Thursday, December 31, 2009

Things I Hope Won't Follow Us Into 2010

I believe in thinking positively. And I believe 2010 is going to be an absolutely fabulous year, especially if we can leave these things behind us...

Annoying Catchphrases - We've all got them... those phrases we've heard (or read) so many times that we pray they go away. Next year, I hope nobody offers me their "two cents worth" (or two shekels, or any derivative thereof). And I'd be extremely happy to never again read "inquiring minds want to know."

Reality TV Families - I enjoy reality TV shows that involve people with a skill (So You Think You Can Dance, American Idol) or in a hearty competition (Survivor). There are other shows I don't watch, but can understand why others do. And then there are those I think are ridiculous and have no interest in, but the participants are adults, so more power to them. But one thing I wish would come to an end are reality shows that revolve around families with young children. Jon and Kate are a worst-case example of what happens when you put a family under a microscope. No kids should have to live like that. Period.

Mistresses Outing Themselves - A sports figure falling off his pedestal isn't all that shocking. What I found surprising - and pretty appalling - was when all the mistresses stepped into the spotlight. What's with that? It's not like they're coming out against injustice. These are all women who had an affair with a married man and now they're grabbing their moment in front of the tabloid TV cameras. It's weird to me that behavior which was once regrettable is now embraced.

People Tweeting when they should be Participating - Have you ever noticed that some people use Twitter at highly inappropriate times? Tweets from the middle of movies, giving a play-by-play of a sporting event, or from the middle of a family event make me scratch my head. Seriously, I'd be kinda ticked if I was spending the day with a friend and she pulled out her cell phone every ten minutes to share with her Tweeps. But one of the most bizarre examples of this is when two people I follow were out to dinner with each other... and they were both tweeting about how much fun they were having with the other person. I guess they liked watching each other's thumbs fly.

Annoying Other People - As I write this, I fully realize there are things I do that annoy other people. I'm going to do my best not to repeat that behavior in 2010. I'm sure my patient son and husband will be happy to hear that!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Not Wasting the Waiting

Have you ever noticed how some folks like to make up rhyming mottos for the year? You know, things like Feeling Great in 2008! Well, if I were to assign a snappy saying to last year, it would have to be Waiting in Line in 2009. Because it feels like I spent a good chunk of the year waiting for things to happen.

About a hundred years ago, when I decided to chase the elusive career title of "writer", I knew it would take hard work. I knew I would have to study, learn my craft, and write even when I didn't feel like it. But I never grasped how much of this business involves waiting on responses from others. It seems like I'm always waiting on an email or (less often) a phone call, either from someone I'm already working with or someone I hope to work with.

And my personal life hasn't moved any faster. This summer, we decided it was time to buy a house. In the current economic climate, you wouldn't think buying a house would take too long. Guess again. There's a long (and to you, probably boring) story behind it, but we've spent the last six months on this project. We are currently in the process of buying a short-sale home. The name is misleading because there's nothing short about it. I'm happy because I feel like this is the house we're supposed to wind up in. But I still don't enjoy the waiting.

My biggest problem is that I don't spend my waiting time well. There are lots of things I need to do. Packing, for one. But then how do I know what to pack when I have no idea when we'll actually move? So, the packing doesn't get done.

Of course, there's always something that needs to be written. I really should be working on a new book right now. Should is the operative word, there. While I have been working on different projects, I have yet to commit myself to the one... that new, glistening concept that I will dedicate the next however-many months of my life to until it's complete. Nope. Right now, I'm kind of speed-dating my manuscript ideas.

One of my goals for 2010 is to manage my time better, and I need your help to do it. Even if you don't comment on the blog, it's okay. I know you're out there. So I'm going to be accountable to you. My hope is that, by sharing my goals with you, I will actually accomplish them. Because if I don't, I'll have to answer to y'all.

So here's goal number one: commit to a new novel to complete in 2010.
And here's my deadline: January 1st.

On New Year's Day, come check up on me and I'll give you a sneak peak for my new novel. I hope!

Photo credit:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I'm BAAaaack!

Yikes! Sorry to be gone for so long. One of my goals for the coming year is blogging consistency. More on that later...

In case you haven't already figured it out, I did not advance to the final round of the Marcher Lord Select contest. Naturally, I was disappointed. In fact, I took it harder than I expected to. All along I knew my chances were slim of making it into that coveted final group of three. But the reality kind of blindsided me. I'm okay now, though. Thanks again to everyone who supported me through that rollercoaster ride. And don't forget to check out the manuscripts that are still in the running.

Now I have to shift gears and work on publicity for The Pastor's Wife, which comes out on February 1st. It's getting good buzz, including a 4-star review from Romantic Times. Yay! I'll be having a month-long blog tour with lots of opportunities to win free copies. More info on that later, too...

