as she knows it. Meanwhile, Jenna is thanking God for providing a new heart and saving her daughter's life.

Lauraine Snelling writes with keen insight about these two women, both at turning points in their lives. Alternating between the stories, she shows us the private pain and joy of each family as they struggle to move forward.

I think many of us wonder why God lets tragedy touch families who love and worship Him. In One Perfect Day one mother's nightmare becomes another mother's answered prayer. As I read, I found myself thinking about how even the worst circumstances can be used for good by God. I highly recommend this book, particularly if you or someone you know has struggled with the loss of a loved one. It takes a bare, honest look at moving through grief, while at the same time celebrating life and second chances.

Friday, November 28, 2008

CFBA Presents BELOVED CAPTIVE by Kathleen Y'Barbo

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Beloved Captive
(Barbour Publishing, Inc - November 1, 2008)
Kathleen Y’Barbo


There’s never a dull moment in the Y’Barbo household! From hockey and cheer mom to publicist to bestselling author, Kathleen Y’Barbo somehow manages to do it all - and well. While wearing her publicist’s hat, Kathleen has secured interviews with radio, television, and print media for clients at NavPress, Hatchette, Integrity, Barbour Publishing, and Broadman & Holman, to name a few. She also brings her own unique blend of Southern charm and witty prose to the more than 350,000 award-winning novels and novellas currently in print. Her novels have been nominated for American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year in 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2006; and 2007 will see the release of her 25th book.

Kathleen is a tenth-generation Texan and a mother of three grown sons and a teenage daughter. She is a graduate of Texas A&M University. Kathleen is a former treasurer for the American Christian Fiction Writers, and is a member of the Author’s Guild, Inspirational Writers Alive, Words for the Journey Christian Writers Guild, and the Fellowship of Christian Authors. In addition, she is a sought-after speaker, and her kids think she’s a pretty cool mom, too…most of the time, anyway.

The first book in this series is Beloved Castaway.


In this sequel to Beloved Castaway, Emilie Gayarre is learning to accept her mixed race heritage while finding fulfillment in teaching children of the key. There is no denying the attraction between Emilie and the handsome young naval commander, Caleb Spencer, who is shadowed by his own flock of secrets. But if her heritage is found out, even greater things than his career are at risk. Enjoy this historical romance full of risk and redemption.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Beloved Captive, go HERE.


I just received this book, so haven't had time to read more than the first page, but I can already tell I'm going to enjoy it. I'm already thinking of ways to put off doing "real" work so I can read!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Making Your Dream Catch Fire

Today, my guest bloggers are the mother/daughter writing team of Sherrie Ashcraft and Christina Berry. Prepared to be doubly blessed!

Making Your Dream Catch Fire

“Keep using the gift God gave you.
Let it grow, as a small flame grows into a fire.”
II Timothy 1:6

PhotobucketWe’re a mother-daughter writing team. Henceforth, to avoid confusion of any kind, we will refer to ourselves in the third person. We’ve been living our dream—or trying to at least—for the last nine years. We’ve noticed a few elements seem to be universally connected to dreaming.

Almost as soon as we identify our dream, we humans tend to start questioning it. Is this something I want just for myself, or is this from God? Doesn’t this conflict with another dream I have? What if nothing ever comes of this? Will I have wasted years doing something that’s unattainable?

We had a dream of being writers. But there’s also blogging, building websites, speaking, attending conferences, writing proposals, marketing plans, and building a platform. Do these things enable our dream, or become barriers to reaching it?

One of the most well known dreamers started dreaming when he was seventeen. A favorite child, he wore a special coat his dad had given him. You can find out more about Joseph by reading Genesis 37 and the next few chapters. He had a dream of being greater than his brothers and father. Though he had about as much tact as a pit bull with rabies, Joseph shared his dream with his family.

His brothers beat him. Because they were such nice guys, they decided to sell him instead of kill him. That’s when the questioning must have started for Joseph. Wait a minute, God. What can I do from this pit? Now as a slave? Now falsely accused of attempted rape? Stuck in prison?

Several times Sherrie’s wanted to just give up and walk away from it all. There have been too many rejections. It seemed like nothing will ever happen. But then God shows her verses like Romans 15: 4,5. “The Scriptures give us patience and encouragement so that we can have hope. Patience and encouragement come from God.”

Funny thing about perseverance: It takes time to know you have it because you must get discouraged first. We’ve found that persevering over the years has meant a lot of sacrifices. What have we given up? Christina condensed time spent on phone conversations, daily crosswords, reading for pleasure, and sleep. Sherrie misses all the card games!

But God plants the desires because He has a certain result planned. Nothing’s wasted in His economy. (And He never enters a recession!)

