Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Guest Post: Inspired by a True Story

As a debut novelist, I’m enjoying the opportunity to do book signings. I’ve done four since Fairer than Morning released on May 10th, and each event has taught me something new about readers.
One lesson has been constant for all my signings. Readers who don’t usually read inspirational fiction may decide to read a novel if they discover it’s based on a true story.
Time after time, a curious customer would take interest in my book because it’s about a real Christian family who worked on the Underground Railroad in the nineteenth century. Each woman’s eyes would brighten when she discovered the novel was “inspired by a true story.”
I shouldn’t be surprised, because my own interest in true stories drew me to the Hanby family’s dramatic history. One of the chief pleasures of writing this series was the chance to spread the news about an example of Christian heroism from our past.
Writing about real people does present challenges. Real lives don’t always come in neat packages that fit into a novel’s boundaries. As a historical novelist, my goal is to represent the central truth about the characters in my books, with the understanding that I may need to change timelines or supporting characters in order to tell a good story. Because my characters are not famous Americans like Thomas Jefferson, there are many gaps in their historical records. I must use my imagination to fill in details.
I take my responsibility to history seriously, so I use an afterword in each of the novels to explain which parts are fact and which are fiction.
When I was a young girl, my favorite books transported me into a real historical person’s life. That long-vanished world became my own for a few precious hours. I hope my adult readers will find that same thrill through the romantic historical drama of Fairer than Morning.

You can learn more about Rosslyn Elliott and her book at her website

Monday, June 27, 2011

Fully Engaged: how to do less and BE more

Don't you love the title of this book? I seriously considered not participating in this blog tour because anyone who knows me knows I am ABYSMAL at being. Instead I move on do, do, do, and squeeze in a bit more doing. Just the other night I mentioned to my husband that I'd probably work less if I had one full time job than so many cobbled together part time gigs.

This book focuses in a few short pages in helping people figure out what really matters to them. What motivates me? What brings me energy and pleasure? It's when I focus on those things rather than everything else, that I can live in a sweet spot of what God created me to do. This book has several helpful exercises to take the theory of reading and help apply it to real life. Did I do those? Um, not yet. Will I do them? Probably. They looked valuable and worth investing a bit of time in.

I think it's important to live with an eye on whether I'm where God wants me. That will move as I live. Where God wanted me five years ago, is not where He wants me today. So books like this are helpful tools to evaluate and determine whether I'm in the right spots. This short book packs a punch as it challenges you to truly evaluate your life and how to weed out the extraneous things that steal your time and your ability to do what God wants you to.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Recipes: Watermelon Lime Slush

It's summertime -- at least according to the calendar though yesterday it was COLD in Indiana. So here's one of those easy, and oh-so-refreshing drinks that's perfect for a hot summer event. Think Fourth of July.

I'm not sure where my friends found the recipe, but this is how I make it.

Watermelon Lime Slush

Take a seedless watermelon, cut into small chunks and freeze. Once you're ready to serve, take the watermelon chunk out of the freezer and put in the blender. Add Sprite or Ginger-Ale and blend. Then add in frozen limeaid concentrate to taste.

That's it. Simple. And oh my goodness, is it refreshing. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Double Take Review

When this book arrived in the mail, I wasn't sure if my daughter would even find Double Take interesting. Maybe because she enjoyed Kathleen Fuller's Amish mysteries for YA, she scooped this one up practically before I could get it out of the envelope. A day later she handed it back to me asking where the next one is. I think this is only the first of many Melody Carlson books my gal will inhale.
The plot has a Prince and the Pauper feel to it as two divergent kids swap places. I also enjoyed the Parent Trap overtones of swapped lives. Both are sick of their lives. Both want a change. And the life the other leads sounds too good to be true. Does reality match the expectations of their new lives? You'll have to read the book to find out. While you do, you'll find characters that keep you engaged thrust into situations neither is prepared to handle. Just one week and both realize maybe the grass isn't so much greener on the other side of the fence. When I asked my daughter why she liked the book so much, she said it was because every kid has felt like these girls -- like they want a different life.

This book is a great addition to our YA library and we will definitely by buying any similar books from Melody. I'm so glad this option was available and one my daughter enjoyed so much.

More about the book: Bestselling author Melody Carlson takes readers into the worlds of a socialite and an Amish girl struggling with who they are in Double Take. Have you ever wondered what would happen if you could switch your life with someone else for just one day? Readers will live the one-week experiences of a bored Amish girl and stressed out socialite when they decide to switch places in Double Take.  

Spring break has arrived. It’s her senior year, and Madison VanBuren is fed up with her surroundings and the pressures of life. Stressed out over choosing an Ivy League school that will please her parents, their marital problems, and her boyfriend's pressure, Madison gets in her car and drives west.
Meanwhile, eighteen-year-old Anna Fisher wants to escape the so-called simple life--which for her consists of caring for younger siblings, sewing, cooking, and gardening--and she's well aware that her future will simply be more of the same with a man she doesn't love.
Madison and Anna stumble into each other in a small town. Realizing their looks are uncannily similar, they both think their lives are boring. Thinking the grass is greener on the other side, they make a decision that will transform them forever and switch lives for one week.
Readers will love this funny and provocative tale of switching places from bestselling author Melody Carlson. As they get a glimpse and understanding of these two very different worlds. They may find themselves happy to be just who they are, and where they are.

Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books, several of them Christmas novellas from Revell, including her much-loved and bestselling books, Christmas at Harrington’s and The Christmas Bus. She also writes many teen books, including Just Another Girl, Anything but Normal, the Diary of a Teenage Girl series, the TrueColors series, and the Carter House Girls series. Melody was nominated for a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her books, including the Diary of a Teenage Girl series and several books which  are being considered for TV movies. She and her husband serve on the Young Life adult committee in central Oregon.

Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, offers practical books that bring the Christian faith to everyday life.  They publish resources from a variety of well-known brands and authors, including their partnership with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Hungry Planet.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

CFBA Tour: She Makes it Look Easy

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
She Makes It Look Easy
David C. Cook (June 1, 2011)
Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth has become a dear writing sister over the last couple years. One of those cool times where God just creates a connection. I wish we lived closer so that we could hang out together, meet at Starbucks, and give each other breaks periodically. Instead, we're on an email loop where we support and pray for each other. This book is her second novel and one that most women can completely relate to. She sets up a mom who's working hard to mother her three boys, but with the chaos of moving into a new community, never quite feels like she lives up to anyone's expectations. Then there's her perfect neighbor across the backyard fence who has it all together. She makes it look easy...or does she? This book is a breath of fresh air for women who struggle to get off the merry-go-round of comparison.


