Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thoughtful Thursdays ~ Book Review: Under A Desert Sky

Some of the first “grown up” books I can remember reading were in the historical fiction genre. “Prairie romances” I think they’re called now. These days, I still love reading books set in a different time, where the plot and characterizations are influenced by the mores of the day and both time and place are used to add dimension to a fantastic story.

And I recently read a great one. Under A Desert Sky counts as historical fiction because it’s set in pre-World War II New Mexico. It counts as a romance because, well, there’s love in the air. And, it counts as suspense because it opens with a murder and ends with . . . well, you’ll have to read it to find out. Trust me. It has a twist.

So we’ll call it historical romantic suspense. In my opinion, the best of three worlds!

DiAnn Mills set Under A Desert Sky at Ghost Ranch after she spent some time there a few years ago. Eva Fortier, our heroine, is on the run after witnessing a grisly murder. She hopes to find safety. What she finds is a whole new way of life . . . and love.

But nothing is as it seems. And nothing is easy. With a compelling setting, fiery characters, racial tension, challenged faith and blossoming romance, Under A Desert Sky will keep you turning pages long after you should have gone to bed.

Well, maybe you have more self-control, but that’s what happened to me.

Extra! Extra! Anyone who’d like to hear from DiAnn about how she got the idea for Under A Desert Sky can check out this interview with Alton Gansky from the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference website.

Disclaimer: DiAnn Mills sent me this book, and included me in the acknowledgements, neither of which she needed to do. I didn't actually "do" anything - just put her in touch with someone who could help. She in no way expected a review on this blog.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Mindful Mondays ~ There's a Psalm for That

You’ve seen the commercials.

Need to find a restaurant that serves sushi at 3AM? There’s an app for that.

Need to find a store that sells minnows and hair gel? There’s an app for that.

Need to know where the cheapest gas, tastiest fajitas or creepiest movies are? There’s an app for that, too.

With a touch, a swipe, a download, we can get our hands on just about anything we need.

But sometimes, life calls for something stronger than an app.

And as current as tomorrow’s headlines, the Bible comes through … with a Psalm. No matter what life has thrown at you, you can browse through the Psalms and find one that fits.

Feeling happy? There’s a Psalm for that. (Psalm 100)

Feeling blue? There’s a Psalm for that. (Psalm 88)

Floating on a cloud without a care? Suffering pain, persecution, problems with friends and family? There’s a Psalm for all of that, too. (Psalm 57)

But what if you don’t know what you feel?

What if you know you should trust, but feel defeated and alone? Or what if you know God’s supposed to have everything under control, but you’re starting to wonder if maybe He’s dropped the ball?

You guessed it, there’s a Psalm for that. (Quite a few actually. Psalm 22, 42 & 69 come to mind but there are a bunch more.)

In the past few weeks, I’ve needed help in all these areas…I’ve cried out for grace, I’ve interceded for mercy, I’ve asked God “why” and “how long” and “are you sure you know what you’re doing?” and I’ve been blown away by how awesome, powerful, faithful and loving God is.

Some people think the Bible is archaic and obsolete.

But it seems to me God is on the cutting edge.

Because no matter where you are and no matter what you need . . .
He’s got a Psalm for that.

What about you? Do you have a favorite Psalm? Share it with us in the comments.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thoughtful Thursdays ~ Book Review: Call of a Coward

I love to read fiction. I love to be transported to places I’ve never been and experience thrills that set my heart racing—as I sit snug on the sofa in my pajamas, sipping coffee and eating some form of chocolate.

I also enjoy non-fiction. My spirit responds to challenging words that inspire me to experience more of the abundant life God designed for me.

It’s a rare thing to find non-fiction that reads like fiction. To know that the events that have you biting your nails as you flip page after page, that have you marveling at the way God works—really did happen to a real person.

When you find a modern story that didn’t develop in the mind of man but grew out of the heart of God—well, you’ve found a treasure.

Call of a Coward by Marcia Moston is just such a rare jewel. It begins with this line…

”The problem with promising God you’ll follow Him wherever He leads is that you just might have to go.”

And you know from that moment - you’re in for an adventure.

If you believe that following God is easy and predictable, then Call of a Coward will shatter your preconceived notions of what answering God’s call entails.

