Friday, January 29, 2010

Two Decades: A guest post from Mary DeMuth

Today, I am excited to have Mary DeMuth join us. Mary is a master craftsman and a woman who is crazy about Jesus. I think you'll see some of both elements in this post. She writes with an amazing literary style. While she's written fiction and non-fiction, this month her memoir releases. Thin Places -- I love the idea behind it -- that sometimes Jesus brings stretching experiences because it's in the thin places we can see Him more. Here's the trailer for that book.

Here's Mary with some wonderful advice whether you're a writer or trying to excel at any gift God has given you.

For those of you discouraged about the writing journey, I hope my story helps a little. Or at least gives you an idea of how important tenacity is in the writing journey.

I read in Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent book called Outliers about the irony of genius. Most of those highly proficient in a career or endeavor spent 10,000 hours before they “broke out.” As I thought about my writing career, it all suddenly made sense. I spent the decade of the 90s (plus two more years) writing in obscurity, hour upon hour until I’m sure I surpassed the 10,000 hour mark. After that decade, I attended Mount Hermon with a novel in hand, landed an agent, and sold two books in that first year. Folks often want to hear that part of the story, but it’s hard for them to hear about all the underlying work that went into that dramatic year.

I don’t at all see those 10,000 hours as wasted time. It’s what I needed to apprentice myself to the writing craft. I found my voice. I learned to write fast. I exceeded deadlines. I curried discipline. All those traits serve me well now.

So now I’m in my twentieth year of this journey. I’m not a bestselling author. I’ve achieved some critical success, but I’m not fully making a living at it. I see this last decade as a building one. Recently the Lord showed me something profound while I gardened in my small vegetable patch (readying it for winter). My garden is small, though I long for a larger one someday. The Lord said, “I gave you a small plot so you’d learn to bloom there. If I gave you a field, you’d have been overwhelmed.” True, true, true. Had I been granted instant success, it would’ve been like trying to garden on ten acres when I hadn’t mastered a 3x30 plot. All these ten years have been training ground for me to learn everything belongs to Jesus. Had I become successful out of the gate, I shudder to think of the Me Monster I might’ve become. I’m at that place where I’m keenly aware that everything is a gift. Success. Rejection. Waiting. Accolades. It’s all from His hand. And it’s not about me.

I’ve had an inkling that my next book could be the breakout one. But I’m also grounded enough to know that it could flop around like a dying fish. It’s okay. God, through ten years of 10,000 words and ten years of small plot gardening, has taught me the beauty of His sovereignty in it all.

So if you’re on your journey discouraged that publishing isn’t happening fast enough, that you’re “good enough” to be published but aren’t getting nibbles, stop and wait and consider.

Have you put in your hours?
How’s your small garden plot? Any weeds?
Have you rested in the fact that God has us all on vastly different journeys, and that yours will differ from everyone else’s?
Are you learning contentment, tenacity, patience?
Are you better craftwise than you were last year at this time?
Have you passed on what youv’e learned to others, being generous in what others have taught you?

Just some thoughts to consider as you journey forward.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Becca by the Book CFBA Tour

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


Becca By The Book by Laura Jensen Walker

Sales clerk, barista, telemarketer, sign waver...

At twenty-five, free-spirited Becca Daniels is still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up. What Becca doesn’t want to be is bored. She craves the rush of a new experience, whether it’s an extreme sport, a shocking hair color, or a new guy. That’s why she quit her bookstore job, used her last bit of credit to go skydiving, and broke her leg.

And that’s why, grounded and grumpy, Becca bristles when teased by friends for being commitment-phobic. In response, Becca issues an outrageous wager—that she can sustain a three-month or twenty-five date relationship with the next guy who asks her out. When the guy turns out to be “churchy” Ben—definitely not Becca’s type—she gamely embarks on a hilarious series of dates that plunge her purple-haired, free-speaking, commitment-phobic self into the alien world of church potlucks and prayer meetings.