Marybeth Whalen is the wife of Curt and mom of six children. The family lives outside Charlotte, NC. Marybeth is a member of the Proverbs 31 Ministries writing team and a regular contributor to their daily devotions. Her first novel,The Mailbox was released in June 2010. Her next novel, She Makes It Look Easy, will be released in June 2011. Additionally, she serves as director of She Reads, Proverbs 31 Ministries' fiction division.


Ariel Baxter has just moved into the neighborhood of her dreams. The chaos of domestic life and the loneliness of motherhood, however, moved with her. Then she meets her neighbor, Justine Miller. Justine ushers Ariel into a world of clutter-free houses, fresh-baked bread, homemade crafts, neighborhood play dates, and organization techniques designed to make marriage better and parenting manageable.

Soon Ariel realizes there is hope for peace, friendship, and clean kitchen counters. But when rumors start to circulate about Justine’s real home life, Ariel must choose whether to believe the best about the friend she admires or consider the possibility that “perfection” isn’t always what it seems to be.

If you would like to read an excerpt of She Makes It Look Easy, go HERE.

Author Lori Z. Scott Stops by with Meghan Rose

 Today, I'm delighted to have Lori Scott join me. You may remember when she bopped by several years ago with the release of her first books for K-2nd graders. Well, the books did amazingly well...and she's back with more books. If you have young kids in your like, you can know how challenging it is to find books that they'll find entertaining but that reinforce your values. These books do. And the illustrations are great. So be sure to check them out. Now here's Lori!

I can draw with both hands at the same time. And, by using both hands, I can write forwards, backwards, and upside-down all at once. It doesn’t make me a better storyteller, but it’s a cool trick!


One big advantage to being a teacher is that I’ve worked extensively with my target audience. The Meghan Rose series is geared for an age group that has shared a huge part of my life. I taught primary grades (K, 1, 2) for nine years before retiring to raise my own kids, and now I’m back in the classroom teaching second grade. I’ve also worked with kids this age on a volunteer basis at church. I understand the challenges this age group faces, the jokes they enjoy, the way they talk and act, and how they play. I believe that understanding gives my writing authenticity. I know the kids I’m writing for…and that better equips me to reach them.


Let’s start with that initial story. When my daughter was in first grade, her teacher started reading the Junie B. Jones books in class. Since Meghan liked them, I picked up a few copies.
I enjoyed the humor in those books, but when Meghan started acting and talking like Junie B., I started editing out those grammar slips, name calling and bad attitudes…and looking elsewhere. I thought there had to be an alternative choice—a book that was just as funny, but also had a good take-away value. At that time, most Christian bookstores didn’t carry fiction for that age group, only devotional books and Bible stories.
Eventually, at my daughter’s urging, I wrote the book I couldn’t find—a book just for her. I put in everything she wanted—an interesting story filled with giggles and characters worth rooting for—and everything I wanted—good moral values (but with nothing preachy about the story at all). (I hate preachy, I love amusing.)
Now fast forward a bit. At a writing conference, my hunt for good fiction came back to mind. Almost on a whim, I wrote up a proposal for a whole series based on the book I wrote for my daughter. After all, I knew there had to be an untapped market because I WAS part of that untapped market. I pitched the idea to editors, and eventually landed a contract for the series.
One thing I find interesting is that when the Meghan Rose series was first released, there were very few Christian fiction titles available for the K-2 age group. Now you can find a handful of other options out there, and I’m guessing (and hoping) more on the way.
As I said, they are geared for kids in grades K-2, the age I’ve worked with the most. But I have had older kids who enjoy reading them too. Although it’s a series, each book can be read as a stand-alone adventure. Each book has an overall theme, such as friendship, patience, joy, honesty, or humility. These concepts are NOT preached, but subtly woven into the storyline. There are discussion questions and activities at the end of the book for those parents (or children) who want to continue to explore the theme. Some home school parents have especially appreciated this feature.

Most of that comes from my upbringing. My dad constantly came up with puns and jokes. I can’t tell you how many hours we spent laughing around the dinner table. Plus I grew up on a steady diet of comic books. Peanuts and Garfield were my favorites, and later Calvin and Hobbes. I also watched comedy on television, especially The Carol Brunette Show and… though I hate to admit it…Hee-Haw.
Also, some of my inspiration just comes from everyday life. My kids crack me up. They both have a great sense of humor.
I try to write my own jokes for the books and my website. It’s not as hard as it sounds. A lot of jokes just involve word play or surprise. I start with a theme, like clothes. Then I brainstorm a list of words associated with the theme. When I’m done, I look over the list and see which words have a double meaning or can be played for humor. For example, here is a word play one I wrote that usually gets a chuckle: What kind of shoes does a plumber wear? Answer: CLOGS!


One great idea is to encourage your children to create. They can draw, paint, write poems or comics… whatever!  Children can listen to or dance to music. They can dress up and put on a show for family or friends, or memorize a silly poem. Whatever they do should be fun…and SHARED with someone who can cheer them on.


It seems the things I did early on when I started writing were helpful. Those things include:  join a local and/or online writing group, do writing exercises to develop your skill (there are several great online prompts), attend a writer’s conference, learn as much as you can about the publishing industry (specifically, how to write cover letters, how to write a query, how to submit your manuscript, and where to find publishers), study children in the age group you are trying to reach, and read books in genres similar to what you want to write so that you can learn from those already published.
Keep your dialogue authentic and write from a child’s point of view. That means you may have to look at the world in a whole new way!

Writers should also not be afraid of revision. Most successful writers will tell you that you spend more time revising your story than drafting it.

Keep in mind while many things can be taught and learned about the craft of writing, the essence of good writing involves pouring out the passion or mystery or sorrow or joy stored up in your heart. Writing requires a certain amount of vulnerability and courage. And it creates a certain amount of intimacy with your reader.


They can visit my website at My award-winning illustrator, Stacy Curtis, designed it. It offers jokes, puzzles, and activities for kids and great ideas for teacher and parents (on Mrs. Arnold’s BLAM page). It also introduces the books and characters, provides links to book reviews, and gives ordering information.


Lori Z. Scott is a second grade teacher, the mother of two busy kids, and author of the bestselling Meghan Rose series. She has also contributed to over a dozen books, including Real Moms and Eppie Award winning Infinite Space, Infinite God. Other publications include poems, puzzles, articles, short stories, and devotions for children, teens, and adults.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Spring For Susannah Blog Tour

"Inspired by [folk] lyrics, Richmond arrives on the inspirational fiction scene with a moving debut novel. Readers will be filled with hope that Susannah will learn the true meaning of love. Highly recommended where inspiring, romantic historical fiction is in demand."

