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Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Expectations: Overcoming Fear of Failure

First published on the Writing Prompts Blog. Check out this and other great blogposts there:

         I read a Christmas traditions quiz once. It asked, when it comes to Christmas traditions are you:

1. A Christmas Elf
2. (something I can’t remember)
3. (something I can’t remember)
4. (something I can’t remember
5. The Grinch

          I scored a straight 5–grinchy as they come. I mean, sure I dragged my almost three-year-old to the requisite Santa shoot. I bought him presents during my Black Friday shopping. And I even bought a Pillsbury pack of cinnamon rolls as a token to the lavish Christmas brunches my mom always made growing up.
         But Christmas decorations? Well, my husband extricated our artificial tree from the basement a week ago. I personally was just going to let it sit down there. I’m going to the candlelight Christmas Eve service at our church. Unlike during childhood, I no longer have to wait an entire year to play with live flame. But I still wouldn’t miss those Christmas Eve candles. (Yes, I’m one of those who waits until every single candle has been blown out and the church elders start giving you “the eye” before finally extinguishing mine.)
         Besides this arson-mania though, I really am very grinchy. I love my family and relatives, well almost all of them. ;) I have a beautiful home, a child, and enough discretionary income to make a memorable holiday for him. So why am I not into Christmas?
         I think it’s because of expectations. If I make a beautiful meal on August 15th, everyone will “ooh” and “ahh.” If I make just as lovely a meal on Christmas day, it might not be good enough to live up to the last four hundred years of American Christmas food. If I buy my son a “just-because” present on April 18th, he’ll be thrilled. But there’s pretty high expectations of what a Christmas present should look like.
        If I have a great time with extended family on February 3rd, it’s a great time. But if I have a great time with extended family on Christmas, maybe it’s still not magical enough to match the Thomas Kinkade pictures.
         Sometimes the perfect’s the enemy of the good. It’s not just true for holidays, but also for careers, jobs, houses, even relationships. I remember a time during my first month of college when one student got extremely sick and missed a couple weeks of classes. I, already freaking out about my credit-load, had dropped a class and was studying into the wee hours of the night. The sick student will certainly never catch up with the work she missed, I thought. If it was me, I’d feel compelled to drop out now.
         But the student didn’t drop out. She didn’t even drop classes. She went on to finish that semester and her entire college career. Sure the sickness probably hurt her grades that semester, but she finished. Unlike me, she wasn’t held back by the expectation of perfection.
         Do you ever find yourself crippled by expectations? Is there something you’d love to do, but you’re not sure you can do it well enough to live up to your own or others’ expectations? In just a few more days, we’ll be writing up our New Year’s resolutions. I’d encourage you to not let overly high expectations hold you back from doing something that you want to do. Maybe you won’t be perfect, but that doesn’t mean you’ll fail. Often times good, average, or even below norm really is good enough.
         Is there anything that you’ve always wanted to do that worry about failure has held you back from? Comment below.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Enter to win this Civil War novel by Stephenia McGee

    I've always been fascinated by imbalances of power and the different manifestations of "caste" in societies. The American founders wrote "all men are created equal," yet nowhere, in any society, have all humanity actually been treated as equal.
       Philosophizing aside, The Whistle Walk looks like an amazing read about the most unlikely of Civil War friendships--a pampered belle and a slave.
The Whistle Walk
by Stephenia H. McGee
A Mississippi Plantation: Civil War pits country men against one another and tears a nation asunder. Life and death are held in the balance where everyone is a slave to something.

One is born free, yet lives as a soul in bondage…

Lydia Harper never intended to purchase a slave. But when she witnesses a woman being beaten in the street, all her pretenses begin to unravel. A bride to a man she barely knows and bound by her secrets, Lydia will risk everything to save a stranger. Amid the War Between the States, the mistress of Ironwood faces the battles in her own heart and discovers strength in a way she never imagined.

The other is born to serve, yet holds the spirit of freedom…

Ruth, standing on the threshold of desperation, has lost everything she holds dear. After being pulled from the dirt, she is no longer a field hand but the personal maid to the lady of Ironwood. Ruth soon realizes adversity pays no mind to the color of skin. When propriety slips, she discovers they have more in common than she dreamed possible. In a time when fear brings the South to its knees, two women will forge a friendship in the fires of redemption and thrust Ironwood into a new future – where the battle for freedom has merely begun. 