In vivid language, Marcia Moston takes us on an intimate journey of faith. We feel her shock in the moment her husband informs her he feels God calling them to a remote Guatemalan village. We sympathize as she negotiates with God for her daughter’s safety. We ache with her when fear and exhaustion overwhelm her.

With humor and honesty, Call of a Coward gives us a glimpse into how God is working today. And there’s nothing predictable about it. Even when things don’t go as expected, we see how nothing done for Him is ever wasted.
In the next few weeks, I’ll be participating in a blog tour for Call of a Coward and plan to have an interview with Marcia. But there’s no need to wait to learn more! Call of a Coward is available from WestBow Press, Amazon and Barnes & Noble and is available in e-book formats for your Nook or Kindle.

In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that Marcia and I are both active in the Upstate Fellowship of Christian Writers, as well as an on-line group, The Light Brigade. I've had the joy of celebrating her publication with her and I can say with confidence that her heart's desire is for those who read Call of a Coward to be drawn into a deeper and more radical walk with their Savior.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mindful Mondays ~ What's Better than Coffee?

A photo of a cup of coffee.Image via Wikipedia
Psalm 54:4 ~ Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life. (ESV)

Until recently, I was a social coffee drinker. I love a good mocha with friends or a frappucino on a hot day. But all that changed a few months ago. Concurrent with the birth of my third child, I became one of “those” people. The ones you shouldn’t mess with until they’ve had their first cup of coffee and who aren’t really awake until they’re on their second.

I guess it was just a matter of time before coffee went from being an occasional treat to a morning ritual. I haven’t slept through the night in almost a year. And the more sleep I lost to midnight and 3AM feedings, the more caffeine became my friend.

Prior to our most recent addition, I would have described my life as a three-ring circus. Lots of activity, but with a reasonable amount of order. Now, I’d have to say my life more closely resembles a hurricane. Swirling and buffeting, with high winds generating huge waves.

People ask me how I do it. My response? I don’t. In my own strength, I can do nothing. On my own, the hurricane would overwhelm the shoreline of my life and nothing, not even a strong cup of French roast, would be able to get me through my day.

There are still times when I fall into the trap of thinking that I have to hold everything together. And the more I think that way, the more everything seems to fall apart.

But when I lean into my Heavenly Father, He pulls me into the eye of the hurricane. The peaceful spot in the middle. The one place where I can catch my breath, even as everything swirls around me.

He is the one who holds me, and my life, together. The coffee helps get me going in the morning, but it is His help that carries me through each and every day.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thoughtful Thursdays ~ Blog Tour: Social Media Marketing for Writers by Edie Melson

I'm thrilled to kick off the blog tour for Social Media Marketing for Writers. Edie Melson is one of my favorite people. She has taken me under her wing and carved time out of her schedule to mentor me as I navigate the winding path to publication.

Here are a few things you should know about Edie:

1. She is the busiest woman alive. I have 3 young children so I know what busy looks like. Edie’s workload terrifies me!

2. One reason Edie is so busy is because she’s so incredibly good at what she does and has more job offers than she can handle.

3. The other reason she’s so busy is because she has such a heart for others that it’s hard for her to say no. (Our writing group is going to have to stage an intervention if she keeps saying yes).

4. Edie also has a heart for teaching writers. She wants to see them succeed, wants to see them improve and wants to spare them from making newbie mistakes.

5. Edie is a social media guru. At writers conferences across the nation, she teaches classes on establishing your web presence, writing for the web and social media.

Edie Melson
 Now, she’s taken the material that she presents at conferences and on the many blogs she contributes to and compiled all of it into an e-book, Social Media Marketing for Writers and it's available for download to your Kindle or Nook. If you don't have a Kindle or a Nook, both offer free applications for your PC or Mac.

Here’s the review I wrote for Amazon and Barnes and Noble:

Whether you're an aspiring writer building your platform, a newly published author marketing your first book or an established novelist striving to connect with your readers, Social Media Marketing for Writers will give you all the tools you need to establish your virtual presence—and keep your sanity while you do it.

Navigating social media can be overwhelming, but this guide gives step by step instructions for everything from setting up your first blog to structuring your daily on-line activities so you still have time to do what writers do best—write.

If you want to maximize your successes while streamlining your efforts, Social Media Marketing for Writers is the best place to start.

What I didn’t say is that while this book is written for writers, it's also an invaluable resource for musicians, artists, small business owners or anyone in direct sales.

If you have a product and need a platform, you will benefit from this book.