"Filled with history and well-researched, Spring for Susannah kept me cheering for these well-developed characters until the very last page."                   
-Beth Wiseman, best-selling author of Seek Me with All Your Heart

"A stunning debut that will capture your heart and never let go."               
-Julie Lessman, best-selling author of A Hope Undaunted

About the book:
Hundreds of miles from home, Susannah faces an uncertain future as a mail-order bride on the untamed Dakota prairie. When her parents die suddenly, and no suitors call, Susannah resigns herself to the only option available: becoming a mail-order bride. Agreeing to marry her pastor's brother, Jesse, Susannah leaves the only home she's ever known for the untamed frontier of the Dakota Territory.

Her new husband is more loving and patient with her than she believes she deserves. Still, there is also a wildness to him that mirrors the wilderness surrounding them. And Susannah finds herself constantly on edge. But Jesse's confidence in her-and his faith in God's perfect plan-slowly begin to chip away at the wall she hides behind.  Jesse's love is unwavering. Just when it seems like winter will never end, Susannah finally sees the first tentative evidence of spring. And with it, the realization that more than the landscape has changed.

She looks to the future with a renewed heart. Yet in her wildest dreams, she couldn't predict all that awaits her.
About Catherine:
Catherine Richmond was focused on her career as an occupational therapist till a special song planted a story idea in her mind. That idea would ultimately become Spring for Susannah, her first novel. She is also a founder and moderator of Nebraska Novelist critique group and lives in Nebraska with her husband.
About the Spring for Susannah KINDLE Giveaway and Facebook Party:
To celebrate her debut novel, Catherine and her publisher, Thomas Nelson, have teamed up to give away a Spring For Susannah Prize Package worth over $150!

One grand prize winner will receive:

* A brand new Latest Generation KINDLE with Wi-Fi and Pearl Screen

* Spring for Susannah by Catherine Richmond (for KINDLE)
To enter just click one of the icons below and then tell your friends! But hurry, giveaway ends on June 27th. Winner will be announced on Tuesday, June 28th at 5 PM (6PM MST, 7PM CST, & 8PM EST) during Catherine's Spring for Susannah Book Club Party on Facebook! Catherine will be rustling up some fun for the party - she'll be chatting about the story behind her novel, hosting a book club chat,  testing your mail-order bride trivia skills, and giving away some GREAT prizes! Don't miss the fun and tell your friends!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Review: My Foolish Heart

Susan May Warren is one of my favorite authors, but somehow before receiving My Foolish Heart, i hadn't read any of her Deep Haven novels. Trust me, I'll be rectifying that little oversight. The elements I most enjoy about Susie's books are present in My Foolish Heart.

First, the characters are so completely human and flawed. They each have deep wounds (who doesn't?!) and are fighting hard to reach the other side of those scars. They want to be whole, but aren't. The book underscores their journey to finding health and restoration.

Second, there's an underlying sense of humor that makes the book a really fun read. Some of the issues could be heavy and depressing but for the grins Susie writes in to the pages. Third, there's a nod to one of my favorite romances: Sleepless in Seattle. Read it and let me know if you agree.

The romance is so satisfying -- really this book has two. Loved that! And both get enough page time to make them complete while leaving me with a bit of a longing for more. Aren't the best books the ones that we wish hadn't ended? If you're looking for a romance filled with real characters who are learning to live whole lives in Christ, then you will love My Foolish Heart.

About the book: Unknown to her tiny town of Deep Haven, Isadora Presley spends her nights as Miss Foolish Heart, the star host of a syndicated talk radio show. Millions tune in to hear her advice on dating and falling in love, unaware that she's never really done either. Issy's ratings soar when it seems she's falling in love on-air with a caller. A caller she doesn't realize lives right next door.

Caleb Knight served a tour of duty in Iraq and paid a steep price. The last thing he wants is pity, so he hides his disability and moves to Deep Haven to land his dream job as the high school football coach. When his beautiful neighbor catches his eye, in a moment of desperation he seeks advice from My Foolish Heart, the show that airs before his favorite sports broadcast. Before he knows it, Caleb finds himself drawn to the host-and more confused than ever. Is his perfect love the woman on the radio . . . or the one next door?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Classic Hollywood Reviews: My Favorite Wife

I'm slipping back to Hollywood for a week, just because, I miss it! And this movie is too fun. It doesn't take long to realize I'm a Cary Grant fan. I won't list all the reasons why, but this movie was a great addition to my viewing repertoire.

The basic set up is that Cary Grant's character is at court to have his wife declared legally dead seven years after she disappeared at sea. Then he promptly marries wife two. As they are at court, long lost wife one shows up at home. What follows is a comedy of errors that made me think of Parent Trap on occasion.

Cary Grant is great as the befuddled and confused lead. And Irene Dunne does a great job reeling him back in. I felt sorry for wife #2, but not too sorry.

So if you're looking for a classic that has romance, comedy, and some great lines, pop this one in.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Fitting Room: Where We Cloth Ourselves in Christ

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
     Colossians 3:12

Anybody else ever get intimidated by the idea of clothing ourselves in such heady garments? You might as well tell me I have to fill my wardrobe with Armani and other designer names I could never afford. In fact, it can be down-right daunting to contemplate putting those items on. I can't pretend I have them for long before the veneer rubs off, and the real girl shines through.

It's for this predicament that Kelly Minter has written her latest book the Fitting Room. (You can join an in=process bookclub on this book right now. Pop over here to watch video clips and participate.)

I love her approach. First, we have to truly grasp who we are in Christ. That we are chosen by Him. That He loves us. And that we are holy through Him. Only then can we even begin to attempt to allow Him to garb us in these other items. And that's the key, letting Him pull these items on to us. They're already in our closets. Now we just need to accept them.

I love Kelly's conversational style. I can easily imagine us sitting across a bistro table at a coffeeshop talking about how to apply Colossians 3:12 to our lives. And I don't know about you, but I want more compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience in my life. And I know I can't create it. I have to allow God to work it out in me.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Reluctant Queen

About Joan Wolf:
Joan Wolf was born in New York City but has lived most of her adult life with her husband in Connecticut, where she raised two children and countless numbers of assorted animals. Joan is the author of numerous historical novels including The Road to Avalon which Publishers Weekly lauded as “historical fiction at its finest.”
For more about Joan and her other books, please visit
About A Reluctant Queen:
An inspiring re-imagining of the tale of Esther, a young Jewish woman thrust from a life of obscurity into a life of power, wealth, intrigue . . . and tender love.
See the story of Esther in an entirely new way-with all the political intrigue and tension you remember, but told as a passionate and tender love story between a young man and woman. Misunderstood by many, King Ahasuerus was a powerful but lonely man. Esther's beauty caught the eye of the young king, but it was her spirit that captured his heart.
Imagine anew the story of Esther, one of our faith's great heroines, destined to play a key role in the history of Christianity. More here.
The Reluctant Queen Kindle Giveaway and Facebook Party:

To celebrate Joan’s debut Christian Fiction title, Joan and her publisher, Thomas Nelson, have teamed up to give away A Reluctant Queen prize package worth over $150!
One grand prize winner will receive:
* A brand new Latest Generation KINDLE with Wi-Fi and Pearl Screen
* A Reluctant Queen by Joan Wolf (for KINDLE)
To enter, just click below. But, hurry, the contest ends on June 20th. Winner will be announced on June 21st during Joan’s A Reluctant Queen Book Club Party on FB! Hope to see you there – bring your friends!