Enter to win one of TWO e-books by commenting below. :) Make sure I have your email address by signing up on the right-hand side. (I promise not to spam you. I only send out emails if I have a book release.) Ends 1/3/15

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 Stephenia McGee is a wife, mother of two very active little boys, author, and chairman of Spirit Horse Ministries. A portion of all her book sales go to help the ministry provide spiritual and emotional growth and a quality education to at-risk young girls. Stephenia currently lives in Mississippi with her husband and sons where she writes stories of faith, redemption and the deep south.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Best and Worst Things About Small Presses: 5 Tips

  So a few days ago, I put out a 5 question quiz (read it here) on whether you should use your writing skills for

1. Traditional Publishing (read more of my advice here)
2. A Small Press
3. Self-publishing
4. Magazine Articles and Short Story Publication
5. Blogging and Blogposts
    Today here are my five top tips for publishing with a small press. Note: You do not need a literary agent in order to submit to a small press. But if your goal is to jump from a small press to a traditional publishing gig, starting off with a literary agent can only help you.
1) Beware of Frauds. When a small press offers you a contract, if you sign you will be making a legal agreement. Most small presses are really great, but make sure you're not signing away too many rights or promising to pay for their mistakes.
2) Sales Record. As an unpublished author you have zero sales records. This obviously isn't great. But you know what's even worse? Having a bad sales record. Ask the small press how many copies their average book in your genre sells. Every editor or agent will tell you a different number, but I've heard that selling 5,000 copies or more with a small press will look positive.
3) Distribution. Ask the small press about their distribution. Do they do offset printing (maybe print off 1,000 copies to start off with) or do they do Print on Demand (POD, which means print one copy at a time as it gets bought.) Most small presses I've seen do POD. This is typical, but sadly it means you'll have a hard time getting into bookstores. Ask the small press if they have had success getting into any bookstores.
4) Free Editing. Distribution wise, small presses are similar to self-publishing. The biggest bonus to going with even the smallest of presses over self-publishing is they will give you free editing. Make sure you take advantage of this! Don't be one of those authors who always thinks you know better than the editor. (Unless the editor's really horrible, but in that case refer to #1.)
5) Marketing. A small press isn't going to do much for your marketing-wise. Sure they'll list you on their website, but don't expect to get into the Washington Post book review section off their marketing. Just like self-publishing, if you go with a small press with the intention of getting enough sales numbers to move into traditional publishing, you're going to have to make the commitment to market yourself. I'm going to write several posts just about marketing, but here's the quick run-down on things you can do.
    a) Line up reviewers. Ask all your friends and contacts, especially those who blog, to write a review of your book. Email them a free e-copy and voila lots of Amazon reviews.
    b) Start a Thunderclap. This is a great new tool whereby a person can pledge one FB status or one Tweet to support your campaign. On the given day all the tweets and FB statuses go out at once. The only catch? You have to get at least 100 supporters or it dies. Here's my current Thunderclap. I need 44 more followers in the next three days or it flops. Want to support it? :)
    c) Get articles in your local small-town papers. Everyone loves a local author. And when the most exciting thing that happened in your town is a policeman held up traffic for five minutes to let a family of ducks cross the road, local reporters are looking for article ideas.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

4 Ways to Get a Traditional Publishing Contract

    So a few days ago, I put out a 5 question quiz (read it here) on whether you should use your writing skills for

 1. Traditional Publishing
2. A Small Press
3. Self-publishing
4. Magazine Articles and Short Story Publication
5. Blogging and Blogposts
       Today I want to put out a few tips about traditional publishing that I've learned through the last few years. A little about me: I'm represented by Linda Glaz of Hartline Literary Agency, but have not yet received a book contract from a traditional publisher. So you really should listen to me, because I know a TON about how to get rejected. ;)
       All of my insights are drawn from the Christian/Inspirational publishing market since that's what I have experience with. Some of the insights probably relate to general publishing as well, and some are specific to the Inspirational market. So keep that in mind.
      Note: To get a traditional publishing contract, you must first send queries to agents. Then the agent sends your work to publishing houses.
1) Choose a genre.
      New authors often think a well-written story in any genre will find a market. All I have to say to that is: I wish! Some genres sell extremely well. Others flop colossally. In general, there is a ton more inspirational NON-fiction than fiction. The lop-sidedness is only getting more pronounced as Christian publishers cut fiction slots. (My guess is that the rise in Indie fiction has cut into traditional presses' fiction sales.)
      The reason I switched from writing fiction to writing non-fiction is because of this skew. In the fiction slice of Christian titles, Texas romance seems to be the most popular. Young Adult is really, really hard to get a book contract in. And marketing a sci-fi to Christian publishers? Well, I don't envy you that.
        Now all these are just generalities. Christian publishers have published Young Adult and Sci-Fi titles .  . . but not very many. And often they pick established authors to write those books. So if you are a new author, your chances of getting picked up by a Christian traditional publisher are higher if you write non-fiction or maybe Texas Romance.
2) Author Platform
         Publishers are obsessed with author platform these days. Basically "author platform" is code for "Will the author make this book sell tons of copy?" I've been able to identify three parts of author platform.
   Author Platform: Who You Are
        This part of author platform is both the easiest and the most limiting. Are you the president of a foundation to help the homeless? Then publishers are going to welcome your book about how people can help homeless teens. But they're not going to be real interested in your book on congressional politics or Islam.
 Author Platform: What You Publish 
        "What else has this author published?" is the first question a traditional publisher will ask. This is very frustrating to the new author just getting started. How am I supposed to gain experience publishing if no one will ever publish me? The best way around this is to try short articles, short stories, guest blogposts, or other similar things that will get your name out there. Self-publishing is another way authors try to build author platform.
Author Platform: How Loud Can You Scream
         This is the part of author platform that takes the longest, but is the most doable. You need to create a blog. You need to create social media. You need to gain a following on both of these. This could take years. One sales/marketing representative from a big publisher told me, "Your writing's good. Maybe in about six years you'll have enough social media/blog followers to make us decide to publish you."
         Understand why the impatient among the authors are skipping right towards self-pubbing these days?
Coming next time: The Best and Worst Things About Small Presses