But first thing's first. Christmas is literally just around the corner. I pray you and your families are blessed beyond measure as you celebrate the birth of the King and the love that He brings.

Peace be with you!

Photo credit -

Friday, December 11, 2009

CFBA Presents THE FAMILIAR STRANGER by Christina Berry

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Familiar Stranger
(Moody Publishers - September 1, 2009)
Christina Berry


Single mother and foster parent, Christina Berry carves time to write from her busy schedule because she must tell the stories that haunt her every waking moment. (Such is the overly dramatic description of an author's life!) She holds a BA in Literature, yet loves a good Calculus problem, as well. All that confusion must have influenced her decision to be team captain of a winning team on Family Feud.

Her debut novel, The Familiar Stranger, released from Moody in September and deals with lies, secrets, and themes of forgiveness in a troubled marriage. A moving speaker and dynamic teacher, Christina strives to Live Transparently--Forgive Extravagantly!

Her work has also appeared in The Secret Place, The Oregonian, and Daily Devotions for Writers.


Craig Littleton's decision to end his marriage would shock his wife, Denise . . . if she knew what he was up to. When an accident lands Craig in the ICU, with fuzzy memories of his own life and plans, Denise rushes to his side, ready to care for him.

They embark on a quest to help Craig remember who he is and, in the process, they discover dark secrets. An affair? An emptied bank account? A hidden identity? An illegitimate child?

But what will she do when she realizes he's not the man she thought he was? Is this trauma a blessing in disguise, a chance for a fresh start? Or will his secrets destroy the life they built together?

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Familiar Stranger, go HERE


The Familiar Stranger speaks to the pain of betrayal in a marriage and how far a person's capacity for love and forgiveness can be stretched.

What makes this novel work so beautifully is the author's use of a dual first-person point of view. We see the story unfold through the eyes of both Denise and Craig. Each section is labeled "his" or "hers" which eliminates any potential confusion. By getting into their skins, you can't help but empathize with both of them.

There's a mystery at the heart of The Familiar Stranger. I saw it coming fairly early on in the book, but I think there's a good reason for that. Something I read in an interview with Christina tipped me off. It wasn't anything overt, but the vague mention of the inspiration for the story immediately sounded a bell in my imagination. I honestly can't say if I would have seen where it was going otherwise. I can say that figuring out the secret didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book.

Christina Berry has produced a debut novel to be proud of. I look forward to seeing what she offers up next.

Read my Take 5 interview with Christina Berry on

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's All in How You Say It

Even if you're not a writer, I'm sure you'll agree that clear communication is important. It's why companies hire copy writers. Obviously, not everyone chooses to hire out. Which is why you run into some funny copy on packages that come from overseas.

Once, my son won a prize at a church carnival. The object of the game (made in China) was to bounce a ball off a rubber target and into a cup. But this is how they described the process on the box: "Convulsing enter!" Something sure got lost in translation.

Below is a snippet from a spam comment that was left on one of my blog posts. I deleted it from the post, but had to share this piece of it. I changed none of the wording, spelling or punctuation, but I did remove the company name and the link. (Sorry, you'll have to find another way to get rich):
I`m happy and lucky, I started to get income with the help of this company, and I invite you to do the same. It`s all about how to select a correct partner utilizes your savings in a right way - that`s [company name]!. I make 2G daily, and what I started with was a funny sum of 500 bucks! It`s easy to join , just click this link [removed]and lucky you`re! Let`s take our chance together to feel the smell of real money.
Isn't that a hoot? Whatever you do today, have fun, be clear, and if you're lucky, maybe you can take the chance to feel the smell of real money!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Meet Historical Fiction Author Amber Stockton - Interview & Giveaway!

Tiffany Amber Stockton is an author, online marketing consultant, and web site designer who lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart, and their baby daughter in Colorado. They also have a vivacious Border Collie mix named Roxie. Amber has sold eight books to Barbour Publishing with more on the horizon. Other writing credits include five short stories for Romancing the Christian Heart, and contributions to Grit for the Oyster and 101 Ways to Romance Your Marriage. Her goal in writing is to convey the message that God is always present, even during the most difficult circumstances. Read more about her at her web site:


JA: Have you always wanted to be a writer?
AS: I can't say for certain, but I have always been a storyteller. My parents said I was forever embellishing every story I told to the point that they would step in and tell the story how it really happened. To me, the real truth wasn't interesting enough, so I had to add some flair to it. I suppose writing books came naturally. :)

JA: How does your faith impact your writing?
AS: It's essential and breathes from every word I write. My underlying goal with every story I write is that my readers will see evidence of God's presence in their lives, no matter what the circumstances. I have been blessed with a strong, unwavering faith for most of my life, and that faith has sustained me through may difficult circumstances. I would love for my readers to have that as a takeaway from my novels.