Author K. Dawn Byrd Stops by

Fellow author K, Dawn Byrd has a book releasing, and I've invited her by to share her book with us.

Mistaken Identity: Eden Morgan longs for a boyfriend of her own, an impossible goal when her best friend, Lexi Branson, gets all the attention and all the guys. When they fall in love with the same guy, Eden believes she doesn't have a chance. She can only hope that sometimes the good girl gets the guy.

This is an intriguing set up. How did this story come to you?

Sometimes I get the strangest ideas! I wondered what would happen if a not-as-pretty good Christian girl and her gorgeous non-Christian best friend fell in love with the same guy. Who would get the guy?

Tell us about the journey to get Mistaken Identity published.

I had already published several book with Desert Breeze Publishing when they opened a young adult line. I'd been writing romantic suspense and thought it would fun to try my hand at a young adult novel. It was so much fun that I'm signing a contract for a young adult mystery series that will debut in January.

Tell me three things about yourself that would surprise your readers.
  1. I own two hairless Chinese Crested dogs.
  2. I love sour things....pickles, lemons, sour candy.
  3. I used to ride a Harley, but gave it up in order to have more time to write. (My husband always wanted to stay out way too long and take the scenic route home. He still has his bike, but I don't miss mine at all.)
Parting comments?
Thank you for hosting me! For those of you who love Christian fiction, please check my blog for weekly book giveaways. I interview 3-5 authors a week who give away their books.

Where can fans find you on the internet? In addition to my website and blog, you can also find me on facebook.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

CFBA Tour: Sweetest Thing

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Sweetest Thing
• Bethany House (June 1, 2011)
Elizabeth Musser

Elizabeth Musser, an Atlanta native, studied English and French literature at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. While at Vanderbilt, I had the opportunity to spend a semester in Aix-en-Provence,

France. During her Senior year at Vanderbilt, she attended a five-day missions conference for students and discovered an amazing thing: God had missionaries in France, and she felt God calling her there. After graduation, she spent eight months training for the mission field in Chicago, Illinois and then two years serving in a tiny Protestant church in Eastern France where she met her future husband.

Elizabeth lives in southern France with her husband and their two sons. She find her work as a mother, wife, author and missionary filled with challenges and chances to see God’s hand at work daily in her life. Inspiration for her novels come both from her experiences growing up in Atlanta as well as through the people she meets in her work in France. Many conversations within her novels are inspired from real-life conversations with skeptics and seekers alike. 

Her acclaimed novel, The Swan House, was a Book Sense bestseller list in the Southeast and was selected as one of the top Christian books for 2001 by Amazon's editors. Searching for Eternity is her sixth novel.

Compelling Southern Novel Explores Atlanta Society in the 1930s.
The Singleton family’s fortunes seem unaffected by the Great Depression, and Perri—along with the other girls at Atlanta’s elite Washington Seminary—lives a life of tea dances with college boys and matinees at the cinema.  When tragedy strikes, Perri is confronted with a world far different from the one she has always known.

At the insistence of her parents, Mary ‘Dobbs’ Dillard, the daughter of an itinerant preacher, is sent from inner-city Chicago to live with her aunt and attend Washington Seminary.  Dobbs, passionate, fiercely individualistic and deeply religious, enters Washington Seminary as a bull in a china shop and shocks the girls with her frank talk about poverty and her stories of revival on the road.    Her arrival intersects at the point of Perri’s ultimate crisis, and the tragedy forges an unlikely friendship.

The Sweetest Thing tells the story of two remarkable young women—opposites in every way—fighting for the same goal: surviving tumultuous change. Just as the Great Depression collides disastrously with Perri's well-ordered life, friendship blossoms--a friendship that will be tested by jealousy, betrayal, and family secrets...

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Sweetest Thing, go HERE.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A big thank you

At the end of May and beginning of June, I tackled a project that grew exponentially. A little idea that took on a force of its own with the help of local media. As a result massive amounts of time disappeared as I collected and sorted boxes and bags of items for Joplin.

But it ended up not just being me. There were so many people who stepped up to help. I can't possibly list them all. One person has to be acknowledged though.

When you're married, anything you do, either your spouse supports or endures. I expected my husband to endure my little Joplin project. It had a defined end date, so I thought we could endure as a family for the little more than week of chaos.

Instead, my husband logged practically as many hours sorting as I did. He loaded more boxes on the truck. He carted boxes back and forth across our pretty large truck. And he generally supported me...most importantly by telling me he was proud of me at my most tired and overwhelmed moments.

I also got a note from my mom at a moment when I was drained that gave me the energy to go another round with mounds of items that needed to be sorted. 

It reminded me how important it is for us to truly support the efforts of our spouses, friends, and family. Those simple words: "I believe in you." "I support what you're doing." "I'm proud of you." Mean a lot. They can energize an otherwise weary person.

So thank you for coming alongside me, not just in word, but in time and action, too. Love you, Eric!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Susan Sleeman stops by with a Contest!

Enter to win a copy of Susan Sleeman's Behind the Badge and a $50 Amazon gift card!

Susan Sleeman here. Behind the Badge, my second romantic suspense book for Love Inspired Suspense will release on June 6th and in honor of all of you, the readers, I am hosting a special contest on my website for the month of June.

Let’s face it. Without you, the wonderful readers, books would not exist and I wouldn’t be able to wake up looking forward to a job that is fresh and exciting each and every day. Praise God for this incredible opportunity!

Now back to the contest. All you have to do is read the excerpt below then go to my WEBSITE and answer the following question. That's it. You're entered to win.

If you'd like to sign up for my mailing list to learn of other contests in the future you can do that at the same time, too. Full contest rules are on the entry page. Remember only one entry per person.

QUESTION: Did Russ see the suspect's face?

Behind the
The Morgan Brothers - Bk 2
                    Love Inspired Suspense
                    June 6, 2011
                    ISBN-10: 0373444478
                    ISBN-13: 978-0373444472


A killer is threatening the life of rookie cop Sydney Tucker's sister-unless Sydney turns over evidence from a drug bust. But she doesn't have the evidence. Not that the thug believes her. Now she and the sibling in her care are under the watchful eye of Logan Lake police chief Russ Morgan…but will his protection be enough?

