Monday, November 28, 2011

Suspense for Christmas?" style="float: left; padding-right: 20px">" />The'>">The Christmas Witness by Susan'>">Susan Sleeman

My rating: 5'>">5 of 5 stars

When suspense novelists sit down to write a book, they put their main character in a terrible predicament and then make things worse.
The character tries to escape or hide, but then his plan only complicates things.
On and on the story goes with one problem developing after another, each worse than the last. Writers use anything that prickles or unsettles. That is a surefire way to lure the reader into the next scene/chapter.
That’s the case with Susan Sleeman’s The ChristmasWitness The inspirational romance drops us in Megan Cash’s life after the man she testified against in court is released from prison, planning to make good on his threat to kill her.
A former FBI agent comes back into Megan’s life. Although he feels he should be her protector, she’s not crazy about him hanging around. Yet, she needs help.
Megan’s daughter suffers from cancer and the ex-con uses the little girl to try to get at her mother. Then he asks for a bundle of cash to leave her alone.
But, as in typical suspense novelist fashion, things keep going from bad to worse.
I recommend The Christmas Witness for folks who enjoy a book that grabs them and won’t let go and who also enjoy a spiritual uplift.

View'>">View all my reviews

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The greatest thing to learn about writing

A famous Christian novelist recently told a friend she loves to sit in basic writing classes because she often picks up tidbits on the craft. The woman who shared this with me said she sees some of the top writers in our industry sitting under the teaching of others when she attends conferences.
     Just as we never “arrive” in our Christian walk here on earth, it seems we never know all we need to know about putting words together so they impart knowledge, bless or entertain, call souls to Christ or greater living.
     I’ve been free lancing since age 16. I knew little about the craft when I started, but ideas that I felt needed sharing kept popping into my head. I also had a “fire shut up in my bones” that compelled me to share the gospel.
      A couple of patient editors became my mentors.” If you could shorten this article a little”; or “Add anecdotes to this one and we can use it.”
      In the 1960s I landed a job as a newspaper reporter in a city of 100,000 without ever taking a journalism course and worked three years until we had our third child. I stayed home with the children, added a couple more, and continued to free lance for the next 20 years. But I knew I wrote with an incredible deficit, so I took nine English credits from the University of Colorado Extension Division. I’d completed a course in writing for Christian publications not long after I started selling free lance, and later completed a novel writing course.
       The day came when we needed more income to send those five children to Christian colleges. During a time when we had two children in higher education, I enrolled at a nearby state school, took out the highest amount in student loans, applied that to the children’s tab, and started. I completed a four-year degree in 2 ½ years, taking 22 and 24 semester-hour credits a semester, motivated to get out before I was old enough for Social Security.
        When I graduated , the same newspaper I worked for in the 1960s created a reporting job for me.
I worked 17 years as a journalist, and during my adult life I’ve had few years I didn’t have at least one free lance article published.  I’ve had one book, several chapters in books, and more than 250 articles and stories published in religion publications.
        Since I retired I’ve written two novels that I am now marketing and a non-fiction book, Swallowed by LIFE, will be on Amazon in December.
      Yet, the publishing industry has changed. A writer may crash into defeat in one area, but find opportunities from here to cyberspace.
      Constants, however, do not change. The Christian writer has a dimension beyond the secular, and simple things like showing instead of telling and active verbs still improve our work.
      Don’t forget one of the greatest things you’ll learn about writing: You’ll never be a writer unless you start with the first sentence, keep going until you complete the last sentence, then send it to the publisher you had in mind when you started.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Win spiritual warfare with giving thanks

Gratitude changes my attitude.
Sometimes I forget when I pray, seeking God for specific needs, that I should be thankful first. The Apostle Paul instructed us “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6).
He precedes that statement in verse 4 with “Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoice.”
I am amazed sometimes at how many things I have to be thankful for. There is no way I can name them all, but at the top of the list is God’s mercy, love and caring. I’m so thankful Jesus came to give us abundant life here and for eternity.
I am thankful for my husband and family and that they have the Word of God planted in their hearts. We’re not a perfect bunch, but we are so blessed with children and grandchildren who love and serve Jesus.
I’m thankful for America and freedom.
I’m thankful for friends, those I know personally and those I’ve interacted with online. I pray for friends I see often who have needs, but also pray for others I seldom see and those I haven’t seen who check out my blog from the United States and about a dozen other countries.
I was amazed when I looked at my blog’s stats and discovered I have hits from all those nations. I thank God for all of you who connect here. I hope you are blessed and encouraged in the Lord.

Here are a few scriptures on gratitude:

“Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).

“I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world” (Romans 1:8).

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:17).