JA: How long does it take to complete a novel? How many drafts do you go through?
AS: Depends on how long the novel is. For the ones I've sold so far, I can write one of them in 2 weeks. For a trade-length, I could do it in 1 month. I'm a fast writer, and I usually only go through 1 complete draft with a phase of revisions before sending it off to my editor. Of course, once my editor gets it, then come the revisions in the content edit stage, followed by the copy edit stage and finally the galley stage. So, if those count, that would make 5 drafts in all.

JA: Do you treat yourself to something special when a project is completed?
AS: Usually, my husband and I go out to eat somewhere special to celebrate. And we splurge...but only after the 2nd half of my advance arrives. :) Otherwise, we'd feel guilty about spending frivolously when we could likely put the money to good use somewhere else. But the advance money is book money, so we feel splurging is justified.

JA: What does your family think about your crazy career?
AS: Actually, since my husband is also a published author, he understands. *winks* And he's just as nutty as I am, if not more so. I mean, he writes science fiction. You HAVE to be a nut job to write that genre. LOL!

JA: What’s the one far out sci-fi technology you’d most like to see become a household item?
AS: The replicator from Star Trek. That thing that produces whatever food item you ask of it, with all the embellishments and spices, and cooked just the way you want it. Can you imagine the time it would save if you could just ask for your meals and poof? There they are! Yeah, that is one household item with which I could easily become spoiled.

Thanks for visiting with us, Amber. Many blessings on your many projects!

If you’d like to be entered in today's book giveaway, just leave a reply to this blog. I’ll pick a winner at random on December 15th. The winner will get their choice of one of Amber's books. (NOTE: This one is restricted to residents of the United States and Canada.) 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!

More about Amber's latest series...

Copper and Candles
Barbour Publishing/Heartsong Presents Book 1 of Michigan historical series (HP #843)
At or
Release date: April 2009
ISBN-10: 1602603405
ISBN-13: 9781602603400

A young lady of means discovers that keeping secrets, no matter how noble the intent, demands a price that she and a refinery worker, with all their resources, might not be able to pay.— Society teas and garden parties, shopping, gossip—Life as a young lady of means may be fun, but Felicity wants to do more. Unfortunately, she finds that her position and wealth can sometimes hinder her efforts to help those around her in need. Thus, when a charity case falls ill and cannot work, Felicity determines to go to work as a commoner in Detroit's dangerous factory district. Relationships become complicated, however, and she soon finds herself falling in love with a worker from the copper refinery next door. She knows her family would never accept him as a suitor, but what's a girl to do? What she doesn't know is that Brandt has his own secrets and hides his identity just as carefully as she. Brandt and Felicity soon discover that deception—no matter how noble its intent—demands a price that even they, with all their resources, may not be able to pay. Can they survive the storm when truth is revealed?
Read the first chapter here.

Hearts and Harvest
Barbour Publishing/Heartsong Presents Book 2 of Michigan historical series (HP #867) 
Release date: September 2009
ISBN-10: 1602605769
ISBN-13: 9781602605763

A destitute young man fights society's mores to win the hand of his privileged sweetheart.— William's is a true riches to rags story...Once members of Detroit's elite society, the Berringer family lost everything they had in the financial crash of 1893. From a life of influence and privilege, they now find themselves working a potato patch alongside immigrants and other destitute folk on borrowed land. William's resentment toward his current situation—and mostly toward God for allowing it—simmers barely beneath the surface. All it takes is one charitable visit to the fields from a lovely society darling to burst his fa├žade of acceptance. Annabelle Lawson, convicted by her pastor's admonishing words, begins delivering food and water to the workers on her father's donated land. But as she learns the stories of the people who work there, she becomes increasingly drawn to their plight. Especially that of the inscrutable William Berringer. Can Annabelle and William overcome the stigma placed upon his family by a society that once embraced them? Will her parents remember their own meeting or forbid this budding romance altogether?
Read the first chapter here

Patterns and Progress
Barbour Publishing/Heartsong Presents Book 3 of Michigan historical series (HP# )
Release date: December 2009
ISBN-10: 1602606870
ISBN-13: 9781602606876

A farmer's daughter would rather turn back the hands of time than accept the fact that advancement in technology could be in God's plan.— Shannon Delaney was right. Every time she might consider changing her stance on what other people called progress, something bad would happen and she would be proven right again. Take the day Jacob Berringer almost ran her over in that new Model-T, for instance. And he had the nerve to suggest she'd been daydreaming? Or the Titanic. A marvel of modern invention. Look where that got them. Or how about the new tractor her brother insisted they try out. What did he get from that? A broken arm. Why can't things just stay the way they are—the way they should be? Jacob's got his work cut out for him, proving to the stubborn but beautiful Shannon that just because he works for the Henry Ford Company, he isn't evil incarnate. But something about her tells him she's worth the effort, and when Jacob puts his mind to something, he doesn't turn back. But will either of them look to God for direction?
Read the first chapter here

Monday, December 7, 2009

Have you heard? It's time to vote in Phase 3 of the Marcher Lord Select contest!