The killer is closing in, picking off the people and places that mean the most to Sydney. A list that now includes Russ. To protect her loved ones, will she pay the ultimate price-her life?

SUSAN SLEEMAN is a best-selling author of romantic suspense and mystery novels. She grew up in a small Wisconsin town where she spent her summers reading Nancy Drew and developing a love of mystery and suspense books. Today, she channels this enthusiasm into writing romantic suspense and mystery novels and hosting the popular internet website

Her books include Nipped in the Bud, High-Stakes Inheritance, Behind the Badge, and The Christmas Witness. Also watch for the first two romantic suspense books in her Justice Agency series coming from Love Inspired suspense in 2012 and featuring a private investigations firm specializing in helping those who traditional law enforcement has failed.

Susan currently lives in Florida, but has had the pleasure of living in nine states. Her husband is a church music director and they have two beautiful daughters, a very special son-in-law and an adorable grandson. 

To learn more about Susan visit her website, Facebook , or Twitter.



Gunshots split the inky darkness.

Deputy Sydney Tucker hit the cold ground, a jagged rock slashing into her forehead on the way down. She reached for her service weapon. Came up empty handed. She'd stopped after work to check on the construction of her townhouse and left her gun and cell phone in the car.

Dumb, Sydney. Really dumb. Now what're you gonna do?

Inching her head above knee-high grass, she listened. The keening whistle of the wind died, leaving the air damp and heavy with tension but silence reigned.

Had she overreacted? Could be target practice. But at night? Maybe. Hunters did crazy things sometimes.

Footfalls pounded from below like someone charging through the brush. No. Two people. Maybe a chase. One person after another. A loud crash, branches snapping.

"What're you doin', man," a panicked male voice traveled through the night. "No! Don't shoot! We can work this out."

Three more gunshots rang out. A moan drifted up the hill.

Not target practice. Someone had been shot.

Sydney lurched to her feet, dizziness swirling around her. Blood dripped into her eyes. She wiped it away, blinked hard and steadied herself on a large rock while peering into the wall of darkness for the best escape route.

Heavy footfalls crunched up the gravel path.

"I know you're here, Deputy Tucker," a male voice, disguised with a high nasally pitch, called out. "We need to talk about this. C'mon out."

Yeah, right. Come out and die. Not hardly.

Praying, pleading for safety, she scrambled deeper into the scrub. Over rocks. Through grass tangling her feet. Her heart pounded in her head, drowning the prayers with fear.

"I'm losing patience, Deputy," he called again in that strange voice. "You're not like Dixon. He had it coming. You don't."

Dixon? Did he mean the man she arrested for providing alcohol to her teenage sister and for selling drugs? Was that what this was about?

Rocks skittered down the incline. The shooter was on the move again. No time to think. She had to go. Now!

Blindly she felt her way past shrubs, over uneven ground. Dried leaves crunched underfoot. Branches slapped her face and clawed at her arms, but she stifled her cries of pain.

"I hear you, Deputy."

She wrenched around to determine his location. A protruding rock caught her foot, catapulting her forward. She somersaulted through the air. Her knee slammed into the packed earth and she crashed down the hill. Wrapping arms around her head for protection, she came to a stop, breath knocked out of her chest, lying flat on her back in a thick stand of weeds.

"So you want to play it that way, do you Deputy? Fine. Just remember, you can run, but you can't hide. I will find you. This will be resolved one way or another." His disembodied laugh swirled into the night.

The darkness pressed closer. Blinding. Overwhelming. Terrifying.

She was easy prey. Even with her bulletproof vest, a few rounds fired in her direction would take her out. She had to get up.

She rose to her knees, but pain knifed into her knee, keeping her anchored to the ground.

Lord, please don't let me die like this. Give me the strength to move. I need to live for Nikki. She's only seventeen. She has no one.

Sydney uncurled and came to a standing position. Taking a few halting steps, she tested the pain. Nearly unbearable. But she could-no she had to do this for her sister.

Thinking of Nikki, she gritted her teeth and set off, moving slowly, taking care not to make a sound.

Out of the darkness, a hand shot out. Clamped over her mouth.

Screams tore from her throat, but died behind fingers pressed hard against her lips.

A muscled arm jerked her against a solid chest and dragged her deep into the brush.

God, please, no.

She twisted, arched her back, pushing against arms like iron bands.

She dug her heels into the ground, but he was too strong. He kept going deeper into the brush before settling them both on the ground behind a large boulder.

"Relax Sydney, it's Russ Morgan," Logan Lake's Police Chief whispered, his lips close to her ear.

Russ Morgan? What was he doing here?

"Sorry about the hand." His tone said she was nothing more than a stranger instead of someone she'd known for years. "I didn't want you to alert the shooter with a scream. I'm gonna remove my hand now. Nod if you understand me."

She let all of her relief escape in a sharp jerk of her head. His fingers dropped away.

"Once the shooter rounded that curve, you would've been a goner," he whispered while still firmly holding her. "Good thing a neighbor reported gunshots."

Sydney started to shiver and breathed deep to steady her galloping pulse. Air rushed into her lungs. She was alive, but barely. No thanks to her own skills.

"You okay?" he asked, his breath stirring her hair.

"Yes." She willed her body to stop shaking and eased out a hiss of disappointment in her performance as a deputy. "How long have you been here?"

"Long enough to hear the shooter claim he's hit Dixon and is coming after you next," he whispered again, but urgency lit his voice and rekindled her fear. "This have to do with your arrest of Carl Dixon the other day?"

"I don't know," she whispered back. "I just stopped to check on the construction of my townhouse on my way home from work."

"Off duty, huh? Explains why you don't have your weapon drawn."

"I left my duty belt in my car." She waited for his reaction to not carrying, but he simply gave a quick nod as footfalls grated against gravel.

"Shh, he's about to pass us." Russ leaned forward and drew his gun with his free hand, but didn't release his hold on her.

Crunching steps came within a few feet of their location. Halted.

"Can you feel me breathing down your neck, Deputy? I'm inches from finding you." He didn't know the accuracy of his words.

She felt Russ's breathing speed up, upping her concern and washing away the brief blanket of security his arms provided. Adrenaline urged her to move. To keep from panicking, she focused on Russ's unwavering weapon.

The shooter took a few steps closer. Her heart thumped, threatening to leave her chest. Russ tightened his hold as if he knew she wanted to bolt.

The shooter spun sending gravel flying then headed up the path.

As his footsteps receded, she tried to relax taut muscles. The warmth from Russ's body helped chase out her fear and the chill of the night. Thank God Russ was here. If he hadn't come.

She refused to go there. God had watched over her. Provided rescue, just not in the form she'd have chosen.