Monday, December 15, 2014

Ever struggled to understand Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John? Enter to win C. Austin Tucker's new book

 Ever thought the gospels were a bit weighty to wade through? I know I have! Paul's letters, I'm good. Ruth, Esther, Genesis, got it. But mention Mark and I find myself scrambling to remember what happened when and who's talking to whom.
        But for every problem, there is a SOLUTION. :) And C. Austin Tucker, founder of Word Truth Life ministries, goal is to help people understand the Bible. So enter to win C. Austin Tucker's chronological and accessible harmony of the gospels and those hard to understand gospels will start making sense. I intend to start reading it for my devotions.
        Never really read the Bible? This book is a great introduction since the whole focus of the Bible is on Jesus' birth, death, and resurrection as covered in the gospels.

by C. Austin Tucker

“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asked that question of his disciples in Matthew 16:15 and since that time, the question has been asked throughout the centuries. Is he Messiah, man, or myth? Lord, liar, or lunatic? God, guru, or genie?

Theories abound, and each year documentaries try to discover the “truth.” But the best place to find answers is in the Gospels themselves. God has revealed himself through nature and through history, but the ultimate revelation of himself comes through knowledge of his Son, Jesus Christ.

Each of the four Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — cover Jesus’ time on earth from its own unique perspective. They don’t contradict each other, but provide pieces of Jesus’ life that fit together beautifully to form a complete picture. Not all of the Gospels are in chronological order; therefore we can only guess about the chronology of certain events.

It’s essential to understand that it’s not as important when events occurred, only that they did occur. The Chronological Word Truth Life Bible: Behold the Lamb seeks to provide a possible sequence of events, without omitting any of the information that each Gospel uniquely provides. But it doesn’t presume to be the final authority; it’s only one interpretation among many. It’s not meant to be a replacement for reading and studying the Gospels in full for yourself.

The Chronological Word Truth Life Bible was born of the desire to provide a Bible version that’s easier to read and understand. Although there are many differences in comparison with traditional Bibles, Word Truth Life Ministries is committed to acknowledging the full and complete authority of Scripture, remaining true to its entire message. Therefore, despite its different packaging, unique formatting, and shorter length, none of the Bible’s content is missing.
Here are just a few benefits of The Chronological Word Truth Life Bible:
It’s chronological – Events are placed in the order that they occurred, as far as could be determined.
It’s harmonized – The harmonization feature makes this Bible unique. It means scriptures that provide the same information are merged into one narrative.
It’s shorter – Because of the harmonization feature, all four Gospels can be read in half the time it would normally take, but no information is lost.
It’s uniquely formatted – For example:
  • Chapters and verses have been removed from within the narratives to prevent unnatural breaks in the storyline. However, scripture references are present in the heading of each section for those who prefer them.
  • Scripture references are aligned right instead of left; this makes it easier to read the Bible like a novel, as the headings don’t interfere with or interrupt the reading flow.
  • Tables and bullets are used to break up text, making the information easier to understand.
  • Dialogue is formatted as is common in novels, making it easier to follow the speaker.

Other available books in the series include The Complete Book of Genesis and The Complete Book of Exodus, both available on Amazon’s Kindle. It is the hope that all the books in this series will help you Explore the Word, Embrace the Truth, and Experience Life!

Enter to win one of two print copies of this book by commenting below. (Make sure I have your email address to get you the prize by signing up for my e-newsletter on the righthand side.) Ends 12/25/2014 
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C. Austin Tucker holds a Master’s Degree in Biblical Studies and is the founder of Word Truth Life Ministries, an organization dedicated to helping people read and understand the Bible.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Should You Be An Author?: 5 Ways to Find Out, part 2

     Today, we're continuing with the quiz I started two days ago, asking what type of writing you should go into. Here are the five publishing options.
        To read part one and look at the first two questions in the quiz, go here.