The other thing I didn’t say is that I had the privilege of sitting down with Edie a few weeks before this book came out and she gave me many of the strategies she presents in this book. I’ve only just begun implementing them, but a quick check of my blog stats and Twitter followers indicates that her methods are already working for me.

I’m sure they’ll work for you, too! If you haven’t yet, what are you waiting for?

Download Social Media Marketing for Writers now!
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Monday, July 11, 2011

Mindful Mondays ~ Basement Blessings

Matthew 6:8b-For your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. (ESV)

Summertime in South Carolina means afternoons so hot you start sweating before you get one flip-flop out the door. And this summer, it's meant frequent thunderstorms so powerful they hurl hail and break branches all over the neighborhood.

Summertime is supposed to be a time when the living is easy. When schedules recede and fun reigns supreme.

At least that’s what I hear.

In my world, summertime means long days with children who even at their tender ages understand what I mean when I say “It’s too hot to play outside.” If they forget, a few minutes in the pizza oven we call our backyard is all it takes to remind them.

Plus, we have a brand new little man and the sun and heat are just too much for baby soft skin and a body that’s still learning how to regulate temperature.

So what’s a mommy to do? I’d be lying if I didn’t say sometimes the answer is, “Turn on the TV.” But sometimes the answer is, “Let’s go down to the basement.”

I didn’t grow up with a basement. Never thought much about them. Didn’t want one, much less think I might ever need one. In fact, what I wanted was a screened in porch with a ceiling fan.

But as I sit here in the cool of the basement, watching my children ride their bikes around in circles, laughing and giggling and burning off energy at a glorious pace, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude.

Because my Abba knew.

He knew what I needed—not just before I asked—but before I even had the good sense to think to ask.

He’s like that, my Abba.

Basement blessings abound. Gifts from my Abba. The One who sometimes chooses to give me, not what I think I want, but what He knows I need.

I wonder if He waits for me to realize that He’s stepped into my world and showered me with love. I wonder how many times I’ve missed it because I wasn’t paying attention to the still small voice that says, “This is from me to you. I’m glad you like it sweetheart.”

Because He’s like that, my Abba.

What sort of basement blessings has He given you recently? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Book Review: Writing Fiction For All You're Worth

I read a lot of books on writing. I have to. I blog about them once a month, over at The Write Conversation. And so far, I’ve learned something valuable from each book I’ve read.

However, I can’t say they’ve all been page-turners. Useful? Absolutely. Pleasurable reading? Not always. Let’s face it. Some books on the craft of writing read more like a textbook than a novel.

But not all of them. James Scott Bell has written some of the classic writing texts of our time—Plot & Structure, Revision & Self-Editing, and The Art of War for Writers. All of which should be on your shelf if they aren’t already. And all of them downright enjoyable reading.

I follow Bell on Twitter (@JamesScottBell) and I make it a point to stop by the blog, The Kill Zone, every Sunday to read his posts.

So when I heard he had an e-book out that was a compilation of many of his previous posts on The Kill Zone as well as some new material, I was intrigued.

When I found it was available for $2.99 as a Nook or Kindle download, I was sold. Sure, I could go the The Kill Zone and spend hours hunting through months of posts. But I have a life.

Besides, there are more than blog posts included in Writing Fiction For All Your Worth. We get a peak inside Bell’s writing notebook, interviews with successful authors, and “Consider Your Worth” questions to make you think deeper about where you are as a writer.

And this book is funny. I wondered if I found some sections funny because I read them at 3AM while feeding a newborn. And just about anything can be amusing at 3AM. But a quick re-read at a more respectable hour confirmed it. This book is a fun read that’s also packed full of writing wisdom.

After a brief introduction, the book is divided into three main sections. The Writing World delves into the digital revolution and the rise of self-publishing. The Writing Life covers everything from Bell’s personal writing routine to practical and sometimes unusual methods writers use to keep their heads in the game and their fingers flying. The Writing Craft hits on first lines, last pages and everything in between.

While the bite-sized sections in this book make it easy to read in increments, you’ll find yourself wanting to read just one more, and then another. And when you’ve finished, you’ll be itching to sit down at the keyboard and write for all you’re worth.

Note: You don’t have to own a Nook or Kindle to enjoy this or any other e-book. Both Nook & Kindle are available as free downloads to your smartphone, PC or Mac.
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