Even when Joseph sat in prison, the Bible says God was with him. It took thirteen years to climb the ranks from slave of Potiphar to second in command of Eygpt. The famine arrived seven years later. By the time his brothers arrived, bowing and begging for food, twenty-two years had passed. That’s a long time to wait for a dream to come true!

Had his brothers thwarted God’s plans for Joseph? No. Joseph tells them, “It was not you who sent me here, but God.” No matter what we think, people are not the ones who delay our dreams, but God. This means an editor’s rejection is God directing our lives, not another blow to our dream. Sherrie, during a time of discouragement, asked God if she was really supposed to write. He took her to Habakkuk 2:2-3. “Write down the vision; write it clearly on clay tablets so whoever reads it can run to tell others. It is not yet time for the message to come true, but that time is coming soon; the message will come true. It may seem like a long time, but be patient and wait for it, because it will surely come; it will not be delayed.”

Things we think of as setbacks are part of God’s training for the future. Joseph started as a young, inexperienced boy. As a shepherd, he gained experience with flocks and agriculture. As the head slave of a prominent man, he learned about household management and the social networking of Egypt. As an inmate of the king’s guard, he became familiar with the judicial and prison systems. All of those things added up to be excellent training for running a country.

By following his dream, by always being ready to be used by God, whether as a slave, a prisoner, or a powerful leader, he saved not only his family from starvation, but entire nations.

Who knows what God plans to do with your dream? Who knows what His timing will be?


Sherrie and Christina dream of having 1,000 subscribers to their infrequent, humorous newsletter. Help make this dream come true by signing up at www.ashberrylane.net/update.aspx. To hear a greatly expanded and deeply profound version of this—if you live within a few hours of Portland, OR—ask them to speak at your next event.

The two women share a multigenerational country home with their husbands and Christina’s children. They also share one brain and were separated at birth.

A former nurse specializing in the care of Alzheimer patients, Sherrie now thrives on being a professional grandma of six. She loves to read and garden, is co-commander with her husband of their church’s AWANA program, and serves with him as an elder. They are former missionaries to Nigeria, West Africa and (obviously!) lived to tell about it.

Christina, a SAHM with two children of her own, enjoys doing foster care and leads a Sparks group in AWANA. She signed a contract this past month with Moody Publishers for a book she wrote on her own. The book, now titled A Familiar Stranger, is slated to hit bookstores in September 2009!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What I Like About YOU'VE GOT MAIL

In case you hadn't notice, this is the Year of Dreams on my blog. One of my longtime dreams is to be an actor. Not an "Oooo, you're so famous and everybody recognizes you" kind of actor, but one of those character actors who manage to make a living. Actually, I don't even need to make a living at it... community theatre is just fine with me. I did that before I got married and had a family. Who knows, when my son is grown and on his own, I might check out the local community theatre scene.

In honor of my love of good movies and good acting, I'll periodically take a look at a movie that made an impression on me, and what I liked about it. So, without further ado, here's...

PhotobucketWhat I Like About You've Got Mail:

Meg Ryan & Tom Hanks - Meg's at her perky peak and Tom's the perfect blend of snarky charm. You can't watch these two and not fall in love with the idea of them falling in love.

Dialogue that Dances - It starts in the opening scenes where Kathleen and Joe read each other's emails. As Katherine says about her favorite book, Pride and Prejudice, "I get caught up in the language."

Near Misses in the Streets of New York Montage - One crosses the street just as the other steps onto the sidewalk. One enters Starbuck's as the other exits. As the merchants of New York start their day, opening stores and sliding up security gates, Joe and Kathleen cross paths multiple times, never knowing it's happening. It makes me think: How many times in life has an opportunity passed me by and I never knew?

PhotobucketJean Stapleton - A fabulous character actress, Stapleton plays Kathleen's wise, but slightly quirky surogate mother/co-worker. When asked about the secret love of her youth, she answers "He ran Spain." Such a simple line, but her delivery is priceless.

PhotobucketThat Nostalgic Dial Up Sound - When Joe and Kathleen check their computers for new mail, we hear that pinging, grating, screeching sound. I remember that sound. Hearing it now makes me all the more thankful for high-speed internet and the fact that I'm no longer a slave to AOL!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Great Expectations

Have you ever been so excited about a movie that you counted the days till the opening? Then you ran out to see it on opening day... only to leave the theater bitterly disappointed? That just happened to a writer friend of mine. I won't say which movie it was, but if you think of one based on the first book in a HUGELY popular young adult series, you'll probably figure it out!

This got me to thinking about my expectations. I try to keep them realistically low, but sometimes, I just can't help getting my hopes up. For example...

PhotobucketQUANTUM OF SOLACE - I expect three things out of a new Bond flick: (1) Lots of action, (2) the suave hunkiness of Daniel Craig, and (3) the always excellent presence of Dame Judi Dench. Despite its confusing title (I still only understand half of it) this movie delivered on all three counts. And as an added bonus, I got to see the trailer for...