1. Traditional Publishing
2. Small Press
3. Self-publishing
4. Magazine Articles and Short Story Publication
5. Blogging and Blogposts
Question #3: How Many Books Do You Have in You?

      Is this book you're working on the one story you must tell and then you'll never write another book? Or do you have dozens of ideas for books? I met plenty of one-book writers at my writing conference. Many were older women who wanted to tell their children and grandchildren the story of their or their parents' lives.
            If this is you, self-publishing copies to give to family and friends is probably the way to go. Memoirs, unless they're of JFK or Madonna, don't really sell well. And since this is a personal venture for you, chances are you're not going to want to chop and change it to fit the standards of what a publisher says is selling these days. Don't waste years querying agents and publishers if your main goal is to see your one story in print. Just click upload on Amazon's Createspace and voila you have your book.

 Question #4: Are You Looking for Income?

            I spoke with one young woman who said she wanted to work on her writing skills so she could make some money. She's in for disappointment. Even if you do end up on the NYT bestseller list and make a boatload of money, the waiting period beforehand will be long. Don't go into book writing because you need a paycheck next month.
            Most of the highly successful authors I met at the writing conference who had dozens of books out with big publishing firms, still said their primary income came from a different source. One did professional editing, the other had a husband who was the main wage earner and didn't primarily rely on her income.
            Engineering, nursing, teaching, pretty much any other career is more lucrative than writing. If the attraction of writing income is as a secondary rather than primary income, (perhaps you're a stay-at-home mom and would like to make some extra income during naptime), there are still better ways. For example, teaching piano lessons from your home, selling baby bibs or handmade cards, or grading papers for online homeschool co-ops all make a ton more money than novel writing.
            If you are looking to combine writing and income, blogging and article writing are better bets than novels. Unfortunately, magazine writing isn't as lucrative as it used to be since more and more magazines are giving away content for free online. But if you have a good blog, you can monetize it. And places like connect you with companies who will pay you to review their products. Still, we're talking pennies not thousands.


#5: How Good Are You At Marketing Yourself?

      If you're good at marketing, you can make a mediocre book sell. If you're lousy at marketing, even the best-written book may flounder. Traditional publishers are pushing harder and harder for their authors to have a "platform" i.e. be able to market their books to thousands. Personally, I think publishers' new motto is "It's easier to teach a marketer how to write, than to teach a writer how to market."
      If you're an awesome marketer with connections to thousands of people, self-publishing may work incredibly well for you. Blogging could also bring in money. If you're not a good marketer, either stick to places that will market your writing for you like magazines or traditional publishers, or take a good honest look at how into this writing dream of yours you are. Because even a traditional publisher is going to insist that you market yourself. Once you're a NYT bestseller, than the publishers will spend marketing dollars on you. But before that, you're expected to make your own books sell.

So after taking this quiz, (you can take part 1 of the quiz here), where do you think you fit in the five publishing options?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Enter to Win This Novel About Cults, New Beginnings, and Redemption by Carole Brown

       How many novels talk about cults? I'm intrigued all ready. Read more about Carol Brown and her book The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman below.

The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman
by Carole Brown
Caralynne Hayman is angry and bitter over the abuse and death of her eleven-year- old daughter from the hands of her religious group, The Children of Righteous Cain. When her husband suffers a sudden heart attack, she does nothing to help him. In her eyes someone needs to pay, and if that means all of the men in the group, then so be it. 

Dayne MacFarland is sent away to college by the senior elder of the group to learn ministry. When he returns after finding salvation, determined to bring the truth to the people he’s known all his life, he rediscovers Cara and realizes the love he once felt for her is still deeply embedded within his heart.  

Dayne faces men unwilling to turn their backs on the cult training he despises. Cara faces men who follow their leader in abuse toward their wives and the young girls of the group. Cara is considered rebellious and inappropriate to befriend. Dayne is the apple of Elder Simmons’ eye—until he takes a stand against their teachings. 

Can Cara overcome the feelings that have governed her most of her life? Can she learn to trust Dayne, and most of all a God whom she sees as uncaring—if he’s really there at all? Only Dayne’s prayers and love can reach Cara and show her the way to redemption, and Cara must recognize and accept God’s love and forgiveness before she goes too far.
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Enter to win this amazing story by commenting below. (Make sure I have your email address to contact you when you win! You can easily get it to me by signing up for my e-newsletter on the right-hand side.) Ends 12/22/2014
Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, Carole Brown enjoys mentoring beginning writers. She loves to weave suspense and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout
for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their
I also am part of several other blogs:
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Friday, December 12, 2014

Should You Be An Author?: 5 Ways to Find Out

     At every writer's conference or gathering of authors, I hear the same refrain from agents, editors,  publishers, and other authors. "Too many people want to write. Less people should try to become authors."