Not only was Russ an officer from the city police force-a team often in competition with the county sheriff's department where she worked-but a man she'd had a crazy crush on in high school. A man whose rugged good looks still turned women's heads.

She let out a long sigh.

"I know this's awkward," he whispered, "but hang tight for a few more minutes. We need to wait for him to head back down the hill."

She wanted to protest and suggest they flee now, but not Russ. He thought clearly. Taking off now gave the killer the advantage of higher ground, making them moving targets. They'd have to sit like this until he passed them again.

If they made it out of here, which the approaching footfalls told her wasn't at all certain.

They pounded closer. The shooter moved at a quick clip this time as if he thought she'd gotten away and he was fleeing. Or maybe he was heading to her car to lay in wait for her.

As the footsteps receded again, she felt Russ's arm slacken.

"Time to roll," he whispered. "Stay here."

"But I-"

"You have a backup?" He referred to a back up gun officers often carry.

She shook her head.

"Then wait here." He gave her the hard stare that'd made him famous around town and crept toward the path.

She leaned against the boulder and wrapped her arms around the warm circle on her waist where he'd held her. Without his warmth, she couldn't quit shaking. The reality of the night froze her inner core.

She should listen to Russ. Lay low. Wait until he apprehended the killer.

That was the safe thing to do.

The easy thing to do.

The wrong thing to do.

Not for everyone, but for an officer of the law, letting a shooter escape without trying to stop him wasn't an option. Even if that shooter had her in his sights, she'd make her way to her car for her gun and help Russ stop this maniac before he hurt anyone else.


Near the ditch, Russ came to a stop and fought to catch his breath. Taillights on a mud splattered dirt bike roared up the trail. He'd warned the suspect to stop, but short of shooting him in the back, Russ couldn't stop him from fleeing into the dark.

At least he'd accomplished his primary objective. To protect Sydney and keep her alive. Now he needed to alert his men and the sheriff's office to the suspect's whereabouts.

He lifted his shoulder mic and ordered a unit from his office to stake out the end of the trail for the motorcycle and an ambulance in case Dixon survived. Then he asked dispatch to patch him through to the county sheriff's department to make sure they knew he'd taken charge of the scene so none of their hotshot deputies arrived with the hope of usurping control.

He turned on his Maglight and headed up the hill. The beam of light skipped over gravel and lush plants lining the winding path. Midway up, rustling brush stopped him cold. He'd left Sydney higher up. Nearer the lake.

Was a second shooter hoping to ambush him?

He flipped off his light and sought protection behind a tree. His breath came in little pulses in the unusually cold air for a typical Oregon fall. Adrenaline with little time to ebb away came roaring back, but even as the noise grew louder, he resisted the urge to take action

Maybe it was Sydney. The Sydney he used to know wouldn't have listened to his directive and stayed put. She'd trounce down the hill, her chin tilted at the same insolent angle as when he told her he didn't return her crazy crush her freshman year of high school. Not that he'd wanted to send a beautiful, lively girl like her away. He could easily have dated her, but he was four years older, in college. With their age difference, it wouldn't have been right.

Bushes at the path's edge shook then parted. Slowly, like a sleek panther, Sydney slipped out. He watched until she stood tall on those incredibly long legs he'd admired since she was sixteen before lowering his gun and aiming his flashlight at her.

She jumped. Peered up at him, an impudent look planted on her face. This was the Sydney he'd known as a teen and heaven help him, in less than thirty minutes, she'd sparked his interest again.

"Care to shine that somewhere other than my face." She perched her hand over her eyes, warding off the glare.

He moved the light but not before he caught a good look at a gaping wound running from her hairline to eyebrow, covered in congealed blood. He lifted his hand to check out her injury, but stopped. He wouldn't probe a wound on one of his men's faces. As a fellow LEO-law enforcement officer-he wouldn't treat Sydney any differently.

"I told you to stay put." He infused his words with authority.

"I wanted to help. Wish I'd listened. I tripped over the body." She held out blood-covered hands. Her eyes watered as if she might cry.

Man. Don't do that. Don't fall apart. He couldn't remain detached if she started crying. He'd have to empathize, maybe give her a reassuring pat on the arm. Maybe feel her pain and resurrect all the reasons he'd left his homicide job in Portland.

He changed his focus. Nodded at the brush. "Show me the body."

As a faint whine of sirens spiraled in the distance, she limped into tall grass, a grimace of pain marring her beautiful face. He followed, illuminating the area ahead of her. About ten feet in, she suddenly stopped. He shone his light a few feet ahead of her.

Diffused rays slid over a young male lying on his back. Russ swung the beam to the man's face landing on open eyes staring into the blackness above.

Sydney gasped and swung around him. She rushed toward the main path. Even though Russ knew it was a lost cause, he bent down to check for a pulse. No question, this man hadn't made it and no question about his identity. Carl Dixon, a man every LEO in the area knew from his frequent blips onto the police radar and the most recent arrest for selling drugs.

All that ended with three gunshots to the chest at close range from what Russ could see with his flashlight. Once they thoroughly processed the scene, he'd know better. But first, they needed to vacate the area before further contaminating the scene.

He found Sydney near the path, gaze fixed in the distance, hands clasped on her hips and exhaling long breaths as if trying to expel what she'd just seen.

Haunted eyes peered at him. "He's dead, right?"


"And what about the killer?"

"Couldn't catch him. He took off on a dirt bike."

Disappointment crowded out the fear on her face. "Did you at least see him?"

"From the back. He was my height or a little taller, but lean. Wore a black stocking cap. The bike has a plate so it must be street legal. I caught the first few digits."

"That's something, then."

Russ didn't want to tell her it would do little for them in terms of searching DMV records as three digits would return thousands of bikes, but he didn't think she could take any more bad news so he kept quiet. "Let's head down to the parking lot."

He gave her the flashlight and urged her to take the lead down the steep hill. Once on solid concrete, she handed it back to him. Holding it overhead, he watched her closely for dizziness or other impairments from her fall. He saw nothing out of the ordinary, but a head injury could mean a concussion. He'd have the EMT's check her out when they got here.

He pointed at a rough-hewn bench. "Maybe you should sit down."

"I'm fine " Her voice cracked and she seemed embarrassed over reacting to the murder.

"It's okay to be upset, Syd. A horrible thing happened tonight."

"I'm fine really. I'll be back to a hundred percent by morning."

Text copyright © by Susan Sleeman

Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday Recipes: Grandma's Cherry Delight

All of us have recipes like this. The one you just expect to see on the overloaded, groaning table at family gatherings. Here's one from my grandma:

Cherry Delight

Mix together the following to make a crust and place in a 9 x 13 pan:

16 squares Graham Crackers, crushed
1/4 cup melted margarine
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Beat together:
8 oz. cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar

mix in 8 oz. Cool Whip and place over crust.
Top with a can of cherry pie filling.


Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Review & Giveaway: The Lady of Bolton Hill

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Lady of Bolton Hill
Bethany House (June 1, 2011)
Elizabeth Camden

This book has a fascinating set up. Set during the Industrial Age, right as labor woes exploded across the United States, The Lady of Bolton Hill highlights those issues in Baltimore, MD. The historian in me loved that aspect. The story teller loved the history between the two main characters. The way they wanted to continue to see each other as the young adults they'd been 12 years earlier, yet the dramatic ways they'd both changed. One is bent on vengeance. The other on teaching the value of faith and love. One is a reporter. One is a rising industrialist. The story is gripping. The characters rich. The writing lush. I loved this story and am delighted to have a copy to giveaway to one commenter. Be sure to leave a comment below if you'd like a chance to have your own copy of this historical romance. 
Female journalists are rare in 1879, but American-born Clara Endicott has finally made a name for herself with her provocative articles championing London's poor. When the backlash from her work forces a return home to Baltimore, Clara finds herself face-to-face with a childhood sweetheart who is no longer the impoverished factory worker she once knew. In her absence, Daniel Tremain has become a powerful industry giant and Clara finds him as enigmatic as ever. However, Daniel's success is fueled by resentment from past wounds and Clara's deeply-held beliefs about God's grace force Daniel to confront his own motives. When Clara's very life is endangered by one of Daniel's adversaries, they must face a reckoning neither of them ever could have foreseen.

When Clara Endicott and Daniel Tremain's worlds collide after twelve years apart, the spark that was once between them immediately reignites into a romance neither of them thought possible.

But time has changed them both.

Daniel is an industrial titan with powerful enemies. Clara is an idealistic journalist determined to defend underprivileged workers.

Can they withstand the cost of their convictions while their hearts, and lives, hang in the balance?

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Lady of Bolton Hill, go HERE.
A research librarian and associate professor, Elizabeth Camden has a master’s in history from the University of Virginia and a master’s in library science from Indiana University. She has published several articles for academic publications and is the author of four nonfiction history books. Her ongoing fascination with history and love of literature have led her to write inspirational fiction. Elizabeth lives with her husband in central Florida.

A word from Elizabeth: I am a college librarian in central Florida by day, but by night I can be found pounding out inspirational historical novels the moment the sun goes down. I love writing books about fiercely intelligent people who are confronted with profound challenges. As a rather introverted person, I have found that writing is the best way for me to share my faith and a sense of resilience with others.

As for who I am? I love old Hitchcock films, the hour before sunset, a long, sweaty run through the Florida countryside, and a glass of good wine. After spending my entire adult life on a college campus (either as a student or a librarian) I have finally been able to pursue my ultimate goal of writing professionally.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Children's Book: That's when I talk to God

As a mom, I love to find books that help me break complicated ideas about faith into easy to understand concepts. This book does just that with prayer.

Sometimes it's tricky to help our kids understand that they can pray anytime about anything. In this beautifully illustrated book, Dan and Ali Morrow walk children through the different times they can pray. We can pray when we want to tell God that we love Him. We can pray when we are thankful. We can talk to God when we need to tell Him sorry. This charming book is a great way to help your children understand God wants to hear from us all the time for any reason.

Monday, June 06, 2011

When the Storms Blow...

Today a truck loaded with diapers, food, baby food, toiletries, and kids clothing is headed to Joplin, Missouri. The picture doesn't begin to convey how many boxes are layered in there. I really didn't think it would all fit...but it did!

Yesterday a pastor at the church we are working with spoke at our church. He and his wife shared stories that would break your heart -- yet gave such hope at the same time. God is on the move.

In storms like this, I think we see who we really are. How strong we really are. What our core values are. What we are fundamentally made of at the core of our existence.

Some people experience a massive tornado -- possibly the most destructive in United States history. But for most of us, the storms are other things. In the last few days a friend had a husband tell her he never loved her and their life together has been a lie. F-5 on the scale of storms. Another friend learned that her cancer returned, this time in her bones. Another F-5 shock. Yet another friend went in for an ultrasound and learned her baby had no heartbeat. An F-5. Another friend learned that she was being asked not to continue on a public project. A F-5.

I'm sure you've had something similar happen. So what do we do?

Do we lean into Jesus and His promises? Or do we rail against Him and shake our fists at heaven? Do we sink into His loving embrace like my six-month-old curls into mine? Or do we go rigid and turn away?

Praying that whatever the storm in your life, that Jesus would be bigger, present, and still it.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Review: In the Shadow of the Sun King

Because I have French Huguenot ancestors, this story intrigued me. It was fascinating to get a glimpse into what life would have been like in such a difficult time (17th Century France). The author draws deft pictures of the palaces and France. And the complexities of the times and relationships are artfully drawn -- with traces of intrigue. The pace slowed a bit at times, but I'm glad I chose this book.  

More about the Story:

As Huguenots in 17th-Century France, Madeleine Clavell and her family defy French law daily. Though they live in comfort and happiness in the French countryside, their Protestant Christianity is considered traitorous. But they are wary. Persecution is surly at hand.

Then King Louis XIV's dragoons arrive, forcing the family from their country estate. Madeleine must gather her courage and seek out the king in his royal palace at Versailles.

Because Madeleine has a secret. Though years and a thousand choices have separated them, Madeleine and King Louis have a history together. One she feels certain he has not forgotten. She will risk everything to speak to him again. But will the impetuous king choose to save her...and her family? And if so, at what price?

Friday, June 03, 2011

Friday Recipes: Simple Tortellini

My family loves pasta. We eat it in spaghetti, macaroni, and all form in between. One of my favorites is tortellini. I was so excited when a friend introduced me to packaged dry tortellini because I could finally make it at home. Problem is my kids can be finicky and turn their noses up at cheese stuffed pasta.

I know! Bizarre!

This week has been the definition of insanity between teaching, writing and working on my church's Joplin efforts, so last night I didn't care about finicky tastes. We were eating some comfort food. I made it waiting for the groans. Instead, the kids asked for seconds, thirds and fourths. The best part is this was soooo easy.

Cara's Tortellini

1 pkg of dry tortellini cooked to package directions
When cooked, strain out water, then pour tortellini in large bowl. Add one can of diced tomatoes, a couple teaspoons of olive oil and 1-2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning. Mix ingredients. Then top with Parmesan cheese and serve warm.

Bon appetit!

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Praying for Your Future Husband...Giveaway

I am sooooo excited to tell you about this brand new book from two of my friends, Tricia Goyer and Robin Jones Gunn. Last summer while I attended ICRS, a Christian Retail Show, I got to listen to these two talk about writing the chapters to this book and how very jazzed they were to get to read it.