This irrepressible Getaway Girl will have you cheering her on as she “suffers” through her dates, gains perspective on her life’s purpose, and ultimately begins her greatest adventure of all.

If you'd like to read the first chapter of Becca By The Book, go HERE

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Writing: a life of trust...

The word of 2010 for me is trust.

Trusting God more in all areas of my life. And that includes writing.

Writing is a weird life...not very stable. We write from contract to contract. And sometimes the contracts overlap, like mine are right now, making life a wee bit crazy.

Other times, we're out of contract and wondering if and when the next one will come.

A perfect place to exercise trust.

Do I really believe God has a plan and will for my life that includes my writing? I say I do, but the rubber meets the road when I'm waiting for that next contract. What a great opportunity to develop more trust and faith!

So this week I'm working on two books: editing Stars in the Night for Summerside Press's new historical suspense line and writing a mystery for Guidepost's new mystery series. Both very fun projects that I've enjoyed. And the chaos continues until March 1. Then I'll have time to finish a proposal, dream up new stories, and see what God has for me next.

Praying that you will find it ever easier to trust God in your life.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Have you seen this video? I didn't vote for them, but I certainly share the view. My political juices get excited after a night like Tuesday and a win like Scott Brown's in Massachusetts. This year could be very interesting...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Guest Interview by Nicole O'Dell with Kimberly Cash Tate

I am so excited to have these two writing friends and sisters join me today. In the last few weeks we have become good friends. One of those times you sit and think "Thank You, Lord, for providing writing buds but even more important sisters in the Lord. Nicole O'Dell writes the Scenario series for young adult girls and Kimberly Cash Tate writes fiction for Thomas Nelson as well as has a blog with fabulous devotions. Because of that blog, she has fabulous, incredibly exciting news to share with us. Without further ado, here are Nicole and Kim!

Today, I'm proud to welcome Kimberly Cash Tate, new member of the
Women of Faith speaking tour--and new personal friend/prayer partner.

Kim, will you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I'm a wife of almost seventeen years, mom to two, and we've been homeschooling eight years in the Midwest--which makes me chuckle because in my twenties, I had my sights set on being a high-powered lawyer in Washington, D.C. You never know what God has in store! Though I often wonder how I actually get it done, I manage to find time to write as well.

That's so true. I think God often chuckles while we're making our plans.So, tell us about your writing...

My first published book was a memoir called, "More Christian than African-American," about how God turned my life upside down once I became a believer at twenty-seven. That's where that career change comes in. :-) In 2008, "Heavenly Places" was released, which was my first novel, about a woman who always felt "less than" because of the way she was raised. Her life changes dramatically after she's kind of coaxed into a home Bible study with five other women, and they study the book of Ephesians. Though she clashes with the other women for a while and even quits a couple of times, she ultimately learns who she is in God's eyes. My next novel, "Faithful," releases in September.

Congratulations on your writing success! And, a HUGE congratulations for your recent appointment to the Women of Faith speaking team! How did you get involved with Women of Faith?

God story! I was signed to Thomas Nelson Fiction last spring, and the fiction team got the crazy notion that they should pitch me as a Women of Faith speaker. Terrible, but I didn't even know Thomas Nelson was the ministry home for Women of Faith. They didn't tell me what they were thinking at first, but when I found out, I thought, "No way!" But as the process unfolded, I knew that it was really all about my relationship with God. He'd been dealing with me about increasing my faith and believing that He truly is able to accomplish His plans for us. Years ago, He'd put the desire in my heart for ministry through writing and speaking, but I couldn't "see" the speaking part from where I sat in my sweats and tennis shoes, homeschooling my kids. They flew me to a Women of Faith conference in October, and I met the whole team. Had a fabulous time "behind-the-scenes." Yet, the whole thing seemed far out that they might actually consider me as a speaker. Still, God kept one word resounding in my heart--believe.

That had to be a rough wait--something I don't do well. When did you find out you'd been selected as a speaker?