       I disagree. Writing like reading is an innate part of all of us. Whether it's a third grader writing a mother's day poem or a ninety-year-old grandfather penning his life wisdom for his descendants to read, everyone has an audience they can touch with their words.

      That said, not everyone who has something to write is going to be a New York Times bestseller. More than 80% of Americans talk about wanting to publish a book someday. For most of those Americans, that's an unrealistic dream. When I was at a writer's conference this fall, I met a lot of people who were headed towards complete frustration chasing that elusive fantasy. And wasting time and money on the way.

       So you're reading this because you, or perhaps your child or someone you mentor, wants to become a published author. How can you look ahead and see if this author train is a good one to jump on?

       As many of you know, I'm pursuing that New York Times bestseller dream right now. Here are some questions I regularly ask myself as I put ever more time and energy into the ride.

        The good thing about this quiz is there are a lot more options than NYT bestseller. Even if you decide you're not cut out for the NYT bestseller list, your writing still does have an audience.

        Here are 5 great current day publishing options. I'll discuss each in more depth in future blogposts in this series.

1. Traditional Publishing. A publisher like Random House or Zondervan takes your book, pays you an advance, publishes your book, and you end up in bookstores. In order to submit a book proposal to big publishing houses you will need a literary agent.
2. Small Press. A startup press like Lighthouse Publishing or Taegais. Small presses usually offer Print On Demand (POD) services, which means instead of printing several thousand books and sending them to bookstores, books are printed one at a time and usually sold through online distributers like Amazon. You usually don't need an agent to go through a small press.

3. Self-publishing. These days you can self-publish for free through Amazon's self-publishing POD arm. Other companies charge up to 12,000 dollars to self-publish a book, but seriously who can argue with free?

4. Magazine Articles and Short Story Publication. Pretty self-explanatory. You can look up different magazines and online publications submission requirements online. Thought Catalog is a great place to start for non-fiction submissions.

5. Blogging and Blogposts. You can start your own blog for free on Blogger or Wordpress.

6. Personal memoir for Family/Friends. If your book is a personal story then maybe it's something you just want to distribute to family members and family friends. Or since self-publishing is so cheap, you could self-publish on Amazon and then buy copies for your family and friends. This is a great way to pass on wisdom to future generations.

Question #1: How Old Are You?

      Even if your book is fantastic, getting a literary agent will take a year or two. Then the agent will want you to work on your social media and author platform for a year or two while he tries to find you a good publisher. Then once you sign the book contract the publisher will still take two more years to get your book to print. We're already up to six years. A small press will usually take one year instead of two years to go to print, but it's still going to be a while.

 1. I'm young and spry and have time to waste. (All publishing options are open to you.)

2. I'm in my golden years and aging faster than I'd like. (I wouldn't waste six years trying to find a traditional publisher. Write the words you need to write and get them out there. Besides, traditional publishers are usually looking to invest in a 20-year career.)

Question #2: Are You a Fast Writer/Reader?

      Of course you become a faster writer as you work at it. But in general are you the type of person who whizzes through books and dashes through paragraphs?
       The faster a writer/reader you are, the more opportunities you have to make it on the New York Times bestseller list. Traditional publishers like to invest in careers of authors who write dozens of books, not just one novel that you spent 20 years writing.
       If you're the type of person who takes 20 years to write one novel, I'd suggest either sticking to shorter formats such as articles, blogs, children's books or self-publishing that one perfected novel.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

What Happens When You Put a FEMALE Counselor in a Male Dorm of 500 Hard-Partying Guys?