Then in early May Tricia sent a copy to my daughter. I was THRILLED. I'm even more excited to have a copy to giveaway to one commenter/follower on this blog and one on my teen review blog!

Let's face it young adults are concerned about finding that perfect spouse. But in the pursuit of the right person, we often forget we need to become that right person. What I love about this book is that Gunn and Goyer focus not only on how to pray for your future spouse -- before you even know who that is -- but also on how you need to prepare yourself to be the right person, too. Can you imagine what would happen if we poured half the energy we devote to dreaming and fretting into praying? That could be amazing!

Goyer and Gunn also have very different experiences that lead to marriage. These experiences bring a richness to the book because it's not all rosy nor all warning. Instead, it casts vision for what is possible. They guide the reader through 12 areas they can pray for their future spouse. Areas like his heart, that he would be a God lover, for patience, understanding, intimacy and commitment. This book would be a great gift for a girl who is starting to focus on young men -- especially if it's coupled with a commitment to read it and discuss the principles with her.

Here's more:
From when we were small girls, most of us dream of “The One,” our   future husband. We think about what it would be like to be a bride. We   wonder who that special guy is and when we'll find him. The great news   is that what you do now can make a difference in your life and the life   of your future husband!

Authors and good friends Robin Jones Gunn (Christy Miller series) and   Tricia Goyer (author and former teen mom) believe God answers women's   prayers for husbands—even husbands they may not meet for years. They   invite young women to pray boldly for their future mate … while also   asking God to prepare their own hearts.

In Praying for Your Future Husband, Robin and Tricia share their two vastly different experiences, including the things they did right and   the mistakes they made on the path to meeting and marrying their   husbands. Each chapter includes helpful Bible verses, prayers, and   practical application, along with true stories of women who prayed for a   husband and how God answered in remarkable ways.

God has a beautiful romance prepared for you. Prayer is the key to unlocking the love story … with your future husband and with God, the   lover of your soul.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Kryptonite Questions by Publisher Allen Arnold

I'm a huge Superman fan. His strength is legendary. So is his greatest weakness -- Kryptonite.

Your greatest strength is your story. In the end, it always comes down to the story.

But your greatest weakness -- whether you're a best-selling author or brand new writer -- may be the questions you're not asking.

I call these the Kryptonite Questions because the thought of asking them might make you a bit weak in the knees. It's easy to want to avoid some of these discussions or put the burden on the other party to proactively provide you with the data….but it's never best to be reactive or avoid big discussions. It's hard to know if you're in the right place to achieve success -- or even what success really means -- without asking them to your publisher, your agent and even yourself.

While there are more, here are several of the top Kryptonite Questions:

1. Do you know your publisher? I'm not asking if you know your editor or marketing point person…or just the publisher's name. Do you really know the publisher? As great as the publishing team at large may be -- it's the publisher that oversees (or should oversee) the vision and the tone of the division. Since the direction and stability of the division directly impacts your books, it's good to have regular contact with the publisher. If you're an established author, I recommend a brief conversations with your publisher at least a few times a year. If you're looking for a publisher, before you sign you should have a conversation with your potential publisher to ask if they are open to this type of author involvement. If the publisher isn't open to this request -- a great follow-up question would be why. As a publisher, I see author interaction as one of my main joys and responsibilities.

2. Have you asked how your publishing house determines if your novel is a success? Is it units sold -- if so, how many? Is it earning a certain amount beyond the advance -- if so, how much? Is it hitting a bestseller list? A percentage of growth in readers from the last work? There are several ways to measure success -- but you need to know how the publishing house is measuring your novel's success since that impacts so much for you and your stories. Bonus question -- how do you deem a novel successful beyond the publisher's definition? Knowing that will help you enjoy the process much more by replacing doubt, worry and stress with a true peace.

3. What are the long-term plans of your publishing division over the next several years? How do they plan to not just survive but thrive in the ever-changing world of publishing over the next five years? Are they planning to increase or decrease title count? Is their staff increasing or decreasing? Are they expanding to different genres or not? Do they lead or follow in the digital world of content -- and how? That's important to know since the decisions made today impact how you might fit (or not fit) into their future based on who they are becoming each day. If they don't know or won't share their long-term vision -- that is valuable to hear as you consider your future.

4. Do you know how stable your current or potential publishing team is? It's good to ask how long each member from the publisher down has been with the company. You want to make sure that the team there who is courting you has a high likelihood of being the same team there when your novel comes out a year or so later. Unfortunately, that's not as common as one would hope with some companies…so ask on the front end since past history is often a good indicator of the future.

5. Is your input into the development of the marketing plans and cover design welcome? If so, when is the optimal time to share thoughts and contribute? Mark that timing on your calendar and be prepared to share early, succinctly and in a winsome manner.

6. How involved does your current or potential agent plan to be in the life of your novel? Some agents are more oriented to be deal-makers. Once the deal is done, you may not hear much from them unless you raise an issue. Some agents shine most in strategic editorial and marketing discussions after the contract is complete. Know most what you need from an agent and then make sure your agent is a fit for those needs. Also ask how many clients your agent personally serves. If it's an incredibly high number -- their time for any one author may be limited. Good to know.

7. If you are a published author, do you know how recouped you are for each past work? If you're an unpublished author -- do you understand the importance of recoupment? It's a key measurement to a publishing house -- and a goal that you can work together towards achieving. Ideally, an author recoups (or earns out) their upfront advance for a novel soon after that novel is available -- and then begins earning royalty. Some will tell you it is unrealistic to count on royalty -- and to drive the upfront advance as high as you can since you'll likely never earn royalty checks. I say run from that advice. The best path is to receive a fair advance -- which is one that can reasonably earn out shortly after the novel is published. The goal over time is to live off the revenue stream from books actually bought by consumers (royalty) -- not the advance based on what we hope consumers will do. Recoupment and long-term royalty is the best mark of a profitable, healthy publishing career.

8. Do you know how you are perceived within the publishing house? When an e-mail comes from you -- is it the first one the person opens or the one they wait until after lunch to click on? Does it bring a smile or create an ulcer when they hear you've called? It's a hard question, perhaps, but one worth asking since everyone gravitates toward those they enjoy working with. An overaggressive ego or a communication style that leads with blame or never being satisfied does (not may -- but does) have a negative impact on an author's growth potential. The reason to change is not primarily for career growth - but to become more Christ-like, which is the call of every Christian. Ask hard questions here -- and dive deep on this front..

It's great to know these Kryptonite Questions. But remember -- these questions only lead to breakthrough if you actually ask them, listen well, and then learn from them. I wish you SUPER results on this journey!


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