Weeks passed after that October conference, and I had no idea what they thought of me. Talk about a test of faith! :-) In December, I got the call of my life. They were adding me as a speaker for four events in 2010.

Amazing! Congratulations, again! How did you feel? How did you celebrate?

I can't even describe how I felt. It was such a faith journey, such an exceeding abundant moment that I spent time just talking to God about it, telling Him how in awe I am of Him. Of course, I also called my mother and the other women who'd been praying for me and screamed! What was awesome as well was the reaction of the Thomas Nelson Fiction team. They'd been praying too, and I was able to be the first to tell them that I'd gotten the call. They were so excited, and the following day, they sent a beautiful bouquet of congratulatory flowers. My birthday was a few days later, so it was a "Happy Birthday" and "Merry Christmas!"

How do they decide who speaks about what?

The leadership team of Women of Faith is very in tune to what ministers to the women who attend the conferences. Just as in writing, story is key. They work with the speakers to develop their own personal stories that illustrate God's love and grace.

What is your area of focus for your events?

Still working on it, but I'm on the Imagine tour, so my focus will be on the fact that we often imagine one thing for our lives, but God enters in and far surpasses what we've dreamed. I think I have a few stories I can tell in that area!

You're entering a whole new arena (no pun intended). Are you nervous?

More excited than nervous, but I'm sure the nerves are waiting to pounce. :-) Very aware that I'll be clinging to God every step of the way. The lessons in faith and believing that God's been teaching me will be ever more in play. And I've got that same prayer team in place, because I need it!

When and where are your upcoming events?

I'll be in the following cities: Las Vegas--April 23-24; Denver--September 24-25; Kansas City--November 5-6; and Sacramento--November 12-13.

I'll be posting updates on my blog and Facebook page, so I'd love for people to come hang with me!

Monday, January 18, 2010


I'm on a quest to restore my heart.

The miscarriages have cause a piece of my heart to break. And while I want to grieve fully and completely -- and some would tell you a tad too much -- I don't want to live with heartbreak.

I want to live where the sight of a pregnant woman doesn't remind me that I'm not 7 1/2 months pregnant right now. Where the learning that another relative or friend is pregnant doesn't pierce through my heart with another reminder that I have another little one waiting for me. That there isn't the pain of separation. Of what ifs. Of what might have beens.

Each day I think I get a bit closer.

Then there's an anniversary of a loss or a due date.

Or I simply go to Chick-Fil-A and see a pregnant woman or someone with an infant. And I smile as my eyes fill with tears. So if you see me like that, know I am fighting back even while my heartbreaks again.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Male Factor: A Review

Shaunti Feldhahn's latest book, The Male Factor: the Unwritten Rules, Misperceptions, and Secret Beliefs of Men in the Workplace grew out of her realization that time and again women short circuited their success in the workplace because they don't understand the rules of the game.

As with her other books, The Male Factor is based on a nationwide survey and confidential interviews with more than three thousand men. Here bestselling author of For Women Only, Shaunti Feldhahn, explores how men in the workplace tend to think, which even the most astute women might otherwise miss. In The Male Factor, Feldhahn investigates and quantifies the private thoughts that men almost never publicly reveal or admit to, but that every woman will want to know.

Among the subjects The Male Factor tackles are:

• how men, with rare exception, view almost any emotional display as a sign that the person can no longer think clearly—as well as what they perceive to be “emotion” in the first place (it’s not just crying)

• why certain trendy clothes that women wear may create a career-sabotaging land mine in terms of how male colleagues perceive them

• the unintentional signals that can change a man’s perception of a woman from “assertive and competent” to “difficult”

I find this topic fascinating, and as with her other books, Shaunti writes in a very readable style. I appreciate the way she breaks the statistics down and brings in and compares what she learned from her personal interviews with men versus what was said in the survey. She also talks about how concern for political correctness could have impacted the results. This is a good read for women who are in the workplace and want to be more effective or who need to figure out why they keep sabotaging their own careers.
This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Review: The Silent Governess

Olivia Keene believes she is guilty of a crime and flees her home. In the process she stumbles onto Lord Bradley's property and overhears a conversation that makes her a threat to the Lord. She is caught trespassing and sent to prison before the Lord brings her to his estate and makes her a servant. So begins The Silent Governess, a novel by Julie Klassen which is set in regency England.