“But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

“Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God forever and ever” (Revelation 7:12).

Although Thanksgiving might not be a holiday in your nation, may God grant every one of you no matter where you live, a grateful heart. In his instructions in Philippians Paul said when we enter the gates to speak to God and are thankful, “The peace of God, which passes understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Book I reviewed for Jenny B. Jones: There You'll find me

Finley Sinclair is searching and she hopes to find what she needs in Ireland.
Unlike so many of her friends and other young women, Finley isn’t hunting for a man to make her complete. Her goal is to become a student at the Manhattan Music Conservatory, but first she must write the ending of an original piece of music, perform well at the audition, and come to grips with the death of her brother, Will.
Will visited Ireland before his death and left a diary and photos about his experiences and travels. Finley wants to follow his footsteps and most of all, find the cross in one of the photos.
I liked Finley from the first page of the book despite her obsession with exercise and her fascination with trying to eat healthy. Finley had her eyes on a goal, and despite the need for a counselor in her past, appears to know how to go around obstacles, avoid distractions and cover the distance to success. Yet, a piece of her is missing because she believes God is ignoring her.
So when the teen idol Beckett Rush enters her life she’s the only girl around who doesn’t fall at his feet and pant.  True, he has an awesome smile and is quite handsome when he’s not dressed as a vampire. But Finley is not impressed. Her lack of interest catches his eye and he figures out how to get to know her.
Finley has no time for an egotistical male, but the movie star gets a room at the Bed and Breakfast where she’s staying. She needs a tour guide and he needs a assistant to help him.
While Rush keeps hanging around, Finley becomes an encourager to an old bitter woman dying from cancer, while battling her own mammoth problems. Will the teenager find peace, comfort and victory over her eating disorder? Is the vampire actor as normal and genuine as he tries to appear?  Or is he a playboy that often wears makeup and costumes?
As usual, Jenny B. Jones writes a wonderful story for young adults.
Not all of Finley's problems are completely solved by the end of the book, but the reader suspects this strong character that Jenny B. Jones has created will be victorious.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Guest: Chad Young, author of Authenticity

“Good News, Good Deeds”  by Chad Young
 “Recognizing that my calling had been given by God, James, Peter and John – the pillars of the church – shook hands with me and Barnabas, assigning to us a ministry to the non-Jews, while they continued to be responsible for reaching out to the Jews. The only additional thing they asked was that we remember the poor, and I was already eager to do that.” (Galatians 2:9-10 from The Message)
        I find it interesting that the leaders of the early church assigned Paul the task of reaching out to the Gentiles both by sharing the gospel and by remembering the poor. Sometimes the church does one or the other really well, but it often fails to do both. We can help the needy with physical needs without sharing the good news that Christ died for our sins, but we aren’t addressing their deepest spiritual need for a relationship with God. On the flipside, if we share the gospel but don’t help the poor, we don’t truly love people the way God intended.
       This past summer, I led a mission project in Charleston, SC.  Each Saturday morning, I was joined by 70 college students as I attempted to minister to families in low-income areas of Charleston.  We handed out free groceries, cooked hamburgers and hot dogs, and played with the children from the neighborhood. Anytime one meets someone with needs far greater than their own, the experience is memorable.  On one occasion, however, one of our helpers, “Bill,” a rising sophomore at the College of Charleston, made a comment that really impacted me.
         When Bill introduced himself, he said, “I’m an agnostic, and I’m trying to learn all I can about all of the religions so I can make an intellectual choice regarding which religion is true. This is my fourth week coming out here with you guys. I came to help the poor, but I really like what you are doing. It seems that Christianity involves putting your faith into action. I plan on continuing to be involved.”
        When we put our faith into action, others take notice. This is the kind of faith we were created to have, and this is the kind of lifestyle many people like Bill are searching for. Why do you think the Jerusalem apostles stressed that Paul “remember the poor” (2:10)? Does your personal life reflect the importance of this?
        Spend some time reflecting on this passage and confessing any sins these verses reveal in your life. What are changes you need to make in how you spend your time or money? Thank God that he’s always provided for you – beyond just your needs. Ask him to guide you and direct you on where you should invest your time and finances. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)

About the Author:
Chad Young is the author of Authenticity: Real Faith in a Phony, Superficial World, available at Amazon.  As Campus Crusade for Christ’s director for the South Carolina Lowcountry with a scope of 25 college campuses and 70,000 students, Chad resides in Charleston, SC, with his wife Elizabeth and their four young children: Wyatt, Clark, Evelyn and Josilynn. He holds an undergraduate degree from Clemson University and a graduate degree from Georgia Tech; Chad worked in the paper industry for 6 years before going into full-time ministry. He has served on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ for 9 years and has also written a discipleship training manual. He has a passion for helping students learn what it means to have an authentic relationship with Christ.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sample news release