Since I've been inundating you with posts, I'm going to keep this one as short and sweet at possible.

The polls are now open for Phase 3 of the Marcher Lord Select contest. This link will take you straight to the polls. If you haven't participated before, that's okay. You'll just be asked to register first.

During this round, you need to vote for three exactly. No more and no less. (If you vote for any other number, your vote won't count.)  This time, Jeff is leaving the polls open longer so no readers get left behind. You have from now until midnight Eastern time on Tuesday, December 15th to cast your vote.

Only three entries will advance to the last round of this contest, and one of those will be published by Marcher Lord Press. The rankings have been extremely close, so even if you haven't participated up to this point, I encourage you to check out the entries and cast your votes. Naturally, I hope you'll enjoy my entry enough to make it one of your three :+}

If you haven't read the first 30 pages of my novel, Vinnie's Diner, or the other seven entries and would like to, this blog post tells you everything you need to know.

Thanks again, friends. We've come this far together. I hope I'll have great news for you all on the 16th!

Photo credit:

Saturday, December 5, 2009

CFBA presents RAISING RAIN by Debbie Fuller Thomas

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Raising Rain
(Moody Publishers - September 1, 2009)
Debbie Fuller Thomas


Debbie writes contemporary fiction from an historic Gold Rush town in Northern California. By day, she manages after school and day camp programs, and she burns the midnight oil to write what she loves. Her first book Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon, is a Christy finalist. Raising Rain, her second book became available September 2009.

Debbie has contributed to story collections such as Chicken Soup for the Bride's Soul, and Lord, I Was Happy Shallow, along with articles in Coping With Cancer magazine.

She has two teenagers and her husband is the executive pastor on Sonrise Church with 1,000 members. Debbie is a manager at Auburn Area Parks and Recreation.


Raised to be a 'new woman' by her mother and three college roommates in the 70's amid anti-war protests, feminist rallies, and finals, Rain Rasmussen discovers that putting her career first has left her overdrawn at the egg-bank, and her baby fever has now driven off her significant other.

When her terminally ill mother demands a Celebration of Life before she dies; they all confront ghosts from the past on a 'stormy' weekend in Monterey. Bebe, the roommate closest to Rain's heart, revisits choices that have impacted Rain the most, raising doubts about God's—and her own—willingness to forgive and to be forgiven.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Raising Rain, go HERE.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Marcher Lord Select - And Then There Were 8

Yes, the polls are closed, the votes have been tallied, and I can let you know that...

drum roll, please...

I made it into Phase 3!

This was an extremely competitive round with very few votes separating the ranks. All the contestants deserve a big round of applause, regardless of the outcome.

Now it's time to move on to Phase 3. This time, you are able to read the first 30 pages of the remaining eight entries. Here's how you find them:
  • Go to The Anomaly Forums (a free registration is required if you haven't been there before).
  • Go to the Marcher Lord Select sub-topic.
  • At the top you'll see six sub-boards. Click on Phase 3--Main Contest (3rd from the top)
  • Chose the top thread, Download the First 30 Pages of the 8 Semifinalists
  • The first post is from Jeff Gerke. About halfway down he says, "Download the file here."
  • Click on the link and it will take you to the Marcher Lord Press site. Go to the bottom of the page and click on this link: Download the Phase 3 document.
  • That will open a Word file. The entries are listed in random order, but Vinnie's Diner happened to land at the top, so you won't have any trouble finding it. 
The official date for the next round of voting hasn't been announced yet, but will probably be around two weeks from now. At that point, you can only vote for three entries: no more and no less. The field will then be cut down to the top three who will move on to the 4th and final phase. At that point, the first 60 pages of each book will be posted.

Jeff has started discussion threads on the forums for all eight of the Phase 3 semifinalists (in the Phase 3--Main Contest sub-board). If you have thoughts you'd like to share on Vinnie's Diner or any of the entries, please jump in and join the conversation. It's encouraging for all the authors when people discuss their stories, even if it's something you didn't like. It helps us fine-tune our work.

Thanks again, friends, for all your support. I wouldn't be here without you. Be blessed!

If all this is new to you, visit this previous blog post. It gives you all the contest details, plus a nifty book trailer of Vinnie's Diner.