Usually, I am not a reader of regency tales. I know, I know. Many people love them, but they aren't really my cup of tea. However Ms. Klassen's style is riveting. Her characters are caught in tangled webs that intersect and overlap and twist and turn with hopes and fears. And because the characters are so richly drawn, I can't keep myself from turning the pages when I should be doing other things. But I think what I love most about her style is that I am transported back in time, to a period I don't know well, but feel completely dropped into while I'm reading. I can hear the accents, see the streets, and watch the people. It makes for a compelling book that I couldn't put down.

In fact, when I closed the book I hurried downstairs and told my husband the book was inspiring. He looked at me with a funny look. "I mean I want to write WWII with the authority and ability to transport people there that Ms. Klassen has."

So if you like historical novels, I suggest you try this one -- even if regency is not your usually choice. I think you will quickly learn why Ms. Klassen is a best-selling author of Christian fiction. While this book was provided by Bethany House, I've already purchased another of her books and can't wait to find time to read it!

Monday, January 11, 2010


I've often heard people say that they ask God for a word or phrase for a new year. Me, not so much. As my husband likes to tell people, if I have a goal or make a resolution, I usually won't rest until I've accomplished it.

This year, God is being quite insistent on what that word is.


Why is it such a scary word? It only contains five letters. But it is. It stands there like a taunt or a dare. Yet, I sense that's not the way God wants me to see it. Instead, I think He beckons with a sweet whisper. Trust Me. Trust My promises. Believe that all I say I will do.

So I stand poised on the branch. It's shaking underneath my feet, swaying in a breeze that feels more like a typhoon. My arms are thrust out at my sides. I push off with my toes. And I say, "Yes, Lord. I will trust You. Help me remember how."

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Silent Governess

I am in the middle of reading this book right now. Julie's done it again. She's pulled me into a unique time period with questions and characters that have intrigued me and left me eager to read to the end. Watch for a full review soon. For now, let's say that if you like books set in Regency England, ala Jane Austin, then you need to give Julie Klassen's books a try. They are very well done.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Silent Governess

Bethany House; Original edition (January 1, 2010)


Julie Klassen


Julie says: My background is in advertising and marketing, but I am blessed with a dream job—working as an editor of Christian fiction. I have been writing since childhood, but Lady of Milkweed Manor was my first novel. It was a finalist for a Christy Award and won second place in the Inspirational Reader's Choice Awards. My second novel, The Apothecary's Daughter, was a finalist in the ACFW Book of the Year awards. I am currently writing one novel a year.

I graduated from the University of Illinois and enjoy travel, research, BBC period dramas, long hikes, short naps, and coffee with friends.

My husband and I have two sons and live near St. Paul, Minnesota.


Olivia Keene is fleeing her own secret. She never intended to overhear his.

But now that she has, what is Lord Bradley to do with her? He cannot let her go, for were the truth to get out, he would lose everything--his reputation, his inheritance, his very home.

He gives Miss Keene little choice but to accept a post at Brightwell Court, where he can make certain she does not spread what she heard. Keeping an eye on the young woman as she cares for the children, he finds himself drawn to her, even as he struggles against the growing attraction. The clever Miss Keene is definitely hiding something.

Moving, mysterious, and romantic, The Silent Governess takes readers inside the intriguing life of a nineteenth-century governess in an English manor house where all is not as it appears.