Read all about it in this guest blogpost by author Connie Almony

by Connie Almony

         Four years ago, I set out to write a novel entitled One Among Men, about a woman whose job requires she live with 500, hard-partying college guys, and though that first manuscript would not be my debut release, I always knew I would dedicate it to my bosses, Ken and MaeBeth Williams. Why? Because in the midst of a blurring worldview, they led me to something that would bring it much needed focus. As many already know, the story of One Among Men was inspired by my experience as a resident director living in an all-male dorm. (Yes, I am female) Though I did not share quite the  prodigal past that Samantha Hart (the main character) had, I was also not as strong in my Christian faith in graduate school as she was.
          I’d spent years as a Sociology undergrad, learning about something called “Little-t truth” and how our beliefs are only opinions. In graduate school, one class devoted half the semester to “value-free” counseling that taught therapists to respect the beliefs of individuals. Sounds great, doesn’t it? However, the latter half focused on something called “affirmative counseling” designed to empower clients to develop values these teachers believed to be best. Considering many of my professors appeared to think the Christian religion was the root of mental illness, the teaching suggested all values were fine except those propagated by Christians. Given it was intimated their ideas were backed by research, I towed the party line. Later, I discovered there was no such research. In fact, there is currently much research showing the opposite!
          When I received my counseling degree and flipped through the Yellow Pages looking for a job, I found a counseling center boldly displaying a little fish insignia and calling themselves Christian. According to my education, this was an oxymoron, but it intrigued me just the same. I decided to call them. The director, Ken Williams, was one of the few directors of a counseling center who’d agree to meet with me—and my life was forever changed.
          God was very deliberate in His timing. After all my wonderful education on little-t truths, value-less and “affirmative” counseling, I’d spent an entire semester living in an all-male dorm watching how these ideas could ruin lives. I’d heard stories of rapists getting away with their actions because it was now okay for people to “enjoy” rough sex. I saw women sending signals that the men really could no longer decipher. I saw girls being pressured to do things they didn’t want to, in the name of “freedom.” I saw students testing boundaries only because they could. I saw young people trying to define themselves and their purpose with no clear guidance on how to do it. I saw suicide, and sexual abuse of minors (fourteen year olds left passed out, naked in the hallway) that even parents didn’t seem to care about. It was time for me to finally see God’s plan—the Bible.
          Though I would have told you I was a Christian all my life, it wasn’t until Ken, MaeBeth, and all my wonderful colleagues at Christian Counseling Associates, Inc. opened the Bible to me, that I truly understood the greatness of our God, the mercy of our Savior, and the extraordinary guidance of
His Holy Spirit. Not just by what I read, but how I saw it lived out in their lives on a daily basis. With this in mind, I realized that though we all have opinions about the world (what my Sociology professors called “Little-t truths”), there really is such a thing as Truth with a capital T. We may not all agree on what it is, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I know that once I began seeing this  wonderful book, The Holy Bible, as the Word of God, my life began to make sense. For me, THAT is a Big-T Truth! Thank you Ken and MaeBeth for opening this world to me.

Connie Almony is trained as a mental health therapist and likes to mix a little fun with the serious stuff of life. She was a 2012 semi-finalist in the Genesis Contest for Women’s Fiction and was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Winter 2012 WOW Flash Fiction Contest. She is the author of One Among Men and At the Edge of a Dark Forest, a modern-day re-telling of Beauty and the Beast about a war-vet, amputee struggling with PTSD.
      You can find Connie on the web at, and hosting the following blogs:,, and
You can also meet her on the following social media outlets:

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Introverts Unite: Win a free copy of this novel

Ruth O'Neil

     After the death of her father, painfully shy and introverted Shelly finds her world turned upside down. She is forced to speak with people and she may even have to move from her comfortable apartment. Sorting through her father’s possessions at his house brings back many memories, including how they would research her mom’s genealogy so that in a way, she could get to know her mother’s family, who are all deceased. Shelly wonders why her dad never researched his own family and she never remembers any family events. Why? She begins a journey that takes her to places she never dreamed. Throughout the entire story, God nudges Shelly to get out of her comfort zone. That’s easy for some, but for Shelly it may almost be impossible.

What People are Saying:
      All of us struggle from time to time with certain strongholds in our lives. "Belonging" is a moving story about a young woman, Shelly, who had a very distinct stronghold in her life. Shelly's character is developed over time--from a shy, withdrawn, unsociable young lady blossoming into a spiritually growing woman who enjoys sharing her gifts with others. Stepping out of the comfort zone to move forward in Faith is hard for all of us. Shelly shows how this can be done in small steps while being obedient to God. Even though the book was written in an easy to read style, there are many lessons we can learn from "Belonging", including the blessings we can receive even while going through difficult circumstances. The story itself was simple and light, and lessons from Scripture were also used appropriately.

          This book was encouraging and uplifting. I enjoyed this story of Shelly who had been held captive most of her life by her shyness and being such an introvert. Through the tragedy of losing her father and other circumstances she was gradually able to come out of her shell. The story gives us all hope of overcoming problems in life if we are faithful to God and let Him help us. I liked how Shelly was able to still have the influence of her father through his devotional book to help her with all the decisions and choices she had to make. "Belonging had twists and turns, like life, to make it an interesting read. I hope there is going to be a second book. I found that I cried, laughed, learned and could relate, which to me means a good book. This story touches something deep inside.