Former medical reporter addresses
Mysteries of eternal life in new book

 Nov. 5, 2011

SPRINGFIELD, MO—Thousands of U.S. citizens suffer from terminal and chronic illnesses at any given time.
        Just as we know leaves on a tree will one day flutter to the ground, we all know our days on earth are numbered. But what then?
        Ada Brownell thought she knew all the answers until she and her husband lost their 31-year-old daughter to cancer. Did she believe what she thought she did?
        That question haunted her until as a medical reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain in Colorado and a student of the Bible, she searched for evidence that we are more than a body.
She discovered science reveals death is swallowed by life continuously, our body constantly dying cell by cell and regenerating. She looks at how we began as single fertilized cells and we were the same person in the womb we are today. We can gain weight, have parts cut off or a surgeon could take out our hearts and replace them with someone else’s and we’re still who we’ve always been. Even parts of our brain can be removed or affected by disease, stroke or injury and we’re still the same person we were.
           Brownell found more evidence that we are more than flesh, and that brought her to the soul and our spiritual side. Then she wrote the book, Swallowed by Life: Mysteries of Death, Resurrection and the Eternal.
            She uses illustrations from physicians, patients, people who were near death or thought to be dead and were resuscitated, plus quotes from some of today’s renown regenerative medicine scientists.
            “Swallowed by Life,” is a term from scripture: “While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life” ( 2 Corinthians 5:3-5 NLT).
           The author is an award-winning medical and religion writer who worked 17 years as a journalist, the last seven years reporting on discoveries about the Human Genome; neurology; mental illness; cancer; disease prevention; treatments; medications; and other medical news. In addition to her newspaper writing, approximately 250 of her articles and stories have been published in religion publications. Her book, Confessions of a Pentecostal, was published by the Assemblies of God and she has chapters in five other books.
Swallowed by Life will be available on about Dec. 1, 2011.
For a review copy, more information, an interview or to schedule a speaking engagement, contact her at


I was a daily newspaper reporter who received dozens of news releases every day. Here's some of the advice I gave Ozarks Chapter of American Christian Writers recently.

· Use a professional-looking letterhead.
· Insert the date
· Contact: Name
  E-mail Address

· If you are promoting a book and free review copies are available upon request, say so. You also can send out news releases in advance for speaking engagements.
· Write your headline. Mine would say something such as:
   Former medical reporter addresses death, resurrection
   and the eternal in new book, Swallowed by Life
   Pick out the most important nugget about the book for the headline.
· Use a dateline (Place of origin. Some might actually include the date). The date line is all caps: SPRINGFIELD, MO—
· Start your lead, literally your hook, right after the dateline. If you are speaking or doing a book signing, use that in your lead and maybe even the headline. If you have connections to the community, such as being a native, graduate of area schools, etc.
· If possible, it should be one page in length.
· Use pertinent information such as your summary sentence that describes the book, and about a paragraph of other description.
· If it’s non-fiction, add a few facts and quotes to support your book’s thesis.
· Add a short bio on your background in general and success as a writer.
                                                                                                                                                                                                               Copyright Oct. 1, 1011

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Interview with novelist Erica Vetsch, a wonderful writer

Erica Vetsch - Stories that Testify to Love Ada Brownell Blog Interview:

1. How did your style and voice develop with such rhythm, music, and clarity? Are you a musician? I can’t claim to be a musician, though I took piano lessons for ten years or so as a kid. My writing style and voice developed over the course of several years of writing fiction and a lifetime of reading fiction. I didn’t realize my voice had become distinctive until one of my crit partners judged a contest I had entered. (She didn’t know I’d entered, and I didn’t know she was judging.) She was able to identify my writing without my name being on the document. That’s when I knew I’d found my voice.
2. Does vivid description come naturally to you, or have you studied techniques and worked at it? Description is the part of fiction writing that comes the easiest for me. The techniques I have to employ and the work I have to put into it are all on the side of not putting too much in and allowing the characters to interact with the setting instead of just describing everything in great detail. I have to remember that I’m not writing a history book, but rather a story.
 3. Do you need to constantly watch in order to show instead of tell, as you do so beautifully, or is that just the way you write? This takes constant vigilance, though it comes more naturally now. I tend to do more telling in my first draft, then go back and try to take it out and show instead during the editing process. I watch for my ‘telling words’ like felt, wondered, watched, thought, was, etc. Being careful to show instead of tell also helps with the description, because I think about what the character is thinking, seeing, smelling, touching, and incorporate that into the narrative.
4. What method do you use to develop your characters? I am a plot-first novelist. My stories are usually sparked by reading history books or biographies. Then it is a matter of discovering which type of person would have the most difficulty overcoming the story problem. One resource I love is: The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines. This book helps me identify my character’s personality type and how that type interacts/reacts to other types. 
5. What prompted you to write a western?  Some of my historicals have been set in the American West, like A Bride’s Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas, some have been set in the Colorado Rockies during the silver boom there. Another series takes place in 1905 Gilded Age Duluth, MN. My voice and my passion seem best suited for historical romance. I love the research, the richness of the settings, and weaving true historical events and people into my stories. As to visiting Dodge, I haven’t been to Dodge, even though I am a Kansan, born and raised. I have spent time in Old Abilene Town and in the Cow-Town Museum in Wichita, as well as several other western frontier town museums.
6. What are your next projects and goals? I’m currently working on a new “Bride” book titled A Bride Sews With Love in Needles, CA set to release in November of next year. It’s a World War One era story about a Harvey Girl working in the El Garces hotel in Needles and the man the town has dubbed a coward because he hasn’t enlisted, but whom my heroine finds herself falling in love with anyway.
7. Tell us more about who you are and how you became a writer—condensed version. As I mentioned above, I’m a Kansan, born and raised, and I now live in Minnesota with my husband and two children. I’m a homeschool mom with one high school student and one in college. I’ve always been a voracious reader and constant daydreamer. A few years ago, I started writing fiction, first for my own pleasure, then in pursuit of publication. In 2008, I was awarded my first contract while at the ACFW conference. My first novel released in November of 2009, and since then, a dozen more books have followed. A Bride’s Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas is my first trade-length novel.

About the Book: Hoping to leave the shadows of her shady yesteryears behind, Adeline Reid is focusing on her photography career. But when her ex-boyfriend’s compatriot in crime shows up in Dodge City her entire past is threatened by exposure. Can Addie keep her secrets while helping to catch a killer? Deputy Miles Carr’s investigation into a shopkeeper’s murder leads him to Addie’s door. Will his attraction to this female photographer keep him from catching the true culprit? Or will Addie lead him off course in more ways than one?

 Author Bio: Erica Vetsch is a transplanted Kansan now residing in Minnesota. She loves history and reading, and is blessed to be able to combine the two by writing historical fiction set in the American West. Whenever she’s not following flights of fancy in her fictional world, she’s the company bookkeeper for the family lumber business, mother of two terrific teens, wife to a man who is her total opposite and soul-mate, and avid museum patron.
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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Bride's Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas

Here's a review of a Christian historical romance I read recently:

By Erica Vetsch

This interesting book might take place in Dodge—but it’s not “Gunsmoke.”
The setting is not the Long Branch Saloon, with its “attached” brothel.  Much of this book takes place in a photography studio, the sheriff’s office, the mercantile, and the Wild West’s streets.
The leading man does carry guns on his hips, and he’s a deputy working for the legendary Bat Masterson. Of course, the leading lady is the photographer.
But another deputy, a gal that works at the mercantile, a slick handsome gambler that says he works for the railroad, also play a big part.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see a western like this written by a blacksmith, but a female wordsmyth who creates a symphony with words while she wraps the reader around her plot’s baton?
Erica Vetsch’s words have cadence, rhythm, harmony, melody, percussion—words that sing.  Vivid description,  memorable characters, but also heart ache, secrets, murder, fear, greed and the fruits of the Spirit mingling to bring out truth and victory over evil.
The whole book has a voice and style I enjoyed.  The characters are so believable I probably will think of them when I pass through Dodge again.
Here are a few samples of Erica’s writing:
Page 15: The smells of ink and beeswax furniture polish drifted over her. Everything in this bank bespoke of prosperity, from the shiny  woodwork to the burgundy velvet wallpaper to the gleaming brass hardware. A row of teller windows took up the left-hand wall. Patrons stood patiently in line waiting for their turns, and Addie took her place at the tail end.
“Lord, please let the bank manager understand….”
Page 47: Miles’ chest squeezed. Just because something was legal didn’t make it right. The gambling, drinking, and immorality of Dodge City flew in the face of everything his newfound faith and God’s Word told him.
Page 255: Miles stared down at the unconscious form now sprawled across the bunk in the first cell. “I’m surprised you stood it for as long as you did. He had no call to say those things about Fran. He’s sloppy drunk, and he’s mean afterward.” And more slippery than a pickled onion.
This is one of those books that caught me in its pages and I found myself reading late into the night and once during a meal.
I love this era, and I enjoy good writing. I definitely will be interested in reading more of Erica Vetsch’s books.
NOTE: I was provided a review copy of this book.