If you would like to read the prologue and first chapter of The Silent Governess, go HERE. You can also sign up as a Follower when you get to that page, and get announcements of the first chapters for all the great books we tour!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Review: Sweet By and By

Because I have two tight book deadlines, I'm not letting myself read many books right now. In fact, I'm almost in book withdrawal. However, when Thomas Nelson made The Sweet By and By available for review, I had to get it. First, I have thoroughly enjoyed every Rachel Hauck book I've read. Second, I enjoy Sara Evans music. Third, I was very curious to see how this partnership would work out.

Let's just say I wasn't disappointed. This book doesn't fit neatly in a category, which is probably why the publisher calls it general fiction. It's not a straight romance, though there's a strong romantic storyline. It's not straight women's fiction, though I'd say this thread is the strongest. Instead, I'd call this a relationship drama. The relationships between a mother and daughter. The relationship between the past and the present. The relationship between two people who love each other. Even the sometimes tenuous relationship between a woman and her soon to be mother-in-law. And the relationship between a person and God.

The story pulled me along because I cared deeply about Jade and even about her crazy mother Beryl. There were times I couldn't understand how either of them was acting, but then there are times I don't understand how I act. But the underlying theme of redemption left me feeling satisfied as I closed the book. Everything's not resolved. And the epilogue was almost sugary-sweet, but by the time you reach that, you want Jade to have something wonderful happen.

So if you like books that revolve around relationships with a strong dose of Jesus, this book is for you.

A redemptive story from multi-platinum recording artist Sara Evans.

Jade Fitzgerald left the pain of her past in the dust when she headed out for college a decade ago. Now she's thriving in her career and glowing in the light of Max Benson's love.

But then Jade's hippie mother, Beryl Hill, arrives in Whisper Hollow, Tennessee, for Jade's wedding along with Willow, her wild younger sister. Their arrival forces Jade to throw open the dark closets of her past--the insecurity of living with a restless, wandering mother, the silence of her absent father, and the heart-ripping pain of first-love's rejection.

Turns out Beryl has a secret of her own. She needs reconciliation with her oldest daughter before illness takes her life. In the final days leading to the wedding, Jade meets the One who shows her that the past has no hold on her future. With a little grace, they'll meet in the middle, maybe even before that sweet by and by.

Monday, January 04, 2010

ACFW: The Best Advantage

Often, I am asked what advice I have to offer those who want to write books. Usually at the top of the list is joining ACFW if you want to be a novelist. Below is a post our president wrote last week which states better than I could, why ACFW is the place to be if you want to write.

What can a writer do to gain the best advantage for getting a story from the seed of an idea into the hands of readers?

The theme song of publishing experts and accomplished authors is, "Learn your craft."
  • Study fiction craft books. Apply the principles.
  • Study writing publications.
  • Take online classes on the craft of writing.
  • Attend writers' conferences that offer high quality instruction on writing great fiction.
  • Study the methods used in other authors' novels.
  • ACFW excels in developing writers in the craft of Christian fiction. Check here to connect with ACFW's archives of online classes. Click here for information about our upcoming annual conference that features a broad spectrum of fiction instruction.
Study the publishing industry.
  • Discover what's working and why, what's selling and why, what's expected and why.
  • Study the publishing houses to determine the best fit and most likely match of story, author, and publishing house.
  • Keep abreast of industry news and how it affects novelists.
  • Follow publisher and agent blogs for insight and information.
  • Get familiar with publishing house, agency, and writing instructor websites.
  • Study publishing house guidelines. Follow them implicitly when writing and submitting.
  • ACFW's main loop is a source for information about the publishing industry. Click here to sign up for that email loop. Click here (under Resources, then Publishers, in the members only section) for website information for some of the major publishing houses. Our monthly ezine-Afictionado-is another source of information about the industry. You can click here for a link to that ezine.

Find a source for unbiased critiquing.
  • Although some family members offer good advice for a novelist, the most valuable critiques usually come from people who are both prolific readers of Christian fiction and who have a working knowledge of Christian fiction principles and methods.
  • Take advantage of paid critique opportunities at writers' conferences.
  • Some writers work best with a critique partner rather than a critique group. The point is that every writer needs the advantage of someone else to evaluate what's been written, how the story flows, how it engages readers and holds their attention, as well as the mechanics of grammar, punctuation, and accuracy.
  • ACFW offers a large-group critique group--Scribes--for fiction writers. Check here for information on how to get involved. From that large group, smaller critique groups develop their own individual styles and interests. Paid critiques are offered as part of our annual conference. Click here for conference information.
Find a source of encouragement.
  • Camaraderie with fellow writers affords the blessing of others with whom to commiserate when things go poorly.
  • Writers also gain from having someone with whom to rejoice when the words or contracts flow freely, when characters behave themselves on the page, when the Lord sends a breakthrough for a plot point or a career move.
  • ACFW members appreciate the knowledge gained through ACFW's main email loop in addition to the fellowship and encouragement those writers offer. Click here for more on the main loop. ACFW local chapters are also a key source of encouragement for writers. Click here for information on local chapters.
Prepare for the long haul.
  • The stories vary, but it's been said that novelists often have four or five completed novels on file before one is sold.
  • The average length of time between embarking on the path to publication and seeing that first novel in print is seven years. Are there exceptions? Certainly. But novelists do themselves and their work a great disservice if they grow discouraged and give up after six months, thinking it's taking too long. Publication is a long, arduous process, despite its joys and rewards. Those who succeed are those who recognize it is a process, not an event.
  • Learn to make productive use of the waiting time. Write more. Pray more. Study more. Connect more.
  • ACFW comes alongside writers for the long haul. We make every effort to instruct, encourage, and support our members who are invested in pursuing publication in Christian fiction.
  • Olympians and novelists have a lot in common. They invest many hours--a lifetime--working on their skills, repeating drills, practicing, practicing, practicing. Even the most naturally talented "pay their dues" on the track, in the pool, on the slopes, at the keyboard.
  • Successful novelists view even discarded words as valuable--good practice.
  • ACFW's Topic of the Week on our main eloop encourages greater understanding of the writing craft, the writing life, the publishing industry, and the power of practice. Click here for more information on our main eloop.
Work on writing relationships to form a team. Successful novelists need:
  • Friends who understand a writer's heart.
  • Writers who are true friends and keep us on track with the Lord, our writing, our lives, and our careers.
  • An agent who will champion the project and the author's career.
  • A great working relationship with editors.
  • Connections with people of like interest, similar genres.
  • Connections with people with different interests.
  • Prayer partners.
  • A growing circle of potential readers.
  • As mentioned earlier, the main eloop is one way to build relationships with other writers. ACFW's main eloop for members is accessed here. In addition to other sources, our annual ACFW conference is a key opportunity to interact with, learn from, and develop relationships with editors and agents in attendance or on faculty. Check here for information about the conference. ACFW's prayer loop--click here --connects members and their needs in prayer. And ACFW's Book Club unites writers and readers in a meaningful interchange of ideas--click here. A newer readers, authors, publishers, booksellers, and book clubs with the best in Christian fiction.
  • Pray before pursuing writing for publication. Lord, is this what You want me to do?
  • Pray before writing a word. Novels written in human strength alone show it.
  • Pray while writing.
  • Pray after the book's completion.
  • Pray as it's shopped around.
  • Pray as it's rejected or accepted.
  • Pray as it's printed and marketed.
  • Pray as it reaches the hands of readers.
  • Pray (as the Bible says) without ceasing!
  • ACFW members will pray with you, privately or through our ACFW Prayer Loop, accessed here .
Through its various programs and benefits, ACFW seeks to offer writers every advantage in their pursuit of publishing Christian fiction. We are at work behind the scenes every day to help make it a meaningful and rewarding experience for our authors and in turn for readers of Christian fiction.

May the New Year dawn with fresh hope for your stories and your life.

Blessings always,

Cynthia Ruchti


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