PhotobucketTHE NEW STAR TREK MOVIE - It's not coming out till May 2009, but this is one movie that I'm very excited about. Featuring a younger cast, this latest offering in the Star Trek franchise goes back to when Kirk, Spock, Uhura, Bones, Scotty and the others first come together. The casting of Zachary Quinto (Heroes) as a young Spock is inspired. I think director J.J. Abrams is going to do a bang up job with this film. Sadly, I wasn't drawn into his latest TV series, Fringe, but I loved both Alias and the final item on my list of gotta-sees...

PhotobucketLOST - Two months from today and the wait is over! Lost is my absolute favorite show on TV. Even when others were complaining about how it had lost its way in season three, I stuck with the castaways, happy to go along for the ride. And what a ride it's been. In season four, we had not only flashbacks, but flashforwards. And the season ended with the most spectacular reveal of all: the island can move. And so it did. But where did it go... or when? You can be sure I'll be glued to the TV on January 21st to find out.

So that's it... my list of things I can't help but get excited over. How about you? What entertainment events are you counting the days till?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Childhood Obesity - Will This Really Help?

Have you heard about the new survey linking fast-food advertising and childhood obesity? According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the study shows that a ban on fast-food advertising during children's programming would cut down the number of overweight kids ages 3-11 by 18% (and 14% for ages 12-18).

PhotobucketShin-Yi Chou of Lehigh University, one of the study's authors, said in a statement, "We have known for some time that childhood obesity has gripped our culture, but little empirical research has been done that identifies television advertising as a possible cause. Hopefully, this line of research can lead to a serious discussion about the type of policies that can curb America's obesity epidemic."

Can someone please tell me why we needed a survey to provide this useless information?

Let me tell you this Mr. Chou, it doesn't matter what kind of ads kids see on TV - no 3-year-old is driving himself to Burger King. If your 8-year-old child wants an extra-large-super-value-meal, you're going to have to take him to the fast food restaurant and buy it for him. So where does that leave us?

If parents don't buy the fast food for the kids, then the kids won't eat it. Pretty simple... and I didn't even need to do a survey.

Now I'm not knocking fast food. It definitely has its time and place. And I know that childhood obesity is a serious issue. But why do we always have to blame outside influences for everything that goes wrong in our own homes? We parents are responsible for our children, and most of the time, whatever the child wears, plays with, or eats is provided by us. Period.

So, how about we parents make a few less trips to the drive through? We'll save gas and cut down on childhood obesity at the same time!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dreaming with Megan DiMaria

Welcome, friends, to the first post in my Year of Dreams series. Today's offering is from talented fiction author Megan DiMaria. Enjoy!

Megan DiMaria PhotoI have always been a dreamer. When I was a young girl, I dreamed of being Glenda the good witch. Obviously that dream died when I matured, but truth be told, I still lust after her poufy dress and bubblemobile.

However, I’ve had a dream since I was a child that never faded with youth. It was the dream to someday become a published author. I have always loved to write, and since grammar school I’ve gotten positive reinforcement about my ability. I love words and enjoy stringing them together to enlighten or entertain others. I studied Communications in college and have worked as a radio and television reporter, freelance writer, and copywriter. So when I decided to write a novel, anyone who knew me was not surprised.

I believe that dreams propel us through life, giving us goals. Dreaming is fun, it sets possibilities before us. But if you’re serious about a dream, then you need to equip yourself to fulfill your desires. If it had been my dream to be a Supreme Court justice, then I would have needed to attend law school.

In my novel, Out of Her Hands, my character, Linda, has a dream of what her children’s lives will look like when they become adults. She hoped and prayed that they would follow her dream for their lives, but like real life, that stuff just doesn’t happen. Linda’s journey to come to terms with her children’s choices is at times painful and frustrating. I think it’s a journey all mothers must make, part of the process of letting go and launching your kids out of the nest.

Whatever your age, continue to follow your dreams. Whatever your dreams may be, bravely strive for them. Pursuing your dreams makes life interesting and keeps you growing. God bless!


PhotobucketSearching for Spice, Megan’s debut novel about a long-married woman who wants to have an affair—with her husband, released in April 2008. Her second novel, Out of Her Hands, released in October 2008. Out of Her Hands is about taking life as it comes at you with all the surprises and challenges you face with your young adult children.

Megan and her husband live in suburban Denver near their adult children. They often travel back to their roots in Long Island, NY to visit family and get their fill of delicious Italian food.


If your dream is to win an awesome novel, here's your chance! To be entered to win a copy of Out of Her Hands just leave a reply to this blog. I’ll pick a winner at random on November 26th. Please leave an email address so I can contact you if you're the winner. (To prevent spammers from trolling for your email, please use this format with the brackets--you [at] yourmail [dot] com--or something similar.) Good luck and keep on dreaming!