Here's a link for the trailer -
Purchase this book and others at

Win a free e-copy by commenting below. (If I don't have your email address, sign up for my e-newsletter on the right-hand side so I know how to contact you when you win. :)) Ends 1/1/15

About the Author:
Ruth O’Neil, born and raised in upstate New York, attended Houghton College. She has been a freelance writer for more than 20 years, publishing hundreds of articles in dozens of publications. Ruth spends her spare time quilting, scrapbooking, and camping with her family. You can visit her at
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Monday, December 8, 2014

A Delightful Christmas Love Story--Snowflake Tiara by Valerie Comer

           Historical stories with a love interest always catch my eye. And Snowflake Tiara not only has a historical, but also a contemporary story. Read more about it below and enter to win.

Snowflake Tiara
by Valerie Comer

           Wrap yourself in a warm quilt. Light a fire in the fireplace. Turn on your favorite Christmas carols — especially Away in a Manger. Grab a Christmas cookie or two and fix a mug of hot cocoa.
          Ready? It's time to snuggle up and read a delightful pair of stories set in wintry Montana in 1889 and 2014.
         What if you were caught doing something good… but the man you loved didn't see it that way? Heroines in both novellas face this dilemma.
          The Debutante Queen by Angela Breidenbach ~ 1889 (Helena, MT): Calista Blythe enters the first Miss Snowflake Pageant celebrating Montana statehood to expose the plight of street urchins. But if her hidden indentured orphan is discovered, Calista’s reputation and her budding romance with pageant organizer, Albert Shanahan, could both unravel. Will love or law prevail?
           More Than a Tiara by Valerie Comer ~ 2014 (Helena, MT): Marisa Hiller’s interest in competing in Miss Snowflake Pageant for the city of Helena’s 150th anniversary is at zip zero zilch when she discovers the official photographer is Jase Mackie. Can Jase make amends for past mistakes and offer her, not only a tiara, but a partner in her crusade to help needy children and families?

What Readers Are Saying?
           "This fun, 2-in-1 novel will have you craving Christmas no matter what time of year you read it. Between the delightful imagery of snow- covered Helena, Montana, bedecked in holiday finery, to the delectable smell of gingerbread, hot cocoa, and fresh Christmas trees, Angela Breidenbach and Valerie Comer do an amazing job of transporting you into their story world."
           "I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Helena, Montana—both the historical city and the modern one. Angela and Valerie have hit on a novel (no pun intended) idea. Both stories contain romance and fun, plus behind the scenes looks at beauty pageants and a gentle reminder that life is so much more rewarding when we help others."

Enter to win! Way to complicated? Just comment below for a chance to win. (And if you haven't, sign up for my e-newsletter on the righthand side so that I have your email address to contact you when you win.)
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About Valerie
Valerie Comer’s life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local foods movement as well as their creation-care-centric church. She only hopes her creations enjoy their happily ever afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters. Valerie writes Farm Lit where food meets faith, injecting experience laced with humor into her award-winning Farm Fresh Romance stories. Read Snowflake Tiara to see how she blended her passion for local food with a Christmas story set in a beauty pageant world.
Please visit Valerie at her website to join her mailing list, read her blog, or connect with her on social media. Links to purchase Snowflake Tiara in various formats can be found at It is currently available as an ebook for only 99 cents.

Friday, December 5, 2014

DIY Christmas Gifts: Guest Post

My friend, an attorney and mother to two little boys close to Joe-Joe's age, recently started a blog. Cleverly entitled, From Court Date to Playdate, my friend's blog features a host of DIY and craft ideas as well as musings about her transition from full time lawyer to full time mom.

Below is a DIY article Robyn wrote about some spectacular Christmas gifts she made. I'm so stealing her idea for the Broncos mug. Find more cool craft and DIY ideas on her blog:

More DIY
 by Robyn

So I was feeling creative again and decided to do another slew of Christmas gifts. I have to say that I am loving my oil based sharpie pens. And for what they cost, I am trying to get my money out of them. So here are some more sharpie gifts. And with all of these gifts I put them in a cool oven, brought to 350 and let sit for 30 minutes then turned off oven and let them cool down before taking them out. This cures the paint. While it will be probably best to hand wash these I have a wine glass I did that I throw in the dishwasher top rack all the time and it has held up really well.
The first is a beer mug that I got at the dollar store. I printed off favorite sports teams of the men in our family/friend group and taped the outline to the inside of the glass and then traced over it with the pen. Hint: if you make a mistake have rubbing alcohol ready and if you don’t have any handy then hand sanitizer works just fine so don’t be afraid to make a mistake. I had to slightly free hand the guitar one. With that one I found a guitar trace design online with my phone and then stuck my phone in the glass because I didn’t have a printer handy.
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Then I went on to gifts for the ladies in our family/friend group. For shipping purposes I chose coffee mugs but also did some wine glasses. The dollar store had foam type alphabet stickers that worked fine and were a lot cheaper than fancy alphabet stickers at a craft store. I just chose the letter, stuck it on straight, put dots around it and then gradually came out with the dots getting further apart. Peel off the sticker and there you go.
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Last but not least are Santa Plates. I made one of these at our MOPS (Mother of Preschoolers) meeting and came home ready to make some more for Christmas gifts.
Visit Robyn's blog:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Book Giveaway: Detective Series for Elementary School Kids Featuring Hero Who Has Cerebral Palsy