Monday, November 10, 2008


Does anybody really know what they're getting into when fame comes flying through the door? Probably not. In her book Through the Storm, (cowritten by Lorilee Craker) Lynne Spears recounts her life from being a simple southern girl, to being a simple southern young wife and mother, to becoming the mother of one of the biggest names in pop music.

PhotobucketLynne starts off by telling you what this book isn't: it's not a parenting book, and it's not a tell all. And for the most part, she sticks to that. Let me say that I think at heart, Lynne Spears is a woman who loves her children, loves the Lord, and wants the best for her family. But... she seems (to me) like a woman living in a level of denial.

This first struck me when she recounts the story of driving her injured brother to an emergency room. It was raining, she rounded a corner, there were two boys riding bikes on the side of the road. "I had a sick sensation that I would hit one of them, that it was impossible not to..." and finally, "One boy managed to get his bike out of the way, but his friend, a twelve-year-old boy whose house was right by the scene of the accident, was hit." Was hit? What an odd way to put it. She says very little else about this boy, how she felt after hitting this child. The boy died at the emergency room, the same one Lynn took her brother to. She says that the screams of the mother will haunt her. But then, she adds, "God's providence permitted that boy's mother to lose her son, while I was allowed to keep mine, watching him grow to manhood." And this pretty much sums it up for me: things keep happening to Lynne Spears. It's all about how it affects her.

Talking about Britney's early days in the limelight, one theme is repeated: I didn't know. More than once she says that she figured the industry professionals would know better than her, since she's just a simple southern gal. That may be so, but she's not stupid. So here's a mother who wants the best for her kids. I can relate to that. And I can understand how things could escalate and get out of control before she realized... the first time. But I start to wonder when things happen over and over and over. Case in point: When a Rolling Stone photographer and crew cram into your teenage daughter's room and close the door for a private photo shoot, something is wrong! This was the scenario for the infamous Rolling Stone cover of Britney lounging on her bed in a bra and itty-bitty boy shorts.

Let me get to the point of this review. I think Lynne Spears is a good woman who wanted to help her children achieve their dreams. Whether through simple-southern-girl naivete, or denial of what was really happening, Lynne lost control. When she talks about her faith, and how God has carried her through the storms of her life, I believe her. So, if you're looking for an expose and some hot gossip about Britney or Jamie Lynn that you don't already know, this is not the book for that. But, if you want a glimpse into the life and psyche of one of America's most well-known mothers, pick up Through the Storm. To be fair to Lynn, it's hard to know if any of us would have done any better in her position.

Go here to preview the book.

TitleTrakk Blog Tour and Humongous Giveaway!

Welcome to the 1st ever
TitleTrakk.com Blog Tour!

Have you heard about TitleTrakk? If you want to take a look at media from a Christian perspective, you've got to check it out: book, music and movie reviews, as well as interviews with the folks that make it all happen. And right now, they're having a HUGE contest!

The Fantastic Fall Giveaway Contest!

Just in time for the holidays, you could win over
$335 worth of books, cds and dvds!

Sponsored by our friends at:

The Grand Prize Winner will receive:


Whispers of the Bayou by Mindy Starns Clark
Rachel's Secret by BJ Hoff
Beach Dreams by Trish Perry
Playing God by Michelle McKinney Hammond
White Soul by Brandt Dodson
The Legend of the Firefish by George Bryan Polivka
Finding Marie by Susan Paige Davis
The Power of Praying Through the Bible by Stormie Omartian
A Man After God's Own Heart by Jim George
Evidence for Faith 101 by Bruce Bickel & Stan Jantz


Wake Up! Wake Up! by Everyday Sunday
Rock What You Got by Superchick
Sunday by Tree63
Houston We Are Go by Newsboys (Live CD/DVD)
Nothing Left To Lose by Mat Kearney
I Am Free Worship Collection
Salvation Station by Newworldson
Not Without Love by Jimmy Needham
Pages by Shane & Shane
Colors and Sounds by Article One


Love's Unfolding Dream
The Ten Commandments Animated
Between the Walls

But that's not all!
We're giving away even more!

During this blog tour (November 10th - 16th) we'll be drawing 2 winners daily from the contest entries to win an additional free book or cd!

Visit the TitleTrakk.com Contest page today to enter the contest and place yourself in the running to receive the Grand Prize, plus all the daily prizes! Deadline to enter is November 17th.

About TitleTrakk.com:
Founded in 2006 by Tracy & C.J. Darlington, TitleTrakk.com is an interactive website spotlighting Christian books, music & movies. Updated weekly, we feature author and musician interviews, album and book reviews, music videos, movie reviews and interviews, book excerpts, surveys, polls, and fun contests. Learn more: http://www.titletrakk.com/about.htm