Do you have an elementary-school aged child, relative, or friend who has a special need? Would you like to make your child more comfortable with the diversity of special needs in his or her friends? Then this detective series is a must read for you. Not only is it a rollicking read, the author teaches children with special needs and the hero uses a wheelchair.
Romeo Riley
by April M. Whitt
Meet Romeo Riley: The world’s first bumbling detective on wheels!
Written by a teacher of students with special needs; April M. Whitt noticed a serious lack of funny books featuring kids with disabilities. “My students enjoyed many of the popular books on the market but I wondered how they could identify with characters whose lives were so different from theirs. That’s when I thought—why couldn’t there be a funny book with crazy adventures about characters who have special needs? Bang, that’s when Romeo was born!”
Romeo was born with cerebral palsy. His CP affects his speech and mobility. It does not, however, affect his ability to solve mysteries! He stays on the go in his power wheelchair and speaks with an electronic communication device. But there are no limits to the trouble he get into! Get ready to laugh along with him through his misguided adventures!    
ENTER to win the ENTIRE series by commenting below. If you haven't already, sign up for my e-newsletter on the right so I have your email address to contact you when you win. Ends 12/12/14
Great book for teaching diversity to other students as well!
Author/illustrator April M. Whitt was born in West Palm Beach Florida. She’s been an English teacher and Creative Writing Instructor and she currently works with kids who have special needs. She loves children's books, and she is known for her many disguises and for being in two places at the same time.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Better than Cyber Monday: Win 30 Copies of a children's story about the 3 Magi's Wives

      I don't know about your child, but my child's just a little bit addicted to the ipad. Until I met author James Allen though, I didn't know that some children's books come on an ipad ap as well as an on ebook.
     Read more about this exciting Christmas story about the Magi's wives and enter to win the THIRTY copies that James Allen is very generously giving away. I'm off to get my two-year-old, Joe-Joe into the Christmas spirit by getting him an ipad copy. :)
Three Wise Queens
James Allen 
      Years ago, my daughter asked if the three wise kings had wives, and that inspired me to write 3 Wise Queens. I have always loved the story of the Wise Men, and I thought a story of wise queens would be one that girls might especially enjoy.

         3 Wise Queens is a storybook app that tells the story of Hekima, Sophia and Mingzhi who—guided by prophecy and a star—embark on a journey across three continents to find a baby who will change the world forever. Children will enjoy the numerous interactive elements, including floating cherry blossoms, sailing ships and roaring lions. Narration is activated by touching the angel icon at the bottom of each page.
       3 Wise Queens expands on the beloved Christmas story in which Wise Men bring gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to Jesus at his birth. In this reverent and yet playful retelling of the story, we come to understand that the choice of those gifts is based largely on the advice of their wives—the Wise Queens. When the men select offerings fit for an earthly king, the Wise Queens guide them toward gifts that are more suitable for the Heavenly King they are expecting.
       3 Wise Queens is more than a joyous retelling of the epiphany story. With interactivity on every page, the app is packed with touch and tilt-activated movement and sound. Children will enjoy finding hidden birds and panda bears in Mingzhi’s garden, playing with Sophia’s gift of frankincense, and watching with Hekima as a singing choir of angels rises into the night sky. Lush illustrations and original musical arrangements celebrate the cultures of Africa, Europe and Asia.
Enter to win one of 30 prizes! The author is giving away 15 free downloads of the ipad book app and 15 free ebook copies.
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Way too complicated? Enter the giveaway by leaving a comment below and signing up for my e-newsletter on the right-hand side (so I have your email address and can contact you when you win. I promise not to spam you! If you've already signed up, then I have your email address so just comment and you will be entered in the giveaway.)
App Store link for ipad ap:

Author James Allen is a lifelong member of the United Methodist Church, has worked in educational children's media for 15 years and holds a Master’s Degree in Communication. Allen’s love of art history guided the artwork for this app, brought alive by illustrator AndrĂ¡s Barlogh. Parents will be thrilled by the quality of the music by Michael Dauterman, a professional choir director with a Master’s Degree in Sacred Music. Mary Toney rounds out this skillful team with her warm narration.

Find James Allen at the following links: